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Friday, April 3, 2009

It's the Thought That Counts II

So, as promised a couple of days ago, the American Psychosomatic Institute.

In fact, it's really not funny.  The organization of mental health professionals is, according to its website (clickworthy), "Dedicated to the Integration of Biological, Psychological and Social Factors in Medicine."  In other words, they study the effect that the mind has on the body--an effect whose existence few would deny.  Fair enough.  And check out the titles of presentations at their upcoming conference: "Biopsychosocial Outcomes of Cancer Patients: Risk and Protective Factors" and "Hypertension: The Role of Environmental Stress, Genetics, and Individual Differences in Etiology, Prevention and Treatment." Honestly, the most promising title (from the perspective of one in search of things ridiculous) is "Effects of Couple Conflict in the Laboratory on Salivary Alpha Amylase."  One envisions the Bickering Bickersons pausing to drool into test tubes at regular intervals.  Overall, one must conclude that this is an organization of psychiatric heavy hitters, not to be trifled with.

Still, we'll do our best.

Part of the problem stems from a misconception that the Solipsist probably shares with many laymen: that psychosomatic illness is synonymous with hypochondria.  It is not.  A psychosomatic illness is just that, an illness.  If a man suffers from, say, hysterical blindness, then he CAN NOT SEE.  And while there may be no clear physical cause of this condition, the fact that the man's brain (or, if you prefer, mind) is telling him that he can't see is enough to render him sightless.  A hypochondriac, on the other hand, is your basic Aunt Rifke, moaning and groaning about her impending doom, all the while living to the age of 97.

So one can rationally understand a mental-health specialist who devotes himself to the former cases.  And yet there's still something goofy sounding about a convention dedicated to people who specialize in the study of something that, in SOME sense, doesn't exist.  It's like having a convention dedicated to minotaurs.  Or Star Trek.


OK, never mind that.  It's like. . . .  Well, it's like having a great artist who devotes himself to the restoration of forgeries.  Even if a forged Rembrandt is really beautiful, it's still not a Rembrandt.  Why spend your time trying to fix it up?

Ah, but this leads us discursively to question the value of authenticity: Is a fake Rembrandt that looks as beautiful as a real Rembrandt not, in fact, a work of art?  What's in a name?  A rose by any other name would smell as sweet!  (Hey, that's pretty good: Is someone getting all this?)  And by this reasoning, is one who devotes himself to the restoration of "fake" patients not a medical artist in his own right?

Well, yes.

So the Solipsist--who is nothing if not a humanitarian--is hereby pledging to devote himself to the care of sufferers of psychosomatic illness.  Not the PSYCHOLOGICAL care, mind you: He's not qualified for that.  No, the Solipsist will provide his medical services.  He will prepare fine poultices of grape juice and ginger ale and prescribe them to his semi-suffering followers.  He will bandage intact flesh, and bind healthy bones.  It's the least he can do to assist the psychological saviors in our midst.

Hey, when it comes to psychosomatic illness, it really is the thought that counts.

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