By Ozodi Thomas Osuji – Psychiatry and psychology are currently working very hard to transform themselves into science. As they see it, to become perceived as science they have to root their causal explanation of human behaviors in biology (chemistry and physics). If any aspect of thinking and behaving is seen as caused by the individual’s genes and or biochemical permutations in his brain they believe that their explanation is now scientific.
The irony of it all is that as psychiatrists and psychologists make mighty efforts to root their explanations in matter those who actually study matter, physicists are increasingly recognizing the role of human consciousness in the behavior of matter. Quantum mechanics have demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that the consciousness of the observer affects the behavior of what he is observing. This fact notwithstanding psychologists and psychiatrists would like us to believe that people are inert products of the chemical behaviors in their brains. This goes to show you what inferiority complex could do to people.
Of all the medical specialties, psychiatry is generally seen as the least scientific because its causal analyses are rooted in speculative thinking, as in psychoanalysis, and to change this seeming negative perception and become seen as science hence respected by other members of the medical community psychiatrists would like to convince them that human thinking is rooted in brain chemistry and thus if there are mental problems that all we need to do is correct brain chemical imbalances with medication and wham they are cured. Alas, half a century of medicinal psychiatry (the first psychotropic medication, Thorazine was introduced in 1952) has not healed any mentally ill person! The track record of biological psychiatry is as dismal as those of psychoanalysts and behaviorists before it.
So, why despite all the hoopla that psychiatry is now science (psychology has joined the bandwagon and is now talking about evolutionary psychology, as in animals evolving ala Charles Darwin, hence thinking and behavior is a function of evolution and nothing more than that), all the reductionism to biology psychiatry is unable to heal its unfortunate patients (what it does is give them drugs, drugs that destroy parts of their bodies and eventually kill them; psychiatry is essentially committing legalized murder of the mentally ill patients it pretends to heal)? Why this pathetic record?
Psychiatry is unable to heal its patients because it made an existential mistake when it reduced its patients to mere things that are determined by nature; it took away that which makes human beings human: choice making. Human beings have consciousness and out of that consciousness appraise their situation and make choices as to how they plan to live their lives.
Clearly, sometimes human beings cannot change their conditions, their environment. But they do have the capability to choose how to approach such conditions. What is unavoidable can be seen in different ways. One of the contributions of stoicism (philosophy) is that human beings have control over how they approach their unavoidable conditions, especially conditions that entail suffering for them. There are sufferings that people, no matter what they do, cannot change. But they can still have a cheerful demeanor despite their suffering. Epictetus pointed out that it is not the external environment that necessarily determines how people feel (anger, fear, depression etc.) but how they interpret it. Even the direst condition can be approached with optimism.
Of course if conditions are not inevitable and can be avoided people should and must struggle to change them. If conditions are tolerated because of fear of what other people could do to one, say, inflict pain on one if one complained, then to tolerate them is to be a slave. The slave obviously would like to be a freeman but knows that should he strive for freedom that his terroristic slave master would inflict pain on him and out of fear of harm and death tolerates his slave status. The slave is a coward for if he had courage he would fight and if needs be die fighting rather than live as a slave. It is because people understand that the slave lives in fear that they, while pitying his condition, do not respect or admire him. People instinctively know that the slave has options, to fight and die or gain his freedom and he chose to be a slave out of fear of harm and death hence people have contempt for him. Nobody wants to be like a slave but most people want to be like heroes, those who look danger, including death, in the face and still do what they know is right.
We are therefore talking about inevitable and unavoidable suffering, not preventable suffering. We all must die and there is nothing that we can do about that but we can approach death with dignity rather than depression. Man does not have total freedom but has some ability to determine his fate (within limits). It is when within the limits nature sets for man that he boldly chooses what is right and does it that he finds meaning in his life. Viktor Frankl made this point rather well in his Logotherapy. Each of us is presented with a set of circumstances (biological, sociological etc.) and within those situation set must choose what is right in it to feel our lives meaningful; if we opt for the line of least resistance we are cowards and know it and live meaningless existence, existence filled with addictions and other means folks employ to mask their meaningless existence.
In this paper I present a choice theory of the etiology of all mental disorders. Whereas our choices are limited, nevertheless, we do make choices. Mental illness is a self-chosen condition. But before you jump to hasty conclusions do understand what is meant by self. We all share one self and therefore what one person chose we all chose for him. We all chose mental illness for the mentally ill. But to understand him we can limit our analysis to the part he played in choosing his mental disorder.
Before we get to the here and now choices we make, let me place choice within an existential framework. Our existence on planet earth is chosen by us. We chose to separate from the whole and to be born on earth; we chose to forget this choice so that no one on earth is aware that he made a choice to be born on earth; we chose to be in separated selves-housed in bodies; we chose whatever happened to us on earth, including physical and mental illnesses; and, ultimately, we choose to die and when we die.
We choose to see ourselves as victims unto whom other people and nature do bad things. Perceiving ourselves as victims we fight those we see victimizing and oppressing us; we fight them and eventually die feeling like we are victims; indeed, we may choose a disease, such as cancer, and die from it and that way see ourselves as victims of the disease. If we are poor we chose that state of victimhood; if we are unemployed we chose that state of victimhood; if we are indecisive and cannot make up our minds to enter a vocation, train for it and go do it we choose our indecisiveness.
What the individual chooses for him he chooses for all people; all people experience the effect of the individual’s choice; why so? It is because all people are in the individual and he merely projects them out as in a dream and makes them do what his dream choice requires of them. Thus, what you choose affect me and what I choose affect you; there is no such thing as separation between us.
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