John Bowlby


The relation between attachment, cooperation and intersubjectivity.

Saturday, 24th June 2017

Workshop: 10:00 - 13:00 

Speaker: Mauricio Cortina

Implications for developmental psychology and clinical practice.

Intersubjective communication and sharing emerged as a new capacity among our hominid ancestors, forced by the need to cooperate during the history of our species. Selective forces favoring intersubjective communication (before language) and being able to “read” the minds of others (mentalization/ perspective taking abilities). A positive feedback loop began to operate between cooperative foraging among nomadic hunter gatherers, intersubjective communication and cooperative breeding — in which mothers let other members of the group help in feeding and caring for the young (the work of Sarah Hardy).


While attachment and intersubjectivity are developmentally related, they have separate functions. Attachment is about security and protection. Intersubjectivity is about communication and sharing. The relation between intersubjective communication and attachment is similar to the relation between exploration and the secure base phenomena. When young children are not alarmed, that can engage in playful intersubjective sharing and communication with their caregivers. Intersubjective communication is preserved in attachment figures when children are distressed, but if attachment figures have a history of attachment-related trauma, their capacity for “reading” the signs of distress are compromised and perspective talking abilities can collapse. 

How is this viewpoint manifested in the therapy room and therapeutic relationship? And what are the implications for attachment-based psychotherapy? 

Mauricio Cortina is an attachment-based psychoanalytic psychotherapist in private practice in Washngton, DC, North America. He is the author of many papers, notably his book with Mario Marrone, ‘Attachment Theory and the Psychonaalytic Process” was published by Whurr in 2003 and they are bringing out another in Spanish in 2017. His chapter “Attachment within the context of a cooperative and sharing mind in Attachment Across Clinical and Cultural Perspectives. A Relational Theory, published by Routledge and available at Amazon would be good background reading for this seminar.


IAN Members £15, Non Members £25

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