10 April 2016


I think Winnicott has returned me to Spinoza and perhaps even to myself. I recall at some point that Spinoza says that the mind is the invention of the body, I was not exactly clear what Spinoza might have meant, but my readings in Winnicott have clarified some of this for me. Winnicott theorizes that psychosomatic disorders are real afflictions that have their aetiology in psychological factors: but that the patient disassociates the somatic aspect from the psychological: the hypertension physically experienced (and for which medicines are taken) isn’t linked to an anxious state. Or a headache may be managed with medications but could be dissociated from a severe confusion in the patient of ideas and responsibilities. Any patient will play caregivers off one another by identifying some who understand (the physical aliment) and those who don’t understand it in order to maintain the dissociation—the splitting. In hypochondriacal patients sickness is invented, but in psycho-somatic patients the sickness is real though the cause remains psychological. Hence, Winnicott says, in one patient the complaints of belly-symptoms appears to be also a denial of mind symptoms. Rather pointedly in my case, Winnicott says “chronic hypertension (from which I suffer) may be the clinical equivalent of a psycho-neurotic anxiety state or of a long-continued traumatic factor, such as a parent who is loved but who is a psychiatric casualty. Alas, I have met such casualties. The mind is the product of the body.

     And as for my immediate thoughts here: Winnicott speaks to the relationship between the development of intellect and that of the False Self: that psychological component that develops to defend the True Self. Winnicott argues that when a False Step develops in an individual with a high intellectual potential (I think to consider that this might be c’est moi) and the mind becomes the location of the False Self, there develops dissociation--a splitting--between the intellectual activity and the psycho-somatic existence. That is, the mind is used to solve the physical difficulty when in fact the two realms must be seen as intimately associated. Or the physical activity is treated withut consideration of the mind. But I think Spinoza might have been correct: the mind is the idea of the body.
     Not that I don’t think I suffer from physical ailments (my family physician and I refer to my annual physical as the A”Alan Block Death Watch); or that I do not regularly check the internet for confirmation of my symptoms: and I understand that these are the products of hypochondriacal tendencies. But of my real physical ailments thus far I have dissociated from my psychological existence: I have split off my mind from my body ignoring the latter by pretending to attend to it, even by my reading of Spinoza and Winnicott.
     I have returned to therapy.