Healing as a Subversive Act


Healing as a Subversive Act

Highlights from Symposium 2019

May/June 2019


When you look at the major health indicators in our society, what do you see? Every three weeks, the number of deaths from drug overdoses equals the total death toll from 9/11. The number of people diagnosed with autoimmune illness is going up, and mental health issues are snowballing. The number of children being diagnosed with one or another so-called medical disorder—whether it’s ADHD, anxiety, depression, so-called conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, pervasive development disorder, not to mention the autism spectrum issues—keeps growing. More and more kids are being medicated all the time. Anxiety is the fastest growing diagnosis among our youth.

How do we explain why these problems are burgeoning? As a medical doctor, I was trained in the mainstream medical tradition, a perspective that sees the mind and the body as separate from one another, and the individual as separate from the environment. In this framework, society and culture play almost no role in the onset or the dynamics of illness. Everything is reduced to individual biology or individual behavior. So addictions, for example, are seen as personal choices, which make the solutions behavioral: either educational or punitive. In either case, all we’re trying to do is influence individual behavior, pretty much as B. F. Skinner would’ve done in a laboratory with rats.

Basically, if you want a rat to go to a certain part of a cage, you give it sugar, and if you want it to avoid that part…

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2 Comments

Saturday, May 11, 2019 2:08:11 AM | posted by CONNIE SCROGGS
This is interesting and thought provoking as I've recognised the division of mental and physical within the medical establishment for many years, even before I became chronically ill after taking a toxic medication. I believe the two can't be divided. The handful of pills I take everyday all affect my mental state and can't be separated from physical affects. My mother clearly needs an antidepressant and a sedative but refuses to take either because they affect "her brain"! Yet, she takes countless pills for heart disease and other autoimmune problems believing they have no effect on her mental state. She is not on a narcotic and neither am I but having been ill for 20 years now and been on meds almost as long wonder how I would feel if I weened off them? Are they really doing me good or have I been trapped , a victim of pharmacology much like it all began. I feel I would not be able to ween off all my meds as I would be in too much pain. I don't think anything about my damaged mitochondria has changed enough to be without drugs. Yet, are they harming me more just suppressing symptoms and the question remains "What am I to do if modern medicine doesn't know what to do" except suppress symptoms?" There are no cures, only bandaids for chronic illness.

Saturday, May 11, 2019 6:47:25 AM | posted by Deborah Ullman
Indeed. So the job for some of us, should we choose to accept it -- is to educate ourselves and each other (our young people, most urgently) in relational skills in order to change our hyper-individualized culture, to change that misunderstanding of our human nature as closed individualized systems, to that of our inter-relatedness. This is one way we rapidly change the broader culture: learn and teach how to share and listen to each others stories with emphasis on the supports that get us through!