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Narrating the Brain

Investigating Contrasting Portrayals of the Embodiment of Mental Disorder

In: Journal of Phenomenological Psychology
Authors:
Jacob Z. Hess All of Life jzhess@gmail.com

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Edwin E. Gantt Department of Psychology, Brigham Young University ed_gantt@byu.edu

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Jeffrey R. Lacasse College of Social Work, Florida State University jeffreylacasse@gmail.com

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Nathan Vierling-Claassen Department of Neuroscience, Brown University Nathan_Vierling-Claassen@brown.edu

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Public conversation about biological contributors to mental disorder often centers on whether the problem is “biological or not.” In this paper, we propose moving beyond this bifurcation to a very different question: how exactly are these problems understood to be biological? Specifically, we consider four issues around which different interpretations of the body’s relationship to mental disorder exist: 1. The body’s relationship to day-to-day action; 2. The extent to which the body is changeable; 3. The body’s relationship to context; 4. The degree to which states of the body directly cause mental disorder. Drawing on the work of Merleau-Ponty and other phenomenologists, we examine different responses to these questions and associated implications for how mental health treatment and recovery come to be experienced. Finally, we consider broader questions these patterns raise, including why certain portrayals of the brain dominate public attention and how to foster more deliberation in this regard.

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