Conducting educational research towards the
development of a creative flexibility in future generations means
looking for a way to give young people the appropriate stimuli
which develops the creativeness they already possess, and the
appropriate spaces and means to realize it. A similar approach
to the problem which could appear obvious or even futuristic in
a sense, becomes reductive if we do not also take into account
the possibility of a "quantitative" increase of creative
potential, apart from the qualitative increase already existing
in our society. Indeed, an increase in the percentage of creative
individuals means a larger number of people able to face the ever
increasing and more complex evolutionary demands of the future.
In today's society there are individuals
who possess a rigid, dependent and conservative personality, such
as those we might call "fundamentalists", which is opposite
to others who contrastingly possess an autonomous flexible and
creative personality. There seems, however to be a certain prevalence
of the first category over the second. The "quantitative"
increase in creative flexibility therefore means the shifting
of individual educative formation toward the development of psychological
independence, autonomy and critical thinking, so as to develop
mind characters which are more appropriate to creativeness and
an attitude to change in future generations.
It is also true that these characteristics
of human personality admit a genetic origin: their development
seems to depend in good measure on the cultural habits which regulate
the communication relationships, above all when these operate
through a mechanism or background of environmental pressure at
the age when the young individual begins to self-frame her brain
connections on which her personality depends; that is, through
her earliest family education. These cultural factors doubtless
require the attention of whoever is concerned with educational
Positive Placebo Effect
Family Communication Patterns
As Hippocrates taught, health care is
intimately connected to cultural patterns prevailing in society
and the influence of the social environment is capable either
of increasing or decreasing the gravity of each illness. 'Today's
Science' classifies these influences of self-defending power within
the ambit of the so-called "Placebo Effect". Its mechanism
shows that these influences are acquired and not genetic; and
that these emanate from a pathological lowering of the organic
immuno modulating level which is linked to the existence of a
rigid psycho dependent suggestible personality.
Hence a new illness should be identified
which can be called the 'Low Flexibility Syndrome', LFS. Lack
of flexibility linked to the decrease in self-defending power
is characteristic of LFS and finds its origin in the environmental
pressure present in the family educative pattern. Therefore, even
if its therapy could be only symptomatic, the prevention of LFS
becomes possible once the inappropriate elements present in the
usual pattern of family communication are pointed out and can
then be eliminated.
So, now it is surely time that Hippocratic
Medicine provided for the connections between health and the cultural
patterns prevailing in our society, the first being the Family
communication relationship. Is the ESPMH and the IHFK ready to
accept this challenge?
Already 2.500 years ago, Hippocrates taught
us how to search in nature for causes of illnesses and for principles
of healing. The treatments He provided to the sick were, moreover,
warnings to them to change their living habits and their relations
with the environment:
"It is necessary for the physician
not only to provide the needed treatment, but to provide for the
patient himself and for those beside him and to provide for his
outside affairs," said the Father of scientific medicine.
Now, at the beginning of the Third Millennium, today's medicine
is looking at the interrelations between humans' knowing, acting
and valuing and the cultural patterns prevailing in society as
they connect with health care.
Thanks to Hippocrates, we know today that
the influence of the environment on human health can be as important
as human influence on the social and natural environment, and
those who know how they interact with the environment also know
themselves and this makes their environment and their health mutually
supportive. This precise knowledge should lead Hippocrates' followers
to study the particular environment where the individual's knowing,
acting and valuing are first formed: in the Family.
Much more than teachers, Hippocrates'
followers should indeed be concerned with the very likely link
between Family educative communication and health. This is because
the Family is where some social and cultural bases of primary
prevention and of health care can be found. My attempt to stress
the connection between words and health at this 'Medicine and
Culture' Conference in Kos could achieve this goal.
But, how does the connection between the
social environment and human health develop? Is it possible to
systematize this very complex matter in the light of today's knowledge,
in accordance with the Laws of science and the parameters of modern
medicine? If Hippocrates' soul will help me, I will answer this
question by defining the parameters of a new illness.
The connection between social environment
and human diseases is not specific. This means that the influence
of the socio- environmental elements on a sick person can either
increase or decrease the gravity of their eventual sickness irrespective
of the type of illness. Thus the physical functions affected by
the socio- environment elements belong to the general system on
which the power of the organism's self-defense against any illness
depends. This general self-defending power is commonly known as
the "immuno modulating" power.
Magicians and Shamans have always practised
the magic art of influencing for good or evil the immuno modulating
level of their more vulnerable patients, and it was thanks to
Hippocrates that we knew that this important factor in health
defence depends on the patient and his/her environment, and not
on magic or supernatural forces. Today's scientific medicine classifies
such connections between self-defending power and suggestive factors
within the ambit of the so-called "Placebo Effect".
In the last fifty years the properties of Placebo and its negative
or positive effects on the subject's physical defences were described
by students like Wolf, Lasagna and Beker, Graber, Claridge, and
others. Their work definitely demonstrated that the immuno power
of the human body can be lowered not only by action from outside
factors like HIV, but also by the action of psychological factors
relating to the involvement of the subject in his/her environment
 where negative results may include the pathological
decrease of self- defending power known as the "Negative
Nevertheless, modern scientific medicine
has failed to undertake a systematic study of the mechanisms which
underpin the Placebo Effect, perhaps considering this as something
likely to be of interest only to magicians. So our knowledge of
what happens to the body when its self- defending power is decreased,
comes more from studies on AIDS than from those on the Negative
Placebo Effect. In particular, we still don't know clearly enough
what happens when this self-defence is increased by a Positive
Placebo Effect. I shall attempt to investigate this question here:
In this case, we must first exclude the
possibility that one's self-defending power can be lifted above
its natural level, because if that were possible, we would be
obliged to admit the intervention of just those supernatural forces
which Hippocrates taught us to avoid. Yet the fact of increasing
a subject's self-defending power has been conclusively demonstrated
. Thus it must have its source in a pre-existing
condition of having first been decreased to a level beneath its
natural level. Furthermore, such a pathological condition must
be as widespread in humans as is the human capacity to react positively
to a Placebo. In western civilization, the possibility of a positive
answer to Placebo is present in nearly 70 % of people,
and we are drawn to believe that this percentage could be even
higher in less civilized countries. Also, from the research of
the above quoted Authors, we also know that the more common psychological
characteristics of the interested subjects are emotionality, anxiety,
suggestibility, and psycho-dependence in the form of an unconscious
aptitude for acting in conformity with others' wishes. These behavioural
characteristics mark the rigid fundamentalist psycho-dependent
personality, in opposition to the autonomous and flexible one.
A personality which is rigidly dependent
on others' consent to perform its behavioural and believing procedures,
incapable of self-realization and self-consciousness, lacking
in autonomy and adaptive flexibility, therefore goes hand-in-hand
with a decrease of the body's physical defences, and it is just
in this context that the Positive Placebo Effect can have its
effect. Thus, this definite kind of mental structure must be considered
as symptomatic of a real pathological condition, whose immediate
effect on the body is a lowering of the natural level of self-defending
power. It therefore constitutes a potential factor which underpins
and aggravates each illness in humans.
The above exposed elements allow us to
determine the parameters of a definite pathological condition.
I call it "the Less Flexibility Syndrome" because its
most important symptom is a decrease in the immuno and relational
flexibility linked to a rigid psycho-dependent personality.
The origins of the Low Flexibility Syndrome
are clearly of an acquired, non-genetic, nature. This assertion
can be proven by the same existence of the Positive Placebo Effect
which demonstrates how the decrease of the immuno level peculiar
to the LFS is reversible. This could not be compatible with a
genetic origin. Thus we must look for the origin of LFS in the
outside environment; that is, in the acquired cultural factors
ruling the formation and the strengthening of the human personality.
In this way, because the neuro-psychical structure starts to take
form from the beginning of life relations, the cultural factors
responsible can be traced back to the first relations of educative
communication; that is, to the family environment surrounding
the child in its first years of life.
From my studies, I elucidate the characteristics
of two different patterns in family educational communication
and their function in framing the brain of the young individual.
The variant which allows us to distinguish between them is provided
by the more or less strong and rigid request of consent in the
assistance - dependence relationship upon which the family bases
The most common educational pattern, which thereby must be considered
responsible for the high percentage of positive answers to Placebo,
is characterized by a strong and peremptory request for consent
by the family authority from the child; and this at the time when
his/her personality is in the process of fixing its final psychic
structure. Such a request, if systematically practiced by the
parents with intense, seductive strength in that delicate period
when the child's brain is fixing its structure, constitutes the
environmental pressure which can condition the preferential recourse
in the brain to those nervous connections and circuits that are
responsible for the treatment and the execution of behavioural
lines aimed rigidly at obtaining the consent of the parental authority.
And the same, vice versa, to exclude or block the nervous channels
and circuits responsible for enforcing autonomous and dialectical
- i.e. more flexible - behaviour.
Therefore we can consider LFS as the result
of a definite educational conditioning which took selective action
in the beginning of the child's life by giving rise to a particular
trait in his/her brain framework. On a behavioural level, this
"brain frame" corresponds to a rigidly psycho dependent
personality, and on a physical level it corresponds to a pathological
decrease to beneath the maximum natural potential of the immuno
power of the person concerned.
Because LFS consists in a lowering of
the subject's physical defences, we must first of all consider
that it acts more on the intensity of the symptoms rather than
on their quality.
On an individual physical level, the symptoms
of LFS are therefore those of all the common illnesses whose establishment
can be aided or whose course can be aggravated by the more or
less immuno- depression due to the same syndrome; and that means
practically every symptom of every illness.
On a psychical level, the symptoms of LFS are the manifestations
of the emotional and relational sphere typical of dependent personalities
and, above all, of personalities which are open to suggestion.
Schizophrenia too, since it seems to have its origin in an educative
conditioning based on a child's consensus answer to a parent's
paradoxical requests , can be considered a symptom
Finally, the psycho dependent personality
is a contributory factor to drugs and medicine addiction and,
indeed, of addictive consumerism .
The most important effects of LFS act, however, on a social level.
Here the syndrome involves - together with the relationship of
the single individual in his environment - also the social environment
because it is the sum of single individuals' behaviour. The variety
of these symptoms, the descriptions of which can be found on the
daily local and international news, is boundless, and it is made
up of a collective attitude. As we have seen, LFS concerns about
70 % of people . This collective attitude is characterized
by a sizable degree of suggestibility and a lack of rationality
in assuming all the information needed to manage collective behaviour
On a social level therefore, the presence
of LFS in 70 % of people seems to manifest itself in a rigidly
conservative group which closed to inner dialectics and to any
innovative proposal even if it possesses great accordance with
reality. Obviously, the inability to give adequate and flexible
answers to the more complex environmental adaptive issues arises
in such a group and the hardening of intolerance and extreme fundamentalist
positions will result. This will inevitably accompany unsolved
social issues and a consequent decay in individual and collective
health. Now the recognition of LFS should cause this social issue
to become a topic of health care by Hippocratic Medicine.
A true aetiological therapy of LFS cannot
be proposed because it is the result of an educative conditioning
which took root in the formation of the child's brain frames in
his formative years, thus causing it to imprint itself on the
childs definitive personality and culture.
On an individual level, therapy for LFS
is therefore similar to that of current medical practice in the
treating of the symptoms of different illnesses of which the Low
Flexibility Syndrome can constitute an aggravating factor.
On a relational level, the effects of
LFS are epitomized by the existential crisis in today's society.
Here, a symptomatic therapy should be applied through culture,
science and politics: it should consist of leading collective
choices towards flexible believing and behavioural attitudes which
better align with adaptation and tolerance. Furthermore, such
a therapy would be the subject of a collective choice. Now this
sounds impossible because the syndrome acts precisely upon the
inter-relational system of humans' knowing, acting and valuing
by influencing the collective choices towards fundamentalist positions
of a wholly insufficient rationality and acceptance of reality.
Therefore, as regards its social effects on a collective level,
LFS in itself does not seem to be compatible with a rational symptomatic
therapy that may have any solid probability of becoming successful.
Once recognised, the substantial identity
between some aspects of the educational pattern of family communication
and the environmental pressure which conditions the fixing of
a rigid psycho-dependent brain structure and is responsible for
LFS, this conditioning can be avoided simply by the correction
or the removal of the identified items. To this end, the provision
of appropriate information regarding the nature and characteristics
of family communication patterns which condition the building
of the child's brain frame, seems to be sufficient to allow parents
a better choice of pattern on which the building of a flexible
personality depends .
The spreading of this information could
obtain the twofold result of preventing the effects of LFS, both
on the individual and collective levels. Indeed, the adoption
of a better educative pattern seems destined to increase mental
flexibility in future generations and to protect against fundamentalism
and an overall tendency to addiction. This definite information
would also draw the attention of the present generation to the
role of flexibility in the interrelations of human knowing, acting
and valuing, thus opening a path to the collective adoption of
more flexible lines of behaviour and adaptation in both the natural
and the social environment.
Hippocrates' teachings have never been
more topical than at the current time. The human today is ill.
We are traversing a very deep crisis of which we are unable to
see either the beginning or the end.
This illness is due, without any shadow
of doubt, to the all too scarce flexibility in humans of the use
of educational means and in ignoring cultural and scientific warnings;
too scarce a flexibility in performing communication relationships
between people and among peoples; too scarce a flexibility in
observance of the adaptive laws of the natural and social environment
starting from that of the Family.
Hippocrates taught us to look at illnesses
with the eye of a naturalist. The causes of our existential sickness,
the crisis in adaptation we are facing at the beginning of the
third millennium, must also be observed in the same way. Thus
we need to recognise the nature of humankind in its relations
with the environment, and in the educational and cultural patterns
of our societies and of our families, leaving nothing to mystery,
to magic, or to the supernatural.
My proposal of defining a new pathology,
the "Low Flexibility Syndrome", according to parameters
of modern scientific medicine, might perhaps give an outline to
the understanding of today's existential sickness of humankind.
At any rate, my attempt should represent a call to the Hippocratic
Physician who, in his daily healing practice, looks not only at
the required treatment but also at his patient's social environment;
that is, the interrelations of knowing, acting and valuing and
the cultural patterns prevailing in our societies which form the
same nature of the individual, and his/her health.
I would like to suggest that everybody
observe more deeply the first of these cultural patterns: the
family educational one. Because of its function as the environmental
pressure which occurs just at the delicate time when the young
individual begins to build both its brain frame and its future
flexibility, the educative communication family pattern is intimately
connected with health care.
That is all. All throughout my work, I
have always tried to make more rational the tie between health
care and the family pattern of educative communication so as to
bring us towards flexibility as Primary Prevention. I would be
very pleased to consider this small contribution as my personal
respect to Hippocrates' memory. But above all, I am pleased to
have been allowed to present my concept of a connection between
family communication and human health to this ESPMH 'Medicine
and Culture' 9th Annual Conference here at Kos, where Hippocrates