Psychological depth as a dis-integrative dynamic

What are some of the implications for psychology if the notion of “depth”, either of meaning or in experience, is understood as a function of the capacity for symbolic reference? Neuroscientist Terence Deacon’s work outlines a sophisticated evolutionary account of the development of symbolic reference as a uniquely human capacity. Deacon presents a complex articulation of levels of consciousness in terms of a hierarchy of different systems of representation that build and intertwine brain function (in the individual) relative to language use (in culture). Of central interest for conceptualizing “depth” is his explanation for the appearance of discontinuity from continuity, or the emergence of qualitatively higher possibilities from conflicting demands at lower levels of functioning. I offer an exploration of Deacon’s work in psychological terms, suggesting ways to understand “depth” as a dynamic process of dis-integration, differentiation, and re-integration at a higher level, of psychic structures.

Peet, C. (2015). Psychological depth as a dis-integrative dynamic. Paper presented at Canadian Psychological Association (CPA) Annual Conference, Ottawa, Ontario, June 4-6, 2015.

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