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Kempf Dynamic Mechanism

( Originally Published 1920 )

Valuable as their theories are, one cannot help feeling that Freud's and Jung's mode of thinking is still closely related to that of the academic psychologists. They give the impression that the mental and the physical are two separate entities. The term conversion used by Freud to designate the physical symptoms accompanying certain emotions seems to imply a duality in organic manifestations which, to modern scientists, appears totally unfounded.

When Freud and Jung speak of libido, cravings, censor, etc., they are almost as vague and unconvincing as Bergson when he speaks of the vital urge.

Adler felt the necessity of establishing a more intimate connection between physical and mental manifestations, but he did not make the mechanism of compensation clearer to his readers than Freud did the mechanism of conversion.

It will be only when we know what part of the organism "produces" an emotion and, reciprocally, what part of the organism is affected by a given emotion, that we shall visualize clearly the relations between "mind" and "body." Then we shall understand the meaning of the vital urge and of the libido; then, the so-called "nervous" disturbances as well as consciousness and its content (thought) shall lose their mystery.

Edward J. Kempf, of Saint Elizabeth Hospital, Washington, D. C., attacks the problem from a new and original point of view.

Kempf states frankly his dislike of the term libido. Although that term attempts to represent graphically the energic constitution of man and his love of life, it lacks clearness, for the human mind cannot very well conceive of a process as such, unless there is some thing that proceeds.

The concept of electricity would be hazy indeed, were it not that we can visualize dynamos, wires, sparks, bulbs and many other visible, tangible, etc., means of production or manifestation of the force called electricity.

In order to explain the great physiological changes which influence human thought and behaviour and the biological nature of man, Kempf has developed a conception of the personality based on the reflex actions of the autonomic nervous system.

To him the human organism is a biological ma chine which assimilates, conserves, transforms and expends energy. All those operations are regulated by the autonomic apparatus which keeps in touch with the environment through the projicient sensori-motor nervous system.

As the autonomic apparatus becomes conditioned (trained) to have acquisitive and avertive tendencies toward its environment, according to which cravings are active in a given situation, the organism's behaviour is the resultant of a compromise between the opposed cravings.

The importance of the brain is greatly minimized by this conception. Experiments have proved that the same form of behaviour is not always due to the activity of the same brain cells and the theories which localize in certain regions of the brain the controlling forces of all human conduct must be abandoned.

According to Kempf, brain and personality, so long associated in popular parlance, must no longer be considered as interchangeable terms. In fact, every part of the body contributes something to the personality and to its consciousness of itself.

Should some one lose a limb or a group of muscles, he would lose at the same time an important part of his personality. This would manifest itself in the manner in which he would adjust himself to the stresses of daily life, what he would try to do and feel compelled to avoid, etc.

Analysis alone would reveal that fact; the natural readjustment of the remaining muscles would prevent any gross change from being observable.

For instance, the loss of the eyes and arms would greatly reduce the ability to understand new machinery, new situations and probably reduce to an enormous extent the power of recalling experiences in which the eyes and hands played a predominant part, such as writing, etc.

Because most of our thoughts are dependent upon our muscle sense, it may be said that we actually think with our muscles. If we allow our-selves to become aware of the visual image of an automobile, we are aware that it is moving, because the muscles of the eyeball shift the image by modifying their postural tensions.

Sometimes the muscles of the neck may con-tribute more information by moving the head.

If we are pushing the automobile ourselves, the muscles of the body come into play to furnish other images and if we are pushing it along a cold, wet, muddy road, the sensations of cold, wetness and mud arise from the tactile receptors of our legs.

But such a perfect correlation between our autonomic apparatus and the sensori-motor system is a gradual acquisition of the human being in the course of it development.

At birth, we have a well-developed, well-balanced, autonomic apparatus and a poorly co-ordinated sensori-motor system. The autonomic apparatus, however, begins immediately to co-ordinate and control the sensori-motor system in order to master its environment.

A most important factor begins to exert pressure upon the infant from the very minute of its birth and exerts it throughout life. It is the incessant pressure of the social herd, which modifies the autonomic apparatus and compels it to adopt less and less primitive, more and more civilized and in-direct methods of satisfying the various human cravings.

The tone or tension produced by the autonomic apparatus in the muscles which move our body and limbs determines largely the content of our consciousness or thoughts.

This leads us to a complete reversal of the view held by the academic philosophers and psychological laboratory observers.

According to them the emotions are one of the results of the mind's contemplation of phenomena taking place within or without the organism. "Bodily" reactions and "mental" reactions take place after the emotion has been experienced.

James and Lange advanced the theory that our feeling of bodily changes, following the perception of a stimulus, is the emotion. Kempf goes further and states that if we experience an emotion, it is because some parts of the autonomic apparatus have assumed a certain tension which produces the emotion. As evidence, he cites the fact that we are at times awakened at night by fearful tensions whose cause is unknown and then awaken to find that there is some one in our room. Nursing mothers experience vigorous disturbances in their sleep long before they become aware that their child is in distress. We become conscious of images of urinating in our dreams and find upon awakening, that uncomfortable tensions of the bladder have been active for some time owing to the accumulation of urine.

Kempf's theory of the dynamic mechanism is worded as follows:

"Whenever any segment of the autonomic-aff ective apparatus is forced into a state of hypertension through the necessities of metabolism or endogenous or exogenous stimuli, the hypertense segment gives off f a strewn of emotion or affective craving which compels the projicient apparatus to so adjust the exteroceptors in the environment as to acquire stimuli which have the capacity to produce comfortable postural readjustments in those autonomic segments.'

In other words, whenever autonomic nerves, for instance, the nerves causing the contractions of the stomach known as hunger, are made extremely tense by the sight or smell of food, they produce a strong emotion or desire which compels the sensori-motor nerves to apply the mouth to food, after which the tension of the autonomic nerves is relieved.

Kempf maintains that this biologic principle or law is the foundation of all human and animal behaviour, to be seen throughout all its workings, whether brief and trivial or prolonged and elaborate. "The seeking and creating follows the corollary `to obtain a maximum of autonomic gratification with a minimum expenditure of energy,' thus developing increasing skill and power, extension of influence and assurance of comfort and an increasing margin of safety from liability to failure."

Most of the nervous tensions originating in the autonomic apparatus have as their biological aim the acquisition of appropriate pleasant stimulations and the avoidance of destructive unpleasant ones; for instance, they direct us toward food and away from some danger. They are relieved only when their objective stimulus is attained.

In certain cases the object is unattainable, being socially tobooed or having passed beyond our reach, as for example when a loved person dies. In such cases, tensions will remain unrelieved and become seriously distressing as well as dangerous for our mental and physical health. Among other things, they disturb the blood supply to certain organs and hence weaken them in their struggle against the bacteria of infectious diseases.

In case of tuberculosis, pneumonia, typhoid, excessive fatigue, an exaggerated emotional tension may he fatal. In other words, the individual who represses certain cravings because they are ungratifiable or for fear of the influence their gratification may have on his social standing, tends to have organs which are more liable to disease.

The struggle between conflicting cravings was considered by psychologists of the old school as taking place in our "mind." Kempf shows us that it takes place in our autonomic apparatus. The sacral division may be conditioned to need stimuli that are perverse or tabooed and cause irritability and depression until gratified, whereas their unrestrained indulgence may greatly jeopardize the love for social esteem and the feeling of social fitness. The secret sense of _social inferiority, due to some one's awareness of tabooed pelvic cravings, makes life in human society a fearful ordeal, which in turn, disturbs the respiratory, circulatory and gastronomic functions. Hence the needs or cravings of the different autonomic segments converge upon the projicient apparatus and behaviour is the physical or mechanical resultant. This compels the different autonomic segments to wage fierce conflict for control of our conduct and our conduct reveals the conflict.

That struggle grows fiercer as the civilization in which we live grows more complex. At birth, the autonomic apparatus works smoothly, because the infant is dependent upon the mother and hence irresponsible. But when the mother begins to train the infant to nurse, urinate and defecate under certain specific conditions, the autonomic apparatus for the first time clashes with society which insists on self-restraint, self-control and self-refinement.

Heedless indulgence by an individual of any age causes uncomfortable tensions in his associates, (disgust, fear, anger), and therefore they are compelled to control social tendencies in every individual from his earliest childhood.

Acquisitive cravings know no social law, however, and often threaten to jeopardize the personality by impelling it to do something which is illegal or immoral. For, after all, man is simply an ape that has learnt to wear clothes, to use words and signs and that can foresee in a general sense the possible biological and social results of certain indulgences.

Autonomic segments of the infant are then trained (conditioned) to react to certain stimuli, for instance, to certain vocal sounds and touches indicating the time for nursing, to signs and touches indicating disapproval of certain acts; the fear of losing certain agreeable stimuli gradually develops in him a certain degree of self-control.

Many cravings of an ungratifiable or unjustifiable nature, however, resist all attempts on the part of our environment to curb them. Compensatory strivings are then set in motion to prevent them, either from manifesting themselves or from being recognized in order that the organism may escape the concomitant fear. A state of fear induces malnutrition and impotence and hence would be destructive for the individual and the race.

When a craving is allowed to make the organism aware of its needs, but is not allowed to cause overt acts, it is said to be suppressed. When it is not allowed to cause the organism to become aware of its needs, it may be said to have been repressed.

But neither suppression nor repression is synonymous with annihilation. Whether we remain in ignorance of the fact that a boiler is full of steam or simply disregard that fact, the steam is there, seeking an outlet and likely to create an abnormal one, unless a normal outlet is provided.

Repressed autonomic segments, like steam in a boiler, need but the slightest opportunity offered by the environment, or the slightest relaxation of the repressing forces to obtain control of the sensori-motor nervous system. We may suppress our disgust or anger to save appearances but we will at the same time, by remarks, by our very tone of voice or gestures, betray our real feelings; we will have dreams which picture the attempted or successful gratification of suppressed cravings.

The essential difference between most sane and insane people is that insane people cannot control their repressed cravings while sane people can. That is to say, when people become fatigued, toxic, dazed and can no longer control their repressed cravings, those cravings cause a form of behaviour which is termed insane.

As the human individual grows and develops, he gradually becomes able to control the activities of the various cravings with the exception, however, of the sexual cravings, When sexual cravings are normal, they are naturally justified and, under certain conditions, they are permitted socially to dominate our behaviour.

When the personality, on the other hand, considers sexual cravings as shameful inferiorities, either because they are perverse or because the personality has been educated in a prudish way, the individual becomes forced into a form of adjust-ment which is abnormal on account of the autonomic conflict it entails.

Whenever a violent conflict rages in our autonomic apparatus between acquisitive and avertive cravings, a neurosis ensues, or rather, the neurosis is the conflict. No constitutional predisposition is needed to bring about its onset. Life's experiences and the influence of our environment and associates are sufficient as determining factors.

Kempf does not accept Freud's theory as to the importance of sex (love) in the causation of neurotic disturbances. Any of the primary cravings, love, hate, hunger, shame, sorrow, fear or disgust may cause a neurosis under appropriate conditions.

The neurotic is suffering from, cravings which he cannot allow to dominate his personality.

Those cravings are so often located in postural tensions of certain organs that they are probably consistent things even if they are not always discoverable.

A strong craving like the famishing influence of protracted hunger, which originates in the stomach, or the severe itching of an area of the skin, may finally determine all the adjustments of the entire personality and be felt over the entire body.

The result may be a severe struggle to eliminate the craving from the personality. Or the personality may resign itself to the domination of the craving and to a regression in which the individual enjoys tensions and images, fancies, delusions, hallucinations which simulate the craved reality.

On the basis of this conception of the personality, Kempf rejects entirely the usual classification of mental disturbances into neuroses, psycho-neuroses and psychoses. That classification is very unscientific and unbiological for it is based upon symptoms which may change under different conditions or under the care of different physicians. In many institutions, for example, the diagnosis "manic-depressive" tacitly means recoverable, while "dementia praecox" means incurable, so that if a dementia praecox patient shows a tendency to recovery he is reclassified as "manic-depressive."

Kempf's classification takes into account the nature of the patient's autonomic cravings and his attitude toward them. It is, therefore, essentially mechanistic and truly biological.

Every nervous disturbance is designated as a neurosis.

The neurosis is then, according to its duration, termed acute, chronic or periodic. The term acute is reserved for cases of less than a year's duration. Chronic is applied to cases having had more than a year's duration or which have had an insidious course for more than a year before the consultation. Periodic is applied to cases which have periodic or intermittent episodes or recurrences accompanying natural phenomena such as menstruation, pregnancy, marriage, death of a child, etc.

The neurosis is further qualified with regard to its mechanism, that is, the insight the patient has retained. The neurosis is benign when the patient recognizes that his distress or disease is due to the suppression of unjustifiable or ungratifiable cravings which are a part of his personality. The neurosis is pernicious when the patient refuses to attribute his trouble to a personal cause or wish, insists that it is due to an impersonal cause or a malicious influence and tends to hate any one who would attribute it to a personal source.

According to the mechanism of the autonomic conflict involved, neuroses are differentiated into five types:

The suppression neuroses are characterized by the fact that the patient is more or less conscious of the nature and effect upon himself of his ungratifiable cravings. For instance, a man may be affected by his love for a faithless, indifferent or dead woman; a soldier may be caught between two fears, that of death and that of a court martial, etc., and know that it causes him insomnia, headache, cardiac anxiety, diarrhoea, etc.

In repression neuroses, the individual tries to prevent the autonomic cravings from making them-selves known and influencing his personality. A repressed fear may make a man blind or lame and he may feel convinced that an actual fall, bruise or wrench is responsible for his condition, because he has succeeded in making himself forget the cravings that are relieved by being blind or lame.

Compensation neuroses are characterized by a reflex effort to develop functions which will compensate for some organic or functional inferiority or keep an undesirable craving repressed, which is unconsciously causing fear. Very often the effort is adapted or designed to destroy or defeat environment factors which arouse the intolerable craving or oppose the compensation. Egotism, intolerance and exaggerated claims are typical of compensation neuroses.

Regression neuroses are just the opposite. The individual makes no effort to win or retain social esteem and regresses to a lower, childlike or infantile level, becoming apathetic, slovenly, irresponsible, often showing suicidal tendencies, and allowing the cravings to do as they please.

The regression may be a relatively benign episode of a few months duration. It may in other cases be followed by a feeling of having died and. passed through a rebirth, and also of having eliminated all the sinful cravings in order to begin life anew. This form of adjustment may work as long as the subject lives in a protected, non-competitive environment. Later, an eccentric over-compensation often takes place which eventually leads to another neurosis or a permanent deterioration of the personality.

In dissociation neuroses, the patient succeeds in keeping his undesirable cravings repressed until they finally become dissociated. The individual is then conscious of weird, distorted images, hallucinations of past sensations and experiences which seem to gratify the dissociated effect although they horrify the individual. The individual is also dominated by unacceptable, mysterious obsessions, fears, compulsions and inspirations. There may be also severe visceral distress, motor disturbances, amnesia, etc.

The analytic treatment as mapped out by Kempf, consists in developing a transference, that is, giving the subject an apportunity to rely upon the al-truistic judgment of some authoritative practitioner and enabling him to allow his repressions to make themselves conscious.

Kempf disagrees with Jung on the extent to which the transference should be used and he considers it essential in order to help the neurotic to become socially constructive. Only in that way can the analyst fulfil the mission in which the neurotic's parents failed.

After the subject succeeds in giving full expression to his repressed affects, those affects become assimilated with the personality and form an intimate part of it, instead of remaining uncontrolable, unconscious or mysterious factors. In that way the dissociated cravings which cause obsessions, phobias, mannerisms, compulsions, delusions, hallucinations, regressions, eccentric compensations and prejudices, are once more merged with the organism from which they had been abnormally separated and the functional distortion disappears.

The subject having acquired insight and being free from the fear of something within himself, becomes capable of making a sensible, practical adjustment.

When that readjustment is effected an intelligent use of the reconstructive, suggestive method seems to be most effective in giving the neurotic new interests for which to live and work, without seeking abnormal compensations for prudish or fearful repressions or yielding to perverse cravings.

The choice of a method, Kempf thinks, should be left to the patient but he should not be allowed to avoid the work of reconstruction. Furthermore, the analysis should be accompanied by vigorous indulgence in social play requiring exposure of functional or organic inferiorities to more or less critical evaluation by competitors. Thus the subject will become immune to the fear of failure or inferiority and will avoid eccentric compensation and a seclusive mode of life.

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