From sensorimotor inhibition to freudian repression: insights from psychosis applied to neurosis.
First, three case studies are presented of psychotic patients having in common an inability to hold something down or out. In line with other theories on psychosis, we propose that a key change is at the efference copy system. Going back to Freud’s mental apparatus, we propose that the messages of discharge of the motor neurons, mobilized to direct perception, also called “indications of reality,” are equivalent to the modern efference copies. With this key, the reading of the cases is coherent with the psychodynamic understanding of psychosis, being a downplay of secondary processes, and consequently, a dominance of primary processes. Moreover, putting together the sensorimotor idea of a failure of efference copy-mediated inhibition with the psychoanalytic idea of a failing repression in psychosis, the hypothesis emerges that the attenuation enabled by the efference copy dynamics is, in some instances, the physiological instantiation of repression. Second, we applied this idea to the mental organization in neurosis. Indeed, the efference copy-mediated attenuation is thought to be the mechanism through which sustained activation of an intention, without reaching it – i.e., inhibition of an action – gives rise to mental imagery. Therefore, as inhibition is needed for any targeted action or for normal language understanding, acting in the world, or processing language, structurally induces mental imagery, constituting a subjective unconscious mental reality. Repression is a special instance of inhibition for emotionally threatening stimuli. These stimuli require stronger inhibition, leaving (the attenuation of) the motor intentions totally unanswered, in order to radically prevent execution which would lead to development of excess affect. This inhibition, then, yields a specific type of motor imagery, called “phantoms,” which induce mental preoccupation, as well as symptoms which, especially through their form, refer to the repressed motor fragments.