We talked in Part II about some of the problems with the current disease model paradigm of 'mental illness'.
In Part III, we talked about a variety of ways that life is challenging and distressing. We also discussed how these factors converge to create a broad variety of individual and social injuries:
- Life itself is stressful and uncertain. There are some questions no human being can answer for anyone else. There are some challenges - like learning new things or coping with loss and death - that no one can do for us or fix for us. In reality, there are just some things that all of us, on some level, must face alone.
- We have basic needs, that are common to all human beings. These things are essential to human welfare. Almost none of us can feel well, do well or be well in modern society without finding a way to meet them.
- At the same time, meeting our basic needs in modern society is not a given. We often have to compete with other people for the stuff that all of us need. At a minimum, this kind of competition creates a lot of fear and tension in human relationships.
- Socially, many of us have learned that other people aren't very helpful when we need them the most. A lot of times, our experience has been that others make things worse rather than better. We therefore opt to go it alone when something troubles us. Instead of seeing human relationships as a source of aid and comfort in hard times, we learn to depend on things - e.g., drugs, alcohol, shopping, video games, food, activities - to cope with our discomfort and our pain.
- Historically, most human communities have evolved their own pecking orders. These pecking orders can also add a lot of stress. If you are at the bottom, there are all sorts of ways you can be excluded and cut off from what you need. But, even if you're at the top, you still have to worry about keeping or losing your standing. As everyone knows, if you don't, your basic needs can be threatened just like everyone else's.
- Adding insult to injury, a lot of us have been betrayed by the people and institutions that are supposed to be helping us. Often, these people and institutions are so socially powerful that everyone assumes they are good and can do no wrong. Thus, if we try to speak up, everyone blames us and not them. This is a further source of alienation and distress.
- Many of us have been injured by the above dynamics. The injuries we suffered have affected multiple aspects of our existence - emotional well-being, financial status, social relationships, community standing, educational achievement, career development, physical health, spiritual connection, etc. These affects are 'injuries', not 'illnesses.' They are predictable results of the ways human beings commonly treat each other in the modern world.
In Part IV, we're going to explain how this stuff manifests in human minds and bodies. Ironically, these kinds of responses often look 'crazy', but they are actually really adaptive. They help us to survive when the stakes are high. They also contain a lot of neat information about us - our experiences, strengths and values. Almost none of this is obvious on the surface. But if you know what to look for, it can be really eye-opening.
In Part IV, we will also lay the foundation for the rest of this Guide. Part IV will help us to understand what we are up against as human beings. We hope to convincingly demonstrate why so much of what is currently being labeled 'mental illness', 'addiction' and 'criminal' behavior is mostly a predictable effect of how we are treating each other in modern society. This in turn will help us to make informed choices about where to go from here.
At a minimum, we hope you will come to understand why some of us feel so strongly that the solution is not to blame individuals or to label people sick or ill. We also hope our conclusion, in the end, will make some sense to you:
- The top priority of public health should shift away from pathologizing and treating so-called 'problem' individuals.
- We should focus instead on reversing the harmful social dynamics that are creating widespread deprivation and dis-ease.
- These dynamics, once established, tend to replicate and self-perpetuate across generations, becoming increasingly entrenched within populations, cultures and communities.
- An essential component of any meaningful public health initiative therefore must include, ensuring that every citizen can access the basic material, social and developmental resources that all citizens need in order to feel well, live well and be well.
- Such efforts would go a long way to eliminating the pervasive, inter-generational dis-ease and deprivation that impact our modern world in predictable, debilitating, counter-productive ways.
Let's begin to explore why this is so.