- Will Davis -
AN ENERGY CONCEPT IN PSYCHOTHERAPY?
Psychological Association's dictionary of Psychology comments that “ ...the term's use in psychology is extremely wide ranging and lack's uniformity.” Even to the point that some hold there is no self, just a fluid reorganizing of character traits within the person depending on the specific situation.
No matter how it is defined, there is still the discussion as to where the self exists, if it exists at all. Typically it is considered cortical centric, but recent challenges to that theory place the self within the brainstem. Others speak of a body centric self. So it is not particularly a problem that an energy concept within psychotherapy has not been scientifically proven. Neither has transference, projective identification, introjection etc.
What is important is that in any process oriented therapy, an energy model is necessary. Something has to move within the person for change to occur. Something has to be the mover. As a result, most psychotherapies use the term energy, or a euphemism for it, without dealing directly with the issue itself. Just as libido has become a generalized term after Freud gave up on trying to scientifically prove it existed, Gestalt Therapy speaks about energy, Positive Psychology talks about “flow” and the infant researcher Daniel Stern's last book is called “Vitality”. Even within behaviorism, a ground breaking article in the 1970's first used the term “negative entropic” to explain how learning occurs.
Psychotherapy has to come to terms with the fact that we cannot do in-depth psychotherapy without an energy or dynamic model. Without a model of a deeper, more primary process at work, psychotherapy is limited to compensation, adaption, cognitive understanding on to compromising and reluctant acceptance.
It is more of a problem within psychotherapy that an energy concept underlies all dynamic psychotherapy without being clearly defined just as with the concept of the self. At this point it is clear that a life energy has not been proven,but it can be demonstrated and more important, experienced. There is a difference between being dead and alive. That difference is the life force, whatever that maybe. Just because we do not understand it does not mean it doesn't exist.
The Austrian psychoanalyst, and student of Freud, Wilhelm Reich remained interested in Freud's libido concept long after others had reduced it to a generalized, meaningless term. Reich believed that he remained true to Freud and eventually declared that there is a force within the living, just as there is in all of nature, and he called this Orgone energy. Reich has been severely criticized for formulating his theory of a universal energy that functions uniformity through all of nature: living and non-living, micro and macro, on earth and throughout the cosmos. He is probably wrong about many things, but so was Freud. What is important is that they both tried to present a profound understanding to anchor psychotherapy in a more primary, formative ground.
One of the main characteristics of Reich's orgone concepts is the pulsatory nature of the life force. In health, there is a constant flow of life energy from the core of the person to the periphery – an sometimes beyond, as in bonding and attachment – and then back again to the core, the center, (maybe even the self) Disease, disorder, dysfunction are the interruptions, interference patterns of this natural in and out flow that we create. Both physical and psychological disorders are rooted in these attempts to stay health in an unhealthy environment.Interestingly pulsatory models are quite common in psychotherapy: Gestalt's figure/ground concept, Freud's developmental “thrusts” (schrub), Mahler's “probing” and “refueling” model, and as in Object Relations Theory, the forth and back movements of the child in relation to the mother while going through separation, individualization and independence. All are based on a natural flow out and back, from self to
other, from inner realms to outer reality and back in again.
This understanding of how both psychic and somatic disorders arises simultaneously from the same
source resolves Freud's conundrum of the “puzzling leap” from the psyche to the soma. How could a thought/belief, cause ulcers, hysteric paralysis , infertility? How could the mind effect the body.
Why do psychosomatic treatments work? By the fact that psyche and soma are two forms of an underlying force at work effecting them both simultaneously depending on the pulsatory movement of the life force itself.
Interestingly, since Reich's death, there have been more discoveries in physics and chemistry to support Reich's energetic concepts then disprove them. The discovery of dark energy and dark matter compliments the idea that the universe is not empty but full, as Reich suggested. The discovery of zero point energy also supports Reich's position that the classical energies of physics are all different forms of a more primary energy process. The reformulation of the theory of the creation of the universe from a Big Bang, to a Big Bounce is based on the pulsatory nature of the expansion and contraction of the entire universe. Additionally, the discoveries of autopoiesis, “dissipative structures” and “hyper-cycles” supports Reich's claim that Orgone is negative entropic. Life itself is negative entropic. These new developments in science mirrors Reich's position that the orgone gathers itself spontaneously, self organizes and self regulates. These functions of nature as described by physicists and chemists are at the root of psychotherapy: the ability of the patient to move inward, explore, develop and redefine himself and then moving out towards renewd relationships.
The psychoanalyst Andre Green describes within patients a “ a compulsive need to rebuild their story in order to carry on with their life.” The Self theorist Kohut writes of a “narcissistic stream” which remains unaltered throughout life and is the basis of creativity, love, and all future relationships. The neuropsychiatrist Alan Schore speaks of an “...urgent appeal for interactive regulation” that is a “lifelong phenomenon”. Carl Rogers' model of a desire for congruence shares the same theme with these other approaches: something is moving the patient towards health and healing. As a result, I do not think the question “is there an energy to be included in psychotherapy’” is the correct discussion. The discussion is what is this force, this mover that drives patients to therapy, seeking help to be whole, risking the pain and disillusionment of life's past tragedies, large and small? Just as we are still trying to get a grasp on what a self is, what is transference, how can projective identification work, we should be continually exploring what
underlies dysfunction as well as healing. It is not a matter of whether Reich was right or not. It is a matter of developing our means and methods more acutely to help those who seek it.