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Human Psyche as Inner Drama


The presentation on the 5-th international conference on the Dialogical Self, Cambridge, 2008

A baby performs no definite intonations, eye or facial expressions, or gestures directed at people or things right after his birth. He does not perform any content-defined psyche. But, very soon, some obvious signs of attitudes appear in the baby's eyes, movements, voice. Why and how does it happen?

An infant, feeling uncomfortable, cries and thus attracts adult attention. The cry, as it is perceived by the baby, leads to satisfaction through adult actions and thus becomes meaningful for the infant. The adult actions together with their looks and voices become meaningful concurrently. To become meaningful all of these have to be perceived. How does this happen?

The answer is known. Child actively intones voices and tries to follow movements and contours of others and in doing so develops some kind of inner agents reflecting surrounding people. Let's call them "Images of Others". Furthermore, the very process of intoning and other modelling develops yet another inner agent reflecting child's own voice and other feelings. Let's call it "Image of Self".

All of the images comprise "Inner Drama" of the evolving child's humanly psyche. Thus, I call the images "Personages of Inner Drama". My assumption is that these Personages are active, independent and absorb certain relationships from their prototypes. Specifically, the Image of Self initially expresses sensation and affect, while Images of Others express attention and interest to it. This is the crucial point for further development.

The Images of Others are the child's instruments to respond to their prototypes. That means Images of Others perform in the child's behaviour and we observe these acts as child's evolving attention and interest toward surrounding people.

What is going on then? Firstly, surrounding people have to respond to new forms of the child's behaviour and therefore to change their own behaviour towards the child. Secondly, the child perceives his own voice, arms and fingers, eye movements expressing attention and interest and consequentially acquires all of those as features of the Image of Self.

Let's stress the following now. Attitudes of attention and interest were acquired by the Images of Others first. This I call initial interiorization. Then the attitudes were acquired by the Image of Self. This was their secondly interiorization. After that another development cycle starts under the same scenario. Evolving child's attention-interest invokes-meets pointing gesture and following word of adults. Generally speaking, adult conduct toward the child changes. Adult gesture and the word become meaningful for child. They mark out, make desirable and reachable things. Then both get interiorized into Images of Others, then perform outside in child behaviour and, finally, get interiorized as new features of the Image of Self.

This is the well known psychological crisis of "One Year" or crisis of "Autonomous Speech." It initiates next stage of development in relationships between child and adult world. The child and adult start communication via speech from now on, and this communication becomes more and more about things to reach, to touch, to get. In other words hard things start to define adult-child communication and thus, perception of things start to fill in child's consciousness.

An extremely interesting and important change in adult behaviour on this stage is obedience of adults to the child's demands expressed via a word or pointing gesture. This new adult role goes through the same scenario of double interiorization: gets acquired by the Images of Others, then performs outside in child's behavior, then gets acquired by the Image of Self.

The child starts talking to himself. That is, egocentric speech develops. The child starts listening and hearing himself talking to himself! He commands and obeys himself! It is crisis of independence happening in the age of three. The child becomes able to reach limits of permissible and safe. This constitutes the next turn in the adults' behaviour. Limiting of the child's action becomes their important priority. Further developments follow.

Images of Others acquire the limitation function and perform it in the child's behaviour. On the other hand, it is child talking to himself now. Thus limitation function is applied by the child to the child himself and his Inner Drama follows the case: Images of Others put limitations on Image of Self. This is what happens to a seven years old. Thus he grows capable for schooling.

"Speech speaking to Itself" gets interiorized and thus inner speech has come to existence. The full development of the inner speech means next, the most sharp, “teenager crisis”. There are some specifics in it:

- Full development of the inner speech means that all Personages of Inner Drama speak by one voice, which becomes voice of Self. Images of Others still remain independent and active ones, but their voices are unheard from now on. Therefore they form sub-consciousness.

- Speech speaking to itself is reflection. It realises itself and thus starts distinguishing itself from the entire world.

- That is, the entire world becomes subject for reflection, questioning, doubting, thinking of, comprehension. This questioning is foremost applied to the close milieu of teenager.

- There is more to this end. As far as voice of Self became voice of any and all Inner Personages, every single word of individual addressing himself is addressing each Personage of Inner Drama at the same time. Moreover, a word said by an Inner Personage, becomes word of the Self, and concurrently is addressing any and all other Inner Personages. Thus each Inner Personage obtains new impulses for development, which are not peculiar to it. Since that moment Inner Personages do not just reflect their prototypes, but develop independently and start to contradict their prototypes.

- That is, inner speech allows individual for the first time really not to understand others. This is what makes teenage crisis especially tense.

- Until inner speech crisis communication with the world of culture has brought up some necessarily poor new Images of Others. Their poorness has been determined by comparatively little time and content of individual communication with prototypes - personages of literary, music, sculpture, movie or other works. After inner speech evolving every single Inner Personage, reflecting either a hero of artistic work, or alive person obtains "equal amount" of psychological life, the same as entire Self does. Since that, communication with world of culture becomes essential factor of further psyche development, no less important, than communication with alive persons.