Diagnosis and the Real World

Under what diagnoses do you suffer? (Curious question isn’t it?)

Let’s Begin Here

Two definitions come to mind at once as we look at this post. Psychiatry is defined as: “the study and treatment of mental illness, emotional disturbance, and abnormal behavior.” Psychology has a variety of definition but I prefer: the study of human and animal behavior. The numerous other definitions suggest we aren’t actually sure what psychology is and I share that position. in fact, there is even a philosophical element which suits me just fine.

In Clinical Psychology

When we move on to the clinical area we quickly brush up against mental illness and as a student we quickly learn that diagnoses are generally expected. But how does mental illness fit with the broader definition of the study of human behavior. It seems like it must be a subcategory. What I found was that it is a restless subcategory and won’t keep its mouth shut.

Or at least it becomes a problem when we visit that devise place called the real world. And, of course, I believe in the cusp of reality which means I have questions. Are you hearing the pounding of philosophy at the door?

Then There Is Diagnosis

Freud defined a great deal of what is psychiatry and we entered a world of illness which required treatment and so there must be a diagnosis. The whole process was to be applauded because it moved emotionally disturbed people out of intervention for possession by demons  generally under the oversight of the church. They were in better, more compassionate, hands then. But not all of mental health people were devoted to Freud’s teachings. And that included Carl Jung who took us out into the world at large in a variety of ways. I won’t try to explore him. Take a look yourself.

What’s the Point?

It seems we are lost in a forest of exploration. There are those who believe in specific diagnoses for mental illness and in some case it yields helpful intervention. But there are others of us who believe it is far more complex than that. Sometimes diagnoses lead us down narrow corridors and sometimes it is more effective to shy away from an illness model and take the path to looking for functional factors and something I will call life management.

In This Age

Isn’t it interesting that as we rush forward into the future we are still mired in definitions and differing camps of adherents when it comes to what we call health care. At least we have latched onto prevention and a variety of preventive procedures. Those continue to need exploration and so do our responses to things happening to us that deserve attention.

That’s enough of the meshing of philosophical exploration with the real world. In future posts I’ll move deeper into the world of what we call mental illness and alternative forms of response which includes what I call self management.

What are your biggest concerns about health care?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Orlando! The Meaning and Impact of Mental Illness III

 In the Private Sphere

The story is long and detailed and over the years I saw so many dysfunctions related to how the mental health field was constructed. In private practice later I had to confront the insurance industry. In the end they were successful in virtually destroying much of the “mental health” field. They required ever more serious diagnoses if they were to grant payment. Often my decisions as a doctoral level psychologist were at the mercy of someone with a two year general college degree.

Stepfamilies at Risk

In work with stepfamilies we recognized that they weren’t pathological but were stressed family units in flux. Families in deep crisis were coming into our practice and we learned that it was essential to stabilize the stepcouple. Insurance would pay for therapy for the stepmother (to them it seemed women were usually the focus if not the origin of the problem), or they would pay for therapy for a child. We saw the need to stabilize the couple and when they were out of crisis the children realized this was their new family and went from crisis to return to their friends and schoolwork. Using a couple’s focused episodic model we were able to stabilize these families in an average of just seven sessions. They weren’t pathological. They were suffering stress from a major life change and needed management help.

The insurance companies were willing to waste money on individual therapy for women and children if we would declare them “sick” enough but weren’t interested in functional work. Their number one goal was obstruction in the interest of profit.

Corporate Dysfunction

People in the field have to face inappropriate “mental health” and diagnosis problems along with a health care industry which is not highly functional. 

And so we come back to the myriad of issues in something like the attack in Orlando. A political system failed to help protect the citizens and we cannot know what the course of the perpetrator was. He probably began with much less serious concerns or impulses and moved on to an ever deepening and more complex crisis. If we had detailed information all along the way we would seen a series of effects and crises that would not lend themselves to a firm diagnosis. And therein lies the problem. We need a wholesale revision of our thinking, description and approach not to mention the system for availability of help for our citizens and dealing with corporate obstruction in the interest of profit.

Coping Versus Disease

As I’ve said before, emotional and cognitive disturbances were moved over to medicine so that we could remove the influence of the church. We no longer believe in demonic possession although at times it is tempting to believe there are demons in human affairs such as in this election.

It was good to remove the demons from our thinking but defining our mental and emotional variations as illnesses was also a mistake. Over time I’ve seen the fads and the missteps. When I was in graduate school I saw not one child who was termed autistic. I had heard they existed but never saw one. Now we have an “epidemic”.  And now we learn it may be related to the use of chemicals which find they way into our food. That makes it an environmental issue and not a mental health issue at all. We have a lot of sorting out to do.

To be continued.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Orlando! The Meaning and Impact of Mental Illness I

Another Terrible Warning

On what did you focus about this tragedy?

The massacre in Orlando, which was described as hate inspired terrorism, also raised the specter of mental illness along with a lot of other concerns which included effects coming from the political arena. Prejudice and failure to act in the national interest had a significant effect along with the manipulations by power hungry people who claim to be acting from a religious viewpoint. The true meaning of the attack has to be hunted out from the forest of offered opinions and the data which might give us clarity.

The perpetrator claimed allegiance to ISIS and had a checkered history. It is simplistic to reduce it to an act of terrorism. Other points may have more clarity. His history suggests a young man who was hunting for an identity and suffered deep conflict. Just now it has come out that he was visiting gay nightclubs. It may have been that in his personal crisis he was seeking intelligence for his attack. There is another possibility. The view of him suggests that he may have been a person who was facing uncertainty about his sexual orientation. In the end he may have struck out at what might have been his identity home. We probably will never know, but his life experience hints at a larger picture.

He appeared to have been insecure and identity issues are highlighted frequently. And it certainly may have been that the core was his sexual conflict. That conflict may have ramped up recently and who he thought he might be collided with other world themes. But, for us, perhaps the central issue is attending to a process. We can attach a diagnosis reflecting a view of mental illness and end our thinking there or we can look toward a process revealing how multifaceted is human life.

Reevaluation and Reframing Needed

We can hope that the horror of what happened in Orlando does not get lost in a haze of political backbiting. This is an opportunity to do a substantive reassessment of many things from our political stances, to the meaning of “mental illness”, to how we approach the needs of people who are under some form of internal and personal attack. Our services for people in crisis have been impaired and throwing money at it is not the answer. We need to thoroughly rethink out approach and how we offer services. There are many competing interests with which we need to contend.

In the Days Ahead

We have a lot to reconsider. Recent events have broadened the focus of this post as it was originally written. I will be going into matters of history which are illuminating. It is all too easy to accept “experts” but being an expert is often a reflection of the times. What served us at one time may have had purpose and utility just then. Later we may need to do a serious reframing. Now is such a time. And what is happening seems to go well beyond one recent event. We seem to be on the cusp of important change. Lets go exploring.

What have you concluded?

To be continued:

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Origins and Sources of the Majesty Trilogy – Pt. 4

The Human Potential

Emerging Themes

In writing the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy I found, even though I had a chart of its arc, that components of it were emergent. Just as the characters emerged as well. To me it was not a story of whatever form. It had to have a future reflective of us and possibilities. 

In the scope of things it may be that we are merely a life form that emerged on this beautiful and unusual planet. And in time we may well vanish into the history of the universe leaving no trace whatsoever.

But what I saw was that there is the matter of potential that may lead to our transformation or even possibly some forms beyond who we are just now.

Exploring Us and Our history

In mythology we see themes in human existence as well as our development. In gods and goddesses we view ourselves but our future as well. It seems we take the hopes of our youth into thoughts about what might be to come. We are restless and often not willing to accept how it is right now for ourselves personally or collectively. In our recent past we see the acquisition of culture and language and now so many more things.  I say “recent past” because it is apparent that we have been developing for millions of years, but it is in the last thousands of years we see a sudden “maturation” and acquisitions of new skills. And now technology is thrusting us forward in a whole new way.

We regard history, but also regard our future. Parts of who we are seem little changed. But other parts are intriguing.

Carrying Forward and Progressing

When we look at human history we see some things which change little although on the surface there is difference. For much of our history we had ruling families and still do. We had kings and now we have people we are calling oligarchs. They simply direct and rule our lives in different ways. But developmentally there has been a change at the same time as we have struggled to acquire and maintain democracies where the mass of people actually have a say in government. It is a struggle to maintain it nonetheless. 

Without warning come new themes such as the liberation of women. I know I say this over and over but I’m intrigued about what this movement may mean. Suddenly we have women participating in a way which goes beyond what has gone before.

Our lives are woven together. There is chaos and cruel brutality even as there is caring for those amongst us. While some may care not at all about the welfare of others, there are some who set up beneficial foundations.

The Call of a Future

One purpose fiction can serve is to stir us to examine not just ourselves personally but as creatures on this earth. We see some marked changes over time and emergent themes born of dreams and hopes. But what is intriguing is the possibility not just for fundamental change but what may mean transformation. It may come upon us or we may grasp and trigger it. It is up to use individually and collectively. The two themes of Mysterium and Malestrom in this trilogy relate to interplay of fundamental force. We may give them names as we search and explore. It all grows out of asking “What if?” as a means to draw us forward to an intriguing future.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Personality of the Artist (Painter)

 

Our Own Personal Style

While I did well in school it often did not hold my attention. Some things were fascinating and some things trivial. So frequently I “went out the window” which meant dreaming and exploring while the teacher went on his or her way. This process continued into graduate school. Some part of the subject matter was really interesting, other parts not so much.

As the time came closer for me to choose a doctoral dissertation topic I was working with a professor who held my interest. We were very different personality types but he engaged me and would challenge me in very useful ways. I liked that. He made me think.

Creativity Versus Intelligence

At the time he was studying creativity as it related to intelligence. Of course to some people that was a verboten area to explore. Creativity is simply supposed to be creative and that’s that. He didn’t view it that way. And his study came up with an interesting conclusion. Creativity and intelligence are orthogonal. Wow! Really?

Orthogonal is a rarely used word which means unrelated. The conclusion was that you could be really smart and not at all creative or really creative and not so smart in the ordinary sense. I liked that idea. It was what I would call unbinding. For one thing, we don’t have to put the creative types into scholarly straightjackets.

His studies led me to take a look at the literature about creativity in the psychological/psychiatric realm. What a hopeless morass. I did my major thesis (predoctoral) on the subject. I didn’t like what I found and neither did the professors who reviewed it. But it was what it was.

Eternal Gratitude to My Professor 

But It led me to discuss doing my dissertation on the personality of the artist (painter in this instance). My professor thought it worth doing. At the same time such a dissertation is risky. In psychology you are to demonstrate your grasp of the scientific method and it is usually safest to pick up on a line of study, tweak it and do a dissertation study. I decided to take the risk.

At the time the department was deep into the work of Carl Jung and that meant in part we were looking at his personality typology which had been translated into an actual test called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Business people loved it, because once you know a person’s personality, it tells you a great deal about what jobs they will be best at.

Off To Hang Out With the Artists

The long and short of it was I set out for an art school in Richmond, Virginia. The faculty thought the study might be interesting so I went in and took photos of the paintings and paid the students the princely sum of $2 each to take the test. I had long and interesting discussions with the students and hanging out with them was great fun.

I took the data back to Duke and had the paintings rated on a variety of dimensions which then were compared statistically with the personality types. Most of the literature was floundering around in psychoanalytical thought. This time we had real evidence. And it worked.

Surprises and Validation

I’ll cut to the chase. Not surprisingly the majority of the students were primary intuitive types which fits because they were exploring visually and conceptually. There was a smaller subcategory of other types whose work was really, really different. If you ever see a dark painting of a bleak woods against an evening sky, the chances are you are looking at the work of a primary thinking type.

A couple of other things stood out. Contrary to expectations, the artists with thinking as an auxiliary had rich and deep color choices while the ones with feeling as an auxiliary had muted color choices. Some findings were consistent with hypotheses, some counterintuitive.

Validating Jung

And then my professor asked me to do a different analysis. He wanted to know if the primary determinant of the effect was the type or whether there was an influence from the degree of that type. The analysis validated Jung’s contention. Within type there was the matter of degree but there was little variation. It was the type far and away that determined the characteristics of the art. My dissertation was easily defended and accepted.

What did we learn other than what was stated above? We learned about the power of what Jung had put together. I validated my perception that the psychoanalytic floundering was trash. And again, we learned the power of personality among other things I won’t bore you with. The paper was actually picked up by a major psychological journal. I had many other thoughts about such research but have never found the time. It’s interesting what’s out there if you go exploring and again it validated by love of the “What if”.

I’m considering writing specific columns about the women in the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. I think you would find them fascinating.

Are you surprised by any of these findings?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Caribbean Reality

 

Let’s take a break from our land of conflict.

Dreams Versus Reality

The Caribbean is a land of dreams. Beautiful islands, lush waters, jungles and happy, welcoming people. That is what we see. Reality is always different. Not that it isn’t lovely but the experience of life is complex. We had been seduced and were building a home on a beautiful island with which we had fallen in love.

Complex History

As a tourist what you see is a bewitching landscape and the lush experience of the moment. In fact the Caribbean is complex with a fascinating history. The islands had tribes that came from South America followed by colonizers from a variety of countries including Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands. They fought each other and made islands their colonies.

St. Lucia went back and forth between Britain and France fourteen times. The locals speak a French based patois along with English. When we came to St. Lucia the patois did not have a written form but, by the time we left, it was written and, if you spoke some French, you could read it. The accent was the problem. Many of the island people had been enslaved and slaves were imported.

What We Expected

We expected we would make friends with the locals and we did to a limited extent. But mostly expats or arriving foreigners related to each other. The indigenous people had strong family connections.

We also expected that life would be easy and it was not, as we learned our way around a country with far more problems than we had assumed. Electricity worked well enough except when the utility by mistake sent 440 volts into our 220 volt house. A large dam had been built to supply water and when they turned it on they blew the mains in the capital. We had a terrible struggle getting a reliable supply. But finally an Irish friend of ours gave me the map of the island water system and I was able to secretly go out and open and close valves so we got water most of the time. At least we did after I had to threaten suit in an island where people never sue. At first we had no water. We got mains installed after I threatened suit but as our Chinese attorney said, “You may have mains water but there will be no water in the mains.” In time there was water in the mains after I snuck out and opened the right valves.

We lived in an open environment which was lovely except for the bugs, rats, crabs (200 feet above sea level!) among other critters. But we also had darling birds who ate lunch with us.

Other Realities 

The island was a democracy with a small legislative body and a prime minister. In fact it was ruled by a few very wealthy families. Each of them owned a significant slice of the island. Electricity was produced by a utility which burned oil from Venezuela. In the distance from our house we could see the peaks of mountains where there was an endless supply of wind from the Atlantic Ocean. They could have generated electricity by wind power but the ruling family did not want that.

In short, it was much more complex than we had expected and the learning curve was steep.  It was essential that we learn the ins and out and be tenacious. We had thought to retire on the island some day but learned some harsh lessons. The health care system was not good and if there was a serous health emergency the solution was to hire a plane and be flown to Miami or Martinique. When we left fifteen years later, after having had a wonderful adventure, we had survived. Our attorney said, “You lasted longer than most.”

What he meant was that people who did what we did, coming to the island and buying or building a home, found the island challenging at many levels. Most fled within a year or two.

In Conclusion

These are some of the highlights and realities. I’m glad we did it, and we proved ourselves to be adaptive survivors. These are just a few of the many issues we faced but there were also numerous rewards. These islands are beautiful and each of them are different. I’ll go into descriptions of other islands in a later post. The climate is beautiful and the summers can be cooler than the continental United States. Winters can be ever so cozy and with adaptability the social scene can be rewarding. In all though, it is essential to be flexible and ready to face numerous challenges. We are glad we had the adventure.

Would such an adventure interest you?

If you want greater detailing of the experience there are numerous posts on my https://caribbeandreamblog.com . 

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Search for Matriarchy

 

What does matriarchy mean to you?

We Seem To Be Having a Debate

Was there a time in human history when matriarchal (matriarchy meaning female rulership) societies dominated and then were replaced with serial patriarchy which is where we are now? There seems to be real passion involved and terms such as matriarchalism, matrifocal and matrilineal swirl through the debate.

Notable in the debate is the book The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why An Invented Past Will Not Give Women a Future by Cynthia Eller. Eller is described as setting out “to refute what she describes as feminist matriarchalism as an ‘ennobling lie’”. From what I could see this does not seem to be a dispassionate academic debate. Naturally it is a little hard to rush back into history and see exactly what happened. And reports may be biased. Surprise, surprise. 

And then there is the question of how to characterize periods of rule by women. In fact, Britain has a rather long history. Was the time of Queen Elizabeth 1 a matriarchy? How about Queen Victoria and the current queen? Somehow I think matriarchy is a little over the top as a description. Men did not exactly fade away.

Goddesses Are Prominent 

Throughout history women have held various kinds of power. Goddesses are prominent in human history and we invoke some truly strong imagery. We describe our planet as being ruled by an earth mother and mother nature is always with us. In fact, I chose Gaia as our Earth Goddess for my trilogy because it invoked the images I sought. Clearly many of the images relate to the fact that each of us has a mother. These are archetypes (recurrent symbols and motifs) with substantive meaning. I do not view them as part of the debate. Something else is going on.

Part of what is going on seems to be an underlying debate about whether patriarchal dominance is inevitable or whether it is a matter of dominance at this time. But, now I’m going to shift gears. The inevitability of male dominance is unlikely and at issue and we are seeing a new movement empowering women. 

Then There Are the Feminist Movements

There are other terms of interest. The women’s movement of the 1970s is described as the second wave of feminism. At the time it caught my attention and I found it well worth supporting. And more recently came the third-wave feminist movement beginning in the 1990s. It apparently arose from the backlash against second-wave feminism initiatives. And now we have something called the current feminist sex wars. That seems apt in describing the controversy flowing around Eller’s book. 

Debate Versus Goals

Now I’ll ask the question which is the real point of this post. Why are we having this debate at all? Do we have to decide if there is some great given right for men to rule now and forever or if women are brought in to rule and is it to become eternal. What a monumental waste of time.

At some point we risk wish replacing thought. That description may characterize the debate since there are surely different agendas behind the scene. And so, let me return to Sally Armstrong’s book Uprising: A New Age Is Dawning for Every mother’s Daughter. She describes the movement worldwide and the benefits derived.

Benefits and Justice

It would seem more productive if we focused on the benefits and what constitutes justice of all kinds. As noted, we hear little about the real reason for income inequality, for example. A lot of cards are not on the table when it comes to equality for women and that would be a better focus for analysis and understanding as well as outing the perpetrators.

Equality and Partnership 

It might be interesting to view the effects of matriarchy, matrifocal societies and matrilineal processes but it may be they are not going to give guidance in the current circumstances. It would seem more productive to accept the benefits of empowerment of women and to look at the barriers to equality and partnership in our present day. Then we can set an agenda and do away with squabbles about history. We have work to do in the here and now.

What are your biggest concerns about health care?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt