THE SYSTEM OF VEGETATIVE REGULATION AND AFFECTS The Vegetative Neurohormonal Regulatory System of the Organs and Affects
The Autonomic or Vegetative Nervous System
The first observations of the vegetative or autonomic nervous system goes back to Claudius Galen of ancient Rome; but John Newport Langley (1899) is generally recognized39 as the first to have proposed a correct vision of the structure and the function of this system. Cannon uses the term autonomic, which prevailed in the Anglo-Saxon literature, whereas Reich follows the Germanic tradition in using the term vegetative:
1. The term autonomic underscores the relative independence of this system in relation to the central nervous system.40 It would probably be more accurate to say that the autonomic nervous system is a very well-differentiated intermediary between the central nervous system and the other great physiological functions of the organism The notion of autonomy is too ambiguous to be retained in present-day physiology.
2. The term vegetative designates the domain regulated by this neurological structure, that is, the world of the organs, the glands, the circulation of the blood, the maintenance of the vital properties of the internal environment, and so on. I mostly use the term vegetative in this text, because it is the term that Reich used to identify his Vegetotherapy.41 Given his influence on body psychotherapy, it is the term that most body psychotherapists use, unless they have adopted the current medical vocabulary.
Cannon’s research on the vegetative system tries to demonstrate that it is one of the central mechanisms of the homeostatic system. An increasing number of researchers indicate that the vegetative system is also associated to the emotions. Levensen (2003), for example, showed that it is possible to associate some emotions to some types of activation of the autonomic nervous system. He is able to associate the basic emotions, as distinguished by Ekman42 to distinct vegetative activities. Thus, happiness reduces the electric activity of the skin, and this activity is elevated when the emotion is negative (anger, fear, sadness, disgust), or the cardiac activity is particularly low when a person feels disgusted.
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