Persons in Context
The Challenge of Individuality in Theory and Practice
In contemporary forms of psychoanalysis, particularly intersubjective systems theory, the turn towards contextualism has permitted the development of new ways of thinking and practicing that have dispensed with the notion of isolated individuality. For many who embrace this "post-subjectivist" way of thinking and practicing, the recognition that all human experience is fundamentally immersed in the world makes the question of individuality seem confusing, even anachronistic. Yet the challenge of individuality remains an important and pressing issue for contemporary theory and practice; many clinicians are left to wonder about the role of "individual" experience and how to approach it conceptually or clinically.
This volume of original essays gives the problem of individuality its due, without losing sight of the importance of contextualized experience. Drawing on a variety of disciplinary backgrounds - philosophical, developmental, biological, and neuroscientific - the contributors address the tension that exists between individuality and the emergence of contextualism as a dominant mode of psychoanalytic theory and practice, thereby providing unique insights into the role and place of individuality both in and out of the clinical setting. Ultimately, these essays demonstrate that individuality, no matter how it may be defined, always occurs within a contextual web that forms the basis of human experience.
Contributors: William J. Coburn, Philip Cushman, James L. Fosshage, Roger Frie, Frank M. Lachmann, Jack Martin, Donna Orange, Robert D. Stolorow, Jeff Sugarman
Table of Contents
Frie, Coburn, Introduction: Experience in Context. Part I: Social, Cultural, and Political Contexts. Frie, Culture and Context: From Individualism to Situated Experience. Cushman, So Who's Asking? Politics, Hermeneutics, and Individuality. Part II: Philosophical Contexts. Orange, Beyond Individualism: Philosophical Contributions of Buber, Gadamer, and Levinas. Stolorow, Individuality in Context: The Relationality of Finitude. Part III: Developmental Contexts. Sugarman, Martin, Persons Acting in a Worldly Context. Fosshage, Development of Individuality within a Systems World. Lachmann, Perspectives on Individuality: From Cells to Selves. Coburn, Conclusion: Recontextualizing Individuality and Therapeutic Action in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy.
Roger Frie, Ph.D., Psy.D., R. Psych, is Associate Professor of Education at Simon Fraser University, Affiliate Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and Supervisor and faculty member at the William Alanson White Institute, New York. He is an editorial board member of Psychoanalytic Psychology and has published five books: Subjectivity and Intersubjectivity in Modern Philosophy and Psychoanalysis (Rowman and Littlefield, 1997); Understanding Experience: Psychotherapy and Postmodernism (Routledge, 2003); Psychotherapy as a Human Science (Duquesne University Press, 2006, with Daniel Burston); Psychological Agency: Theory, Practice and Culture (The MIT Press, 2008); and Beyond Postmodernism: New Perspectives in Clinical Theory and Practice (Routledge, 2009, with Donna Orange).
William J. Coburn, Ph.D., Psy.D., is a Training and Supervising Analyst and faculty member at the Institute of Contemporary Psychoanalysis, Los Angeles. He is Editor-in-Chief of International Journal of Psychoanalytic Self Psychology, an editorial board member of Psychoanalytic Inquiry, and has published Self and Systems: Explorations in Contemporary Self Psychology (Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 2009, with Nancy VanDerHeide).
"Rugged individualism is as American as apple pie. We are steeped in the myth of the self-made man, and we grow up with exhortations from parents and teachers to 'be your own person.' As Levi-Strauss has argued, myths are transformations of fundamental contradictions that in reality cannot be resolved. At the heart of contemporary psychoanalysis is the paradox that we help our patients search for the truth about the self, but we inevitably discover that the truth is complicated - in fact, the self is forged in a smithy of families, groups, and cultures that makes it nearly impossible to isolate. In this context, this impressive new volume of essays is timely. The authors avoid the solution of throwing out individuality altogether. Instead, the redefine it in all its contexts with the help of hermeneutics, chaos theory, self psychology, intersubjectivity, and neuroscience. Frie and Coburn have collected a stellar group of authors who are at once erudite and scholarly, yet easy for a reader to follow in the development of their ideas. The result is a superb collection that is a cutting edge contribution to contemporary psychoanalytic thought. It will be of considerable interest to both candidates and experienced analysts." - Glen O. Gabbard, M.D., Brown Foundation Chair of Psychoanalysis, Baylor College of Medicine
"This interesting, clinically and theoretically important collection of essays explores the multiple contexts of the experience of individuality, and is an important step in the continuing development of psychoanalysis toward an embracing systems viewpoint. Definitively countering pseudo-explanatory views of human existence that reify the subjective sense of isolated individuality - involving images of a singular monadic subject - the authors point us toward the complex sociocultural, historical, and relational systems within which all lived experience is embedded. The different chapters delineate and clarify the constitutive contexts of the sense of distinctive selfhood in its many variations, and thereby significantly enrich our understanding of psychological development, pathogenesis, and therapeutic action." - George Atwood, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Rutgers University
"This volume represents a masterful integration of the psychological and philosophical literature that places concepts of individuality and selfhood within a social and cultural rather than an embodied perspective. As such, Persons in Context will prove to be an invaluable and unique resource for both the scholar and clinician." - Arnold H. Modell, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School