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If we just take the position of a working hypothesis for the developing senses of the self, we find the need for higher order constructs, similar to attachment theory and psychoanalytic theory. What is different here is the organizing principle of the subjective sense of self. Subjective experiences per se, the sense of self-and-other are the basic building blocks in this phenomenological account of the self.
Have you ever wished you could ask an infant what he is really thinking, feeling or wanting? It is in seeing what the infant is capable of doing (sucking, looking, etc.) that gives the answer, and the value of reporting and summarizing research on the development of the infant.
Stern makes over 400 references to research findings to report consensus in the field and offers new possibilities, separate from any preconceived theoretical construct such as psychoanalytic theory. While it could be considered that Stern is only providing a report on developmental psychology, he is rather presenting an originary approach to psychology in general from an observational, phenomenological, non theoretical framework with implications for psychotherapy.
Stern shows that from birth (or prior), infants experience becoming, the process (and result) of emerging organization: (1) Emergent Sense of Self. Infants experience an alive (felt) self while engaging the world. They experience the result (product) of forming relations between isolated experiences (invariances, or patterns) as well as the process itself. Emergent processes:
a.) Amodal Perception: Stern reports how infants have an innate learning ability of Amodal (multimodal) Perception, to take information from one sensory modality and translate it into another sensory modality. There is an encoding multimodality which can be recognized in any of the sensory modes, from the sensory specific to the sensory generalizable. Amodal Perception may be the sensory form of analogy similar to the later ability of cognitive symbolization, and appears to allow assessment of the internal state of others. (See pp. 154 ff.)
b.) Affects (the overarching mode of all modes): Werner (1948) proposed that amodal qualities that are directly experienced by the infant are Darwinian categorical affects (happy, sad, angry) mixed with other modes of color, sound, shape, etc.
c.) Vitality Affects (in the presence of categorical and noncategorical): related to vital processes of life such as breathing, hunger, elimination, sleeping, coming and going of feeling, thoughts, sensations.
d.) Mirror Neurons are know to contribute to primary intersubjectivity, affective resonance and imitation, if not empathy as well.
Infants do construct relationship as well as perceive the directly due to perception of invariant qualities (e.g., face, voice) related to mother, etc. The infant experiences organization through amodal perception and constructionistic efforts as well.
(2) Sense of a Core Self: (2-7 mos.) which includes
a.) Self agency (volition)
b.) Self-coherence: 1.) Unity of locus; 2.) Coherence of motion; 3.) Coherence of temporal structure; 4.) Coherence of intenwsity structure; 5.) Coherence of form.
"The matching of caregiver behavioral variations and infant predelictions gives the infant the optimal opportunity to perceive those behavior invariants (adaptive oscillators) that identify self or other." (p. 73) Invariance (repeatability, p. 80) is the crucial experiential condition under which the infant becomes able to encode a predictable self, and a predictable other. Invariance yields a self, and an other. Memory itself becomes the invariant due to encoding that permits recognition (re-"cognition," nonvariance).
One of the foundations of Stern's approach to self is "There are never emotions without a perceptual context. There are never cognitions without some affect fluctuations . . . . An episode [episodic memory, island of consistency] appears to enter into memory [encoding] as an indivisable unit." (p. 95). What gets encoded episodically are not specific memories, but generalized: 1)experience, 2) intuition schema, and 3) imagining capacity--a Sense of a Core Self.
(3) Sense of a Core Self with Other (9 mos. and up)
a.) Self regulating of the infant for attachment, security, arousal, activation, pleasure, physical gratification, self-esteem (atunement, p. 138 ff.)
c.) Being with: self in presence of other, physical and psychological proximity and individuation (evoked companion. p. 111)
d.) Family triad
(4) Verbal self (1 year and up)
The use of words not only gives the child increased ability of cognition, generalization and identification, but also responsibility to the parent and society's demands. When children begin using words, adults usually become less personal, more abstract, more demanding and more alienating (p. 163). Children use words as an adjunct while adults believe in words, and the imbedded demands
Becoming verbal leads to 1) The objective view of self; 2) Capacity for symbolic play; 3) Use of language and new ways of being with and of being divided between the verbal and nonverbal.
(5) Narrative self (3 years and up)
Our autobiographical history told to ourself and to others, constructional autobiography as told to us by family. There are cultural enactments and filters affecting our self from subgroups of society, kin-groups and our family per se.
The final part of the book is devoted to implications for psychotherapy, which are profoundly affected by research presented so far, and by Stern's own research which focused on process, the now, what he called the "microanalytic interview," assessing a client's instant-by-instant lived experience at any given time. He asserted that phenomenologically we only live in the present moment, and he applied that to his psychotherapy systematically. His work integrates no less than psychotherapy, developmental psychology, anthropology and psychoanalysis.
Postlogue: Stern's findings have been updated and corroborated this year in The Birth of Intersubjectivity: Psychodynamics, Neurobiology, and the Self (The Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) by Ammaniti and Gallese. However these authors still cling to psychodynamic theory which misses the seminal and phenomenological work of Stern.