Spirit Possession

I defined health as “the mental and physical being of a person”, then on a side note said that a healthy person would be free of illness.  It was kind of difficult to define illness. There are a lot of things to consider.  I have learned things and experienced things that have altered my opinion of certain subjects. The way that I defined it at first was “a physical or mental ailment that causes someone to function abnormally”.  Then I thought, what is normal? Does an illness have to have a treatment? Does an illness have to hinder a persons ability to function?  Then we talked about the differences between disease and illness.  Illness is defined by the individual. My thoughts on illness come from my education as an anthropology student, life experiences, and illnesses I have come in contact with. I tend to analyze an idea in every aspect to my knowledge just by nature. I did find it extremely important to include in my definition that an illness could be mental and not just physical.

I am still on the fence about spirit possession. I think I am leaning more towards it not being an illness. It is more of a personal experience. This is an example of where my definition of illness doesn’t fit, because a person who is possessed by a spirit would not be acting normally. And depending on the culture a spirit possession could just be seen as a mental illness like multiple personality disorder or schizophrenia, and it would be treated as such.  Others it would be treated by a holy figure and an exorcism would be performed. Personally, I would have to decide on an individual basis.

Infertility caused by genetics is not an illness.  I see it more as that person had unfavorable genes that should not be passed to the next generation, just a step in natural selection.  It is not truly an ailment and it doesn’t disrupt a person’s ability to function normally.

Cancer is my view is absolutely an illness. It attacks that bodies cells and disrupts the natural function of the body.  It can also have mental implications and cause problems in other areas besides that which is directly effected.

4 thoughts on “Spirit Possession

  1. I agree that illness is defined by the individual. Especially when studying anthropology, it is easy to see how some individuals may perceive the same scenarios differently. Context plays an important role in this, such as the importance of religion and economic stability.

    Infertility is likely to be considered an illness by many in other countries because of their social norms. Even preceding those concerns, there are many things that can cause infertility, such as an ectopic pregnancy. Often, the cause of infertility may be the result of the male but the ‘blame’ is placed on the female. In countries such as Uganda, it is very important to have at least one biological child. Uganda is not the only culture where childless women are ostracized. A woman who is unable to reproduce becomes regarded as a socioeconomic burden. Her husband may divorce her or take on an additional wife. Also as a result of her infertility, the woman feels extremely isolated from her female comrades. Pregnancy is a major social topic and a primary concern.

    Where male infertility is to blame, approximately 50% of infertility cases, the men are often unaware they are to blame and feel no effects of the condition and therefore, would not consider it an illness. In contrast, infertility for women can be both extremely painful and a major social hindrance, so it is fair to say that they would perceive the condition as an illness.

    Source: World Health Organization

  2. I agree with you I am also on the fence about spirit possession being labeled an illness. It depends on how a culture perceive spirit possession some may see it as an illness some may not see that way. In Haiti spirit possession is not seem seen as an illness it seen more as religion called Voodoo. “Loa are spirits that embody the major forces of the universe. They control characteristics of nature such as the wilderness, the grave, and the fresh waters. There are hundreds of loa, each in dominion over a specific aspect of nature. In addition to loa, there are spirits that are not well understood and even somewhat mysterious; these spirits are sometimes referred to as the “twins,” because they represent the contradictory forces in nature, such as good and evil, happiness and sadness, health and illness”. Voodooists believe it’s very important for you to take care and also honor the spirits so won’t become weak as time goes. As you can see in Haiti spirit possession is not an illness but seen actually as a religion. Not everyone in Haiti considers spirit possession as a good thing some see it as something bad and should not be seen as a religion.

  3. I really enjoyed your definition of health and illness; you were able to put it in simple terms that were clear and concise. Mine, on the other hand, were a bit longer but I do feel as though we share the same ideas. I also had trouble deciding whether spirit possession was an illness. Spirit possession really caught me off guard because I have never had to consider my beliefs on it and whether I believed it was an illness. I too decided that it was not an illness and this was mainly because in our culture it just doesn’t seem to be considered an illness. Most people in our culture would even say that spirit possession does not exist. While I do not consider it an illness by our cultural standards, I do believe that other cultures would consider it an illness and take the situation very seriously. Also, while I believe that infertility is not an illness, I know that other cultures would feel much differently. While I do not consider infertility an illness, I do believe that it can really affect someone deeply. In other cultures women can be punished for their infertility by being treated differently by others and even neglected.

  4. When it comes to your view about cancer in your post I absolutely agree with your view that it is an illness. Their are so many types of cancers like lung, breast, and colon cancer that attack the proper function of your body from a physical and mental stand point. What I found most interesting about your post was your view on spirit possession. I personally, believe that spirit position is not a real medical illness. From a medical stand point our society does not classify spirit possession as an illness. However, some cultures and religious groups believe that spirit possession is a real illness. Spirit possession is very conflicting and i agree with you that it can be in turn related another illness like schizophrenia. In answering your question, does an illness have to have a treatment. Well in our society it seems as though the medical realm always wants to find a cure or drug to treat a certain illness. Our society has this negatives view of illness that an illness is bad and must be treated with some type drug or medicine so that the person can be normal or sustainable in our society. I personally, think that illness is defined by society. Society has developed certain concepts of what is normal and what is an illness. However, society’s pre-concieved notions does not apply to everyone because every is different and come from different cultures.

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