Monday, October 2, 2017

The Violent, Vicious Cycle: Why we need to look at "Power Imbalances" instead of "Chemical Imbalances"

Have you ever considered how dangerous the medical model is?

-- And not just to those of us with labels, but to everyone, everywhere who wants to live in a safer world?

In reality, the conventional treatment industry is creating the very public health nightmare it says that it is 'treating.'

A Recipe for Violence

If you wanted to bring out the worst in humankind, here's a pretty sure shot:

  1. Divide the world of human beings into two classes - those with personhood and those without it. 
  2. Create an entire class of people with nothing to live for
  3. Create an entire class of people with nothing left to lose
  4. Dismiss traumatic lived experiences as irrelevant
  5. Ignore real life precipitants to actual human suffering
  6. Use power, control and violence to resolve disagreements
  7. Consistently make someone's life worse instead of better
  8. Convince the entire known world that their truth is an 'illness'
  9. Accuse everyone who disagrees of 'enabling their pathology'
  10. Insist you are the answer and there is no hope apart from you

That's the medical model paradigm in a nutshell.

If you wanted a to create recipe for alienation, desperation and retaliatory violence, you could hardly write a better one.

A Literally Vicious Cycle

It gets even worse than that when you look at the big picture.  The simple fact is:

The more outsiders we create, the more unsafe we are.

Let me say that again:

The more outsiders we create, the more unsafe we are.

This is not about broken biology or aberrant genes. It is the Catch 22 of the human condition.

Here is the how and why of it:

  • None of us likes to feel scared or threatened.
  • Feeling at odds with others is scary and threatening.
  • Feeling unable to meet basic needs is scary and threatening — and it often goes hand in hand with being a social outsider.
  • Human beings who feel threatened tend to resort to one of three responses: fight, flight or freeze.
  • When the stakes are high, flighters and freezers usually are not a problem. They run or hide, which doesn’t scare others too much.
  • Fighters are a totally different matter. We don’t run, we don’t hide. We go toward the stuff that scares us. And then we take it on and try to bring it down. The more afraid we are, the harder we attack. We don’t stop until the threat is dead or we are.
  • It’s also no sense trying to talk reason either. As long as the stakes stay high and we stay scared, the sympathetic nervous system will continue to do its job. It will create tunnel vision and tunnel hearing to keep distractions out. It will make sure our attention stays riveted until the threat is gone or we are.

This isn’t going to change — not for a long time, probably not ever. The fight response has helped our species survive for thousands of years. There’s every reason to believe that it is genetically encoded. There’s every reason to believe that, for some of us, the fight response is a biological default. A species made up only of flighters and freezers wouldn’t last long. They would cede the turf with every new challenge. Humanity needs its fighters to ‘stick to their guns’ when the stakes are high.

Therein lies our problem as human beings.

Think about it:

  • A certain percentage of the human species defaults to fight when threatened.
  • Being treated as ‘other’ scares people.
  • The more we ‘other’ each other the more scared more people are.
  • The more scared people we have and the more scared they feel, the more violence we are going to see.

This is not because marginalized people are violent. We’re not any more violent as a group than anyone else.

But we are a whole lot more threatened. 

And the more of us who are threatened, and the worse we feel inside, the more fighters you will activate and the more violence you will see.

It’s a simple matter of statistics, percentages
 and computing the odds.

As a case in point, look at the public health data on four groups that society loves to hate: mental illness, addictions, corrections and homelessness. There’s a common denominator staring us in the face.

It’s not only ‘the mentally ill’ who have trauma. No, no, no. Widely-accepted government research suggests that roughly 90% of those who get caught in any of these systems are trauma survivors.

In other words, there are a lot of marginalized and very scared, very desperate people out there.

There was probably another one in the news this week.  Possibly even today.

No doubt the ‘mental illness’ treatment industry will use this to argue for more conventional services and more money to fund them.

The outcome  of this approach is fairly certain:

We will alienate more people
Then we will see more violence.

The human rights framework gives us a far more viable option.

Instead of creating social outsiders and killing hope, human rights connect us and repair our relationships.

Here is how:

  • Human rights focus us on the things we have in common
  • Human rights reinforce that all of us have worth
  • Human rights resource us to get the things we need
  • Human rights treat all of us with dignity
  • Human rights make the space to honor all our voices
  • Human rights require us to hear each other out
  • Human rights respect those who disagree
  • Human rights seek out solutions that meet the needs of all of us

In a nutshell:

Human rights prevent violence before it ever starts.  

They ensure that all of us get treated 
the way every one of us would like to be


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Chris!

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