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Paris syndrome…Jerusalem syndrome and Stendahl syndrome June 10, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

I had never heard of this, in the course of a column inquiring into T. May’s psychological health in the Guardian one will read:

…have you heard of Paris Syndrome? It’s a surreal phenomenon whereby Japanese tourists in particular arrive in Paris and seem to undergo some sort of mental collapse, experiencing raised anxiety, delusions, irrational feelings of persecution and hostility, even hallucinations, or vomiting. The main theories as to what’s happening here is that Japanese tourists have an incredibly romanticised belief in what Paris is like thanks to countless media and film portrayals. The reality of it being, you know, mostly a normal city, coupled with the tangible differences in behaviour and manners between Japanese and Parisian culture, induces an intense and debilitating form of culture shock.

I had heard of this before:

Jerusalem syndrome is a group of mental phenomena involving the presence of either religiously themed obsessive ideas, delusions or other psychosis-like experiences that are triggered by a visit to the city of Jerusalem. It is not endemic to one single religion or denomination but has affected Jews, Christians and Muslims of many different backgrounds.

The best known, although not the most prevalent, manifestation of Jerusalem syndrome is the phenomenon whereby a person who seems previously balanced and devoid of any signs of psychopathology becomes psychotic after arriving in Jerusalem. The psychosis is characterised by an intense religious theme and typically resolves to full recovery after a few weeks or after being removed from the area. The religious focus of Jerusalem syndrome distinguishes it from other phenomena, such as Stendhal syndrome in Florence or Paris syndrome for Japanese tourists.

Then there is this which I only learned of recently:

Stendhal syndrome, Stendhal’s syndrome, hyperkulturemia, or Florence syndrome is a psychosomatic disorder that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to an experience of great personal significance, particularly viewing art.[1] It is not listed as a recognised condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.


Although psychiatrists have long debated whether it really exists, its effects on some sufferers are serious enough for them to require treatment in hospital and even antidepressants.[3] The staff at Florence’s Santa Maria Nuova hospital are accustomed to dealing with tourists suffering from dizzy spells and disorientation after admiring the statue of David, the masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery and other treasures of the Tuscan city.[4]

Even though there are many descriptions of people becoming dizzy and fainting while taking in Florentine art, especially at the aforementioned Uffizi in Florence, dating from the early 19th century on, the syndrome was only named in 1979, when it was described by Italian psychiatrist Graziella Magherini, who observed and described more than 100 similar cases among tourists and visitors in Florence. There is no scientific evidence to define the Stendhal syndrome as a specific psychiatric disorder; on the other hand there is evidence that the same cerebral areas involved in emotional reactions are activated during the exposure to artworks.[5]

I am tempted to suggest that if one suffers from the latter a few years in an art and design college will work a treat as a cure – it sure did for me, but more seriously all these syndromes appear oddly similar with the individual placed in a context or environment that they’re unable, to differing degrees, to engage with.


1. sonofstan - June 10, 2017

I am tempted to suggest that if one suffers from the latter a few years in an art and design college will work a treat as a cure



Dermot O Connor - June 10, 2017

Indeed. A one year sentence in NCAD maximum security will cure you pretty sharpish.


2. Dermot O Connor - June 10, 2017

Paris syndrome sounds like a really nice case of ‘occidentalism’. Just as many westerners project their fears and fantasties onto the Orient (Said); it can also work the other way. It can even work within Western nations.

I’ve had a couple of flesh-crawling experiences on those lines. Being Irish in the US, you get used to the “Oh you’re Irish my great great grandfather came from Cork” response. But a few of them go waay beyond that.

One older boomer couple I met literally glazed over when they met me (I dissolved out like one of Joyce’s shades in the last page of ‘The Dead’); they began relating tales of their ‘Quiet Man’ holiday a few years prior. Trad music, all that stuff. It was like I wasn’t even there any more, not to them. Not only did they not see me, I’m not even sure they saw IRELAND when they were in Ireland, too busy projecting John Wayne & Maureen O Hara onto every landscape, and censoring out every celphone, used syringe and spiv.

Worse even than those two, was a couple I chatted with on a 33 hour Amtrak ride from Los Angeles to Portland. Their great great grandfather was from (Guess), and they opened up with all of his tales from late 19th century Ireland, the wake with the coffin open and the corpse propped up, fi-diddle-dee-dee-fi-diddley-doo. They went on at some length, with stories that would have seemed dated to my own grandparents (all born in the 1900-1917 window). But then they surprised me. They’d actually been to Ireland, only a couple of years earlier, ~2006, so at the height of the boom. They had seen the modern Ireland, but again, the had NOT seen it (like the earlier couple, projecting the mangled myth-memories of their Great-great-grandfather (from Cork) onto the modern Ireland, without ever seeing the modern Ireland.

If they had seen the modern Ireland, and withdrawn their projection / censorship, you’d very likely see ‘Dublin Syndrome’. It suggest to me that the Japanese are really seeing Paris, not censoring it, which actually suggests that they’re closer to sanity than the two Irish-American couples described above.

Being used as a projection holder by those people made my flesh crawl. Happily, it hasn’t happened since. Maybe that generation is finally dying off.

Where this projection is actively dangerous is in western perceptions of the Middle East. 100 years ago it was a projection holder for western fantasies, today it’s used as a projection holder for western fears. The real middle east, with all its everyday banalities, never even gets a look-in.


by Michael Hartnett

Ignorant, in the sense
she ate monotonous food
and thought the world was flat,
and pagan, in the sense
she knew the things that moved
at night were neither dogs nor cats
but púcas and darkfaced men,
she nevertheless had fierce pride.
But sentenced in the end
to eat thin diminishing porridge
in a stone-cold kitchen
she clenched her brittle hands
around a world
she could not understand.
I loved her from the day she died.
She was a summer dance at the crossroads.
She was a card game where a nose was broken.
She was a song that nobody sings.
She was a house ransacked by soldiers.
She was a language seldom spoken.
She was a child’s purse, full of useless things.


Colm B - June 10, 2017

Was in Jerusalem once and saw old disheveled white guy dressed in Prophet gear in the Old City. That’s when someone told me about Jerusalem Syndrome though not sure he fitted the bill.

On a more serious note, I spent a few months in the West Bank and unfortunately for most Palestinians, they can only dream of everyday banalities since the goal of the israeli occupation is to disrupt every possible aspect of everyday life.

Liked by 1 person

Dermot O Connor - June 11, 2017

Indeed. One of my better investments 2 years ago was to donate $500 to a Canadian/Islamic campaign to put solar panels on the roofs of two Gaza hospitals. The indiegogo was looking for 200K, so my 500 was a decent % of the total.

The Israeils were, of course, total bastards, and delayed the project with red tape. Joke was on them, as by the time the project got the green light, the price of solar panels had halved, allowing the campaign to deploy on four hospitals, not two.

The Koran says ‘God is the best schemer’.


3. James - June 10, 2017

Maybe we need to revise Bourdieu’s quip about how “the reason there isn’t a sign reading ‘For Art Lovers Only’ above the entrance of museams is because there doesn’t need to be.”

Maybe: “Warning! Art Lovers with Fetisitic Bourgeois Ideas About The Sublime May Experience Physical Symptoms of Being Full of Shit, Stupid and Wrong.”?

I didn’t think it was possible to be politically culpable for an illness, deserve it, but it’s a funny world.


James - June 10, 2017

Although seeing someone walk into the room with David in it, clap eyes on him, and immediately start puking and losing bowel control would be priceless.


Dermot O Connor - June 11, 2017

Not Dada, but definitely doo-doo.


James - June 13, 2017

Nice one


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