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

This concept is present at the beginning of the life. A living cell is not in agreement with the totality of the physical environment but with the part of the one which saw it being born and in which she lives. It is thus already a restriction of the concept of circles’ notion but for all that it’s not already the concept of the detours’ theory.

This one finds its origin from the moment, to improve its survival, the unicellular becomes multi-cellular. Then, the cell does not have directly any more to deal with the physical environment, but with micro-circle, which is the one of the organism. It does not have to directly ensure any more its food and its oxygenation (the organism undertakes some) but it loses its capacity to multiply freely, its mobility, and must register its activity within the broader framework of the organised unit than constitutes the organism with the one it forms part. There is thus a profit of safety and of stability but a loss of autonomy and, if the organism has suddenly died, the cell also necessarily dies. Consequently, we can consider that the highest adaptive level (the multi-cellular organism) takes the precedence over the cell and determines what will be the best adaptive step for the elements as whole which composes it. The cell, doesn’t cease being active, but the direction of its activity will be indicated to him by the global organism which now constitutes the circle to which it adapts. There is not capacitances’ disappearance characteristic of the cell, but subordination to the vital interests indicated by the global organism. It is this same principle that we’ll find throughout the psychic evolution and that Janet then Wallon had already highlighted.

Among animals the successive installation of various stages of the nervous system testifies to the continuity of this adaptive process which consists in leading a managements’ level of the connexion organism-circle to lose its autonomy to pass under the control of a more recent and more powerful level. The subordinate level does not disappear and continuous to regulate a certain number of activities from operation of the organism, but it does it under the direction and the control of the level dominating which redefines the circle for which it is necessary to adapt.

Among Man, the various cerebral stages testify that this evolution and the cortical level (particularly complex among Man) becomes the new leader which will have a capacity of activation and inhibition on all the former levels. Among higher animals, this cortex’s competence is genetically largely tinned to optimise the adaptive agreement towards a specific circle. The animal will thus have instincts which are adapted to its usual micro-circle of life and will have only to refine them during its growth to be ready to ensure its survival. It is not the case of the Man.

Indeed, this one arrives at the birth with only a minimum of already programmed vital competences and, (except feed and breathing), of any effective behaviour to ensure its autonomy and its survival. On the other hand, Man has a neurological plasticity which makes it ready to adapt in differential manner to the varied conditions of the circle with which it will interact.

The child comes in the world in a total state of lack of differentiation with the circle, as well physical as human. It is thus a work of differentiation between him and the circle which will be carried out, generating reorganisations relating symmetrically on the intimate being and its definition of the circle. The circle is thus always with the degree and the nature of differentiations/reorganisations carried out by the child.

During his development the child thus will differentiate (and thus will build himself) different micro-circles which, each time, will become the field in which will be exerted the adaptive activity. Of an activity turned towards the physiological adaptation to the birth the child, a few months later, will make as a priority, the activity of emotional positive communication which will become the guarantee of his basic safety. Thus a 2-3 month child will always answer the hungers’ tugging and will nourish himself. On the other hand, at six months, a weaning’ attempt will perhaps end in failure. The child is then able to inhibit the feelings of the hunger to obtain what counts for him, the heat of the maternal centre. If we insist too much we will see the child, spiting out all that we will have succeeded in doing to him to swallow, to become inert, dull, with only a small complaint from time to time. In contradiction with a global vision of the circle and a biological design of death, the child shows there that the circle, for him, became that of the human contact, the circle of love and that it is of that, always for him, its vital safety depends.

This example shows us that, as it organises its internal structure, the child also redefined the adaptive micro-circle which corresponds to it. This specific phenomenon to the Man becomes increasingly important extensive as the psychic organisation becomes more complex. Already at this baby, we note that it is not in reality of everyone anymore. But, with the access to the representation, and differentiation of Ego and Other, this difference between the objective circle and the adaptive circle of the child will grow hollow. However what counts, is its own micro-circle. And the distances with the objective circle will not cease increasing with the access to the abstracted thought, the ideology and an organisation of the psychological structure increasingly specific to a history of life and interaction of the organisation with its circles.

At the end of the chain, we 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.

Michel Cariou - November 2008

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