Change efforts aimed at addressing or in some cases shaming a symptom are unhelpful in restoring wholeness because they often fail to address a root cause with informed compassion and alternative skills. Clinics featuring terrifying posters of various diseases one could get from alcohol, tobacco, soda, unprotected sex or overeating are scary and sometimes threatening. Using fear or shame doesn’t invite us to change, they invite us to get better at lying and protecting our coping habit. The same is true for bullying, racism, sexism, non-normative phobias and all the other differences and dis-eases which keep us divided out of not knowing. Going after the root requires us to dig deeper into our foundational beliefs about how our world operates. The root cause is us. It’s you and me hurting each other, intentionally or unintentionally by disconnecting from Love in all its forms out of fear, not knowing or being taught any other way. John Blake refers to the civil rights movement as “broccoli”. He says, “It’s good for us but we shove it aside on our plates when no one is looking.” Indeed, it’s exhausting to fight and fight for universal inclusivity, understanding, non-violence and human safety which shouldn’t require a special sticker or song to encourage right behavior. But it does.
In mental health we ‘diagnose a problem’ medicalizing adversity, parental fractures, abandonment, sexuality, gender identity, status, poverty, grief, trauma or worry which is useful in billing for ‘treatment’ (and behind closed doors good is happening but it’s invisible and insufficient; there are generational chains and systemic patterns which need to be broken-too bad shrinks are mostly introverts with no marketing skills). This alone will not eradicate the widespread, culturally endorsed lack of empathy, insight and social-emotional skills we need to strengthen our collective wellbeing. All people need the same equipping but there is no curriculum for love. Some campaigns attempt to create a framework for how to treat a certain group of people. It’s limited, sad, hopeful and reality. Religion has become a product rather than a practice and while some of us may be enjoying individual peace, true freedom is only experienced when every cage has been offered a key.
A symptom, like addiction or suicide, seems easier to target because it feels like something safe we’re allowed to be angry with. “Ed made me do it.” Or “Heroin is so super crazy addictive.” Yes and no. The destructive power of addiction is undeniable but the real issue is the absence of love and presence of pain from being hurt by a person, people or paradigm like oppression or disqualified trauma, which left us sprinting towards anything to take away our pain and get temporary relief. How do we face our failures as humans to each other while still honoring and healing individual hurts? With Love.