Building a Future in the Postcapitalism Era

What do you think will characterize our future?

It Didn’t Work Out As Hoped

Not long ago we had the Arab Spring and the hope that there would be a graceful resolution for a troubled Middle East. There were other hopes and the world and America seemed to have drawn back from an abyss following the Great Recession.

Yes, the United States has made a good recovery but we seem to have unsettled footing which very much includes a rather surprising and frightening race for the presidency. There are multiple signs suggesting our country and the world is entering a very unstable period.

Present Reality Addressing the Future

And then I picked up a book called Postcapitalism – A Guide to Our Future by Paul Mason. It is dense and fraught with discussions of failed economic theories and conflicts. It was so difficult I had to read it twice but I couldn’t put it away. He suggests that we are at the end of a long economic wave and that capitalism is collapsing. The book can be dismissed as both overly pessimistic and utopian all at the same time. I found it to be neither because in so many instances I could see what he was warning about was already occurring whether it is what happened to Greece, Brexit, a failing Italian banking system, American college debt, a stagnant American Middle Class etc.

Data at our Fingertips

He points out a series of endeavors and policies which could help us head off catastrophe in climate change, demographic devastation in elderly populations and the need for extensive financial system reforms. One thing he points out that is markedly different in this environment is the information revolution. Among other things there is an extraordinary pool of data out there. It could be employed to shape our future and to create new systems both economic and social. Part of the process is no cost systems such as Wikipedia. He points to such endeavors where costs are going to zero.

Fifty Years Too Soon

And then I was struck by something. I wrote a book entitled Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health.  In the 1960s a public health model was applied to mental health services. It was supposed to bring affordable and effective services to all the people of our country. It failed. I wrote the book about my experiences in the movement because I thought our experiences were worth being in the record.

It occurred to me that in some ways the movement had been created fifty years too soon. At the time it failed because of lack of vision on the part of senior mental health professionals, a focus on status, interest only in grant money, failure to look beyond existing systems. In fact, if the young professionals had been in an era of information technology we could have documented the essence of an impoverished community, the flaws which caused such pain and suffering, the essential points of intervention and the planning needed to build ameliorative services. In fact, the nature of the communities was the major problem and we worked on economic and social issues rather than mental pathology. It all could have been documented, organized and systems designed. But narrow and selfish perceptions caused it to fail.

Breathtaking Potential

Mason’s Postcapitalism points the way to a promising kind of process and I could feel how what our young staff did in the 1960s could be used in the here and now in cost effective and productive ways to build diverse and social movements within such a community, through peer systems and economic system focus. Of course it would involve designing markedly more efficient physical health care systems as well. It was all there in the minds of young professionals but the time was wrong. This revelation alone told me that we have a huge opportunity as capitalism reaches its final wave. Will we have the wisdom or will we be inundated by climate failure, demographic chaos, economic mismanagement, Political naivete,   and social failure? We will see.

What systems for the future would you design?

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

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Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Our New Age Blossoming – 2

 

Looking Back

It is now over 50 years later than when I went to work in Baltimore. For me time offers not perspective as much as confirmation. The only perspective I find is that I can now clearly see the roots of my deep mistrust of the truth and wisdom of older white men. In fairness there is diversity among them but in our present age the fact of their rule is distressing in so many regards.

Designing a Delivery System

The community mental health movement came with a multi-part design. I was stationed in an outpatient facility which meant I was to consult with the community and deliver services. That seems simple enough. Go out and get acquainted so you get referrals and then give therapy with the psychiatrists giving medication as necessary. What fools we mortals be!

What we found immediately was that we had a lot of learning to do. The community was challenging to put it mildly. They were in serious need and mental health services were not at the top of their list.

The Existing System

There already was a mental health system in place. At the hospital nearby people could come for service. Since it was a medical school there were medical students who often were giving service in six week rotations—with little prior experience. Then there were residents. I’ll save you the agony of all the details but they were not acquainted with the needs of the community either and so could not respond effectively.

At the time psychiatric residents were committed to giving intensive psychotherapy. The local residents were not exactly candidates so they often simply got medication. We immediately found a fundamental truth. The biggest enemy of mental health in the area was the stress of poverty. So they suffered from depression and anxiety. Duh!!!

The System We Designed

Each of us took a morning walk-in clinic. We assessed the person’s problems and then spent the afternoon on the phone arranging appropriate services and getting information about availability among a lot of other things. For example, if they had a physically ill child who was not getting service or inappropriate service we sought appropriate help. Every center had a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor who got a lot of referrals. Very many of these people needed training and/or education. A job or a better job had a very beneficial effect on their mental health along with the experience of hope.

Not So Simple

Did we have the support of higher ups? Sometimes, but often not. The older white men generally wanted to preserve the existing system and were primarily interested in the aura of getting the money for a grant to a new glamorous type of program. They loved the aura and wanted to look good to each other. Daily we were in the position of fending off orientations and demands which did not serve our community well. One of my common responses was “We’ll get back to you” or ”Let me look at alternatives.”

Allies With the Community

We  had to develop relationships with the community so we could respond to their real needs. In that era of the beginning of the civil right movement the community became contentious and interesting. Assertions of community needs and objections to the mistreatment of black men began at that time. There were issues about health services. At one point growing activism led to a difficult public hearing and I found myself sitting next to the state head of the mental health system who was clueless. Other times we were visited by arrogant “consultants” from Washington who we had to endure. 

I’ll leave it there for now. It was rough and tumble and never-ending as we fought for the people of the community. You might think we would have had allies from the professions but they were too often few and far between.

Another Major Wave of Change

In some ways we didn’t understand what we were seeing either. In the end the establishment brought down the community mental health movement. As the young rebels left, the clinics in the community were closed and the old ways resumed. I tell the full story in my book Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health.

But two things came out of the era that proved to have a long wave and import for our future. One was the civil rights movement and in the next post I’ll go into the other one. 

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

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Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Health Care Alternatives and Reality – Series – Pt. 5

 

The Myth of Mental Illness

The above is the title of an important book by Thomas Szasz. Mental illness still dominates a significant portion of our health care system and it still has major conceptual problems. Of course, as a clinical psychologist, I was schooled in it. I actually came to love Carl Jung’s work a lot more than Sigmund Freud’s but his work still dominates.

Alternative Realities

And so we again return to where we live on the cusp. Over the decades I found nonphysical problems related to mental and cognitive issues to be far removed from “illness” and often nuanced. And when we move away from the dominant model, we find suitable alternatives. Unfortunately the insurance industry dominates the field and therefore may dictate treatment or at least what it is called. What it is called will often influence what is done. Substantial reform is needed.

Some of the Issues

When my wife and I personally confronted issues for remarried families (aka stepfamilies) we learned important lessons. An important initial lesson was that the process is a matter of adjustment, not psychopathology. Certainly there were some people with substantial disturbance from other causes but we learned to begin with our model of adjustment. The  couple was focused on initially. Too often the mother or stepmother was put in therapy as if they were the problem although they may have shown the greatest distress initially. And we were resistant to putting children in therapy because adjusting to a new family was not pathological in almost all cases. Because of our approach we could structure an information system and found that generally the family could take over adjustment and handle their own future after very few sessions. See our book Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership by Mala S. Burt, M.S.W. and Roger B. Burt, Ph.D.

Another major issue is what is termed post traumatic distress disorder or PTSD. The military is wrestling with removing the word disorder because it proves to be a bar to veterans getting help with their adjustment. Does anyone really believe that someone should go to war and kill people daily or risk being killed daily while suffering stress and not need to cope with management and an enduring reaction. I shared my perception with some friends who were veterans and found them in tears when I suggested they were not “sick” although there were still issues decades after their war experience. 

Enduring and Broad Issues

Those are just two examples of the reality of a world far more nuanced than what is described as mental illness. We can go on between things like personality diversity, numerous personal management needs as we pass through stages of our life. When I first came into the field the predominant viewpoint was that our development was finished in early adulthood. Absurd.

Management of life experience continues throughout life and it would be best if we approached our lives in that fashion. Take an area of life experience and we see that there is change, stress and adaptation. It would help if we defined a type of insurance that was appropriate and took these issues out of the hands of insurance companies focused exclusively on profit.

Life on the Cusp

Yes, here is that cusp again. Each of us is different with a raft of different experiences. We work for stability and commonality and often success. But it would help if we understood the richness of our diversity in the sense that much of the issues are not pathological and that our views from the cusp feed creativity, diversity and innovation. And life can be difficult, even jarring. From time to time we need to seek expertise and guidance but we generally do not need to cast it all into psychopathology. There are problems out there with profound biological origins where the person needs substantive help but very often management and guidance are what is needed.

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

A Time of National Reformation

Understanding the Need for Change

Do you believe we are facing major change or just major disorder?

It has not yet been described as such, but it would seem we are on the verge of a national reformation. We appear to be suffering conflicts with no solutions immediately on the horizon. It is often dismissed as political but we have to suspect we are dealing with more fundamental issues.

The reaction to recent mass shootings is just one indicator of a national crisis. We are looking at demographic change looming large even as a major party seems to be in the process of collapsing. Now is a time for us to do a multilevel reevaluation on many fronts.

Public Safety and Guns

At the forefront is the issue of needed changes regarding our rules about guns. That means what type of guns should be permissible for possession outside of the military and what rules there need to be related to possession in general.

With all the discussion I have not once heard a meaningful discussion regarding the second amendment. The amendment was about the maintenance of a militia in a newborn country that did not have a standing functional army. Somehow it has become transformed into something else entirely.

In broad strokes we need to address matters of public safety as they relate to gun possession and related restrictions. That means we will also have to address ideological issues as they relate to the wellbeing and the future of our country.

Personal Dysfunction in a Society

But for me as a psychologist, I see another set of issues related to what we call mental health. It is brought up regarding guns and has sets of problems of their own. As noted, we originally applied the disease model as a way to remove issues of personal functioning from the belief in demonic possession. Our emotional and cognitive functionality did not belong in the religious arena but using the medical model has serious problems in its own right.

Many of the shooters in recent massacres were victimized by family history, distorted religious zealotry and probably sexual identity confusion among many other issues. But the question of how we address public safety leads us into a complex arena. And in that regard the disease model offers little clarify. It is supposed to instruct us about the nature of the problem, what procedures to use to deal with it and what medication is indicated if any. In fact, we must separate “mental illness” from the issue of gun management. They are related but there are many other issues involved.

Designing a Helping System

Our health care system is often dysfunctional, especially when corporate profit guides response.  The physical health system and the mental health systems need serious attention and redevelopment.

In the larger picture we need to go back to fundamentals and design the model of how to relate to what are currently called mental health issues. They may be biochemical, stress related, developmental, chemically induced and so forth. Then we need to deal with how to respond and what help to offer. A long overlooked reassessment would take considerable time and even then will prove difficult when it comes to public safety. The issue will always be how to make functional help available and how systems can be designed to serve the sufferer and the public.

Reexamining Fundamentals

It would seem, at this time of what I believe will be national reformation, we should be reexamining fundamentals on many fronts. And my special interest is in reforming and completely revising the use of the outdated model of mental illness. How to respond to dysfunction and distress in human life is complex and that includes our response to drug addiction and abuse. Prevention is related to availability and utilization of services. When we tell people they are “sick” it may turn them away from the guidance and help they need. We attached the D to PTSD and turned it into a disorder when it is, in fact ,a predictable stress reaction among other things. It goes beyond a reaction to the experience of war and now we can see effects on our school children because of the recent shootings. The D proves to be a barrier to help and understanding. We can throw money at these issues but it would seem best to begin by reevaluating our approaches. 

How many of these issues have you experienced personally?

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

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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 IV

 

Dealing with Life

Each of us can be placed on dimensions of a set of behaviors and processes. When there is mental illness is a matter of dispute and fashion. When mental illness is defined, too often it is a function of funding and professional achievement. That sounds obscure, but think about it for a moment.

When community mental health blossomed, we learned, at least in inner city poverty, that poverty is stressful (seriously?) if not just plain overwhelming. The social workers were closest to the truth and saw our intervention as “case management”. People get depressed and anxious when they are overwhelmed and when we helped them manage their difficult lives they became less anxious and less depressed. In a poverty environment it is appropriate to be deeply concerned or even terrified regarding the future of your children.

The senior professionals above us wanted the grant money, the status and wanted to perpetuate the establishment. The young staff saw things very differently.

Guidance and Management

Through all my professional experiences I have come to see humans as functioning on a series of dimensions which instructs our personal development, defines, guides or disrupts our functioning. Stress exists and causes serious functional problems. Somewhere in there are biologically based issues and without a doubt most of us need guidance from time to time. And some people benefit from exploration of the self which they may find in some form of what is called insight therapy.

Sorting Out Reality 

Overall, I would like to see us dismiss the concept of mental illness entirely. We can focus on problems associated with biochemical processes when essential and detach severe reactions caused by trauma. It would take time to reformulate the field but we certainly could become more effective and husband our resources. Problem solving and management are basic parts of all human endeavors. What do you think would happen if we started to diagnose corporations or political candidates? I doubt there would be much approval by the objects of such activities.

What happened at Orlando was a terrible tragedy but also opened a door where we find the opportunity for reevaluation on a variety of fronts. I know I’m crying out in the wilderness because there is a huge investment of various kinds in maintaining the status quo. But I can dreams can’t I? There might be a world where we are honest with ourselves, where we can be more efficient and effective and accept our complexity and variety of potentials.

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

Freud Versus Jung

Two Forms of Reality

What do these names mean to you?

Once again we encounter the question of what is reality. These two names represent very different views and relationships to the larger elements of society and culture.

Anyone in the mental health field will inevitably come in contact with the writings of Sigmund Freud. Not necessarily Carl Jung. Freud was important in advancing the field of mental health and forming it into a system used to treat what were called mental disorders. He made us aware of the existence of the unconscious mind which we are only now being able to look at in brain imaging. Jung might have come from another planet.

Why Mental Illness?

Freud was very close to the development of western medicine. We had come to the point where there was the thought that people might not suffer infestation by evil spirits. Calling what was happening a mental illness meant they could be removed from not well informed intervention by the church. That was a step forward but as we will see in later posts it was not always to the point.

A Broader Perspective

I’ll be frank to say that Jung fascinated me much more so than Freud. Both men were Europeans but Freud was closer to western thought. Jung foraged the world and shed light on not just our mental systems, but culture and elements of deep meaning.

Both men brought us utility of different kinds. Freud made us realize that there was such a thing as an unconscious mind. It is only now as we probe the brain with new tools that we can see the operation of the unconscious forming up prior to conscious awareness. Each man dealt with reality in their own way.

Myth and Truth

In Jung’s search he related to mythology and he brought us fascinating commentaries and revelations. But he did something more. In searching the world he recognized that there is a personality system in humans. A systematic study of human personality turned out to have absolutely nothing to do with mental illness. The system Jung devised, or perhaps the better word is uncovered, is the basis for the Myers-Briggs Personality Typology which, if you would like to know about your personality you can find it on line. Simply ask our friend Google and you will be taken to it.

Both of these men dealt with reality in their own way. Freud seemed closer to the western scientist while Jung sought reality of other sorts. What I found particularly fascinating about Jung was the mythological components which take us to all manner of alternatives. We can see a great deal about our speculative foragings.

Jung had fascinating perspectives. He wrote an entire book about alchemy. His conclusion was that it was not a search for how to change lead into gold. He saw it as a bridge from the Dark Ages to the Enlightenment as people were exploring new ways.
In Jung’s autobiography Memories, Dreams and Reflections is found fascinating revelations about a man who broke the bounds of ordinary reality. It is both about him and philosophical.

Both Offer Meaning

Sometimes there is a debate about truth and these men. I see no such debate needed. Each offered something fascinating and brought us forward. I have to admit I feel much closer to the work of Jung because we are the same personality type. Freud did good work but his thinking did not enroll me in his world. Both men speak to us about important elements of the human experience and, in the end, they may have nothing to do with mental illness.

Have you encountered the work of these men? What was your reaction?

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

How Are You America? Part 3

 

Small waterfall along a gorge trail.

Receiving Instruction

The people in the western mountains have the opportunity to instruct us. Not that they want that opportunity, but we can learn lessons if only because we imagine what their lives were like and are like now. But it is almost as if there are those who are asking, “why should we care?”

The answer is simple. We should care because we will surely be instructed. And the instruction is important because, like it or not, the world is changing faster and faster and we need to respond. When we begin to seek vision and answers we serve all our citizens and their futures.

Noting and Facing Challenge

Wherever they came from, whatever their stories, it is clear that their lives are challenged. It certainly looked like there were probably limitations of skills. That does not mean absence of talent or the capacity to learn and build new possibilities.

The bottom line is that in so many areas of our country we need to look at the need and possibility for educational opportunities and assessment of the skills which will be needed. It almost sounds like an abstract idea, but looking ahead we should be clear these kinds of challenge are widespread now and will expand in the future. One of the challenges will be not just looking at what may be needed but how to offer what people may not think they need. If they don’t need it, their children almost surely will. The assessment of what is happening and where it will lead and what is needed will take time. Unfortunately I hear very little about such explorations. It may exist but it is not prominent.

Receiving Instruction – Mental Health

There were two times in my past when I received instruction about some of the issues related to mental health. One of them was when I went into the inner city of Baltimore. I learned that these people did not need mental health services as much as instructions and help in managing a stressful environment and the offering of resources they did not know were available or that they might need.

In our “treatment” of them they gained self management skills in addition to being offered resources. The management extended to the self but also to the environment. Unfortunately many of the lessons were lost because of narrow-minded conservatism among the professions and the fact that resources disappeared as the “poverty Program” ended.

But as the perception of mental health is changing now and there is increased focus on management we have an opportunity but we also need to attend to resources.

Receiving Instruction – Vocational Evaluation

The other thing I found instructive was vocational assessment and retraining. In our mental health program, each of our units had a Division of Vocational Rehabilitation counselor. We worked closely with them to provide training and support. And the potential of people in entrenched poverty was often truly inspiring. We simply needed to open the world.

I was part of the assessment team and when I left the inner city, I continued to work to evaluate people who needed evaluation and training. There were other lessons I learned—up shortly.

 

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

Sanity Versus Insanity

 

Do you know what insanity is?

No Clarity

As a clinical psychologist I have come to mistrust the definitions of sanity and insanity. And for that matter I also question the clarity of what is or is not reality. That is why this blog is called cuspofreality.

Most of us would like to believe we have a firm grip on reality but the “reality” is that we are deeply influenced by the context, our personality, our mood, culture and on and on. Reality changes from moment to moment as does the perception of what is or is not sanity.

What a Surprise!

Not long ago there was a great deal of excitement when someone showed the same dress as white and gold or blue and black. It was an internet sensation. How could the same dress be those different colors. It was, of course, explainable in terms of the type of light, how we looked at it, etc. But it shook people’s believe in what was reality. Could it really be both sets of colors? Sorry to say, yes it can be or at least can be perceived as such.

We do, indeed, spend most of our lives believing in that thing we call reality. And people who see things differently from us, whether it is visually or cognitively, are simply wrong. I know. I have the proper perspective.

Facing the Task, Not the Diagnosis

For those of us in the mental health field, when we have to help people who are struggling with their emotional and cognitive lives, we often have to spend time determining the role of insanity. After decades in the field all I can say is that I dislike having to make such a determination. I’m not sure the label is helpful. I prefer to think in terms of how well the person copes in the world and how effective they are in relating to other people, including their coworkers, and how good they are at life management.

If a person is harmless and happy with how they see the world, in many ways it is not important to define exactly how sane they are or are not. Labels may be rather pointless. Often we need not face the fact that most of us have varying forms of reality from which we relate to the world. There are, in fact, people who are quite insane in a fashion we can all agree on. Some people have a biochemical disorder which means their reality is fickle and they have terrible problems relating to other people.

Contextual Adjustment

What is the point you may ask? Sometimes we just have to adjust our belief as it relates to what is fair, correct, moral or just plain effective. And I am led back to the matter of the empowerment of women. We come from a history in which women’s rights were restricted. It is as if they were flawed and incapable of being truly independent. We are now rethinking this belief. And in doing so we are casting aside thoughts of sanity versus insanity or even incapacity. Perhaps we simply have to move to what is fair, correct and appropriate. We are already seeing the benefits. No matter how we view it, it is surely going to be a struggle.

How have you had to adjust your view of things in the past and in our current political crisis how do you assess reality?

 

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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

Thank You For Your Service

 

 

Have you ever had a stress reaction?

Have We Defined Stress Incorrectly?
Maybe our recent wars did not create an apocalypse for our nation, but we’re now facing some consequences of the wars. An apocalypse is ongoing for many of the residents of the Middle East but there is also significant distress among some people in our nation.

Some of that distress will be referred to as mental illness. I am not a huge fan of the medical model as it relates to mental and emotional functioning because I think there are often other more useful ways to look at some of the things that happen to us. We created the concept of mental health so that we could remove mental and emotional suffering from the hands of the church. It is no longer common to describe people as being possessed by the devil or demons. But sometimes viewing something as an illness is not useful either.

World War II Is Still With Us

Long before there was the currently popular Post Traumatic Stress Disorder we had war related stress problems but they were not diagnosed nor helped very effectively. We hear a great deal about PTSD currently. It almost sounds like it is a new problem.

I had a couple of awakenings in my practice over the years. In one instance a man came to see me about an ill-defined depression which had been nagging at him. We talked for several sessions until at last he said, “I think you need to meet my father”. His father had been a bomber pilot in World War II and had flown on both missions to destroy the Ploesti oil fields in Rumania. In each attack they lost 90% of the planes. His father had passed survivor guilt on to his son.

In another instance I was dealing with a young Jewish woman. Again, we were getting nowhere until she asked to bring her grandmother in. Her grandmother was a survivor of the Aushwitz concentration camp and had passed on this heritage within the family.

More Recent Events

It should not surprise anyone that we have similar problems for people who served in Vietnam and more recently in Afghanistan and Iraq. The revelations have been ongoing. From time to time I have occasion to talk with veterans. In one instance when I told a man that reactions to this stress were essentially normal there were tears in his eyes. He was grateful and said, “I thought I was mentally ill.”

Normalizing the Experience

The military is beginning to work to drop the D from PTSD because calling it a disorder is serving as a bar to seeking help. People don’t like being called mentally ill. The fact is that the types of reactions we are seeing should be characterized as normal reactions to prolonged stress. Exactly how is a person to feel when they spend every day killing people and having people trying to kill them? Since we don’t have a draft we have sent people back for multiple tours of duty which is utterly irresponsible.

Thank You For Your Service

Yes, we should thank them for their service but we are too often not giving them service in return. I used an image of a homeless serviceman for this post because it exemplifies the service we are not giving. They should not be suffering. Too often the wait times for those seeking help is much too long and there should be no veterans homeless on the street.

We are failing to step up to our obligations. Politicians are threatening more war and few are really responding to and supporting the response to real need created by past wars. The fact is that there are understandable reactions to prolonged stress and they can be dealt with.

On Another Note

There are other kinds of conflicts which we can view symbolically. Join us and enter for an opportunity to win a free autographed paperback copy of        Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power  
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Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

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Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt