I take a closer look at the systems upon which healthcare and politics function. When taking a more profound look at both them it quickly becomes clear how there is no reason for it’s players to resolve issues right its’ source. From my perspective there is too much to be gained from short term decisions in terms of money and power. However more importantly, it is that we humans are incredibly bad at dealing with pain and discomfort. This inability is being capitalized upon in a variety of ways. Read this extensive blog on the topic to learn more about my view.
Yesterday I went to the cinema to watch The Invisibles. A movie about Jewish people in Berlin during the second world-war. As Hitlers’ regime declared the city “jew-free”, there were still 7000 of them underground. They basically became invisible with the help of brave fellow Germans. Unfortunately, only 1700 would see the war end. I realized the importance of the movie, as the second world war has been visualized in films time after time – but now in times where right wing politics is gaining popularity more and more it seems that the relevance of this topic is higher than ever.
One of the arguments people often bring up is that we shouldn’t forget what happened then, so we won’t repeat it now. Since most of the world-war two survivors are slowly passing away because of old age, there won’t be a lot of time left before we can only rely on history books, movies, and second hand stories for us to know what happened at the time.
The Movie Bias
What made me think though, is that all the movies about the second world war, the Vietnam war, and more recent movies about the war in Iraq, all depict the horrors and the consequences. Even though it’s important to be aware of what they were, there happened a lot before (regular) people became mass murderers.
In comparison, 10 months ago I twisted my knee while climbing. After more or less successfully rehabilitating my knee, there was a moment during yoga class where my knee made a loud SNAP! It swelled right away and hurt like hell. A couple of days later I made an MRI, it turns out my medial meniscus was torn.
If I would make a movie about this it would be about me tearing my meniscus, all the pain I felt and how I did my rehabilitation and how I eventually resolved it, with or without surgery. Nevertheless, what happened before I injured myself? What were my thoughts, convictions, and decisions that led me to that situation in the first place?
In the case of Hitler – him writing a book explaining his philosophy is a boring movie and also speaks less to the imagination than millions of minorities killed in gas chambers. Complex belief mechanisms mixed with capitalist-communist politics and protection of interest is a lot less spectacular and hard to understand than soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder, missing limbs, helicopters shooting in the Vietnamese jungle and the napalm coming after.
Not only in movies we are biased to viewing consequences and symptoms, but also in healthcare and in politics we tend to go for short term gain instead of treating the root cause.
I believe there is a combination of two phenomena that is responsible for the fact that we end up circling through similar situations over and over.
Pain and Money
The first one is pain. In the case of our body this literal pain can be a sign of damage, but it is mostly a signal for you to pay attention. When it comes to politics there might be situations that provoke discomfort: violence, refugee crisis, lack of job opportunities and economic setbacks.
The second one, is the fact that one way provides more money and power than the other. I believe in general money leads to power and vice versa. When we look at healthcare that means that highly invasive treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, and medication are usually preferred over investing money in providing knowledge, tools, and empowerment to people so that they don’t get to a place where such treatment might be indicated in the first place.
Pain and Money in Politics and Healthcare
In politics the reduction of available resources (money) or lack of control (power) provoke short term solutions as well. An example is the wall that was build between Turkey and Syria, with funding from the European Union, to block the crossing of immigrants. “We cannot control the refugees, so we literally block them from coming in at all”. This will reduce the amount of immigrants entering the European Union, that’s true, but on the other hand it increases the chances that the same people will be more susceptible to be recruited for radical purposes. Interestingly, according to the Swiss Historian Daniele Ganser, the US and the UK, together with a couple of other countries want to overthrow the Assad-regime to keep the oil flowing west.Therefore, the whole fact that these refugees want to flee Syria in the first place, is our own fault. So much for treating the root-cause.
Back to money in healthcare. I believe that as soon as there is more money to be earned with preventive than curative medicine, the medical system will change radically. However, I think it is important to remember that the most natural solutions to our health, are far from lucrative. If you grow your own crop, buy products from your local village, and exchange other products with fellow inhabitants all the while moving on a continuous basis, there will be little to earn for big corporations.
As you can see money plays a big role both in health care as in political decisions. What I think is interesting though, is how is feasted on our lack of knowledge and capacity to deal with pain and discomfort. The amounts of times I have treated clients that preferred a shot of cortisone from the doctor than sustainable holistic treatment just because they wanted the pain to be gone. Equally, I have been proposed nothing but surgery by knee specialists for my meniscus even though it bothers me little in everyday life. I am in luck that I have an education that allows me to make more informed decisions in this case.
When we go return to politics, discomfort is capitalized on immensely as well. U.S. president Trump capitalized on the dissatisfaction of the public by shouting so loud, but most of all differently from what everybody else was doing, that people flocked his way. He managed to be very obviously different than the rest of the candidates. In a similar way president elect Jair Bolsonario in Brazil is about to succeed with an exact copy of Trumps strategy. He is in the final and deciding round of the election process with 18% more votes than his opponent Fernando Haddad.
As you might realize now the equation money/power x pain/discomfort is feasted upon continuously. Lack of knowledge and perspective leads people to be influenced easily. This holds true for politics as much as going to see a knee specialist. I personally always appreciated the informed client a lot. As things go they are the ones that have to live with their body, not me. When you are more informed I can help you better. However, it might not earn me the most money. Politicians would agree if they were looking to solve root-causes. So generally, it is best you are uninformed.
Alternatives and a Questioning Attitude
I think therefore, that it’s essential to increase your knowledge and be aware that there are always alternatives. Humans have a hard time comparing two (on the surface) unrelated things. Shall I buy the better TV for $700,- or the cheaper one for $500,- that’s less good? As you stand there scratching your head, mouth dry, and about to go for the more expensive one, you could also walk home, and buy two plane tickets for a weekend get-away.
In recent times there are still big powers at play, twisting information and trying to make money of the ignorance of people. Lucky for us however, we don’t have to rely on a couple of brave people sending underground news through the post like in the second world war. Today, within a minute you can share whatever with the world. This creates a lot of noise, but if you take control and look, in stead of consume, there is a lot of value available.
I believe that if you take control of your life, a questioning attitude is key. When it comes to health and healthcare as the decisions you are required to make in politics. On the surface things might look unrelated, but wars in the middle-east about oil, and walls to prevent refugees from crossing, and your personal health have a lot more in common than you think. For once, they might or might not be subject to your own ignorance. So I wonder therefore, what’s your next question going to be?
In the previous two blog posts I wrote about living a “Fear-based life” (click here for part 1, and here for part 2). There, I spoke about how fear corrupts and undermines our life and the decisions we make in non-lifethreatening situations. Our natural response is to steer clear of these fear inducing situations. We tend to respond likewise when we experience pain. In general, we do not want to experience pain, and we tend to stay away from positions, situations and relationships that provoke such feelings.
Pain on a physical level is usually a sign of tissue damage. However, it still is a subjective experience, subject to what we believe, what our environment believes and what the consequence of the pain might mean to our current life. Nevertheless, pain does not necessarily need to be provoked by something physical. Also, non-physical traumas might provoke pain. Divorce, the death of a closed one or the memory of a car accident all might provoke pain. This experience both of physical and non-physical origin, can be experienced alike. Whereas, the origin of the pain might be different, the remedy is usually the same. This means, to get away as far as possible by either blocking it out or by using medication.
Personally, I have been in a variety of situations where I would be around people, both familiar and unfamiliar to me, when I was in pain. Often, the first response I would get after saying that “I am hurting” is; do you want pain medication? Hereafter, I usually gape like a high donkey for a couple of seconds. And I wonder, how did these two things get connected so well together? Does feeling pain mean I need to take pain medication? I am not experiencing pain in the first place, because I forgot to take my pain medication, right?
From my point of view, we have stigmatized pain so much, that the majority of people try to avoid it as soon as they feel it. Nowadays, there is a whole industry capitalizing on this idea. The pharmaceutical industry earns billions, just because we do not want and get to see the value of pain. Instead, we are made to believe that we need pain medication to solve this.
However, in reality pain is a beacon to let us know where action is required. Therefore, it is actually one of the most valuable guides to aid in recovery, both after physical and non-physical traumas. After a physical trauma, it tells you exactly when you are doing too much or maybe too little to recover your body. When the origin is non-physical, it informs you of the importance of this traumatic experience. Take the death of a closed one for example. The experience of pain and loss is natural and will usually be experienced by everybody. Still, there are a lot of people that do not want to experience these feelings, just because they are considered as not nice. Thereafter, we are trying to push the pain out of our life instead of processing this loss.
Accepting that we are feeling pain though, might be the best pain medication. Signals coming from our body and mind that we ignore, tend to become stronger. Apparently the message was not clear enough to make us behave accordingly. At the same time, avoiding it we give the sense of pain such a high value of dislike, that afterwards we have to deal with this sensation as well. In the meantime, we end up behaving tense and nervous because we made part of our human experience off limits.
However, when we are able to revalue the pain experience we directly let go of the tense behavior as well. After, we can look for a way to solve the origin of the pain. After a physical trauma, this means making the right decisions to enhance tissue repair. After a non-physical trauma though this means dealing with the origin of the trauma head-on. Feeling the pain, talking about it and trying to give it the right value. This way the memory attached to the trauma can be accessed without fear, and experienced without destabilizing us later on.
Also, by accepting the pain experience I noticed that it becomes a lot more bearable. It still can be an intense feeling but after seeing it for what it is, a message, the whole thought process of dislike and the energy spend on it, is gone. Where in the beginning, the pain might also create a feeling of being overwhelmed, overtime you notice that this goes away. By listening to your pain it’s intensity can be reduced and a healing process can take place. The nice thing is, that without taking pain medication you can trust that when the pain declines, you are doing the right thing. However, when you took pain medication, it is impossible to know if what you are feeling is reality.
In conclusion, from my perspective the stigmatization of pain is not serving us in any way. Rather, it is holding us back from dealing with its origin head-on. As soon as we accept the feeling of pain, we can revalue it and act accordingly. Instead of being traumatized by the feeling, we actually solved the trauma and can continue our life with another valuable experience in our pocket.