Sunday, August 25, 2013
Giles Clark - Psychoid Substance as a Mutual Experience
"In 1946, Jung put forward a hypothesis of a ‘psychoid’ level or quality of the unconscious psyche; he wrote, ‘Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irrepresentable, transcendental factors, it is not only possible but fairly probable even that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing’(Jung 1947, para, 418). He returned to this dual-aspect idea again several times, and in Mysterium Coniunctionis he wrote that ‘deepest down of all, [is] the paradox of the sympathetic and parasympathetic psychoid processes’ (Jung 1955-56, para. 279).
In my title I have used the expression ‘psychoid substance’. Since the meaning of ‘substance’ is not axiomatic, and since I am using it idiosyncratically in a way that is connected to my use of the ‘psychoid’, I need to say that by substance I do not mean either an essence or a thing, or not only. I am using the word ‘substance’ in a Spinozist/neo-Spinozist metaphysical sense, by which I mean the idea of a fundamental unity (not union) underlying two ‘attributes’ of (= attitudes to, aspects or experiences of) that basic unity — which is here ‘the psychoid’. The two ‘attributes are psyche/soma, or psychic/somatic. But more psychologically, I understand this psychoid substance as being dynamic (substantiating) and having to do with the making of internal and interpersonal relations (consubstantiating). (Finally, I think it might be phenomenologically useful to render ‘the psychoid’ as an adjective or adverb: a consubstantiating psychoid energy, which is experienced psychoidly (psychosomatically) inside and between us — perhaps most evidently in psychotic experience and relations.)
I am here suggesting that the psychoid is not only to do with an individual, intrapsychic level of life, but also has to do with an area of experience where bodily sensations are symbolic, sometimes represented through very primitive sensations, proto-symbols and psychosomatic metacommunications which are felt both inside us and also simultaneously around us in relationships. For example in experiences of participation mystique, through projective identifications, extractive introjections (Bollas 1987b) and in other processes of personal and interpersonal psychic contamination and infection which are also somatically affective. These experiences painfully unite us in something we unconsciously make together, arising out of an as yet unmet need to share in something undeveloped and uncoordinated.
My experience of relations which most fully display what I am going to try to describe are found in clinical work with deeply regressed patients where the capacity to distinguish inner and outer, subject and object, fantasy and reality, etc., are all very unclear; in other words in borderline or psychotic relations, where the analyst is necessarily ‘used’ as a psychotic object by the disturbed patient. This is where the primitive and almost pre-human nature of events (and therefore animal/animating events) is experienced in its preverbal, pre-thinking state. Actually, I would rather say in a state of chaos or disorder, destroying words and thinking, and of raw emotions and sensations of bodily illness, though not necessarily in actual organic illness.
Later, I shall use a case example to demonstrate how, in work with regressed patients, pre-whole-person symbols and sensations are transferred by projective identification into the analyst. The analyst can then be infected and used at the level of the autonomic nervous system, sensed vitally through animal imagery and somatic symptoms (in dreams and illness). This is an embodied countertransference in which we find what I call a consubstantiating ‘animating body’. It is a primitive and bestial ‘psychoid environment’ made between us, around us and inside us. It is the analyst's task to sort us out of this mixed-up and over-embodied world, so that we are eventually able to separate into different but related personal identities.
Therefore in this paper I am in a way doing what I try to do in the regressed analytic situation, namely to understand, find words for, bring order to and communicate in such a way that together we can make our way out of this wordless, thoughtless psychotic disorder. In the clinical situation I am going to describe, we shall see how this is a matter of using my attacked and infected embodied countertransference, or embodied aspects of identification, to understand and make sense of the patient's (and therefore partly my) deep psychosomatic disorder.
I need here to make two points for the sake of clarity:
1. Although what I am talking about is about somatizing where the symbolizing function has got confused and therefore stuck at an early stage, it is also about the natural and necessary pre-differentiated psychosomatic stage and state, so to speak a natural archetypal aspect of our nature, where our psychoid and psychotic metaphysics originate and live.
2. Above all, it is about the paradoxical experience of oneness or intimacy and mutuality in non-blissful, disharmonious relations, in conditions of attack, fragmentation, chaotic dissociation and incomprehension, which I see as necessary metacommunications of disorder which have to be shared in order to be understood and sorted out: a sort of psychic chaos theory." (pp. 353-354)
Giles Clark (1996). The Animating Body: Psychoid substance as a mutual experience of psychosoma. Journal of Analytical Psychology, Vol. 41, pp. 353-368