Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Donnel Stern - Dissociation and Understanding

"All understanding is context dependent, and one of the most significant contexts for clinical purposes is the self-state. How we understand the other, and ourselves, depends on the state(s) we occupy. Dissociations between an analyst's self-states can, therefore, limit or impede understanding of the analysand by depriving the analyst of a fitting context within which to grasp what the analysand says and does. Clinical understanding may require the breach of such dissociations...The claim that all experience is continously constructed does not contradict our everyday recognition that some meanings are remarkably enduring. It is entirely consistent with the idea that we continuously create our experience anew to suggest that in some cases we construct the same meaning, or the same pattern in experience, over and over again. To put the point in conventional psychoanalytic language: unformulated experience can be highly structured—though never so structured that multiple interpretations are excluded. Even those structured meanings, though, remain processes. Even the most highly organized unformulated meanings are therefore not static objects or ruts worn in the brain, and never absolute, but predispositions toward certain kinds of meaning-making and away from others...." (p. 844)

"But no matter whether it is the analyst or the analysand who resolves the dissociation first, the story does not end here. Understanding is more mysterious than the mere absence of dissociation; it does not necessarily fall into place as soon as our unconscious reasons to avoid it vanish. The view that comes to us from Heidegger, Gadamer, Merleau-Ponty, and others is that there is no way to codify the process by which understanding is reached. No one can say exactly why understanding comes about when it does, why horizons fuse now and not five minutes ago or yesterday, why language becomes able in one moment to contain experience that the moment before it could not. Even after dissociation has been resolved, the most we can do is allow history, or tradition, or the speech and conduct of the other, to act freely within us. We cannot decide to understand, even under the best of circumstances; we can only strive to put ourselves in the best position for understanding to occur. And so, while the resolution of the analyst's dissociation is crucial, it guarantees nothing: it merely means that the circular movement that may result in the expansion and flowering of meaning can occur with less obstruction by unconsciously held motivation. New understanding may follow immediately—or it may not. Resolving dissociations gives language its head, but what language will do then is beyond our capacity to know." (p. 871)
 

Donnel B. Stern (2003). The Fusion of Horizons: Dissociation, Enactment, and Understanding. Psychoanalytic Dialogues, Vol. 13, pp. 843-873

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