I'm not Broken, and I Don't Need to be Fixed

adaptation chronic disease health claims health food mental illness psychology

When I was studying psychology, one of the biggest problems with the field was the disease model of understanding a person's problems. The mainstream psychological community operates by the belief that if there is a problem, it is an indication of a broken mind, to be fixed through behavior modification, drugs, or even surgury.

Compare that with the view that psychological disorders are natural and adaptive responses to impossible problems. A schizophrenic's mind creates hallucinations to help the person deal with a reality that he cannot, for one reason or another, otherwise cope with. Drug addiction isn't a disease, but rather another way a person can choose to deal with problems.

This is the assumption of Choice Theory, that psychological disorders are the mind's adaptive response to life stressors that the individual cannot or will not deal with head on. They are the mental equivalent of chronic diseases that are caused by the body's natural response to excessive junk food intake. In both cases, the 'disease' is actually an adaptive response, so the situation needs to be changed.

If, however, we take these mental and physical diseases for granted, we accept the notion that we are simply broken. Thus, the only option left to us is to have someone 'fix' us. Instead of dealing with the root cause, we now add drugs or expensive services like therapy to our lives, when all we needed to do was change how we interact with people, or what we eat for breakfast. If we cannot deal with a situation, we need to learn or be taught the skills to handle it, and perhaps a kick in the butt to get moving.

In the food industry, it is a fairly common claim for a health food to proclaim that it 'may help prevent heart disease.' Implicit in that statement is the assumption that heart disease is most likely inevitable. Your best chance is to eat foods that will prevent it from getting you in the first place.

Designed to Thrive

The truth is actually that we are not designed to fall apart assuming we get the nourishment we need. Heart disease is the end result of our bodies' best attempt to protect itself from the immediate damage caused by processed foods. You don't see those labels on fresh greens or real fats, but these foods simply don't cause diseases, whereas the processed foods will, even if they can be made less damaging, and spin this fact as a health-promoting aspect.

It does not make sense to me that people are inherently flawed. Granted, nobody is perfect, but we all come into the world with the resources to handle our own lives sufficiently well. That's the point of evolution (and even more the point of intelligent design): and organism is self-sufficient and can thrive in its environment. We may be put in bad situations that lead to our bodies and minds breaking down, but generally, the human being will achieve spectacular levels of health and well-being if it is simply allowed to get a minimum of necessary resources.

Normally Abnormal

Sadly, the norm has become the absence of these circumstances. We stand in awe of people who never get sick, or live to old age, or demonstrate resistance to weight gain, or can lift their bodyweight. We are skeptical of those who are unfazed by life's hardships, who have many friends, and who always seem to be in a good mood. The norm is chronic suffering, stress, frustration, dietary inadequacy, mental illness (having a therapist has become a trend among those who can afford one), and break down of the human being. We don't expect to thrive for long.

What if we changed that expectation? What if we could assume that we were living below our normal and expected potential, rather than living below something exceptional and rare? What if we could assume that our health should normally be practically perfect, that our mental lives ought to be peaceful and joyous, and anything else is indicative of a problem that needs to be sorted out?

If you are a zookeeper, and your snow leopard is depressed, you don't give it anti-depressants. You look at its environment. You give it more room to move around in its cage, or you find it a mate. You give it the things that it naturally requires to thrive. Why don't we do that for ourselves?

I understand that people have real problems that necessitate medical and psychological treatment. But I am not the only one who believes that most people operate under the assumption that there must be something wrong with themselves. I only suggest questioning our assumptions about our problems. I simply advocate the idea that we have within ourselves the ability to be happy and healthy, inherently. That this idea is almost revolutionary is sad.

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