Chronic illness: a rejoining of soul and symptom

2017-04-07T06:58:30Z (GMT) by Ann Elizabeth McManus Holroyd
In this study nine individuals offered a dialogical account of what it means to live, on a day-to-day basis, with chronic illness. The general aim of the study was to bridge the gap that exists between the way health professionals understand illness and the way individuals experience illness. The phenomenology of Martin Heidegger and the philosophical hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadder informed the study. <br>    <br>   A critical concern in this inquiry was placing the individual in the centre of matters, and it achieved this through an exploration that arises out of everyday living, rather than the theoretical, scientific account that often dominates the literature. The focus on everyday living served to effectively disrupt commonly held conceptualisations existing in the literature and healthcare settings about the experience of chronic illness. What this research proposed is that without this disruption in our everyday conceptualisations health professionals would continue to blindly adhere to scientific, method oriented thought, as a way of controlling and calculating human processes concerning individuals with chronic illness. <br>    <br>   When analysing the dialogue of each individual, Gadder's philosophical developments on the <i>nature</i> of experiences, specifically <i>Erlebenis</i> and <i>Erfahrung</i> experiences created a template of sorts. The template fostered the organization of a dialogical story that was grounded in the ontological experiences of the individual. Three philosophically based themes formed the template: the individuals' reflections on their early disappointing experiences with chronic illness; how an experience that is shrouded in disappointment moves the individual to learn how to deal with the unexpected; and, the way that hope, or the idea of hope, can precede experience and triumph over experience. Although the data analysis generated many insights, one insight stood out, namely that illness is predominantly a disappointing event that alludes control. However, the data analysis also revealed that most of the participants, because of their experience with illness, acquired a completely different understanding of something that they once thought they knew, namely, what it means to have an illness. The dialogue with the nine individuals in this study consistently indicated that the preconceptions and prejudices held by health professionals are a great source of frustration in their chronic illness experience. Many of the individuals in this study accentuated that they could only achieve a meaningful relationship with a health professional if they were prepared to understand them beyond the features of their illness. <br>    <br>   Although the research findings should not be generalised, some basic recommendations are offered. The recommendations serve to create a meaningful bridge between the world of health professional and their understanding of illness, and the world of individuals and their unique experiences with illness. In other words, the importance of bringing together the body of illness, with the soul or life of illness is a reoccurring feature of this research.