Stress and Emotional Health: Applications of Clinical Anthropology

Stress and Emotional Health: Applications of Clinical Anthropology

Stress and Emotional Health: Applications of Clinical Anthropology

Stress and Emotional Health: Applications of Clinical Anthropology


Western medicine, including psychiatry and psychology, has had a virtual monopoly of the health industry. This has led to economic incentives that literally keep people sick. Anthropologists, because of their holistic and comparative base, are in a unique position to apply their knowledge within clinical settings. Written for anthropologists, but useful to all clinicians, Rush's book offers a new model for understanding health and illness, provides a review of techniques found in many cultures for reducing individual and system stress, and offers processes for recovering health and individual and social balance.


Stress, as experienced by living organisms, is a product of information. This information comes in many forms. It can be information intrusion, as with viruses, bullets, and unkind words; it can be information loss, such as when blood is lost or a loved one dies. It can also be information alteration, as is the case when poor nutrition leads to an alteration in hormonal functioning or when a person changes his or her job and has to adapt to new circumstances (see Rush 1996 for other informational categories). Through analogy the reader can see that bullets, bacteria, unkind words, and unsettled events all lead to stress.

This work is about the way we communicate and how our interpretation of the messages from others, life events, and health issues leads to stress reactions, or mechanisms to reduce unpleasant stress. This emotional stress, through a suppression of the immune system and a general loss of regulation of the body's physiology, is a primary factor in emotional/social and physical health because it interferes with healing in an overall sense.

In this work the reader will discover a very different way of looking at and thinking about emotional and physical stress; the approach taken is informational and anthropological. Through this approach the reader will discover numerous techniques -- incantations, if you will -- designed to help clients place different meanings onto messages, both historical and current, for the purpose of stress reduction and enhanced healing.

We are all counselors and therapists; we are also demons and each other's worst nightmares. This all comes about through the way we communicate. For the most part, through a process called enculturation, we learn our language. While we are learning a specific language -- for example, English -- we also learn the style of language use from those around us: our parents or caretakers, siblings, friends, teachers, heroes on televi-

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