Re: Language as self-medication, and the memetic immune system

Ton Maas (
Wed, 6 Aug 1997 07:32:02 +0200

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Date: Wed, 6 Aug 1997 07:32:02 +0200
From: Ton Maas <>
Subject: Re: Language as self-medication, and the memetic immune system

>When a familiar word is heard and understood, the context in which that
>word has been heard and used in the past is recreated in the brain. So
>hearing the word "pickle" may bring the taste or look of a pickle to mind,
>or may cause a smile in memory of a joke that used the word "pickle" in
>the punch line.
>By associating words with brain-states, people can "self-medicate" with
>language -- using soothing, kinky, or magic words to reproduce pleasurable
>states of mind.

Sometime in the seventies CoEvolution Quarterly ran a wonderful article by
Wallace Ellerbroek, entitled "Language, Thought & Disease", which
elaborates this idea for medical purposes. It is interesting to note that
when the author (a surgeon turned psychiatrist) first wanted to publish the
results of his research (about "spontaneous" healing in cancer patients),
he was rejected by all the major medical journals. Some years later he
submitted his theory again, now claiming it was about acne vulgaris. This
version was published without a hitch!


PS If you want a reprint of the article, I could dig it up and send you a copy.

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