Adults with recent amputations are often perceived as suffering from post-operative depression and phantom limbs. These states are frequently seen as failures in "adjustment" since there are often few physiological involvements which curtail daily functioning. This perspective is seen as compatible with major American values of pragmatism, individualism, and a mechanistic medical model. We suggest here that problems in daily living and the phantom limb are not "mental" aberrations but rather reflections of a radically altered lived experience. The performance of the actor is significantly changed and can be discussed as a function of changed experience, and style. This persppctivedraws upon the work of phenomenology and dramaturgy and suggests a changed philosophical approach in physical rehabilitation. A brief application of the model is also presented.
Most of the literature written on the behavior of amputees is psychological in orientation. For example, early reactions to the amputation by a group of amputees were categorized by Simon and Albronda (1967) as including disbelief, stunned feelings, fear and panic, anger, grief, relief, guilt, and revulsion. Another study, determining amputees' readiness to accept the stresses of prosthetic restoration, categorized personality types such as the undisciplined, the emotional neurotics, the blamers, the fearful, and the isolated and depressed hypochondriacs (Weiss, 1960). Levin (1961) found that denial and phantom limb are associated manifestations of amputation rather than cause and effect.
This explanation of behavior occurring after an amputation supports three major American values and models for behavior: pragmatism, individualism and the medical model. These social constructions are examined here and alternate models (phenomenology and dramaturgy) for explaining the behavior of amputees are suggested.
Deegan, Mary Jo
"Living and Acting in an Altered Body: A Phenomenological Description of Amputation,"
The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare: Vol. 5
, Article 5.
Available at: http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/jssw/vol5/iss3/5