Explaining Self: Psychoanalysis Modernized (1)

I wish, each and every seeker of truth, a Good New Year. May all experiences prove necessary for completion of your journey. As it is New Year’s Eve, I want to remind you that these blogs are not meant ‘to be easy to comprehend’ or ‘to be superficially read.’ Each blog is a ‘mantra for deeper cognition and contemplation.’ Each blog is intended to tax your reason and directly challenge your preconceived and automatic beliefs. Such unweighted beliefs being no more than ‘closed doors and barriers’ for awakening from sleep as a conscious being. Gurdjieff called such ‘buffers.’ I suggest that you find such buffers, especially those which keep you asleep, face them, and move forward.

The uncovering and removing of buffers and harmful features are a large part of the Work Exercises, as super efforts are needed so to leave behind unnecessary suffering and awakening into type III awareness. The Path of Study provides training of the mind for the Work, but, it is not the Work. Please do not confuse them, Tyros.

Today, we continue onward on the Path of Study so to secure a deeper and more thorough understanding of the source(s) for our possessing a distinct feeling of being a self. To accomplish such, we will digress into my version of psychoanalytic theory. The analyst most similar to myself is Paul Federn, one of Freud’s early and most sincere associates. I recommend obtaining a copy of this opus, Ego Psychology and the Psychosis, edited by his friend, Eduardo Weiss, MD. Used copies should still be available through ALIBRIS or another online bookseller.

In the early 20th century, the most developed psychotherapeutic modalities were hypnosis and psychoanalysis. Of the two, only psychoanalysis captured the interest of the medical profession and established itself as a legitimate medical intervention. Psychoanalysis proved successful, but, most inefficient as it was only available to well to do patients as it required several visits a week for many years to ‘affect a cure.’ In addition, the training program to become an analyst was arduous.

The reasons underlying the creation of psychoanalytic theory by Freud and his associates at the close of the 19th century were straightforward. Freud et al desired to uncover a mental model so to explain and successfully treat mental disorders, most important, neurosis and psychosis. The development of an internally-consistent, phenomenological model was necessary as anatomical and neurophysiological knowledge as to CNS was virtually nil. Many people are unaware that Freud began his medical career as a neurologist and so understood the dismal state of useful knowledge about the brain and mind.

The dismal state of scientific understanding of brain functioning was not unique; but, existed tenuously alongside of general biology, cellular biochemistry, and neurophysiology. Subsequently, the biologists and psychoanalysts were obliged to employ rather nebulous and metaphysical forces so to explain mental action and life. They are not to be blamed, for psychoanalytic theory is actually rather useful. Especially, when reinterpreted using more physiological terminology.

First, there is the Greek word, cathexis. This term was used to denote a quantity of mental energy invested in a particular psychological structure. For example, a libido cathexis is the procreative energy involved in sexuality; an ego cathexis is the mental energy invested so to stabilize and utilize the ego; an object cathexis is the mental energy invested so to realize not-self; and a mortido cathexis is mental energy invested in the desire to be nonexistent. Subsequently, when you read psychoanalytic literature you will hear about mental energy or cathexis moving within the psychological structure of a man or woman.

From a modern prospective, a cathexis represents the energy available for organ functioning, such energy arising from the metabolic processes of cellular anabolism (to build up, synthesize molecules, libido cathexis) and catabolism (to break down, degrade molecules, mortido cathexis). The purpose of such biochemical reactions being to digest nutrients so to produce the atoms necessary for synthesis of molecules needed for tissue growth, body work, and homeostasis. Concurrently, some nutrients are oxidized so to produce high energy-dense molecules, particularly ATP. ATP is the ‘currency’ made available to the body tissues so they can accomplish what is needed.

Applying such to the operation of the CNS, Federn’s terms ‘ego and object cathexes’ make much more sense. Today, psychiatrists utilize imaging studies to determine which cortical and subcortical areas of the brain are active or passive in specific mental aberrations. Such delineation achieved using cortical blood flow measurements or binding of receptor-specific ligands. Subsequently, a modern psychoanalyst may replace the old term cathexis employing the more accurate explanation of mental functioning using well-established neural circuitry.

However, from a treatment perspective, I would continue to use the word cathexis when I speak to a patient–after explaining the meaning of the term cathexis, or mental energy. Why, because evolutionarily, human beings remain seeped in animistic and magical thinking; as the most effective psychotherapeutic modalities are designed to enlist such thinking for healing.

Personally, I have found psychoanalytic hypnosis to be a most powerful and acceptable form of psychotherapy.

Tomorrow, I will discuss ego and object cathexes and why they are important. While, the psychoanalysts remained silent as to the source which accumulates and directs ego and object cathexes, I will answer this question eventually in a way which is metaphysically appealing.

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