Each person has one mind, right? Wrong, according to the Concept of Internal Cohabitation
- we are all born with two autonomous, sentient minds. One of them can think rationally and relate to other people, and one of them is fundamentally negative in outlook, and opposed to relating. Both minds watch the world through our senses, but compete for control of the body. But if this is indeed the case, why is it not common knowledge? How could such a fundamental aspect of human nature go unnoticed for so long?
The answer is twofold. The second, non-relational mind hates to be recognised or seen. It frequently acts covertly, influencing the actions of the relational mind and leaving it thinking that it is the only mind making choices. When the non-relational mind does take complete control of the body, it may well wreak havoc, but the relational mind is left thinking that it was responsible. After such an incident, someone might well explain that they had 'lost control'.
The other part of the answer is that it hasn't gone unnoticed; the duality of humans has long been recognised, which is why it is such an enduring theme in art, literature and film. Jeykll and Hyde, the Incredible Hulk, Gollum and Smeagol, Anakin and Darth Vader, and Fight Club all fascinate us with their dualistic stories. Consider also many idioms of speech: "In two minds", "Out of one's mind", "singleminded determination". Do these stories and phrases all point to a deeper truth?
The Concept of Internal Cohabitation has been developing in psychotherapy circles for about 15 years. Terminology around the subject can get complicated, because our language usually assumes one mind per body. In psychotherapy papers on the subject, 'the patient' normally refers to the relational mind, and 'the co-habitee' or 'co-habiting other mind' refers to the non-relational mind. The psychotherapy material suggests that in 'normal' humans, the actions of the non-relational mind may be fairly subtle - the odd bit of irrational behaviour, minor addictions, the occasional act of self sabotage. In 'mentally ill' humans, the distinction and contract between the two minds is much greater - as in psychosis, paranoid schizophrenia, etc.
As the sitation of two minds in one body is considered to be permanent, there can be no question of 'removing' or 're-integrating' the non-relational mind. Instead, "treatment is conceived of as fostering the development in the patient of a genuine capability for making decisions in life which adequately take account of the needs of his own mind and that of his cohabiting other mind. This is complicated by the fact that the other mind never wants what he needs and hates anyone having his needs met including his own. This does not preclude having those needs met but it does mean that the process of working out how to do this requires a great deal of detailed knowledge of both minds."
Internal Cohabitation is referenced in many psychotherapy journal articles, but there are very few mentions of it on free-to-view internet pages. Here is a selection of links to papers, unfortunately none of them free:
Who is the mad voice inside?
(Dr M Sinason, 1993)
Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Vol 7 Part 3
(A longer version of the essay linked to at the top of this post)
Cohabitation and the negative therapeutic reaction
Psychoanalytic psychotherapy Vol 7 Part 3 p 223-39
Clinical application of the concept of Internal Cohabitation
British Journal of Psychotherapy Vol 16 Part 1 p27-42
How can you keep your hair on?
(Sinason, M, 1999)
Publiched in Psychosis (Madness), edited by Paul Williams, Institute of Psychoanalysis, London
Art Therapy And The Concept Of Internal Cohabitation
International Journal of Art Therapy, Volume 9, Issue 1
Living with an internal other: an extended review of psychoanalysis, identity and ideology
Psychotherapy and Politics International, Volume 3 Issue 1
Narcoleptic States in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy
British Journal of Psychotherapy, Volume 11 Issue 4
Psychodynam ic Practice, Special issue, February 2007
Psychodynamic Practice Volume 13, Number 1 - a special issue containing 4 papers and an editorial on the subject of Internal Cohabitation.
Paranoia about the existence of an internal other - a serious clinical and social problem
- A talk given by Dr Sinason at the Tavistock clinic in March 2007.
The talk is not online but this page has a summary of the talks
The most complete free link available is Dr Sinason's essay Who is the Mad Voice Inside?
, the main link at the top of this post.
"I think that the mad voice inside is someone who is conceived at the same time as the patient and shares the same sex as the patient since they share the same body. Living all of his life out of sight and out of the mind of others the cohabiting other mind becomes attached to his isolation and hates to be seen. He never has his own name and will hate any name that anyone gives him. The profound isolation and abandonment which is intrinsic to his experience gives rise to autoerotic preoccupation with bodily sensations and an extreme negativism in relation to the human interpersonal environment. The mind of the cohabiting other is impaired by his preference for relating to body experiences rather than the interpersonal world. This leads to difficulties in language development and emotional processing so that this internal other being has a very different childhood from the patient."
Now, assuming that the Concept of Internal Cohabitation is correct, then bear in mind that while you have been reading this, your co-habiting other mind may also have been reading it, and quite possibly misunderstanding large parts of it on your behalf. So if you are now feeling that this idea is 'crazy', or you are feeling angry or feel like dismissing the whole idea out of hand, it could be that you are experiencing interference from your cohabiting mind.