Monday, 6 July 2009

Fixer of Hearts

… Sukey Waller, the psychologist at Merced Community Outreach Services … "a sort of hippie-ish revolutionary" … told me: "Here's my phone number. If you get my answering machine, you will find I speak so slowly it sounds as if I'm in the middle of a terrible depression or on drugs. Please don't be alarmed. It's just that I get a lot of calls from clients who can't understand fast English." Sukey's business card read, in Hmong and Lao, "Fixer of Hearts." She explained to me, "Psychological problems do not exist for the Hmong, because they do not distinguish between mental and physical illness. Everything is a spiritual problem. It's not really possible to translate what I do into Hmong - a shaman is the closest person to a psychotherapist - but fixing hearts was the best metaphor I could find. The only danger is that they might think I do open-heart surgery. That would certainly make them run in the other direction."

Anne Fadiman: The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

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