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This realization led me to the concept of retention, which involves an unconscious, yet proactive, response on the part of a living system in which energy is retained in an attempt to isolate itself from impending danger. It is quite possible that the isolation response (retreat, resistance, refusal) emerged along with living systems themselves, and is therefore integrated into the very mechanism of living systems, whose first responses in the face of adversity are to retreat, resist and refuse, with all the secondary effects that this entails: “The big difficulty in matter is that the material consciousness, that is to say, the mind in matter, was formed under the pressure of difficulties — difficulties, obstacles, suffering, struggle. It was, so to speak, “worked out” by those things, and that gave it an imprint almost of pessimism and defeatism, which is certainly the greatest obstacle. [...] This is the great, the immense foundation of Life. Life is built upon this: upon this NO. A no that takes a thousand forms, a million forms, a million small diseases and weaknesses, all resulting in a thirst for the ultimate no: death” (Satprem, 1977, 64.710 - and partial English translation of original French quote). What a strange paradox: that the survival response should lead to death, for lack of consciousness!
From the Simple to the Complex
This model of behavior can be applied both to simple systems and to complex systems, which on a macroscopic scale reproduce the behaviors of the microscopic systems that compose them. In our own lives, we reproduce this type of behavior each time we are confronted with situations we consider aggressive or dangerous: “Clinical experience has shown that, ironically, it is often our very attempts to solve the problem that, in fact, maintain it. The attempted solutions become the true problem.” (Watzlawick, 1993, 86). Here, Watzlawick is referring to the solutions that living systems will use systematically - over and over again, and without adapting them to changes in context - if at a given moment in their lives, these solutions worked. This behavior can be suspended only if there is a consciousness of its inappropriateness. However, the level of abstraction required to permit such a realization appears inaccessible to a living cell. For such a realization, a living cell needs an external bearing point, or fulcrum. It is this support that a tissular practitioner can provide.
Yet, this mechanism - so fundamental to life and to the survival of living systems - has probably had powerful impact on evolution. Indeed, all energy retention and densification is ultimately organized and integrated, modifying the structure of living organisms, and enabling them to evolve, and therefore survive.
Mechanics of Consciousness
William Garner Sutherland’s primary respiratory mechanism in effect describes a modality or mechanism of consciousness: it is consciousness that produces the living cell’s alternating expansion/retraction, the primary movement manifested by life in all living systems. Just like its constitutive cells, the body may be represented as a rhythmic pulsatile fluid assemblage. A fluid assemblage which is structured by a fibrous partitioning system (membranes, fascias), and whose movement is orchestrated by the dura mater, and mechanically centered around Sutherland’s fulcrum.
Subtle body mechanics are then the manifestation of the living system’s consciousness. And therefore a distortion in consciousness in one area of tissue modifies its inherent mechanics, thereby altering the entire system’s mechanics, just as in the jellyfish metaphor given above.
This is why I no longer see the organism as a ‘mechanical system which also happens to be a living system’, but as a ‘living system which also happens to be a mechanical system’. Which is why I am more interested in life and in relationship than in mechanics. Rather than tending to nuts and bolts, we are tending to consciousness…