Tuesday, June 04, 2024

To keep you in good humour

History of Psychiatry has an interesting article on ‘Cheerfulness in the history of psychiatry’. As the article says, “the notion of the French gaité tends to couple mood with an innate configuration, both procuring laughter, fun and vivacity". It goes on to mention Louis-Antoine Marquis de Caraccioli who was “ a prolific writer of the eighteenth century, [who] dedicated a book to a psychological theme that medicine has forgotten: ‘gaité’ in French". 
The article goes on:-
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, this work inspired two doctoral theses in medicine, … In their texts, Louis Monferran (1785– ?) and Vincent Rémi Giganon (1794–1857) explored the therapeutic benefits of the medical prescription of cheerfulness. In addition to lifestyle recommendations, they focused on the psychotropic substances available to them: alcohol, coca, hemp and opiates. … Giganon [also] … recommended … inhaled nitrous oxide gas.

Well, at least they included lifestyle recommendations as well as various substances. We have learnt a lot about these substances since Montferran and Giganon and can also learn from these authors’ historical theses for the present. Of course psychedelic substances are making a comeback as prescribed medications (see previous post). But, although fighting sadness with cheerfulness may seem to make sense. we also need to be realistic. 

It may be easy to get caught up in the charms of momentary cheerfulness. To quote Giganon from the article. "Laughter, song, wordplay, and jargon may spell doubts and allay suspicions". Or, to quote Monferran, again from the article, "Momentary cheerfulness delights the soul without perturbing it, evokes laughter without ridicule, and refines pleasures without corrupting them”. By contrast, "lasting or internal cheerfulness is based on an inner contentment, a blameless conscience, and the secret applause that follows a good action; this joy is more perfect than momentary cheerfulness". Modern society has become too focused on quick fixes (see previous post) and oversimplistic psychiatric treatment (see another previous post).

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