Our New Age Blossoming – 1

 

 

Gaining Perspective

We may miss a moment deserving of wonder. I’m convinced we are entering such a moment. But let me hold it as a mystery for now. And I’ll begin with a hint and some personal history.

Up front I need to make it clear who I am. Often we don’t know how who we are may be meaningful. For me it has a lot to do with history and what is unfolding. I am a 78 year old white man and my perceptions and reservations about white men go back a long way.

The word “perception” references a view, not worship, because I learned deep reservations early in my adult life.

Innocence Challenged

In the early 1960s I went to Duke University to work on a doctorate in clinical psychology. In high school I became deeply interested in nuclear physics but a college instructor destroyed my interest. I then chose psychology because of my mother’s suffering. She could be joyful and full of song but over time fell deeper and deeper into terrible depressions and when she was depressed she was often covered with weeping eczema. I wanted to know why. 

Psychology gave me the opportunity to seek answers and fit with my personality where the search for possibilities was central. In the end that led me to clinical psychology rather than experimental psychology.

Time to Leave Academia

Toward the end of my time at Duke the community mental health movement was starting and at graduation I took a job as one of the first psychologists hired in one of the first programs in the country. The job was in the inner city of Baltimore. I was a neophyte and an innocent. We thought we were to give mental health services.

On my first day I met a young black woman social worker who became my mentor and main ally in an unexpected battle to come. Community mental health was charged to make mental health services more widely available to all Americans. In fact no one knew the nature of services impoverished inner-city residents needed. 

The Core Experience

Now I’ll tell the secret. Well, one of them. The staff was a racially diverse staff which included young and assertive women. At the time the Women’s Liberation Movement was just beginning. The experience became a battle royal regarding the coming of women and the delivery of services which I spell out in my book Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health. Our chief opponents in this battle were the people in charge of the program and its development. The core opposition was older white men. Whatever perspective I was carrying that might have guided my life as a white man was torn to shreds. And today we see the continuing battle with them, their often distorted perspectives and corruption as we approach a new day for our country.

In future posts I deal with these issues in more detail but will also open other themes related to the wonders that might come for America if we were to seize the moment and the opportunity.

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

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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 II

 

Have you had contact with mental health professions?

An Ongoing Dispute

When I wrote the initial copy for this post it was entitled The Myth of Mental Illness. That was also the title of the 1961 book by Thomas Szasz that I hold in high regard. He questioned the foundation of psychiatry as do I. His case gets stronger as time passes.

The fact is, I chose to become a psychologist for reasons I’m still uncovering. Probably the chief among them was my need to deal with my mother’s severe depressions. They seem to have been the result of personality problems but mostly reflected a genetically based vitamin D deficiency. I had set out to study particle physics but an unforgivably bad calculus professor turned me off on the mathematics which I viewed as fundamental. And so I found my way into a field I’m still disputing.

Decades later I have concluded that the term mental illness should be relegated to the dustbin of history. Recently I saw that someone had come up with a “diagnosis” for people who are concerned about healthy eating. Diagnosing them has the implication of viewing such a justifiable concern as an aberration or some kind of deviation of behavior.

The Beginning

In college I found the study of psychology interesting but that there were two parts. The clinical people were usually over in the medical settings and the academic setting was closer to experimental studies. They declared psychology was a science. Early on I was not impressed by the science part. I could see philosophy among other things. In the end I went to Duke University to study experimental psychology but within days asked to move to the clinical program which they granted. Steadily I was introduced to psychology, psychiatry and psychotherapy.

I was not prepared for the authoritarian nature of psychiatry. I attended Grand Rounds and saw patients paraded on stage while their history of “mental illness” was presented and discussed. (I should say this was decades ago and things have probably changed.) I also learned that psychiatric residents were not permitted to declare a diagnosis. A senior staff member would step forward and deliver the definitive word. 

There were times when graduate students such as myself went to clinical meetings and presented findings from our testing. Our findings were frequently used to harass and haze both medical students and residents. The effect was to build a wall between psychiatry and medicine in general.

Learning By Doing

I realized after the fact that I often was given very difficult cases. One of them was a very pretty, very dysfunctional and hysterical young woman. In her interest I managed to get her diagnosis changed from schizophrenia to a less damaging diagnosis which meant she might get more flexible and dedicated treatment in the years ahead. But one day I got a call from the emergency room. I found her seated on a gurney. A terrified intern was in attendance. In front of her he informed me (and her) that if she had sliced at her arm and throat in a different direction that she would have bled to death. It seemed he had not been prepared for this kind of management.

My supervisor asked that I be very careful with this young woman and said he assumed she had already driven three therapists into research partly because of her extreme behavior and seduction efforts. Her late night forays and partying led to a pregnancy and she wanted an abortion. The nature of the times was such that she had to seek out senior psychiatric staff on her own and plead for a diagnosis to permit an abortion. She was unsuccessful.

We struggled on and she managed to achieve more stable functioning. I assumed there would be a long road ahead. In all regards I found the system deeply flawed.

Moving On

After graduation I went to Baltimore to work in a community mental health program. Our group of dedicated twenty somethings formulated reality based approaches for the people of the community and were faced with obstruction by our seniors in that they had a much deeper self serving agenda.

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

Health Care Alternatives and Reality – Series – Pt. 2

Overcoming Innocence

A Lifelong Process

In a previous post I wrote about the lessons I learned from my father, a surgeon.  While he loved his profession, he also had deep reservations which he spoke to me about. It seems I took it in at a deep level because I was not exactly a rebel at such a young age. But over time I found myself having to clear my perception of all kinds of health care alternatives. And each time I found myself examining alternative pathways. And, looking back I think what was happening was that my intuitive personality was dictating that I search for alternatives and possibilities.

Searching Psychology

When I began my studies in college I was told psychology was a science. Well, of sorts. Definitely not hard science entirely. There was experimental psychology and there was clinical psychology. When I was accepted into graduate school at Duke it was in the experimental psychology program. it was a matter of a very few weeks before I walked into the chairman’s office and requested a change to clinical. Graciously he agreed.

Interface with Medicine

Early on we began clinical experience at Duke University Medical Center and eventually I did my internship there. It was eye opening. Up close and personal I interfaced with people I admired and some who horrified me even though they were highly respected. The echoes of my father’s positions were significant.

Now I’m Looking Back

Here it is decades later and I see a process of search and discovery. In this series I’m going to share my thoughts about health care and “treatment of illness”. Notice that there are quotation marks there. There are realities and there are dicta. I found myself weaving through a system which I saw as needing substantive modernization and reevaluation if not downright reform at all levels.

Rushing At the Future

And now we find ourselves being pressed into information technology and changes we are only now beginning to understand. The title of this blog is Cusp of Reality and I firmly believe that medicine resides on a vibrating cusp as well. In coming posts I’ll  be sharing my view of health care realities, misgivings about illness and diagnosis. I’ll be referring to revisions of definitions of illness, the difference between illness and life management. While much of what I experienced was in the psychological sphere, it is impossible to separate it from physiological, cultural and logical influences as well. We are on a rough road into the future and we need to explore and study what may lie before us. There I am again as the intuitive personality type facing a world of possibilities. But much of my viewpoint is conditioned  by experience. Jump on board and let’s explore together. 

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

The Psychologist Looks at Characters

 

 

An Emerging Character

Internal Conflict

Something emerged as I was writing the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. It was a tug of war between a writer and a psychologist. One might think immediately that this conflict could be a real asset. The truth is much more complicated than that.

It seems likely that similar conflicts exist in other creative enterprises. My dissertation dealt with painters and how their personality might influence their work. In fact, using the personality typology of Carl Jung, it was clear it does influence their work. Is that information useful to the artist?

Might he or she step back and do a different kind of analysis of the painting taking shape? They might, but their art is not a cognitive enterprise. It seemed best for them to let their creative processes flow. I doubt the person considering their painting would really be interested in those kinds of contributions for something to hang on their wall.

A Different Kind of Challenge

The written word brings a different kind of challenge. Of course it is reflected in the particular form of that written word but a similar tug of war can take place. The very matter of plot and character interactions lends itself to construction and it is easy to slip into analysis which may affect content, direction and style. With characters we hope the reader will be attracted or repelled by them depending upon their role in the story.

As a psychologist there came a point where I had to deal with my own inclinations. In life I have to contain my analytical tendencies. In seeing friends or in social occasions doing dispassionate analyses of the people with whom you are interacting is not typically a good idea. In fact it gets in the way of life.

I have, from time to time, been told a person was disturbed by the feeling that I was analyzing them. Most of the time I was doing no such thing. That is, unless there were warning signals which indicated I needed to be on my guard for one reason or other. Sometimes you meet someone who seems intent on manipulating you and the situation. My inner psychologist kicks in at once.

Around the Edges

In developing characters there is an essential conflict. Spending too much time on the analysis can be stultifying for the story. Often there simply needs to be a flow. The character has to live within and emerge. At least that is what I’ve concluded. There may be other approaches.

A good example for me relates to my lead character in book 1 of the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. Avery is a bright, dedicated young woman but in the background is the fact that she had lost her parents in an early part of her adulthood. She wanted them back and had felt abandoned.

When she finds that she has another kind of family I wrote her as doing a lot of whining. Such a reaction under the specific circumstances of this story is completely understandable at least to me. But most people would contain it inside which is what I was relating to. When it became clear it wasn’t working I had to reconstruct her. It worked a lot better. Sometimes reality in storytelling simply does not work.

The Bottom Line

This example is what I, as a psychologist, had to view. I’m sure many writers have things they have to face in their writing—things that are coming from inside of them. It was not a matter of my personality but reflected my training. Each form of art has its own pitfalls and I suspect that many writers of fiction have to wrestle with components coming from within themselves. In some instances it may enhance the work or it may yield flaws which must be dealt with.

In what ways does the “inner you” affect your vocation or art?

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