יום רביעי, 18 ביולי 2012

Notes on Slavin's Explanation of Agency

"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show" (Dickens's Copperfield's first words).

I attended a guest lecture by Jonathan Slavin at Tel Hashomer military mental health clinic.  He presented a case study, there were a lot of free pastries and soft drinks, and then he spoke about the concept of Agency in relational psychoanalysis.

In the case  he presented, meetings were held via Skype, and included email correspondence. The main approach of the therapy was to allow the patient to recognize his parents as subjects, in order for them to be available to recognize him  as  a person in turn.

Slavin explained Agency for dummies, or maybe it sounded this way because he was aware of the audience not being native in English, but anyway, I found it very catching, it went something like this: "You   know what an agent is, like if you were an actor, and you have an agent, and his job is to go  out and get you acting jobs, that is what an agent does, like when you go out on a vacation and you get frustrated with too much information online so you go to an agent that arranges things for you. An agent is someone who acts in your behalf, who acts for you. Well in relational psychology,  we  mean that a person should be his own agent, to act for himself".

Well, it was most catching in my view not because I didn't understand that before in simple terms.  Instead, it was enlightening since I imagined the actor, sitting at home waiting for jobs, calling his agent,   begging for something good, that really seemed to me like intrapsychic isolation. Then the idea of an abusive agent, like friends' Joey and his agent, or many other TV portrayals of agents, made me realize how abuse and agency were linked - the actors ambitions to get famous and give it his heart used to stuff him in cheap nude scenes. Well maybe this is not so smart on my part, but I will try to compensate by saying it is quite the Lacanian view of trauma too.

Also,  Slavin made a short example of a mother-daughter interaction that  I later told my mother, and helped me explain to her what a few years of quoting Zizek and Winnicott did not do. Instead of telling the resisting kid after a minute of arguing: "you know you want to put your coat on and come with me  and pick up your brother", he suggested to say "I know you don't want to go, but we have to, so put your coat on and let's go pick up your brother". By that keeping the child's subjective autonomy in tact, frustrating her wish to stay and play, while fulfilling her need to be recognized as a subject. My mom, usually expressing much interest in my Zizekean comments, while guilting inside about not being enough good-enough, could very easily relate to that and say, "huh, that's good, not to take that from the child...".

Last, Slavin made a very brief prelude to the idea of recognition that  it was like a mother being highly attuned to the needs of the child, and how it forms the child's mind to realize his effect on the world. This reminded me of a research job I used to have. Very abusive in employment terms, yes, but very interesting in content. During my BA, I was a research coordinator in a joint research for Harvard Med School and Tel Aviv University, under the supervision of Prof. Als who leads a  research grounded approach  for developmental interventions with infants (NIDCAP). Her stuff is all fMRI validated, in a way that would make adult therapists very much ashamed.  Anyway she and her colleagues have a lot to  say about the infant's arousal levels, and how different  internal states co-regulate each other, and how the caretaker helps the child  regulate itself. For example, the psychomotor system regulates the attention , so when moving the infant is less attentive. In this way the mother can wrap the baby in a bundle, not letting it move, and enabling greater attention to internal states and interaction with the mother.  Now I am still bitter about the terms of my employment in that job, and I was going through a Kleinean thing maybe, but I now understand the link between holding, the formation of subjectivity and a sense of agency in infants a lot more.  About the lack of physiological correlates to adult psychotherapy concepts, I think I would like to explore a sense of agency as a regulator of arousal.  I think that is even very obvious to see, and must have been explored under other theories: that when your influence on the external situation is clear, arousal is regulated - either high when response is possible, or low when it isn't. But I make a mess of things. 

Let's leave it with a mess of coordinates to figure out later. 

Here is a picture of  Columbus. Did he get secret maps from ancient chinese explorers before him? Did the scout on his mast really expect to fall off the end of the world?  Anyway his quest was great.


PS:
I mentioned that he used Skype for remote therapy sessions. I listened to bits of them. I wondered if they could be recognized semantically, grammatically or structurally, to be more or less effective, or successful. Again my wish for objective validity. I guess it is a wish for recognition.


תגובה 1:

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