17 From intersubjective communion in infancy: virtuous and vicious circles of re-enactment
'Past and future of the field of psychotherapy at the Millennium change', Aarhus, Denmark Dec. 3-5 1999.
I congratulate the Kempler Institute of Scandinavia with its 20 years' anniversary, and thank the programme committee for the invitation to give a talk. I shall invite you to reflect on the phenomenology of mirroring companion's movements, and indicate how virtuous and vicious circles of re-enactment arise from our peculiar capacity for virtual participation in what others are doing. We see it manifested in the feeding situations portrayed in Figure 18.1, in which the feeding children mirror by their mouth movements the recipient's mouth movements.
Notice how the Yanomamo baby's mouth is wide open as the morsel approaches the adult's mouth, and how the lips tighten as the adult's mouth begins to close for the bite, and how Thomas, an Oslo boy (11 3/4 month), having been spoon-fed by his sister, when reciprocating her spoon-feeding opens his own mouth as she receives the spoon with food.
Now, in order for Thomas to learn to reciprocate the spoon-feeding he has not only experienced being spoon-fed, but must somehow have felt to take a part in the feeder's activity from the feeder's stance, as if he were co-authoring the feeding, even though his parent or sister has been the actual author of the previous feeding. Moreover, sitting face-to-face while having been spoon-fed, the infant's re-enactment of the activity of the feeder as a model depends on sensori-motoric reversal, i.e. mirror reversal of the model's movements in order for the infant to feel to be virtually moving with the model's movements. This I term altercentric participation. That enables the infant to participate in the caretaker's movements from the caretaker's stance, entailing a virtual co-enactment of the caretaker's movements as if the infant were hand-guided or a co-author of the caretaker's activity. Such altercentric participation in the caretaker's movements affords the infant to share specific temporal contours of feeling flow patterns, which Stern (1999) calls 'vitality contours', and invites circular re-enactment in similar situations from e-motional memory of the manner in which the activity has been virtually co-enacted and the feeling that directs the enactment.
It arises from intersubjective communion with the model by virtue of a Virtual Alter mechanism which enables mirroring of the model's goal directed movement. This phenomenon has been uncovered by way of inference from a postulate which I put forward at a Gordon Research Conference on Cybernetics of Cognition in 1986. Criticising and transcending Maturana's notion of autopoiesis in biology of cognition for its monadological implications, I proposed that we are born with a companion space with an inner Virtual Alter complementing our bodily Ego with the same operational efficiency (Latin: virtus) as an actual Alter, and hence invites and permits reciprocal engagements with others from birth (Bråten 1988ab).
The paradigmatic shift in understanding of infant capacities
Recent infancy research has uncovered that infants are able to engage in interpersonal communion from the outset, consensually attending and bodily attuning to one another's emotive expressions and gesture- and sound-producing movements. It is demonstrated by the documentations of neonatal imitation and of protoconversation in the first months of life.
Such sociality from the outset does not fit the auto-enclosed and ego-centric point of departure for child development which Freud (1911) and Piaget (1926) posited in the first quarter of this century, requiring that the pleasure principle be replaced by the reality principle and a long developmental period of de-centration before sociality and intersubjectivity could emerge (Figure 17.2).
In the last decades some of the story of human infancy has been re-written, as it were, replacing earlier theoretical views of infants as a-social and ego-centric with a new understanding of infant capacity for interpersonal communion from the outset.(Figure 17.2) -- entailing that the lower left field ordinarily is empty of occurrences except for biological impairments of capacities, such as in autism.
This new understanding is manifest in the title and contents of these two volumes: In Daniel Stern's seminal book "The Interpersonal World of the Infant" (Basic Books 1995), he specifies the domain of intersubjective relatedness connecting the infant's subjective self with evoked and actual companions. In the collective volume on "Intersubjective Communication and Emotion in Early Ontogeny" which I have recently published (Cambridge University Press 1998), we offer explanations inter alia of these phenomena: newborn imitation and protoconversation in the first months of life; six-month-olds beginning to turn "the deaf ear" to sound distinctions that make no sense in the ambient language; nine-month-old learners re-enacting an object-manipulation they have seen demonstrated the previous day; and 11-12-month-olds' reciprocating caregiver activity, for example, spoon-feeding (as illustrated in Fig. 17.1). The very authors of such findings provide documentation and interpretations, examining different levels of intersubjective attunement in early human development arising from the foundations of infant intersubjectivity which Trevarthen was the first to define in the 1970's.
Within this horizon I shall approach these questions:
(Q1) What kind of processes may be involved in speech perception by young infants?
(Q2) What enables face-to-face imitative learning in nine-month-olds?
(Q3) What enables infants to afford and reciprocate care giving?
(Q4) What may be the neurobiological basis for altercentric participation in the caretaker's activity enabling circular re-enactment of such activity?
(Q5) How do such processes of altercentric participation concern vitality affects and contours?
(Q6) Why is it that abused toddlers have been found to more likely to be abusive to other children, and what are some of the paths open to victims of childhood abuse?
A radical entailment of the capacity for altercentric participation, I shall indicate, is that the victim in an abuse situation -- before defence mechanisms set in -- is virtually co-enacting the abuser's activity, i.e. compelled not only to be a victim, but to be a co-author of the abuse, calling for circular re-enactment as one of several potential paths open to the victim. And
this invites the last question which I pose but am unqualified to answer -- not being a therapist and therefore never having done any therapeutic work:
(Q 7) In the dialogue between client and therapeut, can existential meaning be assigned to events in the past that were never given a narrative label, hidden as they were from the subject's declarative memory? Or, in Stern's (1995) terms: How may a protonarrative envelope, devoid of any declarative label, be opened?
Neonatal imitation and early speech perception
Patricia Kuhl (1998) has demonstrated by a number of comparative experiments how infants by 6 months have begun to "turn a deaf ear", so to speak, to sound distinctions that make no sense in the ambient language, for example, responses to phonetic units /r/ and /l/ which is not distinguished in Japanese, and to /I/ in English and /y/ in Swedish. Such pruning of their perceptual space by what Kuhl terms Native Language Magnet occurs, then, twelve months or so before their verbal communicative competence sets in acquired cultural terms of expressions using sound distinctions retained as familiar.
It is generally assumed that early infant imitation probably involves supra-modal or cross-modal processes, i.e. the various sensori-motor processes entailed cut across and combine various sensori modalities. For example, Kuguiumutzakis (1998) has even video-documented that one-hour-olds can take after not just facial gestures, but even attempt to imitate vocalisations.
Now, in early speech perception, Kuhl points out that there must be an innate link between the sensory and motor processes that operate in the preverbal learner, and that vision, hearing and utterance of sounds somehow go together. If that is the case, then I would expect such speech perception and precursory accent learning to occur by altercentric participation. Acquisition of the musical score of the specific rhythmic and melody patterns of the native language, and which is almost impossible to change once established, may entail the infant's virtual participation in the model's production of the "language music" listened to, leaving the infant learner with "e-motional memory" of its characteristic contours, not categorical contents, as a basis for circular re-enactments and generation of semblant patterns.
Imitative learning of object-handling before first year's birthday
Let me now turn to circular re-enactment of manual acts in older infants, before their first years's birthday. We know that when teaching a manual task to children with learning problems, it helps to hand-guide them, or in the case of children with autism, at least to face the same direction as the child. Also for ordinary children, when the task is complex, hand-guidance afford the learner to experience actual co-enactment of task as basis for subsequent re-enactment.
When being hand-guided and when mirroring the model as if being hand-guided
Consider first the Balinese boy, Karba (11-12 month) being instructed by his parent in the complex tasks of fruit picking and instrument playing (Figure 15.2 (left and middle) in essay no 15, this volume). The instructor and the learner are facing the same direction, and Karba is being hand-guided by the instructor. Karba is afforded the experience to be actually co-enacting the manual task with the parent who physically holds and guides him. They are actually sharing the same stance and bodily moving in concert. Facing the same direction as his parent, Karba is allowed to bodily participate in the performance. From such experiences of actually co-enacting the goal-directed movements Karba may gradually come to be able to re-enact this activity, i.e. to pick the food and play the instrument by himself. What he has experienced to do with his actual Alter (his parent), he may later come to do with his virtual Alter.
Now, Karba's posture and relation to the instructor is quite the opposite of the situation illustrated to the right in Fig. 15.2 (in essay no 15, this volume). Here an easy, but novel manual task is demonstrated to the nine-month-old learner. In such experiments, designed by Andrew Meltzoff and replicated by Michael Heimann, the point is for the object to be out of reach for the infant; hence, the face-to-face exposure. Only on the next day is the infant allowed to handle the box with the submerged button. When the infants now re-enact they do so, I have suggested, from e motional memory of having unwittingly participated in co enacting the model's goal-directed movements. The infants have learnt to perform from virtual participation in the model's movements as if they had been hand-guided. Thus, their virtually moving with the model, and Karba's actually moving with his parent and being hand-guided, may conform to the same operationally closed format of a dynamic dyadic system of co-enacted movements from a shared stance.
This format applies also to the way in which Thomas has participated in the caretakers' spoonfeeding him. Like the nine-month-olds in Meltzoff's deferred imitation experiments, he re-enacts the spoonfeeding (Fig.17.1 (right)) from having virtually participated in the facing model's performance as if being hand-guided.
Now, a Gibsonian view of direct perception invites this objection: there is no need for them to participate in the model's performance; they just re enact from having seen the object affordance demonstrated, respectively, that a submerged button invites to be pushed or that at a spoonful of food invites to be put to someone's mouth for eating. Aside from the complex manual operations involved in feeding another a spoonful of food, however, such an interpretation is ruled out by a control experiment designed by Meltzoff (reported in Bråten (ed.) 1998: 47-62). Here toddlers' reactions to the performance of a mechanical model is compared to reactions to a human model. While exposure to human effort to pull a dumbbell apart elicits re enactment by 18 month olds, exposure to a mechanical model's pulling the dumbbell apart does not result in re enactment. Even when the human model fails in his demonstrated effort to pull it apart, toddlers follow up by pulling it apart. Again, in the above terms, they re-enact from e-motional memory of altercentric participation in the model's goal-oriented movements.
When infants and toddlers afford and reciprocate caregiving
This posited capacity for altercentric participation has bearings for prosocial behaviour in a twofold way, first by enabling the child to share in a peer's felt need or distress and, second, by having learnt to offer care by altercentric participation in caregivers. Thus, when peers in need or distress reactivate in the child shared feelings by virtue of altercentric participation in the peer, semblant of the form of bodily self-feelings evoked in situations in which the infant has been helped or comforted, then such peer situations should invite re-enactment towards the peer of the kind of caregiving in which the infant has felt to virtually participate when previously afforded care.
To expect caregiving by infants is to be in conflict with traditional theories of child development that viewed the infant as awaiting a long period of development before becoming social and, indeed, prosocial. Even so, there have been deviating voices in the psycho-analytic theory tradition. In Object Relations Theory, for example, Winnicott pointed to the early capacity for concern, and in Attachment Theory, Bowlby spoke of the reversed caregiver relation that sometimes could occur in mother-infant dyads, albeit regarded as pathological.
And even though it did not affect her father's theory, Anna Freud has been a pathfinder by her empirical documentation of early prosociality. For example, in the studies of Infant without families in wartime nurseries during the Second World War, she reports with Dorothy Burlingham, about the episode with Rose (19 months) and Edith (17 months). Rose is sitting at the table and drinking her cocoa when Edith climbs up and tries to take the mug from Rose's mouth. Rose looks at her in surprise, then turns the mug and holds it for Edith so that Edith can drink the cocoa. Here is a nurturing and sharing act, perhaps even altruistic, arising from virtual participation in Edith's effort to get a drink. And by turning the mug so that Edith can drink from Edith's position, reverse to that of Rose, she demonstrates altercentricity and may have re-enacted that kind of drinking help she herself previously has been afforded.
Such occurrences, like the episode with Thomas, of re-enactment of the care-giving afforded by care-givers, I see as evidence of the early capacity for altercentric participation in others. Both nature and nurture is at play here.
First, nature plays its part in the sense that infants have the altercentric capacity to engage in others in the mode of felt immediacy, that is, in other children in need and in the models that afford learning.
Second, nurture plays its part in the sense that altercentric participation in the care-giving movements and accompanying feelings affords infants with an experiential ground for potential re-enactment towards others, including the caregivers..
Summary so far
So far, pertaining to the first three questions regarding, respectively, processes involved in speech perception by young infants, in face-to-face imitative learning by nine-month-olds, and in infants affording and reciprocating care giving, I have proposed these replies:
From e-motional memory of virtually moving with the sound- or gesture-producing movements of the (m)other, infants can re-enact the movements they have felt to be virtually co-enacting. This enables the young learner to participate in the movements from the model's stance as if the infant learner were hand-guided or a co-author of the model's activity. Such learning by altercentric participation enables 11-12-month olds to reciprocate and re-enact the caregiving to which they have been subjected from e-motional memory of having virtually co-enacted the caretaker's activity, and which in face-to-face situations entails perceptual mirror reversal.
All the experimental situations referred to previously, as well as the spoon-feeding situation in the case of Thomas (Fig.17.1 (right, top)) occur in face-to-face situations. Hence, there is mirroring in a double sense here. First, there is the perceptual mirror reversal entailed by being face-to-face with the model and, second, there is mirroring of the model's movements by virtue of altercentric participation. We may now summarize the defining operational characteristics:
Learning by altercentric participation is imitational learning by Ego from Alter which
(1) in face-to-face situation entails perceptual mirror reversal of Alter's enactment,
(2) evoking sensori-motor engagement in Alter's movements in a participatory sense involving virtual co-enactment of Alter's movements as if Ego were hand-guided and a co-author,
(3) giving rise to shared temporal vitality (affects) contours, reflecting the manner in which the enactment is felt to be virtually co-enacted and the feeling that directs the co-enactment,
(4) enabling circular re-enactment from e-motional memory of such virtual co-enactments.
The question of neurobiological support
Let me now turn to the question of possible neurophysiological support for such a capacity, i.e. whether there may be neurobiological basis for altercentric participation in the caretaker's activity enabling circular re-enactment of such activity.
Neurons or neural systems sensitized to allocentric perception, transcending perception from an egocentric position determined by gaze-direction, have been uncovered in animals. John O'Keefe (1985, 1992) speaks of so-called "allocentric maps" which an animal may have of a landscape. He has found evidence of place cells in rats, dependent upon the place where the animal has been and independent of gaze direction, and differing from view cells active in egocentric view of the environment, dependent on the body coordinates and not by the familiar place. Now, if neural systems in rats can operate in an allocentric mode, transcending orientation from an egocentric perspective, then there may be a ground for expecting sensitized neural support for a more radical transcendence in humans, i.e. for supporting altercentricity and the altercentric mirroring of others' movements.
When the sight of another's motor activity evoke premotor units: discovery of mirror neurons
A pertinent discovery has been made in non-human primates. On the basis of their study of functional organization of the macaque monkey brain, Rizzolatti et al. (1988) have suggested that premotor neurons are activated in anticipation of a purposive movement, for example, grasping a piece of food. De Pellegrino, Fadiga, Fogassi, Gallese and Rizzolatti (1992) designed an experimental situation pertaining to this question: Could such premotor neurons be activated merely by the sight of another's grasping the food out of one's own reach?
In the first situation (Fig. 17.4 (left)) the monkey watches the experimenter grasping a piece of food on a plate out of reach of the monkey. In the next situation (right) a plate with a piece of food is offered to the monkey who reaches for food. Premotor cell activation in the monkey is recorded in both situations: first, by the sight of the grasping movements of the experimenter; second, by the animal's own grasping movements. This could indicate that the sight of the experimenter's grasping the piece of food evokes virtual grasping in the monkey, activating the same kinds of networks that combine with others to subserve the monkey's own grasping.
This may not necessarily be taken to indicate, however, that the monkey necessarily perceptually participates in the experimenter's grasping. Again, Gibson's term of affordance, an attended piece of food invites to be grasped and eaten: The sight of the piece of food, even though out of reach when the experimenter by his movement draws attention to it, might activate, independently of the sight of grasping, premotor units in preparation of the monkey's grasping. Thanks, however, to Meltzoff's (1995) ingenious control experiment with the mechanical dumbbell demonstration (accounted for in Bråten (ed.) 1998), failing to elicit target movements in the watching toddlers while the human model succeeded, we can discard this possibility in the cases of the infant learners. The premotor cell activation in both situations of seeing food being grasped and preparing to reach for food may thus retain their relevance. The discovery of mirror neurons by Rizzolatti and his group is clearly pertinent.2
Thus, there appear to be potential neurophysiological support, or at least part of a neurosociological basis for the kind of processes I have described and specified as our capacity to virtually move with the movements of others, and hence for infant' circular re-enactment of goal-directed movements which have felt to be co-enacted by virtue of altercentric participation. .
Vicious circles of re-enactment from altercentric participation in abuse
Such circular re-enactment may be operative, however, also in victims of childhood abuse ineffaceably affected by abusive motions felt to be co-enacted, evoking circular re-enactment from subconscious e-motional memory of virtual participation in the abuser's activity. Before turning to that, let me first re-capitulate the definition of e-motional memory applying to re-enactment of caregiving.
Circular re-enactment caregiving
By "e-motional memory" I mean here the affective remembrance -- which is not conceptual and may not be conscious -- of virtually moving with Alter's movements leaving Ego with a characteristic vitality contour and procedural memory of the virtual co-enactment which may be evoked for re-enactment in similar situations. The composite term "e-motional" combines the folk sense of being 'moved by' and the root sense 'out-of-motion'.
In an environment affording care, the infant gets recurrent opportunities to not just be subjected to care but to feel to be virtually co-enacting such caregiving, inviting circular re-enactment from e-motional memory of such caregiving if and when others in need or distress reactivate in the child feelings semblant of the form of bodily self-feelings evoked in situations in which the infant has experienced caregiving, and hence activating circular re-enactment of care.
Then others in need or distress may invite caring efforts resembling the caring afforded by others earlier in infancy from e-motional memory of having virtually participated in that caregiving. As indicated in Figure 17.5 (the top circle), altercentric participation is at play in a twofold way here: first, by the part it plays in learning from caregivers; second, by the way in which it may be elicited by others in need or distress activating circular re-enactment of caregiving offered to them.
Child abuse inviting circular re-enactment of abuse
In the way that sensitive caregiving invites circular re-enactment we should also expect that experiences of abuse may come to invite circles of re-enactment. However, if the victim is incapable of altercentric participation in the abuser's activity, or defence mechanisms prevent any sharing of vitality contours with the abuser, reflecting the manner of abuse and the feelings that direct the abuse, then we should not expect the victim to be able to reverse positions and become an abuser in relations to others. Defence mechanisms or biological impairments may prevent altercentric participation in the abuser's activity from the abuser's stance. If the victim's bodily ego suffers abuse without virtual co-enactment of the abuse, then the victim may continue or not to be victim also in relations to others, but cannot be expected to reverse the position and making victims of others.
Circular re-enactment of abuse somehow entails that the child victim has been compelled not just to suffer the victim part, but to feel to participate in the abusive movements, sharing the vitality contours reflecting the manner of abuse and the feelings that direct the abuse. In virtue of such altercentric participation the victim may come to experience engagement in the bodily motions and feelings of the abuser, not just the suffering. That leaves the victim with a compelling bodily and emotional remembrance that increases the likelihood of circular re-enactment of abuse in peer relations or towards younger children later in ontogeny from e-motional memory of having virtually participated in actual alter's abuse, while suffered by the victim's bodily ego (Figure 17.5 (bottom circle)).3
Empirical support: abused toddlers are more likely to become abusive than other toddlers
Thus, prior to defence mechanisms setting in, the abused child is not just a victim of the abuse, but virtually takes a part in the abusive and hurtful event as a co-enactor of the abuse, inviting as one of several paths an increased likelihood of circular re-enactment of abusive behaviour towards other potential victims.
The above implies that children who have experienced caretaking or parenting in a harsh, punitive, neglecting or abusive manner should be more likely to respond with fear, anger, or even attack peers or younger children in distress, as compared to responses by children with a different experiential background. Empirical studies point in this direction. For example, observing abused toddlers abusing other infants George and Main (1985) indicate a vicious circle in the early impact of the quality of the caretaking background. Severely abused toddlers have been observed at a day-care centre to react fearfully or aggressive towards other children in distress, and by the second year of their life to re-enact the abusive behaviour of their parents. Some of the toddlers found to having been abused were never observed to express obvious concern for another child in distress. Sometimes, they even tormented the other child until it began crying and then, while smiling, mechanically patted or attempted to quiet the crying child (Harris 1989; George and Main 1985).
There is thus a double vicious circle in the tragedy of child victims of abuse. Not only are they deprived of full emotional holding quality in their own life. By virtue of circular re-enactment from e-motional memory of abuse, some of them may even later in ontogeny be driven to deprive others of that same quality of life, or pursue different paths, including divorcing the bodily self from the victim's virtual other, each running different independent courses.
Again, as in the case of circular re-enactment of care, no conceptual or verbal "memory" is required for experiences of abuse in felt immediacy to give rise to re-enactment. Indeed, men and women who have been subjected to incest and abuse in their infancy or early childhood may first come to realize that they may have been victims when a crisis breaks out in adult years. But while the experience of abuse is not re-presented in virtue of any conceptual memory, the child is certainly affected in the most profound way. That is why the composite term e-motional "memory" is useful to denote the affective experience and remembrance of moving with the other's motions that afford the infant the feeling of participating in the movement and accompanying emotions. Different from higher-order conceptual memory, this kind of "e-motional memory" will be ineffaceably affected by abusive motions felt to be co-enacted, and increase the likelihood of circular re-enactment of the previously felt co-enacted movements later in ontogeny.
Dialogue in the intersubjective present
And now to the last question which I pose without being able to offer a competent answer. Such virtuous and vicious circles of intergeneration re-enactment may be seen to evoke different kinds of characteristic vitality contours entailing what Stern (1995, 1999) terms protonarrative envelopes which -- while being extra-linguistic and nonconceptual -- await re-opening and transcendence in relations to others later in life. Vicious circles of re-enactment of abuse, as well as other paths pursued by the victim, for example, divorce of the victim's virtual other from the bodily self in what used to be called "multiple personality disorders", entail a 'past' hidden from consciousness, and which is devoid of existential meaning in a sense of .being brought to bear in the phenomenological present.
G.H. Mead made the point that nothing exists -- no past, no future -- except in the present, in the extended present that includes an emergent future as well as a past, resembling perhaps Husserl's view of the present. Mead adds, however, that the emergent future contained in the present demands a "re-writing" of the past contained in the present. Now, if that is the case, then I suggest that existential meaning can only be assigned in the intersubjective present constituted in dialogue with the other -- actual or virtual -- holding the promise of an emergent future that invites definition and re-definition of the past brought out in the open to be meaningfully contained in the intersubjective present constituted with sensitive dialogical companions who do not transform the I-You dialogue into an I-It conversation in which means and ends are introduced, to use Buber's terms.
Maybe such a dialogical conversation between client and therapeut requires the attitude of approaching the client in the way advocated and practised by Harlene Anderson and Harold Goolishian. Being concerned with the prerequisites for dialoguing on the premises of the patient's perspective in the intersubjective setting of the conversation, they bracket any deficiency preconceptions, regarding the client (they prefer not to use the label "patient") rather as a companion for "taking a walk". They regard the ideal therapist not as an expert on pathology, but as a participant manager of conversation with the goal of creating a space for, and participation in, dialogical conversation. Being aware of the way in the therapeut's potential model power may come into play, expected by the client to be the source of the only valid replies, and hence transforming the conversation into a monological conversation, they try to avoid becoming the "narrative editor" (Anderson 1997:96).
And yet, the protonarrative envelopes of traumatic 'pasts", locked in e-motional memory, hidden and yet retained as they has been by a bodily e-motional memory outside awareness and verbal narratives, denied any consciously declared narrative label, need somehow to be assigned an existential and phenomenological meaning in order to be opened in the intersubjective present. Brought out in the open to be meaningfully contained in the intersubjective present shared with dialogical companions as an actualized past, it may open for an emergent future that invites this past to be acknowledged and then re-written in view of the emergent future written in the present in co-authorship with the other -- actual and virtual. This may sound too poetic to be realistic, and, yet I know of cases of severe childhood abuse realized by the victims only in adult years and which, attested by their poetry and writings, has been transformed and transcended through dialogical conversations with themselves and with others, including psychotherapists and friends.
Summary and conclusion
And now, let me summarize the succinct replies offered to the questions posed:
(Q1) Regarding processes involved in infant speech perception -- I have indicated with reference to Kuhl's (1998) findings how exposure to ambient speech appears to invite altercentric participation by the infant, and which leaves the infant with vitality contours of familiar patterns that become characteristic of the accent that later develops.
(Q2) Regarding face-to-face imitative learning in nine-month-olds -- I have indicated how the infant feels to be virtually co-enacting the model's performance, as if the infant were hand-guided, and which in face-to-face situations entails perceptual mirror reversal of the demonstration afforded by the model.
(Q3) Regarding infants who reciprocate care giving -- I have exemplified with spoon-feeding situations how this comes about by the way in which the infant when previously subjected to such caregiving, have felt to be virtually co-enacting the caregiver's activity.
(Q4) Regarding potential neurobiological support of the mirror connectivity involved in altercentric participation -- I have referred to studies indicating 'allocentric maps' in rats and to macaque monkey studies revealing so-called mirror-cells responding to the sight of another individual's grasping, for example, a morsel.
(Q5) Regarding how learning by altercentric participation concerns vitality affects -- I have suggested how altercentric participation in the model leaves the learner with e-motional memory of temporal contours of shared vitality affects, reflecting the manner in which the act is performed and the feelings accompanying the co-enacted movements that invite circular re-enactment in similar situations.
(Q6) Regarding the finding that abused toddlers are likely to be abusive to other children -- a reversing of position from victim to abuser which would be difficult to understand in a traditional perspective, I have indicated that a potential vicious circle may be evoked. Before defence mechanisms set in the victim may be compelled to feel to be virtually co-enacting the abuser's activity. Such altercentric participation in the abuse may come to compel circular re-enactment of abuse, while there may be also several other potential paths open to the victim.
(Q 7) Regarding the critical question about whether existential meaning can be assigned to such traumatic events in the past hidden, as they were, from the victim's declarative memory -- I have suggested that existential meaning and hence, transcendence, can only be assigned in the intersubjective present constituted in dialogue with the other -- virtual or actual -- and which may be the therapeut, provided that the therapeut be a dialogical participant in a shared inquiry involving "a process of forming, saying, and expanding the unsaid and the yet-to-be said" (Anderson 1997:118), because e-motional memory is per definition non-verbal, hidden in the body or the heart, as it were.
In a phenomenological and existential sense, I have suggested with G.H. Mead that the past can only exist in the intersubjective present holding the promise of an emergent future that invites a re-definition of the past brought out in the open to be meaningfully contained in the intersubjective present shared with dialogical companions.
The threefold meaning of the term "present" gives a clue, perhaps for the therapeut-client relationship: First, they are present to one another, in each other's presence; second, they are in one another's present, partially sharing here and now, and third, each one is offering herself or himself as a gift, as a present, for such intersubjective sharing which may be communion or communication constituting a shared and novel intersubjective present.
1 Key-note talk at The First International Aarhus Conference on Existential Psychotherapy
2 Implications for learning by altercentric participation are also examined in Bråten (ed.) 1998:105-124, and will be returned to at an international conference at the Hanse Institute of Advanced Study in July next year. Here Rizzolatti and his group will present their discovery of mirror neurons and discuss implications with other invited speakers concerning "Mirror neurons and the evolution of brain and language' (title of the conference). My topic has been announced to be: "Altercentric perception and participation: Infants and adult dialogue partners".
3 It need not come to circular re-enactment of abuse, however; several other paths are open to the victim, as indicated by the open-ended arrows in Figure 17.5 (bottom circle). One such alternative path is to disengage from the body subjected to abuse, or to divorce the bodily ego from the virtual alter, each running their separate course. Circular re-enactment of abuse may be also be prevented if the previous victim's capacity for altercentric participation is not "turned off" in relation to other potential victims, unless pain-seeking has become a motivating force.