Body-Soul Dualism Wreaks Havoc, Says Psychologist
WASHINGTON, D.C., 24 DEC. 2002 (ZENIT) –
The 1960s sexual revolution and the culture of death it helped foster
have wreaked heavy psychological damage—on women in particular, says a
Gladys Sweeney, dean of the Arlington, Virginia-based Institute for the
Psychological Sciences, made that case in this address at the Culture of
Life presentation April 17 at the Library of Congress. This text was
also published in the Culture of Life Foundation proceedings of the
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There is much discussion, in the media, within pro-life circles, and
even among feminists and abortion advocates, about what psychological
effects are experienced by women who undergo abortions, who are sexually
promiscuous, or who resort to the latest reproductive techniques in
order to conceive a child.
What really are the psychological effects, particularly on women, of
health practices that violate the dignity of human life?
It would be wonderful if scientific studies clarified the matter. There
are relatively few such reports, however, and even fewer that are
unequivocal. I will present some of these scientific studies, but most
importantly, I will strive in my presentation to give you a sense of the
psychological problems mental health professionals are seeing in real
We are a society wounded psychologically by the culture of death. Women,
in particular, reap disproportionate psychological injury and suffering
as a result of health-related practices which are opposed to the culture
The culture of death was ushered into American society at the time of
the sexual revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. The sexual revolution
promised a new freedom and discovery of self—it was a time when
psychology became mainstream and the notions of psychological growth,
freedom, and personal exploration came of age.
In pursuit of freedom, women sought license and unfettered autonomy. In
pursuit of sexual pleasure, women separated sexual expression from its
true meaning within marriage and its connection with procreation. In
pursuit of equality with men, women surrendered the dignity of womanhood
and rejected the value of motherhood.
In hopes of "getting in touch with their inner selves" women
embraced psychology, the priority of feelings over reason, and rejected
the constraints of objective morality. It is particularly ironic that
the generation that embraced psychology adopted a lifestyle and created
a culture that caused so much psychological woundedness and suffering!
What the sexual revolution and radical feminism promised was that the
pursuit of freedom, sexual equality, sexual pleasure and the rejection
of traditional morality would bring individual happiness and build a
more truly human society.
Instead, the reproductive health practices spawned by the sexual
revolution and the women's liberation movement resulted in: a
skyrocketing divorce rate, less stable families, teen promiscuity, teen
pregnancy, easy abortion, a culture of individualism and selfishness,
devaluing of womanhood and motherhood, isolation, and the tendency to
use others as a means to fulfill one's own selfish ends. We now have a
society wounded psychologically by the practices of the culture of death
with women suffering the greatest psychological toll.
Often psychological difficulties are predictable and recognized side
effects of some medical treatment which is hostile to life.
For example, many contraceptives, including some that are abortifacient,
have depression and anxiety as common side effects. Contraception as an
option for married couples is a sign of the mind-set of the sexual
revolution: that children are a burden and an inconvenience, that
fertility is a disease to be treated instead of a gift to be cherished,
and that sexual pleasure should be uncoupled from the creation of new
Teens and adolescents are entitled to pursue sexual pleasure, according
to this line of reasoning, but the consequences of fertility, of manhood
and womanhood, are to be treated as diseases to be cured.
Consequently, we have medical professionals and social workers deciding
that it is preferable for young women to be given Norplant, the
implanted contraceptive that stays effective for up to three years,
rather than learning to control their sexual impulses.
At the same time, they deem the clinical depressions, anxieties or panic
disorders that can accompany use of this contraceptive as acceptable
side effects. Unassailable medical journals have been reporting the
association between Norplant and psychological problems for years. 
In every branch of medicine we have to deal with side effects of
necessary medical treatments. For example, depression can be a side
effect of numerous drug treatments for maladies ranging from high blood
pressure to multiple sclerosis. The difference here is that we, as a
society, are choosing to assume the risk of severe psychological side
effects in order to treat something that is not a disease, i.e.
fertility. The problem—teen pregnancy—can be avoided very simply and
with no side effects. The solution is called abstinence.
When certain practices violate human dignity and the intrinsic nature of
womanhood and motherhood, they produce psychological problems based on
the denial of the truth about the human person. The more common and yet
subtler area of psychological damage results not as a medical side
effect of a particular treatment. Rather, psychological problems can
arise as a response to some dehumanizing aspect of the treatment itself.
Expressed in other words, psychological problems result not as side
effects of medical treatment, but as a result of the health practices
themselves. For example, it is a growing practice in obstetrics to
recommend abortion when there is a "chance" that the child
might be "defective."
Or, when a mother is carrying three or four babies as a result of
infertility treatments, doctors may recommend killing some but not all
of the babies through a procedure euphemistically called "selective
reduction." The natural inclination of a mother is to embrace the
new life within her and to protect and nurture all of her children, not
Instead she is forced to "choose" to kill, supposedly for the
good of some of her children or because of the mistaken idea that it is
better not to be born than to be born less than perfect. If such actions
are contrary to a woman's inherent nature, just what psychological
effect can they have?
B. Blumberg, M. Golbus and K. Hanson (see American Journal of Obstetrics
and Gynecology, 1975, Volume 122, 799-808) showed that the incidence of
depression following selective abortion for suspected genetic defect,
was as high as 92% among women and as high as 82% among men. The
percentage was greater than that usually associated with elective
abortion or with delivery of a stillborn. The researchers argued that
what was needed was better counseling services to help the parents deal
with the guilt expressed.
The culture of death emphasizes psychological counseling to relieve
people's guilt. That guilt, however, is the natural manifestation of
God's law already inscribed in their hearts. It cannot be counseled
away. It must be acknowledged and then it can be forgiven. The
psychological damage wrought by the culture of death can only be dealt
with by first acknowledging reality—the reality that some things are
right and some are always wrong—seeking forgiveness, and finding
happiness in the restoration of a life lived according to God's plan for
Today professor Robert George talked about the dualism of the person
promoted by the secular culture. In his book "Clash of
Orthodoxies" (ISI Books, Wilmington, Delaware, 2001), professor
George points out that there is a modern tendency to consider the self
in dualistic terms—to separate the thinking, desiring, conscious
"self" from a person's biological self.
This view is reflected in the modern, MTV-generation approach to
sexuality, which sees the body as an instrument, a "thing"
possessed for pleasure but detached from their own personhood:
"What I do with my body is my own business." It also is
expressed in the depersonalization of sex: "This isn't about you or
me ... it's just sex."
Similarly, the person who has absorbed this dualism would feel no guilt
in selling her ova in order to make money. A recent ad in one California
college promised to pay $100,000 for the eggs of a college-educated,
athletic coed. Nor would a woman formed in this view hesitate to
terminate the body's biological life because it cannot provide the
conscious self with a life worthy of enjoyment.
This dualism is present in the new reproductive technologies that
depersonalize the ability to father a child or be a mother. It is found
in technologies that extract sperm from dead men, that pay students to
provide sperm or eggs for "banks" that offer them to the
highest bidder, or the push to create artificial wombs.
Interestingly enough, from a psychological point of view the dualistic
perspective is fatally flawed, a fact confirmed by real-life
experiences. The human person is a body-person. He is not just a soul
captured inside a body. Intuitively, we all know this.
A person's body is part of and expresses the reality of who he is. Those
who posit a dualistic view of the human being need only think of the
horrible situation of rape in order to question their own assumptions.
When a woman is raped, it is the whole person of the woman that suffers,
not just the biological body. The mind reacts, consciously and
unconsciously, and the soul as well. Healing the memories, mind and
spirit often takes far longer than healing the wounded body. Often
spiritual guidance is sought and needed to heal the violation of the
To delineate this point further, let's examine the case of dissociative
disorder. Dissociative disorder is a psychiatric diagnosis documented in
the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders by the
American Psychiatric Association. It is considered as the person's
response to an extremely traumatic, ongoing, early and severe childhood
According to "The Oxford Textbook of Psychopathology" (1999,
p. 472), dissociative disorders serve a psychological purpose, that of
insulating the "executive" self from the full impact of the
abuse, thereby preserving function and normal development.
During this process various elements of the trauma are parceled out to
separate selves. In its severe form of multiple personality disorders,
the selves are disconnected from each other by amnesia barriers that are
porous in nature—and able to be triggered by later life events.
Often the process of parceling out is not complete and it might involve
cognitive aspects, such as dissociative amnesia, or behavioral aspects,
such as dissociative fugue, or affective aspects, such as
In this case there is a dualism that has been created between the
conscious or executive self and the body or parts of the body. However,
it is considered a disorder and not a normal state of affairs, it has an
identifiable etiology, which is pathological in nature, and the
treatment consists in the unification of the self as one integrated
The culture of death continuously communicates the message of this
dualism, which rationalizes promiscuous relationships, abortion,
sterilization, egg-donation, and many other practices contrary to the
culture of life.
If we are to derail the dualistic tendency in society we must
articulate, promote and live according to an integrated view of the
human person—an understanding of who man is and his essential dignity.
This task is essential not only for the sake of ending the violations of
human dignity that occur each day within the culture of death; it is
essential too in building the culture of life. ZE02122420
1 Wagner, K., Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 1996, Volume 57, pp.
152-157; Wagner, K., Berenson, A., Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 1994,
pp. 478-480; Meirik, P., Farley, T., Sivin, I., Obstetrics &
Gynecology, 2001, 97, pp. 539-547.