Mohave Ethnopsychiatry and Suicide: The Psychiatric Knowledge and the Psychic Disturbances of An Indian Tribe

By George Devereux | Go to book overview

PART 3. MOOD DISBURBANCES
THE "HEART" NEUROSES

Three types of partly psychosomatic neuroses known to the Mohave are designated by terms containing the word "heart" (hi: wa), presumably because the Mohave think of the heart not only as an organ, but also as the seat of emotions. It may be suggested, in passing, that the widespread, though not universal, tendency to think of the heart as connected with the emotions may be due to the fact that certain persons react to emotional stress with precordial anxiety, tachycardia, and other disturbances of the cardiovascular system, just as other people react to emotional stress, e. g., with disturbances of the gastrointestinal tract.76 and choleric (=yellow bile, gastrointestinal tract). The occurrence of the latter reaction pattern of the autonomous nervous system to emotional stress among the Mohave is probably responsible for the fact that a series of psychosomatic illnesses are grouped together under the general heading of hiwey lak (anus pain) (pt. 4, pp. 150-175).

A further attribute of the heart is conscience. Thus, the dictates of a man's better self (ego-ideal, rather than super-ego) are denoted by the term hi:wantc kinyai:m (heart does) or hi: wantc hidhu: m, or hi: wantc haniym, all of which can be freely translated as "the heart does" or "the heart says" or "the dictates of the heart"--i. e., man's better nature. Since, unlike the Chinese ( Devereux, 1944 a) etc., the Mohave believe human nature to be good, rather than inherently corrupt, if one but listens to one's heart, one is impelled to do good deeds. Thus Case 101 shows that when a bewitched person became ill, the victim's family immediately asked the witch to perform a cure, because they hoped that the witch would yield to his hi: wantc kinyai:m, i. e., that he would follow the dictates of his heart or conscience.

There appear to be three main types of "heart neuroses"--i. e., three types of emotional stress to which people react, at least in principle, with their hearts. Of course, in reality the cases cited did

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76
It may even be possible to classify various ethnic groups in terms of the particular autonomous nervous system function(s) by means of which they react to emotional stress. Thus, the Sedang Moi of Indochina ( Devereux, MS., 1933-34) seem to react to stress chiefly with the gastrointestinal tract, which may explain why they believe the liver to be the seat of emotions. The Greek seem to have reacted to emotional stress in several ways; witness their theory of temperaments: Sanguine (cardiovascular), phlegmatic ( = mucus, respiratory tract, and mucous membrane reactions), melancholic (=black bile, gastrointestinal tract),

-90-

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Mohave Ethnopsychiatry and Suicide: The Psychiatric Knowledge and the Psychic Disturbances of An Indian Tribe
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Letter of Transmittal ii
  • Contents iii
  • Illustrations - Plates VI
  • Acknowledgments 1
  • Part I. Fundamentals of Mohave Psychiatry 9
  • Part 2. Disorders of the Instincts 39
  • Part 3. Mood Disburbances - The "Heart" Neuroses 90
  • Part 4. Disorders Caused by External Beings 116
  • Part 5. Occidental Disease Categories Neuroses, Psychoses, and Neurological Defects 213
  • Part 6. Psychiatric Disorders of Childhood 257
  • Part 7. Suicide 286
  • Part 8. Conclusion 485
  • Appendix - The Function of Alcohol 505
  • Preface 505
  • Summary 548
  • Addendum - A Note on Gentile Affiliations and Names 549
  • Bibliography 553
  • Index 569
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