Written by Myron Norman
I'd like to draw your attention to a noteworthy insight shared by M. Marsel Mesulam, MD, the Director of Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center and Chief of Behavioral Neurology in the Department of Neurology Ruth Dunbar Davee Professor of Neuroscience. I'd also ask you (reader) to hunker-down - this is not your glance through type of article. In fact, you might want to add this article to your 'must read' list. It's that good. If you've got the time, keep reading.
In the publication, Principles of Frontal Lobe Funtion, Dr. Mesulam highlights Phineas P. Gage, a railroad construction foreman who survived after a large iron rod was driven completely driven through his head (1848). In response to the examination conducted by Harvard surgeon Henry Jacob Bigelow - who believed Phinehas Gage "fully recovered" - Dr. Mesulam stated the following concerning Gage's mental and emotional stability which reportedly deteriorated not too long after his injury : "It appears, however, that Bigelow had been a bit premature in his pronouncements. The recovery might have been complete in the surgical sense, but not in the spiritual."
I see physical trauma and emotional/mental trauma as 'spiritual' gateways that enable the human body to interact or be influenced by the environment or external influences - in negative or positive ways. In the case of Phineas P. Gage, some will argue that damage to the frontal lobe areas of Gage's brain would explain his personality changes and/or identity dissociation following his injury. I surmise that the physical trauma Gage suffered caused him to suffer both physically and spiritualy. Dr. Mesulam's insight shows this to be true as he echoes a clear divide between Phineas P. Gage's post surgical (physical) state and his mental/emotional state (spiritual) post injury.
While an examination by Harvard surgeon Henry Jacob Bigelow highlighted Phineas P. Gage's recovery from his physical injury, Gage would go on to experience some behavioral changes following his injury. In an article published by The Gaurdian, Mo Costandi states "Those closest to him (Gage) began to notice dramatic changes in his behavior." Mo Costandi cites remarks concerning Phenias P. Gage's condition by John Harlow, the physician who attended to Gage at the scene of his injury:
"His (Gage) contractors, who regarded him as the most efficient and capable foreman in their employ previous to his injury, considered the change in his mind so marked that they could not give him his job again. He is fitful, irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest profanity (which was not previous his custom), manifesting but little deference for his fellows, impatient of restraint of advice when it conflicts with his desires, at times pertinaciously obstinent, yet caparicous and vacillating, devising many plans of future operation, which are no sooner arranged than they are abandoned in turn for others appearing more feasible. In his regard, his mind was radically changed, so decidedly that his friends and acquaintances said he was "no longer Gage".
Gage's injury (an iron-rod piercing his skull) is unique, in the manner of which he experienced his physical trauma. However, millions of people every year experience various types of head trauma - or physical injuries that are 'traumatic' for the survivor. These physical injuries have resulted in countless cases of survivors who experienced subtle or drastic changes to their personalities, mental and emotional health post injury. Thus, easily showing that physical trauma to any part of the human body is at least capable of altering the mental or emotional condition of the survivor. This is the point of which my work begins.
The effects of trauma beyond the physical aspect of our bodies seeps into those parts of our physiology that aren't traceable by modern medical equipment. I should note that the human body is capable of becoming emotionally or mentally unhinged without suffering physical injuries such as a concussion. Adversity itself leaves many people clasped in the stronghold of post traumatic stress, depression, disassociation and other psycho and social impairing disorders and illnesses.
The approach I take starts with understanding how human trauma (physical/non-physical) can leave humans exposed to vulnerabilities ranging from soul damage, genetic expressions, spiritual conflict and malevolent forces compelling or bending some humans toward harming themselves or others.
In today's Western culture of psychology and medicine, common focus is placed upon two of the three parts of human physiology - 1. Mind (psychology) 2. Body (physical). However, there is a third aspect of human physiology that must be considered in order for practitioners and health professionals to make groundbreaking strides in mental and emotional trauma care - that is the 3. Soul (spiritual).
Fundamentally, I believe that the work of qualified medical and health practitioners is a gift to our society. Perhaps an even greater gift is the potential for humans to wholefully walk the earth equally strong on all three fronts of their being. This starts with undoing the 'unseen' damage that often follows human trauma. By doing so, we fortify the external and internal repairs of human practitioners at every level of care.
I hope you enjoyed this article. Please vote or share your thoughts and questions below. I'd love to read and respond to them. Thanks for reading!