The rate at which my hands turn to ice even on a day blessed with sunlight is too damn high.
I can’t even feel the keys on this Chromebook. I’m just stabbing the buttons in hopes my procedural memory will pick up the slack. In the midst of my stabbing I came across an intriguing article on the absence of spirituality in the modern mental health system. You can read the original here.
In case your attention span isn’t up for the challenge and you left your trusty prescription stimulant at home, I’ll provide a quick summary.
You see, it all started when I forgot how to do a derivative. That’s usually how it starts, isn’t it? Then all of a sudden you’re combining some integration-derivative hybrid and you’re subtracting what you’re supposed to be adding and your by-parts turns into a gruesome monster spanning your entire page and you’re scanning your work in hysterics wondering where in the world you could have gone wrong when you’re a damned genius.
On four hours of sleep, I can barely add 2 + 2.
At any rate, I tossed the math aside and the first article I found to waste my time on was “The difference Between My Psychiatrist and My Shaman” by Dylan Charles.
Now, before you roll your eyes at me and say “for fucks sake not this again” and un-follow me, I’m going to say right off the bat this is not a post to diss the modern medical industry, it’s just a post to present to you a different side.
A shaman, as I’m sure the majority of you know, is a spiritual healer. A lot of the times those of us assimilated into Western culture consider Shamans as practicing a primitive medicine, healing techniques which follow myths and legends of ancient cultures.
Many indigenous cultures, according to Charles, believe the symptoms of mental disorders are not the result of a defective person or brain, but are rather psychic energies within the person that are incompatible with said person and those energies must be either forced from the body or integrated into the body.
Films exaggerate this. We’re not talking about demonic possession. People infected by these energies aren’t doing the crab walk across the kitchen tile with their tongue flicking a mile a minute at your ankles (haven’t read the exorcist? You should).
Shamans, then, have a healing purpose, to help restore balance among the energies. Their purpose is “not to correct or remedy anything, but is instead to facilitate change and integration within the patient “.
Charles goes on to emphasize two plants which have been known for promoting healing and restoration of energy balance: Iboga and Ayahuasca. If you haven’t heard of them, than you probably don’t know about the recent craze of using these psychoactive substances to help treat symptoms of disorders like Schizophrenia and Depression. Don’t know the efficacy levels of those studies yet. It’s probably subjective like every other portion of psychology.
I won’t summarize Charles’ entire experience with a western psychiatrist and an indigenous shaman, I feel those words are better left explained by him in his article. But I believe he brings up a very deep conflict circulating through our culture today: where is our spirituality? Our connectedness with others? With nature? How much of our life, of our interconnection, do we jeopardize when business hijacks medicine?
You don’t have to believe that mental disorders are a a hoax and that the symptoms are incoming energies throwing off your internal balance. You just have to have a mind capable of considering other possibilities. You need a mind capable of understanding that a scientific study created and ran by man (a terribly flawed creature) for a science which is subjective in its majority does not have all the answers. Just because they tell you the reward pathway in the substantia nigra is responsible for relaying addiction doesn’t mean the substantia nigra is responsible for addiction by itself. If it were, you could remove it and cure the very nature of substance abuse.
At the same time, you can’t consider these indigenous and/or ancient traditions “primitive” or “illogical” or “stupid”; what’s the point in doing so? They’re about as accurate as anything else man has thought up. Even physics has spent tireless hours proving our consciousness and our observation of the universe influences our surroundings and what happens to us, and no one seems to give a damn. To put the body and particularly the mind on a purely physical pedestal is, in my opinion, primitive.
I’m sure people who have grown up with traditional, indigenous treatments out in jungles the “civilized” world has yet to have impact on would find our customs of modernized medicine really . . . odd. Just as I’m sure people in this part of the world find their customs . . . strange.
Westerners tried having a similar, spiritual take on things when they considered “Hysteria” the “Wandering Uterus”. Didn’t really have the same effect.
It seems western minds weren’t too keen when to thinking outside of a physical box.
Could this be true?
Another way to say this, which may make more sense to the Western mind, is that we in the West are not trained in how to deal or even taught to acknowledge the existence of psychic phenomena, the spiritual world. In fact, psychic abilities are denigrated. When energies from the spiritual world emerge in a Western psyche, that individual is completely unequipped to integrate them or even recognize what is happening. [Source]
Could this be true?
The causes of depression are not fully understood, but scientists believe that an imbalance in the brain’s signaling chemicals may be responsible for the condition in many of the patients. However, there are several theories about what this imbalance actually is and which signaling chemicals are involved. [Source]
Could they both be true? Could everything be true? Could nothing be true?
You have to consider all the possibilities. If you don’t, you’re lying to yourself. And the fact that we as a culture have simply, and uncritically, accepted simple explanations for complex human experiences disheartens me.
To make attempts at telling our body how to act is essentially vain. Disrespectful, as well. You are a human being apart of an entire universe, not just your job, not just your house, not just your family, not just your neighborhood–an entire universe which at times caters to your observation and which, at times, require you cater to its requirements. It’s a give and take. Don’t believe me? Go argue with a physicist, because I don’t have time for it.
People (like me) complain about how corrupt businesses and industries and organizations have gotten. We’re human: every part of the Earth we touch will eventually be corrupted because we’ve lost that connection. We’re not in touch with ourselves or where we live. We’re so focused on ourselves we forgot who we are.
So do mental disorders exist? We’ve created them: of course they do.
Careful: I’m not saying we’ve made up the behavior or the struggle we all face (that’s definitely real) or the “chemical imbalances” if you so choose to believe, I’m saying we’ve defined them as they are. We don’t see them as instances of humans suffering some great spiritual and physical and mental issue combined, we only see them as problems. Sicknesses. Illnesses. A part of our humanity need to be cured.
I believe all of our interpretations of mental health, mental disorders, mental illnesses, whichever you choose to call them are valid to some degree. The fact that we separate them into categories when they all very obviously overlap, the fact that we cater and fund more willingly specific treatments, biological only treatments, only further validates the disconnect in the industry.
You don’t need to go to a Shaman to learn your mind and your body and your surroundings are connected in more than just a physical way. You don’t need to go to medical school to learn that helping the mind, body, and spirit all together, whether that means medication, therapy, sweat lodges, whatever, can help any person regain a sense of themselves, no matter their ailment.