Healing the Sick Person: an Existential Approach to the Art and Science of Psychiatry: The Person as Mind

We’ve looked at the person in terms of his structure and his being. Perhaps we can say a few brief things about the person as mind.

Firstly, it would appear self evident that we are symbolic entities. We move about in a web of socio-cultural interrelationships providing us with a wealth of experiences and the framework for heroic action. We are able as intellect, to speculate about reality and to reflect on ourselves. We emotionally need and hunger for one another. We hate and love, achieve greatness and suffer profound remorse. This is a world of meanings and magic. In the case of currency for example, what might otherwise be thought of as specially fabricatated paper bearing a leader’s likeness, is a source of power within the social network. Such meanings are agreed upon and are also imposed on us. They are like spirits having no substance in themselves and no separate consciousness, but enormous power. The strife in the Middle East, Northern Ireland, South Africa and so on attest to the negative impact and force of symbols on people’s lives. 

The works of Freud, Jung, Kohut, and numerous others in the field of psychiatry are attempts at describing the nature of psychological entities.

Psychic events, perceptions, symbols, emotions are expressions of the person; they in fact, are the person. One is happiness or sadness. These feeling states, though they may seem extraneous events that happen to oneself, are who one is at a particular moment. When one is joyous hungry or in despair, the feeling state permeates the entirety of his being in the world. Psychological phenomena, in the psychophysiological unity of the person, are also physical events. The other aspect of the paradoxical entity which presents itself on one hand as a mental event is also stuctured along the lines of brain physiology. For this reason mental phenomena can become distorted or lose their connection withon another. The person’s structure can be influenced by symbolic phenomena as well as by changes in neural structure or brain chemistry.

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