The theory of the Detour
A theory of relativity in psychology


Theory of the Detour
by Michel Cariou


3. First detour: Structuring of the emotion and, consequently, the interaction to the human one


Outline of the presentation

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  1. Introduction
  2. First months of the life
    1. The development of the centripetal phase corresponding to the genetic development (construction of the organisation)
    2. Second phase: Birth with the human access (exercise of the vital functions and beginnings of the interactions with the adult)
  3. First detour: Structuring of the emotion and, consequently, the interaction to the human one
    1. First phase: Coordination of the emotional reactions (installation of a basic safety based on the emotional participation)
    2. Second phase: Shaping of the vital energy through the proper action (activity of relation of Wallon) and socialising action.
  4. Second detour: The differentiation of Ego and Other (of 2/3ans, till the puberty)
    1. 1° phase: Appearance of the reflexive conscience, distinction between the emotion of the Other and his own emotion and thus the subjects’ positioning from him even.
    2. Reflexive conscience
    3. 2° Phase: refinement of the others and thus of Ego by the experiment of varied social situations
  5. Third Detour: the access to the adulthood through differentiation Identity/Otherness of Kind
    1. 1st Phase: evolution of the body, discovered sexual emotion and access to the total ideology (self-centred on itself or centripetal position)
    2. Adolescence (From 11/12 years until 19/21ans minimum) and the installation of the identifiers
    3. 2nd phase: differentiation Identity/Otherness of Kind and development of a subject’s position (in realistic projects)
  6. The 4th Detour: the access to the mental activity as concrete activity
  7. References of this presentation
First phase: Coordination of the emotional reactions (installation of a basic safety based on the emotional participation)

This stage starts, between 3 and 6 months, with what Wallon calls the emotional stage. It is a phases’ reversal in the global connexion organism - social environment (circle) where the activityIn all the cases, the produced living organism of energy (vital energy) and this one generate and feed an activity which will be, to some extent, its liaison officer with the circle. It is thus thanks to it that the relation organism/circle will build itself. Therefore we call it integrated activity, because it corresponds very exactly to the degree of development and integration of the organism, and consequently, to the definition of the circle. In the case of the man, it is the level and the quality of the development of the psychological one which will determine the nature of the integrated activity and of the circle compared with which it is adaptive. It concerns as well the various stages of development during the growth, as the operation of the adult throughout the life cycle. turns mainly to the re-elaboration of the being internal structure. It constitutes “a true emotional symbiosis after the organic symbiosis of the foetal period” (Wallon, 1956Wallon, H. (1956). Les étapes de la personnalité chez l'enfant, p.75). This quotation of Wallon expresses well what the detour is. The child reorganises his internal structure and in the same movement, the social environment to which the organism must adapt by the corresponding integrated activity. But, especially, the adaptive level has qualitatively changed.

The child is again in a symbiosis’ situation with the mother, but this time it’s about emotional symbiosis, which means psychical, and not biological. The integrated activity which will result from this, thus will be worked out, managed, and differentiated in the physic’s range one.

The basic safetyThe basic safety is not a feeling (conscience), but an unconscious psychological state. It expresses the state of an organism which is in adaptive agreement with its circle (whatever its level). When this agreement is threatened or broken (objectively or subjectively), an alarm signal, the anguish appears, which functions with the psychological level like the pain in the organic plan., which follows from a relevant integrated activity, is thus from now on fixed as the result of a good affective and emotional participation in the human environment. During all this phase the child will work to improve, diversify and organise the capacities of communication of his past (and also those of perception of the Other’s past) to ensure a positive adaptive connexion to his social environment, thanks to a property of the emotion: emotional contagion.

However, that is satisfactorily possible even if the work of differentiation of the communications’ vectors of the past could be done correctly at the time of the preceding stage. Functional maturation will then make possible a re-organisation of these elements on a new adaptive level, through a first structural development of the psychic one. That’s what we call detour.

Moreover this reorganization of the connexion organism /circle realises a capital psychological event for the continuation of the child’s individuation. From a global lack of differentiations’ state with the whole of the physical and human environment, the child moves primarily in a lack of differentiations’ state, with the human environment.

One of the first properties of the emotion is to unite, to amalgamate the pasts, in an emotional lack of differentiation between the individuals who divide it. That is still true at the adulthood where the collective participation in an activity with strong emotional valance (to listen to a concert, to attend a sporting event, to share violence…) causes the temporary abolition of the individual consciences for the benefit of a participation in one strong collective past. That is even true for the baby who did not already delimit an individual conscience and the borders of ego. “It’s up to the emotion the role to unite the individuals between them by their most organic and most intimate reactions, this confusion having to have for later consequence the oppositions and the unfolding from where the structures of the conscience will be able gradually to emerge” (Wallon, 1941Wallon, H. (2002 [1941]). L'évolution psychologique de l'enfant, p.125.). Because although fusion and lack of differentiation with the other, the emotion constitutes a psychic space in which the Other necessarily exists. And it’s inside this space, made safe by the emotional participation, which will be able to be carried out, during all the duration of the second phase, the work of differentiation (being based on the proper action) bringing gradually to the differentiation of Ego and Other, as well as the reflexive conscience of oneself.

As in each detour, the duration of the centripetal phase will be shorter than that of the centrifugal phase which will follow. Indeed, this one is to some extent, a synthesis’s work from what was differentiated, in the interactionL'interaction organisme/milieu est au centre de cette théorie car "l'organisme et le milieu ne sont pas dissociables. L'organisation du premier n'ayant de sens que par rapport aux propriétés du second" (Cariou, 1995, p.120). Pour l'Homme, le milieu c'est le social et c'est par l'activité - la vie physique et psychique - qu'il arrive à "maintenir sa propre structure en accord avec les conditions du milieu dans lequel il baigne et dont il est issu" (ibid.). L'activité est donc le "trait d'union indispensable" entre l'être humain et son environnement permettant de maintenir l'accord vital entre ces derniers. to the circle, previously. It is thus inevitably shorter and lasts only the time to refine its procedure sufficiently so that they cover all the new adaptive field so revealed. However, whatever the detour, it’s of the goodness of the exercise from the integrated activity which it generates, that will depend the basic safety of the organism, throughout all stage. However this basic safety is what allows the child to feel well, but it’s also what allows him to try out other forms of activities, which in the long term, will allows the passage to another stage.

Wallon locates the emotional stage between 6 and 9 months. It seems to me that, according probably the increase and the diversity of stimulations in which the children at our time profit, this phase would be rather to locate between 5 and 7 months on average (if it occurs well). From there, related to his human environment by a pallet of methods of emotional communication, the child can turn to the exploration of the concrete world which surrounds it.