Structure, Somatic and Psychic:
The Biopsychological Base of Infancy
Leo Rangell, M.D.
The contributions to this Congress have thus far centered, either alternately or with one or the other emphasized, on the early biological or early psychological determinants of behavior visible or detectable during the stage of infancy. I will continue this exploration of biological and psychological origins mainly with respect to the interrelationships and fusion between the two.
Dr. Anders (chapter 5, this volume) has brought up to date the somatic substrate of infant behavior. I wish to add the counterweight of the psychic aspects to complete and balance the psychobiological unity which this age we are studying, the beginnings of life, provides us the opportunity to understand further. By serendipity, I will also refer to the chronobiology contributed by Dr. Anders, but will add to the unfolding of neural events the sequential relationships from the somatic to the acquisition of psychic functions.
While this Congress is deliberately multidisciplined, I speak from the discipline that is multidisciplined in its basic theoretical orientation. Psychoanalysis, in its essence and principles, reciprocally fertilizes and is fertilized by the findings of Piaget, Watson, primatology, ethology, and neurophysiology, all of which have been mentioned at various times by previous speakers. With structure as the bridge, I continue and extend this multilogue to the progression from somatic to psychic structure with the goal of examining the fused functioning of both.
The term structure, as in "psychic structure," which was already implicit in "psychic apparatus," came with the development of psychoanalytic theory. Structures, as Freud applied the term to psychological elements, were defined by Rapaport and Gill (1959, p. 803) as "configurations of a slow rate of change." In this respect, psychic structures are not qualitatively different from somatic structures. Although psychic and somatic structures do not overlap, as Freud concluded when he moved from the "Project" to a more purely psychologically centered science, both are resistant to change, and neither is irreversible. Somatic structures also undergo less volatile changes than organic processes. And somatic structures are also subject to slow rates of change, toward atrophy or hypertrophy, growth or deterioration.
Psychic structure in early development results in the acquisition and retention of psychic elements which achieve the status of a gradually increasing psychic reality. These come with experience to be on a par with, if different qualitatively from, external reality, or the reality of the internal visceral body cavity or sen