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The System of the Dimensions of the Organism (SDO)

The Topographic SDO

The system of organismic dimensions is a topographic model, designed to situate a set of phenomena. This type of model was notably proposed by Freud. In his first topographic model,25 he situates the conscious, the preconscious, and the unconscious and the defense mechanisms that regulate the flow of thoughts between these regions of the mind. In his second topographic model,26 Freud distinguishes the id, the ego, and the superego. These two reference models have remained useful, although the psychological mechanisms associated with these categories have evolved considerably, even in psychoanalysis, with regard to the development of clinical and experimental research (see, for example, Roussillon, 2007).

If Freud’s first topography was centered on the geography of the mind, the SDO is an attempt to furnish a diagram of the internal dynamics of the organism With it, a practitioner can easily describe what happens when different forms of intervention are used in a psychotherapy process, which is often the case today; for example, when a psychiatrist uses a psychodynamic approach and prescribes antidepressants. This model can also facilitate communication between psychotherapists, especially when they want to describe their particular way of working with patients.

The Notion of Dimension

Every dimension of the human organism has:

1. A basic adaptive function: gravity, equilibrium of the internal milieu, adaptation to surrounding objects and organisms, and the capacity to insert oneself into institutional dynamics.

2. Basic tools to accomplish this adaptation: the body, metabolic regulators, behavior, and the mind (see fig. 1.1).

3. Each dimension forms a sufficiently coherent system to become the target of a therapeutic discipline (psychotherapy for the mind, physical therapy for the body, medicine for the metabolism and physiology, etc.).

T h e organismic dimensions (metabolism, body, behavior, and the mind) are coordinated by organismic regulation mechanisms. The connections between dimensions (between the body and the mind, for example) are mostly indirect. The mobilization of the organism’s regulation mechanisms activates affects (moods, emotions, drives, addictions, etc.) in the conscious dynamics of the mind.

A dimension is thus a subsystem of the organism that support a certain form of global adaptive activity. Each one has a particular way to mobilize the organism’s regulatory mechanisms. Each dimension is approached by particular set of therapeutic disciplines. The dimensions of the organism distinguished in the system of organismic dimensions are the following:27

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