An under-active or over-active internal world?

An exploration of parallel dynamics within psyche and soma, and the difficulty of internal regulation, in patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis



Abstract:  This paper explores the dynamics brought into analytic work when there is a symmetric fusion between psyche and soma within the patient. It will consider how such a fusion may emerge from reverberations between physical constitution and a lack of maternal attunement, containment and reflective function. I will describe the work with a patient, Jane, who was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) during the course of her analysis. The dynamic of her physical symptoms within the analytic work, and the impact of her internal affects and internal ‘objects’ within the transference and countertransference, indicated a difficulty in finding an homeostatic balance resulting in overactivity and underactivity at both somatic and psychological levels.

Using the clinical work with Jane this paper will also examine the interrelationship between mother-infant attachment, an inadequate internalized maternal reflective function, affect dysregulation, unconscious fusion, the lack of psyche-soma differentiation and the impact of the latter in relation to internal regulation systems, or lack of, in patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). I will draw on similar work carried out by Holland (1997), Simpson (1997) and Simpson et al. (1997). The paper will also employ the concept of the reflective function (Fonagy 2001; Knox 2003), and consider Matte-Blanco's (1999) concepts of generalization and unconscious symmetry in relation to the patient's internal world. I go on to consider how analysis provides a point outside the ‘fusion’ that can enable the ‘deadlock’ to be broken.