From Dualism to Oneness in Psychoanalysis

From Dualism to Oneness in Psychoanalysis: a Zen
Perspective on the mind-body Question

By Yorai Sella
Dear colleagues,
I am happy to announce and share my excitement –as well as my joy,
trepidation and a number of others – at the publication of my book “From Dualism to Oneness in Psychoanalysis: a Zen Perspective on the mind-body Question”.
Whilst in the throes of finding the right words for presenting this personal-academic  project I was gratified to encounter Raanan Kulka’s words in the previous edition of “News from Israel”. Raanan’s depiction of his unusual immersion in the transmutive  complementarity of ore and clapper, stillness and motion, ownness and oneness has provided me with a firm footing for suggesting that an attuned  non-dualistic body-mind-set in contemporary psychoanalysis (chapter 9) is more prevalent then hitherto recognized.
Self-Psychology has provided a major frame of reference for some of the central issues dealt with in this book; the work done by members of the Israeli section of IAPSP was highly supportive. Companionship was invaluable. More than anything else I was inspired by the example set by the “Human Spirit” project towards integration, transmutation and transformative potentials. Vacillating between instances of uneasy, graceful or frustrating ’emergence’ and moments of ‘dissolution’, Raanan Kulka’s assurance that the two were complementary provided me with deep reassurance in moments of doubt.   
Finally, I hope this volume may serve to support others who – like me – seek and are nourished and inspired by fleeting images of non-duality.
So here goes…what follows is a synopsis and then an outline of the book’s chapters.
Freud’s revolutionary project delineated a one-way interaction – “the mysterious leap from the mind to the body” – as the vantage point for the  psychoanalytic revolution. Contemporary psychoanalysis has gone further, charting out a two-way body and mind reciprocity as creating ‘unitive experiences’ such as ‘vitality’ and ‘potentiality’. In intersubjective, neuro-psychoanalytical and religiously inclined psychoanalysis, these concepts converge to constitute a paradigm shift, suggesting that true embodiment is a spiritual venture  (Bollas, 1991, p. 151). 
What the above proposals lack is a firm conceptual, philosophical base, transcending Cartesian dualism.
The book depicts the manner in which – in innovatively reaching beyond the constrains of dualism – psychoanalysis’s current  paradigm shift relies on an interdisciplinary and dialogical approach. In an integrative interdisciplinary manner I suggest that both phenomenological contributions – markedly that of  Merleau-Ponty  – and contributions from philosophy of language (largely Lakoff and Johnson’s) partake in this paradigm shift.
Focusing on Buddhist non-dualist tenets the book stresses the unique contribution of Zen-Buddhism to the conceptual validity of this paradigm shift.  In particular,  Ehei Dogen’s – Zen-Buddhist mystic and philosopher –  study of the phenomenology of the body-mind goes far towards substantiating the non-duality of immanence and transcendence, subject and object, body and mind. Stemming from an immanently non-dualistic  philosophical-religious tradition Dogen maintains that through “body and mind study of the Way” one arrives at the inevitability of “body-mind-oneness”. His mystical realism – cited in numerous psychoanalytic articles – is an invaluable contribution to psychoanalysis’s attempts  to trace the route leading from alienation and duality to what Bion has termed “at one-ment”.
The book follows these conceptual threads along 4 conceptual trajectories potentially furthering the constitution of a non-dualistic unitive body-mind meta-theoretical paradigm and a cohesive unitary terminology:

  1. Potentiality of existence preceding substantial manifestation
  2. Constant change as a substantial and categorical position
  3. Constraints on linguistic and discursive formulations of non-duality
  4. The meditative state as a non-dualistic psyche-somatic mode of being and participation

I accompany all of the above conceptual postulations with examples from my personal voyages of discovery in analysis, in training as an Oriental Medicine practitioner and in meditation and martial arts. Each chapter is interspersed with them and also includes vignettes from my clinical experience. 
Chapter 1 shows how psychoanalysis replicates the classical philosophical ‘body mind’ debate, adhering to categorical, evaluative and developmental fissures between psyche and soma. With contemporary psychoanalysis displaying a growing recognition of psyche and soma non-duality, the need arises for extra-disciplinary theorems to outstep these engrained presuppositions..
Chapter 2 traces the legacy of the energetic and psychosomatic models and explores the manner in which recognition of non-verbal modes of interaction upsets the conventional division between biologistic and hermeneutic meta-theories.  It focusses on the need to formulate a theory accommodating multiple “leaps” between the patient’s and analyst’s ‘psyche’ and ‘soma’, suggesting intricate and reciprocal interactive psyche-somatic functioning.
Chapter 3 traces the ascension of the ‘soma’ and bodily determined subjectivity and suggests that psychoanalysis has come to acknowledge the enacted and performative aspects of interaction as intersubjectively determining subjectivity. This is cast against the aspirations – and perceived limitations – of linguistic interpretation.
Chapter 4 considers specific strands within psychoanalysis which have embraced unitive experience and  unitary formulations  regarding psyche-somatic  ‘pre-reflective’ structures and processes designated  ‘oneness’, ‘fusion’ or ‘undifferentiation’. Overarching linguistic categories – such as ‘aliveness’, ‘vitality’ and ‘rhythm’ as well as  ‘proto’, ‘pre’ or ‘supra’ ordering structures – are shown to straddle and override ‘psyche’ to ‘soma’ divisions,
 In chapter 5  ‘paradox’, ‘complementarity’, ‘mysterious undercurrents’ and ‘systems/connectionist’ models are considered as potential resolutions for the dilemmas posed in the preceding chapters. The perceived limitations of the above explanatory models set the stage for the introduction of Eastern paradigms as alternative paradigmatic explanatory models.
Chapter 6 focusses on the  philosophy of ’emptiness’ of substantiality and of intrinsic meanings as the precursor to Zen Buddhist notions of ‘non-duality’.  The ‘non-plurality of the world’, and the ‘non-difference of subject and object’ are shown to be inextricably co-determined by an embodied, participatory, “without-thinking”, active cognizance. Additionally, configurations of ‘potentiality’ of existence continuously subsisting substantial manifestation, and the ‘substantiality of constant change’ are shown to nullify  orthodox ‘body’ to ‘mind’ dichotomies.
Chapter 7 presents the ‘body-mind’ as a stringently interactive system, manifest as body-mind impromptu selfhoods, described as a series of continuous ‘events’.  Dōgen’s radical view as to the indivisibility of the ‘body-mind’ system is evaluated and the issue of the “clinical body” is conceptualized as an intricate physical-mental-emotional network, defined and organized by the liminal concept of “qi”.
Chapter 8 examines ‘discursive’ versus ’embodied’ thinking. Dōgen’s unique epistemological approach is introduced, stressing his concepts pertaining to a joint ‘physio-mental’ posture  and to the “molting” of body and mind. Within Dōgen’s category of ‘expression’  language and ‘practice’ are shown to be  indivisible, welding verbal utterances with an embodied cognizance, thus creating “live words””
Chapter 9  outlines  an embodied therapeutic disposition – nourished by meditative practice –  conducive to furthering body-mind integration. It then focuses on Zen’s particular contribution to mutual psyche-somatic ‘attunement’ and its relation to the concepts of ‘attunement’, ‘interpretation’, as well as  ‘intercorporeality’ and ‘interpenetration’ in contemporary psychotherapy. Finally, the notion of the therapist’s embodied empathic-compassionate role as constitutive of the patient’s body-mind integration and transmutation  is introduced.
Chapter 10 reexamines the point of departure and the basic premises on which the entire manuscript rests. The culmination of this chapter is in outlining the epistemological, ontological, phenomenological and linguistic contributions of Zen-Buddhism to psychoanalysis’s view of the psyche-soma. These converge in the re-contextualization of ‘potentiality’, ‘change’, ‘meditative states’ and ‘constraints on language’ as comprising  an infrastructure enabling the reappraisal of  unresolved dilemmas and paradoxes presented in the first section of the manuscript.
A brief outline for future research and its potential implications is then 


Yorai Sella Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, a Humanistic-integrative psychotherapist and a member of the Tel Aviv Institute for Contemporary Psychoanalysis. Having originally trained in Shiatsu and Oriental Medicine he founded and directed ‘Maga’ school for Zen-shiatsu therapists and is the co-founder and co-director of Dmut Institute for integrative East-West Psychotherapy. Additionally, he has practiced Tai-Chi and martial arts for the past 30 years and is a student of Zen-Buddhism.
Yorai teaches on the Self Psychology post-graduate track in the Psychotherapy Programme, Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University where he also teaches a course on “Buddhist contributions to the mind-body question in psychoanalysis”. He is a member of the Israeli chapter of IAPSP, of the steering committee of the ‘Integrative Psychiatry’ service, Haemek Hospital and of ‘The Israeli Association for Interdisciplinary Psychotherapy’.