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The Politics of Responsibility, Self Regulation & Optimal Functioning

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Originally Published on FutureHealth

The subjects of biofeedback and neurofeedback, self regulation, consciousness, self awareness are revolutionary and paradigm shifting. We operate in a time when reductionist, pathology-elimination based, double-blind proven medicine is the ruling economic, philosophical, scientific and almost, the ruling religious model. But the shift, though still subtle, has begun, and we are at a turning point in the phenomenological rhythm, or spiral of perception. Less than 200 years ago, health care was based on systemic, more holistic approaches. The new scientific and technological innovations-- X-ray, microscope, precision chemistry, anesthesia, surgery, targeted pharmacological agents-- all helped to turn the vision of health care from treating the whole body to treating specific lesions and diagnoses. Even within the self regulation field, the history is one of moving from a more generalized, systemic relaxation and arousal reduction model to more localized and focused, smaller system control strategies. Consumers have begun to want more than symptom elimination. The reality is, modern medicine has reached a plateau of sorts. It can help acute disease, but is still at a loss for dealing with chronic problems--- and actually, many of the cures for acute diseases have led to some of the chronic problems. Certainly the use of drugs is one example. Drugs are ubiquitous, deeply ingrained elements of Modern cultures, as are other medical "treatments." And they do produce incredible cures. But there is a down side. People expect a pill to solve any problem. Then, we have a massive increase in the categories of human conditions classed as pathological. These circumstances have led to a dependence upon medicine -- a dependence by patients to have something done for/to them while they passively wait for help. Edward Tenner, in his book, Why Things Bite Back; Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences, cites Ivan Illich's Medical Nemesis, "medical bureaucracy creates ill-health by increasing stress, by multiplying disabling dependence, by generating new, painful needs, by lowering the levels of tolerance for discomfort or pain, by reducing the leeway that people are wont to concede to an individual when he suffers, and by abolishing the right to self-care." And that was written in 1976, long before managed care had the temerity to tell doctors that therapy other than pharmaceutical was unacceptable for depression and other disorders. Tenner goes on to ask, "Have the public and private insurance plans of the industrial world eroded responsibility and rewarded sickness?" Biofeedback, applied psychophysiology, self regulation, meditation, yoga-- call it what you will-- this self control, self responsibility approach to health has many faces, which include nutrition, exercise, lifestyle, work style, thought styles-- is really only given lip service by the prevailing medical model. James Gordon, in his book, Manifesto for a New Medicine, writes, "If anyone had come up with a new drug that doubled the life of women with metastatic breast cancer, every oncologist in America would have had his or her prescription pad ready; when David Spiegel demonstrated that support groups could make this kind of difference, his work hardly made a wave on the surface of orthodox medical practice." Gordon goes on to comment on standard of proof for drug research, "Nor has this standard of proof been applied equally to all therapeutic interventions. Very few surgical procedures-- which are not, as drugs are, subject to FDA approval-- have ever been through large-scale clinical trials." He reports that one US congress Office of Technology Assessment study indicated that approximately 85 percent of all therapies and procedures commonly used by physicians and in hospitals had never received any kind of rigorous evaluation. The problem runs deep. NIH research funding is based on pathology. You can't go to NIH with an approach which could help a wide range of diseases and seek support. First you have to identify a disease. This is sick. And even if you do narrow down to a disease, NIH has miniscule budget earmarked for this kind of approach to health-- less than $3 million, out of a budget of over $30 billion. That's one ten thousandth of the budget. They certainly spend more on accounting and secretarial than they do on self-responsibility aspects of health care. This reminds me of ancient life in the fertile crescent, or the Mayan culture, when priests were in control of knowledge and the essentials of life. It was a paternalistic time when individual's souls and ability to live were controlled by the high priests, only now we call them doctors. We live in a society in which one of the largest, if not the largest industries is the multi trillion dollar illness care empire. It is "multicameral" in nature, with government divisions-- FDA , NIH and state licensing boards, Insurers, and corporate divisions-- the huge pharmaceutical houses, hospital chains, hospital suppliers, and of course, the Priests of power-- the doctors, nurses, technologists, bio-researchers, attorneys, and bureaucrats who all have a stake in maintaining the status quo. When Clinton tried to take on this empire several years ago, even with the mobilization of the resources of the presidency of the US, he was soundly trounced by an obviously more powerful foe. We now see how the trillion dollar insurance company industry and its agencies are spending millions fighting universal single payer health care. So..... how can we, a small, under-funded .group of idealists, visionaries and dreamers ever hope to get the giant to change? I like to think we are the hot-blooded little mammals who survived the cataclysms which caused the extinctions of the dinosaurs-- in this case-- the reductionist medical industrial empire. But we don't have to wait until catastrophe strikes. Actually, Tenner describes how we have shifted from an era of discovery of cures for acute illness to an era in which we are challenged to deal with chronic illness. And we know that this is where reductionist medicine is far less effective, where one might even say it fails. It is where a health responsibility model must be employed. The problem is that the reductionist medical model sabotages responsibility, as Illich and Tenner state. America was founded with the clear vision that self-responsibility, independence, self-reliance were all strong positive vales and personal traits of a person with character. They're as American as apple pie. But as I have pointed out, they are being eroded. It will now require a national commitment to rescuing these endangered values. We need to take our case to the American people and seek legislation to require health insurers to include the right to self-responsibility based approaches to health and illness. At first, I was going to propose that we need to drum up legislative support for NIH to spend 100 times more money (about a billion a year or three percent of the budget) on developing responsibility-based health approaches. But after further thought, I believe we should be asking for an equal budget for responsibility and optimal fucntioning (the logical consequence for taking responsibility for achieving your potential) oriented science, research,, technology and service development. investing in the character of the American people, in bringing out our people's best will produce a return on investment in many ways-- new jobs, better performance at work, lessened crime, better school work, new industries. We can even develop a counterpart to the technology incubators for character, responsibility, compassion and optimal functioning service start-ups. A few years ago, I commissioned a Zogby poll which asked questions about self responsibility in health care. The bi-partisan response supporting it was strong-- even stronger among conservatives than liberals-- an interesting lesson for the conservatives now opposing the reform of the health care system. I believe that this kind of agenda could reverberate in the heartstrings of Americans from all walks of life at a bipartisan level of support. Framing the threat of the erosion of basic American values with the promise of answers to chronic illness, we offer something powerful, with a real chance of getting legislative and financial support. We need to, deserve to and should be proud of our work. We are doing the right thing and as Julie Gold, the writer of the song, FROM A DISTANCE, played on the air more than four million times, who still struggles to get her work accepted said,
"Realize you have the potential and power to touch and affect millions of people. Remember above all, if you believe you are right, then you are and your critics are wrong."
Now, if you find yourself nodding your head in agreement, here are a few steps you can take. First, make a clear decision and commitment within yourself, that you are a part of this movement, that you are proud of the vision you hold and the path you are on. You don't need to apologize to anyone. You can decide to take action. What action can you take? -You can educate the professionals around you. Don't worry about the anals who religiously demand double blind studies, the negatives, the fundamentalists. Expect that 25%-30% of the people on this planet are afraid of change or have vested interests in keeping things the way they are. The rest of the people either don't care or will be happy to hear your message. And since, as we know from the 80-20 rule, only about five to twenty percent of the population really makes anything happen, you just need to connect with those people. -Allow yourself to make a good living but also do service-- pro-bono work with people who can't afford the fees you must charge because insurance doesn't reimburse. The good you do will come back to you manyfold. -Get involved with advocacy plans-- legislative, PR, insurance with your professional organizations. -get involved in building a model, a vision, a plan for a new approach. - Get your clients to become aware of the issues. Teach them to think about health responsibility and to see what insurance and managed care is doing. They are the choir. They are ready to hear it. This is how we get a grassroots support network going. -contact your legislators. Call their offices and tell them you want health, not illness care and that you want a system that expects patients to take responsibility for their health.

 

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One theme has run through my work for the past 40 plus years-- a desire to play a role in waking people up, raising their consciousness and empowering them. I was the organizer founder of the Winter Brain, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology and StoryCon Meetings and president of Futurehealth, Inc., with interests in (more...)
 

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