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The concept of disorganization is not specifically Freudian. It is part of a semantic field that constitutes one of the contemporary currents of psychoanalysis, namely the psychosomatic economy of Pierre Marty. It refers to a set of mental transformations, which at each step cause the psychic apparatus to lose its structures of meaning and reduce its capacity for impulse expression.

We find similar concepts in Freud, primarily in his work on actual and traumatic neurosis. In 1894, in Manuscript E on anxiety (1950a), and in 1895, in his article, "Detaching a Syndrome of Anxiety Neurosis from Neurasthenia" (1895b), he created a new classificatory entity, anxiety neurosis, for which he provided a clinical description and formulated a psychological hypothesis. His hypothesis involves a breakdown in the connection between somatic sexual excitation and "thing representations" in the unconscious. The first anxiety theory postulates the accumulation of somatic sexual excitation. Among the psychic obstacles to somatopsychic communication, Freud gives three possible mechanisms: repression, the difference between somatic sexuality and psychic sexuality, and degradation (of the libido). This last mechanism can be compared to the concept of disorganization. In 1920, in his essay, Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920g), Freud developed his economic hypotheses concerning traumatic neurosis. He states that, faced with the traumatic irruption, "Cathectic energy is summoned from all sides to provide sufficiently high cathexes of energy in the environs of the breach. An 'anticathexis' on a grand scale is set up, for whose benefit all the other psychical systems are impoverished, so that the remaining psychical functions are extensively paralysed or reduced" (p. 30).

Since Freud we have come to understand actual neurosis as one of the modalities of traumatic neurosis, and its psychoanalytic study is a major component of the analysis of psychosomatic behavior.

In 1967, in an article titled "Régression et instinct de mort: Hypothèsesà propos de l'observation psychosomatique," Marty systematically described for the first time the two major processes of somatization: the path of regression and the path of progressive disorganization. While the process of somatization through regression culminates in reversible "crises," the process of somatization through progressive disorganization leads to progressive illnesses that can result in death. This last process is supported, according to Marty, by the action of the death instinct and is generally accompanied by depression and an externalized mode of existence.

In Les mouvements individuels de vie et de mort in 1976 and in L'ordre psychosomatique in 1980, Marty situated the concept of disorganization within the general framework of his theory of individual evolution, which refers to the counter-evolutionary movement caused by the precedence of the death drive over the life drive. This apparent precedence is generated by a traumatic context that has an impact on what is generally the psychic organization of character. The process of disorganization is generally made possible by the lack of points of fixation capable of serving as psychic and somatic obstacles. Consequently, the concept of disorganization is distinct from that of regression, with its points of fixation, or attachment.

Claude Smadja

See also: Disintegration, feelings of, (anxieties); Essential depression; Mentalization; Psychogenesis/organogenesis; Psychosomatic; Regression; Traumatic neurosis.


Freud, Sigmund. (1895b). Detaching a syndrome of anxiety neurosis from neurasthenia. SE, 3: 0-115.

. (1920g). Beyond the pleasure principle.SE, 18: 7-64.

. (1950a [1887-SE, 1: 173-280.

Marty, Pierre. (1967) Régression et instinct de mort: Hypothèsesà propos de l'observation psychosomatique. Revue française de psychanalyse, 30, (5-6), pp. 1113-1126.

. (1976). Les Mouvements individuels de vie et de mort, vol. I, Essai d'économie psychosomatique. Paris: Payot, "Sciences de l'homme."

. (1980). Les Mouvements individuels de vie et de mort, vol. II, L'Ordre psychosomatique. Paris: Payot, "Sciences de l'homme."