The workshop builds upon the paper Biological Energy and the Experiencing Subject (Gamper, J, Axiomathes, 2020). The focus is to show how the idea of an experiencing subject can be conceived of within modern psychotherapy. We follow the track from conditioning for animals (without concern for an experiencing subject), via behavioral therapy for humans with an experiencing subject and cognitive behavioral therapy for humans with an experiencing subject where we give the subject a rational for the behavioral modification, to psychodynamically oriented therapy where we confront the very subject without going via her behavior. The three methods are explained within the context of macro psychology, a psychology extracted from the paper Biological Energy and the Experiencing Subject. Conditioning concerns therapeutic methods that does not address subjective experiences of the patient and neither address subjective experiences methodologically. For instance, you do not give the patient instructions since you do not rely on the patients ability to understand them. Behavioral therapy concerns methods that that are mediated by instructions. The patient is told to follow a procedure. Cognitive behavioral therapy adds explanations to the behavioral therapy. Psychodynamically oriented therapy concerns the subject’s tendency to repress difficult inner material to feel better. This material is focused in the therapy and the patient is informed about how the therapist understands the dynamic. The framework, thus, that is presented, encompasses the major psychotherapeutic methods of today.
The paper Biological Energy and the Experiencing Subject (Gamper, 2020) contains a definition of biological energy that permits a purely mental energy that should be accounted for in its own right. Here we will look at some fundamental psychotherapeutic principles that can be drawn from that standpoint.
2. Macro psychology
Macro psychology is built upon the notion of biological energy as suggested in Gamper (2020). Biological energy is construed as the organisms ability to recover from the load it is exposed to. That load entails a need of recovery that grows with the load. The available energy has a maximum and when that is reached as far as the ongoing recovery is concerned, the available amount of energy is decreased if the load continues to grow. This is illustrated in figure 1.
For experiencing subjects it is conjectured that the need of recovery on the one hand is mediated by signals thereof, and on the other hand that the subject has a lower ability to perceive those very signals, the stronger they are, as illustrated in figure 2.
This dynamic for experiencing subjects has the odd consequence that even though the energy level lowers when load is increasing at high levels of load (compare figure 3) the subject tends to put pressure on herself to avoid the troublesome signals of need of recovery in order not to perceive them (compare figures 4-6).
3. The experiencing subject
The introduction of the experiencing subject allows for new possibilities for the organism to cope with load. We need to disentangle first, though, the biological object from the experiencing subject. For the biological object as such there is no dynamic to talk of. The object recovers if it needs to and can. When the organism is exposed to signals of need of recovery there is an experiencing subject that perceives them. Whereas the need of recovery is an abstract feature of organisms the signals of need of recovery are a reality for the experiencing subject. As depicted in figure 4 the signals can be attended to as they are perceived. This means that the biological needs of recovery are met via the experiencing subject. This, of course by assumption, is to say that the biological very needs of recovery are not perceived directly. The dynamic, however, is one dimensional — the organism recovers more or less.
The experiencing subject, on its side, can cope with its signals in other ways. To look at those possibilities we first have to focus on the the very subject. For the biological object the need of recovery is an abstract feature. The subject on the other hand has real signals of need of recovery so it is something that has the experiences of the signals. This something, the subject, has its parts. We will assume that the subject is composed of some parts as illustrated in figure 7.
The disentangling now comes to work. Whereas the biological object has need of recovery as an abstract but absolute feature the experiencing subject has its signals of need of recovery as real but with degrees of freedom to engage with them. The suggestion here is that the subject can project troublesome signals onto a single part and then repress it. This leaves the repressed part emptied of energy while the remaining parts are energized. This process can be reiterated (compare figures 8-12).
4. Psychotherapeutic principles
The psychotherapeutic processes that are interesting are the reversed ones as compared to the ones previously mentioned. Those were concerned with avoiding difficult signals of need of recovery. Whereas conditioning concerned non subjective features of the biological organism behavioral therapy (BT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and psychodynamically oriented therapy (PDT) concerns processes related to the experiencing subject.
The psychotherapeutic principle of BT in the context of macro psychology is that the therapist instructs the patient to take explicit recovery measures. The patient by following the instructions recovers and by doing so has to endure the previously withheld difficult signals of need of recovery. A typical example is behavioral activation for depression where the therapist may instruct the patient to take daily walks.
The psychotherapeutic principle of CBT in the context of macro psychology is that the therapist instructs the patient to take explicit recovery measures and explains why (according to some model). In the CBT variant of macro psychology the rational would be that the patient avoids recovery to avoid the signals of need of recovery. Therefore she should try to recover even though it hurts in order to gain energy. A typical example is to accept sick leave in cases of exhaustion.
The psychotherapeutic principle of PDT in the context of macro psychology is that the therapist tries to emphasize with the patient in order to identify aspects of the patient that she has repressed. If the patient can acknowledge repressed contents she is instructed to try to endure the associated difficult signals of need of recovery that comes with it in order to regain access to to her own repressed parts.
Scenarios with a maltreated dog, its owner, and a therapist.
The therapist takes the dog to a safe environment.
The therapist instructs the owner to take regular long walks with the dog, to feed it regularly, to let it have access to fresh water and to stop hitting it.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
The therapist instructs the owner to take regular long walks with the dog, to feed it regularly, to let it have access to fresh water and to stop hitting it. The therapist also tells the owner why.
Psychodynamically oriented therapy
The therapist tries to help the owner to reconnect to repressed parts that cares for the dog.
6. Reference: Gamper J (2020) Biological energy and the experiencing subject. Axiomathes.
© 2022 Johan Gamper
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