The theory of the Detour
A theory of relativity in psychology


Theory of the Detour
by Michel Cariou




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

It is difficult to completely give an account of the richness of a theory in a space restricted by the writing. This is all the more true here because it’s about a theory of the permanent 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. between the social environment (circle) and an organisation considered in its completeness. The latter is evolutionary and relative to each one. However, we will try here even to make some hear something, as well for the beginners as for the psychologists and other professionals accustomed of the social sciences. Hear below you will find a text which describes the theory of the “detourThe concept of Detour proposes a “process which consists, for an organism, to set up a new type of adaptive relation with the circle, by another elaboration of its internal organisation leading to a new form of activity in circle, having a more general range” (Cariou, 1995, p.127).
In other words, the organism, while being confronted with the various modifications of the circle in its interaction with him, will always operate a reorganisation of its internal organisation thanks to the internalization of external elements, which will be able to give place to new more adapted behaviours, with an aim of maintaining the agreement vital, but more indirectly.
” in which you will be able to reach in a click on the blue words, with the deepening of notions and key concepts of the theory.

Constantly, click on the link near the title, in order to reach the plan of this presentation. The theory of the detour, or theory of the life’s’ cycle, is a theory of the development and psychological operation which lies within the more general scope of the theory of the evolution of the species (phylogenies) and the adaptation (Darwin), which establishes the link between phylogenies and ontogenesis.

From this point of view, the human psychological development consists of the development of an ultimate level of the evolution, beyond the phylo-genetic development. While using the considerable possibilities of the central nervous system, and while following its stages of activation, it will be registered like the adaptive highest level. “The higher nervous activity is related to the organisation of the nervous system; it is not an added again or additional activity; it is an essential complementary activity. She answers the essential union of the organism and the social environment” (Wallon,  1951Wallon, Psychologie et matérialisme dialectique, 1976 [1951], p.295). The psychological one, which emanates from the nervous activity, will thus exceed the level of the organism, to organise in the most relevant possible way the adaptive connexion of the individual in his social environment (organism /social environment).

With Wallon, we thus consider that the focal point of the comprehension of the development and psychological operation is not the study of one me which is socialised, but that of the dialectical and moving connexion between a living organism and its social environment maintain, thus leaving the current anthropomorphismL'anthropomorphisme ne se limite pas à l’enfant et demeure la démarche spontanée de l’homme dans son rapport à tout objet de connaissance nouveau ou qu’il ne comprend pas. Et cela sera renforcé par la présence d’autres hommes qui partagent les mêmes idées.
De nos jours, nous admettons volontiers que c’est la rotation de la terre qui est à l’origine du mouvement apparent du soleil. Pourtant, pendant des siècles on a cru ce que l’on percevait : le soleil tourne autour de la terre. Et aujourd’hui encore, dans la vie pratique, on considère que le soleil se lève à l’Est et se couche à l’Ouest.

There cannot be hiatus between the organism and the circle in which he lives. The most elementary organism (bacterium, for example) with most complexes, the life cannot be maintained that if there exists an agreement between the properties of the social environment and those of the organism (its internal structure). The man does not escape this general law from the alive. Among animal species, this agreement was built with the wire of the evolution of the species, by genetically fixed turnings (heredity). Shells which are closed with downward tide (even if they are out of aquarium), carried out an appropriation of the social environment which allows them, via the safeguarding of a watery micro-socialWe can say that each adult does not adapt any more to one objective circle but rather to the interiorised representation which it has of this one. This representation of the circle (since it’s not the conscious’ choice of a subject) becomes so singular, single and carries out the micro-circle (mentalized) by connexion to which will be exerted the adaptive step aiming at ensuring the basic safety. environment in their shell, to survive until the return of the floods. “Of external that they were initially, the stimulants of these reactions became interns. And the fact is of major importance […]. It marks the moment when the organism, adding to its own organisation the modifications inflicted by the social environment and increasing in same measurement its independence, acquires new possibilities of self-determination” (Wallon, 1935 Wallon(1976 [1935]). Psychologie et technique. Enfance numéro spécial Henri Wallon, p.281-82).

As rudimentary as it is, it is the nervous system of the animal which changed to meet the needs for the adaptive agreement. The child having a very rich nervous system, will be able and duty to register in this one the results of his interactions in the circle to develop, him also, his autonomy and thus his 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..

This construction, which continues during all the life, is related to the properties of the central nervous system. However it exceeds it in its natural operation because it uses these properties to incorporate the whole of the interactions which the human organism had with its social environment. It is the level of psychological which, largely exceeding the order of concrete (biology), is not less quite real.

Because “the life is well far from an indifference with regard to the conditions which are made to him, the life is polarity” (Canguilhem, 1966Canguilhem, G. (1984 [1966]). Le normal et le pathologique, p.79.). The lives, and thus the psychological life, are a “polarised activity [...] which comprises a spontaneous effort of defence and of fight against all that is of negative value” (ibid, ibidemCanguilhem, G. 1984 [1966]). Le normal et le pathologique, p.81.). “The functioning of any organism thus has a direction, which of the maintenance of the life, and psychological operation necessarily takes part in this objective. Very led human is thus finalised, beyond the reasons which it gives itself consciously, by this general movement of the life” (Cariou, 1992Cariou, M. (1992). Personnalité et viellissement ou permanence adaptative de l'enfance au grand âge: une théorie du détour, p.199.).

However, when I write those lines, (or when you read them) I do not have the feeling to develop an intended 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., in last analysis, to ensure my vital safety. And nevertheless!

It is thus this considerable ditch, between my lived of adult man and my reality of living body, that it’s necessary for us to fill by understanding how, of a simple immediate need of survival, connected initially to the physical environment, the man builds a connexion in the more and more mediatised world (indirect). How, of distance in distance, in the order of psychological, it works out a so specific and original organisation connexion/ social environment that it can have to endanger its physical life to maintain the adaptive agreement guaranteeing its basic safety (resisting it or the soldier which is sacrificed to save his/her friends remains thus in its vital logic). It is with this mystery of the development and the operation of the psychological level of human that we try to bring an answer.

We speak about the development of the dialectical organism/social environment expressed by the alternation of phases (Law of functional alternation of Wallon). The centripetal phases coincide to the moment when the activity of the organism is turned towards its intimate construction (of the biological, bio-psychological level at the highest levels of psyches). The centrifugal phases give an account of the deployment of the activity in the external social environment, and thus of its progressive adjustment to this one, by the effect of the returns (feedback) obtained.

However, this refinement of the centrifugal activity could not give an account of the passage of one stage to the other. It can lead only to one excellence in the level of the concerned development. To change the adaptive level, two conditions are needed.

Throughout the life cycle, this dialectical of the detour will make possible to account for the qualitative changes of the adaptive activity.