At the crossroads between psychoanalysis and neuroscience: the importance of subjectivity

Sylvie Tordjman
Journal of Physiology, Paris 2010, 104 (5): 232-42
This paper will first advocate for a better understanding of the links between the psyche and the body, and also for the development of interdisciplinary perspectives that connect psychoanalysis and neuroscience but still respect and preserve the specificities of each discipline. In addition, cross-talk involves recognizing the incompleteness of any single discipline and allowing ourselves to be enriched by the differences with others through a complementary approach rather than a totalitarian one. Then, we will try to understand why today we find ourselves at the advent of the "all cerebral" era. One can think that brain imaging is reassuring because it gives concrete visible results, which seemingly brings objectivity. The danger is to set this brain indicator apart and to accord it scientific validity to localize brain processes on its own, without taking the necessary epistemological and methodological precautions; this could readily evoke a new form of phrenology… It seems more prudent, concerning brain-imaging results, to think in terms of bio-psycho-environmental interaction rather than linear causality. This will bring us to focus finally on subjectivity and the interests of taking subjectivity into account in our perception of behaviors that depends on relational dynamics, but also in our perception of the environment according to our emotions. Emotions play an important role in how we construct reality. They enable us to "set" events, like a fixing agent in the photo-development process. Furthermore, the experience of an emotion or of sufficiently strong sensations (the threshold differs across individuals) can also trigger the construction of false memories with a conviction that they have really been experienced. The reality of our emotions does not always match the reality of factual events. This is a case of total subjectivity in the construction of reality, and illustrates the need to situate the subject within a bio-psycho-environmental approach.

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