WARNING. Don’t let the readers misunderstand the proposal that the title announces. It is not a Paulocoelhian slogan since it does not pretend to say that you can be healthy if you set your mind to it. Nor is it, in the end, a vindication of the notion of well-being that appears in the WHO definition. And even if it were deserving, it is not a cry for the consideration that is still lacking towards people with psychic disorders.
To say that health, conceptually, is a mental matter, implies a whole series of details, which I will try to show succinctly. The objective is to give to understand, as a hypothesis, that health happens in the bosom of a mind; and that this is an entity in the constant formation of itself, composed of a set of internal, interrelated and hierarchical processes.
To illustrate the importance of the problem, I will deviate slightly. In 1991, authors Dahlgren and Whitehead published an article in which they tried to sensitize the political class to the implications of Whitehead’s and Dahlgrenocial’s rainbow inequities on the health of individuals. Their formula will crystallize into a model commonly known as the ‘rainbow’ of Dahlgren and Whitehead. In a way, this must have been a milestone, since by the end of the 1990s and early 2000s the issue of social determinants began to be introduced into Public Health agendas. All this in spite of the fact that something like a paradigm called biopsychosocial was already exposed by psychiatrist George Engel in 1977.
Only regret? Let’s see.
On the one hand, I find
e note that the emphasis on factors that do not fit with classical physiopathology to explain the disease has not, in fact, been a replacement for scientific theory and research methodology. Rather, they have served as “correction coefficients”, which, depending on the author and his context, enjoy greater or lesser relevance or determining force. In other words, and for example: given a case of myocardial infarction https://www.zootster.com/, it will be said that a large percentage of it is explained by genetics, another by diabetes and hypertension, and yet another by his job (if he has one) and the location of his home (if he owns one). What in the eyes of many is a sort of reconsideration of something important, sounds to me like churros con merinas, among other metaphors. Hey, guys! You forgot my social factor! Include it with the rest!
On the other hand, it happens that, in my opinion, there is a lack of knowledge about theoretical formulations that we could call integrative or totalizing. I will not enter into conspiracies about whether this ignorance is deliberate or not. Let us leave it at that it seems, with some not so exceptional exceptions, that the scientific community does not pay attention to what in other places and other moments have been developed in such a fundamental matter for all this as causality. And there are rivers of ink on this. Good and bad.
Outline of the realized purpose
Figure illustrating the complexity involved in eating lettuce. In Hegel’s Dialectics, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2016).
In order not to entangle more than what is already entangled, it does not seem convenient to entertain the numerous paths, both known and unknown, that appear on the horizon that we propose. Among the essential ones that should be mentioned, let us leave it at that, of course, we should start with Aristotle.
However, due to the closeness of time and field (to a certain extent), it is worth spending a few minutes on the British intellectual Gregory Bateson. This author, whose studies and contributions reach greater completeness towards the seventies, was significantly influenced by General Systems Theory, Cybernetics and Information Theory, Logical Types and Set Theory, and the poetry of William Blake. In a lecture given in January 1970, he stated, among other things, that a forest is a mind. And here we begin to see a little bit of the crux.
Bateson’s scheme for determining the temperature of the room
Bateson’s diagram illustrates the hierarchy of determination of the temperature of a heated room. In > (2002).
But what is a mind? Even today, those who pretend to answer are given a lot of wafers. Committing the sin of wanting to summarize it to the extreme, we will propose here that Bateson is notably inspired by the concept of System, understanding it then as a whole, composed of parts, and which in turn is part of a superjacent whole; the parts of which it is composed, are potentially also systems (or minds); the mind should not be understood according to the rules that operate on its individual parts, but on itself as the conjunctive whole. And, not least, the mind makes and keeps itself, through all these multiple relationships.
Exposed so hastily it can be confusing. In any case, it is not superfluous to say that his best-known work is called Steps Towards an Ecology of Mind. Nor shall we say any more what the relationship between the terms Spirit and Mind gives rise to (not to mention the German word Geist…). However, it is enough to point out how fundamental it is to adequately resolve if an event (such as a cause) occurs at one level or another; that is, if they belong, in Bateson’s terms, to one or another mental process.
Unfortunately and fortunately, we have to recapitulate. Since all excursus is but the medium ground for an approach, would it not be a theoretical error to consider, tacitly or explicitly, that social transformations occur at the same level as physiological transformations? Would it not be appropriate to inquire into the hierarchization of the causal or determinative levels, whatever and however? Otherwise, we run the risk of falling into the paradox of Epimenides, which, being at the same time both a liar and a sincere person, serves as an analogy for what is at once the part and the whole, society, and individual.
Because health being what it is (that is), we do know that it is given and taken away in the members of a society and in itself. And society is a mind.