Bye, bye Mental Illness.

“I just don’t think that very many modern science guys are going to read past the first paragraph.”

It is a problem that modern science guys aren’t going to read the last paragraph, or these next few.

Why is it that we can handle going from no cars a hundred years ago to a world absolutely choked with cars or that we can unquestioningly write these comments onto little screens invented within the last 30 years, and yet we scoff and sneer about how “naive and unrealistic” some people are to think that the world may need to change significantly…?

How is it that the (relatively recent in the broad scheme of things) biomedical model is so sanctified in spite of the fact that it clearly has no basis in any reality that is good for humans or the world?

(I think we could all probably answer that pretty easily.)

I appreciate your acknowledgment that human experience exists on a multifaceted spectrum, with various strengths and attributes, some of which are, apparently, more valued than others.

Most everyone can agree that the world is, in fact, “crazy.” (per the language of The Icarus Project) However, the craziness of the world and all its dysfunctions is usually only tangentially identified as being related to “disordered” experiences. Meaning that we seem to be doing well to identify the role of societal stressors and cultural/emotional/physical/etc. trauma as being contributing factors in our difficulty within experience, but I’ve not yet seen a lot of common dialogue that captures the distinct possibility that societal dysfunction may actually be causing experiences that are painful, alienating, and socially traumatic.

I agree, of course, that the term “mental illness” is, for all practical purposes, utterly useless and, further, is actually harmful. Still, people do have a hard time in this world and those difficulties are expressed in all sorts of ways, depending on a person and their unique human struggle.

It has been my observation that much of the cultural realities of the “modern world,” as it has arisen on the foundation of terribly(dangerously)flawed ideologies and economies, actually do really hurt people.

For so many, and increasingly so, there simply is no place to be ourselves and live within (or even develop awareness of) our strengths…because, as ordinary people, our strengths are not valued within exclusionary cultures and economies. For many, when the self is expressed in ways that conflict with normative rigidity of function and expectation the person is actually punished, through bullying, exclusion from the economy, violence and pathology.

Our access to a dynamic experience of humanity in learning and work and family and community has been severely limited by the structure of our ideas, roles, economies and cultures.

I suppose that some would say that this is a gratuitous point and a moot one at that because, well, what can ya do?

As much as I am committed (in my work and in my own life) to nurturing true recovery at the individual+community level, I am really invested in figuring out what will support an empowered macrolevel recovery from the unfortunate events and habits of the 20th century.

I know that seems lofty, but the alternative is some sort of hopeless complacency and an acceptance of things that really are, in my mind, pretty unacceptable.

What sort of world is it when people are systemically denied viable opportunities/ideas/language to express their unique experience of self and interest and to be respected and loved simply for who they are? That, to me, is bigger than “mental illness.”

Can you imagine a world in which people are wrought into narrow modes of existence, function, and meaning…diminished and confused in a tragic state of disconnection from themselves and unable to look one another in the eye for more than a moment or two, slowly destroying themselves with sweet and salty distractions and jokes they know they shouldn’t laugh at?

“Oh, man, that is so wrong!”

…and then when our minds/hearts/brains struggle to make sense of why it all seems so tragic and empty and frightening and difficult and pointless to the extent that we get all sorts of turned around and twisted up and stuck…well, somehow it is an “illness” that we have? It is our problem? That is a classic example of shifting blame. That sort of thing is seen at the microlevel in emotionally and psychologically abusive relationships.

It is so overwhelming to think about, how one deeply erroneous phrase (“mentally ill”) can indicate a problem that is much more far reaching and which, ultimately, affects us all.

The other night, at a baseball game, I was looking around the crowd and I was wondering what the people might be like if they weren’t 21st century Americans wearing jeans and t-shirts and eating chili fries, watching a field. A lot of people didn’t seem to be having much fun. They were just there. By my estimation, many of them were on psychiatric medication.

These shifts in language and practice are so important to the world.

Brief note: The world is a vibrant and beautiful place…so long as you don’t think too hard at baseball games. I choose to imagine/know that inside all those tshirts and under all those ballcaps there are – of course – vastly reeling worlds of wonder, story, and heart, the vital human core.

In spite of the truth of a strange postmodern (and what is truth in postmodernism?) sci-fi/archaic conflict narrative telling tales of a vast multilateral abusive net of social control and exploitation…well, I’d much rather know that even in the most bleak of settings, somewhere someone is dancing and who the heck knows what might happen yet? Thanks for letting me work that out.

I’m hopeful. I have a lot of confidence in the vital human spirit…of course, its assertion under duress often makes people appear “psychotic”…but that’s another useless word it seems that folks are in the process of deconstructing to null.

 July 26, 2012 at 11:54 pm said:I’ve noted and am consistently impressed with your ability to acknowledge the role of the human nervous system in its participation in our states of experience, without giving a slim ounce of credence to the biomedical model. I do not find mind-only explanations of human distress to be much more helpful than biomedical explanations, as I really do suspect that the human experience is affected by our physiological states in ways that we seem strangely reluctant to acknowledge. The aversion to biomedical explanations has put us in the position of avoiding a pretty big part of it all, which is not medical or ill in the slightest, but is simply the way that humans seem, in my mind, to work.(By the way, the vital and the spirit are a part of all this, too, but that’s another long comment on another thread.)I usually frame the struggling human experience (and also the non-struggling human experience, any human experience really) as a dance between mind/heart/brain and also the body that carries all of this around.

Stress is a powerful mechanism in shaping our experience. We probably need new words for stress, since people seem to think that it’s the idea of being late for work or a busy calendar. We’ve little collective awareness of the way that stress affects our experience. Stress hormones are no joke.

Because I tend to think associatively, I’ve made my own sort of sense out the idea that we feel certain things in response to certain staes/impressions/thoughts, and that certain thoughts/states/impressions arise in response to the way we feel…in cases of complex trauma, it seems that a strong, networked associations of image/sound/feeling/impression can be set in relation to specific stress reactions. Thus, whenever a certain characteristic landscape of stress hormones is activated, those networked associations become our dominant experience – due to the fact that stress strongly cues us to things that present threat (real or “imagined”/associated) the reaction becomes self-perpetuating, driving intense states of experienced disorder and manifesting all sorts of unpleasantness.

I have found that people are comforted with an understanding of the way that feelings/thoughts/images/sounds/smells/
states of being
…all exist in accordance with one another and  can act in a rapid-fire sequence of reactions upon reactions that can, it’s true, become quite a frightening jangle.

In my experience, emotionally stimulated PTSD seems to be helped by emotional “regulation” skills (not to diminish emotionality, but to learn to navigate it in perspective and safely) + meditation to learn the paths to calm safe spaces and an informal process that I sort of think about as experience mapping…basically sorting out where the bells and whistles and alarms are all caught up together and figuring out what sets off the multiball.

(Yes, I do use pinball analogies in my work as Peer.)

2 thoughts on “Bye, bye Mental Illness.

  1. I feel honored to be the first commenter on your new bog Faith! Rarely if ever do I see the combo of brilliant mind with spacious, love filled heart and initiated soul that you bring us! I scrolled all the way to the bottom of your blog like a kid in a candy store, excited that so much is there for me to explore. But my older, battered soul also knows how much nakedness you have gifted us with, pain, joy, madness- plus the incendiary spirit of the phoenix that will not stay in the ash heap! Thank you for this labor love.I feel grateful.

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