Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Some Thoughts between Body and Mind in the Light of Wilma Bucci's Multiple Code Theory

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Some Thoughts between Body and Mind in the Light of Wilma Bucci's Multiple Code Theory

Article excerpt

The author proposes the usefulness of Wilma Bucci's Multiple Code Theory in clarifying some controversial issues in psychoanalytically inspired psychosomatics. Definition of a dialectic among different entities may appear difficult in an unitarian view of the organism, where body and mind are seen as having no kind of intrinsic existence, which may be differentiated from the organism as a whole, but as two categories having to do with the perspective of the observer. This aporia may find a solution in a redefinition of the body-mind relationship as that between symbolic systems and the subsymbolic system, both of which may be viewed as mind or as body depending on the point of observation. Similarly, somatic pathology, if we accept an unitary paradigm, need no longer be viewed as due to an influence of 'mind' on 'body': a definition of pathology as linked to a disconnection between different systems, as found in Bucci's theory, is proposed as a possible solution. Emergence of somatic symptoms, however, besides being witness to disconnection, may be seen as the subsymbolic first expression of an item of content, an attempt at reconnection, as already proposed, in a way, by Winnicott in 1949. This attempt has much better opportunities to succeed when it finds an adequate container, as in analysis. A clinical situation of this kind is presented.

Keywords: body-mind, Bucci, multiple code theory, nonverbal, psychosomatics, subsymbolic

I first became acquainted with Wilma Bucci's thinking around the mid- 1990s when I discovered Referential Activity, a tool developed essentially for research in psychotherapy, to be also useful in psychosomatics - my main research interest - where it can be applied to document a subject's degree of involvement with his ? her internal experience (Solano et al., 2001). I found that the more time elapsed, the more my interest in Multiple Code Theory grew, becoming broader and more theoretical, over and above my attraction to a sophisticated empirical research instrument. That is to say, I felt the theory could be useful in finding a common language and an overall frame of reference for a series of rather controversial issues in the field of psychosomatics. The areas I shall here take into consideration are: (1) the body- mind relationship and (2) the origin and meaning of somatic pathology

The Body-Mind Relationship

Historical background

We should remember, first of all, that the problem of a distinction between mind and body, and consequently of their mutual relationship, has arisen and gained importance at certain historical moments in Western culture. For example, this distinction would make little sense for a medicine man working in the Native American tradition or for a shaman in Nepal. It was not a sharp distinction for Western medicine either until the late 1800s; before that, emotional factors were considered of highest importance in the onset, evolution, and treatment of disease (it may be enough to remember La Dame aux Camélias). We are therefore talking of a cultural construction (deserving of our attention and interest, of course), not of something existing in itself.

Dualism The first formulations on the body-mind relationship were devised in essentially dualistic terms, starting from Plato, who envisaged a world of ideas different from a world of nature and a soul sharply distinguished from a body. Dualism found its fullest expression in Descartes in whose thought a res cogitans, the mind, lends form, life and function to a totally inert res extensa, the body. Dualist positions generally included metaphysical-religious features, entailing a concept of soul-substance (overlapping with the concept of mind), juxtaposed to a body-substance. In fact this separation opens up the problem of reciprocal influences between the two entities, as indicated by the words psycho-somatic, or somato-psychic. Freud's very first ideas on hysterical symptoms can in some way be described as representing an influence of a mind - albeit unconscious - on a body. …

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