Animating the Psyche


‘Psyche’ has no independent existence as an entity. It is a portmanteau term in which one function (‘psyche’ = breath) among those specified by Aristotle as indicating life – respiration, is used metonymically (pars pro toto) to signify just that: life; animation. Most of these functions are present in life forms from bacteria up; in humans Aristotle included perception and imagination. The acquisition of ‘mind’ and the conversion of affect into what is familiar to a particular culture as ‘emotion’ is largely social and a function of parental mediation. Where this is absolutely absent as in Ceaușescu’s orphanages both brain development and the acquisition of mind are severely compromised. Less catastrophic failures induce lesser failures, and the resulting expressions may take somatic form, as they may have affects in cultures which have no equivalent semantic concept. I suggest that this might be better expressed in terms of somatapsychic expression than psychosomatic.