|‘What conditions and processes are necessary for a mind to represent feelings in symbols that inform ourselves of our state of mind? What can be learnt when it appears that the processes have gone wrong?
This thesis was prompted by clinical work which raised the question whether, for some, the absence of feeling is caused by deficit rather than defence. I am examining the various concepts of the foundations and development of mind as suggested by the founding fathers (and mothers) of psychoanalysis and their successors and also by developmental and experimental psychologists. This interface between psychoanalysis and psychology is not always an easy fit and the compatibility of the two disciplines promotes much thought. Freud himself thought that psychoanalysis and psychology were not of the same ilk and therefore could not exist in the same environment (Freud 1918:218).
The link between childhood experience affecting later pathology is taken for granted in psychoanalysis but the prescriptive affect of early experience is by no means certain. Again Freud (1920) suggested that:
‘the synthesis is thus not so satisfactory as the analysis; in other words, from a knowledge of the premises we could not have foretold the nature of the result’ p395.
This type of observation brought Stern (1985) to differentiate between the clinical infant and the observed infant and some psychoanalysts e.g., Green (2000) to suggest that academic knowledge of the real infant is of little use to the psychoanalyst as it is the mind of the adult patient not the mind of the infant that is the subject of analysis. For others though the key to mental development is very much within the maternal/infant matrix and there are some very convincing studies of the lasting effects on the mind of the child from experiences in this dyad.
The psychoanalytic belief in the unconscious however suggests early mental structures and archaic experiences do exist and are influential in the adult mind. These primitive processes are, it is suggested, manifested particularly in the mind of the psychotic. In psychology the development and functioning of the mind of the autistic child has become the focus of much attention. The deficits of these children’s limited ability in some areas may offer some clues to the necessary conditions and internal processes that are used in order that we know ourselves and also to recognise and connect with the minds of others. It is partially through the knowledge that the other has a mind that we develop interpersonal relations.
Therefore ‘how do we know how we feel’ raises a number of avenues of theoretical exploration and also requires a scan of the writers of the philosophy of mind as the way the we conceptualise ourselves is greatly influenced by the thinking of philosophy.
My research will (probably) take the form of an observation and the data analysed by the application of the method of grounded theory to create and extend hypotheses. ‘Grounded theory’ is a term used to express the idea of theory that is generated by (grounded in) a close inspection of qualitative data gathered from concrete settings such as participant observation. I would like to use a multi-disciplined team to process the reports so as to increase and enrich possible unconscious material which could be used to generate more ideas as the data is digested. This model of analysis would be similar to that used by Hinshelwood & Skogstad (2000). This part of the work is still in the developmental and thinking stage.
Freud, S., (1920) ‘The Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality in a Woman’. Vol. 9 Case Histories II. Penguin Freud Library. 1979. Standard Ed. 18. 145-72.
Freud, S., (1918) ‘From the History of an Infantile Neurosis’. Vol. 9 Case Histories II. Penguin Freud Library. 1979. Standard Ed. 17. 1-122.
Green, A.,(2000) ‘Science and science fiction in infant research’. In Clinical and Observational Psychoanalytic Research: Roots of a Controversy’. Edited by Joseph Sandler, Anne-Marie Sandler and Rosemary Davies. Psychoanalytic Monograph 5. Karnac Books.
Hinshelwood, R.D., & Skogstad, W., (2000) Observing Organisations: Anxiety, defence and culture in health care. Routledge.
Pidgeon, N., & Henwood, K. (1997) ‘Using grounded theory in psychological research’. In Doing Qualitative Analysis in Psychology. Ed. Nick Hayes. Psychology Press.
Stern, D., (1985) The Interpersonal World of the Infant a view from Psychoanalysis and Developmental Psychology. Basic Books.