Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Film: The Way

I saw an advance screening of the film The Way, starring Martin Sheen and directed by his son Emilio Estevez. It’s the story of a conflicted father/son relationship, in which the father, Tom, a successful ophthalmologist, disapproves of his son’s free-wheeling, world-traveling lifestyle. Daniel, the son, dies in a mountain accident while hiking el camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage to the legendary burial place of St. James. Tom picks up his son’s remains and spontaneously decides to finish the pilgrimage in honor of Daniel, scattering his ashes at sacred markers. Along the way he meets up with three other pilgrims, as different from himself as he and Daniel. The four make a motley crew that trudge the entire way to the Compostela de Santiago, meanwhile calling each other out on their emotional dishonesty and true motives behind the trek.

Someone asks Tom how he feels about Daniel’s death, and his answer is simply, “How do you think I feel? He was my son!” Now that Daniel is out of the body, Tom is able to have a healed relationship with him, and he sees his ghost several times. Egos use the body to fight and separate from each other, but when we’re in spirit form, it is sometimes easier to release the ego. A Course in Miracles tells us, “The special relationship is a device for limiting yourself to a body, and for limiting your perception of others to theirs.” (T-16.VI.4:4)

ACIM “re-minds” us that we join with others through the mind, not the body. “Everyone has experienced what he would call a sense of being transported beyond himself…it is a sudden unawareness of the body, and a joining of yourself and (someone) else…it becomes part of you and both become whole. This can occur regardless of the physical distance (or) respective positions in space.” (T-18.VI.11; 12)

The Way reflects the goal of A Course in Miracles, the healed relationship. The Way is beautiful—visually, emotionally, and spiritually. It is beautiful visually with its views of the Pyrenees mountains, it is beautiful emotionally with its depth of grief, love and laughter, and it is beautiful spiritually with its message of forgiveness and healing. The Way grabs you at the beginning and does not let you go until the final scattering of Daniel’s ashes into the roaring sea.

As The Way and A Course in Miracles show us, it is never too late to forgive and heal a relationship. Several of my clients in psychotherapy had conflicted relationships with parents who had passed on, and they were able to forgive and heal through their dreams. Is there someone in your life who has passed into spirit form, but whom you still need to forgive? Ask the person to come to you in your dreams or in some other way you’ll recognize. Know that as you put out the call for healing, it is indeed being received, even if it’s not quickly apparent.

I wish you healed relationships. Lorri Coburn

Here’s a trailer for The Way. http://theway-themovie.com/

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Anatomy of an Epidemic

Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in AmericaAnatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America by Robert Whitaker

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anatomy of an Epidemic gives facts and figures on the astonishing rise in social security disability cases due to mental illness. Whitaker makes a comparison between the advent of Prozac in 1987 and the subsequent 37-fold increase in disability cases. What I found interesting is that his observations, backed by data, paralleled my anecdotal observations in my psychotherapy practice. In fact, prior to reading this book I had planned on writing a book about the limits of psychotherapy, and had actually published an article on it. When I first started practicing, clients would be on one, maybe two medications, if any. By the time I finished, 25 years later, clients were routinely sent for medication, prescribed at least two meds, constantly switched when the initial honeymoon period of those meds wore off, and often ended up on 4-6 meds. One of my clients died from overmedication and I had attempted to get her off the meds to no avail. Further, the attitude that a patient needed to stay on meds for life became increasingly entrenched and promoted. Drug companies bought lunch for the clinical staff and gave inservices on new ways to use existing drugs. When the patent for Prozac was over, it was renamed Serafim and aggressively promoted as a treatment for PMMD, pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder, the old-fashioned PMS. What the drug companies did not tell you, but Whitaker shows and I saw, was that once on drugs it was really hard to get off. The brain got used to relying on the artificial manipulation of neurotransmitters and seemed to lose the ability to do its own work.

Whitaker gives fascinating details of an American Psychiatric Association conference that he attended, in which the presentations questioned the efficacy of medications. More and more reports are coming out about the adverse effects of anti-depressants and other psychotropic medications. He raises an important question: Why, when we have so many new and supposedly wonderful drugs, are there more people permanently disabled by mental illness than ever?

This is not to say there is not a place for medication, but that it is being over-prescribed and given to people who should be using behavioral, emotional, and spiritual interventions. I personally know a number of "normal" people who are on anti-depressants and/or anti-anxiety agents who don't really need to be, in my clinical opinion.

Anatomy of an epidemic is an important book that anyone considering taking psychotropic medication, or is already on those medications, should read.

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