A Healthy Environment

Individual                 -                    Environment

Hillman: [Revolution] begins with the realization that things are not right and an analysis of how they are not right - that's the first step. And that is the job of therapy. Because therapy deals with things that are not right. It's called dysfunction.

And instead of imagining that I am dysfunctional, my family is dysfunctional, you realize what R.D. Laing said long ago and Freud, of course, too: it is the civilization that is dysfunctional. The society is dysfunctional. The political process is dysfunctional. And we have to work on cures that are beyond my cure. That's revolution. That's realizing that things out there are dysfunctional. That's the therapeutic task. It's not to tell a person how to fight or where to fight, but the awareness of dysfunction in society, in the outer world.

Ventura: It's not just your parents, your childhood -

Hillman: - or my relationship with my marriage. There is a dysfunction in the society that is affecting us. And the second step is: I cannot repair it in myself in my own relationships alone, because my problem is social dysfunctions. So how is settling things with my wife going to repair the dysfunction of the general situation? That's a romantic delusion - that if we could just get our sex right, our conversations right, "If I could just find the right relationship -"

Ventura: "If my little home could be perfect, could be safe - if I could find balance in my home I'd be happy. Talk to my kid, talk to my wife, quit drinking, get laid decently a couple of times a week, get on a decent diet, get exercise, make a little more money, then I would really be okay." Except you won't. Because you still live in this crazy world of dysfunction that impinges on you and influences you and yours twenty-four hours a day.

Hillman: "Where the school isn't right for my kids, where the food I eat is not right, where the air I breathe is not right, where the architecture in which I spend my tie assaults me, the lighting and the chairs and the smells and the plastic are not right. Where the words that I hear on TV and are printed in the newspaper are lies, where the people who are in charge of things are not right because they are hypocritical and hiding what they are really doing - so how can I ever get it right within my home and within my marriage?"

[James Hillman]
with Michael Ventura
We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy - And the World's Getting Worse, p.218, 219

The chemico-biologization of mental illness is of course strictly commensurate with its depoliticization. Considering mental illness an individual chemico-biological problem has enormous benefits for capitalism.

First, it reinforces Capital's drive towards atomistic individualization (you are sick because of your brain chemistry). Second, it provides an enormously lucrative market in which multinational pharmaceutical companies can peddle their pharmaceuticals (we can cure you with our SSRIs).

It goes without saying that all mental illnesses are neurologically instantiated, but this says nothing about their causation. If it is true, for instance, that depression is constituted by low serotonin levels, what still needs to be explained is why particular individuals have low levels of serotonin.

This requires a social and political explanation; and the task of repoliticizing mental illness is an urgent one if the left wants to challenge capitalist realism.

We must convert widespread mental health problems from medicalized conditions into effective antagonisms. Affective disorders are forms of captured discontent; this disaffection can and must be channeled outwards, directed towards its real cause, Capital.

[Mark Fisher]
Capitalist Realism: Is there No Alternative?, p. 37, 80

The patient is surrounded with love and support as they attend a healing ceremony. Thus connection to people, nature, and spirit is emphasized. In this manner, the Native American healing is a holistic medicine.

For the Native American, healing, spiritual development and quality of life cannot be separated from other life aspects to include politics and economics. Harmony with the Earth is essential for health.

"Native American Attitudes Towards Illness"

Rolling Thunder often wondered out loud why psychiatrists failed to see the causal relationship between mental illness, air and water pollution, and the destruction of forests.

Every traditional Indian could see this relationship - this man-mind-nature interaction. Perhaps that is why American Indians are still performing "impossible" agricultural and medical feats; why American Indians are still custodians of the land.

[Doug Boyd]
Rolling Thunder, p.167

You have to ask yourself whether you are healthy, happy, at ease with yourself and others, enjoying life, working creatively, emotionally caring and sensitive, resilient, capable of fulfilling friendships, responsible, self-reliant and the like.

A lot of these things are not wholly within your control. You cannot be happy or at ease with yourself just by an act of will. It requires among other things certain social and material conditions.

If you want to be good, you need a good society. Of course there can be saints in atrocious conditions, but part of what we admire about such people is their rarity.

Basing an ethics on this would be like restricting everyone to three raw carrots a day simply because a few rather weird people can survive happily on such a diet.

[Terry Eagleton]
After Theory, p.128

I think that Bernard Smith, the non-alcholic legal representative of AA, came close to the mark when he said, "the [AA] member was never enslaved by alcohol. Alcohol simply served as an escape from personal enslavement to the false ideals of a materialistic society."

It is not a matter of revolt against insane ideals around him but of escaping from his own insane premises, which are continually reinforced by the surrounding society.

It is possible, however, that the alcoholic is in some way more vulnerable or sensitive than the normal to the fact that his insane (but conventional) premises lead to unsatisfying results.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('The Cybernetics of "Self": A Theory of Alcoholism'), p.311

The distinction to be made here is between great design that supports community, relatedness, a feeling of belonging, and great design that is about modernity, newness, and someone's legacy, which means it is usually indifferent or strictly utilitarian with respect to human habitation.

How could we design buildings and communal spaces that are not friendly to their inhabitants? Not so surprising when you realize that we design institutions, social structures, and gatherings that have the same effect.

Alienated and retributive cultures will create alienated and unfriendly buildings and public spaces. Patriarchal institutions will create physical space that glorifies those who lead them and the designers they choose, and they will be indifferent, in the name of cost, to the space dedicated to workers and citizens.

This means we must be thoughtful about the quality of relatedness that exists among those designing our spaces, for if they are at odds with each other, that is the kind of structure they will choose. One where conflicts are unresolved, isolation is glorified, and transparency is ignored.

[Peter Block]
Community, p.159

The physical environment unremittingly offers us possibilities of experience, or curtails them.

The fundamental human significance of architecture stems from this. The glory of Athens, as Pericles so lucidly stated, and the horror of so many features of the modern megalopolis is that the former enhanced and the latter constricts man's consciousness.

[R.D. Laing]
The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise, p.28, 29

For Aboriginal people, culture and health are intrinsically tied such that culture is often considered the cause of illness, which Tracy says is not explored in conventional psychological assessments.

Much of her work involves identifying culture-bound illnesses.

"Aboriginal people relate everything to culture instead of mental illness," she says. For example, a suicide does not mean that someone killed themselves. Rather, they were being 'paid back' for a transgression, or they were 'sung', which means they were cursed.

Another example is being 'sick for country', which appears to be depression, but is due to being removed from one's country (birthplace/Dreaming) for long time periods, Tracy says.

[Sarah Ford]
Bridging cultures: psychologists working with Aboriginal clients

Jung in his writings returned again and again to the conviction that the psychic illnesses of his patients, whether neurotic or psychotic, contained at their core the spirit of the age, the collective Weltanschauung.

Women entering analysis, bloated with the sick affluence of one society or emaciated by the starvation of another, are enacting a Western end-of-the-world condition, in which, ironically, the starved and the bloated belong to the same society.

Needless to say, a woman suffering from this syndrome is not concerned with the larger world issues; she simply wants to lose weight.  She does not see any connection between her psychic condition and the Church's struggle with Communism.

[...] The point arrives, however, when between her and the world, as between her and her body, there is a greeting between body and spirit when she feels not only her interaction with the world, but takes some responsibility for it.

[Marion Woodman]
Addiction to Perfection, p. 71-2

We attribute the social and psychological problems of modern society to the fact that that society requires people to live under conditions radically different from those under which the human race evolved and to behave in ways that conflict with the patterns of behavior that the human race developed while living under the earlier conditions. 

It is clear from what we have already written that we consider lack of opportunity to properly experience the power process as the most important of the abnormal conditions to which modern society subjects people. But it is not the only one. 

“Mental health” programs, “intervention” techniques, psychotherapy and so forth are ostensibly designed to benefit individuals, but in practice they usually serve as methods for inducing individuals to think and behave as the system requires [...] The concept of “mental health” in our society is defined largely by the extent to which an individual behaves in accord with the needs of the system and does so without showing signs of stress.

There is no contradiction here; an individual whose attitudes or behavior bring him into conflict with the system is up against a force that is too powerful for him to conquer or escape from, hence he is likely to suffer from stress, frustration, defeat. 

His path will be much easier if he thinks and behaves as the system requires. In that sense the system is acting for the benefit of the individual when it brainwashes him into conformity.

[Ted Kaczynski]
Industrial Society and its Future, 46, 119, 148

The differentiated man cannot feel part of a "society" like the present one, which is formless and has sunk to the level of purely material, economic, "physical” values, and moreover lives at this level and follows its insane course under the sign of the absurd.

Therefore, apoliteia requires the most decided resistance to any social myth.

The differentiated man feels absolutely outside of society, he recognizes no moral claim that requires his inclusion in an absurd system; he can understand not only those who are outside, but even those who are against "society" - meaning against this society.

Putting aside everything that does not directly concern him (because his way does not match that of his contemporaries), he would be the last to endorse efforts to normalize and rehabilitate within “society” those who have had enough of the game and are stigmatized as "unsuitable” and “asocial”—the anathema of democratic societies.

The ultimate intention of such efforts is to narcotize those who can see through the absurd and nihilistic character of today's collective life, behind all the "social" masks and the corresponding lay mythology […]

[Julius Evola]
Ride the Tiger, p. 179-80

[…] the act of simply living in our modern industrial world seems to create more medical, mental, and social problems than modern science can correct. Clearly medicine, as with all science, cannot be fragmented from society and human values.

Within Indigenous medicine it is not possible to fragment an individual's sickness from the condition of society and the surrounding environment. A bridge between Native and Western medicine would be of importance to those who are concerned with the physical, mental, and spiritual health of society and the world at large.

[F. David Peat]
Blackfoot Physics, p.308