Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Madness Of King George

The Rake in Bedlam
William Hogarth

Let me say at the outset, I am probably going to be lambasted for doing this post. However, it is something I feel rather strongly about, and reading someone's blog today brought it to mind for me. I do not believe in a soul. I believe a soul is the invention of ancient people who did not understand the connection between the mind and body. Having said that, I do not profess to be an authority on the subject, nor do I have any training. It is merely my humble opinion, based on information I have read and seen.

I have been reading quite a few blogs lately where the blog owners or someone in their families are suffering from "mental illness". I don't believe in mental illness. I don't think it is mental, but very physical. It is often hereditary or familial, which means it has a genetic component to it -- which means it is physical. Genes are not spiritual, but a real physical part of our bodies.

So many people are made to feel guilty or stigmatized about having that particular type of illness. Should a person feel guilty about being born with blue eyes? Or dark hair? Or big feet? These things are passed down from generation to generation. All of the genetic material we bear are time capsules from our ancestors, and that includes any genetic illnesses we may inherit.

Everyone has heard of Mad King George. There was a movie made about him called "The Madness of King George" starring the wonderful Nigel Hawthorne, for which he was nominated for an Oscar. From the description of Mad King George's symptoms, it was discovered he had porphyria. The acute, or hepatic, porphyrias primarily affect the nervous system, resulting in abdominal pain, vomiting, acute neuropathy, seizures and mental disturbances, including hallucinations, depression, anxiety and paranoia. Cardiac arrhythmias and tachycardia (fast heart rate) may develop as the autonomic nervous system is affected. Pain can be severe and can, in some cases, be both acute and chronic in nature. Constipation is frequently present, as the nervous system of the gut is affected, but diarrhea can also occur. In some forms of porphyria, accumulated heme precursors excreted in the urine may cause various changes in color, after exposure to sunlight, to a dark reddish or dark brown color. Even a purple hue or red urine may be seen. Heme precursors may also accumulate in the teeth and fingernails, giving them a reddish appearance.

It sounds physical to me, wouldn't you say?

Mad King George was not mad, or crazy, or mentally ill at all. He did not have an illness in his soul, he was physically sick.

I think if we believe the mind or the soul to be separate entities from the body, we will continue to believe these things will become diseased. But my belief is that it is not these things that become diseased when "mental" illness occurs, it is simply the physical body. This is the 21st Century, and people should not suffer needlessly from illnesses that may be curable, or at best, treatable. More emphasis should be put on researching the genetic component of diseases, and less emphasis should be put on making the victims feel stigmatized. And I think the term "mental illness" should be parked in the lexicon of all the other politically incorrect terms that thoughtful people no longer use.

But, as I said earlier -- this is just my opinion.


Patsy said...

and I agree with everything you say here.


jackc50 said...

are you saying mental illness doesn't exist? abnormalities in the brain are....imaginery? made up? i don't know about that. should be some interesting reaction to your post, jc

Jo said...

Lorna, oh, yes.

Jackc50. No, I am saying they are very real, and very physical -- not "mental" at all. They are not part of the imagination or the "soul" but part of the physical world.

HalfCrazy said...

I find porphyria a really scary illness but I have to agree with you, it's a physical sickness indeed; I think the brain just suffers from depression, hallucinations, not eating properly for it will be vomited later on and a whole lot more. Maybe that's why he became mentally ill. But then hey, that's me..

I like your theory but I can't grasp it fully.

Much Love,

Borg said...

I am a student and teacher of philosophy, specifically the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas (who adapted Aristotle to Catholic teaching). Your post is actually very much in line with what St. Thomas and Aristotle say.

Where I would "disagree" with you is by clarifying that the soul and mind are not distinct but the same. Even then the soul and body are nothing more nor less than the two parts of a whole, a human being. The soul is what gives life to an individual and is the principal (i.e. the source) of activity of the body.

According to Aristotle it is through the body, specifically the senses, that the mind comes to knowledge. When the senses are imperfect or deformed the mind gets incorrect information. So with an illness such as the madness of King George his diseased body, the means by which his mind knows, was defective in its function as medium of knowledge.

In this sense it analogously could be called "mental illness" but I think that you are right, it is a physical ailment not a mental one.

I would say that a true mental illness would be something along the lines of lying. Lying is to knowingly affirm what is not true. But the mind naturally seeks what is true. So lying is an unnatural act of the mind.

I hope this poor attempt to synthesize volumes into a few short sentences has not been more confusing than its worth.

scarlethue said...

I agree. My husband has had a hard time understanding this, and it's been the source of many debates here. Depression runs in my family, as does alcoholism (usually started by self-medicating the depression).

Depression is a physical imbalance of chemicals in the brain, those chemicals and hormones that influence our moods, reaction time, etc. I've watched my father and one of my brothers suffer with it. You don't want to know my dad if he forgot to take his pill. My brother refuses to take pills, which is ridiculous to me-- if the doctor told him he had anything else, something "real" like a thyroid or a digestive problem, he'd take medicine for that. But it's the same thing! Only there's this stigma attached to it. He says all the time, "I'm not crazy so I don't need crazy pills."

My husband, never having known anyone with a disease like depression and having a general "buck-up, get on with it, don't worry be happy" attitude, bought into that stigma. Getting to know my family has lessened that for him, though.

I think it's changing, slowly. I have been reading Alan Bennett's "Untold Stories," and the first several chapters are about his mother's bout with "mental illness" in England in the 1970s. Reactions to her illness then were a lot harsher than they would be now. Shock therapy included.

Russell said...

I had a client once who was prescribed medication for anxiety and a fear of crowds. He did not want to take the medicine because he felt it made him less of a person.

I told him that people wear glasses (including me) and no one thinks a thing about someone who wears glasses. Today people wearing hearing aids - called instruments - that are so small you cannot see them.

So if there is medicine that can help a person feel less stressed or to cope with a phobia of some sort, there should not be any stigma associated with taking that medicine.

Whether a person wishes to call it a physical or mental illness makes no difference to me -- what I am concerned about if how it can be cured or brought into balance. With today's medicines there is no reason why any person should be uncomfortable or made to feel guilty for taking advantage of modern medicine.

DUTA said...

Both the MIND (intellect, thought,memory, emotions, imagination) and the BODY are controlled by he BRAIN, are of the same origin and nature, and thus should not be separated.

Miss_Nobody said...

Hmm,This is a very interesting post,there's so much thats running through my head right now,I don't know how to g about it,I'll just end up confusing myself and everybody here.But I guess i'll ditto Half crazy,I like your theory but yes,I don't seem to grasp it fully.
But lovely post :)Would check back for more replies on this one

roxanne s. sukhan said...

interesting ... indeed 'mental illness' has a physiologic root. but, as with other disease, its influenced by environment, also.

as for the soul ... i do not believe that we are our mind ... i think there is some animating force that makes us ... who we are. but, alas ... i suppose one would call me quite indoctrinated ... and i cannot help believing else-wise, particularly after watching people die right before my eyes.

SweetPeaSurry said...

Hmmm ... lots of things to think about in that post.

I try to be really open minded, and I'm open to your opinion on this. It's certainly VERY interesting!

nomore said...

None of can free from this issue...poor in confirmations yet...So I can agree with you and disagree with you too....Once the famouse said..."know your self!" We do not know our the Soul and Body yet....So we could not say or insistence it......i think...

introspection said...

Very interesting post!!! Real food for thought, but even I have strong opinions about 'mental illness' or phobia or whetever you may call it. I am going to try and sort my thoughts while writing/typing here, but if I dont come across logical pls understand.

At the outset I agree with Russell's understanding that it's the cure that is important not what it is called. you may call it mental or physical illness. In my opinion even lying would be a manifestation of some physical mutant causing illness. While Jo is free to call all of this as physical illnesses, some would be happy calling it illness of the mind, which can well be physical (in my opinion). Genes are now being easily isolated, for each characteristic or illness. Mental illness occurs due to neurological aberrations (physical or physiological). When the nerves or part of nervous matter in the brain does not receive or transmit nerve signals (this process is entirely physical), to the rest of the body organs including the intestine, (which can cause diareah, or constipation) or liver, kidney; a human being reacts accordingly. Loss of memory, helplessness, anger and depressions are all manifestations of this nervous aberration. MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) records all these conditions and helps doctors/nurologists to perform corrective surgeries wherever possible.
The problem about mental illness,(or physical - as you prefer Jo) is that people do not recognise it, as an illness; perhaps due to the stigma attached to mental illness. Hence they go through it's pains: anger, depression, solitude etc in the illusion that they are perfectly healthy. I believe the social barriers (which are broadly specific to different countries), are responsible for the so called mental illnesses going untreated/unnoticed. If we accept Jo's theory that they are physical illnesses (be they filial or acquired) a lot of them would be under control. may be not entirely eradicated as research in this area is still new. If science has made it possible for humans to have a child minus it's family genes of cancer, diabetes etc, in future, then it will not be far when doctors can treat clinically mental illnesses like anger, depressions and wild attacks of insomnia, sleep walking, ADTS, and paranoia.

But soul is a matter of a different genre. It is the essence of life. Soul is not physical. It may be termed as 'an active mind'or a condition of mind. But not a physical condition: What I mean is that a life with out soul cannot be physically activated, or corrected in any way. no doctor can induce life, soul.

I dont know if I said some where that I do agree with you Jo, mental illness is in fact physical.

Also thanks immensely for visiting my post about Minu. I am delighted by your comments and so is Minu. I have passed on your message to her and she 'Thanks you' with a braod grin. Thanks agin for visiting.

Anonymous said...

like you're not an expert, have not done in depth research. And of course, while you are entilted to your opinion, it is a little judgemental to say the least. I do know people with mental illnesses, some very close to home, and while there may be physical manifestations in MANY mental illnesses, there is so much evidnece to show that there is in fact mental illness, brainwaves, even thoughts and feelings...perhaps read a few studies on teh matter before discounting millions of people who suffer from mental illness!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Biochemists would love to think that everything we feel, think and remember, indeed the functioning of the mind is purely a bunch of chemical reactions. I am sure that it is that, but it is also more. I don't believe we can lay it entirely down to genetics. I believe that "free will", personality and preferences are not purely chemical.

Touch boiling water and quickly retract youtr hand in pain. That is a chemical reaction.

Decide whether "Slumdog Millionaire" deserves the Oscar or if you prefer Beethoven over Britney Spears, isn't that beyond mere chemical reactions?

Anonymous said...

My mother was bi-polar but my father refused to let her see a shrink; and after several attempts, she committed suicide when I was in college. I went on to use drugs and alcohol as self-medication, but I no longer do either. I have taken St Johns Wort for fifteen years for my depression and it works for me. I don't have side effects, but if I stop, which I've done for surgery, I first feel blue, then succumb to despair. Which, believe me, is definitely physical.
A few years back, while I was being treated for PTSD after 9/11 (I'm 1/2 a mile from Ground Zero and consider myself an eye witness) the therapist wanted to put me on something FDA approved and had me get off St Johns Wort. I saw her supervisor who could write the prescription, and who, after listening to my mother's history and observing my symptoms, advised me to go back on the St Johns Wort. He said they've found that when patients with bi-polar family members are put on those meds for depression, it can trigger the bi-polar condition in them permanently. Chemistry in action; nothing spiritual about it, especially with the powerful drug companies in charge of everything these days.

Jo said...

HalfCrazy, my theory is that so-called mental illness is very real, and it is not mental at all but physical.

A Borg, "The soul is what gives life to an individual and is the principal (i.e. the source) of activity of the body. " I wish I could believe that, but I do not. I believe the soul is just electrical impulses of the physical brain.

ScarletHue, "Depression is a physical imbalance of chemicals in the brain, those chemicals and hormones that influence our moods, reaction time, etc." Precisely. There should be no stigma attached to that.

Russell, yes, people should not feel ashamed of having to wearing glasses or take a pill. Goodness! If a disease were "mental" a pill would not help. But if it's physical, a pill does help. That's the point of my post.

DUTA, of course. I completely agree. We are organic creatures, made up of organic material.

Miss Nobody, I am simply saying that the mind and body are the same thing.

Wulfine, yes, when a person dies, they are no longer than person. The body has ceased to function. We have only a memory left of them. And I agree that many diseases (maybe most?) are influenced to environmental factors -- smoking, etc. I believe so-called mental illness is a physical illness of the body.

SweetPeaSurry, well, as I said, it's just my opinion. But I don't think there is any such thing as "mental illness" -- it is physical, and it can be treated.

Introspection, "The problem about mental illness,(or physical - as you prefer Jo) is that people do not recognise it, as an illness; perhaps due to the stigma attached to mental illness. Hence they go through it's pains: anger, depression, solitude etc in the illusion that they are perfectly healthy." Yes! There is no stigma to having a physical illness, but there is stigma to having a "mental illness".

Anonymous, (do you have a name?) you obviously did not read my post, because you are reiterating exactly what I have been saying. So-called "mental illness" is not mental at all, but physical. "There is so much evidnece to show that there is in fact mental illness, brainwaves, even thoughts and feelings." So, while you sound very angry, you are in fact agreeing with me! All these things are a physical manifestation of the brain, just as pneumonia is a physical manifestation of the lungs. There should be no stigma to so-called "mental illness" because it is physical. The stigma lies in the fact that people suffer unnecessarily from it without getting the help they need, because of fear or shame. If people have pneumonia, do they feel ashamed to take an antibiotic? Then why should they feel ashamed to take a medication for a brain illness?

LGS, no, I think it is all just chemical reactions in the brain. Damage the brain, i.e., with a stroke or a car accident, and all of these things change. We may like the Beatles instead of Beethoven or Britney. It's all physical. Again -- just my opinion.

Maureen, you are a living example of what I believe. St. John's Wort is working for you, and your doctor told you that "when patients with bi-polar family members are put on those meds for depression, it can trigger the bi-polar condition in them permanently. Chemistry in action; nothing spiritual about it ..."

All I am trying to say in this post is that in the 21st Century, people should not have to suffer needlessly with what is called (I believe incorrectly) "mental illness". It is not mental -- it is physical, and people should not be ashamed of it!

Kathy's Klothesline said...

Did anonymous READ what you said? Maybe lacking in reading comprehension? I agree, anonymous does sound angry and I wonder if he knows you...could this be a blog stalker? We all have opinions to share and if you don't agree you should be sure enough of yourself to own your opinion. Now that I have defended you in such a maternal fashion, I am not ashamed to share that I take my drug every day to balance the chemicals in my brain. I had a breakdown in my 20's and at that time there was a stigma involved and the drugs available did not help me, but turned me into a zombie like person, thus making me unable to cope with or without the drugs. I fought the mood swings and depression on my own until menopause began and I was finally prescibed the right class of drugs. I still have times of anxiety and depression, just not extreme. It is indeed physical in origin. This is my therapy--writing down my thoughts, you know, just like talking to a shrink!

budh.aaah said...

hahaa, what a storm in a teacup, yup you stirred it real well Jo..Though for me soul is a reality..exists..

Jo said...

Nomore, sorry I missed you in my first comments...! And yes, the mind, body and soul are all one thing. I believe in centuries to come, scientists will be able to measure all these things.

Kathy, no, *sigh*, I don't think Anonymous read my post. And yes, in my opinion you are the very example of an enlightened person. And there is no stigma to your having to take medication. Good for you...!

Budh.aaah, *chuckle* yes, I do sometimes seem to stir it up, don't I? Well, I don't mean to, it just happens...

Leslie: said...

You've expressed my beliefs here so well and I don't think I can possibly add anything more to the discussion. Except - I do believe there is a soul (which is not physical but spiritual)and go along with wulfine and introspection on this point of the discussion.

Jo said...

Leslie, yes, and you have just expressed my thoughts too about a soul. I would like to believe in one.


My what a series of comments - all so thorough and obviously well thought out/intelligent!

My sister has a healing center; it's called Body, Mind, and Soul 'Soulutions' (yes, she spells it that way to indicate that the solution is in the soul).

She does separate the ailments into one of the three - or all three if she believes that to be the case.

Because I don't agree with her theory one little bit, we now have to avoid talking about this topic because she gets so upset.

If you read the book, THE POWER OF THE SUB-CONSCIOUS MIND, you'll find some wonderful information in there - most of all, you'll see that the author pretty much sums up his believes that everything is 'one' - it all occurs 'in the brain', but it is the SUBCONSCIOUS that is the 'big guy about town'.

My family's history on my father's side, shows that the majority of deaths for 4 generations is due to suicide - on my mother's side a lesser amount, but noticeable to be sure.

All of us happen to have high or genius IQ's and me being one who has tried suicide 3 times; one who did need to 'sort out these things', I came to study 'just the mind' (or brain if you want to call it that), so I could rid myself of the self-destructive tendencies many many years ago.

To me, I think in 'levels' - all from the brain center, but to the DEGREE something affects a person, does it somehow appear to be related solely to the physical; or solely to the mentol, or solely to the soul.

We use the terms 'gut reaction' - sometimes a 'soulful sonnet' is written - a 'witty remark' - lots of words/adjectives tend to describe a feeling or a state of being that resides or emanates from just 'one' location because of the level it's felt or displayed; to the degree of passion or emotion that we notice in another person.

If we think about the death of someone we love, we can begin crying if we loved/miss that person.

If we think about the death of someone who was not related to us; even a despot, we can actually feel joy that the tyrant is dead.

So as we 'think' so shall we react and do - in both cases death is the condition, but we react/act differently to that death.

I think the idea of having a 'soul' - having a 'religion' - having a 'god', has been a very handy mechanism to avoid taking responsibility for our own actions; has been a profitable business for those who peddle religion, and obviously for those in the medical field, being mentally ill and/or physically ill has made (again) profit for the people who train themselves in these professions.

Most of the 'healing' my sister does is based on her ability to make the client 'think' differently; she basically has charged them 'big dollars', and people believe if they pay 'big dollars', surely they must get some benefit from the money they've spent.

I remember after my 3rd suicide attempt, the psychiatrist told me it would be $165/hour - twice a week, to get me 'on the road to recovery'. I told him, "With those prices, I don't think I can afford to be suicidal any more!" While I meant it as a bit of humor as I stood up to leave his office, by the time I got to the car, I realized what I'd said, was exactly right!

So, that cured me - quick and easy; every time I thought about how depressed I was, I thought about how much it would cost me for a shrink to work with my pea-brain, and since this happened in 1977, it's been 32 years since I've been anything but 'happy in the brain' - the brain that cuddles my soul in one corner; soothes my heart in another corner, and with its ability to 'think and do', it takes very good care of my body - a body that relies 'souly' upon the brain to exist at all.

I enjoyed your remarks; agree with them, and loved all the people who took the time to share with you.


Jo said...

Diane, thank you for sharing something so personal in your life. I'm glad you have decided to be well. And yes, I have been through depression too, and I know it is no picnic. And I know too that it is physical, and I do not have any embarrassment or shame for having gone through a devastating depression. It changed who I am.

"I think the idea of having a 'soul' - having a 'religion' - having a 'god', has been a very handy mechanism to avoid taking responsibility for our own actions; has been a profitable business for those who peddle religion, and obviously for those in the medical field, being mentally ill and/or physically ill has made (again) profit for the people who train themselves in these professions." I could not agree with you more!

The streets are filled with homeless people, most of whom are physically ill. The psychiatric hospitals were emptied out, and these folks are left to suffer chronic illnesses, in homelessness and despair. Would any other physical illness be treated that way? I don't think so!

B said...

That's an interesting view; "mental" illness really a physical illness.
I truly have no idea, but interesting indeed. I will straight up admit to a lack of reading comprehension in your post and everyone's replies. My brain gets too lazy on the weekends!
(But at least I know enough to fess up, eh?!)
I think I'll come back to this particular post.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Okay, I'll concede that the examples I gave probably won't stand up to scrutiny but I still believe in something more than Biochemistry. I'll have to think of better examples! :)

Mona said...

to me these are 2 separate issues...the stigmatization of mental illness and the "soul"...and i don't think a believe in the physical means you cannot believe in the soul...these 2 are not mutually exclusive...i believe in both.

also consider that just because there is a physical answer does not mean there isn't a spiritual component to it...perhaps the physical illness is a result of the spiritual or of the soul being sick.

when i was younger, i stop believing in god when i took physics...i thought we had it all figured out...all the physical laws in the universe is just that...physical god is necessary. but now i realize how childish that view is...there is so much more than what science or medicine can explain or know, and frankly that gives me a lot of hope (:

as for stigmatizing mental illness, that's a human creation...a physical and cultural creation...

Anonymous said...

The Squirrel has nuts. He is right.
For a hundred years, the human body has been taken by doctors to be a machine, nothing more, nothing less.
But what a machine. Paintings, poetry, music, literature-- culture.
These things are not produced by robots.
There are cultural needs.
A person with no cultural needs is considered a philistine. Or, more properly, a plumber. A scientist?

Great psycholgists tried to apply plain biology to man, claiming there is no such thing as a soul.
But the soul of man was a far country.
Oh Mr. Freud, you're unemployed.
And Skinner is thinner.
Cultural elites point to the heavens and say, "See? There's universe out there. We can explain it. Therefore we should rule."
The priestly class that now rules the medical-industrial complex, and therefore us, keeping us sick and drugged (especially the mentallyi ill)-- will one day be laughed out of the court.

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