Fasting seems to take five main forms. The first type is found in most traditional religions where specific calendar days or portions of days are set aside for fasting. This type of fasting helps to honor and identify with a religious figure, past events within a religion, or people for whom the religion expresses concern—e.g. the poor.
Fasting on specific calendar days is also said to bring one closer to God. This kind of regular fast sets up the proper conditions for atonement and the expression of gratitude. And some religious people fast to commemorate the dead—that is, mourning and fasting go hand in hand within many faith traditions.
Another type of fasting is found in orthodox religions, particularly Catholicism, where a spiritual aspirant (such as a nun or monk) obtains special permission from a superior to fast in order to mortify natural desires and become closer to God. This arguably isn’t so different from fasting on predetermined calendar days, except that it’s an individualistic instead of a communal fast.
A third type of fasting occurs in other forms of spirituality, such as shamanism and Asian mysticism. Here the practitioner, usually a Shaman, Lama or Guru takes it upon him or herself to abstain from eating to repel or purge evil spirits, become cleansed of spiritual pollution and, in the process, attain higher levels of realization.
Fasting in this instance is usually regarded as a sacrifice that benefits a teacher-healer. It also enables the healer to better help other souls that are still fettered by sin and ignorance.
This healer-disciple approach is not entirely different from Christian teaching and practice. Advanced Christian saints like Faustina Kowalska fasted regularly and apparently “took the sins” of others.
In the New Testament Jesus says some demons can only be purged through a combination of prayer and fasting.
But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21).
However, the Christian saint would never take personal responsibility while interceding for others. All glory and honor is always given to God. By way of contrast, in some non-Christian traditions the teacher is said to be equal to God or God on Earth.
A fourth and more contemporary type of fasting is found when special (usually berry) drinks are taken within a proscribed plan to apparently improve one’s health and sense of well-being. This type of medical/scientific fasting arguably is not qualitatively different from more spiritually-based fasts.
But the conceptual framework concerning cause and effect differs among modern and traditional fasts.
The contemporary medical fast emphasizes physiology, health and biological cleansing, while traditional fasts look to spiritual powers, self-discipline and the purification of the soul.
A fifth type of fasting is political, usually but not always with religious overtones. These types of fasts, also known as a hunger strike, are taken to draw attention to some severe social problem or injustice. In some instances, force feeding by authorities can be a legal procedure.¹
- Fasting Made Me Angry (calvinvoices.wordpress.com)
- Thursday Thoughts: Fasting and Following (jimkane.wordpress.com)
- Guru (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Letter to God: Anagarika eddie and Michael Clark on Interfaith Unity (epages.wordpress.com)
- The Biltrix of Fasting on Fish (biltrix.com)
- Lenten Reflection 2012: Retreating into the wilderness with Jesus, Day 12. (vinodjohn.wordpress.com)
- Everyone, Catholic or Not, Should Fast for Lent (thegreatone22.wordpress.com)
- Tough Issues of Christianity – Fasting (ptl2010.com)
- The Christian fast (godguysandgirls.wordpress.com)
- Living life in the fast lane (newstatesman.com)
Internet Addiction is a term created in response to a relatively new psychosocial phenomenon, that of compulsive internet use. It may involve pornography, hacking, harassment, stalking and other unsavory activities. It may also entail an excessive use of social media, chat forums and the abuse of educational sites.
According to contemporary pop psychologists, internet use becomes a compulsion when the user finds that their activity makes them more unhappy and unduly interferes with their jobs or family life.
Internet addiction can arise as a compulsive, non-therapeutic escape from dealing with real personal problems, loneliness being just one of them. However, the American Psychiatric Association has not formally included it as a disorder specific to itself:
In 2006, the American Medical Association declined to recommend to the American Psychiatric Association that they include IAD as a formal diagnosis in DSM-V, and recommended further study of “video game overuse.” Some members of the American Society of Addiction Medicine opposed identifying Internet overuse and video game overuse as disorders. Among the research identified as necessary is to find ways to define “overuse” and to differentiate an “Internet addiction” from obsession, self-medicating for depression or other disorders, and compulsion.¹
Moreover, it would be a fallacy to say that all regular and heavy internet users are escaping reality or avoiding unresolved problems. In fact, the whole question of the legitimacy of the internet as a kind of new community type is now being reexamined, especially with the success of YouTube and other social media.
In the past, excessive TV watching hit the news headlines. Now it’s the internet. No doubt the next revolutionary technology that captures the imagination of many and compels us to relate in new ways will be demonized by those who don’t understand the importance of change. But again, like anything, too much of a good thing can ruin it, just as the perversion of a good thing can turn it into a bad thing. So the term internet addiction is by no means spurious.
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- Doctors Redefine Sexual Behavior Addictions (marnia.scienceblog.com)
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- Internet Porn – Can It Be Addictive? (everydayhealth.com)
In her book Illness as Metaphor (1978), Susan Sontag argued, not unlike Michel Foucault, that contemporary ways of approaching and understanding illness are intricately linked to societal norms. Huston Smith, in Beyond the Postmodern Mind (1982), also contends that current views about illness are culture-bound.
Other cultures, particularly those located in different historical periods, would probably regard as abnormal some contemporary beliefs, ideas and practices which many today see as normal.
This kind of argument is often used in relation to mental illness (and an inverse argument is often used with regard to homosexuality and polygamy¹), but Sontag (and Foucault) point out that it also applies to physical illness.
As with mental illness, bias with physical illness is evident in the way the issue is construed—i.e. the apparent causes, the best course of treatment, and what an illness supposedly signifies about a sick person’s moral character.
Related Posts » Aesculapius, Athleticism, Castanada (Carlos), Demons, DSM-IV-TR, Evil, Francis of Assisi (St.), Homeopathy, Jung (Carl Gustav), Koestler (Arthur), Laing (R. D.), Madness, Medicine Wheel, Occam’s razor, Shaman, Soul Loss, Spiritual Attack, Suicide, Szasz (Thomas), Venial Sin
¹ That is, other cultures, particularly those located in different historical periods, would probably regard as normal some contemporary beliefs, ideas and practices which many today see as abnormal. For instance, many in the ancient world believed that illness was caused by spiritual attack. Today, this belief would probably be uncritically dismissed by medical science.
- 38% Of Europeans Are Mentally Ill [Research Study] (inquisitr.com)
- Nearly 40 percent of Europeans suffer mental illness (theextinctionprotocol.wordpress.com)
- Study: 60% of Europeans Have Mental Disorders (weeklyworldnews.com)
- U.S. Adult Mental Illness Surveillance Report (cdc.gov)
- Mental Illness Affects Half Of All Americans During Their Lifetime (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Nearly 40 percent of Europeans suffer mental illness – Yahoo! News (underpaidgenius.com)
- Foucault, Oxford bibliographies online (2011) (foucaultnews.wordpress.com)
- Half of Americans Have Mental Health Problems, But Why? (blisstree.com)
- 40% of Europeans Are Mentally Ill (newser.com)
- 40% of Europeans Are Mentally Ill. (reuters.com)
Some contemporary discourse about so-called mental illness arguably simplifies this complex physiological, psychological, sociological, spiritual and perhaps evolutionary issue.
Undoubtedly, individuals suffer who find themselves significantly different from the cultural norms in which they live. And sometimes this suffering escalates or develops into behavior patterns that their society deems deviant, in the negative sense, and not just different, in the non-judgmental sense.
In addition, the afflicted individuals, themselves, often see it this way. But several questions remain open to interpretation and debate:
- Why are these individuals different?
- Why do they suffer?
- What does it mean?
Spiritually based answers from various world traditions tend to focus on ideas of sin, taking another’s sins, intercession, impurity, spiritual attack (or ‘spiritual warfare’), obsession, possession, evil, ignorance, deception, curses, spiritual pollution, karma and karma transfer.
Sociological perspectives include factors such as cross-cultural norms, economic disparity, gender, race, violence, hypocrisy, corruption and the role of social power in defining so-called mental illness as an illness, per se.
Psychological studies tend to focus on a person’s genetic predisposition (nature) and his or her social conditioning (nurture).
Biological accounts emphasize factors like genetics, physiology, diet, environmental pollution and possible substance abuse.
The Catholic view tends to outline a combination of current scientific and traditionally understood spiritual beliefs. In fact, Catholics try to distinguish among redemptive suffering, avoidable suffering and suffering due to mental illness. Whether or not they’re always successful in getting it right here is a matter open to debate.
The Catholic catechism also defines certain lifestyle choices and their related behaviors as “grave disorders” and sometimes as “perversions,” which may include the concepts of sin, nature, nurture, as well as negative spiritual influences–that is, the invisible influence of Satan. Two good examples of this are homosexuality and masturbation, which for the Vatican are both unacceptable.
In actual practice, which arguably is not always the same as an official teaching, it seems that some priests and Catholic writers lean toward their spiritual tradition by emphasizing the idea of ‘spiritual warfare,’ while other Catholics emphasize a biogenetic or developmental aetiology for so-called mental illness.
Other leading figures combine several approaches, which seems most sensible.
More recently, the importance of the idea of mental injury in contrast to mental illness has arisen. The notion of ‘injury’ seems to connote a greater possibility for full recovery, while the sociologist Erving Goffman says that the tag ‘illness’ stigmatizes individuals. Moreover, Goffman says institutionalized treatments may involve not just a potential cure but, on the down side, a “destruction of life chances.”¹
Futurists and visionaries tend to focus on the interpretive aspect of the phenomenon of mental illness. If someone, for example, really does receive other people’s thoughts but grows up in a culture that doesn’t understand nor accept this ability, they might feel unhappy and perhaps develop of full-fledged mental illness.
But what if, the theory goes, in a thousand years time humanity has evolved to a point where mind-reading is a cultural norm? In this scenario, the person who doesn’t read minds might be seen as mentally ill. And 31C historians would possibly look back at some of today’s so-called mentally ill as tragic pioneers, treading along a thorny path strewn with cultural bias and ignorance.
In short, the idea of mental illness is probably best seen as a complex and ever-changing issue, one that involves nature, nurture, community, ideology and belief.
¹ Erving Goffman, Asylums, New York: Anchor Books, 1961, p. 344.
Search Think Free » Athleticism, Demons, DSM-IV-TR, Foucault (Michel), Illness, Laing (R. D.), Madness, Occam’s razor, Shaman, Suffering, Szasz (Thomas)
- How our genes set us up for mental illness. (psychologytoday.com)
- DJ Jaffe: People with Mental Illness Shunned by Alternatives 2010 Conference in Anaheim (huffingtonpost.com)
- You: Giving voice to coping with mental illness – Tidewater News (news.google.com)
- Mark Becker’s family to participate in mental illness walk (thegazette.com)
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- Explode the mental illness stigma (theglobeandmail.com)
- Book Review: My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness by Sandra Yuen MacKay (seattlepi.com)
- Book Review: My Schizophrenic Life: The Road to Recovery from Mental Illness by Sandra Yuen MacKay (blogcritics.org)
- You: Stigma for Mental Illness High, Possibly Worsening – PsychCentral.com (news.google.com)
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The Medicine Wheel comes in several variations. Essentially it’s a wheel-shaped pile of stones built by several Native American groups on sites of sacred power and used for ritual and meditation.
Some believe that aliens had a hand in the medicine wheel.
Today, adaptations of the medicine wheel are used in New Age and holistic therapies, where illness is believed to be caused by discord or imbalance among inner and outer energies. Treatment consists of guiding the ill person through the disturbance that created the illness, along a healing path apparently outlined by the wheel.
Search Think Free » Adamski (George)
- Open Thread and Diary Rescue (dailykos.com)
- The Guardians (socyberty.com)
- Buddhist Symbols: The Dharma Wheel (brighthub.com)
- Story colored glasses: Better confluence diagrams (storycoloredglasses.com)
- What Is Naturopathy? (sandwalk.blogspot.com)
- The Path (funcass.blogspot.com)
- There is no alternative medicine, only unproven medicine (kevinmd.com)
- Dr. Bernie Siegel Joins Albany’s American Meditation Institute’s CME-Accredited Holistic Medicine Course for Healthcare Practitioners (timesunion.com)
- Friday Links – Hands and Pain, Complementary Medicine, Ragweed (theasthmamom.com)
- Medical Expert, Alan R. Gaby, M.D., to Publish ‘Nutritional Medicine’ – A Textbook for Healthcare Practitioners (prweb.com)
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The issue of normalcy is arguably a complicated one. Does the idea of normal change over time or is there something constant that mankind can always refer back to?
A compelling argument against the idea of a transhistorical normalcy is found in poststructural thought. Postructuralists point out that different cultures regard normalcy differently, both now and throughout history.
For example, in Biblical times and the Middle Ages abnormality was often associated with demonic influence or possession. Not a few individuals were literally burnt at the stake when defined as abnormal heretics.
Today, however, it seems both abnormal and cruel that anyone would burn another living person, for any apparent reason whatsoever.
In contemporary society, we see a shift away from religious to medical explanations for abnormality. Violent criminals, for instance, are often said to be mentally ill instead of ‘possessed by Satan.’
Another difficulty in ascertaining the normal as a moral good is the issue of hypocrisy. In sociology, power and labeling theorists suggest that individuals and groups possessing social power often label other powerless individuals and groups as deviant for engaging in practices that members of the high-powered groups profit from.
Although today’s social scene shouldn’t be reduced to such a simple formulation, we should point out that in medieval times there was a high degree of reliability among witch hunters when classifying targeted individuals as witches. And in contemporary society there’s a high degree of reliability among psychiatrists in defining so-called mental illnesses.
However, one could argue that, in both instances, a high degree of reliability in assessment does not necessarily relate to a high degree of validity for that assessment.
In other words, just because a powerful social group says something is so, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it actually is so. This is a basic philosophy 101 point certainly overlooked by witch hunters and sometimes by contemporary psychiatrists and clinical psychologists, along with anyone who unconditionally accepts a particular worldview that happens to be hegemonic or perhaps just in vogue.
Canadian folk-rocker Bruce Cockburn expressed his own views on normality in the song, “The Trouble With Normal” (1981; released 1983):
The trouble with normal is it always gets worse.
Search Think Free » Corruption, Death and Resurrection, Defense Mechanism, Deviance, Ego, Icebox Effect, Introjection, Neurosis, Nominalism, Paranormal, Prime Directive, Psychopath, Psychosis, Stages of Psychosexual Development, Suffering, Turning Against the Self, Evelyn Underhil, X-Men
- What Is Normal? (psychologytoday.com)
- Has The Green-eyed Monster Gone Too Far? (socyberty.com)
- Elizabeth Carr and Conceiving “Normally” (stirrup-queens.com)
- Keep throwing feces at each other, gays — Focus on the Family has yet to give us ‘normalcy’ pass (pinkbananaworld.com)
- A “Must Read” Book (diabetesupdate.blogspot.com)
- Abnormal Psychology: Understanding Cruelty and Absurdity (socyberty.com)
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Tai Chi Chuan
A defensive Chinese martial art said to be at least 2,000 years old, based on the principles of Tai Chi.
Tai Chi Chuan is a graceful, slow-moving series of (usually) 108 archetypal positions relating to nature (e.g. “grasp bird’s tail”) and simple human activities (e.g. “fair maiden works at shuttles”) that effortlessly flow into one another.
The practice has spread throughout the world via Taoist masters and missionaries.
Enthusiasts say that it has notable health benefits in the areas of digestion, general flexibility, arthritis and the cultivation of serenity.
Critics say that the organizational aspect can have cultish qualities. And some feel that the numinosity associated with or generated by the practice of Tai Chi might be unclear and “spacey.”
To this effect Robert Thoor cautions:
Avoid strict or spacey teachers.†
» Anthroposophy, Yin-Yang
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Aesculapius Possibly a Greek mortal around 1200 BCE who, like Heracles, became deified.
In Homer‘s Illiad he is described as “the blameless physician.”
His cult was centered in Epidaurus and emphasized cure through a prototype of contemporary psychoanalysis.
The poets Hesiod and Pindar speak of Aesculapius as the son of Zeus and Corona.
In the Epiduarian myth, his mother Corona dies while he is an infant.
A Messenian variant, however, says Aesculapius’ mother is Arsinoe and other accounts claim that he is the son of Apollo.
Regardless of his ambiguous parentage, Aesculapius became the god of healing and medicine and, according to legend, was educated by the centaur Chiron.
While in hell he raised a dead person, Hippolytus, to life. This vexed Zeus who retaliated by killing Aesculapius with a thunderbolt.
Although illness in ancient Greece was often attributed to the displeasure of the gods and goddesses, it could nevertheless be cured by divine mercy. The afflicted entered a sacred chamber and allowed visionary or “incubated” dreams to guide them towards health.
The postmodern thinker Michel Foucault saw this as an ancient prefiguration of the psychoanalytic couch.
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Athleticism In 1973 a Canadian not-for-profit private company called Participaction ran TV messages, similar in style to commercial ads, calling viewers to get physical exercise.
One segment claimed the average 30-year-old Canadian was in similar physical condition to the average 60-year-old Swede.
The ad had significant impact across Canada while years later it was suggested that
This was pure fiction. No one had any real evidence for this assertion other than international fitness comparisons that put the Swedish population well ahead of Canada and everyone else.
Source » “Bring Back the 60-year old Swede!”
TV viewers in Canada continue to watch newer ads, such as Body Break (1989-), which advocate an active lifestyle.
Michel Foucault and other sociologists argue that discourses about the body often hide behind their innocuous and benevolent exterior a marked political agenda–the legitimization of a social system that claims to ‘scientifically’ improve society.
From this perspective, scientific and medical discourses focusing on personal health tend to deflect public attention from pressing environmental matters–such as toxic waste.
The same has been said with regard to aspects of discourse about crime and mental illness. The emphasis on personal remedies arguably eclipses the need to address greater societal maladies.
This seems especially so with minority groups and the economic poor. “Decadent rap music” and “drugs,” for example, are often singled out as factors contributing to higher crime rates and mental illness among youths within visible minority groups. But often overlooked is systemic racism and the significant stressors encountered by so-called “have-nots” living in societies marked by sharp economic disparity.
A New Testament view of athleticism, often ignored by Christians, presents another extreme perspective that differs from contemporary wisdom:
For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come (1 Timothy 4:8).
» Poststructuralism, Scientism
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