The emergence of the social individual

Updated on 4th August 2019


This eBook is now available from Amazon outlets:

The Emergent Social Individual:

Or how social experience shapes the human body-brain-mind

By Dr Jim Byrne

Copyright © Jim Byrne, 2009-2019


Published by the Institute for Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy (E-CENT) Publications. July 2019.


Counsellors and therapists who want to think about how their client’s personality was formed can benefit from this book. The author reviews a range of theories of human psychological development, from Freud to neuroscience, and including Transactional Analysis and Rational therapy.


Kindle Cover1This little eBook began its life in 2009 as a ninety page discussion paper (or article).  It is being released now, in July 2019, in largely unchanged form, because it is an important resource for individuals who want to understand how Emotive-Cognitive Embodied Narrative Therapy took shape, especially in the area of theory of personality.

The original title was this:

The ‘Individual’ and his/her Social Relationships – The Emotive-Cognitive Perspective

By Dr Jim Byrne – Copyright (c), 2009-2019

Updated in March and July 2019



This eBook is an attempt to construct an integrated theory of personality.  My two central questions are:

Who are we (as human individuals)?


How did we get to be ‘wired up’ the way we seem to be wired up? 

It begins with a recapitulation of the author’s approach to rethinking the model of the human individual implicit in Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT), using some of the core concepts of Freudianism to provide an external frame of reference.

Next, the text returns to Freud’s writings to critically review some of those concepts, and in particular to challenge Feud’s view of human sexuality.

The result is a more general view of power relations between children and parents, and emotional difficulties arising out of those conflicts, rather than through psychosexual stages of development.

The text then reviews the theory and perspective of the Object Relations School of psychology/psychotherapy.  This psycho-dynamic orientation sees relationship as being central to what life is about.  It is not an optional extra.  Human babies are ‘born to relate’.  Relationship is integral to the survival urges and survival strategies of humans.

The E-CENT perspective sees the relationship of mother-baby as a dialectical (or interactional) one of mutual influence, in which the baby is ‘colonized’ by the mother/carer, and enrolled over time into the mother/carer’s culture, including language and beliefs, scripts, stories, etc.  This dialectic is one between the innate urges of the baby and the cultural and innate behaviours of the mother.  The overlap between mother and baby gives rise to the ‘ego space’ in which the identity and habits of the baby take shape.  And in that ego space, a self-identity appears as an emergent phenomenon, based on our felt sense of being a body (the core self) and also on our conscious and non-conscious stories about who we are and where we have been, who has related to us, and how: (the autobiographical self).

Section 5 explores the question ‘Who am I?’ and in the process structures a model of what a human individual seems to be.  And Section 6 examines the nature of good and evil, as innate and socially constructed aspects of each individual, including supporting evidence for this perspective in the literature of different religions and cultures.

This is followed by a brief review of the philosophy and psychology of human development, from Plato, through Kant, to Piaget, Bruner and Vygotsky; and back to Freud and the Object Relations theorists.

Section 9 reviews the way in which Transactional Analysis can be used to conceptualize the internalization of the mother and father by the baby’s mind.  And, finally, Section 10 explores how the (conscious and non-conscious) mind emerges from the complexity of internalized relationship experience.


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And here is the contents page:



  1. Introduction

Figure 1 – a complex a>b>c model

Figure 2: the a>b>c model related to the y-model

  1. Back to freud

Figure 3: freud’s model of the psyche

Figure 4: the iceberg model (by anthony a. Walsh)

  1. Object relations

Figure 5: the most basic model of e-cent –

Figure 6(a): the mother interacts with the baby, and the baby interprets and encodes the experience in its embryonic ‘ego’ space

Figure 6(b): the internalized relationship of mother and baby

  1. Internalizing mother (and later, others)

Figure 6(c): the strange loop of internalize experience

Figure 7: the baby internalizes a representation of the overlapping interpenetration of its relations with its mother;

  1. Koan training and model building
  2. The importance of good and evil

Figure 8 – the good and bad wolf are inherent in human nature, and in human culture,

Figure 9 – the good and bad wolf are inherent in human nature, and in human culture, and the proportions are variable

  1. Now who am i now?

Figure 10(a):  experiences are stored in long term memory in a time sequence which is cumulative, and in a form which is interpretative

Figure 10(b): the cells in the baby’s brain are gradually interconnected,

  1. Developmental psychology

Figure 11: the symbiotic baby in the paranoid/schizoid phase

  1. Conceptualizing the internalizing process

Figure 12: the basic functional model of transactional analysis – the ego state model

Figure 13: how the ten elements of the pac model – (4 ps, 4cs, 2 as) – emerge within the dialectical ego space between the mother and child

  1. Complexity and the emergence of the ‘i’

Figure 14: a return to the overlapping circles

Figure 15: cumulative, interpretative experiences of parent and child interactions

Figure 16(a): internalized good and bad objects,

Figure 16(b): a dual mnemonic which suggests cumulative, interpretative experiences of relationship (overlapping circles) plus internalization of good and bad aspects of significant others, with our responses

Figure 16(c): the emergent ‘i’ is a function of the complex data which underpin it, and its encounter with its (present time) environment

Figure 17: what i am, in all the detail established earlier, is almost totally obscured in the non-conscious stores of my brain/mind

Zen postscript

Key learning points




Get your eBook here:, US+ Amazon UK + Ireland Amazon Germany
Amazon Spain Amazon Italy Amazon Netherlands
Amazon Japan Amazon Brazil Amazon Canada
Amazon Mexico Amazon Australia Amazon India