Saturday, 23 May 2009

before mind and body



In trying to understand psychotic disturbances of ego boundaries - rather than disturbances in the mere representation of ego boundaries - the psychologist must, it seems, make recourse to a theorisation of interpersonal interaction which holds to an equiprimordiality of i) intersubjectivity and ii) of the identity of the selves in the interaction. Psychotic identifications arise when there is a failure in the separation out of two selves in the expected manner within a dialogical and intercorporeal relationship. The order of explanation cannot be, as would be normal for a psychologist attempting to grasp less profound psychological disturbances, that we have here any kind of failure merely in the relationship, or failure in the understanding of one of the participants in that relationship. To be sure, the pathology usually lies with the one individual, but not 'within their mind'. It lies rather in the background intercorporeal processes by which such a 'mind' crystallises out of the intercorporeal field, with the delimitations it possesses, in the first place.

That theme is one which has preoccupied me considerably in other posts and work elsewhere in the last year. I wish to consider now whether a similar form of explanation can be applied to what are misleadingly thought of as 'psychosomatic' phenomena. I do not mean to suggest that there aren't certain phenomena which can best be understood as due to the influence of mind on body. But what I want to consider is whether it would be possible to think the relationship between mind and body, as it obtains in profound psychosomatic disturbances, in a more primordial manner.

Here is the suggestion, which at present remains in desperate need of empirical phenomenological detail to render its content and scope perspicuous. That first and foremost we have our existence as embodied-beings-in-the-world, and that psychosomatic disturbance is a function of a failure of 'mind' and 'body' to co-emerge as they would normally do. Note the implication here: the mind and body, just like self and other, need one another, and can only reach ontological determinacy in a process of mutual negation.

So, we experience certain aspects of our 'existence' as bodily, and certain others as mental. Or to put it better, mind and body co-emerge equiprimordially from our ongoing lived-bodily being-in-the-world. Just as self and other co-emerge, so too do mind and body. The primordial goods are divvied up, as it were, in such ongoing enacted existential auctions. And what we may have in certain psychiatric conditions are cases of a 'skew' in this 'divvying up' either in the direction of the body, or of the mind. Such that the mind and body are either hypertrophied or atrophied relative to one another. It may accordingly be easy to talk of 'conversion phenomena' where really there is no conversion taking place, but rather a more primordial disturbance in balance of the co-emergence of mind and body. Some fatigue, some skin complaints, some paralyses, rheumatisms, allergies, etc. may then form a kind of mirror to complaints involving a kind of hypertrophy of cerebral identity (e.g. schizoid conditions). And given that the very categories of 'mind' and 'body' are dependent upon a certain reliable equity in this existential divvying process, when we confront certain extreme so-called 'psychosomatic' conditions we may be reaching an aporia in our very capacity to talk meaningfully here of 'mental' or 'physical'.