Bridging Cultures:
Looking to the Brain for Psychotherapeutic Insights
and to Psychotherapy for Insights into the Brain

Paul Grobstein
Department of Biology, Bryn Mawr College

Fellows Meeting
Philadelphia Psychoanalytic Center
2 March 2005

The Mind and Self as Material Entities
The Brain - is wider than the Sky -
For - put them side by side -
The one the other will contain
With ease - and You - beside-

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Problems and prospects of starting with assumption that neurobiologists and psychotherapists are exploring/manipulating the same thing:

Finding Common Cause in an Unconscious/Conscious Distinction
The unconscious as fundamental, rather than derivitive
Is that about oneself which, at any given time, one doesn't know ...
Distinction between neurobiological and psychodynamic unconscious necessary?

Finding Common Cause in Story-Telling?

"Story teller"/conscious as a distinct part of the nervous system (neocortex) having a distinctive kind of organization


Working Together to Make Sense of Conflict?

How make sense of "repression", "projection", "transference", of conflict ... and of therapeutic efficacy?

Conflict = differences between unconscious and story? evident in behavior, sometimes also in internal experience (Nash)

Can result from

Task of psychotherapist:


Post talk notes

Key transition:

  • Story teller largely "unnecessary"
  • Provides ability to conceive new things
  • Creates problem of "conflict"

Relation of story telling to language, to child development

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