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Keywords:

  • alterity;
  • cultural psychology;
  • healing;
  • ipseity;
  • Maya;
  • medical anthropology;
  • self/other concepts;
  • sympathy;
  • wellness-seeker

Abstract.

Taking K'iche’ Maya therapeutic consultations in Guatemala as its focus, this essay explores some astonishing indigenous accounts of “healing-at-a-distance” and “pain passing” between healers and wellness-seekers. Rather than exoticizing or dismissing such reports, we attempt to understand what it means to conceive of the bodily boundaries of healers and wellness-seekers (self and other) as sympathetically defiable and transgressable in healing. Within the moral space of K'iche’ healing, when one cares to feel, if one dares to feel with another or others, the experiential space between healer and wellness-seeker is transformed as the alterity (otherness) of what is felt and who feels becomes (through a sympathy in ipseity) but one thing. I argue that Maya therapeutic healing may be seen as a tri-unity, involving a movement from an enfolded illness experience (alterity) to an unfolding sickness experience (ipseity), passing through empathy until participants together arrive at sympathy (community) to experience healing.