Fortess hypochondria: health and safety

Book chapter

Borossa, J. and Rooney, C. 2014. Fortess hypochondria: health and safety. in: Auestad, L. (ed.) Nationalism and the body politic: psychoanalysis and the rise of ethnocentrism and xenophobia London Karnac. pp. 5-19
Chapter titleFortess hypochondria: health and safety
AuthorsBorossa, J. and Rooney, C.

The chapter addresses the imaginary malady, or malady of the imagination, called hypochondria through its relation to questions of safety. Its title refers to one of Ferenczi's patients, an artist who attempted to construct a total system to serve as his own invulnerable world, a familiat 'fortress hypochondria'. In hypochondria, as in paranoia, there is an understanding that the self is under threat, though this is not a case of being persecuted by hostile others, but of a hostile environment. The authors argue that hypochodria is not only an individual phenomenon, but also one in which something like a socially maintained superego seeks to supervise not so much the realm of ethics as the realm of the ontological. Ours is a culture of contempt for the body, where a desire for perfection is linked with demands to elminiate physical diversity and signs of lived life. It effects a pressure to sustain an invulnerable body, requiring an everready obligation of vigilant defence in a world emptied of trust. The hypochondriac takes the body to be potentially his or her worst enemy, being neither quite self nor as sufficiently other, wishing to protect the body out of self-love while also feeling it is the body that has turned against him or her. The authors raise the notion of 'the foreign body, the body as foreign' to question the formation of racism, how a paranoid form of collective hypochondria might be mobilised. Our fears around disease can be made to serve a poltics of separtism; while we take our own bodily habits for granted and cease to notice them, the presence of the bodily manifests itself to us through the body of the other as disturbance. One cure for hypochondria, the authors suggest, might be forms of activism on behalf of suffering others, helping each other to bear the unbearable.

Research GroupCentre for Psychoanalysis
Page range5-19
Book titleNationalism and the body politic: psychoanalysis and the rise of ethnocentrism and xenophobia
EditorsAuestad, L.
Place of publicationLondon
Publication dates
Publication process dates
Deposited10 Jun 2015
Output statusPublished
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