Sunday, 26 July 2015

cognitive dissonance

By way of a book review that seeks to make the superficially blithe, a link taken for granted really, connection between our emotions and our physical well-being and resilience—these all being popular concepts that are well rooted in modern thinking—the brilliant Maria Popova of Brain Pickings delivers a surprising historical context and development that demonstrates that the relationship is not a straightforward one and not without coups and reversals of fortune.

Rationalist thinkers like Renรฉ Descartes who doubted the world away to rid us of superstitions and preconceptions, unleashed a second rather unintended severing of the medical science, couched in terms of an imbalance in the humours, that was the basis for our understanding of the body and the mind—in the West—since Antiquity. The rejection of such tenets made the scientific method and progress a reality but left the place of emotions and mood untethered and out of place in a sense. Although we might be desirous to view the mind-body link has something continuous, even if presented through metaphor, romanticism and unscientifically, but it really was not until the middle of this past century when the connection was re-established and researchers deigned to take the matter into consideration with the pioneering work of an endocrinologist (one who studies of glands and hormones) from the Austro-Hungarian Empire called Hans Seyle (Seyle Jรกnos). As a professor in the McGill University of Montreal, Seyle formalised the concept of stress as a biological response and driver and was responsible for making the idea pedestrian and accessible as well as international, the word being the same in all European languages. Unlike with present day jargon which is mostly new dressing for old wounds, like calling mobbing or work-place bullying by peers horizontal violence, introducing stress as bridge between emotional and physical health was not giving mankind a new buzzword, but rather re-legitimatizing, not rechristening, of a defunct system of correspondences that had previously only been admitted into health care as negative behavioural neuroses and psychosomatic, self-inflicted illnesses. Be sure to check out Brain Pickings for the full and fulfilling repertoire of literary discoveries.