Psychology and EnneaMediCine

All of this is very much reflected in EnneaMediCina and the ancient symbols behind it, as we shall see….

Starting from childhood, as the structuring nucleus of the human universe, various psychological studies have highlighted how the relationship with the mother and/or other reference figures is decisive in the activation of those temperamental traits that manifest themselves from the first year of life. These traits represent the biological matrix from which, in interaction with the environment, personality traits will develop. The latter are defined as individual characteristics that tend to remain stable over time and underlie observable behaviour.

The dispositional perspective holds, in fact, that each person possesses specific characteristics of a biological nature that predispose them to manifest certain behaviours more automatically than others, regardless of the type of situation in which they interact. Traits have a biological basis. The environmental context – physical, family, social and cultural – is, however, no less important than the biological one, being able to modify, even radically, the behavioural characteristics.

Allport (1937) stated that “by temperament we mean those phenomena that characterise the emotional nature of an individual and include his susceptibility to emotional stimulation, his habitual efficacy and rapidity of response, and the quality of his mood state; these phenomena are considered to be dependent on constitutional elements and thus originally largely heritable”.

“The term temperament,” writes Lisa di Blas, “designates a set of individual characteristics, observable in behaviour, that have a genetic and physiological substratum, largely affect emotionality, manifest themselves within the first year of life and are relatively stable over time.

Eysenck states that temperamental traits have a genetic basis, yet we do not inherit the behaviour, but the biological structures that give rise to those behaviours that we manifest more frequently than others. Esistono alcuni intermediari biologici, come ormoni e neurotrasmettitori, che traducono il potenziale genetico in costanti comportamentali (tratti di personalità). In interaction with the environment, the physiological bases we inherit produce both those behaviours that can be detected in the laboratory (e.g. mnestic retention, sensory threshold) and those behaviours that are observed in natural contexts (e.g. sociability, sexuality, aggression).

It is hypothesised that the period from 6 to 12 years is decisive in the development of personality traits as a result of the interaction between temperamental traits and environment.

The personality traits that Eisenck identifies within his theoretical model are three: Psychoticism, Extroversion and Neuroticism.

The first trait is characterised by aggressiveness, egocentricity, impulsiveness, antisociality and lack of empathy.

Extroversion includes individual differences in sociability, activity, vitality, assertiveness, sensation seeking and dominance. The last trait – Neuroticism – includes traits such as anxiety, tension, depression, emotionality, shyness, humour, low self-esteem and feelings of shame.

Although no unambiguous and convincing conceptualisation of the term personality has yet been proposed, it is also useful to define it as “the result of the reciprocal articulation of the individual’s cognitive, emotional volitional and motivational aspects and their interaction with the environment (Giannelli, 1993). Consequently, a careful evaluation cannot disregard the consideration of cultural, ethical and social aspects as pregnant factors of the personological structure of each individual’.

Personality is thus to be understood as the sum of the individual’s temperament traits, emotions and motivations moving through space and time.

Affective communication emerges as the first source of stimulation of the child’s behaviour and, later through a process of internalisation, also the basis on which to structure the scaffolding of its internal world.

This capacity seems to be profoundly conditioned by the type of emotional response he was able to enjoy during his childhood experience.

The child’s intrapsychic world is, in this sense, the result of the dialectical construction process between his or her original emotional, communicative, responsive and temperamental competences and those of his or her attachment figures, which, moreover, depend on their attachment modes, temperamental characteristics and emotional regulation modes.

A study by Haft and Slade showed that there is a close link between the mother’s internal operating models of attachment and her mode of affective concordance with her child, outlining precisely how this becomes a facilitating tool in the intergenerational transmission of internal attachment models.

The intergenerational transmission of secure attachment modes provides the child with a basis for containing his emotions, generating security in him and creating a more stable basis for the evolution of the mentalisation function, which in turn facilitates his ability to establish secure relationships with others.

In the case of a parent with an insecure attachment pattern, he or she would also pass on to the child the defences adopted towards his or her own emotions by pushing the child not to express some of his or her emotions in order to maintain the relationship with the parent. In doing so, the child would safeguard both its own peace of mind and the mental state of the parent (Main,1995).

“The child cannot find itself in the other,” Fonagy (1998) states in this regard.

Other studies by Grossman and Grossman (1991) highlight how “…mothers of insecure avoidant children, unlike mothers of secure children do not prove capable – in the play situations they study – of coming into contact with their children’s negative emotions, keeping away from them on the occasions when they express them and approaching them only when they communicate positive emotions….”

Cassidy and Kobak in 1988 “…analysing the affective communication of insecure avoidant three- and six-year-old children towards their mothers, they show how they consolidate the strategies of masking and falsification of negative affects found as early as 12-18 months …. by communicating only positive emotions to their mother…”.

Winnicott (1965) asserted that the mother’s inability to respond adequately to her child’s emotional needs could provoke in the child ‘unimaginable anxieties, such as the feeling of falling apart, of being without orientation, of falling forever, affecting his processes of construction and integration of an original core of the Self’.

The ability to recognise one’s own emotions, which the child progressively articulates, without resorting to defensive operations of deformation and restriction of the information concerning them, is fundamental, according to Bowlby (1991), for his development, because it leads him to establish an adequate intrapsychic communication with the world of his affections. This capacity appears, on the other hand, to be profoundly influenced by the type of affective communication he had with his attachment figures in the course of his childhood history of self-construction. (continued)

What is Personality ” Lisa di Blas – Ed. Carocci – 2002
Mother-child interactions in development and growth – D. N.Stern . –ed. Cortina 1998
La comunicazione affettiva tra il bambino e i suoi partner’ edited by C. Riva Crugnola – R. Cortina ed. – 1999
Manuale di psichiatria e psicologia clinica – G. Invernizzi – Mc Graw-Hill

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