This article is the transcript of a lecture originally given in French by Christian Flèche.
"I have no idea what brought you on this website, what made you decide to read this page. What are you curious about and how strong is your curiosity?
At the moment, I don’t know what desire, what need made you come - this is what this lecture is about. It is about this part of us we call desire, need, wish, fancy which urges us to go to such place, to approach such or such person, to buy this book or that one, or to stay alone and watch this show on TV. There’s a desire, a need or both. As far as I am concerned, my wish, my desire is really to offer you the best of my experience, the best I got from each patient; what I offer you is like a big bunch of flowers, it’s all I’ve gathered during the therapy sessions. I’ll do just that.
Let me start with a story.
Story of Eric's Son
Once upon a time, not very far from here actually, there was a beautiful village, which still exists and is just as beautiful, and it will exist as long as man does.
In this village, things happen as they do in every village. Some are beautiful stories, others are tragedies, and there are strange people too. You know, everywhere you can find peculiar people and in this case one of the odd men out, because there are several of them as you will soon discover. One is an instrument-maker. He is called Eric’s son, his father was an instrument-maker as well, an artist, and so were his grand-father, his great grand-father and so on over several generations.
Eric’s son is not an instrument-maker like any other. Eric’s son makes customised instruments. He lives in a house outside the village, next to a cliff. Anyone can go and see him at any time and every time, without fail, Eric’s son will listen to the tragedies, the sadness, the joy for several minutes, even several hours if necessary. Until something happens within him, something blindingly obvious and then he sends the person back home.
People come with their suffering, their wounds,their frustrations, and Eric’s son welcomes them, receives them. Then, when something has moved inside him, something powerful, overpowering even, he sends the person away and asks them to come back in a week, three days or three months for tricky cases. When the person returns, he has made a customized instrument for this particular person.
This means that the person may be facing a sort of chair with strings in the middle, or huge drums made out of beer bottles, or other odd and incongruous contraptions.
The person receives this instrument which suits her, or him. The person goes home and has fun playing his new instrument, which makes fun of their torments. Suddenly, something happens, deep down. There is no point in trying to understand; no one wishes to or needs to anyway. Something gets transformed, gets cured. Thus, in this village and even other villages, people have been coming there for generations, leaving with their small instrument which can be a set of drums, a violin, a piano or any other objects that look like unheard-of instruments. Back to top
This is an unusual story. But where it gets quite interesting, and likely to meet our expectations and our aim, is when one day a young man arrives. He is black and seems to have everything, like all of us. Everything he needs to live, to breathe, to see, to hear, to enjoy life… But there’s emptiness inside him, a weight on his shoulders, in other words, something does not feel right within him. So Eric’s son listens to him for a long time and gives him an appointment.
Three months later, the young man returns and he feels already different. He has been heard, listened to, never judged but welcomed. Already things have been moving inside, he feels more alive. Someone was there for him, for him only. Imagine how it may feel like having someone who does not judge or assess! Just a presence. When this young man comes back three months later, he does not know what to expect.
Eric’s son has followed his inspiration, and in his hands a curious instrument has appeared, made with funny metal tubes which hit a rubber object vaguely resembling a ball. There are also half painted tubes resounding under the hammering of small metal rods. What a strange musical instrument! However its vibration gets through to this young man. As soon as he sees it, as soon as he hears it, something happens inside him, something unexpected for Eric’s son. Eric’s son has put the tone and the semitone in this instrument. He also took the time to get it ready but what he did not expect was the young man’s cry:
“But that’s my bicycle! I recognize the colour of the tubes, I recognize the spokes! I chose the colour and I painted it myself years ago. This bicycle caused me a lot of suffering and I was really happy to get rid of it! What on earth is it doing here?” Back to top
The Big Secret
Eric’s son realised he was in front of someone who had got the meaning of it. Sometimes it is necessary to understand and be smart. The instrument maker was sort of unmasked, so he said,
“I’ll have to tell you my secret.” And just as I want to share with you, he shares with this young man. He tells him,”I’m going to tell you everything and afterwards I’ll ask you a question.”
“You see, on the other side of this hill lies something which, in your ignorance, you call the landfill, the dump or any other names. For generations you have thrown away all kinds of stuff, which are superfluous, useless, which bother or upset you, which are a source of sorrow and suffering. All that stuff accepts its fate and lets itself be transformed by the sun, the moon, the wind. The sun burns and transforms it. At the bottom of the landfill, everything slides down into a hollow, in a subterranean river, and this river rinses, cleanses it. The result of this alchemy ends up behind my house like an offering, a gift, a resource, a remedy, an aid. You see, this bike you have just told me about, which made you suffer, which caused you pain and unhappiness, this very bike has not been finished with you. It still has something for you.”
This is the instrument-maker’s big secret. He does not invent, he does not create; he transforms what is inside the other, what is neglected, what is dreaded.
We do not want to hear about our childhood, we do not want to hear from or see such or such person. Nevertheless, my instrument-maker and my personal experience make me realise that we do not grow by lingering in the well-lit spots, where everything goes well, but by accepting to explore our shadowy, dark corners. It is as if in our wounds, in our pain, was hidden the origin of our suffering and more. Amazingly, the cure itself is concealed inside the disease! Back to top
The Question That "Defeat The Mouth"
I told you earlier, Eric’s son had a question.
-“Now, can I ask you my question?”
Still stunned, the young man replies,
-“Yes, yes, I’m ready!”
The instrument-maker asks,
-“What made you throw it away? Tell me about it. Why did you one day decide to get rid of it?”
The young man replies,
-“It’s because Sigismund came to my house”
-“Did he? Tell me more about Sigismund”
-“Sigismund is the dustman”
-“Really? What does he do?”
-“He goes round all the houses and asks everyone to give him the most repellent, rotten, foulest stuff they have and he takes care of it.”
-“You mean Sigmund! He has changed his first name. He used to be called Sigismund Freud and one day at Malmesan when he was 22, he decided to take the name of one of his masters who was called Sigmund.”
It was real pity, because, as you may know here in Alsace, “mund” means “mouth” and “sigis” means “to defeat”. Therefore this Austrian man who used to live in Vienna years ago was called “to defeat the mouth”. What are the odds when you are the father of psychoanalysis. Even more interesting is the cause of his death: mouth cancer. Isn't his approach to make people talk!
Thus in this village, the man who wanted to allow people to free themselves, to tell their stories through all their wounds and their suffering, has one day come up with a hypothesis - he did use the word hypothesis. He said, “Careful! I have not seen it, nor have I heard about it before. I don’t know what colour the unconscious is. I don’t know whether it’s sweet or savoury. I have not had the opportunity to smell it. It’s only an interesting hypothesis which will allow us to give an account of certain things.”
As when you start with a hypothesis and not a certainty, he humbly suggested the following reading, which concerns all of us because that’s what moves us, makes us react, live, wake up in the morning, get somewhere… That’s what inspires our choices and each respiration, each thought… I name our survival instinct.
Sigmund speaks of this powerful instinct, the life force which is inscribed in plants, animals and whatever lives. This energy as Freud used to call it, which is in each living person. An indomitable energy which pushes to live, to survive, to be, for we want to eat, to breathe, to pee, to breed, to have a territory be known and loved; we want a territory and want to be safe. Every minute, every day we get organised through our jobs, our thoughts so as to satisfy our unconscious biological needs, that’s it! Whatever we do, everything is “organized”. Back to top
I just talked about Sigmund Freud, now here is another man:
this other man in the village could be the blacksmith with his huge hammer, his smithy, all sorts of instruments, spearheads, scalpels and plenty more. He completed what the dustman was saying. His name is Dr Hamer and he suggests that this life force, as I call it, this survival instinct is nothing else but the sum of the needs of each of our cells.
We are made of a body. This body is made of organs, themselves made of cells. Each of these cells wants to live, to survive, to catch oxygen, sugar, amino acids, to eliminate urea, creatinine, waste… Every part of our body works in this way to help the rest survive. Therefore this life force is the sum of our needs: to catch oxygen, food, a man or a woman, a job, money, knowledge. Each organ will catch something specific to satisfy its need: our brain, our neurons catch information; our bladder needs landmarks, our heart a territory, our lungs a space, etc. Each cell will meet its biological needs, because life is essentially biological. It becomes psychological by accident, but it is biological by essence.
And everything would be fine if like the bonobos we had available males or females at any time, knowing that some of these monkeys are gay. All is well as long as we are provided a sexual partner, food, safety… If we were bonobos living on an island, we would meet our biological needs for survival until...
Until what Freud brilliantly and wisely describes as the superego comes in. When does this superego shows up? Early in our childhood when we are confronted with taboos, education, etc. At school you are expected to raise your hand. At home, your parents will impose rules which will interfere with our biological reality.
A new-born though is exempted from those codes of conduct. He can poo on his mother’s laps, wee, throw up on the priest when christened. If it wants to fart, it does so. There is no judgement, no culture. The bonobos, the cats and other species fart too, there is no negative meaning to it, it’s just biological! I want to expel this air which is in this particular place, so I just do it. Back to top
When Culture Defines our Diseases
Our familial culture, our social culture, and later our personal culture will “brew” inside us. It will give us rules, laws, morals so that the group is organized. In kindergarden, you raise your hand if you want to wee, you do not throw up all over your classmate, you do not pull your sister’s hair, you do not gouge out your younger brother’s eyes, since these violent impulses found in some animals can also be found in human beings. You are allowed to say you hate him but you cannot gouge his eyes out with a pair of scissors and eat them with peas, it is not done.
Therefore codes will be instilled and this culture penetrates our subconscious, our unconscious mind, like something initially external, superficial, white, which becomes somewhat intermediary, and then permeates the darkness of our inner being.
At that point all distance is abolished. Obviously we put our hand in front of our mouths when we cough, we do not cough all over our neighbour and so on. We do not wonder, there is no distance, no critical appraisal, there is just this blinding evidence, thus we do not see anything and we become part of this.
We do not make certain gestures, we do not use certain fingers - this one is all right, no one will feel offended by it, but not that one. We have been taught this, but why am I allowed to show this finder and not this one? Why will that one cause offence? This culture has infused inside us: I’m not saying this is good or bad. At this stage, I am merely observing. Why is this notion of internalization so important? Because it will allow us to understand all diseases, all symptoms, for when a precise and specific impulse is censored, then it’s returned to sender, back to the subject. Back to top
I’m thinking of a man who quickly recovered from cystitis. This man had been getting up during the night for 25 years; he had a bladder problem. He would get up every night to pee and would go back to bed. For 25 years his upstairs neighbour would often wake up during the night, put some music on and dance with his wife. Each time his neighbour would dance, his feelings were that someone was encroaching on his private space, his territory. At that moment, he was feeling as if an intruder was dancing on his bed and his archaic biological program activated the bladder to urinate as animals do to delineate their territory. Whether it’s a hyena, a dog, or a lion, they pee all around their territory to say to others, “Beyond this limit, it’s my place!”
So at this precise moment, each time someone was trespassing his boundaries, he restrained himself from going and knocking at his neighbour’s door. He did not give vent to his impulses, this need to mark the limits of his territory. Nevertheless, he expressed his feelings through his bladder and it triggered a cystitis, which lasted until he relived his emotions during a therapy session.
The morning following the session, he realised he had slept through out the night like a baby. He had not woken up to go to the bathroom - same thing the night after and the following nights. A week later, annoyed at being cured so easily, he decided to drink three glasses of water before going to bed. He could not believe it, his beliefs regarding healing were challenged. The next morning he woke up with a full bladder; he did not wake up during the night because the biological program “I need to mark my territory, to set up my boundaries” had gone away." Back to top
We have a need, an impulse just like this woman who had been suffering from rhinitis for over 20 years. She would sneeze and have a runny nose in a very specific situation. All her symptoms vanished as soon as she evoked the particular situation.
She had been married for 25 years and her personal space was the kitchen. She loved cooking especially for her husband whom she loves. But when he enters the kitchen and asks, “What’s for dinner, darling?”, he is in her space and she wants to kick him out. But since it is his house too she does not dare to tell him and upset him. She represses this urge to send him out. It’s like a gnat tickling a bull’s nose. A little thing that gets on her nerves, that bothers her, she says about her husband. A trifle that annoys her, and which she wishes to push away. The way she feels about her husband is nasal, and this is how she will be able to vent her feelings, by sneezing, since she has not been able to express them otherwise.
Each organ has its specific biological needs. The nose, for instance, eliminates anything inconvenient. The bladder delineates one’s territory. When one’s need is not met, it will be repressed. As Freud described it, it will locked inside another free space, in the form of compensation, derivation, sublimation, etc. All this is explained in his work. In other word, if I can’t use the door to go out, I will use the window. If I can use neither the door nor the window, I will use the chimney. If I can’t use any of those, I will escape through my thoughts, etc.
When my husband disturbs or my neighbour annoys me, I have a sort of urge inside me, a self-preservation impulse which is very specific and biological and which has to get out. It will “get out” or express itself according to the biological feeling, the way I have coded the event. Back to top
Here is another fascinating and therapeutic stage which helps us understand ourselves or the other and move forward. Whatever happens will be encoded biologically. The man whose neighbour was playing music upstairs, encoded the event with his bladder; he experienced it with his bladder, he lived it with his bladder. Another person may have experienced it differently. Indeed, his wife did not have any bladder problem, she went deaf. She felt the noise was assaulting her.
Each of us will respond through a part of their body, their being, their biological and even psychological feeling, but first of all their physical reality. When we hear some bad news our intestines may contract, our legs may shake, our heart may speed up… And good news will have the same effect!
We respond biologically. As an example, if you give a lion the two finger salute, it will not mind, this has no meaning for it, it will not respond. Similarly if you show a child a running gazelle, he will not salivate as a lion would. This shows how we biologically encode our environment, we biologically identify it, we give it a biological meaning.
Every time something happens, a car driving straight at you for instance, you give it a biological meaning,” I am in danger” or something else. If you are being fired or insulted, you give it a biological meaning and therefore you are going to experience this through one of your organs. This organ, this impulse, this self preservation drive is trying to express itself. At that point, when there is a taboo, societal correctness, education... this will not only be repressed but also be linked to something else. Back to top
A Child's Response
I’m thinking of a young girl coming back from school, a bit earlier than usual. She opens the door and sees her father naked in the living room with a woman. He is cheating on his wife. Both lovers are in a middle of something incredibly violent for the teenager. Her father asks her not to say anything, to keep quiet to prevent a divorce. She answers, “I did not see anything, there’s nothing to it, nothing at all!”
She conceals all this and even forgets about it. Years later she will look for the source of her current illness. She will realise that she had blanked it out until this very moment. I can’t express it, and I can’t go on being harassed by this memory which is like an energy, an impulse, a violent urge inside me that I need to express. But since I am not allowed to do so, there will be repression, amnesia, total anaesthesia. It will express itself through a symptom.
What was her symptom? What was her feeling when she realized her father was cheating on his wife, her mother? At that moment, it was “I’m afraid Mom and Dad are going to separate, and if they do so, it will be because of me telling on Dad. Because I have discovered this secret, this sexual relationship outside marriage, the marriage is in jeopardy, and I don’t want them to separate.”
This is how she felt it, how she experienced it at that moment; another child might have reacted differently! For her, she needs her parents’ touch, and contact is ensured by the skin, the mucous membranes. She has this biological need to be touched and then she witnesses this situation. She bottles her feelings up in a way that she will present a pathology of the skin on three fingers: the little finger which represents the secret and family secrets; the ring finger, which wears the wedding ring and represents partnership and sexuality; and the middle finger which represents sexuality.
She will develop eczema which corresponds to a separation conflict. She will have eczema at 48, the age her father was when she caught him out. When she reaches 48 she restarts her biology, connects to this story and will suffer from eczema during several years. At that moment, when she remembers that event, the consistency of this event, the emotion surrounding this event, its biological feeling (even though at a certain level, all this is over: her parents may be dead or divorced or something. In any case, the situation feels different from what it is when you are a teenager or a child). Nevertheless this part of herself had remained frozen in her unconscious, had become autonomous and had stopped growing. Once she had got back in touch with it she got cured in a few days.
Thus we have to submit to information, to unforeseen incidents, unexpected happenings. That’s normal, this is most commonly part of life. We may feel like we need oxygen and then we take a deep breath. Or we may suffer an episode of hypoglycaemia and we get some food. We may also have to face stronger biological shocks in the rough and tumble of life: lay-off, divorce, insults... Like for this woman whose neighbour had poisoned her flowers, then her pets. Finally he tried to poison her. Rather violent, I agree, but these things do happen.
And all this information will be biologically coded so that we can give it meaning, life. If I mention nitrogen, phosphorus or potassium to you, you may not feel much concerned about it. Now if I communicate with a geranium and I tell it that it won’t get any potassium anymore, it may start crying. Potassium is meaningful in the biological reality of a geranium.
So I will code that thing which will stimulate such or such organ and will trigger a need that I will try to express or satisfy in various ways: through getting a job, or leaving the conflict “I don’t want my parents to separate” behind me. Back to top
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
I’m thinking of a child whose parents were actually divorcing - really nice, cool parents who told her:
“Look, we love you, we want you to be happy”.
Her father said: “Don’t feel like you have to stay with me; if you wish to go with your mother, do it. I will understand perfectly if you prefer your mother and you don’t love me. No need to worry about me.”
Then her mother said: “I don’t want you to worry either, if you wish to go with your father. There’s an agreement between us, there is absolutely no problem. Look, here are some presents...”
The daughter feels like she has no choice, because she loves them both and both are telling her, ”If you go to your father’s, it’s because you don’t love your mother and vice versa”. This girl can’t choose and she needs to go somewhere! In this double constraint, there is no way-out. “Wherever I go, the other one will be miserable” so she will develop multiple sclerosis. The legs are involved in this case. You tell your legs to go to different places at the same time. At that moment, there is a double motor and neuromotor constraint. She can’t exteriorize it and therefore it will be fought back according to the connection and association to cultural elements, like the fingers I have just mentioned. Back to top
Universal and Personal Meaning of a Disease
Among cultural elements we can mention the filter of social culture. I talked about fingers as linked to sexual difficulties, or to marriage. However in certain countries people don’t necessarily wear wedding rings on the same finger or don’t even wear any at all. Therefore, in case of marital problem, the symptom may affect another finger or another part of the body. Hence the importance to mention personal history.
I’m thinking of this man who had suffered paralysis of his fingers. During the war in Algeria, he was forced to kill Algerians people when he did not want to. But he had to otherwise he would have been killed. So he got paralyzed. He killed a man who he did not want to kill and his three fingers got paralyzed. These fingers are not connected to his ego, his judgment or his sexuality; this is not a matter of European culture but of his personal history and feelings.
This is why each disease has a universal and personal side. For all of us, the skin is made to touch and be touched, the nerves are made to transmit information to the muscles and receive sensations. For all of us, whether it’s a chimpanzee or a human being living in America or in Asia, it works the same way. For everyone, the eyes are made to see and be seen since we look into each other’s eyes. Therefore each and every disease is both universal and deeply personal – a uniqueness with this notion of borrowing from the long brewed family culture we are immersed in.
When an event takes place, it is “associated” and will be expressed either through illness or through various behaviours: jobs, habits, tastes, activities, dreams, language, slips of the tongue, even mental illness. These will represent many opportunities for this inner reality, this inner conflict to express itself.
Where Freud speaks about slips of the tongue or subconsciously deliberate mistakes, biological decoding will find the link to the organs or cells.
What I suggest when practicing Biodecoding® is hearing the word being said with the patient’s mouth, the patient’s body or the patient’s gestures: which organ is actually expressing itself?
I’m thinking of a patient coming to me for the first time. It was raining that day and she said:
“The surface of the highway to Aix is better than that to Marseilles.” I was wondering what she was talking about. What do I care about the highway’s surface? At the same time she was talking about herself, she was telling me something hidden. Somewhat surprised I said to her, “Please, have a seat. Why do I have the pleasure of meeting you?”
She replied, “I have eczema!”
Interesting, she had a surface problem: the skin is what covers our surface. So she was already talking about herself without being aware of it. Back to top
I’m thinking of another woman with Parkinson’s disease, when finally she decided to tell me about an “event” she ever told anyone else before. I asked, “How did you feel at that moment?”
She replied, “I was shaken, badly shaken”.
For the first time she was able to use a different means to express what she had felt. She used words instead of her body. This means a lot in therapy. Back to top
What is Therapy?
For me there are two levels: the first one entails going along with the direction of the conflict, with the meaning of the problem. For instance, people with gum disease have not had the right to speak. Their opinion had no weight, no value in their family or their environment, so their gums recede. If these people go and see a therapist who listens to them for years, well, they feel better, except that the therapist unwillingly aids and abets the problem i.e he strengthens the belief which is “You really need to be heard” and “Not listening to you was wrong!”
These persons will be like held hostage, because they will be dependent on the therapy and the therapist. They have suffered, nobody listened to them and so they go to the therapist to get listened to. Others who have been poisoned by a toxic mother or a really indigestible family may visit a nutritionist, in other words, a person who will validate their belief that, “one needs to control what one is eating” because of this memory “I had to swallow humiliations” or “my mom was toxic”. As a consequence I will control all my food and what comes with it. At some level, the person reinforces her whims within her suffering. She is basically told, “You’re right, people are nasty or guilty” or something like that.
Conversely I will prioritise giving them another space for their needs to be expressed outside of their body so that the body is free from the responsibility to express them. For example, the need for acknowledgement corresponds to the rectum in biological terms; the need for security may correspond to the pulmonary cells or the larynx; the need to be accepted may correspond to the salivary glands or the stomach; the need for contact or to be touched may correspond to the skin; etc…
During the therapy, I will therefore open up a space other than the body. I told you earlier, the body is the only space available when you are not able to express your needs with your words. So when the person has not been able to express with their words the need to be satisfied, it’s the therapist’s responsibility to offer another space which the unconscious uses right away.
The unconscious is extremely eager to express itself; this is what it does all day long through our hand gestures, our hand-writing, through our dreams, the tone of our voice, our symptoms, etc. The expression of this biological (and not psychological) unconscious manifests everywhere. The space offered during the Biodecoding® sessions is also to welcome the complaints. For example, someone who keeps coughing does not feel like coughing; instead something makes him cough. The questions to ask are “What makes me cough?”, “What is it I can’t say or express differently?” The idea is to get in touch with these biological needs using different techniques to access them.
This is a simple and concise way to reach the secret behind the symptom. There’s another way more radical but more valuable in my opinion, so I tend to bring it first. It consists of letting go emotionally, basically and primarily. Back to top
Let’s do an exercise to get the concept of opening up the space. I suggest you sit comfortably and go inside of yourselves, with your eyes open, half-open or closed, whichever is more comfortable for you to interiorize. Go inside because there is a good person inside you who may want some attention right now.
Allow yourself to find out about the meaning of your needs. What do you need? What is important to you? Do not think about it? Just let it materialise. Welcome this simple instantaneous reality. What do you need right now? What are you missing? What would be good, desirable for you immediately? What do you experience as good, necessary, vital or pleasant? What have you not yet allowed yourself to welcome, to feel, to acknowledge? Just become aware of this for a moment, just for yourself. What is it that feels good, useful or vital? You may never have expressed it and though it’s right here. You can now value it, listen to it, speak about it. And free a part of your body. Back to top