Hysteria and the Value of Obsolete Medicine

Art by Marabelle Thornhincher

There is so much to be gained from ‘obsolete’ medicine, especially psychoanalysis, so long as you have the right background of understanding to help you frame it properly.

Take “hysteria”, for example. From a contemporary medical lens it’s absurd cissexist nonsense to locate the uterus as the cause of any number of afflictions affecting woman-assigned people.

To unlock the repository of cultural wisdom surrounding this topic, the key is to recognize that the individual(and therefore cultural) experience of the body is defined and delineated by neurolinguistic factors. From our experience, our ancestors, and our contemporaries, we construct the tool set of understanding with which we interpret the sensory information of being alive. This is the fundament of metaphysics.

It is a relatively recent phenomena that we are expected to align our spiritual experience of our psychosomatic regions to the intricacies of our material flesh — this is why your doctor is assumed to have more agency over your body than you do.

This is also why ableist modern notions of health are functionally a crushingly devastating eugenics program: as “objective” material reality is socially constituted, the ‘healthy and typical’ body understood by occidental anatomy and used as the basis for our psychosomatic understanding of the human body is only comfortable and correct for the most powerful people in our culture — able bodied cisgender white men. This is the sensation that Freud described as “penis envy” in the white women he interviewed: the sensation of conflict between her sensory experience of occupying her own body versus her spiritual experience of white cisgender manhood as fundamental to the human body.

Returning to hysteria: this term describes an affliction of the psychosomatic region of “the womb”. A clue to the nature and purpose of this identification lies in its neurolinguistic underpinnings from the circum-Mediterranean cultures the concept draws from. For example ‘janna’, a word that can mean womb, also describes a garden, *or the spiritual realm*.

Spiritual research such as that done in the early 20th century by Dr. Nandor Fodor shows that the qualitative experience of spiritual affliction is strongly correlated with neurological and hormonal afflictions in the material body. It is in these systems that a western scientific perspective could more accurately locate the physical seat of the “womb” of psychoanalysis.

At this point, we hit a snag which you may already have noticed — and it explains everything. If spiritual experience is culturally constituted as inherent to the uterus, cissexist logics dictate that spiritual experience in men is abberant or abnormal. In metaphysically centered communities, this error manifests as accusations of witchcraft: as the spiritual experience is not innate to cisgender men, a man’s experience of spiritual suffering or discontent must be emanating from someone’s womb — nearly always his own alienated “womb” region, but frequently scapegoated onto vulnerable wombs in his community.

In primarily secular spaces, this drama plays out on the level of the participants’ material understanding: cultural discourse delineating a gendered notion of causality. Spiritual affliction in women are attributed to the Womb by way of nerves and hormones. Spiritual affliction in men is seen as caused primarily by the nerves and hormones of women, as well as their action or inaction(whichever has triggered the fragile, bristly shadow-womb of the man in question). If the causality cannot be placed on a woman, it must be a material case of damage to the neurological and hormonal systems that must be treated immediately and thoroughly.

Over 50% of occidental cisgender men report experiencing sexual dysfunction, and the global market for sexual treatment for occidental cis men is over 3 BILLION dollars. Treating the necrotic wombs of cis male hysteria endangers tremendous amounts of global resources — and most importantly the lives and well-being of non-men.

For every psychosomatic region of the body that has been discarded by western science, there is a treasure trove of cultural knowledge waiting to be analyzed. Pick one — possibly one that aches or hums in your own body — and tap into the secrets our discourse has forgotten but our bodies remember.