Relational Trauma and the Developing Right Brain

Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California, USA.
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (Impact Factor: 4.38). 05/2009; 1159(1):189-203. DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04474.x
Source: PubMed


Psychoanalysis, the science of unconscious processes, has recently undergone a significant transformation. Self psychology, derived from the work of Heinz Kohut, represents perhaps the most important revision of Freud's theory as it has shifted its basic core concepts from an intrapsychic to a relational unconscious and from a cognitive ego to an emotion-processing self. As a result of a common interest in the essential, rapid, bodily based, affective processes that lie beneath conscious awareness, a productive dialogue is now occurring between psychoanalysis and neuroscience. Here I apply this interdisciplinary perspective to a deeper understanding of the nonconscious brain/mind/body mechanisms that lie at the core of self psychology. I offer a neuropsychoanalytic conception of the development and structuralization of the self, focusing on the experience-dependent maturation of the emotion-processing right brain in infancy. I then articulate an interdisciplinary model of attachment trauma and pathological dissociation, an early forming defense against overwhelming affect that is a cardinal feature of self-psychopathologies. I end with some thoughts on the mechanism of the psychotherapeutic change process and suggest that self psychology is, in essence, a psychology of the unique functions of the right brain and that a rapprochement between psychoanalysis and neuroscience is now at hand.

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    Clinical Social Work Journal 06/2015; 43(2). DOI:10.1007/s10615-013-0461-2 · 0.27 Impact Factor
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    • "Moreover, the lateral tegmental limbic forebrain–midbrain circuit has been found to be involved in the negative regulation of affect and to be associated with avoidance behavior and with the passive coping style.72,73 "
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    • "The interplay between top-down and bottom-up processes is however evident (Adcock et al., 2009; Silverstein et al., 2012). Many mechanisms investigated from various perspectives, support our hypothesis: disturbances of neural synchrony and reduced NMDA neurotransmission (Uhlhaas et al., 2008; Woo et al., 2010), dysconnectivity and plasticity (Stephan et al., 2009), changes in brain architecture involved in self-processes (Wylie and Tregellas, 2010; Guo et al., 2012), cognitive dissonance theory (Festinger, 1957; van Veen et al., 2009), aberrant salience (Kapur, 2003), social defeat hypothesis (Selten and Cantor-Grae, 2005), and psychodynamic theories in which is surmised that psychosis can be explained as an attempt to restore the defective 'self' (Kohut and Wolfe, 1978; Schore, 2009). Normal self-experience relies on a coherent percept. "
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