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Corrective biology: psychosomatics in and as neuropsychoanalysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Felicity Callard, Stan Papoulias

Original languageEnglish
JournalMedical Humanities
Accepted/In press18 Feb 2019


  • BMJMedHumsCallardPapoulias.PostPrint

    BMJMedHumsCallardPapoulias.PostPrint.docx, 88.2 KB, application/vnd.openxmlformats-officedocument.wordprocessingml.document

    Uploaded date:19 Feb 2019

    Version:Accepted author manuscript

    Licence:CC BY

King's Authors


This article analyses how and with what consequences body–mind relations (the sphere of the psychosomatic) are being modelled in the twenty-first century through considering the inter-discipline of neuropsychoanalysis. The promise of the term psychosomatic lies in its efforts to rework standard, bifurcated models of mind and body: somatic acts are simultaneously psychic acts. But neuropsychoanalysis, as it brings the neurosciences and psychoanalysis together to model an embodied ‘MindBrain’, ends up evacuating another potent characteristic found in much of the psychosomatic tradition – its refusal to adjudicate, a priori, what counts as the adaptive or well-regulated subject. The psychosomatic problem in psychoanalysis profoundly disturbs everyday models of functionality, adaptation and agency, by positing the psyche as an ‘other’ of the physiological within the physiological. By contrast, neuropsychoanalysis ends up parsing too easily the healthy from the pathological body, such that it is only the latter that is subject to forces that work against self-preservation and self-regulation. In so doing, neuropsychoanalysis recasts the radical problematic that the psychosomatic installed for psychoanalysis in the direction of a corrective biology. This corrective biology is given form in two ways: (i) through translating the Freudian drive – that unruly and foundational concept which addresses the difficult articulation of soma and psyche – into a series of Basic Emotion Systems modelled by the affective neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp; (ii) through resituating, and quarantining, the troubling, non-adaptive aspects of the Freudian psyche within the domain of addiction. That easy separation between the healthy and the pathological is all too often found in current descriptions of healthcare and patient encounters. The article refuses it and calls for the revivification of other ways of thinking about how human subjects – psychosomatic organisms – find ways to live, and to die.

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