chapter
Editor’s introduction to Chapter One
ByLene Auestad
Pages 2

The chapter addresses the imaginary malady, or malady of the imagination, called hypochondria through its relation to questions of safety. Its title refers to one of Ferenczi’s patients, an artist who attempted to construct a total system to serve as his own invulnerable world, a familial “fortress hypochondria”. In hypochondria, as in paranoia, there is an understanding that the self is under threat, though this is not a case of being persecuted by hostile others, but of a hostile something. The authors argue that hypochondria is not only an individual phenomenon, but also one in which something like a socially maintained superego seeks to supervise not so much the realm of ethics as the realm of the ontological. Ours is a culture of contempt for the body, where a desire for perfection is linked with demands to eliminate physical diversity and signs of lived life. It effects a pressure to sustain an invulnerable body, requiring an ever-ready obligation of vigilant defence in a world emptied of trust. The hypochondriac takes the body to be potentially his or her worst enemy, being neither quite self nor as sufficiently other, wishing to protect the body out of self-love while also feeling it is the body that has turned against him or her. The authors raise the notion of “the foreign body, the body as foreign” to question the formation of 4racism, how a paranoid form of collective hypochondria might be mobilised. Our fears around disease can be made to serve a politics of separatism; while we take our own bodily habits for granted and cease to notice them, the presence of the bodily manifests itself to us through the body of the other as a disturbance. They argue in favour of de-pathologising the pathological through a deconstruction of the dichotomy of health and illness. We all inhabit degrees of un-health, and no one is free or immune from physical suffering; “We are all vermin”. One cure for hypochondria, the authors suggest, might be forms of activism on behalf of suffering others, helping each other to bear the unbearable.