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Psychodynamics Method and Rene Descartes: September 4, 2023

Psychodynamics therapy is generally known as causal therapy because its first point of therapeutic interest is in the discovery of the cause of the problem rather than an attack on the symptoms of the illness. It is a causal therapy which explores the cause of the manifesting problem because knowing the cause or the origin of the problem helps to eradicate the problem.

It is interesting that the famous French mathematician, philosopher, scientist and scientific eponym Rene Descartes (1596-1650) anticipated the psychodynamics method by about 249 years by his action during his youth which is, sometimes, mistakenly described by some commentators as fetishism. Descartes was not a fetishist.

During his youthful years he had an interesting love life (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, Britannica Library (Adult), Maurice-Nneke 2022, PP234-235; Richard Watson 2002 PP41-42; Rodis-Lewis 1999; Wilhelm Stekel 1952 Vol 1, 2).

During this period of his life, Descartes was very attracted to women with crossed eyes which he saw, at the time, as a sign of great beauty. In his explanation and answer to a direct personal question from Queen Christina of Sweden about love in 1647, Descartes says that when he was young, he loved a girl who had crossed eyes. From then onwards he developed great passion for crossed eyed women. However, when he reflected on it and knew more about it, he recognised it as a defect and not a sign of beauty. His passion for those women ceased the moment he recognised that being crossed eyes was an impairment (Descartes 1647; Rodis-Lewis 1999).

Thus, it is can be seen that Descartes anticipated the causal therapy of psychodynamics, for in knowing the causal factor of his attraction to crossed eyed women, his knowledge and understanding of it enabled him to relinquish his passion for those women.

However, Descartes attraction to women with crossed eye is not fetishism as Wilhelm Stekel describes it (Stekel 1952 Vol 1). The American Psychiatric Association (APA) discusses fetishism in its diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders DSM-IV-TR (2000, PP569-570), DSM5 (2013, PP700-702).

Fetishism is concerned with the problem of sexual arousal and not personal attraction. In a steady or marital relationship, an individual may be attracted to someone without being sexually aroused by that person. This is, usually, the prima facie causal origin of partners having sexual affairs (Maurice-Nneke 2022, 230-235, 300-356). Frank Caprio (1957, PP253-254) describes a case which comprises fetishism and scopophilia. Scopophilia is linked to voyeurism as ways of obtaining sexual pleasure (Maurice-Nneke 2022, PP277-279).

As I said above, Descartes’ love of women with crossed eyes is not fetishism but personal attraction or, more commonly, individual preference. Every person exercises the right of individual preference in choosing one person over another for relationship. It is making a choice between the options that are available in any particular situation. A person might be attracted to an individual with impaired limbs, yet the person may not be aroused to perform the sexual act with the individual unless the individual is dressed in the person’s fetish object.

Descartes love of women with crossed eyes is known as strabismus. It is part of the general condition of Apotemnophilia which affects both men and women (Maurice-Nneke 2022).

What do you think about fetishism, apotemnophilia, in connection with sexual attraction and sexual arousal?


American Psychiatric Association (2013) DSM 5 PP700-702

American Psychiatric Association (2000) DSM 4th Edition, Text Revision, DSM-IV-TR PP569-570

Caprio, Frank (1957) Variations in Sexual Behaviour: A Psychodynamic Study of Deviations in Various Expressions of Sexual Behaviours. PP253-254;

Descartes, Rene (1647) Letter to Queen Christina of Sweden

Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, Britannica Library (Adult)

Maurice-Nneke, Antony (2022) Sex and Psychodynamics Psychiatry. An Introduction to the Psychodynamics of Sexual Health. PP 230-235; PP277-279; 300-356. (Available to buy on Amazons)

Rodis-Lewis, Genevieve (1999) Descartes, His Life and Thought. Cornel University Press

Stekel, Wilhelm (1952) Sexual Aberrations: The Phenomenon of Fetishism in Relation to Sex. Volumes 1 and2 Liveright Publishing Corporation, New York

Watson, Richard (2002) Cogito Ergo Sum. The Life of Rene Descartes. David R. Goldine. Publisher Boston


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