From Body to Mind: Emotions and Art as Proto-languages

Dorothea Leicher, LCSW, NCPsyA, CCDP

ISPS-US 10th Annual Meeting, Rockville, MD 2009

The workshop is based on the clinical experience of the presenter, supported by research/theories from biology, psychology, philosophy and social work, and her realization that her experience of “truth” was based on aesthetic experiences.

This realization led the presenter to recognize the importance of economic criteria in aesthetics (cv. “elegantia”): Art emerges as medium to model energy and change in complex systems. This is necessary to prepare the organism for future outcomes and/or strategies to maximize positive outcomes. The presenter’s work in substance abuse relapse prevention led to these ideas. They also proved useful in work with depressive self-sabotage and repetition compulsion. While traditionally art has often seemed “immeasurable” , this workshop makes the argument that art has a very important mathematical function to orient us in a complex statistical environment: Good object relations protect us from Disraeli’s trap (“there are lies, damn lies and statistics”).

The workshop builds on the theory that language is rooted in gesture (which shares “movement” with “e-motion”). It shows parallels between our orientation in physical space and (sublimated) social, emotional or aesthetic “spaces”. Breakdowns, (e.g. how the ability to represent space can be functionally destroyed during acute psychotic phases) provide support for the validity of these links. Additionally, we review parallels in the organization of color, sound and sign-language to illustrate first abstractions as part of language development. The workshop outlines the role of kinesis in symbolization and the perception of “meaning” and extend to Fonagy’s research on factors fostering attachment. The importance of social relationships in the evaluation of “truth” and heuristic assessment of complex systems are discussed in the context of clinical repetition compulsion and our current social crisis.

The goal of the workshop is to show language evolving in a series of increasingly differentiated proto-languages. Effective communication (creating conviction) evolves as sampling and consistency evaluation of various of these proto-languages (with a side-note on hypnosis). Transference becomes a special subset in language development. This theory will lead to process-oriented techniques for client engagement which incorporate elements of hypnosis.

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-Karen Stern, Executive Director

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