Friday, September 08, 2006

The 'moi-peau' and self mutilation

Researching on how haptics can provide a controlled painful stimulus as a treatment for self mutilation, I found an interesting medical research paper on the relationship between personal physical boundaries and self mutilation.
[The "Moi-peau"], Consoli SG, Med Sci (Paris). 2006 Feb ; 22(2): 197-200.

The author reviews the work of Didier Anzieu, pionneer of the 'moi-peau' concept. Certain persons have not yet acquired the 'moi peau', and use defense mechanims: Among other clinical characteristics, they have a "pathology of action" and frequently attack their own skin, paradoxically, in order to test the solidity and reliability of their own limits.

Because dermatologists frequently receive patients suffering from ereutophobia, dysmorphophobia, tattooing, self-mutilation, artefacta dermatitis, the author suggests that Anzieu bridged dermatologists to psychoanalysts.

Abstract of the paper

To construct a coherent identity, humans must distinguish what belongs to the external, perceived world from what belongs to their own inner world and the inner world of other individuals. Based on the theory developed by S. Freud and on work by ethologists, a number of psychoanalysts (J. Bowlby, R.A. Spitz, D.W. Winnicott, etc.) have underlined the importance of early tactile exchanges with the mother if a child is to become an autonomous individual who feels secure within what he or she perceives to be sound and reliable mental and physical boundaries. More recently, other psychoanalysts (E. Bick, W.R. Bion, etc.) have studied the fantasized mental structures that form the limits between an individual's inner mental space and the external world (including other individuals). As part of this theoretical psychoanalytical movement, Didier Anzieu, a French psychoanalyst, started to develop the concept of the "Moi-peau" in 1974. The "Moi-peau" designates a fantasized reality that a child uses during its early development to represent itself as "me", based on its experience of the body surface. The child, enveloped in its mother's care, fantasizes of a skin shared with its mother: on one side the mother (the outer layer of the "Moi-peau"), and on the other side the child (the inner layer of the "Moi-peau"). These two layers must separate gradually if the child is to acquire its own me-skin. D. Anzieu's work allowed dermatologists and other specialists, such as pediatricians, to focus on the quality of early tactile exchanges between a mother and her child, including the child with a chronic skin disorder. It also helped dermatologists to recognize patients with "borderline" states, which are particularly frequent in dermatology (ereutophobia, dysmorphophobia, tattooing, self-mutilation, artefacta dermatitis). These borderline patients are adults who, as a result of their mental conflicts, adopt defense mechanisms derived from both neurotic and psychotic functioning. Their complaints reflect difficulties with the solidity of their mental and physical limits: their real skin is metaphorically linked to the fantasized mental structure that delimits the individual mental space. Among other clinical characteristics, they have a "pathology of action" and frequently attack their own skin, paradoxically, in order to test the solidity and reliability of their own limits. Finally, D. Anzieu's work encouraged dermatologists to use psychotherapeutic approaches in parallel to classical dermatologic approaches, when necessary, and helped them better understand how psychoanalysts work with patients who have not yet acquired their own "Moi-peau". As a result, D. Anzieu was among the first to reconcile dermatologists and psychoanalysts.


In haptic psycho therapy

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