I have to admit that the definition I first wrote down describing illness was not the same as when I finished doing the categorization activity. I found myself judging the various states of being on more conditions than the ones I had previously listed. I shaped my definition as I came to realize my personal beliefs. I ended up defining illness as ‘a state of being unwell or sick, either physically or psychologically or a combination of both, that arises due to environmental factors, as infection from bacteria, the presence of a virus or a disease.’ I still can see the fault in it because it contains culture specific terms but at the same time, I believe they can only be defined culturally. These terms or just the distinction between the two might not even exist in the languages of some people and therefore absent in their realities as well. I believe that all of our experiences are so deeply intertwined that you cannot pinpoint the source of these terms. Everything around us works together to shape our grasp on reality. American society, our foundation in science, the tendency to visit doctors on a regular basis, the media, all contribute to how we view illness and deal with it.
I had trouble with ‘spirit possession’ because I have no personal experience with it. I have experienced the flu, heard about cancer from friends, and seen people with old age but I have only read once or twice about spirit possession and it still lies so far away from my sphere of reality that I cannot come to define it at all. Shyness, on the other hand, was an easy one. I believe that it is purely a personality trait in American culture. It is a way someone behaves and communicates and it is not a bad thing nor should it necessarily be cured unless the individual feels the need to break out of their “shell”. Anxiety fell in the middle of the distinction for me. On the one end, it can be a temporary emotion, such as when an individual is nervous for a test or job interview. If it is something that starts to interfere with daily life and happens frequently and without obvious reason, then I think it begins to become a mental illness. This is when an individual in our own culture would think about seeing a psychiatrist in hopes of sorting out and dealing with his/her stresses.