These different layers (psychological, editing devices, neurological management of information), often referred to in neuropsychology, are all part of the organism’s systems of regulation. We can see that the further away we are from the dynamics of the brain to get closer to the virtual world that we perceive consciously, the more we can speak of the psychological dimension. We also see, in this analysis, how it is impossible to define a precise border between one dimension and the global regulatory mechanism of the organism
The Practices of the Organism
I will present theories that can support discussions on the coordination between the mind and the organism from diverse points of view all of them instructive and representative of the human imagination in this domain. None of these models uses the system of organismic dimensions. Yet all can be reread, in large part, with this model in mind to create an ensemble of views useful to a psychotherapist and even an experimental psychologist. In other words, this system is sufficiently flexible to be used by different approaches: all the while creating a common language permitting different schools to communicate with each other. A key term to describe the aspects of the organism that are explored in psychotherapy is the word practice.35 A practice has two dimensions:
1. A set of goals.
2. A way of functioning.
To differentiate different practices, it is useful to distinguish between identical behaviors (to lift a glass) that mobilize different underlying mechanisms and identical underlying mechanisms that can generate different behaviors. A body psychotherapist works with physiological, bodily, behavioral, and mental practices and with practices that coordinate each dimension in a certain way. A practice is, by definition, a habit, a propensity, a tendency to act in a particular way. These practices activate without asking the individual’s permission. Often, the individual does not have the means to understand the implications of the practices that were acquired by his organism.36 Furthermore, to the extent that an individual’s thoughts are generally practices themselves, they do not always have to the capacity to evaluate a practice. These practices are not always beneficial to the individual or to one’s entourage. They construct and calibrate themselves depending on multiple factors so complex that even researchers are not able to account for the dynamics that favor certain practices, nor evaluate the advantages and dangers of a group of practices. That explains why it is so difficult to understand, evaluate and modify the practices that are perceived as detrimental or constructive by an individual and by those who know the person well. A psychotherapist’s central interest is the system of conscious psychological practices, but these are so intrinsically linked to other dimensions of the organism that it is often difficult to analyze mental practices without situating them in their organismic ecology. Such an approach to the mind is typical of body psychotherapies.
The complaints of our patients usually refer to their habitual ways of functioning: often depressed, anxious, angry, sad, afraid, and so on. By differentiating metabolism, body, behavior, and the mind, I define four ways to approach an individual that corresponds to four great originators of organismic practices that have an impact on the mechanisms that generate these symptomatic complaints. It is possible to associate many practices to each dimension. The general medical practitioner is evidently attentive to the metabolic phenomena above all else; the psychotherapist of an anorexic patient must also take into account how the patient’s organism has accommodated to a diet. The athletic coach cannot avoid taking into account the metabolic and psychological factors when he tries to develop a more sustained respiratory effort. In these three cases, the practitioner needs metaphors to support the motivations of a patient and establish a rapport of mutual confidence. Even when one focuses on mental practices, one needs to situate them in their organismic, multidimensional environment.
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