“Conversion disorder” – that is a new term to me. It refers to an epidemic occurring in teenage girls in upstate New York who are suffering from unexplained symptoms similar to those of Tourette’s syndrome. Doctors seem to have ruled out environmental and infectious causes. They call it “conversion disorder.”
This is a psychological phenomenon whereby people convert stress or emotional trauma into physical symptoms. Doctors sometimes have witnessed these symptoms in other people. The experts say that it is a matter of the brain making the body sick. When this occurs to a lot of people, they refer to it as mass psychogenic illness, or mass hysteria.
There have been other outbreaks. In 2007, more than a dozen girls in a high school in Florida had unexplained wheezing that lasted weeks. In Mexico, 600 girls in a Catholic school experienced mysterious fevers and buckling knees. In 2010, 15 students at two all-girls schools in Brunei would shake and scream uncontrollably. A few years ago dozens of female workers at a West Virginia shoe factory fainted on the job. Federal investigators diagnosed them with “assembly-line hysteria.”
These girls in upstate New York are getting better. They are being treated by therapy and drugs. Most importantly, TV stations’ websites and social media have removed pictures of their behavior. Seeing behavior in others tends to ignite that behavior in themselves.
“Conversion order” – that is the term I know. It describes what happens when a person is converted by the grace of Jesus Christ and brings order to life.
This greatly affects our behavior. Rather than stuttering and fainting and screaming and shaking uncontrollably, it brings about a calm approach to an understanding of life that God is in charge and He will cause things to work out. There is a sense of contentment and peace. Paul said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:12) It doesn’t mean that God changes the circumstances – He changes the person in the circumstances!
The Christian “conversion order” also helps a person mimic what he/she sees in another person. The difference is that the Christian seeks to mimic and imitate Christ, rather than another human. All of us people have “fever and buckling knees.” But we keep our eyes focused on Jesus who is the perfect Person to imitate. Paul said, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1, 2 NAS)
Some of this psychological phenomena of “conversion disorder” seems to be effecting girls more than boys, and it seems to be happening more among cheerleaders. One theory is that cohesive groups, particularly those that wear matching uniforms and excel at synchronized movements, might be more susceptible to mass suggestion, but they are not sure. That means each of us needs to look at the group with whom we are spending time and remember that they are helping shape our thinking and actions.
Christian conversion – it leads to a life of order – not a life of disorder. It brings about a new way of thinking and a new way of acting. “Conversion disorder” is really an oxymoron.
Who is my model for my behavior? Does my behavior bring order or disorder to life?