One of Gerda Boyesen’s hypotheses is that any topic accompanied by a return of peristaltic activity is susceptible to being integrated by the patient, whereas any subject that provokes a slowing down of the peristaltic activity can be indigestible for the patient’s psyche. In any case, Boyesen recommends to her students that they consider this method only as a tool whose relevance depends on the context of the therapeutic process. We are in a world where a bodily event can have many causes. The peristaltic motility is, above all, regulated by the sympathetic (reduction in the activity of the intestines) and parasympathetic (increase in the noises), each of which have multiple functions. Anxiety keeps an organism in a sympathetic state even during a relaxation exercise.
An example that demonstrates the danger of thinking that there is a direct link between relaxation, the parasympathetic system, and gastric motility is the observation that during some states of relaxation, peristaltic noises often cease. We can then evoke a number of hypotheses:
1. Even when the patient is in a manifest state of relaxation, the relaxation can be a way to repress affects and drives. The patient thus uses the state of relaxation to dissociate by falling asleep, for example. In this case, the relaxation can increase a state of profound tension, which can be detected when the therapist hears a reduction in the peristaltic activity.
2. It is probable that certain states of sleep or relaxation lead to a slowing down of all of the functions of the organism: sympathetic and parasympathetic. In this case, the slowdown of the peristaltic activity is also explainable. There is no manifestation of the unconscious defense systems. Instead, there is a state of fundamental openness on the part of the organism that cannot establish itself until the functions of the parasympathetic auto-reparation have done their work.
When such questions arise, the therapist needs to use other forms of inquiry before he can find the correct interpretation. This approach is useful in that it helps the therapist narrow the range of questions that are relevant at a particular moment in the therapeutic process.
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