The Environment

The Environment: Its Role in Psychosocial Functioning and Psychotherapy

CAROLYN SAARI
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/saar12196
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  • Book Info
    The Environment
    Book Description:

    Challenging Freud's assumption that an individual first develops intrapsychically and is only later confronted with the demands of external reality, Carolyn Saari posits that human beings initially construct a picture of their immediate environment and then construct their identities within that environment. The Environment is an argument in three parts. Part 1 discusses psychoanalytic and developmental theory, showing that while such theory has assumed the existence of an environment, it has taken for granted and therefore left unexamined its role in human development. Michel Foucault's theory of social control provides the framework for Part 2, which examines psychotherapy's capacity either to liberate or to repress the client. Part 3 relates the practical benefits and broader implications of an inclusion of environmental considerations in the practice of psychotherapy.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50626-7
    Subjects: Psychology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-14)

    For twenty years, postmodernism has been having a dramatic effect on psychoanalytic theory (for example, see Benjamin 1988; Flax 1990; Hoffman 1998; Mitchell 1993; Moore 1999; Schafer 1992; Stern 1997; Stolorow and Atwood 1992). This has resulted in the adoption of varying versions of constructivist or social-constructionist ideas. Indeed, some (Modell 1990) have referred to postmodernism’s influence as constituting a major paradigm effect. Interestingly, however, most of these authors have confined their discussions to the reality of the psychoanalytic setting, particularly that of the relationship between the analyst and the patient. Since Freud’s conception of treatment rested on the analyst’s...

  5. PART 1 THEORY
    • ONE THE ENVIRONMENT IN EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE
      (pp. 17-28)

      In classical psychoanalytic theory, it was customary to think of the affective experience of the young infant as being a biologically based element of intrapsychic life. Certainly, the affective experience of the neonate does rely on innate biological systems, but these biological systems simply do not operate in the absence of interactions with an environment. For example, hunger and a state of anger at its persistence, while not reactions to a specific external stimulus, are related to the environment’s failure to provide relief for the hunger. Postmodern theory’s conception of the importance of context is now pointing out that it...

    • TWO THE DEVELOPMENT OF MEANING
      (pp. 29-42)

      Until twenty-five years ago, developmental psychology thought of the single, external object as the primary base for representation and thus the fundamental building block for cognition. There was an assumption, usually not noted, that the child learned about the characteristics of an object and then was able to build an image of the whole by putting together a number of objects. In psychoanalytic theory, the term object usually referred to a person, not an inanimate thing, but the principles of how a child composed a picture of self and the external world were similar to those of developmental psychology. In...

    • THREE CULTURE AND SOCIAL CONTROL
      (pp. 43-56)

      The symbolic interactionist Howard Becker (1986) has defined culture as “the shared understandings that people use to coordinate their activities” (15). Culture, therefore, can be seen as the more generalized understandings at which people in a particular environment arrive through intersubjective processes of sharing. Becker also regards culture as always a work in progress:

      People create culture continuously. Since no two situations are alike, the cultural solutions available to them are only approximate. Even in the simplest societies, no two people learn quite the same cultural material; the chance encounters of daily life provide sufficient variation to ensure that. No...

  6. PART 2 DOMINATION OR LIBERATION?
    • FOUR INNER LIFE AND THE POSSIBILITY OF FREEDOM
      (pp. 59-74)

      Although in general Foucault’s work is highly critical of psychoanalysis, he does indicate that “where there is power, there is resistance, and yet . . . this resistance is never in a position of exteriority in relation to power. Should it be said that one is always ‘inside’ power, there is no escaping it” (1990:95). Foucault, however, never fully explains resistance or how it can be fostered. Nevertheless, if we take seriously Foucault’s idea that the form of power that is most commonly exercised in contemporary Western societies is in the creation of subjectivities that continue the existing social organization,...

    • FIVE PERSON AND ENVIRONMENT INTERACTIONS
      (pp. 75-91)

      Understanding whether the result of psychotherapy contributes to the domination or the liberation of the individual requires an understanding of the psychological effects of interactions between person and environment. There are, of course, so many variables that can contribute to an analysis of these interactions that achieving any certainty about causes in this relationship has been and will continue to be all but impossible. Yet, conceding that proof is not possible, more information about this is available than theories of psychotherapy have taken into account to date. Bronfenbrenner’s ecological formulations provide some interesting guidelines. For example, he said:

      Developmental effects...

    • SIX CULTURE, SEXUALITY, AND IMPINGEMENT
      (pp. 92-106)

      According to freud, sexuality plays an exemplary role in that it is the underlying truth through which the analyst understands the patient’s ultimate unconscious meaning and the truth through which all behaviors are to be interpreted. It was, for Freud, however, an intrapsychic and biological function—natural, not social. Yet, as Berger and Luckman (1966) and numerous anthropologists have noted, all cultures have injunctions about what behaviors, with whom, are permissible and what are forbidden. There is, however, considerable variation in what is considered normal across cultures. The manner in which sexuality is expressed is dictated by culture and structured...

  7. PART 3 IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE
    • SEVEN CONCORDANCE: THE THERAPEUTIC CULTURE
      (pp. 109-124)

      The content of a psychoanalytic session has always dealt with the patient’s experience, but in orthodox analysis it was believed that the patient was cured through the revelation of his or her unconscious mind, which could be unearthed almost as in an archaeological dig. Thus the patient’s experience was understood and interpreted according to Freud’s theory of the intrapsychic world. Increasingly, however, psychoanalytic theory is abandoning this perspective. Instead, as Stern (1997) has indicated, psychoanalysis is being understood as a forum in which curiosity and the acceptance of uncertainty are tolerated and thereby allow for the emergence of ideas that...

    • EIGHT THE IMPORTANCE OF RELATIONSHIPS
      (pp. 125-140)

      Although freud paid some attention to the therapeutic relationship, he saw the development of insight and rationality, acquired through the analyst’s interpretations, as the curative element in psychoanalysis. Yet in recent years, an emphasis on the therapeutic relationship has moved to the center of theoretical considerations. In 1995, Schafer noted that although conceptions of dialogue and intersubjectivity differed, they were pervading the psychoanalytic literature on therapeutic action. Mitchell (1993:37) has observed that patients do not hear interpretations as interpretations, but as relational events. At another point Mitchell remarks, “That which is most deeply personal is often arrived at only through...

    • NINE SYMBOLIZATION: CONNECTIONS BETWEEN INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL WORLDS
      (pp. 141-155)

      Nelson’s (1985) tripartite theory of meaning describes a system that consists of the communicative context of meaning, the cognitive representation of meaning, and the conventional meaning of words within the linguistic-cultural community. Earlier I dealt with the child’s creation of a sense of identity by first constructing an understanding of his or her environment and then, through cognitive operations on that world, understanding his or her own place in that world. In this chapter, the focus is on the importance of the third aspect of meaning—the conventional meaning of words within the linguistic-cultural community, or, more simply, language.

      Much...

  8. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 156-164)

    The current impact of postmodernism on theories of psychotherapy has been primarily in understanding the relationship between therapist and patient and in recognizing that the therapist does not have access to a privileged truth. References to the importance of context and culture are also now more frequent, but there continues to be an underlying general assumption that culture is outside the treatment room. In spite of the emphasis on context in postmodernism, there has been little consideration of the environment other than the setting in which the treatment itself takes place. This lack of attention to the environment has been...

  9. REFERENCES
    (pp. 165-178)
  10. AUTHOR INDEX
    (pp. 179-184)
  11. SUBJECT INDEX
    (pp. 185-186)