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Medical Anthropology Quarterly

“A Disease of Frozen Feelings”:

Ethically Working on Emotional Worlds in a Russian Orthodox Church Drug Rehabilitation Program

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Abstract

In a Russian Orthodox Church drug rehabilitation program in St. Petersburg, drug addiction was often described as a disease of frozen feelings. This image suggests that rehabilitation is a process of thawing emotional worlds and, thus, allows the emotions to flow once again. In this article I argue that “frozen feelings” is better understood as the unsocial emotional worlds many drug users experience, and that rehabilitation in this church-run program particularly focuses on the cultivation of an emotional world that supports sociality. This is done, I argue, by means of ethically training rehabilitants to learn how to control and manage their emotional worlds, and in so doing, rehabilitants become new moral persons better able to live in the social world.

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