April 22, 2021

"People with psychosomatic illnesses are unfortunate in the fact that their condition offends western ideas not just about illness but who we are...."

"Our minds are airy, ethereal, separate; our bodies are a sort of machine for which the doctor is a mechanic. But... [s]praying water from your eyes in response to bad news is an example of a psychological state causing a physical one. So is the phenomenon of staving off a bout of illness until after you’ve completed an exam or an important piece of work....[S]ufferers from Parkinson’s disease, a physically manifested illness with an identifiable biological cause, respond dramatically to placebos. This means the psychological experience of a physical illness (in this case whether or not you believe you’re being treated) affects the way that illness manifests itself.... Another challenge to our understanding of functional disorders is our individualism. Though universal in human beings, psychosomatic illnesses are rooted in cultures and societies. Resignation syndrome, a disorder that causes children to fall asleep for years, occurs almost exclusively in asylum-seeking families in Sweden. The illness seems to be spread by reports of its existence. In France, you can buy remedies for a common minor syndrome called 'heavy legs' in most pharmacies. No other country seems to experience 'heavy legs.'.... [A] functional disorder called grisi siknis (crazy sickness), which is common among girls of the Nicaraguan Miskito people and causes hallucinations, tremors and superhuman strength, is successfully treated with rituals and the community 'rallying around.' Secular, atomised western society has no equivalent treatment."

From "Let’s end the stigma of psychosomatic illness/Our culture insists disease must have a biological cause but doctors know it isn’t that simple" by James Marriott (London Times). 

Secular, atomised western society has no equivalent treatment? What about congregations praying for the sick? 

Would it be "western" of me to say let's end the use of "western" to mean obsession with... whatever Marriott is using it to mean. It seems to me that we who live in the western longitudes of planet Earth have plenty of scientific and unscientific notions of the brain, roiling around in our brains. And when I look at a map, I see that Nicaragua is just as western as Tennessee and Ohio.


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