The Mosaic Condition

a psychological representation of a genetic disorder

© Arnold Holtzman, Ph.D. (2001)


Identifying Feature:
In the inset at the right we find a triangular configuration in the dermal texture of the hand. This convergence of dermatoglyphic ridges from three directions is called a triradius, and there would be a triradius at the base of each finger. These are identified as "a", "b", "c" and "d". At the very base of the palm, at "t", (often too faint to be seen) would be another. Sometimes the "t" triradius is displaced. Medical/genetic clinicians would find particular significance when this displacement reaches the area of the encircled cross. Where the displaced "t" is seen in the area shown as "t1" (t one) - which is seen magnified in the inset - the implications may not be critical in a medical context but would be very meaningful in any psychological assessment of the individual.

he Mosaic Condition is a genetic phenomenon where any tissue in a body may contain a genetic program which is in some way different from the original program. We have been taught that the genetic content of all the cells of an organism, whether plant or animal, is identical. In theory the genetic program in any one cell should be able to produce an exact duplicate, or clone, of the original organism. In reality this is not always so. Sometimes there occurs a population of cells with discrepancies between their genetic configuration and those singular to the host organism. It has even been discovered that the responsible agent for a range of disorders, including simple moles, is with what geneticists have identified as somatic mosaicism and germinal mosaicism.

However, the medical and genetic expressions of mosaicism (when the displaced "t" is in the area of the circled cross) are not our central concern here. Those who suffer the more serious manifestations of this condition would very likely have attracted medical attention and their circumstances assessed clinically. Our specific interest in this dermatoglyphic construction is when we find the displacement of this triradius somewhat lower, nearer the "t1" area, and sometimes lower still.

To understand the psychological implications of the triradius "t1" it would be helpful if we visualize how any organism reacts to the implantation of organic material which it identifies as foreign to itself. In plant life if one attempted to graft a bud from a citrus tree onto the rootstock of an apple tree the rootstock would reject the graft. The same with human beings. The successful grafting of tissue, or more complex organ transplants, remains very uncertain even with the administration of drugs geared to repress the mechanisms of rejection. We may think in terms of an agitation which sets in when the organism seeks to rid itself of this foreign matter.

This "agitation" creates an inner psychical environment where the sense of balance, or homeostasis, is lost. In the complex of mechanisms aimed at supporting the wellbeing of an individual, the drive to attain and sustain a state of homeostasis is, understandably, of central importance. It informs the body when this balance has been upset, and further identifies whatever may restore this balance. For example, when a person is hungry the gravitation to a homeostatic state would motivate the individual to seek food. The same with tiredness and sleep.

Where we find the "t" setting displaced to the general area of the "t1" position we encounter a circumstance where the body, seeking to achieve a homeostatic state, finds it cannot. The presence of genetic material which is essentially foreign to the body gives rise to a manner of agitation not unlike what we would expect with an organ transplant. The body would seek to reject this foreign material, except that in this instance the "foreign" material is an inherent quantity in the body chemistry. The state of homeostasis becomes unattainable, but the individual would have no way of knowing that his, or her, inner disquiet originates from within.

As a rule it doesn't take long before this person "identifies" the adjustments he, or she, must effect to achieve a homeostatic balance. The person becomes convinced that the disturbance is the result of a wrong career, or wrong marriage, wrong place of employment perhaps, wrong friends, wrong home, wrong city, wrong whatever. In each of these instances the individual comes to focus on a visible, definable circumstance originating in his, or her, external world dimension. Predictably, the person would then initiate changes believing these changes would deliver the much sought for sense of balance and equanimity. There follows a period of adjustment which may not always be fluid, but at the end of it all there remains a pervading sense of discomfort along with the recognition that the state of homeostasis has not been attained. Back at square one, as it were, the individual soon "identifies" another circumstance as responsible for the inner disquiet and the process is repeated.

Inasmuch as the Mosaic Condition may be visualized as problematic and stressful, an awareness of its dynamics permits not only a comfortable accommodation of its effects but may, in some instances, contribute to substantial life achievements. The critical expression of this circumstance is the drive to effect change and realize adjustments. If the focus of these changes is with a profession which accommodates changes and adjustments, or where such are inherent features of that profession, we may then expect that the other dimensions of this person's life (home, family, marriage) may enjoy a very real stability and sense of continuity.

The worst possibility and one which will almost certainly disrupt the fluid continuity of one's life would be a profession where the work done yesterday will be duplicated by the work done today and every other day. In this context we may find accountants, teachers, sales people, computer programmers, bank clerks, shopkeepers, even doctors and most civil servants. These are but a few examples. At the other end of the spectrum however, where the Mosaic Condition may even constitute a manner of motivational chemistry, we may find the lawyer who encounters a new challenge with each new client. Ditto for the private investigator and the police detective. Consider too the hotel employee who starts off working in the front office, and moves from there a few months later to Food & Beverage, from there to Manpower, or Sales, and from there to some other department. The experience garnered would normally have this individual gravitate to higher level management positions in the most natural and fluid manner. Many architects with their own offices may be included here. Where most people would prefer the familiar to the unfamiliar, these people thrive on change and the need to adjust. It should not be too difficult, therefore, for the therapist, or career counsellor, upon encountering an instance of the Mosaic Condition to evaluate their client's immediate work environment in the context of these criteria.

The therapist must appreciate that this is an entirely deterministic quantity. It cannot lend itself to modification and no manner of intervention can free the individual of its often insidious effects. It must be approached as something which must be understood and accommodated and not as something which must be overcome. The position of the displaced triradius "t1" probably has no significance in a genetic or medical context, but it would have the first order of significance in any comprehensive analysis of personality.


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