An illness of the nerves. It reveals an underlying stress about our fears about the body. A dissociation between body and soul as mutually antagonistic with only the faintest hope of reconciliation.Hypochondria is a very old name for a malady that is always new, fresh and anxiety driven. Its the fear of sickness, illness, disease and the experience and sensation of one’s body as foreign and unpredictable, capable of derailing at any moment and emotionally, like a river, to leave its bed and wander over the imperfections of the mind, hunting out distinct threats to the body.In recent times, the fear has been characterized as part of the dilemma of anxiety disorder. There is no definitive cure and its existence raises doubts about the meaning of illness and suffering as central to the individual condition…
Essentially, its about a rhetoric of well being. The body and its health has come to occupy a primary and almost incomprehensible place in the imagery of Western society where a hyper-awareness of well being means the individual can feel sick, yet also be objectively, and clinically healthy. This disorder of imagined infirmity haunted individuals affected, but it also afflicts society in general. To be more precise, the malady of hypochondria is a somatic expression of a culture fascinated by well- being like never before as we increasingly targeted the
healthy body as an object of regulation.In fact, its an entire sub category of the medical industry and its ability to promote illness and the selling of the fear and perception of illness. The failure of the hypochondriac to fully comprehend their hallucination of one threat to their body before almost magically conjuring a new, inexplicable and almost implausible one, does invite the witness to this peculiar spectacle to reflect upon the difficulty of ascertaining what precisely is troubling the sufferer, and to marvel at the consumerism the sufferer engages in which acts a self-regulating control on their behavior.
There are always these haunting invisible ghosts; An arcane knowledge possessed of their well-being each a signifier and a catalyst that delineate multiple and discomforting forms of impending death that menace the mind. Such a disorder is both personal as well as rooted in a societal context since it points to the presence of irrationality, the inexplicable, even the paranormal in a post- Enlightenment age of reason. The history of this malady began with forms of melancholia or what became known as the English Malady. The Renaissance deemed melancholia to be a rapidly spreading disorder imported from Europe of a heretofore unknown construction of the separation of body and mind where the soul was discarded.
Perhaps it could be blamed on Shakespeare and what Stephen Marche has called the “skull style”, a withdrawal, sometimes comic, when the individual is faced with jarring and contradictory truths. The melancholic was a figure of foreignness and disordered well- being who became a stock malcontent in the literary and medical texts of the Elizabethan era. For Shakespeare, the melancholic was also an anguished figure whose troubles were expressive of a troubled and tormented psyche. Hamlet is an obvious representative of the foreign melancholic, a sufferer whose paramount grief and bodily disorders only further affirm his depression.
His sufferings are expressed bodily while the depletions of the body in turn dispirit his mind. The Renaissance individual’s experience of melancholia is a psychological and physical event. Indeed, psychosomatic disorders did not exist as such in Elizabethan England. The term would have been meaningless to a society not yet accustomed to a psychology that separates the mind from the body. What makes Renaissance melancholia a significant precursor to hypochondria, particularly to the pathological forms of disease that become more widespread in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, is the normalizing force of humoral medicine that diagnosed the melancholic as excessively sensitive to the point of becoming abnormally introspective and self- consumed. It was inevitable that an industry to treat the ill-defined would develop and see is apotheosis in today’s pill consuming addictions, which gives everyone an opportunity not to engage the world.
It is difficult to declare with confidence what hypochondria is because the disorder is invested in the imagination, volition and compulsion, ways of fashioning the self, and even the body’s susceptibility to unpredictable fluctuations and degradations that mark health as, at best, a temporary state. Not surprisingly,hypochondria primarily afflicted the bourgeoisie, so much so that it might not be possible to understand one without the other, and thus to speak of a “nervous nation” in the Romantic era is to acknowledge the importance of the middle classes and their efforts to shape society in their own image. A cultural trait of a social class made up of relatively leisured and affluent citizens whose economic means have made possible our age of medical consumerism. Supporting and maintaining the Romantic medicalization of the self is seen in a marketplace of bestselling health books, yoga removed from its religious base, spa retreats, etc. which combine to form a heterogeneous set of tactics that regulate and consolidate middle- class bodies as objects of commodification. There is a widespread criticism of society at large leading to these “nervous conditions” which only seems to reinforce its consumerist tendency, in which how we treat these illnesses serves as a basis of distinction in driving the consumer wheel.
English writers such as Adam Smith and David Hume recognized sensitivity as the capacity to feel and feel for another. What was new by the end of the eighteenth century, however, was that nervousness increasingly also denoted a pathological condition of the altogether too- sensitive body. To be nervous remained potentially salutary, especially for poets and writers, yet sensibility was not always easy to turn off and it could produce paralyzing states of introspection and attention to the body that prompted calls for treatment and correction. While the shift toward a pathology of nervousness was not monolithic, it was nonetheless an increasingly dominant understanding that reshaped hypochondria into a symptom of excessive and misdirected sensitivity. The hypochondriac had become a metaphor for a culture’s obsession with health and illness, even a sign of the intemperate cultivation of well- being and its meaningfulness for a range of discourses. Read More:http://www.palgrave.com/PDFs/9780230231450.Pdf
Steven Connor:The meaning of the airiness of hypochondria is, I think, this. It is a particular variety of what Sartre would later call ‘bad faith’, namely the desire to disavow the nothingness or the nihilation of the self through the pretence that the self was, after all, a thing. The most obvious and ready-to-hand object for this project of misrecognition was the body, the thing which the for-itself most definitionally surpasses or nihilates, the thing by reference to which the for-itself is a thing that is not, is nihilation or notness itself, and nothing besides. Faced with the nothingness of the self, the anxious subject fixates on the body. But the hypochondriac’s bad faith does not go far enough; for his or her body is afflicted by the same impermanence or nothingness as the soul or self. It thereby becomes too good an image of the dissolute self, a wraith-like double of, rather than a sandbagging stand-in for it. The hypochodriac’s is what Nathaniel Fairfax called ‘a beghosted bodyhood’ . It is for this reason that hypochondria, though often associated with hysteria, gradually came to be something like its opposite. For, where hysteria found a satisfactory objective correlative for the mind in the agonies of the body, the hypochondriac always suffers from the fact that the body is never bodily enough, that it always has in it too much of the airy insubstantiality of the nothing-mind. It is itself too beghosted to give local habitation to the mind.Read More:http://www.stevenconnor.com/hypo/
Stephen Marche:Hamlet doesn’t just think about death or obsess about his own mortality. He is not at all the morbid type, a proto-vampire, a goth avant le lettre. He looks at Yorick’s skull and sees two separate truths, neither of which he can escape. Death casts a pall over the feast of life and death nourishes life. Does the skull mean we should abstain from the pleasure of the flesh? Or rather should the lesson of the skull be eat, drink, and make merry, for tomorrow we shall die? Hamlet is melancholy and jokey at the same time because he feels both these contradictory truths simultaneously. Read More:http://arts.nationalpost.com/2011/05/10/book-excerpt-how-shakespeare-changed-everything-stephen-marche/