Contexts and Connections: An Intersubjective Systems Approach to Couples Therapy

Contexts and Connections: An Intersubjective Systems Approach to Couples Therapy

Contexts and Connections: An Intersubjective Systems Approach to Couples Therapy

Contexts and Connections: An Intersubjective Systems Approach to Couples Therapy

Synopsis

Dr. David Shapiro's first new book in ten years, Dynamics of Character deepens his now-classic studies of psychopathology with this conceptualization of a dynamics of the whole character -- a self-regulatory system that encompasses personal attitudes, modes of activity, and relationship with the external world. Extending and magnifying Shapiro's original vision of psychopathology, Dynamics of Character is a resonantly reasoned response to the reduction of complex processes of mind to products of biological defect of psychological trauma.

Excerpt

The central theme of this book is inclusion--in particular, the inclusion of the therapist's own subjectivity as a constituent part of the patient's ongoing psychological life and the inclusion of the patient's intimate relationships as part of the focus of psychotherapy. At a more general level, it is about the inclusion of ever-widening contexts--historical, relational and societal--in our understanding of personal experience.

Twentieth-century science, in narrowing its gaze to isolated atoms and genes, brought us remarkable gifts. Classical psychoanalysis, by excluding "extraneous" details of a patient's life and focusing on mental products unmediated by conscious control--dreams, fantasies, transference--was able to illuminate the unknown world of the unconscious. But there was a liability: by excluding from our purview the lived contexts of atoms and genes-- and minds--we missed the actual effects of our cleverness and good intentions in the real world. As the poet William Carlos Williams (1963) wrote, "Divorce / is the sign of knowledge in our time" (p. 28).

Such "divorce" begins in what Robert Stolorow and George Atwood (1992) call "the myth of the isolated mind" in which "the individual exists separate from the world of physical nature and also from engagement with others"(p. 7); it manifests in lives rent asunder by the continuing high rate of marital failures.

It has been my passion, both personally and professionally, to try to alter this climate of divorce in all of its meanings and manifestations. As a therapist I have been drawn to work with couples and families, and to theories that value connection as the central organizing principle in our lives-- specifically, to the phenomenological, experience-near theories of self psychology and intersubjectivity, which seek to overcome the gap between theoretical abstraction and empathic immersion in our patients' lives.

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