Even if Spinoza does not envision an intervention that rises up from the body to influence thoughts, his theory allows for it. If the body functions inadequately, the organism will become dysfunctional, and it will engender inadequate reasoning such that renders the dysfunction of the organism even more severe. This is the reciprocal of the cognitive reasoning developed in the previous section. This is what psychiatrists observe and report when they study the impact of cancer on the mind, of neurotransmitters on depression, or of a thyroid disease on mood.
Spinoza’s systemic model allows one to understand how something as insignificant as a pill may improve the functioning of the affects and, through this, the dimensions of mind and body. Contemporary biological research demonstrates that depression is notably caused by the production of insufficient neurotransmitters like serotonin and/or by an underdevelopment of neurotransmitter receptor sites. Depression is generally characterized as a weakening of the power of the organism, a turning of aggression against this power, and repetitively devaluing thoughts. These thoughts are part of what Spinoza calls a passive spirit.13 Depressive feelings are typically a passion that turns aggression against self and engenders dark thoughts sometimes suicidal ones. A classical cognitive treatment begins with work on the inadequate thoughts. A classical biological treatment starts by compensating for the lack of serotonin. Taken regularly for at least a year, the antidepressant teachesâ the mechanisms of the organism to live with a stronger dose of serotonin.14
It would therefore seem that the depressive affect is related to the organismic regulators that generate dark thoughts, which reinforce destructive vicious circles that install themselves in the dynamics of the organism It is often impossible to know if depression is mostly created by inadequate thoughts or by a lack of serotonin. What is certain is that once a depression is established, these two dynamics mutually reinforce each other. It would seem that a therapy that acts on one of the dimensions can have an impact on the other. Sometimes, both modes of intervention must be used together.
Patients who take antidepressants and the patients whose depression is lifted through psychotherapy often report that they now react less violently to what is happening, that they no longer take every word or every phrase like a personal attack, or perceive every single tragedy in the world showed on television as a personal crisis. Something of the order of the regulation of the mind and the affects creates a personal space in which a patient can relax and rediscover his immediate needs. He takes anew the time to reflect on his personal preoccupations, without being distressed by everything that is going on around him It is not so much a distancing oneself from others but the taking of one’s own personal space.
Therefore, I can also use Spinoza’s model to define certain outlines of mind-body interventions, even if this did not enter into his objectives. This is because he includes a parallelist constraint in the face of the everything influences everythingâ that renders comprehensible the interaction between the mind and the body.