The Psychosomatics of An Eye Disease – Keratoconus Written by Dr. James Okun

It is time for James Okun to pick our brain and inform us on some important medical matters. You can show your support by buying his books or leaving a comment here if you like- Jeyran Main


James D. Okun, MD is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Duke University and of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. He is the co-author of The History of New Innovations in Modern Medicine: New Thought and the Threat to Traditional Medicine


The Psychosomatics of An Eye Disease – Keratoconus

Do we have an attitude to the world that can cause changes in the structure of the cornea? Several published studies suggest that the answer is “yes”.

My own story was published in a local newspaper in Louisiana in 1986 with the title “Doctor Claims Aesthetic Realism Saved Vision” (see Alexandria Town Talk November 1986 in Appendix Erasing Scars: Herpes and Healing https://amzn.to/2a2rVxQ).

The article documents how I was crushed with a diagnosis of keratoconus of the cornea in 1982 when applying for a position as an Ophthalmology resident. I was devastated by the fact that I had developed bilateral keratoconus in which the cornea thins and bulges affecting sight and possibly requiring one or two corneal transplants.

I had been basically unaware of It, but my sight had been changing insidiously and very slowly with slight problems with night vision while driving at night in college.

There had also been a very minor difficulty with the bright lights of approaching headlights. I really didn’t pay much attention to it. I was too busy studying to get into medical school. My respect for medical knowledge was the best thing I had going for me.

By the end of my first year of my Ophthalmology residency in 1985, my vision had worsened and my rigid contact lens was not fitting well and would even pop out. I chose to resign from my residency which had been so hard to get into. My emotional pain was immense.

It was then that I met my wife at Ochsner Foundation Hospital in New Orleans where we both worked on the day I submitted my resignation letter. It was March of 1985. I was hopeless. I only wish I had met her sooner. It could have saved my career as an Ophthalmologist.

She told me that she had studied and had been a consultant of the philosophy Aesthetic Realism founded by critic and poet Eli Siegel in New York City in 1941.

Mr. Siegel founded a new way of seeing the world called Aesthetic Realism based on four statements: 1. Every person is always trying to put together opposites in himself 2. Every person in order to respect himself has to see the world as beautiful or acceptable 3. There is a disposition in every person to think he will be for himself by making less of the outside world 4. All beauty is the making one of opposites and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves. (Erasing Scars p. 136).

I found out by studying opposites in myself that I had a fight between contempt (and the pleasure from it “2A Pleasure Described”) and respect. I learned that the way I saw people was based on being superior and not seeing that everyone I knew was the same and different from me, just like every individual cornea has the same structure in everyone.

I began to study how I used the way I saw the members of my family, especially my mother, to be superior and to think I had nothing new to learn from her. I remember disliking my wife when she saw me have contempt for my mother.

She told me Mr. Siegel had told her in a lesson she had with him in 1970 that “our way of seeing a bad person can be bad” and “even a turtle has a right to be critical of us and sometimes is.” (See Chapter 4 in Erasing Scars: Herpes and Healing).

I came to see that I did not want to welcome criticism and learned to be firm with myself and that I was being soft with my ego. Flexibility and firmness are important in maintaining proper structure in the layers of the cornea and I found that firmness and flexibility need not be fighting in me in the way that they were.

Mr. Siegel explained that anger obliterates our desire to know. When I was angry I felt firm and rigid with people.

I learned that I got a pleasure (2A Pleasure) from being rigid and stubborn. Mr. Siegel was the first to describe this pleasure that we all unconsciously seek through elevating our egos by having contempt for everything, not ourselves.

For example, when I was fighting with my mother on the phone or when my father did not make my article on the return of my sight important, and told me, “no one will come to see a doctor who can’t see” I was firm and gave them no right to be critical of me. Even as I became a doctor and saved the lives of many I was hoping he would approve of me.

He was lessening my mind but instead of being “blind with anger” and rigid, I should have related that when I first met Aesthetic Realism I also felt it questioned all the knowledge I had learned and I hated to respect something that I had not learned about at Einstein or at Duke. I became intolerant instead of relating myself to him.

It is now 32 years later and my latest Optometrist could not believe that I had never had corneal transplants. I can see well in glasses. My lenses fit well and my vision in glasses and contacts is excellent although my parents never were grateful for my changes.

In terms of the published scientific studies backing up the personality characteristics of patients with keratoconus, I found I fit the bill in almost all categories. I had a lot to change.


References:

Crossen, RJ. “Psychological Handling of Contact Lens Wearing in Keratoconus Patients.” Contacts and Intraocular Lens Medicine Journal October/November/December 1978-Volume 4 – Issue 4 – pp 49-50. Print.

Farge, Emile J et al. “Personality Correlates of Keratoconus.” Phenomenology and Treatment of Psychophysiological Disorders.” Richmond: Spectrum Publications, 243-250. (1982). Print.


James D. Okun, MD is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Duke University and of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. He is the co-author of The History of New Innovations in Modern Medicine and of Erasing Scars: Herpes and Healing.

 

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