Dialectics and the Formation of the Self

"Negativity is an essential part of human existence and change."
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class="first">Dialectics and the Formation of the Self

Post by JerseyFlight » Sat Mar 13, 2021 10:47 am

(All quotes are taken from: 'I Interact Therefore I Am': The Self as a Historical Product of Dialectical Attunement - Dimitris Bolis & Leonhard Schilbach)

https://www.researchgate.net/publicatio ... Attunement

"...the ‘self’ lies beyond the static individual, namely in the unfolding of social relations, as a dialectic of internalization/externalization, over multiple temporal scales."

The importance of this definition is that it corresponds to the actual movement of being, in contrast, an identity view would think of the self as an independent, self-determined entity, isolating it from the plural reality of its development:

"...the self is not to be taken as a static entity bounded by
the individual, but rather as the interplay of dynamically and
reciprocally interacting factors."

"...interaction processes can be thought of as ontologically primary to
entities on an ultimately basic level. In this line of thinking,
entities actually emerge through interactions (intra-actions
for emphasis; Barad 2003) and not vice versa, from within
their relationship and not outside. In this light, we view the
multifaceted construction of the self as an active process
of culturally mediated internalization of social interactions
along multiple time scales."

The polemical ramifications of this are devastating for the cult of rugged individualism. The idea that the quality of one's self is determined by the autonomous will is incinerated. If a human agent is lacking qualitative interactions, it logically follows, that his quality of self will in some way be impaired. To make a better society we must be able to fix things at this level.

"...evolution (or development1) of species,
societies, persons and concepts should not be viewed as an
one-way adjustment, but rather as a dialectical, namely a
dynamic, reciprocal and cumulative process..."

Only when our social institutions begin to treat the self as a dynamic process will man be able to move toward the cultivation of an advanced species. Until that time we are condemned to sabotage ourselves over and over again.

"Enactivist accounts have
constructively put their focus on the fundamental role of
interaction and coupling with the environment, including
others. Bayesian accounts of cognition have provided important
computational tools for describing individual cognition,
mainly through hierarchical models. Our dialectical suggestion,
on one hand emphasizes the primacy of (social) interactions.
More concretely, it states that for a comprehensive
understanding of the (a-)typical self, we will need to move
beyond the individual, to the historical unfolding of (social)
interactions over multiple scales."

One thing I find missing, from this most excellent paper, is the role of the mother and father, i.e. Attachment Theory. Our most important interactions, which lay the groundwork for the qualities that make up our self, are the early interactions between infant and parent, the process of mirroring.

Ramifications of a dialectical approach:

"In pedagogy, this is translated into an educational system
that would promote collective problem solving as compared
to mainstream competitive individual tests. Put simply, taking
such an approach seriously, it would make no sense to
isolate inherently limited individual cognitive capacity and
reward merely the most relevant to a given task. On the
contrary, promoting collective problem solving and decision
making via active participation and interaction would
enhance both cognitive and motivational aspects, yielding
superior pedagogical but also practical achievements. In
psychiatry, one would not be merely focused on diagnosing
and ‘fixing’ individual impairments, but also tuning interpersonal
communication and enhancing social inclusion
(Fig. 3; Bolis et al. 2017). Within a clinical context, such
an approach would suggest the monitoring of not only individual
progress, but also interpersonal coupling between a
‘therapist’ and the ‘individual’, as well as between multiple
persons during group therapy. In fact, not every therapist
might be optimally suited for every patient and therefore
matching of therapist and patient might need to be assessed
in order to predict whether therapy will eventually work.
Within a societal context, ‘tuning’ will not target only the
individual with a psychiatric condition, but also her social

Most assuredly, the only thing better than one thinking mind, is two thinking minds. However, here our species falls on hard times, because our functional self is cultivated in a competitive system, I suggest the art of collaboration and discourse is becoming more foreign to us. Open engagement is thwarted by competition. But if one wants an expansion of power in the domain of thought one must learn to work with other minds! That is, dialectic points the thinker beyond himself in the name of multiplying the power of thought.

The last part of this section, dealing with clinical practice, is exceedingly important. Too often psychotherapy focuses on the method, failing to realize that all therapy is achieved concretely, through a relational process. It's exceptionally intelligent to note the quality of the interaction between the therapist and the patient. An idealist approach to therapy would simply be to assume that, any therapist armed with the "right method," could affect positive change. A concrete approach is precisely to take heed to the quality of interaction between therapist and patient. (Bruce Wampold has emphasized this as the most important aspect of psychological healing).

It seems the failure of psychiatry is that it doesn't know how to incorporate a dialectical approach, it doesn't even know what this means, it ends up delineating on the basis of identity thinking, which leaves off the social environment, merely trying to look for the disturbance within the individual. I contend that this ultimately leads to the demonization and victimization of the person, as well as a failure to innovate concrete solutions.

As the authors say: "...we will make a case for the use of dialectics as a powerful tool for science."

"In the field of ethics and law, seriously assimilating the
idea that the self goes beyond the static individual, a juridical
system would not only focus on individual intentionality
and responsibility, but also take into account collective factors
and societal structure. Along similar lines, confronting
social problems such as racism will not merely address educating
individuals, but also dealing with social structures,
which potentially instigate and maintain such patterns of

Until our institutions and procedures are conditioned by the thoroughness of dialectics our societies will continue to flounder in stupidity, precisely because identity thinking is incapable of grasping a reality in motion.

There is no such thing as a non-dialectical-self. The self, by its very nature, presupposes and is the result of, a dialectical process.


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Jenna P
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>Re: Dialectics and the Formation of the Self

Post by Jenna P » Sun Mar 14, 2021 11:40 pm

Thank you for posting this incredible paper. I would also like to thank the authors for their excellent research.

It seems to me that this is really ground breaking in terms of directing psychological studies in general:

"Our dialectical suggestion, on one hand emphasizes the primacy of (social) interactions. More concretely, it states that for a comprehensive understanding of the (a-)typical self, we will need to move beyond the individual, to the historical unfolding of (social)interactions over multiple scales. On the other hand, our approach extends Bayesian accounts of cognition by situating them in the context of real-time social interaction and providing a description of internalization and collective externalization processes beyond the individual. More precisely, it connects internalization to predictive coding and collective externalization to active inference. By doing so, it describes perception, learning and collective action as a unified process that allows for aligning personal (psychophysiological) and interpersonal (coupling and synchrony) states with environmental (nature and others) conditions.Taken together, via integrating levels of description and time scales such an approach provides a unifying and principled way for studying the self beyond the individual."

It seems obvious that the self is, and must be, influenced by economic considerations, specifically through a historical lens. Economic factors also play into this dialectical model. What is most clear is that doing psychology in a non-dialectical way is flawed, it's a good way to distort our understanding of persons.

Might there not also be a key hidden along this path, an undiscovered solution to helping those whose sense of self has been severely damaged? I just think this way of thinking is so productive and powerful.

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