Conversations with the organs of our body, Maria Cristina Koch, seminar, Rome, Italy 16-17.11.12

The idea of ​​a dialogue with the organs of our body starts from a commonplace assumption which is (or should be) increasingly usual. It is well understood that, although the organs are apparently different in form and function, in reality they are all connected together.

Our organs, that is ourselves, are part of a whole that we call (starting from the definition of Einstein) energy. Even psychosomatics today have largely overcome the distinction between mind and body and they talk about a unicum.

This does not mean that the organs are autonomous, nor does it mean that the psyche is autonomous. In some ways the so-called psyche – which someone else calls soul or emotion – and the so-called physicality, are all connected to a more “cosmic” degree, which is complex.

Right now, I want to focus only on the fact that all parts are essential components of our body and therefore of our person, who before everything else is directed to survival. Survival means first of all, an “biological” survival, i.e. the maintenance of life. Life has a distinct feature: it flees from the habitat that does not protect it and does not hold it. Life cannot be eliminated but a non-vital organism can be deprived of life. This fact is not irrelevant because “non-vital” may not necessarily mean or match what our will or our desire would like it to be.
Let me explain and clarify: at the beginning of the various cultures, the person who was born “damaged” was a “symbol” or “sign” of disapproval, of a curse or a punishment of a God.

We have gradually been able to understand that the size of the human person goes further and substantially cannot be in any way “containable” in its performance. This does not mean that the possible performance, or the skills of the individual, are irrelevant. An organism will therefore, in itself, work to get more and higher capabilities in order to reach a higher life quality, a better quality of being.

Everything works to implement this important project of survival: the muscles, the bone growth, the structure of our thoughts. Everything contributes to the project. Obviously, above all, the complex network of relationships representing the person’s identity constitute the main ingredient. The identity of a person has to do with being at the centre and in the meantime a node of a dense network of relationships, inside and outside the person; physical, symbolic and contextual relations we are speaking about. This idea is, I think, at the present time is very well known and shared by many.

So why go for a dialogue with the organs and, most importantly, what are they and what do the organs represent to us?

Once the lightning was seen as a “sign” of the sky, many where the signs interpreted and looked for. The human community, and therefore the human being, cannot do without making sense, giving a reason to what happens, to what s/he perceives, and building a hypothesis, a “thought”. The tendency was one of  building a culture just to understand, even in technical sense, and to be able to put that phenomenon in it. Why? In order to perform an activity. Every thought, every culture turns towards a possibility of action. If lightning is the manifestation of a God who changed his usual good mood and got “angry”, it means that I have to restore my relationship with God who must return to his usual mood in his relation with me. I will therefore make sacrifices, dance, offer something in order to restore the “favourable” balance.

Even with the organs of the body it has worked like this: it was always known that the organs are not just pieces of meat.

The famous, and very unpopular “cannibals” used to make human sacrifices, as it happened in the Aztec and Maya world. They extracted from the alive body the alive heart of the enemy. They did so because the enemy was valuable, high in power and eating his heart meant taking the energy, the abilities of that particular person. Pouring out his blood meant to return a bit of extra life to the Maya “Lord of Time”, who was getting very old.

All the most ancient traditions are still strong in their meaning, even if today some meanings could make us horrify. We could say that now a day, in some ways, the actualization of these ancient practices is found in the custom of the organ donation. Exactly in the sense of returning to strength, and therefore as for the Maya Lord of Time in order to continue on the path of life: a person who could be at risk of being abandoned by life fleeing elsewhere, gets an organ that is no longer working replaced. To some extent, reduced to a minimum, we could find the same old meaning. An attempt which brings a typically male seal: the effort to prolong life as if it was parallel lines, which meet at infinity. The idea of making life undying. From this point of view, it does not matter much in this dialogue but it is interesting to comment, for women the culture which regards death is completely opposite. Women do not tend in any case to extend life, they tend to preserve the person who is alive and to accompany her, if necessary, to death. Thus, life becomes an ally and friend for the woman to pass through death.

So why shall we go to dialogue with the organs?

Because all of us  need sometimes to speak with someone in order to make a decision, to define an action, to build a thought, sometimes, also to cultivate a dream.

Why the organs?

Because we have them at hand. Because the organs are always with us and, above all, the organs are able to get in touch with us through the pain. None of us has ever looked after his little finger, rather than his liver, as long as this did not send a message through pain. Hence an obvious observation: if our way through pain is there, if it exists, then we can also go by the same path, as it exists, without the pain.

This is the basic intuition that gave birth to all the work of the dialogue with organs.

It is a very different reasoning from giving a value, a steady meaning, an interpretation, to what organs do and say. Let me explain: if we say that the dark circles under the eyes are a sign of all the unshed tears, or we say that the person who has an upset stomach is a somatic person and makes the stomach his/her target organ, this is a way, in my opinion, to constrain the meaning of the organ, its language and “personality” to a substantially undifferentiated schematization that does not distinguish between one person and another. One might object: “When we say that a person has guts it means that she has courage”. Yes, of course. It is also true that a liverish person is a person in a bad mood, who always finds faults. As some of us do when we talk with acrimony in our voice, for example, for the most different reasons. In the same way we say that a person has heart of  a person who is capable of love. There are countless representations, symbolizations, comments and traditions in many different cultures that relate emotions/actions to organs and make them speakers of the body.

For example, all that has been studied by medieval and Egyptian medicine – just to name two –  constitutes our heritage when we put a hand on the forehead of our son to see if it burns, and in that case it means that there is an infection.

We have on the one hand all the extraordinary development of the so-called conventional medicine that gives its explanations, which are absolutely not in contrast with what instead is the dialogue with the organs.

So, for example, just as my son is not only a child and not just a common citizen and not only a person born that certain day, under the sign of Sagittarius, but he is my son, just the same, my liver, my kidneys, my gut or my leg, my heart, can certainly be very largely shared with other members of human society, but this is not the reason why they are characterized and clearly identified.

This point is very important. The dialogue with organs is an event, a conversation, or rather a private exchange between the person and his/her organs. It is not a conversation with the organs in general. So it is a private dialogue between a person and his/her organs. If an organ has been transplanted, of course as the ancients knew, that organ could keep the history of the person to whom it was extracted from. The ancient Aztecs knew it and did the transplant while the person was alive, we prefer to do it when we can declare the person dead.

There is a real “etiquette” to treat with organs.

An important psychoanalyst, psycho-somatist and psychiatrist,  told me that a heart transplant is to put many things inside the new person, with an heritage of stories, emotions and feelings. This means that we should not do it? No. It means that a heart transplant cannot just mean “moving” an ingredient of any machine in another machine, to make it work better. We should also understand, and sooner or later someone will have to study this matter seriously from every angle, whether the famous “rejection” is nothing but the inability of the recipient to accept part of the history of the organ donor, just as the “rejection” of an idea, a contamination that we feel dangerous. Think of how it is explicit our way of saying “I refuse, I reject.” I can even throw out of myself this rejecting. The fact of vomiting something that has gone bad has a double function too in animal life: to release my body from something that hurts it, but also to do so in an evident way so that those of my flock can see and do not eat that food. We do this also with ideas, in some ways, when we begin to say that a person has dangerous ideas, ideas to be rejected. In fact our body does so in its own way.
One of the most touching events, among the many that we have been able to follow in recent years, has been for me  the ability of the Palestinians and the Israelis to exchange organs or blood. This has an “other” meaning: it allowed to overcome and move elsewhere something that at a level of politics and ideals can be the source of an absolute lack of compatibility.

But let’s go back to imagine why it might be useful a dialogue with the organs. And let’s also understand how to do it. There are important assumptions.

We can’t avoid to know very clearly the representations that have been ascribed to an organ over time in our culture (not because our culture is the most beautiful, but simply because it is the culture in which we grow up and is the one that characterized our way of thinking and has characterized our cells too). Somewhere we have to recognize the culture and keep this in our mind. If the heart during the dialogue should give us an answer at all discordant to what an organ responsible for love should do, well, let’s face it, it’s saying something important. Therefore we need to listen to it, forgetting all what we already knew, at least for a moment, and pay attention to the new meaning.

On the other hand, the real luxury of adults is to forget what they know, in order to begin again to learn. So, first thing, we cannot ignore the meaning we already know but the gross meaning we have learned to attribute to organs in general, has not a bond with our organs.

There might be an organ, and organ in this case means something very generic, it could be a foot, maybe a single finger, which gives voice to all the others and that we accept and recognize as “spokes organ” for the entire body.

How it works: it works precisely that, when we put a question out – because I like to think that any problem is essentially a question in search of an answer, so that we can build an action – when we put a question, we do not know the answer. I think we have no right to have any idea or a preference on this regard to which organ will be interested in answering. Of course, we cannot speak with the organs and then do  as if they had not said anything. But this does not mean that they are required to make sure we obey their instructions. In fact it’s a dialogue. To act as if it were something that had no relevance, it might annoy the organs, that are often sensitive. This does not mean, on the contrary, we are bound to obey their ideas and proposals: very simply, we asked the opinion of whom we thought was competent, since we think of them as aware of everything and our ally. We can’t do as we had not heard anything relevant, but we must not obey.

Let’s thank and take note of an idea, a point of view that has been proposed. It is a request of ours and not an urgency imposed by our body.

We’ll make what we want, the responsibility is ours, ours the right of action and thought.

Here. It’s all here.

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