Yoga Bharadvaja’s I Twist

Instincts and Emotions


We find in Darwin’s thinking examples of external propensities (the milieu participates in their calibration) that reorganize the heteroclite mechanisms. A species that survives especially because of a series of characteristics of the organism conserves other traits that do not influence its survival. It is possible that afterward, another detail that has nothing to do with the precedent becomes pertinent and would be selected.❠It is thus the association of these two details that favors survival while the rest of the body varies independently. If such is how evolution functions, the organism is nothing other than a heap of disparate mechanisms that more or less hold together just enough to ensure survival. Regulating such messy architectures could explain why evolution is so slow. A mutation does not generate a global reconstruction of the organism. Only the changes that do not destabilize the totality of the organism too much can perpetuate themselves.

It is eventually possible for Darwin that there exists a kind of functionally coordinated covariation of mental and bodily traits in the domain of the instincts.69 An herbivore (a cow) does not have an anatomy and physiology that permit it to become, on a daily basis, a carnivore; the large cats do not have the capacity to become exclusively herbivores. The anatomy and physiology of these species correspond to a certain type of food resource, and the organism of these species (the digestive tract, the teeth, the shape of their feet, etc.) little by little adjusted itself to be more effective at exploiting such resources in the environment. If we adopt Darwin’s way of thinking, this adaptation can only have a relative, fuzzy coherence. It is nonetheless possible to define an instinct as being what associates certain mental and anatomical traits. This relative coherence disappears in the construction of the emotions that mostly exploit and connect the parts of the body that no longer have any function.70

Darwin distinguishes between several types of emotional schemata:

1. The serviceable actions: a useful action that is related to states of mind which are at play at the same time as the action, independent of their relevance. This definition is close to Hume’s associationism, because it is the co-occurrence and not its relevance that creates the association.71

2. The principle of antithesis: Certain states of the mind lead, as we have seen,… to certain habitual movements which were primarily, or may still be, of service; and we shall find that when a directly opposite state of mind is induced, there is a strong and involuntary tendency to the performance of movements of a directly opposite nature, through these have never been of service❠(Darwin, 1872, II, p. 50).72

This type of flexibility follows rules that are activated by default. Body psychotherapists know of many cases of persons who cry every time they are angry, who get angry when they are sad, who stimulate the two forms of expressions when they are sad or angry, or who cannot get angry without becoming sad. Here, we again find Descartes’s idea, as expressed in The Passions of the Soul. He observed that an emotion can modify another emotion by amplifying or attenuating its intensity or even by concealing it. This kind of flexibility of the emotional schemata is often perceived today in psychotherapy as a manifestation of the defense systems. This type of interpretation sometimes forgets a little too quickly that this flexibility exists in any case. In some instances, defense systems exploit this flexibility to fulfill the regulation of an unconscious agenda. In other words, flexibility in the expressivity of the emotions can sometimes be the sign that a defense system is activated, but not always. I can only repeat that before concluding that crying instead of yelling is certainly brought about by a defense system, the therapist must also consider other alternatives.

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