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Cynicism, Greed, Hate, War?

Are These Side Effects of Modern Medicine?

By Rob Kall OpEdNews.com

Perhaps the problems with cynical politicians and greedy corporate CEOs is a problem that will take more than business accounting legislation to solve. Maybe its a deeper problem with a very different solution.

Imagine the indigenous witch doctor, consulting with spirits, then sending a waistcloth-clad, pre-literate tribesman off into the jungle on a quest for a root here, a multicolored bird plume there, the tusk of a wild boar---all to get rid of a case of itchy skin, for example.

We spend in excess of a trillion dollars a year on our illness diagnosis and treatment model of "health" care. We send our patients off to enter CAT scan caves, on trips downtown to enter the deep mazes of hospital based outpatient diagnostic and specialty centers-- mazes so confusing they have colored lines running on the floor to save us from becoming hopelessly lost. We require our patients to drink awful tasting liquids, and then lie for hours, so they can be imaged. Then the images are divined by experts at seeing what the ordinary person cannot see.

Of course it 's all scientific, but in both cases, patients are sent on arduous quests in pursuit of the magic healing elixirs. And still, of course, millions of people die every year.

Perhaps it is worth at least exploring some questions about how our illness-care model, with its massive budget being taking up such a large portion of our economy, affects our society. Numerous studies have shown that less than 15 percent of the population is not diagnosable in some category of psychiatry 's DSM4 diagnostic manual.

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This illness model is based on finding what 's wrong with, or pathologizing people, testing and assessing them to determine which diagnosis fits them. The end result is a world of people with labels describing their faults and flaws.

A pathological, reductionist approach to science and health has served us well in many ways, but it 's about time we started questioning how healthy this approach is for our society, our culture

We spend over a trillion dollars a year on our existing illness treatment model. It is hard to imagine that such a pervasive aspect of our culture does not also affect the way we perceive, the way we think about everything else around us-- seeing illness to fight, defects to fix, epidemics to battle, viruses to kill. These are all illness metaphors (as Susan Sontag so aptly described) that infect the language, the very thinking of modern humanity.

Consider this an unwanted side-effect of medicine as a whole. When I went to Russia to collaborate on a book, my Russian colleague, head of one of the Medical Cybernetics Institute of the Russian Academy of Medical Science (the Russian Counterpart of NIH) kept saying, "this is the problem we need to work on." I kept telling the translator "there 's no problem. We have an opportunity."

If we only see the world through the diagnostic eyes of pathologization and problems to be fixed, it is no wonder that we see enemies to battle and kill and bad people to jail

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This problem-oriented approach to the world is not new. It 's been around for thousands of years. But there is some evidence that it has not always been the way humankind has functioned. We have seen that indigenous peoples tend to live in harmony with illness, with death and nature, seeing these all as natural aspects of being a part of nature, including the whole life and death cycle.

It might seem impossible to ignore the juggernaut of modern technology, driven by its problem oriented reality slicing and dicing reductionist scientific engine. But there are glimmers of hope. About 20 years ago a handful of physicians began talking about holistic medicine-- looking at the big picture. About 15 years ago, the idea of a Positive Psychology, one based on strengths and resources rather than pathologies, began being discussed. Over forty years ago, biofeedback was developed, with the potential to empower people to take self-responsibility for their own health. The nice thing about all of these approaches is they don 't cost a lot of money. They are primarily based on people taking time to learn, to practice healthy ways of living and being.

These approaches are like little mice in a world of massive reptiles. And we know what happened to the dinosaurs and mammals. In these hard economic times, it would be wise for us to take a closer look at the magic elixirs we choose to pursue. If we spent half of the trillion dollars a year in illness care on positive psychology, teaching self health responsibility and encouraging holistic approaches to empowering optimal functioning of health, mind and spirit, we would have different health statistics.

If you look at the amount of health care dollars spent over an individual 's lifetime, a big percentage is spent in the last months of life on efforts to keep the person alive a few more weeks-- last minute surgeries and intensive care. We could make a difficult choice to spend a half a trillion or so dollars a year investing in educating and counseling people in possibilities-- to finding strength and seeing light instead of darkness.

There are those who will call this pollyanish. But that is understandable. That cynical view is a symptom of the times. There is light that can open those eyes, opportunities to widen that view.

Although congressional legislation to provide funding for this approach would help accelerating this approach 's "evolution," there is something individuals can do now to make a difference. Each person can start by noticing each day, and keeping a positive diary of three positive experiences daily. Just making that simple choice can begin opening your eyes to the good in the world so you begin developing a pattern of seeking and seeing the positives. I call it Positivity.

Rob Kall rob@storycon.org

Rob is president of Futurehealth, Inc., creator of www.positivepsychology.net , Founder and organizer of the StoryCon meeting, and public information officer for the Association for Appllied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback www.aapb.org


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