The holistic approach to psychotherapy
Dr. Diego Frigoli*
Although the term "psychotherapy" indicates, from a general point of view, any treatment performed with psychic means (Speer, 1948) aimed at influencing certain pathological manifestations of the personality, there is no doubt that at the beginning of the third millennium, with the scientific discovery of the unconscious and its laws, as well as the functioning of the CNS (Central Nervous System), psychotherapy, from the global approach to the personality, which was common in the tradition of many ancient cultures, is today increasingly oriented to explore the discomfort of man by dividing itself into a thousand streams of intervention each responding to the theoretical assumptions of reference.
This has entailed a series of practical difficulties that oscillate between the need to redefine the field of psychotherapy intervention as a "place" for the dual work between therapist and patient and, on the other hand, to modify certain theoretical paradigms that are too rigid to respond to the flexibility of a question of the patient who is changing in parallel with the evolution of society. There is no doubt that today, in the general panorama of mental illnesses, some chronic neuroses such as hysteria and obsessional neurosis, have seen their importance change in favor of forms of psychic distress such as personality disorders, psychosomatic diseases, panic attacks, anxiety crises, mood disorders and consequently, this has also ended up changing the traditional approach of psychotherapy. The traditional distinction in supportive psychotherapy and analytically oriented or psychodynamic psychotherapy, dear to the classical tradition, is today considered to be superseded by the concept of supportive-expressive psychotherapy (Gabbard, 2002, pp. 91-93).
This term is intended to emphasize a unitary concept of the psychotherapy process, in which the expressive (interpreting) and support elements are not two separate psychotherapy activities, but characteristics and treatment techniques within a therapeutic continuum.
Thus, the intervention of the psychotherapist, oscillating between interpretation and clarification on the one hand (expressive aspect), and on the other hand between empathic validation and confirmation (supportive aspect), can provide the patient with a model of comparison with his own unconscious issues as well as offer unexpected solutions in relations with reality (Invernizzi, 1996, pp. 405-406).
On a practical level, this synthesis of therapeutic intervention, modulating in a targeted way to the unconscious conflicting tendencies, pushes the psychotherapist to cross the boundaries rigidly established by the classic psychoanalytic rules ending up by finding in the relational context of the therapeutic couple, those reflections of the patient's past not only as an affective memory but above all as an experience re-actualized in the here and now of the setting.
It is evident that the most important element for a good psychotherapy is not constituted by that attitude of benevolent neutrality that was once prescribed as important for the psychotherapist and that often bordered on a presence that was almost an absence, but on the contrary, according to Self psychologists, analytic neutrality is overcome by the need for a warm empathy capable of making the patient experience the confidence of being understood in his subjective experience (Wallerstein, 1986).
We must never forget that the psychotherapist, thanks to the transference operated on his person, becomes a parental image on which "the patient is once again crystallizing all the demands, needs and conflicts of his childhood". Whether the therapist for the patient's unconscious is the substitute for the father or the mother, it matters little: "he represents that parent who is at the origin of the traumatizing suffering; it is therefore from him and from him alone that the sick awaits reparation. And it is also he alone who can promote an authentic reconciliation of the patient with an "imago" deformed since childhood by the fact that it has hurt the child in his need for love. As Plato reminds us, the most skilled therapist is the one who knows how to give birth to love in a body that is devoid of it, and so the psychotherapist's goal is to make a being capable of love that has been painfully or violently locked up in the rejection” (Nacht, 1974, pp. 19-20). If from a general point of view, this intervention program seems to leave no room for doubts on the need to consider the therapist-patient relationship as the cornerstone of healing, thanks to the self-regulating game of transference and countertransference, there is no doubt that the patient as human being, embodies a possibility of projects that often place him beyond the need to achieve a satisfaction of his own instinctual needs.
In fact, it often happens that the patient, in the course of overcoming neurotic blocks, becomes aware of aspiring to forms of life at a higher level, thanks to the emergence of moral, intellectual or spiritual problems other than those that presented at the beginning of therapy. Therefore, if the psychotherapist limits himself to analyzing instinctual conflicts, bringing the patient back to his primary impulses of hate and love, he ends up keeping the subject at this level only and can, consequently, be an obstacle to his becoming aware of aspirations of another kind.
It is therefore necessary that the psychotherapist does not consider the unconscious exclusively a reservoir of instinctual forces that blindly seek their fulfillment, an enclosure in which our inner demons struggle, an inexhaustible source of needs and desires that do not leave man in peace. If in man there is that autonomous and planning instance of which various psychoanalysts have spoken and which usually designates itself as the Self, it can only be located in a non-conflictual area, therefore not divided by dualisms and contrasts. It is in this non-conflictual area that we can trace the core of our self-reflective, permanent and continuous consciousness beyond the somatic and psychic changes that characterize individual existence, and a summary of the psychic planning instances relating to our person. But when, in the course of a therapeutic project, the need for treatment requires attention to be paid to this central aspect of the patient's personality, the psychotherapist often witnesses a sort of reductivism of intervention motivated by the difficulty of accessing mutually complementary and integrated therapeutic programs (Frigoli, 2007, p. 97). One of the causes of this fragmentation of psychotherapeutic interventions against the disease depends on the lack of agreement that still exists on the dynamics of psychic life.
Although biology and physics have long since come to consider living organisms as dynamic structures endowed with retroactive information flows, capable of internal plasticity and flexibility with self-organizing effects, in synthesis systems with autopoietic organization (Maturana, Varela, 1985), still today there is no global vision of psychology that conceives man as a "dynamic system involving interdependent physiological and psychological aspects and that sees him inserted into larger, interacting systems of physical, social and cultural dimensions” (Capra, 1984, p. 268). Much of this depends on the psychological legacy that Freud's genius left us moderns with regards to the dynamics of the unconscious with its laws. According to Freud, psychological processes are deeply rooted in the physiology and biochemistry of the body and follow the principles of Newtonian mechanics. Mental life unfolds between instinctual impulses present in the body and real "clashes" with the outside world, mediated by so-called "defense mechanisms".
At the root of the dynamics of the functioning of the mind, Freud grasped the libido, a real instinctual drive closely connected with sexuality and which had properties similar to those of "force" in Newtonian mechanics. On the contrary, Jung, more interested in understanding the psyche as a whole than in specific psychological phenomena, developed a number of concepts that are in full agreement with modern standards of current physics and systems theory. Indeed in one of his main works, Aion, we find the following statement: "Sooner or later, nuclear physics and the psychology of the unconscious will approach each other, because both, independently of each other and starting from opposite directions, push forward into a transcendental territory ... The psyche cannot be totally different from matter since in that case how could it move matter? And matter cannot be foreign to the psyche, since otherwise how could matter produce the psyche? Psyche and matter exist in the same world and each has a part in the other, otherwise any reciprocal action would be impossible. If only research could advance enough, we should therefore arrive at an ultimate agreement between physical and psychological concepts. Our present attempts may be bold but I believe we are in the right direction" (Jung, 1982, p.246). For him the libido was a real general psychic energy, in which he saw a manifestation of the basic dynamics of life, indeed in this regard he states: “the best thing we can do is to consider the psychic process simply as a vital process. By doing so we broaden the rather narrow concept of psychic energy into the broader one of vital energy, which assumes the so-called psychic energy as its specification ... I have proposed to define the hypothesized vital energy with the term "libido", taking into account the psychological use we intend to make of it ... By this I do not mean to prevent the bioenergetics student, but to admit frankly that in front of him I used the term libido in anticipation of the use we will make of it. For its use he can propose a "bioenergy" or "vital energy" (Jung, 1976, p. 25). But the fundamental distinction between Freud's and Jung's psychology as well as in the different conception of libido, can be found in the model of the unconscious. For Freud the unconscious had a predominantly individual nature, containing elements that had never been conscious and others that had been repressed or removed. Jung recognized these aspects, but amplified the conception of the unconscious, believing that beyond a personal unconscious there was a collective unconscious, older than the personal one and which represented a deeper layer of the psyche common to all humanity.
Through this conception, Jungian analytical psychology expanded the conception of man beyond the dimension of his own singularity and by putting him in contact with a larger dimension, he conceived the humanity itself as a particular aspect of the entire cosmos. In his attempts to describe the collective unconscious, Jung used concepts surprisingly similar to those of contemporary physicists to describe atomic phenomena. In the collective unconscious Jung saw the so-called archetypes operate, real dynamic patterns of behavior present in the community, similar to the idea of the atom present in nuclear physics, and operating as "organizers" of primordial images, arising from the remote history of 'humanity and traced in dreams, in the universal motifs of myths, religions and fables around the world.
Therefore Jung considered religion and comparative mythology as an immense book of reading for his observations on the collective unconscious, and re-evaluated the spirituality of man by attributing it an integral part of the human psyche. Transcending the rational framework of psychoanalysis, Jung also broadened Freud's deterministic horizon for mental phenomena and, postulating a relationship between the events of psychic life and the concrete phenomena of material experience, linked together by causal connections, thanks to the criterion of synchronicity, recognized the possibility of a more general causal order present in the mind as well as in matter and nature. In this, Jung greatly anticipated the modern currents of physics, which, precisely through the study of the acausal connections of the phenomena of subatomic particles, are trying to build a bridge of understanding between matter and the psyche (Charon, 1989).
These general ideas have influenced many aspects of modern psychology, so much so that today all psychotherapists who see the mind as a self-organized system and, consequently, in neurosis a sort of attempt by the psyche to find solutions, even if partial to the 'inability to function as an integrated whole, in fact they express in their work the Jungian theoretical premises.
In Jung's conception, the role of the psychotherapist consists in favoring and supporting the possibility that the psyche regains its total functionality and, to achieve this path, the patient must undertake a symbolic alchemical journey where, through the experiences of death and rebirth of his neurotic beliefs, may eventually regain his original identity. Jung called the transformation of the psyche that the patient encountered in psychotherapy the "individuation process". The "process of individuation", according to Jung, was to indicate the possibility for the patient to integrate the conscious and unconscious aspects of the psyche, up to the confrontation with the totipotentiality of the archetypal images of the collective unconscious, which assimilated by the conscience of the individual, would help to provide him beyond the personal Ego, a new center of his personality represented by the Self.
This is why Jung conceived psychotherapy as an individual meeting between the psychotherapist and the patient, both naked with the totality of their being: "No artifice can prevent the treatment from being the product of a mutual influence in which the whole personality participates, of the patient and of the doctor” (Jung, 1976, p. 375).
Despite these very significant affirmations of a need for a global approach to the patient's existential distress, in fact Jung throughout his work substantially highlighted the psychological aspects of the transference relationship, leaving the somatic and "material" implications present in the transference in the shade.
It is true that in the study of the relationship between consciousness and the unconscious, Jung introduced the concept of "transcendent function" as a real engine of psychic life, in the sense that, composing the opposites, like the "conscious" and "unconscious" contents, it allows to arrive at a new psychic situation; but, when in the study of Jungian analytical psychology, one wants to deepen the importance of the "transcendent function" as a unifying aspect of the opposites of the "psyche-matter", "mind-body" relationship, there is no doubt that the study of the "transcendent function" as postulated by Jung, is incomplete to define in a way that is not general, the arduous psychotherapeutic question of the so-called psychosomatic diseases and of the processes of conversion and somatization.
There is no need to dwell at length on the question of why Jung's genius so massively neglected the study of bodily phenomena in their relation to the psyche; it is certain that the Author, concerned with exploring the individual and collective psychic dimension in the relationship with archetypes, did not sufficiently highlight how the archetype constitutes not only an "organizer" of the order of psychic images, but also an "organizer" of bodily functions.
The same alchemy, which Jung studied in depth, was considered a paleo-science demonstrating only the importance of the archetypal processes present in the course of transformation of consciousness, forgetting that all alchemists, on the contrary, supported the need to transform the unity of the psychosoma with a symbolic condition described as a "leaden" state and the more complete or "golden" one. Thus, when he dealt with the oriental sciences of yoga or tantra, he made no mention of the profound meaning of asanas or of the pranayama respiratory function as an integral part for realizing "nirvanic" consciousness and perhaps for this reason of hypertrophy of the study of psychic facts not duly compensated by a similar deepening of the symmetrical importance of the body dimension, Jungian analytic psychology was openly criticized in psychoanalytic circles as charged with excessive spirituality and extremist mysticism.
Today, the changed scientific conceptions that speak openly of the need for holism as an integral part of collective consciousness, to overcome the dilemmas of a forgotten and forgetful nature for man, Jungian psychology, ideas about the personal and collective unconscious, dynamics of psychological phenomena, are probably destined to exert a strong influence on psychology and psychotherapy in the future, provided that alongside them, the importance of the archetypal dimension in the "matter" of bodily facts and their vicissitudes develops as a symmetrical study, thus seeking to close the symbolic circle started by Jung with his psychological approach to the spiritual dimension of consciousness.
In fact, in the current era, thanks to the conceptual contributions offered by the new physical and biological theories, such as the concepts of entropy and syntropy, typical of the modern thermodynamics of Prigogine's non-equilibrium states (Prigogine, Stengers, 1981), the information theory of Shannon and Weaver (Shannon, Weaver, 1949; Brillonin, 1959) , the theories of complexity (Maturana, Varela, 1987; Morin, 1983; Laszlo, 1986), of chaos (Gleick, 1989), and fractal geometry (Maldenbrot, 1987), we are induced to review many psychoanalytic conceptualizations that have too often been accepted without an adequate revision of their innovative significance. One of these is represented by the concept of synchronicity. Jung calls synchronicity, as opposed to synchronism, an explanatory principle that integrates the criterion of causality and defines it as a "temporal coincidence of two or more events that cannot be causally correlated with each other, of equal or similar significance” (Jung, 1976, p.475).
Synchronicity, as a principle, represents a rule sui generis, immanent in the cosmos and in the psychosome of man, and was postulated to try to understand the nature of the continuum between the physical and psychic worlds, having non-superimposable laws between them in their expressive dynamics.
This continuum of Jung, on whose theoretical-practical validity there is no need to discuss, as the current biological and physical sciences seem by now to have accepted it as the cornerstone of their development (Bateson, 1984), can be subjectively represented by using the analogy offered by the light spectrum.
In the example of the figure, as mentioned earlier, the band of visible light corresponds to the Ego and the domain of its relations, the infrared pole to the strictly corporeal and material relations of the phylogenetic unconscious, while the ultraviolet pole to the world of archetypal images. If, as Jung reminds us, "the dynamics of the instincts are localized so to speak in the infrared part of the spectrum and the instinctual image is in the ultraviolet part” (Jung, 1976, p. 228), the possibility to dynamically integrate them will manifest itself only when you know how to match the image of it (ultraviolet) with the corresponding instinctual substrate (infrared). At this point a question arises: what is the relationship between the logic of the unconscious and that of rational thought, the phenomenon of synchronicity and psychosomatic events? As already mentioned, we must remember that the rational thought that characterizes the conscious Ego is governed by the criterion of identity and not contradiction (Matte Blanco, 1981) and in its work, it follows the criterion of cause-effect; in fact, every rational discourse starts from causal premises destined to unfold according to a sequence of associative links of ideas up to the final formulation of the judgment. This process is defined by Freud as a secondary process. Conversely, the operation of the unconscious is governed by the principles of generalization and symmetry (ibidem) and psychic energy, flowing freely, passes without obstacles from one representation to another, according to the mechanisms of displacement and condensation. Called primary process (Freud, 1966, pp. 546 et segg.). This process, as an expression of the logic of the unconscious, is present in man in his dream and behavioral productions, but also in the animal through instincts. Courtship rituals, bird migration, mating patterns, behavioral adaptations such as mimicry, are the direct testimony of innate behaviors originating from a "biological intelligence" able to correctly design a response that solves a new situation that implies complex responses to multiple stimuli, determined by a non-rational but only intuitive logic (Manusia, 1984; Hinde, 1977; Ostow, 1968).
Body symptoms and, in a broad sense, body language also respond to the rules of the unconscious. The therapist who wants to deal with the complex mechanism of conversion or somatization must be able to access the logic of the unconscious through his own psychological capacity to take upon himself an imaginary that is expressed only in the body, freeing himself as much as possible from the dependence of rational schemes.
It is true that in human pathology, alongside psychosomatic symptoms, which are real riddles arising from the sick psychosome, there are also strictly psychic or somatic symptoms. For example, a hematoma on the skin (effect) can be caused by a blow to the body (cause) and as such the logic underlying this symptom can be understood by rational thinking, as well as when a sudden fear (cause) triggers a tachycardia (effect); but if we are faced with a district peripheral cyanosis of the fingers, as happens in Raynaud's disease, what can be the cause of a sectorial vascular spasm of the fingers? What psychological mechanism is underlying this syndrome? Only by entering into a relationship with the psychosomatic phenomenon by following the rules established by the analogy we will begin to understand the meaning of this discomfort. In fact, analogy is not an imperfect way of knowing that only captures similarities between objects belonging to different domains of knowledge, but represents a sort of logic of the unconscious with such a universal scope, as to suggest that the principle of cause-effect is nothing more than a particular aspect of it.
The example that can make these concepts more understandable is the relationship that exists between traditional physics, which develops in traditional space-time, and quantum mechanics which with its general laws, includes in itself the laws of classical physics such as special case. Even in psychic life we can postulate that logical-rational and analogical thought exist as expressions of a complementarity necessary to understand the complexity of the world.
The biological example of this understanding is represented in man by the functional complementarity of the left hemisphere of the brain (responsible for logical-causal thinking) with the right one (responsible for analogical thinking). If the logical-causalistic thought presupposes that a cause always precedes the effect, or that a before always precedes an after, it actually constructs a direction of time that is superimposable to that linear direction of time that physicists identify in the direction of phenomena entropic, or phenomena that go from order to disorder. Therefore, thinking in rational and causal terms, from the point of view of knowledge, means orienting our thinking in an entropic key, while every creative act of thought is posed as neg-entropic or syntropic. From these statements, it may seem that scientific thought which bases its reality on the cause-effect criterion initiates human knowledge into an entropic dimension. In part, this is true when scientific thought forgets the heuristic need for analogy, the only function that commits it to re-discuss its own certainties, thus creating a field of knowledge in perennial transformation.
However, when rational thought engages in conclusions removed from the transformative logic of analogy, surprising examples of short-circuits of judgments can occur: history can witness certain scholastic discussions according to which the sexual reality of the angelic spirits was extensively studied!
Synchronic events, whose temporal coincidence cannot be causally correlated with each other, can only be understood by analogical reasoning, which by its nature is circular as it continually overturns the order of the conclusions reached on the original premises, thus modifying the logical succession of the deduction. As already mentioned, for example, when the sun appears in a dream image of a patient, we might think that this image refers to a real experience lived by the patient, but through the analogical criterion this image introduces new elements, such as the theme of the "heart", to remain in the biological field, the theme of the "paternal" on the level of the imaginary, up to the hypothesis of a transformation of one's ordinary conscience towards an "awakening" of the spiritual experience. Therefore, analogy and synchronicity can be seen as two operational aspects of the vital phenomenon, as they adhere to the criterion of neg-entropy.
A living human being is a body that breathes, with a beating heart, circulating blood, a gut that digests and a mind that thinks, eyes that see, ears that hear, etc. In summary, the human being, as a microcosm, can be considered an active complex of interrelated functional and psychological mechanisms, such as to constitute a living example of what is defined as the principle of synchronicity. Now if we wanted to get closer to understanding the human being with his synchronic totality of organs and systems functioning through the rational criterion, in fact we would have to break what appears as a vital morphogenetic field with circular functionality into infinite lines of causal reasoning. Therefore, only with analogy, we will be able to grasp those aspects of circularity that refer to human totality. If rational thought will be able to provide us with an analytical description of the world, anchoring our psyche to ordinary space and time, the analogy, philosophically speaking, can be understood as the "eternal present" of a reality with a totalizing dimension, and psychologically it will translate into the description of a reality experienced by the subject essentially as synchronicity. In the example considered above, the image of the "sun" analogically referred to the human body, we will observe that this image refers to the centrality of the heart as regards the circulatory system, but also to the nervous plexus of the Peripheral Nervous System, responsible for nervous coordination of the digestive system, and in a broader sense of the centrality of metabolism capable of explaining homeothermy in mammals. These progressive steps of "centralization" of functions are aimed at introjecting into the body the archetypal dimension of the solar function, of which the natural sun is the macrocosmic manifestation.
In this perspective of "archetypal field", there will be no separation between the bodily functions described and the corresponding archetypal images. In fact, keeping the rational Ego as a "center of gravity" capable of allowing a constant relationship with reality, the study of the analogical correspondence between the body infrared and the mental images of the ultraviolet will determine in the Ego a progressive amplification of the its psychic potential, to the benefit of creativity. However, if the rational Ego in its attempt to find significant correspondences between the body infrared and the analogue ultraviolet images, loses sight of the relationship of coherence and stability given by the examination of reality, and fascinated either by the infrared or by the 'ultraviolet, uncritically pursues the search for functional analogies, it will meet a progressive inflation on the part of the archetype, with the final result of a short circuit of bodily energies or of "escape" in psychic images made more and more "englobing" the egoic conscience. The result of this bodily or psychological inflation will be dramatic for the Ego, because alterations in the functionality of the body may develop up to the manifestation of autoimmune diseases, as well as delusional states, an expression of an overwhelming of the "numinous" forces of archetypes (von Franz, 1986).
The main danger, in fact, when facing the comparison with the fascinating influence of archetypes is that of "succumbing", if we do not make ourselves aware of the meaning of the functional "analogies" between the psychic dimension and the body dimension of the infrared.
In the light of what has been said, if the logic of the unconscious is built on the principle of analogy, and if the latter from a structural and dynamic point of view is the backbone of the semantic figure defined as a symbol (Frigoli, 1985), it will follow that the symbol will be the key representation with which the unconscious will communicate its hidden contents to consciousness. With the term symbol (symbolon) derived from the Greek symballo, according to the meaning of the establishing hermeneutics of meaning described by Durand (Durand, 1977), we want to indicate the ability of the symbol to "hold together" both the conscious sense (Sinn), which gives precise relief to the designated objects, and its raw material (Bild - the image) that springs from the ancestral depths of the unconscious.
A symbol therefore, managing to combine the most diverse elements in a unitary impression, fulfills the function of a balancing mediator between the irrational power of the unconscious and its manifest "sense" grasped by the conscience. What happens when the symbolic approach is applied to psychosomatic diseases and, in a broader sense, to the body / mind relationship? There is no doubt that the whole perspective of the study of the human body, of its physiological functions and of the corresponding psychic correlates, and of the disease in a broad sense, ends up being revisited according to a method tending to the unitary understanding of phenomena, precisely because the symbol supports its own descriptive dynamic on its property of synthesis and to act as an "energetic" transformer between the unconscious and consciousness. In this vision, therefore, what will allow the consciousness of the Ego to grasp the instinctual aspects (IR area) as not separated from the psychic ones (UV area) will be precisely the symbolic function, which with its synthetic property will be able to bind into a unitary code both the manifestations of the body and the corresponding ones of the psyche. The descriptive logic of this conjunctio will allow the Ego consciousness to open up according to a program that is not only theoretical but above all practical to the study of the mind / body relationship and related psychosomatic disorders, revisited no longer according to a perspective of correlation but of synchronicity.
Analogical examples of this method of investigation of the soma / psyche unitary continuum can be proposed by studying functionally some organs and apparatuses on the symbolic level, coming to formulate what we can define as the "functional dimension of the organ and its imaginary". As regards, for example, the respiratory dimension, we observe that on the infrared plane we have a key organ, the lung, through which gaseous exchanges between blood and external air occur (IR level); at the same time, on the psychological level, the air emitted as a word constitutes a psychologically significant exchange in inter-human relationships. In a symbolic key, the respiratory dimension will be characterized on the IR level by an internal (blood) external (air) exchange mediated by an organ, the lung, and on the UV level by the word that combines the internal world of the individual and his emotions with the dimension of the social. A respiratory disease, therefore, will not only be the expression of a generic organ damage, but will express in a more subtle way some meanings that may escape a superficial examination and which will refer to a difficulty in relating between the patient's internal world and the outside world. Bronchial asthma, as well as pulmonary emphysema, in which the obstructive pathology alters blood gas exchange, will be pathological manifestations that will mainly concern the psychoemotional, intrapsychic contents of the subject, and therefore will be pathologies with a highly repressed psychoemotional content, while the disorders of the upper respiratory tract such as laryngitis, pharyngitis, tonsillitis etc., in which the tone and timbre of the voice are altered, will mainly refer to relational difficulties of a social nature and therefore any conflict will be closer to consciousness. Another example, taken from the pathology of cardiocirculatory function, can be studied from a symbolic perspective by examining the difference between a structural organic alteration (for example myocardial infarction) and a pathology linked to rhythm (paroxysmal tachycardia, extrasystoles up to fibrillation). The function of the heart on the material level (IR) is to circulate the blood current thus allowing physical life, while on the psychological level the "heart" is seen as the reference organ of emotional life and, in a broader sense , “moving” the emotions (emo-agere, acting on the blood), allows a sort of psychological vitality of the Ego.
Without emotions, in fact, the psyche is as if dead. Now a problem such as heart attack in which a part of the myocardial tissue literally goes to death will postpone serious alterations in the emotional life that will be removed forever, and this is in accordance with the most recent studies which state that in ischemic heart disease we witness the preliminary appearance of a depressive state characterized by denial and repression as regards one's failures, with extreme ambivalence and rigidity as regards emotional life (Biondi, 1992), while as regards rhythm disturbances, we will have to think of a relative inability to express the emotions themselves (that is, speaking of the heart) in a healthy relationship life. As evidence of this, it is known that the so-called functional heart disorders are linked to chronic states of anxiety or phobic anxieties of separation and abandonment (Haynal, 1982). On the basis of what has been said, we can find in many psychosomatic diseases a relationship of continuity between the diseased organ, the type of alteration in progress, the existential events apparently not connectable to the somatic pathological expressiveness, but still connectable from a type of synchronic perspective which has been defined as a functional dimension of organ and its symbols. Proof of this method of procedure are the studies conducted by Chiozza (Chiozza, 1981; Chiozza, 1988), who, although starting from different conceptual bases linked to Freudian studies of the theory of affects and desire, combined with the most recent contributions of linguistics and semiotics, makes language rise to “place of signification”, where specific organ fantasies finally find their own expressive code. The anamnesis itself, in the light of the new criteria, becomes a pathbiography for Chiozza, that is a very particular story that situates everyone's life as a unique and unrepeatable event.
Indeed, Chiozza states: "when the various conscious meanings that populate our life with memories and desires with the great need of our unconscious to express itself, to find its own planning, are brought together in a single story of the patient, the whole acquires a coherence that manifests itself as the emergence of a new meaning" (Ibidem, p. 33). Even if Chiozza does not express what this meaning consists of, there is no doubt that in the light of Jungian studies, we are faced with the need to find a deeper meaning in illness, which Hillman identifies with the "daimon", the silent companion that each of us receives before birth.
"Each life is formed by its own image which is the essence of life and which calls it to a destiny. As a force of fate, the image acts as our personal genius, a companion and a guide mindful of our vocation. The 'daimon' performs its function as a 'reminder' in many ills... it can make the body sick. He is unable to adapt to time, in the flow of life he finds mistakes, jumps and knots, and that is where he prefers to be. He has an affinity with the myth, since he himself is a being of the myth and thinks in mythic form. The 'daimon' is endowed with foreknowledge ... and is also immortal, in the sense that he never leaves us and cannot be liquidated by the explanations of us mortals” (Hillman, 1997, pp. 60-61).
It is evident that Hillman's "daimon" corresponds to the concept of the Jungian Self, and more specifically to the psychosomatic Self of the integrated vision that we can define as ecobiopsychology. By the term ecobiopsychology (Frigoli, 2004) we mean the scientific approach capable of correlating in a systemic-complex vision all the information that within the human organism bind the body-mind relationship in a synchronic and diachronic key.
The synchronic aspect of this relationship should be understood as a study of the reciprocal relationships of the body or mind in order to a program of ontogenesis of egoic consciousness, while the diachronic aspect is intended to underline the phylogenetic significance of the information contained in the identification project of the Self.
Therefore, the term ecobiopsychology indicates the identifying direction of the information vector or psychosomatic Self, which in accordance with evolution first inspires the living "forms" of the environment (ecological phase), then concentrates the ecological information in the biological structures of the man (biological phase), to find them later in the psychic aspects of it such as language and symbols (psychic phase). Ecobiopsychology is therefore a systemic-complex science, simultaneously "closed" and "open". "Closed", since the systemic aspects that structure organs and systems in the human organism are investigated by ecobiopsychology as aspects of ontogenetic becoming, and "open" because the result of this ontogenetic investigation is always placed in relation to the project phylogenetic of the archetypes of the Self. In summary, ecobiopsychology aims to relate the register of the imagination with the code of the soma and its ecological relationships, using as an investigative tool a logical-systemic expedient: the symbol, considered as an organized and orderly information structure (Ibidem).
This approach allows us to revisit the relationship between Man and Nature from a new and at the same time ancient perspective, because only through the symbolic dimension it is possible to achieve that sacralization of the cosmos that in the past has always been the heritage of holistic cultures. Understanding the language of symbolism, tracing the synchronic concordance between the forms of the natural world and the analogous functions present in the human body as organs and systems, and finding them "active" as images in the symbolism of the human psyche, is a way of to see the active reality of the ordering archetype in the complexity of the world. “Educating men to such an interpretation of symbols does not mean denying the reality of things. Instead, it means revealing the knowledge of another aspect of things that is even more real and closely linked to their existential roots than the sensitive qualities and the quantitative aspect, which are the criteria of interest of modern science" (Nasr, 1977, p. 137). In this ecobiopsychological study perspective, a possible working hypothesis can be traced between the increase in environmental CO2 (ecological aspect) with the corresponding bronchial and pulmonary diseases, linked to the increase in respiratory allergies (biological aspect) and the enormous increase of panic attacks, which collectively characterize today's world.
At the center of this synchronic vision is the CO2 / O2 ratio which, in addition to being a biological reality of man, expresses a collective archetypal reality on the unconscious level.
By changing the respiratory atmosphere, not only will we have biological damage in the organs responsible for breathing, but we will also see the emergence of ancient fantasies of "suffocation" sedimented in our unconscious, with the unleashing of real collective manifestations of panic attacks. Moreover, it is precisely in the panic attack that modern psychiatry highlights the importance of the CO2 test as a trigger for this syndrome, as the neuronal receptors of such patients seem to be more sensitive to this gas (Serafini, 1986; Forman, Liebowitz, Fyer, Stein, 1989, pp. 148-161). The chemical composition of the atmosphere cannot be arbitrarily manipulated without inducing profound changes in the psyche and its unconscious fantasies, because what we call "atmosphere" on the physical plane, in the human psyche corresponds to our ability to keep the plane of internal relations in equilibrium with those outside the world. In fact, if on the level of the Ego we can postulate our individuality separate from that of others, on the level of breath we are in contact with the whole world. Through the exhaled and inhaled air our emotions are projected into the world, so much so that when we feel suffocated by a psychological environment that is too oppressive, we all feel the need for a "good breath of fresh air" to recover. It is no coincidence that the respiratory dimension, linked to the life of oxygen, has been celebrated in all cultures as a central aspect for the survival not only of the body but also of the psyche and the human spirit. Just think of the concept of tch'i of Chinese Taoism or of the prana of yoga to realize that the breath and its functions have not only physiological value, but also psychological and archetypal value. In psychoanalysis, the air has been defined as the "milk of the universe" (Resnik, 1976) and therefore the alteration of the air in its physical-chemical composition brings out devastating anxieties of death in the psyche, and as regards the Self, it distances our Ego from the possibility of understanding the hidden project of our destiny, making us blind collectively and away from individuation individually.
We could extend our considerations to other organs and systems, but here we lack the appropriate space to develop this project and therefore we refer to other texts in which in-depth considerations have been developed on the problem of the collective meaning of cancer, AIDS and myasthenia gravis (Frigoli, 1993).
Here it is enough to remember that the real problem of any holistic vision of the man-nature relationship implies the recovery in a scientific key of that sapientia naturalis capable of binding man to his environment, not only in a cultural and social sense, but above all phylogenetic, because it is there that hides the key of archetypal events capable of inspiring through their synchronic influence on the body and on the psyche, that renovatio indispensable to human consciousness, to rediscover its own centrality and totality to which we all more or less consciously aspire.
Bateson, G., (1984). Mente e natura. Milano: Adelphi.
Biondi, M., (1992). La psicosomatica nella pratica clinica. Roma: Il Pensiero Scientifico.
Brillouin, L., (1959). La science et la thèorie de l’information. Paris: Masson.
Capra, F., (1984). Il punto di svolta. Milano: Feltrinelli, Milano.
Charon, J., (1989). Il Tutto. Roma: Mediterranee.
Chiozza, L., (1981). Corpo, affetto, linguaggio. Torino: Loescher.
Chiozza, L., (1988). Perché ci ammaliamo. Roma: Borla.
Durand, G., (1977). L’immaginazione simbolica. Roma: Il Pensiero Scientifico.
Eliade, M., (1972). Tecniche dello yoga. Torino: Boringhieri.
Forman, J. M., Liebowitz, M. R., Fyer, A. J., & Stein, B. A., (1989). A neuroanatomical hypotesis for panic disorders, Am. J. Psychiatry, n. 146, pp. 148–161
Freud, S., (1966). Il processo primario e il processo secondario, in Opere, Vol. III. Torino: Boringhieri
Frigoli, D., (1985). Le metamorfosi della coscienza. Milano: Endas.
Frigoli D. (a cura di), (1993). La forma, l’immaginario e l’uno. Milano: Guerini e Associati
Frigoli, D., (2004). Ecobiopsicologia: psicosomatica della complessità. Milano: M&B.
Frigoli, D., (2007). Fondamenti di psicoterapia ecobiopsicologica. Roma: Armando.
Gabbard, G. O., (2002). Psichiatria Psicodinamica. Milano: Cortina.
Gleick, J., (1989). Caos: la nascita di una nuova scienza. Milano: Rizzoli.
Haynal, A., & Pasini, W., (1982). Medicina psicosomatica. Milano: Masson.
Hillmann, J., (1997). Il codice dell’anima. Milano: Adelphi.
Hinde, R. A. (a cura di), (1977). La comunicazione animale. Bari: Laterza
Invernizzi, G., (1996). Manuale di Psichiatria e Psicologia clinica. Milano: MC Graw – Hill.
Jung C. G., (1976). L’energetica Psichica, in Opere, Vol. VIII. Torino: Boringhieri
Jung C. G., (1976). Il problema fondamentale della psicoterapia moderna, in Opere, Vol. VIII. Torino: Boringhieri,
Jung C. G., (1976). Riflessioni teoriche sull’essenza della psiche in: Opere, Vol. VIII. Torino: Boringhieri
Jung C. G., (1976). La sincronicità come principio di nessi acausali, in: Opere, Vol. VIII. Torino: Boringhieri
Jung C.G., (1976). Aion, in Opere, Vol. IX, Tomo 2°. Torino: Boringhieri
Kohut, H., (1986). La cura psicoanalitica. Torino: Boringhieri.
Laszlo, E., (1986). Evoluzione. Milano: Feltrinelli.
Mandelbrot, B., (1987). Gli oggetti frattali. Torino: Einaudi.
Manusia, M., (1984). Istinto ed apprendimento negli animali. Firenze: Sansoni.
Matte Blanco, I., (1981). L’inconscio come sistemi infiniti. Torino: Einaudi.
Maturana, H., & Varela, F., (1985). Autopoiesi e Cognizione. Venezia: Marsilio.
Maturana, H., & Varela F., (1987). L’albero della conoscenza. Milano: Garzanti.
Morin, E., (1983). Il metodo. Milano: Feltrinelli.
Nacht, S., (1974). Guarire con Freud. Roma: Newton Compton.
Nasr, S.H., (1977). L’Uomo e la Natura. Milano: Rusconi.
Ornstein A., Supportive psychotherapy: a contemporary view, Clinical Social Work Journal, 1986
Ostow M., (1969). I fondamenti biologici del comportamento umano, in: Arieti S. (a cura di), Manuale di Psichiatria, Vol. I. Torino: Boringhieri
Prigogine, I., & Stengers, I., (1981). La nuova alleanza. Torino: Einaudi.
Resnik, S., (1976). Persona e psicosi. Milano: Einaudi.
Serafini U., (1980). Il problema generale dell’asma bronchiale, in: Atti dell’81°congresso della Società Italiana di Medicina Interna. Roma: Pozzi
Shannon, C. E., & Weaver, W., (1949). The mathematical theory of communication, University of Illinois Press.
Speer, E., (1949). Der Arzt der Persönlickeiten. Stuttgart : G.Thieme.
von Franz, M. L., (1983). Nombre et temps. Paris: La Fontaine de Pierre.
von Franz, M. L., (1986). Le tracce del futuro. Como: Red.
Wallerstein, R. S., (1986). Fortytwo lives in Treatment: a study of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. New York: Guilford Press.
*Dr. Diego Frigoli - Founder and promoter of the ecobiopsychological thought. Psychiatrist, Psychotherapist and Director of the ANEB Institute – School of Specialization in Psychotherapy. Innovator in the study of the imaginary focusing on the symbol in relation to its dynamics between the individual and the collective knowledge.
Translated by Dr.ssa Raffaella Restelli – Psychologist, member of the British Psychological Society (UK), Ecobiopsychological Counselor and expert in ANEB Psychosomatic Medicine. Linguist in ANEB Editorial area.