Thursday, March 23, 2017

Chapter 1-2: The ‘GUTs’ (Grand Unified Theory) of Conventional Behavioral Health

(in progress)

In the past several decades, it has become common in other fields – like physics – to wonder if there might be some kind of ‘Grand Unified Theory’ (GUT) that makes sense of the entire known physical world.  For the most part, that hasn’t happened in behavioral health.  Thus, troubling social phenomena – like ‘mental illness’, ‘addictions’, bullying, discrimination, disability, abuse, neglect, poverty, violence, crime, victimization, homelessness – are still seen as largely separate issues.  At the same time, there is tremendous overlap.  The fact is, these misfortunes tend to cluster and recur in the same people.  So it’s more likely that if you have one of these issues, you’ll have a second.  And, if you already have two, you’re more likely to have a third.  Have three?  Then you’ll probably have a fourth! -   And so on…

What’s the connection here?  Are these phenomena really distinct?  Or, like physics, is there an underlying common thread that connects them?  Equally important, if they are related, what is the relationship and what does this tell us about where to go from here?  Are there reasoned approaches we can take, not just individually, but also as neighbors, families, friends, neighbors – as communities, schools, healthcare providers  - even as businesses, investors and insurers?  Are there actual concrete, affordable, achievable things we can do to minimize problems and promote solutions in the areas of human well-being that we value the most.

This manual came about as a result of asking questions like these.  They are just a small sampling of the questions I had that conventional behavioral health doesn’t satisfyingly answer.  Some questions, like those above, were motivated by intellectual curiosity:  Things looked and felt related to me, but how...?

Other questions I had were personal and intensely, painful.  They included questions like:

  • Why do I get verbally attacking when I feel vulnerable? 
  • Why does it feel like an addiction? 
  • Why does it feel like aggression to others, but inside I actually feel beat up and traumatized? 
  • Why can’t I seem to stop doing this attacking behavior despite years of trying and all it has cost me, personally, professionally, socially?   
I sat with some of these questions for decades.  Finally, for myself at least, I think I have some answers.

What follows here is theory not a fact.  However, for me it works with an elegance and comprehensiveness that nothing else has.  I think this is the case for several reasons:

  1. The theory I present below is grounded in accepted understandings of human biology.
  2. It incorporates modern developments in our understanding of necessary ingredients to human psychosocial well-being.  
  3. It is derived from years of puzzling through my own experiences of heightened reactivity and those of others.
  4.  I’ve had the opportunity to observe and experience a wide range of ‘helper’ responses across numerous life contexts and to draw my own conclusions about what seems to make things better or worse for those concerned. 

However, the most important thing is not whether it fits for me.  It’s whether it fits for you and others. Your questions, concerns and exceptions are a vital part of developing an accurate, reliable paradigm. Only in this way, with the contributions of all of us, will be begin to make sense of the vast, diverse range of thoughts, feelings and actions that our species is capable of manifesting.

Accordingly, this manual will lay out what, for me, has become a sort of Grand Unified Theory (GUT) of Psychosocial Functioning.  If the answers I suggest don't speak to you, maybe they inspire you to make your own inquiry.  Maybe you or someone you know will supply the insights needed to take us all to the next level.

Regardless, my hope in writing this is to make a beginning.  There are still way too many problems that conventional behavioral health doesn’t come close to fixing. To the contrary, the sad fact is that far too often – and for far too many of us -- conventional approaches actually may make things worse.

Possibly, together, we can change that.  As users, survivors and allies, perhaps we can learn to sit together with our honest questions –  all the stuff we’ve been told by ‘helpers’ that doesn’t fit for us. If we can own our questions and our experiences – rather than just caving to the experts and going along to get along - then maybe, somehow, some day, we can come up with some answers that honestly do make sense to us.  It’s a great way not only to help ourselves, but also to save future generations from some of the pain and confusion we are going through as individuals – and a people – right now.

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