We are all, to a measure, the victims of the environments in which we live. When this environment becomes too oppressive, denying us self-expression, or discouraging it to the degree we no longer have energy or resistance to demand personal rights, we are bound to become unhappy. We then seek a way of relieving the negative pressure in our lives.
In modern society, certain drugs and assorted pills have come into the category of escape mechanisms.
Before we begin we must differentiate, of course, between the right and wrong use of medication. There are undoubtedly individuals who need medical help, and who, seemingly at least, benefit from a certain use of medications. If a person develops certain symptoms and finds extraordinary difficulty in getting along without sedation; or without some type of artificial stimulation, then this person is probably sick. Such illness needs proper diagnosis, analysis, and care.
However, it does not pay merely to drug ourselves in the hope that we can pass over certain symptoms. We are learning to depend too much upon this kind of thing. Of course, it is very profitable to the pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers to make us all addicts to these remedies, but it is not profitable to us and it is not a good or valid use of medication.
Our forefathers and those of preceding generations made use of natural and simple remedies on many occasions and those were useful. But there is no usefulness in the practice that is becoming prevalent today of carrying a pill bottle at all times and munching on them like candy.
This type of thing is no answer to anything.
We now think in terms of how many packages of aspirin the average citizen consumes in the course of a year. It would seem as though we are depending upon it as a basic element in our diet, and this is not good. Yet it is hard to tell people that they should be uncomfortable or should not take care of these symptoms that come along because the individual must be able to continue with the daily processes of life.
Pain, discomfort, the sense within ourselves of things not being well-these symptoms are of the greatest use to us. Naturally we try to eliminate pain, but we should not forget that pain is not there merely to be alleviated. It is there to tell us something. It is a voice crying in the wilderness of our mis-behavior and it is trying to convince us that something we are doing is wrong. If we keep on ignoring this symptom, we will suffer more and more until nature will make it impossible for us to endure the difficulty without very strong sedation. If we sedate ourselves too much, we may damage the pain mechanism.
Twenty-five years ago, it was common practice for physicians to tell patients that they should get down on their knees and thank God for pain, because pain is nature’s way of preventing us from gradually killing ourselves without even realizing it. Suppose we should be indiscreet enough to sit down on a hot stove and had no pain reflex. We would probably be burned to death. Of course we can say that no one would be so foolish, but everyone is doing more foolish things than that everyday.
Though it is possible to perfectly block each symptom, this dash to the medicine closet is no answer to anything. In an emergency, it might be necessary; but as a solution to a problem, it is worthless and always has been. There are a limited number of instances, of course, where minor ailments, aches and pains can be temporarily alleviated, so that we immunize ourselves for six to 12 hours, and where the pain will then not return.
But this is due to the fact that nature has been working behind the scenes to correct the situation itself. It is not proof that aspirin has cured anything; it has simply, perhaps given nature a little help in attempting to ease a difficult situation. This is very different, however, from the problem of our neurotic pressures, which do not respond permanently and will return immediately after the sedation passes. To continually relieve these pressures, therefore the individual must become a chronic or habitual user of various types of sedation.
What does a tranquilizer do? It simply lowers nerve function. It creates a temporary toxic state in which the individual becomes unconscious. The individual whose nerve reactions are not quite so acute feels happier. They become increasingly comfortable as he lowers the threshold of consciousness. If they could be totally unconscious, they probably could be happy all the time.
It is only when we are awake that we worry. It is only when we are conscious that we are sorry for anything. So if we can keep the individual further and further under the influence of negative drugs, they will gradually emerge as a kind of happy idiot, where they will experience nothing unfortunate because their centers of responsible cognition have been numbed. This apparently is the end greatly desired at the moment. We want to enjoy being foolish and that seems to suggest these tranquilizers.
Everything in life has become the basis of an anxiety mechanism and a dash for the bottle. We face every emergency with a bottle in each hand. Today the pill-taker is the “normal” person; but he is still sick. He is not normal, and he never will be. All these things are just plain foolishness.
We are losing the power to think things through; we are losing the desire to make any real personal effort to solve things. We do not wish to solve them; we wish to be immunized by some fancy method. This can ultimately become as dangerous as a national or international emergency as any we face today on a political level.
Actually, the strength of a nation has to be the integrity and integration of its people, and where this falls to pieces, there is no political power that can hold a nation together.
We must realize there is no use in merely blocking symptoms, in as much as symptoms tell us facts. Usually, in modern people, these symptoms are more difficult than they were in our ancestors because we have less resourcefulness. We are not as resourceful a people as we were even 10 years ago.
Resourcefulness means that we have something in ourselves that is capable of taking over and contributing to the solution of our problem. It arises from experience, from the actual fact of discovering that we can stand on our own feet. This discovery is becoming increasingly rare; it is almost considered unnecessary. All we have to do is pick up that convenient telephone and almost anything we want is available. Our ancestors could not do that, so when problems arose, they had to either work them out or suffer the consequences.
It is nice to hope that our way represents a new standard of living that will go on forever, but actually it will not. This so-called luxury living, resulting in increasing mental and emotional laziness is not producing happiness or security or well-being that were envisioned in the beginning of our great era of modernization.
Behind this situation lies a series of false values, which we must eventually face if we do not want to become hopelessly drugged and medicated generation of people.
About fourty years ago, psycho analysis and psychiatry began to loom large on the scientific horizon. These discoveries seemed to fit in with a new need that was arising, and it is quite possible that most psychotherapy is keyed to complexities that have come as a result of our present way of life.
A hundred years ago there were no psychologists as we know them today. People are always referring to the miseries and sorrows of ancient times. We know that in those days, people did not enjoy most of the facilities that we have; life was harder; working hours were longer; rewards were fewer. Yet with all these limitations, and these other pressures people were not as consistently unhappy as we are. Having less, they expected less, and this made a certain kind of balance.
Nervous tension is not the same as physical effort. We can get more miserable today over the front page of the newspaper than our ancestors did after a fourteen-hour working day. We are more concerned with situations that have less validity and our sufferings are due to a fantasy that has gradually become so real that we are unable to cast it off or evaluate it correctly.
All these together create a set of ills that require pills to sedate the pain.
Our civilization is producing these as inevitable by-products. These disturbances in the body do not simple represent clouds that pass. They are becoming so chronic that is astonishing to consider the amount of research and scientific chemicalization being directed toward these problems today.
Whereas five years ago we had one or two tranquilizers that were of some value, today we have dozens; tomorrow we will have hundreds; before long they will become as common as aspirin. (I think we are already there)
These medications by the way, do have gradually cumulative results. The pill that takes the edge off worry also takes the edge off the will to achieve. The tranquilizer gradually dedicates the individual to mediocrity. It digs in continually under the incentive mechanisms, and the loss of pain also means the loss of self- directive.
This does not indicate progress. It is merely scientific ingenuity trying to struggle against private stupidity. The painkillers are not progress, but patches upon something that threatens to fall apart. They do no represent any positive advancement in knowledge, but are merely escape mechanisms for people demanding these to a far greater degree than ever before in scientific history.
Most of the ailments for which our assorted drugs are available come under the general heading of “nervous disturbances.” We are becoming a generation of nervous wrecks, and each person has his own explanation for his particular case.
What we call our problems are really evidence of hysteria within ourselves.
Education is contributing to the common dilemma. Our religious systems, also, have not yet been strong enough to lift us out of the problem, to give us again the courage of personal conviction in the things that we do. Yet within each one of us there is an archetypal individuality, something that wishes to be true to itself.
Nature has its own plans and its own ways, and these are now being continuously blocked by the artificial way of life we have gradually accumulated, which has been a burden upon the spirit since the beginning, and now threatens to be a menace to the survival of the body itself.
It is useless for us to use chemicals in trying to meet this kind of problem. It is useless to believe that by some kind of process of medication we can kill out in man that which is man-the individual expression of life. The person who tries to fit into a norm may then consult a psychologist to see if something can be done to adjust him to our time. And the adjustment is possible, but, in many instances only through a different kind of sedational medication.
Why then, do we try to escape by means of these artificial methods?
We must learn to use our own nervous system as a thermometer. When it begins to go high, we are in trouble, and there is no solution to that trouble but to find out what caused it. If it is due to an organic or systematic problem, it may be that we are finally reaping a long harvest. Perhaps many years ago we developed attitudes that we have never been willing to change, and which are basically wrong.
No individual can hate and be in good health, no matter how just his dislikes may seem to be. No one can be jealous and not finally come to the pill-taking stage. We may think that the pills will neutralize jealousy; that we will be able to continue to be jealous and not feel discomfort; but he is creating a cause and effect pattern here. He is not improving his attitude, and he is endangering his body.
The purpose of education, of religion, and of philosophy is to make the individual tranquil by understanding without the aid of dope. If he does not wish to grow if he does not wish to use these instruments to improve himself then he will take pills and hurt himself. Nature seemingly continues to fight with man on the ground that nature’s end is that the individual shall be sufficient and that this sufficiency shall not require a pill bottle.
Our only escape and true solution to most of these situations is to face the facts. Facts are not always what we want, but if we permit ourselves to war with them, we are fighting the most losing battle of all time. We know, as philosophy teaches us, that we live in a world of facts. Some of these facts are good, as far as we can understand them, some we do not understand; and some appear to be very dangerous. But we do live in a world of facts.
Actually when you look over some of these problems that people consider monumental, many of them are utterly ridiculous; and yet, to the person involved, they have become tremendously vital. The only answer lies in facts.
Know what you want, and have the courage to do it. When situations are wrong, correct hem as quickly as possible; and if you cannot correct the situation, if there is no way to correct it, and you see that it is making you sick, simply move out of it. Do not try to find escape by dulling your senses.
If we find that we cannot enjoy the average normal functions of the body without continual minor medications, then either there is something wrong with our health, or there is something wrong with our psyche and either of these conditions must be cured or at least corrected as much as possible.
In most cases it is hardly necessary to go to a doctor because the situations represent only psychic stress. If after you have made a series of good personal adjustments, the condition remains, then it may be well to consult your doctor. The beginning, however, is always to do the thing you realize right now you should be doing. Most people know what is wrong with them they just will not face it.
And in order to forget, they use every conceivable means. What we need to do is remember, and while we still have the courage to do it. This will be hard on the pill manufacturers, but it will certainly be a great saving to the individual and a great enrichment to the future.
Unless we solve some of these problems we are going to have a very poor heritage to pass on. We have no way of knowing yet what all this doping and drugging is actually going to mean in terms of heredity.
Cure the cause and the effect will die of itself. You will have better health, freedom from stress and vitality and courage you have never before experienced.
Live and Learn. We All Do.
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