Psychopathology and Character. Psychoanalysis in the Body and the Body in Psychoanalysis. Reichian Analysis - Giuseppe Cimini - ebook

From the history of Reichian Analysis, through its most recent developments to its unrivalled perception of the central importance of the therapeutic setting. This new book by Genovino Ferri and Giuseppe Cimini abundantly brings Wilhelm Reich’s psychoanalytical intuition to life, adding new, illuminating, translatable connections to that inextricable, living link between psychoanalysis and the body: - The Arrow of Evolutive Time (which the authors, drawing on the Theory of Complexity, define as being Negentropic) - The Stages of Development based on clear biological boundaries - The Object Relationships with the partial object of that time ­The Bodily Segments, or Levels, which are marked by the Imprintings of the object relationships of each stage of development - The Character Traits (character = incised mark) which develop from them and, partially overlapping, are incorporated into patterns of behaviour - Psychopathology made human and comprehensible by its Intelligent Sense. A body which becomes psyche from its initial intrauterine appearance (a relationship between an “embryonal” body and a “partial” body), where the first pathologies have their origins. A body which is always speaking and is thus always legible, can always be listened to and observed in its elementary and complex semiology and in its transformation into characterological types… Every reader will be able to find their own body or parts of it. The authors add a further startling discovery to the history of Reichian Analysis, the fundamental passages of which are described. This discovery will completely modify the therapeutic setting, or, rather, the interpretation of the patient-therapist “relationship” as a third presence, as a responsive, third living force.  It will create triangulation that can be expressed and will expand dia-logue to tria-logue, adding a new voice to research. In “Psychopathology and Character, Reichian interpretation – psychoanalysis in the body and the body in psychoanalysis” every reader will be able to seek and find themselves. Feeling your body and connecting it to your knowledge will be sufficient, so letting knowledge and feeling converse. In this way we can all reach greater depths and new heights.

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Cover image: detail of Male and Female (1942) J. Pollock

Genovino Ferri Giuseppe Cimini

Psychopathology and Character

Psychoanalysis in the body and the Body in Psychoanalysis Reichian Analysis

Alpes Italia srl - Via Romagnosi 3 - 00196 Roma

tel./fax 0639738315 - e.mail: -


Psychiatry, psychopathology, psychotherapy and psychology present a wide but fragmented range of ideas and practices. These not only foster numerous, often conflicting, opinions, but also encourage a largely fideistic approach. They formulate and develop paradigms that are not very clear, or that are ambiguous or polyvalent. This is because they have to exist in the world of science and, although they have been freed from mythology and from mystic philosophies, they are marked by their awareness of this immense, muddled potential which must be managed and may only be interpreted in terms of the methods of natural sciences with some inherent difficulty. This potential is linked to the distinctive nature of human events, which are unique and unrepeatable and which bear their own meaning because they belong to a unique and unrepeatable Self which is set into a context of interpersonal relationships.

The prognostic ability of this polymorphic world is firmly linked to the understanding of past experiences, be they events or other historically-significant things and is built from the individual and their story, from the society in which they live, from the environment and from their family and social relationships.

To what degree a particular methodology, based on these presuppositions, leads to real acquisition of awareness or has been superseded in its epistemological and clinical-therapeutic capacity, is an open question. We will only touch marginally on this.

The inter-relationships between these sensations, between these different ways of thinking and, consequently, ways of reacting and the attitudes and behaviour of society, of the authorities and of public health institutions has punctuated the scientific and social history of madness and of those seen as mad.

It is important to understand that every opinion and every position taken gives rise to pragmatic attitudes and that these influence the behaviour of care-providers, of those affected by (the internal suffering of) mental illness and of people in general.

The way to well-being is not the absence of illness, but rather it is genitality, which is the enjoyment of the greatest wellness of our optical mammalian beings; it is real human comparison, no longer blocked in paranoid positions; it is the opportunity to develop our evolutive potential; it is living in a society of true communication and true relationships.

Therefore we are looking to really make “enriching communication” and to provide an “other” translation of the person without forgetting our cultural history, which we could never do.

We will not forget the acquisition of models which we judge to be the most appropriate for interpreting past life experiences, which are, after all, the object of our work; similarly, we also believe that it is possible, in a “bridge” situation between old and new culture, to insert this “missing joining-link”, in what is a post-reichian, interpretative lesson, which thus takes its impetus from the ideas of W. Reich and moves autonomously on to other developments.

The aim of our work is, therefore, to make a novel contribution, amplifying perspectives and insinuating some doubt into a culture which already seems to be well on its way to, and has to contend with the noticeable danger of, feeding on self-reassuring certainties. We wish to stimulate an open discussion which, on a practical level, will have useful reverberations.


Even today any serious approach to psychopathology cannot escape the necessity of clarifying the route taken to reach its present position. We cannot afford the luxury of dealing with our problems without involving a historical perspective, which explains why there are antinomies and paradoxes.

The prehistory of psychiatry can be identified in shamanic rituals, in Hippocratic priests activity, in Artemidoros’ interpretation of dreams, in the administering of hellebore, in “the humours” and in the “temperaments”, in the behaviour of the fortune-tellers and sorcerers, in the colourful apparitions of the purveyors of miraculous remedies in the market-places and in the faith in the supernatural and in other phenomena which are beyond common human understanding or experience. Douglas Guthrie [1] believes that the profession of healer is the most ancient in the development of society – in Trois Frères caves in France there is a cave painting, dating back to 15000 years before Christ, showing a “witch doctor”. He is wearing an animal skin and his limbs are painted with stripes. It is probable that medicine itself evolved from problems that lay on the boundary between physical and metaphysical – death and the spread of disease, which were surely associated with magic and or religion, rather than being seen as natural phenomena.

The Malleus Maleficarum by Sprenger and Kremer was perhaps the first text on psychopathology, though they would have been unaware of this, and, in particular, on the phenomenology of Hysteria. It is no less a part of the history of psychiatry than Freudian, existentialist or recent organicist thought.

The history of psychiatry is not merely a simple exercise in learning - it is rather a story of the dramatic suffering actually experienced in the mind and the body.

Therefore it is worth seeing how psychiatric and psychopathological thought has developed into its principal currents.

Its evolutive path has followed various lines, the first of which has led to the organicistic paradigm and to psychoanalytical metapsychology; a second line, characterised by idealistic historicism, has given rise to psychodynamic praxis and to phenomenological psychiatry; the final line was motivated by social historicism, from whose bosom socio-political currents have evolved.


Biological-organicist psychiatry assumes that the cause of mental disorders should be sought within the organism. It was, in fact, based, at the beginning of its evolution, on the patterns derived from positivist thought in medicine during the first half of the last century. It was dominated by the epistemological return to the discoveries of Bayle, Alzheimer and Nissl on progressive paralysis. In Griesinger it found the most ardent supporter of the link between the biological condition of the encephalon and mental illness; a period of “ingenuous” biologism followed, the intentions of which would be isolating the symptom and reducing the symptoms observed to syndromes, mechanistic interpretation and cerebral localisation of the symptomatology and the exclusion of psychological factors in the etiopathogenesis of mental illnesses. [2]

This type of ideology, called “paleopositivist” by Borgna, confers the state of noxa primaria (primary injury) on biological damage. The reductionist view, which was implicit in Griesinger’s assertion that “mental illnesses are diseases of the brain”, dominates this perspective – the climate in which research was performed in this period is represented by the work of Wundt (“nothing happens in our consciousness without being sensorially-based on specific determining factors”); the correlations between psychic phenomena and the physiological anatomic substrate of the central nervous system represented the principal area of interest for researchers; by founding a branch of psychology which tended towards fragmentation of mental life into “distinct elements which can be investigated individually” (Griesinger), giving the idea that the basis of psychology as a science depended on reducing the language of psychological phenomenon to neuropathological language. The most notable consequence of the homologation of psychopathology and neuropathology was identifying the body as a privileged object for study – only the study of the body could supply answers to the questions about the nature and the essence of mental illness (Zilboorg).

Such a set-up required the appropriate correspondence of biological language on one side and of behavioural language on the other, which represented the keystone to building firm correlations between the two areas.

Classic psychopathology was born from this necessity with its need to describe psychopathological phenomena as objectively as possible. It was the time of “accurate illustration of phenomena” and of the “classification of psychic facts”, which were grouped as symptoms with common underlying connections and was an undertaking which the psychiatrists of the last century drew out over a long period (Hillman).

This naturalistic approach gave rise to the Kraepelinian classification system (based on the concept of a natural, single entity of illness which was morbid and well-defined, with precise characteristics for the elapsed prognosis and etiopathogenesis), to classification by category and by dimension and to other systems of classification by syndrome.

Over time techniques have been refined which have led to other programmes of biological research, which have, in turn, led to the biological model being structured ever more “scientifically”. Thus, as Andreoli notes, there is:

• A genetic hypothesis postulating the transmission of mental illness by a genic mechanism, the conceptual basis for which is demonstrated by the greater incidence of mental illnesses in particular family groups, but with the serious limitation that it is impossible to mark a distinct boundary between what is hereditary and what is produced by the environment.• A biochemical hypothesis which indicates that the factor responsible for psychopathological disorders is in alterations to cerebral neuromediators• A neurophysiological hypothesis which involves the functioning of the Central Nervous System and considers some particular sets of conditions capable of explaining psychopathological symptomatology.

However the positivist optimism generated by the idea of having found “the model” of mental illness, soon had to face up to the reality of not having reliable semiotic models (biological and clinical-nosographic) to make use of.

Psychodynamic comprehension

This second paradigm, whose paternity is attributed to Freud, can be considered to have originated from psychopathological naturalism, at least in its metapsychological aspects.

Generally speaking, “psychodynamic” refers to a particular interpretation of psychopathology, in which behaviour is determined by what are essentially subconscious “dynamisms”. Thus represented a true psychiatric revolution (Zilboorg), thanks to which a model began to appear in which the generation of mental illness was not attributed to a rigid deterministic/physical pattern, but rather to a concept of purely psychological causality. [2] The paradoxical aspect is that the disposition of the father of psychoanalysis, in the cultural panorama of his time, developed from his academic background, which had been dedicated to the search for a means to interpret the nature of man; this is attested to by the “Project for a Scientific Psychology”, his attempt to extrapolate from the natural world, through the utopia of physiological psychology, a direct correlation between physical and mental processes [3]. And, on the other hand, Freud was aware of Herbart and Griesinger’s realism. In this way, the results of the long journey, which had begun in ancient times, began to take shape as a science in the period covering the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries. It was the contributions of men like Charcot, Janet, Liebault and Breuer, who, having understood the importance of the deep origins of behaviour, supplied Freud with the key to his interpretation. [4]

The concept of psychic life, derived from psychodynamic thought, above and beyond the sometimes contrasting interpretations of the various schools (Freudian, Junghian, Kleinian, Reichian etc.), has a common denominator which Tedeschi identifies in the principal action of the unconscious as the cause of psychopathological symptomatology, in the conscious maturing of the personality, in the fact that healing cannot be measured exclusively by having overcome the symptomatology and in the analysis of the transference as part of the therapeutic technique.

In this way the behaviour manifested by an individual is determined by an interrelationship of forces, awareness of which is, at times, only partial. Psychopathological problems cannot therefore be understood on the basis of experience as they are presented to the conscious mind, but only by integrating the activities of the conscious psyche (thoughts, representations, thymic arrangement) with those components which we are not consciously aware of, that is to say the irrational, primordial and primitive, as well as the instinctive and symbolic.

In synthesis the common characteristics of dynamic-energetic thought are:

• The existence of a conscious/unconscious antinomy, in which the unconscious is not seen as a pure diametrically opposite aspect of the structure of the conscious mind, but rather as an active function, which determines its own distinct ways of acting.• Particular importance is given to children’s phantasmal relationships.• The symptomatology is derived from a dynamic compromise, triggered by a conflictual situation connected to particular moments in the biopsychic evolution of the individual.• The use of a precise therapeutic technique.

Rossini suggests that Freud’s success was in amplifying “the dimensions of man’s psychic personality when he recognised that his psychic world is not enclosed only within the boundaries of reason and of conscious volition of the Ego, but that it is also based upon activities outside our conscious, on a basis of unconscious dynamisms where the irrational, the primitive, the repressed and the forgotten converge.”


The charter of phenomenological thought is about comprehension, about an “understanding” which originates from the attitude adopted in the inter-human relationship with the person being examined [5] and which seeks to favour moving the medic’s role from gnostic to practical [6] – in fact the phenomenological approach has human experience [7] as a particular area of study, above and beyond the polysemous fragmentation of the various different approaches.

Behind this particular approach, in which philosophical thought is integrated with psychiatric intervention [8], we should remember Minkowski’s structural-intuitionist position. His view, in the light of Husserlian and Heideggerian acquisitions, leads to a synthetic vision of psychiatry, psychopathology and philosophy. There is also Binswanger’s idea of the category of possibility as a fundamental radical of humans and co-existence (mit-dasein) in the patterns of love, of friendship, of aggressiveness and so on. And then there is Jaspers.

We should spend longer on Jaspersian phenomenology – the psychopathological assumptions which are derived from his reasoning still represent the basis for many of the theoretical concepts of psychiatry.

In his work General Psychopathology [9] he defines phenomenology as what “has the task of making the mental states which the patients actually experience (Erleben) present and evident, observing them in their affinities, to define them and to distinguish them as clearly as possible, giving them precise denominations.

The core of Jaspers theory is constituted by the notion of “comprehensibility” – its importance is on one hand “technical”, for ordering the concepts of neuroses, of reactions to events and of the definitions of psychoses. On the other hand it is also culturally relevant as it offers itself as a separator between normality and madness.

Comprehensibility therefore means [9] actualizing and objectifying psychic qualities and grasping subjective experiences as if from within. However it also means “putting yourself in the other’s position, understanding the psychic relationships, isolating and linking individual psychic phenomena in a chain of motivations, so as to make the patient’s behaviour credible in terms of our own experience... Thus, to comprehend the relationship between psychic facts, between antecedents and successive events intuitively and, so to speak, immediately.” [10]

On the borders of comprehensibility are the territories of the Unconscious and the Process.

The process is something completely new bursting in, which constitutes a permanent alteration to the psychic life it interrupts – this is what determines the formation of the primary symptoms of psychoses. In itself it is a “non-sense compared to the usual meaning of our understanding,” (10) opening the door to the introduction of something extraneous into the complex of our psychological existence. It is this something that led Weitbrecht to say that schizophrenia, the epitome of a psychotic process, proceeds “fatally from biological depths, which are psychologically inaccessible and are still somatologically unexplained.”

However much it may be obscure, rich in potential and governed by its own rules, the unconscious is not structured like a region in as much as it is the negative of the conscious, which it opposes as an antithesis. The conscious is “inner life, while the extra-conscious does not have this dimension. The conscious is objective, it is knowing something and, as such, it opposes the unconscious, which is pure feeling and does not objectualise anything. The conscious is self-reflection, consciousness of oneself, while the unconscious denies every opportunity for explicit knowledge.” [10]

It is from here that the negativity of the “my-other”, my incomprehensibility, my arcane dark side and, especially, my inaccessible side is generated. It is the sentence without appeal of psychoanalysis.

Social psychiatry

This current of thought has not experienced unequivocal elaboration either – the term socio-psychiatry designates both the “theoretical study seeking to understand the relationship between society and mental illness and, in particular, the evaluation of the pathogenic action of the environment,” [11] and, more radically, a vision of the world that is born from the laceration that the crisis in traditional models of normality represents and that identifies difficulty as the basis and the space upon which to build new models for analysis, through political means and instruments (Jervis). [12] Therefore mental illness is reduced to a number, which is an indicator of the incidence and prevalence of mental illness, to which the blame for causing damage to society and its productive mechanisms is attributed.

The marginality and the problematic nature of psychopathological conditions provoke reactions from the “sane” part of society – the disturbing element assumes the role and status of madman and is treated accordingly. In this way psychiatric praxis, no longer derived from the principles of care, takes on the connotations of repression and intolerance.

Although the language it uses seems radical, the merit of social psychiatry lies in having started the debate which led to the progressive opening of psychiatric hospitals, in contributing to the elaboration of the theory regarding the anti-therapeutic effect of segregating structures [2] and, additionally, in having discovered the political potential of psychopathology itself and its social relevance.


From this quick, incomplete, panoramic view of the state of the art of psypathology and psychiatry, you can draw the impression of the enormous riches in its field of study and application and, at the same time, of its inevitable epistemological weakness. [13]

Psychiatry is the science of the human – for the psychiatrist, especially when working with psychotics, the reality of life is what is shown by its smells, its colours, instincts, passions and anxieties. It is firmly rooted in the theatre of “drama between man, world and God” [14].

Despite this it still has to practice a reduction in two of the dimensions of this complex universe, within a Cartesian machine in which it is seeking, or illuding itself that it is seeking, order and monotonous predictability. Monotony would also be warm and comfortable. This bi-dimensionality resembles that of a photographic image; its noema is the same - “it was”. The psychiatrist lives dreaming that to “get to what lies behind, it is enough to clean surface of the picture” (Barthes) – but, when you are attracted by a punctum focale (focal point) is deepening or enlarging the grain of life experiences sufficient?

It is clear that the fundamental difficulty in building psychiatric knowledge, and consequently in establishing psychiatric praxis, arises from the clash between the “abstract character of the science and the unique, global character of human phenomena, between a science losing its aroma and the actual touch of things and it produces something rarefied and ascetic” [15] and the complexity of mit-welt, in which human presence is elaborated.

Although Griesinger’s assumptions were prompted by the real necessity of “removing the heavy, semi-theological encrustations from psychiatry with which it has been covered ever since the Counter-Reformation,” [16] the dream of taking the problem of the structure of mental life away from metaphysics, so as to pass it to the hegemony of physiology, is far from being realised.

It is from this implied attitude that the anxiety in some sections of psychiatry to realise the myth of rationalistic objectivity, copied from the model of Diltheyan sciences, arises. He assists the dilatation of this paradigm with his atomistic vision of man, within a reificatory universe, which has led, however paradoxical it may seem, to biologistic fideism contained in the assumption of processuality. Necessarily, an illness must exist at the base of psychopathological manifestations. It must be present, even though it may not be demonstrated.

Biological psychiatry, under the influence of positivism, has been fascinated by mathematicisation and by physical-molecular models. It believed that, by means of this transformation, it could achieve the right to place itself among the exact sciences. Knowledge must always mean demonstrated knowledge, through reason or through concrete evidence [17].

The extreme application of this conception of the science is represented by the application to medicine, and noticeably to psychiatry, of epistemological control models (Popper and others) which are derived from physics, and establish a physiological or pathological theoretical system which makes reference to objective signs. Thus, the therapeutic treatment would not be judged on the remission of the symptoms, but according to the disappearance or reduction in the pre-established signs [18].

Indeed, in scientific work the efficacy of a treatment is exclusively evaluated by taking into consideration the variation in the points scored on the rating scales applied to the patient.

That we are not dealing with something that is only a question of form is clear from the consequences – the progressive disappearance of the patient is at stake, loaded with his subjectivity and uncertainties, in order to favour ever more unreal scientific objectivity. The necessity and the anxiety on the part of the scientist to eliminate the uncertain from the information being handled can be discerned. [19]

In this way the process of “depersonalisation of the person” (Binswanger) has been completed, through the substitution of the human being with abstract symbols and references. [2]

And so the antinomies return – psychiatry remains destorified in its “positive” dimension, precisely because the assumption of quantitative and general schematisation leads to the negation of man’s reality, modelled by a sort of paranoid behaviour, which is much more serious in that it serves as a design which is held as having been “scientifically validated”.

Even the clinical-nosographic aspect, which is the most-erudite filiation of organicism, reveals its limitations. It is not possible to elaborate an adequate system of classification for the correspondence of languages – the correlations between clinical evaluations and biological parameters are far from being identified. As such this constitutes a real limiting factor to the progress of research. Andreoli notes the non-parallel development between clinical-behavioural procedural methodology and increased capacity in terms of resolution in scientific instrumentation for biological investigation. [20] The association between these two, clinical and biological, sectors, which were separately developed without continuous, dialectal exchanges, has produced “... a clinical approach which is of no use to biological research and biology of no use for clinical problems.” [21]

To us it seems that this incommunicability raised by Andreoli represents, in a very general sense, a sophisticated re-proposition of Cartesian dualism.

Psychodynamics is antinomic in violating theoretical principles with the application of psychotherapeutic practice. We find ourselves confronted with a paradoxical situation, as was clearly pointed out by Cargnello, in the ambiguity of Freudian psychoanalysis which oscillates from theoretical biologism towards openings that are frankly phenomenological. It is evident that “the notion of man, implicit in psychoanalytical theory, has nothing to do with the notion of man that psychoanalytical theory has obtained by direct derivation from the Cartesian-structured natural sciences...” [22]

Psychoanalysis, if we wish to split hairs, is a natural science that would like to call itself a science of the spirit.

Phenomenology also displays antinomies.

The limit of Jaspersian argument is the notion of comprehensibility which, paradoxically, brings phenomenology back to being a supporter of the biologistic paradigm. As we have seen, comprehensibility creates a boundary between a regulated dominion, which can be explained by the laws of empathy and introspection, and another, which is unfathomable and in which there is no structure which can be traced to a norm – the origin of this change in quality, which is made up of the incomprehensible, of the primary and of the process must be rooted in the biological. To use Jaspers’ terminology, it is therefore no longer Verstehen, but rather Erklaren. It is no longer epistemologically based on the science of the spirit, but rather on that of nature. In this way the process leads to guaranteeing, at the same time, the existence of psychiatry as an autonomous science and the legitimisation of proceeding according to physical-biological events.

The antinomies of social psychiatry are more deeply hidden. The continuous variation of social stratification, the changes in lifestyles and domestic arrangements the end of ideologies in favour of a blander but more comfortable way of thinking, causes adjustments and modifications within the paradigm, which is in constant movement. Even here, paradoxically, certainties diminish, remaining unaltered only in the extreme, radical fringes – the so-called “lunatic fringe”. Integrations and exclusions are not sufficient to explain complex behaviour - the model is worn.

Psychiatry did not develop through successive evolution of paradigms. This means there was no substitution or abandoning of them by a process of falsification. The problem is that none of the paradigms that have been considered is pure and the antimonies that they generate within themselves preserve their function.

The indications that can be drawn are the following:

* there are many psychopathological and psychotherapeutic systems and they are, at the very least, sometimes contradictory, and, if they are not antinomic within themselves, they have, however, low-level internal coherence;

* there are uncertainties about the actual limits of the definitions of these systems, which have operated destructively with the formation of prejudices;

* there is a sort of epistemological anarchism [23] which calls forth anarchic theories of knowledge.

Therefore, these approaches, which are definitely antinomic and contradictory, lead us to sail, because of their antinomies, contradictions and paradoxes, “on the deck of a vessel that pitches incessantly between science and pseudo-science, not by fault or misadventure but by necessity”[24]

And, to continue with the same metaphor, we are sailing on a “dense, majestic river, which up to a point permits us to know where the river is, where the bank is and where there is dry land.” However, this great river of psychiatry, “because of tiredness, because it has travelled too far and for too long, because it is nearing the sea, which annuls in itself every river, does not know what it is any more.” [25] It is tempting to reply with what another sailor, the Captain, said to Florentino Ariza “And how long do you think we can keep up all this fucking coming and going?” [26]

This metaphor adequately characterises the so-called crisis in psychiatry, the impression of the sunset of psychopathology as a human science and as a dialogical and psychotherapeutic praxis (Borgna).

At the end of this archaeological journey, through the foundations of psychiatry, we can adopt some considerations made by Basaglia in 1966 - “We don’t wish to negate the validity of the biological, clinical, biochemical, functionalist or simply organic guidelines that make up psychiatric research; nor do we wish to disregard the psychogenetic concepts that form the basis for the psychoanalytical dynamic. It would represent an urge to uproot ourselves from what we are, because man is a biological, biochemical, functionalist and psychic man, but he is really a man in as much as these prerogatives of his are similarly present together in his existence and one never excludes another. The individual approaches must be contested from the moment in which, stepping outside of their own specific fields, they presume to be able to confront, from their own particular, individual viewpoints, global man in his movement in the world; from the moment in which they presume that they are able to resolve, each in its own way, the problem of existence, without bearing in mind that they become pure ideology when they expect to enlarge their penetration to the study of man in his being in the world, not through inter-disciplinary research, but rather by making their specific, individual premises absolute.

Indeed, neither the psychodynamic approach alone, nor constitutionalist theories on their own, nor organodynamic interpretations in the Eyian sense, have given us a true, globally-human vision of the mentally ill in their existence.” [27]


Energy - Energetic Field - Entropy / Negentropy

The problem of the dichotomy between psyche and soma is that the absence of its resolution bears decisive weight in the difficulty in understanding the genesis of psychopathological disorders.

This impasse can be resolved, in our opinion, thanks to the concept of energy.

However, we would ask – can a “scientific” definition of this term exist, especially when it is used in the context of a “healing tradition” as psychopathology/ psychotherapy could be considered? There is no psychiatrist which does not have at the back of their mind a tiny part that is hieratic and priestly, even shamanic, which comes to life in the behaviour, in the rituals, in the use of words as bearers of health and in the use of drugs, which are sometimes administered with almost mystical intent.

It is therefore no wonder that a suspicious atmosphere has always surrounded forms of energy every time they have featured in psychopathology – heavy energy and light energy, the Hippocratic concept of life force, which was reintroduced by Hoffman; the ideas of the epigeneticists who, together with Caspar Friedrich Wolff, traced the birth of every body back “to the life force inherent to a primary substance without definite form” [16]; Barthez’s “principe vital” (life principle) and vitalism; Stahl’s “il de motu tonico vitali,” according to which the life force is responsible for all of the functions of the organism; Boissier de Sauvages held that the power of the life force expressed itself, in itself, as consciousness, and, in connection with the sense organs, as movement; and then Reil, who gave his name to an area of the cerebellum (island of Reil) and who founded l’Archiv fÜr die Physiologie in 1796, with an article in the inaugural issue about Lebenskraft (life force). [16]

Zilboorg rightly notes the sensational impact that the introduction of the concept of life force had on the whole field of psychiatry - “For the first time in the history of medicine, a doctor, who did not wish to leave mental illness in the hands of theology, was suggesting a new type of information. He was presenting a new biological factor, because it was, indeed, biological, even though it could not be measured or taken orally. The concept of energy had not been developed at the time of Stahl, and the doctor had to wait until science had advanced sufficiently.” [16]

More recently, when the psychiatric revolution had begun to take shape, Beard interpreted neurasthenia as a state of functional exhaustion of specific nervous energies. We consider that the various models proposed by numerous authors as being the basis for the physical energy / mental energy isomorphism, were largely borrowed from positivistic thought at the end of the last century. In these models it is postulated that behaviour is in some way influenced by the existence of “endogenous energy” (Robustelli) and the models themselves are expressed using language that corresponds to the terminology used in physics.

The Freudian energetic model is mainly derived from the teachings of Helmoltz - “The only forces active in biological organisms could be reduced to the chemical-physical forces inherent in matter and could be reduced to forces of attraction and repulsion.” Living organisms were interpreted as being atomic aggregates “governed by physical forces, according to the principle of the conservation of energy.” [3] In addition, the scene of European research in the neurophysiological field was dominated, as Freedman and Kaplan underlined, by the triumvirate of Brucke, Exner and Meynert. Their beliefs amounted to the idea that “the nervous system operates through the transmission of a variable quantity of energy from the afferent nervous terminals to the efferent nervous terminals. Brucke held that the nature of this nervous impulse was electrical and it was conceived in hydraulic terms as being a sort of fluid transported in the nervous fibres as if in a hollow tube.” [3]

We underline that an impression of Freud’s ideas about energy can be garnered from his “Project for a Scientific Psychology,” which, redrafted after a two-year gestation from 1895 to 1897, was later abandoned in a drawer and was, according to the intentions of its author, destined for destruction. It is not difficult to see that the structure of “The Interpretation of Dreams” and “Beyond the Pleasure Principle” are closely derived from the conceptual formulations in this work.

Freudian energetics therefore was greatly influenced by the problem that physics was asking at the time. The basic assumptions were represented by the concepts of entropy and conservation. That is to say the tendency of systems to maintain constant, homogenous energetic content, from which the principle of neuronic inertia was derived; on the psychological front the translation was to the principles of nirvana and pleasure.

However, there are also people who are prepared to abandon the energetic hypothesis.

In the neurophysiological field, in fact, information systems have been adopted in which a behaviour system has been hypothesised which is based on inputs from the external environment and from within the organism. “Behaviour manifested in this way leads to variations in the environmental conditions (external or internal). Information about these variations reaches the central nervous system and, by a feedback mechanism, the behavioural system is deactivated.” (Robustelli)

Even within the psychoanalytical world Ignacio Matte Blanco prefers to use n-dimensional spaces and relative sub-spaces.

As much an informational conception, which smells of updated reflexology, as a vectorial space, they are far from resolving the fundamental problem of psychopathology – the psyche-soma dichotomy.

Reich noticed the problem and felt indebted to Bergson - “I instinctively realised the validity of his efforts to reject mechanistic materialism as well as finalism. It was impossible to negate the principle of a creative force that supported life” (The Function of the Orgasm, cited in [3]). Reichian vital energy, defined by Kammerer as “a form of energy which is neither thermic, nor electrical, neither magnetic, nor kinetic (similarly, it is neither oscillatory nor radioactive), neither is it a combination of all of these types of energy, nor of some of them. Rather it is a type of energy that specifically characterises the processes to which we give the name life.” (Ibid.)

We will pay our dues to Reich.

Dadoun asserts “should you analyse the emotional life experiences and the different means of expression of the patients... should politics or anthropology be under consideration... should the great natural phenomena - thunderstorms, hurricanes, the aurora borealis, nebulae – be examined from unheard of perspectives, it is the same primordial reality, the same specific vital energy, in a word bioenergy, that we see coming to meet us and functioning in the same shapes that isolate it, that identify it, that historicise it and that naturalise it.”

“Bioenergy is therefore not,” using the words of Dadoun, “so much the name of a principle or a theory, and even less is it a philosophical vision, but rather it is the global designation of a unique field of investigation.” [28]

However, within our energetic concept it has a different connotation – the condition of man, as a nucleus of focused cosmic energy. We do not see it as being dissimilar to an elementary particle which “is only a small area of an electric field in which the intensity can reach particularly high values, indicating that an enormous part of the energy is concentrated in a small space.” (Weil, in [29].)

Man, as a node of energy, does not appear to be clearly distinct from the field that he is immersed in – elementary particles move through empty space like waves on the surface of a lake and the movement of the plasmatic energetic current of the organism, which participates in the pulsation of the universe, is similarly undulatory. It is important to bear in mind the concept of equivalence between energy and matter, which in reality is no more than a metaphor for the dynamic situations of living energy.

In the context of energy-medicine, this is usually described in whichever tradition is chosen for reference in terms of “flux models”, which foresee a continuous energetic exchange between the individual and the environment. Our model, however, foresees the presence of a field together with the concept of energy and flux as we have already mentioned. The organism is, indeed, a flow of energy, immersed in a great flow of energy, the field.

We can speak of field every time we encounter the space of an “object” that has been conditioned so that another “object” experiences the forces. There is an example of this in ethology – the attachment and, naturally, the bonds that are formed between mother and foetus and new-born baby, and then in the family and in society. A further example is Praecoxgefuhl, that is to say the perception of the feelings of schizophrenicity, which is the desolating sense of emptiness that comes from psychosis – you grasp it, as Minkowski says, in the immediate intelligibility of the sentiment, as the breath of life that has escaped from it. Translated into other terms, as our energy field perceives the schizophrenic emptiness, it goes and interacts with it.

We are dealing with the concept of energy/field taking a qualitative step forward compared to the models we have examined. We are proposing a different vision, which is global and not limiting. The cultural background in which we are operating has profoundly changed. Contemporary physics, for example, is prepared to investigate the real possibility of creating matter from nothingness. This would mean from the energetic fluctuations of a vacuum, which could be materialised, which would have been an impossible idea in the cultural scenario in which Reich operated.

It is difficult for us to imagine what is moving around us. Our senses are not capable of giving us the impression of the greatness and richness of life that is all around. “It is possible that we are living our lives in a dimension that is remarkably larger than we suspect.” [19]

An energetic concept of existence must speak a language which agrees with a systemic approach to reality and that uses descriptions of dynamic models of life, that goes beyond Cartesian reductionism, to reach out towards wider horizons. Bioenergy is the vital energy that underpins biophysical processuality and the expression of the organism’s emotions – it is the unifying element of the psyche-soma dichotomy.

Let us clarify.

The gene of complexity existed in W. Reich and it is natural that we, as representatives of this specific genealogical branch, are open to this evolutive development.