James Lynch, The Broken Heart: The Medical Consequences of Loneliness
(New York: Basic Books, 1977).
Not legendary but factual are Lynch’s discussions regarding the famous “marasmus” and :hospitalism” researches conducted by Margaret Ribble, Dorothy Burlingame, Rene Spitz, John Bowlby, Anna Freud, and others, who studied the extensive physical, psychological, and intellectual wasting away that results when a child is deprived of emotional nurturance. Spitz, for example, observed that in many instances, infants who suddenly lost their mother’s would refuse to eat and would eventually succumb even when force fed. Others became depressed (“anaclitic depression”), fearful, angry, and anxious (pages 77, 216-218).
Lynch also offers an interesting instance involving a pair of institutionalized thirty-one-year-old schizophrenic twins, who one night were separated, because the staff believed they were re-enforcing each other’s negative behaviors, only to find the next morning that one of the sisters had died of a heart attack. Upon questioning the surviving sister’s roommate on that fateful night, it was found that she had spent all night long staring toward the dead sister’s window across the courtyard.
In Harry Harlow’s celebrated monkey experiments, it was discovered that after the birth of the infant monkeys, which were raised only with lifeless terry cloth substitutes with button eyes, the young monkeys clinged desperately to the cloth surrogates and became terrified when the inanimate figures were removed from their cages: “the social isolation ultimately destroyed them emotionally. When they matured, they refused to breed, and some killed their own offspring when impregnated” (page, 179). They also demonstrated profound signs and symptoms of emotional imbalance and depression (pages 178-179). As Lynch also points out, frequently dogs, when very anxious, will voluntarily undergo a great deal of pain in order to be with their masters and mistresses.
On a more decidedly sociological level, Lynch recapitulates the fully documented results of the Framingham Project. The longitudinal, 25-year study was originally structured to uncover an assumed strong connection between smoking, poor diet, and premature chronic heart conditions in the small predominantly Italian and Catholic community of Framingham. But instead what it showed was actually a very low incidence of premature heart attacks, which was attributed to the especially close sense of belonging and intimacy between family members and the community at large. These, as it turned out, contributed greatly to good mental health and resulted in a longevity grounded in a closeness of association, which was exceptionally emotionally supportive despite its poor physical practices of habitual smoking and overeating (pages 18-19).
According to Lynch, the real villain in this scientifically- and objectively-determinable tragedy of increasing heart problems in America is by way of misdirection. The mistake is to be directly attributed to the false dualistic separation of mind from body. It is Descartes, blames Lynch, who, with his emphasis on two distinct substances, mind versus body, is responsible for relegating the emotions to the subjective, mental, and hence unscientific realm of the mind, while in reality it is solely, Lynch asserts, the body which truly constitutes the sole proper scientific sphere of valid study. The unfortunate result is that it led researchers early on and over the centuries to believe that the emotions had nothing to do with the body or the heart. Lynch instead proposes, therefore, that we emphasize and limit our study to the emotions and recognize their physical properties alone sinc they exhibit a genuine import as well as a vital effect on the body and the heart. And to clinch his case, he cites the instance of a comatose patient whose spouse touches her mate’s feet and the tactile pressure elicits a graphic response on the electrocardiograph (the heart) but leaves the electroencephalograph (the brain) needle unmoved.
Throughout the study, Lynch‘s conclusions are supported by numerous graphs, statistics, and scientific data.