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mind-body problem

You are a trim and healthy 19-year-old girl. You have good friends, do well in college courses you’ve just started, you have a job that pays the bills. But for some reason when you look in the mirror all you see is a chubby body and that makes any success you have vanish and you are miserable. If only you were thinner you would be happy.

You are an 84-year-old man. When you see a young and beautiful woman you feel the same way you always have when faced with the fairer sex. Your powers of flirtation have only gotten more refined with age and your charm is undeniable. Though you get the giggles and the attention, you never seem to get the girl.

You are a 50-year-old man. You have a family, with a wife and two children. You love them very much but you can’t make yourself be happy. You feel you have been living a lie. You believe you are a woman trapped in a man’s body. Who you think you are and what your body looks like doesn’t match.

The young girl can diet and vomit away her fat until she is all skin and bones as an anorexic. The old man can find himself a woman who wants him for his money. The middle-aged man can upend his life, have his penis cut off, some breasts added, hormones pumped into his body, and wear a dress, grow his hair, and don makeup everyday.

Trans-abled people feel they are handicapped

These people don’t feel like the body they have is the body they should have. The one they were born with isn’t their real body. So what they do is modify their body to fit their view of how they think their body should be. Their real body, the body they are meant to have. They will cut off parts to make their physical self match the self they just know is their real and actual self. It’s not difficult to see that these people have a mental disorder. They do, it’s called “body integrity identity disorder”.

Missing fingers

When this first hit the spotlight I found that the general mood was that this was not healthy and was clearly the result of a mental illness. Lately I’ve seen articles that headline as, “don’t judge until you…” and then fill in

You are not your body.

Your face and body may or may not match your mind. That is known as the “mind-body problem”.  Human consciousness has been the subject of debate and pondering since ancient times. Some taught that mind and body were of the same stuff. Others taught that they were different things. One matter, solid and tangible, and the other something else not made of matter, or at least made of a different sort of matter than body.

This is explored in a philosophical discussion on whether or not we are minds or bodies but it is more than just philosophy. It is a psychological reality. It comes in differing degrees. I doubt there is anyone who doesn’t experience some level of it. It’s one reason you see middle-aged women dressed like teenage girls. Why dirty old men think they have a chance with the young cheerleader.

Transgenderbread man

In a way, the problem is understandable. Our consciousness is really like a separate thing from our body. In theory it could exist without the body. We don’t actually know. This very thing has been the subject of religion, philosophy, and science. Though  it’s popular in some circles to conceive of human consciousness as nothing more than neurons we don’t actually know that is true.

No matter how hard you try, you may never be able to change the way you look to match the way you feel. This isn’t just true for those who consider themselves transgender but is true for every single human being.

But, this isn’t to say the mind doesn’t have a powerful influence over the body. According to one article, “75 to 95 percent of the illnesses that plague us today are a direct result of our thought life.” That is, negative or toxic thoughts can singlehandedly affect our health and lead to serious diseases including diabetes, asthma, and even cancer… Previous research shows that loneliness can contribute to health problems, like heart disease. A study in 2010 showed loneliness has the same effect on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it more dangerous than obesity.”

Be that as it may, none of that mind-power is enough to change your height, or eye color, or a cavity in your teeth, and most certainly not enough to change your gender. Scientifically speaking, medically speaking, you can’t be born into the “wrong body”.

How you deal with how you feel is the difference between being mentally healthy and mentally ill. How we teach and discuss this with children will determine if they grow to be mentally healthy or mentally ill. It also can determine how much of their body they believe must be changed in order for them to be happy.


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