Interview with Allan Schore – 'the American Bowlby'.
Carroll talks to the neuropsychoanalyst Allan Schore, a pioneer in
integrating social, biological, psychological and psychoanalytic theory.
In a telephone interview which precedes Allan Schore’s lecture for
the UKCP on July 9th, ‘Neuroscience – why should therapists
be interested?’, he talks about Bowllby, the development of attachment
theory and the social and therapeutic implications of new research.
This interview is also on the UKCP website www.psychotherapy.org.uk., and a short
excerpt is published in The Psychotherapist, Autumn 2001 issue.
interview was a turning point in my relationship to neuroscience and
many of the principles and research findings discussed by Allan have
become central to my work on integrating neuroscience and psychotherapy.
Schore has made an impressive synthesis of neuroscience (neurobiology,
behavioural neurology, neuropsychology) with developmental studies,
including the infant research work of Daniel Stern and Colwyn Trevarthen.
Using attachment theory as an important over-arching model he has
drawn widely on psychoanalytic theory, including object relations
and self-psychology. Schore argues that “attachment theory has
spawned one of the broadest, most profound and creative lines of research
in twentieth century psychology” because it is a heuristic complete
theoretical model which can “shift back and forth between the psychological
and biological levels”. (see below)
his landmark book Affect
Regulation and the Origin of the Self
Schore argues in meticulous multi-disciplinary detail that the early
social environment, mediated by primary caregiver, influences the
evolution of structures in the infant’s brain. He shows how the maturation
of the orbitofrontal cortex, the executor of the right cortex, is
influenced by dyadic interactions of the attachment relationship.
This is critical to the child’s future capacity to self-regulate emotions,
to appraise others’ emotional state, and manage stress. He puts forward
a comprehensive theory of affect which integrates neurobiology and
psychology, and charts the development of emotional capacities in
their increasing complexity. Schore has specifically recontextualised
the study of development in terms of non-linear dynamic systems theory.
This has enabled him to create an integrative model, which can embrace
a wide spectrum of perspectives. (Schore 1997)
As a way of characterising your work and its
significance, I described you as ‘the American Bowlby’. I’d like to
look at this comparison in some depth. But first perhaps you could
say who John Bowlby was and why he has a place in history.
trained as a child psychiatrist and a psychoanalyst in the 30’s and
the 40’s. From his earliest work, which was on juvenile delinquency,
it became apparent that really what he was interested in was the process
of development and why are the early events so critical to everything
that follows in both normal and abnormal behaviour. This matter of
early events also brought him into contact with other theoreticians,
other people who had been interested in the problem of early events
- Freud, Piaget, Erickson. He was interested in the connection between
the infant and the mother, and why the formation of an attachment
bond is so critical to later events. In a brilliant leap he realised
that the mechanism was the same not only within humans but across
the animal kingdom.
had written the first scientific text book about emotions – The Expression of Emotion in Man and Animals
(1972) - and a good deal of his ideas came from his observations
of his own grandchild. He argued that bodily and facial expression
were communications between mother and infant.
think you’ve got to look at Bowlby in three ways. On the one hand
he was a medical physician and that brought him into contact with
the problems of stress and coping and the body. His psychoanalytic
training gave him a window into the inner world of the unconscious.
Finally psychiatry raised questions about early predispositions to
psychopathology. As part of his work for the World Health Organisation,
he started looking at some of the early studies showing that long
term separations between mother and infant were having rather serious
effects. He became intetested in the fundamental nature of the changes
brought about by separations. Then he began to examine the phenomena
of much shorter separations and the emotional communications between
the mother and the infant. What has happened in attachment theory
now is that the movement has been now towards studying even shorter
and shorter separations.. From macro time periods to micro time periods..
He’s probably one of the three or four major psychological theoreticians
of the 20th Century and in part that is because he has
impacted so many fields in addition to the field of developmental
psychology. His work also had an influence on social policy.
training as a psychoanalyst was critical in highlighting the importance
of the relationship between the mother and the infant. But there
was a struggle within psychoanalysis - in particular between Anna
Freud and Melanie Klein - about how much was really a creation of
the infants mind., a phantasy. Bowlby began to fervently argue and
bring in data from other disciplines to show that the real relationship,
that the real events, not only were there but they were indelibly
and permanently shaped there in a way that would affect the way that
the personality would develop over the lifespan.
brought biology into this equation via ethology, which is behavioural
biology. He put together the different disciplines to create a developmental
science more than developmental psychology. In this respect he picked
up Freud’s project to integrate neurobiology with psychology,. Freud
started out as a neurologist but then had to abandon the attempt to
correlate psychological functions with the physical brain and body,
because the scientifc models at that time were not sufficiently advanced.
There has been some hostility to the attempt
to integrate across disciplines hasn’t there, I’m thinking, still
today? People like Andre Green are very critical still of translating
scientific observations into the domain of psychoanalysis.
I think that right now we’re seeing some struggles within psychoanalysis,
but I perceive, from my reading of the major psychoanalytic journals
in the last year or two especially, a real push of attachment theory
into the base of developmental psychoanalysis and may be it’s stronger
here in the US than it is in Europe. Some years ago Mono Cooper(?)****
who is [was, I think] the editor of the International Journal Psychoanalysis
wrote that psychoanalysis is anchored in the scientific base of developmental
psychology and in the biology of attachment and affects.
Historically there has been a territorial dispute
between psychiatry and psychoanalysis - those with more of the medical
and biological understandings still are holding onto their authority,
whilst psychoanalysis claims knowledge from a different vantage point.
Bowlby’s work emerged from this conflicted context, and the work that’s
happening today still takes place against that political/ideological
[off or on the record?]In terms of the totality of what attachment
theory is moving towards, and in terms of all of the sciences themselves,
psychoanalysis and as you know I’m part of that establishment, is
really not one of the major forces at this point in time. Not as
strong as it used to be. The amounts of money that are going into
research and training, the amount of validity that the public gives
means that its not such a major voice.
attachment theory, because it is so over arching has been picked up
by other fields. And these other fields are now talking about unconscious
representations, they’re talking about exactly what psychoanalysis
has talked about. ***The other thing is that in the U.Spsychodynamic
psychotherapy is much, much larger than classical psychoanalysis out
of the institutes. A much broader group of clinicians are now using
these terms and concepts. But yes, I think there is a recent infusion
of philosophy which has into psychoanalysis which is counter to the
scientific stream of psychoanalysis.
theory has very steadily – and perhaps uniquely - gained ground in
the fields of psychology, the behavioral sciences, biology and neuroscience
(and all their subsidiary disciplines). Why do you think this is?
and Shaver(?) in Volume ****[which is the major statement in the field
at the end of the 20th Century] say that “attachment theory
has spawned one of the broadest, most profound and creative lines
of research in 20th Century psychology”. Bowlby approached
the the study of attachment as a science and put together a psycho-biological
perspective that integrated a spectrum of different disciplines. The
span of attachment theory research now includes psychoanalysis, developmental
psychology, psychiatry, and many biological sciences.
perceived that the mother is shaping the infants coping systems, and
this has been taken up more recently by psychiatry. Psychiatry is
now very interested in how the early positive and negative interactions
effect the bodily systems, the coping systems. Psychiatry is using
it to generate more powerful models of psychopathogenesis, in other
words the generation of predispositions to later psychiatric disorders.
Neuroscience has taken up the issue too and even at the level of neuro-chemistry
is looking at imprinting and attachment, at changes at the cellular
level. So again attachment theory is spanning the different levels
at which science operates from the higher levels from sociology down
through psychology down through biology, chemistry and even physics.
Attachment theory is important because it is overarching and can move
back and forth between many levels. Damasio, a key pioneer in neuroscience
is even getting interested in attachment theory, so it’s really spreading
second reason why I think the concept of attachment is so powerful
and why it’s spreading is because it is not grounded in an atheorectical
position. Much of science, even neuroscience and developmental psychology,
are just purely observations without a theoretical model. Attachment
theory has a theoretical model and that’s why it has been able to
generate hypothesis that can be tested. It’s highly heuristic because
its also a clinical model. This allows psychiatry, clinical psychology
and clinical social work etc and other clinicians who are very interested
in development to be able to incorporate it. Incidentally the kinds
of information and evidences that come from clinical observations
are now being seen as just as important as those that come from the
scientific observations of experimental science. So you’ve got this
double barrel *** [double edge??]here, you’ve got both scientific
and clinical together operating synergistically to push it forward,
especially now in terms of not only the etiology of psychiatric disorders
but also the therapy, in other words, the pragmatic applications of
the theory to clinical practice.
I want to point out that Bowlby was interested in was the process
of development over the lifespan. Although he highlighted the first
few years, he always moved forward and in attachment theory there’s
always been the theme of moving forward. In essence it deals with
how the personality grows and develops, which is the focus of psychotherapy.
In the late 60’s when Bowlby was writing Attachment and Loss, psychology was dominated
by behaviourism, then later by cognitive psychology and now perhaps
we’re seeing the shift into affective psychology. Due to Bowlby’s
psychoanalytic training he became very interested in not just the
overt behaviour but the inner world. He focussed both on the outer
social events and how the outer events impact the inner events and
how this internal world then really drives nonconscious ***[unconscious?]motivation
and behaviour throughout the lifespan.
work exemplifies integrative theorizing, bringing together diverse
sets of data and perspectives from a wide array of disciplines to
create a precise and detailed dynamic model of development. It results
from and contributes to building bridges between psychiatry and psychoanalysis,
neuroscience and psychotherapy, and between the social and biological
sciences. Ik seems to spring directly from the nodal point where these
disciplines are converging…..how do you define your work?
I see myself as a theoretician, who is integrating data and models
from a wide range of different fields. Experimental studies in various
sciences are now producing results data and as well clinicians are
now writing observations of their contacts and essentially what I’m
doing is I’m taking this data and integrating this into over arching
larger, theoretical models which are testable and heuristic. My interest
is in tying together structure and function, that is to not only talk
about function which is psychology but also structure which would
be the underlying biological structure. This is looking at the internal
biology which is driving psychological functions and how the interactions
between human beings also impact that biology. It’s not just biology
moving up into psychology but also how the psychology between human
beings alters their internal (biological/neurological/chemical) structure.
In particular, how the early social emotional interactions between
the primary caregiver and the infant impacts the development of the
babies brain. This is partly determined by genetic factors and partly
determined by early social emotional experience which means attachment
therefore is the outcome of two factors, the infants genetically encoded
psychological biological predispositions, its temperament and the nature of the caregiving experience.
We have to now move on both sides of the equation. Biological reductionism
is not giving us answers purely in terms of genetics. At the same
time theories which are totally environmentally driven won’t do it
either. I think we’re at the point here of describing nature and nurture
and that nature and nurture first come together in the mother infant
you’ve suggested my work springs from the nodal point where various
disciplines come together but if there were one term to use for the
area that I’m interested in it would be developmental affective neuroscience.
The dominant model in neuroscience has been cognitive n but there
are also now moves in what are called affective neuroscience and social
neuroscience. It’s those two domains that I think are a key here.
I also feel that the investigation not of formed adults but of infants
– ie. human beings in the process of formation - can give us a much
more important data about this process of development across a lifespan.
I say this because most research now is done with adults but perhaps
we’re seeing a change in this.
Through out this interview I refer to ‘your
work’ but of course one of the fundamental contributions you have
made is to weave into a coherent tapestry the multiple threads of
many, many scientists’ and theorists and clinicians’ work…. For so
long there’s been incredible amounts of data being produced but without
sufficient integration of theories into neighbouring disciplines.
We’re moving to more complex, dynamic systems, and holistic models
of the organism adapting to the environment and the changes that it
makes as it adapts to stress etc. It is now time to put together not
just a piece of the mind here and a piece of the body there. When
you focus in on an affect as opposed to cognition you can’t help but
then turn it to the body because you can’t talk about affect purely
in terms of a cognitive state. You’re also talking about changes in
heart rate, respiration, muscle tension etc. Affective neuroscience
is now moving us more into the body and people like myself and Damasio
etc are now becoming confident that the mind-body gap – the Cartesian
problem - can be bridged. By putting together these psycho-biological
models of infancy and adulthood these will lead to more powerful models
incidentally in the treatment of psychosomatic disorders.
It seems to me that, like Bowlby’s, the direction
of your work – despite its incredible breadth of reference and scope
- is very unified. Is there an organising principle which grounds
come to the conclusion that concept of regulation and self regulation,
now being used in all of the sciences and in developmental psychology,
is the organising principle. Attachment is now thought of as the
dyadic regulation, the interactive regulation of emotion. Also, in
developmental psychology it’s now thought that the capacity for attachment
originates during these affect regulation experiences. In the psycho-biology
of attachment, it’s thought that the mother is acting as a regulator
of not only the infants behaviour but of its covert physiology. What
I’m suggesting is that this social experience is impacting the development
of the regulatory systems in the brain that regulate all forms of cognition, affect and behaviour.
In fact, it’s been said recently that the attempt to regulate affect
to minimise unpleasant feelings and to maximum pleasant ones is the
driving force in human motivation. So, again, in psychiatry regulation
is now being seen as the work of any intimate pair. In adult psychiatry
the loss of the ability to regulate feelings is seen as the most far
reaching effect of trauma etc.
Can I just ask you, because it’s coming into
my mind, what role you think a group of people has in regulating emotion?
definitely, I’ve been asked this quite a bit. The group also, not
only the group, but the culture acts on and via these regulatory principals.
But I would suggest that the regulatory effects of groups and cultures
are much more powerful than on the rules that cultures give. The
regulatory effects are at the psycho-biological level. And the way
that the group does that is through these diadics ***[dyads?] through
these interactive mechanisms. These are the ways in which human beings
can pick up the emotional communications of others and can send them
back out and that capacity is fundamentally affected by the early
attachment relationship that is not genetically encoded. Group processes,
social processes all would be acting through these and acting through
the limbic system that part of the brain which regulates emotion.
have been convinced that these essential regulatory mechanisms - fast
acting events occurring at levels beneath awareness - are the ones
really which move us in and out of relationships. This is very compatible
with Freud’s concept of the unconscious.
when you say fast acting are you talking about the subtle exchange
of gesture, eye contact, tone of voice etc?
I’m talking about a face can be picked up within 40 milliseconds and
appraised within a 100 milliseconds. So a person is walking down the
street right all of a sudden sees a particular face and for reasons
that are purely intuitive and non-conscious starts moving away. These
are glances that are being picked up and processed very quickly. It
allows us to detect features, signals of safety and danger in the
world but it also means much of this information is responded to on
an unconscious level.
recent years neuroscience has been refining maps for the neurological
substrates of basic emotions such as fear, joy, anger, etc. You have
made particular contributions to the mapping of the more complex emotion
of shame. What is the current focus of your research?
focus is now on psychobiological state which is the underlying internal
state on which affect cognition and behaviour swing. In other words
think when you’re in a depressed mood things seem darker, time moves
slower, cognition is more negative, the body is more restricted, there
is more pessimism, so there is a whole host of the self systems that
snap together in place with that depressive state. While in a more
positive elated state the colours are livelier, time is moving at
much different pace, a much quicker pace, the cognitions are much
more positive about the self and the emotions of course are more joy
and interest there.
of the big changes that has occurred in the last few years and partly
my work is interested in this change too is that most theoreticians
who have talked about emotion theories have focussed their ideas on
negative emotions. For example Cannon with fight and flight, or LeDoux
with fear being the central emotion etc . What I have concluded as
a result of the most recent infant research is that positive emotions
are much more central than we thought. Positive affects are key to
early development, they’re key to growth, they’re also key to not
only positive psychological states but physical health. So now as
much of my work is now not only swinging around trauma and negative
but also the positive emotions of interest, excitement and enjoyment.
Joy has something to do with the quality of life and the pole or
opposite of joy would go to shame. My interest is in social emotions
and how they develop and how they’re influenced by the attachment
relationship and how social emotions, such as shame, regulate the
ongoing interactions between human beings.
Bowlby’s development of attachment theory was
radical in its integration of psychoanalysis, ethology and systems
theory, and his focus was very specifically the mother-baby relationship,
especially the phase between 6 months and 3 years. Your work has extended
and deepened his. What have been the most significant additions to
or developments of Bowlby’s model?
– like Freud - believed that the reason why the attachment was there
was that the mother was a regulator of distressed state. As he saw
it, the child would come back from being out in the world in a state
of stress and the mother would be a regulator of those negative states.
Neuroscience now indicates that play experiences, which we now know start at the end of the second month, and
which is also associated with an intense growth spurt in the brain,
are central to development. The attachment to the mother is therefore
not only minimising negative states but she’s maximising
positive states. That’s the first thing.
we can take Bowlby and move him along in this disciplinary perspective
because in the 25 years since then we now have more science available.
In the last two decades we’re seeing the evolution of sciences that
didn’t even exist before, like molecularbiology, moleculargenetics,
affective and social and neuroscience. Even advances in ethology have
been there in terms of radio telemetry(?) in animals. Pharmacology
and infant developmental psychology has moved forward so the model’s
expanding because these fields are now coming in.
Three. I have moved Bowlby ‘s focus back from six to birth and actually
prenatally. The brain growth spurt is from the last trimester of pregnancy
through the second year. I’m now beginning to tie together how these
extremely early events give us an idea about what kinds of social
and emotional experiences are needed at what points. The idea of ‘developmental
stages’ has been superceded by the more precise concept of critical
periods or sensitive periods. These are times of intensified growth
– ie. incresed synaptic production – and differentiation. In these
critical periods of brain growth the infant needs certain types of social and emotional experiences. The attachment relationship
provides the ground and the modulation for various high energy states.
At these points the caregivers receptivity to the infant’s cues are
crucial. (Assessing infant development from the paediatric point of
view now means assessing not just the infant per se but the nature
of the infants relationship with the mother. The quality of their
communication will be seen as being as critical to the infant’s growth
as other factors)
there is the matter of pathology, it was Main who in the late 80’s
began to look at the attachment patterns of abused and neglect infants.
This brought a new category of insecure attachment- the insecure disorganised
disorientated attachment. I became extremely interested in how the
abuse and neglect would impact the brain. My interest in the first
two years of life is not generally how social experience in an abstract
way impacts the brain but very specifically how it impacts the emotion
generating limbic system and the right hemisphere of the brain which
connects into the body . The left hemisphere does not come on line
into a growth spurt until a year and a half when the child has learned
a few words so all of these early experiences, I’m suggesting, are
specifically impacting the non-verbal right brain. In the last two
years only, because of the neuroimaging, the amount of research on
the right brain finally is now picking up steam, especially because
of face processing etc.
now focussing not just on long term separations but on moment to moment
separations because these attachment and separations are going on
on a micro scale and this is now moving us down again, as I said before,
from a temporal dimension on the macro scale to the micro scale and
then shifting back and forth. How a fleeting perception of a state
then becomes an emotion which then becomes a mood which now can linger
for a while etc.
focus now recently is on coping mechanisms and drawing out Bowlby’s
idea that the mother shapes the babies coping mechanisms. The detailed
models of psychopathagenesis are essentially immature or dysfunctional
or disregulating coping mechanisms. The most severe forms of this
would be in abuse and neglect, these would lead to the more severe
forms of psychopathology. The earlier the mother infant dyad goes
off track, the more problematic that going to be for development down
the line. There is evidence too that the attachment relationship also
impacts the connections between the brain and the immune system, which
will give us new insight into psychosomatic disorders.
at the point now whereby a new type of brain research can be done
which literally observes brain to brain interaction between a mother
and infant. There are newer very sophisticated, dense array EEG 256
leaves(?) which are bonnets(?) so to speak which could be used with
the infant and one on the mother. We can then look at the synchronized
changes or a synchronized change between them as they are in the process
of let’s say going into a high joy state, or as they’re in the process
of going through a stress state. At the same time we’ll have measures
on both of them to see changes at the autonomic level. This new technology
will provide more data for building precise models.
Much of your work has focussed on elucidating
the functions of the right brain – and the orbitofrontal cortex –
with other parts of the brain.
right brain stores internal working models of the attachment relationship.
It processes emotional social information – its functions are as diverse
as enabling empathy, humour, and many of the capacities that are fundamental
to human subjectivity.
one key aspect of this is its direct involvement with the integration
and analysis of information received from the body…
mapping of bodily states – visceral, muscular, skin etc - is now
seen as fundamental to the processing of emotion. Representations
of the internal state are integrated with external stimuli or internal
stimuli, such as the image of anothers face, and form the basis of
our experience of the world. Further, we recognize another individual’s
emotional state by generating somatosensory representations that match
our perception of a certain facial expression.
In your talk on July 9th you will
lay out some of these new findings in the context of their relevance
to psychotherapy. Can you give us a flavour of some of the conclusions
you have come to about the relevance of neuroscience to psychotherapy?
newer ideas about how affect works have direct translations into psychotherapy
and psychiatry. All forms of psychiatric disorders are marked by emotional
disregulation. All forms of psychotherapy are forms of affect regulation.
The therapist is a psychobiological regulator of the patients state.
Although the patient is listening on a verbal conscious level, he’s
also listening on another level and acting on another level. There
is a movement now in all psychotherapies into the importance to really
have any form of change of having an emotional experience in time with
the therapist perhaps even directed towards the therapist. A key
to that is that the patient must have a felt experience of his own
body, as well as more of an intense reflective capacity about how
he is emotionally relating to other people.
other point is that much of psychotherapy is still geared towards
the removal of symptoms and negative emotions and not towards the
implication of positive states. Research on the mothers role as an
amplifier and regulator of infant joy has yet to be digested fully
in the psychotherapy world. I think we’re going to have to see a change
in that too.
We haven’t time to go into this more now, but
your research has insights to offer on the phenomena of countertransference
and projective identification too….
have to come to the talk to here more about that..
a psychotherapist, I find the insights from neuroscience fascinating
because they crystallize into actual dynamic neurological structures
and processes what has long been sensed more generally and intuitively.
But this crystallization – the accumulation of ‘hard evidence’ -
also provokes questions about its social implications, just as Bowlby’s
work did. The most fundamental of these is that the success or failure
of attachment relationships in early life has a profound and life-long
effect. Can you very briefly comment about social implications of
this and perhaps even the comment on fathers or something just to
social implications are profound. If it is true that these early events
are critical for the psychological development of human beings, then
this is where societies must now start putting its resources. The
amounts of money that we spend to ensure security in terms of defence
budget etc are huge but in a sense the future of our societies is
early human life. What human beings learn in their first interactions
with other human beings, in the mother infant relationship, are central
to the formation of self concept, of positive and negative concept,
of self regulation, of the ability to regulate internal bodily states,
of the capacity for empathy, the ability to read the states of the
mind of other human beings, these do not come out of later language
forming situations, therefore, …
Are you worried about social trends and the
I am, but I’ll have to make my point brief. I am worried about the
fact that in this country maternal leave is 6 weeks and in Britain
it’s not too much longer than that. In other countries in Europe -
Scandinavia and Germany - maternal leave as a Governmental policy
is 30-50 weeks. In the U.S. we send mothers back into the work force
at 6 weeks, which is the point whereby the face to face joy interactions
just begin. Parents now have this terrible dilemma of how to face
this problem without any social support at all, or any programmes
at all. In addition the level of day care here is on the average is
sub-optimal, the people in it are paid very poorly, they’re not trained
enough etc. I’ve got to think of a word here, the first word that
comes is scandal I don’t know. Let me put it this way I would use
the word ‘it’s a shame’. I would say that we as adults in our society
should definitely have some shame about how we are avoiding this problem
and about how little attention we’re paying to our futures. That’s
A powerful note to end on though.