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Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
Wars, bombings, shootings, crime, domestic violence, and hate in all forms plague our society.
Much anger is directed at both our government and large corporations. Consider the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City bombings as physical extensions of this anger.
Already, there has been a substantial quantity of plutonium stolen from government arsenals, enough for the building of many nuclear weapons. The greatest threat to our safety, however, comes from biological weapons, such as anthrax.
In all forms which it manifests itself, destructive anger takes a terrible toll on all of us. It is a direct result of unhealthy mental development.
In my years of clinical psychiatric practice, I met many people who were chronically angry. We called it primitive rage. Often, it wasn't directed at anyone or anything in particular. It was as if there was an emotional reservoir in the mind that was and had been filled with anger for many years.
The psychological impact of bombings, although dramatic, is less traumatic than the mind damage that is institutionally inflicted upon most of our society. Blaming a handful of people for our dysfunctional nature is mindless. We are all responsible. Although there is no absolute physical defense against terrorism, we are able to effect a fundamental change in the attitudes and beliefs that dominate our society, and often lead to emotional anguish.
America is a great nation, and has been extremely generous with financial and human aid, receiving little in the way of repayment. Conversely, we have made many enemies through attempts to control other nations, either through inappropriate military action, financial assistance to corrupt governments, or damaging embargos. We need to listen more and threaten less.
President Bush has declared his intention to initiate a prolonged war. Mindlessness is a worldwide problem, which cannot be solved by use of bombs or through a physical display of force. Many people will die, and hatred of America will not go away until, as a society, we adapt a mindful approach.
People who live in glass houses should not throw stones. For our purposes, this statement essentially means that when you are vulnerable, it is not wise to provoke people. America is vulnerable by the very nature of her wealth and power.
This is not 1945. Military might is meaningless when a single person can create biological weapons in his basement, and use them to unleash destructive force greater than that of a hydrogen bomb. This would suggest that the age of the superpower is over, and the age of the super-target is beginning. Before the world discovers mindfulness, I fear that there will be muchmore death and pain. Please help.
Our health-care system is so ineffective that we can't even cure the common cold, much less a plague unleashed by biological weapons. We could reach that level of effectiveness, if only we were willing to think and listen to other alternatives.
Tracing this anger back to early childhood development, I found that it was usually the result of three things: abuse, control, and neglect. The most prevalent theme was that of control. Our teacher-centered system of education, particularly beyond the forth grade level, is a form of mind-control. After subjecting an individual to mind control continuously for a period of many years, permanent damage results.
When the student enters school, he is confronted by adults who push their own agenda, which seems irrelevant to his world. Furthermore, he is constantly being judged and graded. I find evidence of this in my own experiences. When I was a student, I spent seventy hours a week studying algebra, geometry, and Latin: all represented as knowledge that was essential for my future. At the same time, one of my next door neighbors was screaming and raging with a chronic psychosis. My neighbor on the other side suffered from severe depression, and her husband would constantly come to our family for help. Most of my friends had at least one alcoholic parent. The real world and the school world seemed miles apart.
In the past, experiments with progressive education were rejected for one reason: standardized test scores decreased. The people in control are constantly preoccupied with test scores. In the field of clinical psychotherapy, there are many written tests. The majority of psychotherapists, including the best and most effective, do not use them. They understand their patients by listening to them and using their intuitive senses. Written tests only measure a small part of the personality, and rarely yield any useful information that cannot be obtained by listening.
In the field of medical practice, laboratory tests are of limited value. The most important tool remains listening to the patient. An important rule in medicine is, "Treat the patient, not the test."