Sense of ‘sameness’ as foundation of infants’ embodied subjectivity and intersubjectivity<sup>1</sup>

Philippe Rochat

in From the Couch to the Lab

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780199600526
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754753 | DOI:
Sense of ‘sameness’ as foundation of infants’ embodied subjectivity and intersubjectivity1

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Early experience is embodied, as first proposed by Freud in his pulsion theory. More recent research show, however, that early experience is not just auto-erotic, not the expression of a primary narcissism, self-centred, and simply driven by excitation and satisfaction turned towards the own body. Current infancy research demonstrates that from the start early experience is also fundamentally relational: oriented towards objects, in particular the people infants rely on to survive. Here, I address the question of what kind of mechanism might drive early experience, considering that such experience is from the outset relational and cannot be simply reduced to auto-eroticism and embodied tension reduction. The idea is that the process underlying early relational experience is the innate propensity to detect what is alike and what is not. What underlies early experience would be the process of detecting similarities among things, including the inclination to experience sameness of feelings across sensory modalities (embodied ‘synaesthetic’ subjectivity) and the embodied vicariousness of experience with others (embodied intersubjectivity). There is now converging empirical evidence in support of the idea that from the outset, the detection, and eventually also the creation, of sameness in experiences with others is a cornerstone of human psychology, what William James (1890) already recognized as ‘the keel and backbone of our thinking’.

Chapter.  6581 words. 

Subjects: Psychiatry

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