Posted tagged ‘Daniel Stern’

Source: “…the important units of recall are the occasions of repeated interaction.”

June 25, 2020

The source quotes below are from The Journey of Child Development, Selected papers of Joseph D. Noshpitz. I appreciated his description of the layers of infant experiences which contribute to Daniel Stern’s conceptualization of representations of interactions that have been generalized (RIGs). The image of RIGS helps us understand the origins of what was presented to me as the nucleus of the experiential state: the composite scene/image of the episode(s), one’s self in relationship to the other, standing in for all the others, and the associated affect, as reflected in the totality of the expressions in the moment of impact.

Let’s hear now directly from Dr. Noshpitz:

“…let us turn our attention to actual details of the process of recall: what are the elements babies use to construct inner images? It is evident that one of the elements of experience that has particular valence for babies is the encounter with the significant other. For infants, this 3- to -9 month period is a time of extraordinary pressure toward socialization. Another way of saying that is to state flatly that during this interval all babies fall intensely, passionately, head over heals in love with their mommies. They cannot get enough of her; nothing means as much. They yearn for her when they do not have her at hand, light up when they see her, reach for her when she comes near, and crow when they touch her. Smiling has appeared, social smiling in response to other’s presence, with a special smile for the beloved mommy. Hence, in laying down memory traces, special emphasis should be given to these moments of intense interactive experience with the loved one as begetters of memories.

It is therefore not surprising that Stern suggests that the important units of recall are the occasions of repeated interaction. Thus, a feeding experience, a mother-infant play session, or some other such exchange between the two is the likeliest place to look for the groundwork of memory constructs. What happens then is that the interactions between the mother and infant become familiar; their quality is both anticipated and predictable. A feeding is a comparable sequence of positionings, holdings, lookings, sucklings, with a fairly standard pattern of overall conduct of self and other as the process continues. Babies lay down a memory trace of such an exchange, then add another of very similar character the next time, and then another, and yet another as time advances.

At this point, however, if Stern is correct, a remarkable thing happens. Babies begin to average out these experiences and to construct a model of how the experience should go. It were as though a generalized representation of the interaction emerged from the recurrent encounters, an image that can serve as a basis for predicting and judging the character of the next such encounter. Stern calls these representations of interactions that have been generalized RIGs). These RIGs are the building blocks of the core self, islands of consistency that form and coalesce out of the welter of infantile experience. They provide the basic material for constructing a sense of self as well as a sense of other.

It is my view that these early generalized representations are a unique and precious achievement to infants. In effect, each one is a work of art, a creation, their own rendering of a series of intense and valued experiences into a concentrated and succinct whole. There is a quality here of recording unifying it, distilling its essence and capturing its quality, and this, I believe, is central to the aesthetic encounter with a work of art, whether as creator or as viewer.

It is important to keep in mind the central role of these RIGs. They provide the bricks to build the mansion of the sense of self. They give infants the agency, the intensity, the coherence, and the continuity that together make for a continuing awareness of inner presence, inner integrity. They are dynamic presences, constantly undergoing small changes as each new experience is summed into the average, yet they are static in the sense of being repeats of the same kind of sequence over and over; this is what offers the sense of self the necessary stability and continuity and engenders the feeling of knowing one is there and who one is.” (pages 70-71)

As a conceptual tool, the experiential state gives us a way to think about our history as it contributes to our memory banks at the level of these RIGs. It seems our work in becoming conscious – recognizing enactments as blur moments – will involve connecting the dots between present day conflicts and our corresponding RIGs origin experiences.

To be continued.




Stern: “The experienced micro-world always enters awareness but only sometimes enters consciousness (verbalizable awareness).”

June 10, 2020

This source quote comes from a paper by Beatrice Beebe, Ph.D.,  Daniel Stern: Microanalysis and the Empirical Infant Research Foundations

I will be following this up with more descriptions of representations of interactions that have been generalized over time (RIGs). For me, this is the level of experience informing the experiential state images of self-other-affect. In opening to recognizing the blur we then have the opportunity to be with that which is trying to surface, via the enactment. By definition of the terms, we do not have language for the subsymbolic core. (See my Philip Bromberg post Enactment: Problem AND Solution?) We really want to try to get comfortable enough to simply be with the emerging experience, and try to find language together; this is the process for bringing the blur into conscious, symbolic awareness. The microfractures in communication quotes go well with this layer of material.

“The experienced micro-world always enters awareness but only sometimes enters consciousness (verbalizable awareness). [Stern, 2004, p. xiv]

Stern operated at the interface of the empirical analysis of mother-infant communication, systems theories, philosophy, neuroscience, and psychoanalysis. Dyadic face-to-face communication was the focus. Using the method of frame-by-frame microanalysis of film, moment-by-moment interaction sequences became the center of his thinking: miniplots of brief interaction scenarios. He described the reciprocal dyadic communication process across time: Each partner is changing with the other. Miniplots of the temporal-spatial-affective flow of each partner changing in relation to that of the other became his definition of procedural representations. Stern emphasized the primacy of time and temporal process over more static notions of psychological organization. Most fundamentally, Stern’s work in microanalysis has changed what one can see, and thus what one can know. His work fostered a dynamic, interactive model of the organization of experience. The foundation of experience, the origin of mind, and the key to change in psychotherapy are found in the moment-by- moment interactive process itself.

Dan’s fascination with the micro-momentary details of the present moment, which became the title of one of his books (Stern, 2004), was the core of his inspiration and talent. In the preface to that book he wrote,

In considering the micro-world of the present moment, I first thought of the working title, A world in a grain of sand from William Blake. … It captured the size of the small world revealed by micro-analysis. … One can often see the larger panorama of someone’s past and current life in the small behaviors and mental acts making up this micro-world. … Seeing the world at this scale of reality changes what can be seen [italics added] and thus changes our basic conceptions. [Stern, 2004, p. xiv]”

The Blake poem referenced by Stern above opens with:

“To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.”