There are some things which are bothering me this wee hours of a Sunday morning past midnight where I am supposed to be translating but I am not. The issue that is bothering me has a little to do with translation, a great deal on my education and a tiny drop of it, a family member. A concoction of them all muddles in the mind with all sorts of possibilities and questions.
It suddenly dawned upon me that ‘mental illness‘ when translated terminology-wise becomes ‘sakit jiwa‘. I’ve never paid any attention to that before and accepted that just as another ‘dewan bahasa’ defined terminology. But then, I sat down and thought further, especially in relation to what recently happened to my cousin as written in the earlier post, I then realised that the discrepancies in translations brought about a whole deeper issue than just a ‘dewan bahasa thingy’.
If I want to translate the term ‘mental illness’ literally, it should be ‘sakit otak’. But it isn’t. It’s defined as ‘sakit jiwa’
My question then being, is that really a discrepancy in translation? Or does it reflect the world view of two different civilizations ? That the west sees it as a cognitive issue i.e when something goes wrong, it must be in the head, where the overly active dopamine activities create those imbalances in one’s head causing the mental illnesses which are believed to be ‘curable’ by drugs. In contrast to the world view of the Asians, where it is the problem of the soul, that when things go wrong, it means your soul and spirituality is not in tandem hence settle it the holistic way?
If language defines society, then this translation between mental illness and sakit jiwa puts myself in a situation of sudden uncertainty. Sure, having been trained in western psychology, I studied that world view in order to pass my exams and ‘believed’ that synthetic drugs, (although with dangerous side effects in the long run ) can be the short term solution to the ‘mental illness’ . Because hey, Prozac and other anti psychotic drugs do calm the person down after depression/hallucination, hokay? ( when actually all they do is to lull the nerves and curb the overly active neurotransmitters in one’s brain, but doctors don’t tell families of patients that, do they? )
But what if I were to take the translation of that mental illness in Malay to be sakit jiwa? The whole paradigm shifts don’t you think so? Soul is not something that is tangible and cannot be defined by science. In fact science rejects the existence of soul. Hence if your soul is in turmoil, drugs cannot cure it, right? And if drugs cannot cure it, will spirituality be the answer? Like the whole shebangs of holistic treatment e.g zen, ayurdevic, sufism/tassawuf and nature healing and prayers and meditation etc?
It does make a hell lot of difference. If we are to go by mental illness, we would have to proceed with synthetic drugs, which in 10 to 15 years down the road brings about the side effects we all learnt about in psych school (but downplay it in front of families of patients) so that ethically, we stay true to our practice or at least what we were trained to be. On the other hand, if we are going back to our eastern roots and take the whole issue as a problem of the soul, the process would be slow and tedious and aims for the long run of things but alas, we can be sure that we don’t produce a new civilization of institutionalized druggies?
Is there a middle path between these two?
P.S just me vomiting some thoughts. It’s ok if no one understands this heh..