Changing Internal Representations of Self and Other: Philosophical Tools for Attachment-informed Psychotherapy With Perpetrators and Victims of Violence


Attachment research shows that the formation of unconscious, insecure representations of the self, the other, and the self–other relations is linked to perpetration and receipt of violence. Attachment-focused therapy aims to change these internal schemata to more secure, adaptive representations by therapeutic work addressed to senses, emotions, and behavior. The paper proposes a new approach to altering the self and other representations in offenders and victims: It involves intellectual reflection on self, will, action, and responsibility informed by Augustine's views, facilitated by actual relational experience, and translated into a distinct self-soothing strategy. The reflective–experiential approach can complement existing methods of working with violent or traumatized individuals both within and outside an attachment theory framework. It consists both in identifying that a non-reflective non-distinction between self and behavior supports damaging self- and other-representations and interactions, and in proposing ways for clients to comprehend and consciously operate with the distinction between self and action.