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"The Damaged Self" by Murphy, R.F.
Transcript of "The Damaged Self" by Murphy, R.F.
The Diagnosis and The Life Change
In 1974 Murphy was diagnosed as having a benign, but slow growing tumor of the spinal cord. Eventually losing motor control to his lower body.
However, he didn't only lose his legs, but he lost himself.
In his eyes, his self image was ruined, as anyone would feel in his position.
The Life Change Continued...
-When Murphy was healthy, he stated that he didn't have any empathy for the handicapped. Oddly enough, the tables have turned.
-He always thought that physical disability only happened to other, less fortunate people. And that it could never happen to him
-People acted differently towards him now.
- He Felt alone and isolated, even though he had a strong family and friend support.
His daily pains and routine..
-Constant tingling in his hands, forearms, and feet. Felt like the burn from a super strained muscle, constantly in his legs. Eventually his legs became completely numb.
-His hands weakened, and fingers curled in to his palms.
-He was always exhausted. Mentally and physically.
-He struggles every morning to wake up and face the reality of his new life.
A Little Background of Murphy
An American Anthropologist and a professor of Anthropology at Columbia University.
He studied the Munduruku people of the Amazon and the Tuareg people of the Sahara.
He was a charismatic and extraordinarily popular teacher among the students at Columbia.
It takes him 15 minutes to shave in the morning. He is finally ready to enter the world at 10AM.
4-5PM is when he starts to slow down. He still has notstopped his daily activities. He teaches and attends meetings 2-3 times a week at the University.
-On his off time he grades exams, reports, and does his own research and writing.
- The university that he worked at was the one thing that kept him going.
Depression and Damage to his Self-Esteem
Even with rest the depression is still there. Everybody, at some point in their lives experience depression. A healthy person is overcome by feelings and wants to just give up. It was different for Murphy, he was depressed because he had to face the day to day world with his “damaged” body.
-But the depression wasn’t the worst of it. The damage to his Self-Esteem was.
-Erving Goffman called it a “stigma” or a “spoiled Identity”
The most damage was done the first month in the wheelchair for Murphy, but got worse when he went back to the University in 1977.
-He had realized that the wheelchair was not a temporary thing, but an extension to his body.
He isolated himself during social gatherings. All the interaction was taking place 2 feet above from where he now stood 3 and a half feet tall.
-He would be totally ignored in a crowd for long periods of time. He could not escape it because the wheelchair was difficult to move around a crowd.
Handicapped life in general..
Both males and females try to compensate for their disabilities by involving themselves in athletics. Wheelchair racing, running, basketball..etc.
Those who can not participate in sports, display their competence as becoming "super crips".
Working harder, and taking part in anything that comes their way.
Disabilities in men constitutes emasculation more directly. Depending on the damage to the spinal cord, numbness to the genital region can occur. Therefore, failure to achieve an erection is possible. There are some paraplegic men who can maintain an erection, but not achieve an orgasm, even after a half hour to an hour of steady intercourse. This effects a mans psych quite profoundly. After all, being a man isn't all about having a penis, but having a sexually useful one.
In females, the inability to orgasm is likely. This does not stop disabled women from having sex, and even having children. (By C-Section.) Paraplegic women claim to get a psychological gratification from the sex act itself, and stimulation from other parts of their bodies.
-A man can get an implant that stimulates erection, but still won't feel anything. The men either go celibate or practice oral sex. Either choice they choose, their standing of a man has been far more compromised than a paraplegic women.
There are some cases where a male retains potency. However his stance during intercourse changes. Most have to lie on their back while the women is on top. In America this is an acceptable alternate position, but in other cultures it is a violation of male dominance.
Freud's theory thought much of human motivation and the needs of the body, especially the sex drive. That the mind and the body is one.
Loss of use in the legs or other vital functions was an "assault on character" and a "loss of power".
The Phenomenology of Perception
A book written in 1962 by a french philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty.
He states that the apprehension and construction of the world is the body. "The body is also a set of relationships that link the outer world and the mind into a system".
He describes the "Phantom Limb". That an amputee still thinks that they have that missing limb. Ponty states that the amputee is missing more than the limb, he is missing one of the conceptual links to the world, an anchor of his very existence.
Sense of Disembodiment
Murphy compared his sense of disembodiment to the "Disembodied Lady" discussed by Oliver Stacks. A bad reaction to an antibiotic drug she lost all senses to her whole body.
Murphy no longer knew where his feet where, or the amount of pain he was in. He also became emotionally unattached to his body. Referring to his arms and legs as "The" arm or "The" leg.
He says that his success of adapting to his body was because he never thought much of his own body. That there was "never much to look at."
He considered himself different, and as a "stranger" to the American culture. Which motivated him to break the norms.
Murphy concludes that the 4 most changing aspects of consciousness of the disabled are : low self esteem, invasion of thought, strong anger, and the acquisition of a new unwanted identity.
Feeling alone and helpless is very common. Based off of research and his own personal experiences, he wrote this book. Murphy passed away October 8, 1990.