Curanderismo is based on many philosophical theories, however, eight key philosophical premises underlie a comprehensible curing world view of Latino patients:
- Disease or illness may follow strong emotional states (such as rage, fear, envy or mourning of painful loss).
- Being out of balance or harmony with one's environment can also cause disease or illness.
- A patient is often the innocent victim of malicious forces.
- The soul may become separated from the body (loss of soul).
- Cure requires the participation of the entire family.
- The natural world is not always distinguishable from the supernatural.
- Sickness often serves as a social function, through increased attention and rallying of the family around a patient, thus reestablishing a sense of belonging, referred to as resocialization.
- Patients respond better to an open interaction with their healer.
Other factors besides strong emotional states that are theorized to cause sickness are: lack of balance or harmony inside and outside a person, dislocation of either real or imaginary parts of the body and diseases of magical or supernatural causation, such as punishment by a saint. It is believed that the human body is healthy when it maintains an exact balance of opposed qualities, such as hot and cold, or moisture and dryness. An excessive amount or deficiency of one of these qualities will cause illness. Curanderismo focuses on balancing the body.
Because curanderismo is focused on an underlying theory that body and soul are inseparable, the role of religion is important because a person in curanderismo is conceptualized as a soul that happens to have a body, while in more modern ideas of medicine and curing a person is first and foremost a body, which may or may not have soul. The practical thought is that a curandero can treat the soul, and then later, or not at all, treat the body. Based on this theory, a curandero may start treatment by having tea with a patient and talking about the cure, therefore treating the psyche, or the soul, first.
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