Psychology as it exists in the West is unknown in classical Chinese medical thought and is insignificant in contemporary Chinese culture. Confucianism, with its emphasis on social order, has dominated medical philosophy and practise. In China today, individual development and welfare are secondary to the functioning of the common good (Beinfield & Korngold, 1991). Within this context, the psychology of individual personality has not matured beyond the soma-psyche correspondences described during the Han dynasty (200 B.C. - A.D. 200). This historical trajectory has shaped the definition of healthy individuals as productive people, sufficiently adjusted to maintain the status quo. A sound mind is assumed to be the natural accompaniment of a fit body, and the expected relationship with family and society. This is the scope of individual psychology in China. The rationale is that if individuals behave in harmony with family and society, they are presumed to be personally content. In the West, this outlook is reversed. Individualism and personal development are revered. The common good is expected to be the natural outcome of individual freedom and fulfilment. In this context, personality psychology assumes great significance (Beinfield & Korngold, 1991).(1)
Despite emphasis on individuals' social obligations throughout Asia, Chinese philosophy identifies synchronisation with nature as the basis for individual and collective development (Beinfield & Korngold, 1991). Within the Eastern world view, the human being is a microcosm of nature (Beinfield & Korngold, 1991). The Chinese ideogram for human being depicts a figure rooted like a tree in the earth, with hands outstretched skyward receiving energy from above and below. In traditional cultures, nature is classified in terms of opposing forces which govern balance of all things, including body and mind (Kaptchuck & Croucher, 1986). This system of yin and yang appears dualistic in nature, however can only describe relativity, reflecting the principle of unity underlying all eastern philosophical thought (Beinfield & Korngold, 1991).
Paradoxically this fluid system of thought emerged in cultures with highly structured social systems such as China and India. Emphasis on abstract thought coexisted with rigid expectations regarding exhibition of behaviour (Ross, 1993).
The concept of an inseparable body mind continuum is one of the main characteristics of all eastern thought. In classical Chinese medicine, mental activity has always been considered inseparable form bodily function. Mental disorders were generally not treated differently from other disorders. Physical processes are believed to have mental implications and vice versa.
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