Saturday, April 8, 2017

Chapter 4-7: Why The Dis-Ease Keeps Getting Worse

You hear a lot these days about how 'mental illness' is progressive and therefore requires early detection and intervention.  There are several problems with this:

1. It's not an illness.
2. It's not a progressive illness.
3. Longevity research suggests that many of would us do better without any treatment at all, as opposed to getting caught up in what the conventional treatment system has to offer.

However, there is a lot of truth in the fact that things tend to get worse rather that better over the long haul.  While these challenges may say something about us, they say at least as much about the world we live in and how modern society needs to learn and grow to meet the real needs of its citizens.
Here is why:

High-Stakes reactivity is a natural, predictable outcome when basic human needs -material, social, developmental - are violated, overlooked or ignored.  High-Stakes reactivity takes a tremendous toll on human minds and bodies. Under the influence of High-Stakes reactivity, the body's energy and resources are mostly being shunted to our muscles, heart and lungs.  Our hearts pound, we breath hard, and our muscles are tense and primed for action.

In this state of high alert, almost no one is able to relax, digest food well or get a good night's sleep. Our muscles are tense all the time and therefore burn up the needed resources (oxygen, nutrients) that should be going to our brains and vital organs.  As a result, we can't process nutrition effectively and therefore become progressively malnourished over time.

Adding insult to injury, we can't sleep - which is when our bodies and brains are perform routine maintenance and make needed repairs.  In actuality, our bodies are nature's surgeons.  Every night while we are out cold they perform complicated operations to repair our vital organs and delicate nervous system circuitry.  If we don't sleep well, they are limited in what they can do or fix.

If we just think about this a little bit, it is also not hard to see why so many of us:
  • Feel exhausted, depleted and unmotivated
  • Have trouble with memory and keeping track of things
  • Are concerned we are missing something and not thinking well
  • Have trouble making decisions or setting priorities
  • Experience ourselves seeing/ hearing things that others don’t seem to 
  • Feel totally out of touch with the outside world (our brains can barely pay attention to the inside one)
  • Experience the world as playing tricks on us or out to get us (something sure is!)

Given the continual stresses we are under, and the fact that we hardly ever get a break, our minds and bodies simply don't have the support they need to heal and help us get us back on or feet.

When we put these factors together, it is relatively easy to understand the social and employment effects of ‘mental illness.’ As a group, our people have taken a tremendous amount of flack for 'isolating' and 'being unmotivated.  But, when you think about it, almost no one would feel capable of going out or navigating the world in the above frame of mind. Applying for work or trying to make friends when it's gotten this bad is a recipe for disaster. All too often we end up being judged or rejected as a result of the difficulties we experience under the influence of prolonged High-Stakes activation.  Or we lose important paperwork or get robbed or ripped off because it's too hard to pay attention once we've become this depleted and run-down.

Here is an analogy:

Imagine your body is like your car.  Every so often your car needs an oil change and routine maintenance.  If it doesn't get that sooner or later it is going to break down.

Now imagine continuing to drive your car like that for weeks, months or years. Even worse, imagine driving your car with the same oil and no new servicing for a life time.  That is basically what is going on with the profound kind of trauma that some of us have had. You know if you've had that kind of trauma because you've never, ever really felt safe.

In these circumstances, you don't know exactly what is going to break down.  But you can be certain that sooner or later something is going to malfunction:  This is your brain in the High-Stakes system.

Simply stated, just like your car, the general rule is this:

  1. The longer our needs go unmet, and 
  2. and the more severely our needs are neglected...
  3. Then... the more extreme are the issues that will arise,
  4. and the harder it will be to fix them.

This rule clearly explains why many of us keep getting worse and worse.

  1. We've had important needs that have gone unmet
  2. We've lacked the resources we needed to address them... 
  3. So... they've stayed unmet for a really long time, 
  4. and our problems have compounded, making them really, really hard to fix.

Once we understand this, it's not so hard to see what is going on with so-called ‘serious mental illness.’  Of course we experience things like 'psychosis', 'delusions', 'perceptual disturbance' and 'irrational thinking'!  (Duhhh!)

The fact of the matter is that, in High Stakes circumstances, human brains don’t get what they need to reliably function. They don’t get the energy or resources needed to pay attention to the ‘big picture.’ They don’t get what they need to effectively read the environment or make sense of the wide variety of incoming information.  The longer and longer this goes on, the worse and worse it gets.  It therefore is predictable (not surprising) that many of us are breaking down under the impact of our stressful lives.

It's also pretty easy to see why conventional treatment makes things worse instead of better for so many of us.  Conventional treatment (meds, hospitals, shock) focuses mostly on our 'symptoms.' However, as we've seen, our 'symptoms' are there for a reason:

They are alerting us to the fact that 

Yet, for the most part, conventional  treatment does very little to address these important pre-existing stressors.  At best, the drugs mask our symptoms, or we are taught 'coping strategies' to adjust to the fact that our lives aren't working.  Rarely is anything done to address our real problems - the very real material, social and developmental needs that every human being has - that are going unmet for so many of us in conventional society.

In other words:

  1. There is nothing inherently defective about our brains of bodies. 
  2. The challenges we have been facing are very real.
  3. Many of us will break down in such circumstances
  4. This is not an illness -- and it is not even surprising.
  5. It is a 'normal', predictable outcome of how conventional society is operating. 
  6. It is what human minds and bodies do under prolonged stress when we can't access the resources that everyone needs to feel well, live well, and be well. 
This is a social dis-ease, not an individual one.   Many, many people in our modern world are in this situation.  It is going to progress until we make progress.  The most important progress we can make is to start treating each other better.  At a minimum, we need to ensure that everyone of us can access the material, social and developmental resources that all of us need in order to feel well, live well, and be well.  Conventional treatment - with its focus on medical expertise and treatment compliance - has not begun to scratch the surface of the human needs that really matter.  

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