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Salud mental

versão impressa ISSN 0185-3325


DORR-ZEGERS, Otto. Fenomenología del amor y psicopatología. Salud Ment [online]. 2005, vol.28, n.1, pp.1-9. ISSN 0185-3325.

The question posed by this author is how the universal human phenomenon of love is disturbed in the leading psychopathological syndromes. With a view to answering this question, he proceeds first to make a phenomenology of love, for which he will analyze its spatiality and its temporality. The following step will be to show the way that these anthropological dimensions appear deformed both in schizophrenia and in melancholia.

Spatiality of human love

In daily life the space of dimensions remains rather hidden, and thus the "above" means "on the roof" and the "below" is understood as "on the floor". Every "where" is discovered through the relationship with things and is not determined by spatial measurements. The geometrical space, the artistic or the religious, etc. are possible because the human being is already spatial from his/her structure itself as "being-in-the-world". Now, the human spatiality has, according to Heidegger, two fundamental characteristics: das Ent-fernen, which could be translated as "removing", that is to say, the human being tendency to make disappear the distances, and das Einraumen, which has, in its turn, two meanings: clearing or cleaning, and conceding or giving. The first corresponds to the "principle of vital space", origin of aggressiveness and competence, about which K. Jaspers affirms: "Every position I conquer excludes some other by claiming for me part of the limited available space". Love represents the ex treme case of the second meaning: to concede or to give space. "Only where you are, a place for me is born", tells us the poet R. M. Rilke. In love not only there is no displacement of the other, but also there is creation of a new space, "our" space, whose most perfect realization is the embracement. It does not enclose the danger of fusion and loss of freedom because, as Rilke goes on to say, "no one can damage the other by limiting him/her; on the contrary, lovers constantly give each other space, breadth and freedom".

The spatiality of love in schizophrenia and melancholia

The schizophrenic lives in relation to the other with a great fear of closeness. The other is maintained at a distance through delusion, inadequate behaviors, eccentric plans or autism. In loving relationships the closeness of the other becomes unbearable for them and they frequently react in a paranoid way, which is exacerbated by their difficulty to correctly interpret messages from the other. The limitation of the loving capacity resulting from the failure to create the common space, is also revealed to us in typical triggering situations: love declaration, engagement (the Verlobunskatatonie from the classic German authors), homosexual seduction, entry into group organizations, etc., all situations having in common the fact that the other passes the limits they need to impose in order to maintain their fragile structure. Finally, it would be necessary to add that the loss of the ability to meet with the other in love also means that the world goes from being a home, a dwelling place, to an abstract geography, a place threatened by anonymous voices and enemies, where there are no walls keeping out the alien. Here the very basis of interhuman encounter itself -the fact of being unique, free and personal- has been lost.

In melancholia space acquires characteristics to a certain extent polarly opposite to schizophrenia. It is warm and ordered; it is a space, where the kept objects retain the past and avoid change. The limits between the proper and the foreign are here very precise, as are too as the ranks governing human relationships. During the depressive phase this space loses color and perspective and, although the boundary between the familiar and the strange does not disappear, the space is reduced, because of a sort of "inflation" affecting the body, which begins to invade the patient through anxiety, discouragement and painful sensations. The depressed patient cannot tolerate the distance of the other, so much so that the most frequent triggering situations are constituted by separations and losses. Their exaggerated tendency to organize and to stick to persons and things indicates to us, for its part, the existence of a disturbance of that form of spatiality already mentioned: "das Einraumen", that is to say, giving, conceding space to the other. The depressive space is the contrary of that taught to us by Rilke in the "Requiem for a friend" (1908) as most properly pertaining to love: "Since that is guilt, if indeed something can be guilt: not to increase the liberty of the beloved...".

The temporality of human love

With time it occurs as with space; it is only a derivative, an abstraction of the existential time. And thus, the human being is always temporal by virtue of his very structure as being-in-the-world, as expressed by Heidegger. And the reason is that the motor of this structure is the care, cure or concern (die Sorge), where the past, present and future are articulated. In every action we are anticipating and interpreting the future from a determined "feeling ourselves" (the past) and we are carrying out the act of encountering ourselves with something or with somebody (in the present). Now, this time is constituted from finiteness, that is to say, from death, and its central feature is the passing. The time of love, by contrast, is the opposite of chronos, of that all-consuming passing time. The English poet Elizabeth Barrett-Browning com pares the life that passes and the love that remains ("love that endures, life that disappears"), while Schiller says to his beloved: "Only thinking that previously we cared less for each other upsets me, because love must see eternity backwards and forwards". This temporality of duration that we find in human love, and which opposes the temporary nature of life, is also observed in the realm of the religious and it is expressed in a very particular way in the rites. Finally, it would be necessary to add that the poets teach us how love is not only able to access the time of the eternal, but also to vanquish death. And thus Wagner's poetic version of the old legend of Tristram and Isolde sings: "The old song has repeated it: / to love and to die, / but no, no, it is not so! / To love! To love! / To love even in death / and not to die of love."

The temporality of love in schizophrenia and melancholia

The most characteristic feature of schizophrenic time is a certain degree of "atemporality". The past is never really overcome, because they remain in the symbiotic relationship with the mother seen in the first year of a baby's life. Moreover, their delusions persevere both in the content and in the form, which makes them in a certain way immune to the passing of time. As for the future, we observe a lack of purpose and almost an absence of the phenomenon of "anticipation", the very "motor" of human life. Finally, the schizophrenic patients show great difficulty to carry out (in the present) the tasks corresponding to their intellectual and socio-cultural level; hence, the frequent failures of gifted youth in their studies and of adults in work. The symptom of apathy is merely another form of disturbance of the relationship with the present. This "atemporality" has nothing to do with the "intemporality" of love. The schizophrenic is outside of time, while lovers have overcome it. The schizophrenic becomes detached from that time that passes, which is what allows action. The lovers, instead, go on acting and creating, but they are indeed able to overcome, through love, the sad and painful nature of time: the fact that so many things that one would like to retain are destroyed and inexorably pass. This eternity of love is what brings the lovers to live often in a state of ecstasy. Nothing of that shows the "atemporality" of the schizophrenics, who rather tend to live in a constant disappointment, pursued by a sort of primary anxiety.

In depression time passes slower, and in extreme cases such as stupor, stops. The patient has difficulties in thinking, concentrating and making decisions; his/her movements are slow, he/she takes long answering and his/her words are heard without force. Now it is not, obviously, chronological time that stops, but the immanent time associated with life, time as maturation and growing. But as occurred with spatiality, in the previous personality of depressive patients the alteration of temporality is already noticed in that rigid way of carrying out acts, in the constant attempt to plan the future and prevent fate and in the inability to tolerate separations. And thus, the depressed patient cannot, when loving, transcend together with the beloved the space of dimensions and the time of hours. And this explains why each loss pushes him/her deeper into the abyss and that later less important situations can be enough to trigger the depressive process. Compared to the temporality of the depressed patient, the time of love appears to us in all its luminosity: eternity lightning past, present and future, fertility in all that richness that can emerge in the encounter, maturation and personal growth as envisioned by Plato.

Palavras-chave : Love; phenomenology; psychopathology; schizophrenia; depression.

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