The purpose of this theoretical article is to provide another perspective on a phenomenon that some of you have become familiar with: the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (I do not write this piece as your therapist, and am not suggesting that you abandon any more traditional treatment you are receiving to embrace my approach). By now, most of you are familiar with the complaint against me, made by RCMP “E” Division Executives with the “blessing” of the Commissioner. And with the fact that the College of Psychologists of British Columbia following a very thorough investigation of the complaint, “turfed” it and found me innocent. In the RCMP’s complaint, the Human Resources Officer of the day (2012) complained to the investigative committee that at times I referred to myself as a “radical psychologist”. While this is true, I’m one of the most conservative “radicals” I know. I’m sure some of my truly “radical” colleagues would scoff at me being viewed as one of them.
The present article is grounded in my life experiences and various places of employment and study; including professional sport, psychotherapist, long supporter of unions, tendency toward socialist politics, a white man with a modicum of privilege, and a Buddhist “poser”. My conceptual foundation is made of a doctoral degree in Counselling Psychology (where I was introduced to community/radical psychology, an anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-religious denomination perspective and, a certain anti-psychiatric skepticism).
My approach to my patients (a very successful one I might add) is based on a fundamental philosophical/theoretical criticism of the diagnosis of “PTSD”. Upon close examination it appears to be a grab bag of context-less symptoms separate from the complex nature of people’s lives and the social variables that influence them. Consequently, a diagnosis of PTSD individualizes a variety of problems best seen (in my opinion) as social in nature, and pathologizes traumatized individuals. Moreover, traumatic responses can be experienced by virtue of simply belonging to a particular social group (e.g. Women, Blacks, Aboriginals, the Physically Disabled, the Mentally Disadvantaged) or by being related to a particular family or group (e.g. Holocaust Survivors’ children, the children of the victims of Mt. Cashel, or the survivors of a fire, plane crash, or ship sinking at sea). The significance of occupying such a role is not covered by the present diagnostic system. Most clinicians have encountered patients who have not “first hand”, been confronted with a traumatic stressor but are affected due to the way they have witnessed the manner in which someone close to them is reacting to a specific traumatic exposure.
With regard to contemporary psychiatry, once referred to by a well known sociologist (Smith, D., 1990), as a “regime of ruling”. This branch of medicine invented the concept of a “mental disorder” and divided it up into convenient diagnostic categories that are imposed upon others by members of the exclusive club; and then, using these vulnerable individuals for objects of study and terming what is derived from the exercise as “knowledge”. Then using this “knowledge”, they have wangled permission from us for the right to incarcerate and impose chemical substances upon us. The bottom line appears to be that psychiatry created, in essence, “mental disorders” and sold them to us, we then gave them the right to police (diagnose and treat) them. Based upon this chain of events, we might be able to hypothesize that psychiatry created “mental disorders” and that the notion pushed by it, regarding how a person “develops” a particular mental disorder, can at the very least be viewed as questionable. The chain of events isn’t so much that we experience an oppressive stimulus that creates stress, and then the chronic accumulation of stress leads to a disorder. It might just be, as noted by Smith (1990), that we experience an oppressive situation, that leads to stress (sometimes called depression, sometimes called anxiety, sometimes called obssessive/compulsive behaviour). There really is no “psychiatric disorder” at this early stage, nor does there have to be unless someone with an M.D. and a specialty in psychiatry comes along and overlays a psychiatric label on it, backed by the DSM; and now a mental disorder is created. So we might, just might, be able to put forward a somewhat reasoned argument that “mental disorders” are really a function of the power psychiatry holds in society, and are mediated by the psychiatric text book (presently the DSM-5; exclusive of those disorders with a demonstrated bio-behavioural component of course). So again, just maybe, psychiatric diagnoses might be a grab bag of context-less symptoms rather than the naturalistic categories they are presented to be. In other words, not naturalistic categories, but definitional categories created by committee? What are we to do then?
It has been suggested, yes by those who take a more “radical” (“critical, “community”) view that patients’ problems not be framed in terms of diagnostic categories; but that, we very vigorously “de-medicalize” psychological problems, and entertain a more psychological perspective that recognizes the patient’s social context, e.g. employment, relationships, living situation, fitness, diet, etc. It might serve us (psychologists and their patients) well to recognize that social structures can be “toxic” and result in individual trauma very similar to a physical wound.
Another way of framing this is to suggest that trauma is not a disorder but a response to a psychological assault. The diagnosis has been traditionally applied to individuals, but as we have seen it can be applied to entire communities. Of course, there is a certain physicality to trauma; it can become embodied in an individual, and it can as another well known theorist pointed out (Erikson, 1995), befall or “tear asunder” an entire community. What seems to me (and others who share my view) is to consider that trauma does not appear to be a “free floating” feeling, or a set of feelings, or an orientation. It is more a concrete physical, cognitive, affective, spiritual response by people and/or communities to events that have the potential to be objectively traumatizing. To put it simply (not often found in psychiatry) traumatized individuals feel that way because they have been traumatized! What it really boils down to is traumatized people viewing the world as a dangerous place because their “illusion of invulnerability” has been shattered; and consequently, they have a distorted view of the world as a wholly threatening place. The remedy involves, in general, assisting them in telling the difference between what is a threat and what isn’t. To be clear, perhaps pre-trauma, their world view was illogical in a somewhat “Mary Poppins” direction. In this case then, the remedy would involve cutting back on the “Mary Poppins” attitude and creating more of a balance that included a heightened awareness by virtue of the present experience, i.e. the development of some coping skills.
In conclusion, the meaning of all of this for a practitioner who wishes to adopt a more “radical”, (“community”, “critical”) approach (or for the patient out shopping for a practitioner that fits) is this…… it is in general advantageous to conceptualize the patient’s response as falling somewhere along a continuum upon which we are all located, rather than an “all or nothing” kind of thing. I am not suggesting that the continuum conceptualization is used in any way to equate what is quite obviously not included, or to accommodate a totally subjective perspective. So we could say, we are not traumatized by an event just because we have dragged around related distress for our entire life since the event; or just because we (or a physician) applies the term trauma.
It follows then, that first line counsellors, and therapists, who will likely encounter the above noted groups be trained to go beyond problem solving, counselling, advising, and mentoring. They should be prepared and trained to intervene in the patient’s toxic life systems (e.g. employment, community, family). The most obvious implication of a more “critical trauma theory” is that advocacy is not inconsistent with therapy; whether it is individual or systemic.
“There is no good or bad, but thinking makes it so”.
Dr. Mike Webster, R. Psych. (#0655)
P.S. Soooooo “Brutal Bobby”…….I’m near run out of options to interest you in climbing down from your Ivory Tower and joining us “common folk”. Let’s see now……I started with a Chain Match with me (that by the way, would have sent your stock through the roof!!!). You showed a great deal of what I viewed as “hesitancy” (and my ‘rasslin’ buddies saw as a mix of poultry and fecal matter), remember? Then I magnanimously adjusted and offered to substitute a Tag Team match between my NWF World Heavyweight Tag Team Champion partner (The Professional) and myself; all the while attempting to show some empathy and making it less threatening for you. No luck……you didn’t call me “Bobby”? So I then went to a great deal of trouble to find you a “ little person” to assist with your “jitters”, or as my ‘rasslin’ buddies prefer to label it……well I don’t need to go there again. Remember “Mascarita Segrada”? He was very excited to have the opportunity to kick your…….oh shit!!! Is that off limits? Would your Puppet Master consider that “threatening”? Or would you and the “boys and girls” have to resort to orchestrating another fiasco like we have going on in Victoria right now? Back to business, I have taken it due to your non-communication with me, (not the case at NHQ though is it? I am informed that you have even convened meetings with me on the agenda. Wow “Bobby”, I’m honoured!!), you are just not interested in raising your stock in the membership’s eyes. “Bobby” I assure you I would be very generous in the ring with you. I would make you look good!! To finish my attempts to gain your cooperation in this very sophisticated PR campaign, I even offered to drop the “chain” and enter the “cage” with you. Some may interpret this as me trying to appease your “candy ass”, but I assure you there are far more “angles” we could work in the “cage” that would make you look like a real Commissioner rather than a “Commissionaire” of the RCMP.
OK here’s my next option; as I’ve indicated, it is not uncommon knowledge that you are going “down under” on some “money-grubbing scam”. This is a perfect opportunity for you to put a somewhat positive spin on your time as Commissioner. You could put yourself right up there with the likes of Phil Murray and Norm Inkster…well maybe not quite, but a helluva’ lot better than the way you will be remembered, if you don’t do some damage repair. So what I’m proposing is this…..you distinguish yourself as the Commissioner who had the foresight, intuition, and genius (I know, this is a bit of a stretch but stay with me) to really understand that the “outfit” is only as good as the members who do the actual day-to-day police work; and that they, in order to stay healthy, and have complete and rewarding lives, are in need of labour representation, and the RCMP needs to be downsized! OK get up off the floor, I know this is an entirely new way for you to think, but I believe if you take some time to think about it, even you will see the merit in it. This would mean that you “come out”…….no not that way silly!!! You come out in favour of the MPPAC. You separate yourself from your “evil twin” and show the membership that you are human and can think for yourself. What can he do to you “Bobby”? He spends most of his time in the closet, and has no idea what’s going on in the lives of the “common folk”. Invite me out to NHQ (what’s that?…….you have a pain in your chest……sit down it’ll pass) and I will orchestrate a meeting with the MPPAC and you can strategize (yes, yes it can be done without him, leave that part to us, it’s a bit beyond your ability to comprehend anyway) the downsizing and unionizing of Canada’s beloved RCMP. Just think of it m’boy you’ll be a hero, if not an enigma (…..look it up in the dictionary).
Anyhooooo “Brutal Bobby”, enough for now, just know I’m your “patch” to a hero’s place in history. Gimme a call…..I’m waitin’?
I’m going to take a shot at this topic with all assumptions in place, i.e. the Canadian public has arisen and elected a federal government who is interested in saving our national police service and the membership of the RCMP has become unionized and “sick to death” of being oppressed by a group of DHQ and NHQ sycophants. Please remember that these comments are being made by a psychologist trained in the application of Systems Theory (e.g. Sluzki, 1983; Wilden 1980). I do not claim to be an expert in organizational management; moreover, in this case I view that as an advantage.
I have often shared my opinion on this blog as to how the RCMP would be better off if drastically downsized; however in doing so we must be careful not to put strategy before people. This means that I would consider doing the following:
1) I would need to sift through the Senior Executive and decide who I could trust, and what value that person could bring to the metamorphosis and the “new look” RCMP. (I would rely heavily on the MPPAC , responsible, and trusted senior members for this). I would need to ask those who I have identified as having a future in the organization, for a commitment, be straight with them, and communicate my vision of the RCMP in the future.
2) I would need to appoint a “rescue team”. I would not be able to undertake such a mission on my own. I would require 2-3 Senior Executives from either DHQs or NHQ that have managed to maintain the respect of the majority of the membership, and are willing to work to gain the trust of the rest.
3) I would need to draft a clear “change message”; looking to the “rescue team” for guidance, yet maintaining the final decision option. The message would need to be brief and compelling; it would contain three elements 1) the case for change, 2) the view of the organization in the future and 3), a strong commitment to what will be preserved. Those who figure in the RCMP’s future should understand the case for change. The view of the future will enhance and flesh out the case for change. Finally, I will need to find something about the organization’s recent past that I can genuinely appreciate and would not feel uncomfortable publically supporting. Those members who decide to remain will need to know that I as the (temporary) Commissioner value their efforts in contrast to most of those who preceded them in the commissioned ranks.
4) I would need to adopt a policy of communication that is constant, candid, and two-way; something that was non-existent in the past! I will need to develop a “trap-line” to assist me in staying in touch with all concerns of the membership. This is where I see the cobbling of a working relationship with MPPAC. I could begin the scheduling of quarterly meetings with MPPAC “reps” who could bring forward the issues raised in their regular section meetings (while maintaining an “open door” policy….much easier to do with a downsized organization).
5) I believe that with a different mandate (i.e. the exclusive responsibility for enforcing federal statutes), I would need to invest in my investigators and provide them with regular and contemporary training. I would need to be clear about new performance expectations. Perhaps I could show my trust in my remaining personnel by allowing them to identify “best practices”. During my temporary time at the helm, I would take advantage of competent police persons (exclusive of rank or section) and request that they assist in establishing competencies for the (reduced) tasks of the “new look” RCMP. I would like to enlist them as “trainer-coaches” to assist in the development of their peers.
6) Any major changes in the organizational structure would be preceded by clear and straightforward information related to how decisions will be made that affect the structure of the RCMP and individuals working within it. I would make every effort to explain that the downsizing of the RCMP is not a random act and that strong performance and support for the new direction is a sure way to increase personal satisfaction and reduce work related stress.
7) My communication with the membership would not resemble “Pope-like” appearances on the NHQ “balcony”. I will make an effort to show my respect for the “new” look RCMP by frequently and personally selling criticism of the “old” RCMP. Those who wish to stay must be given frequent opportunities to present and vent their feelings (as representatives of the membership the MPPAC could play a critical role here). Members should be in constant receipt of status updates on the new direction. Once again, these meetings may be best handled by the MPPAC and focused on measureable goals, clear milestones, with questions and criticism welcomed. The new RCMP will not be “my” RCMP; it will be in the care of the current membership who represents the public they serve. We as a family, and those we serve, will take every opportunity to celebrate small wins, progress, and successfully completed new tasks.
To conclude, when undertaking a task of this nature I firmly believe that two process variables must be kept in mind; first, when carrying out a change (on a massive, rigid organization like the RCMP) it is central that the effect on survivors is constantly monitored; and second, those coaching the change must remain ever flexible. In this way the chances of morale sinking unnoticed, losing our best people, and obtaining “minimal buy-in” from those remaining will be reduced.
Well there it is! Even as I read it over, I am not satisfied! There is something missing………it’s YOU!! I could not do this without your skill, experience, and dedication. I would ride on your shoulders; I would be nothing without you; for it is you who are the RCMP!!!! Rest assured, we will be in a battle to save a once National icon; and as your temporary Commissioner, I pledge this to you, I will not eat until you have eaten and I will not sleep until you have slept.
At your service,
Dr. Mike Webster
Reg’d Psych. (#0655)
P. S. G’day “Brutal Bob”………well after some calling in of favours I have a lead on a “little person” who might be interested in “kicking your……..” Well, to that later, right now tell me what you think of this? It wasn’t easy to make this contact, as I’ve indicated I had to call in some old favours. The sport of “midget wrestling” (not a popular term with “The Little People of America” [LPA]) has fallen out of favour as it tends to portray little people in a negative light. However, I located a contemporary Mexican Star working for “Consejo Mundial Lucha Libre” whose ring name is “Mascarita Sagrada”. He could be persuaded for a price to put a damper on his red hot temper. He is likely to go off “like a cut snake”, if he doesn’t “go over” the likes of you, but he’ll make you look good before he” finishes you off”………oh shit I’ve done it again!!! You know I’m really having trouble with this “what’s a threat and what isn’t”. This new Conservative scare mongering you are buying from your “evil twin” (shit!!!!!…….is that considered off-side as well?), doesn’t look good on ya’ mate. “Down under” they favour “blokes” who can think for themselves. Think it over, and let me know where you are on this. You might build your confidence with “Mascarita Sagrada” and find the “cajones” to either agree to the Tag Team with “The Pro” and I or maybe even the Chain (or Cage) Match with me. Who knows……miracles still happen! And look what you are learning about Professional Wrestling! Good thing you became a cop, I think you are too much of a “tight ass” to enjoy an hour in the ring entertaining people! Anyhooooo “Brutal Bobby”…….. loosen up that “anal pore”, you did not look comfortable in front of the Committee the other day. Let’s have some fun?
P.P.S. My apologies once again to the LPA. I am in complete agreement with you, with regard to the use of the term “midget”. It is entirely degrading. I used it in this case as the “bloke” I’m talking to wouldn’t understand anything else.
There is a Toronto Star article dated today that reports:
– Since 2003 the RCMP’s funding to INSET has been static at $10 Million/year
– the RCMP’s estimated budget for 2014 was $2.63 billion, a 5-per-cent decrease from 2013 and a 15-per-cent drop from four years earlier
-Since 2007 the RCMP has handed back $1.7 billion.
-In 2014 alone, the RCMP handed back $158.7 million
Do you think this reflects Senior Management’s commitment to the well-being of the membership (training, equipment, manpower, etc.)? Or rather, they want to look good to the Gov’t on the backs of the members for their own self-serving needs.
As those of you who have followed the saga that is my “dance” with the RCMP may know, in 2012 I was “cut” from the team by Mr. Paulson (and his “E” Division “lackies”). I was immediately picked up by a much more discerning and professional “outfit”, and had my playing career extended. Since that time I have held the post as the entire Psychology Department at a Canadian Armed Forces Health Services Hospital on Vancouver Island. I recently undertook, completed and wrote up A Comparative Study of the Efficacy of Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) with Canadian Forces Service Members.
You may be wondering what I mean when I suggest that RCMP “leaders” could learn much from a horse? Well, a horse’s ability to scan the environment for signs of incongruence (danger) would be a good place for them to begin. When it comes to reading a human, horses carefully contrast what they see on the surface with what they sense beneath. If they discover a difference between what we present on the surface and what we hide beneath, they are unlikely to cooperate. They will regard us as dangerous and flee in fear. To horses and to humans as well, authenticity and integrity in leadership are more important than words and actions. Herein lies the reason behind a person” looking” very leader-like, but failing at every turn to motivate and encourage those who he attempts to lead (are you listening “Brutal Bobby”?).
Horses prefer to be lead; but will only accept a capable and trustworthy leader. They will reject the herd-mate who assumes the role of master and attempts to dominate. In contrast, they will be drawn to the herd-mate who exhibits the three principles necessary for survival: trust, communication, and respect. The ancient Asian philosopher Lao Tzu is credited with saying “……to lead the people, walk behind them”. Horses live in groups (herds) and each group has its’ leader (often a mare). The lead horse directs the group and keeps them safe. She does this in a non-verbal, non-aggressive manner, most often by observing and directing from behind. Could you imagine the present Commissioner of the RCMP (or any of his executive across the country) “leading from behind”? To “lead from behind” the leader must have a clear vision of where he/she is going, and the ability to communicate it to those who are led. Imagine a farmer behind a team of powerful plow horses. The farmer is behind them, yet leading them. How is this accomplished? The leader, from behind, must have the cooperation of those who are led, built on an unshakeable foundation of trust, respect, and understanding. In allowing those who are led to go ahead, the leader encourages confidence, autonomy, and creativity.
Moreover, if RCMP Executives at both Divisional and National levels, were open to the experience of “leading from behind”, they might discover a remarkable opportunity to become better communicators by developing integrity and authenticity (who’s laughing?); by remaining confident in the face of uncertainty (stop that giggling!!); and how to motivate and encourage those they lead (I’m serious, enough already with the “cat calls”!).
“The paradox of ego, is that first you must acknowledge you have one, to know it doesn’t exist”
Dr Mike Webster
Reg’d Psych. (#0655)
P.S. ( A G’day to “Brutal Bobby”.) G’day Mate…….I’ll bet you can’t wait! (To get “down under”, that is) Neither can many of the RCMP membership, wait for you to leave. Look mate, as I never hear from you I’m beginning to lose hope of ever getting this World Championship Tag Team or even the “singles chain match” angle, off the ground. In my last conversation with you (and I know you’re reading this “chatter”……… and you wouldn’t believe who keeps me informed!), I mentioned a great little worker “Sky Low Low”. This gave me an idea!! Maybe you’d be more comfortable in the “square circle” with a little person? Usually the angle in one of these kinds of match ups (and they most often occur in tag teams or “battle royals”) is for the bigger guy to play the role of a “mean ol’ bully” with the little guy. Now I figure after the way you’ve conducted yourself with the General Membership, this shouldn’t be much of a stretch for you. Leave this with me and I’ll poke around and see who’s available? We might end up with one of the “girls”……would you be adverse to that? Or is that going a wee bit too far with the bully angle?
Anyhoooo, nice talkin’ to ya’ again. Always remember, “no worries mate, she’ll be right” in the end…..as long as you end it! Oh shit!!!!!……..what’s “the John Dory”……have I got you and the NSIS lads thinking I’m a “few stubbies short of a six pack”? All I ask is that you give my offer a “Captain Cook” before you go “walk about”. I’m still waitin’………..???
P.P.S. Wadda’ ya’ think “B.B.”………is blue my colour?
In undertaking a topic of this nature, it is of importance to set out with a definition of terms. The following definitions reflect the meanings of concepts that underpin this brief article: Read more…
Anyhoooooo “Brutal Bobby”…….there’s your boy! Wadda’ ya’ think? Could he tear you a “new one”? Oh shit I’ve done it again, was that a threat,or just pre-match “bravado”. You know that to be a good “worker”, you have to be good on the “stick” (no, not that one you silly boy!!)……..the microphone! The “bravado” is all part of the show…….or is it? Sooooo, what do you think? Does the tag team angle assist in your “unpuckering”? It could be fun! And sort of warm you up for our “Chain Match” or if you are more comfortable in the “cage” with me, we could go that way? It’s up to you Mr. Commissionaire?
Right on Mike!!!! In regard to Paulson and Harper’s link!! I was beginning to wonder if it was just me who was seeing this pathetic puppet show going on in Ottawa between Harper’s government and the current leadership of our organization? I am truly disgruntled and embarrassed to state that I am part of the organization that I joined 25 years ago. The “in bed” relationship between our organization and the government of the day started long before these two individuals, but it has never been more obvious. These two tyrants want full control of the reins and have placed most of us under a “gag” order. I even see it on a monthly basis Mike, at the detachment level. We are forced to sit and listen to the “one voice” bullshit coming down from Ottawa; and nobody seems to be bothered by the “crap” being shoved down our throats on a regular basis. Whatever happened to just pure honesty and integrity? We seem to have lost it along the way, over the last 130 years or so. I’ve truly had enough of the direction that the Force has decided to take. There seems to be little interest in “grass roots” policing anymore. I told my wife that I wanted to leave holding my head high and not with the bitterness I see in so many members today! It’s all a shame and it didn’t have to be this way if the right decisions were made 8-10 years ago.
A Policeman’s policeman.
G’day all. This brief article was first published in the BC Psychologist’s Journal a few months back. My interest in this topic springs from two sources. The first is the nature of my work as a psychologist specialising in conflict management. As you may recall, I have consulted with the principle parties involved in conflicts between various police services and Aboriginal groups from Gustafsen Lake, through Apex Alpine, to the Six nations stand-offs in Ontario. As a result of these experiences, I have developed an interest in Aboriginal Culture and Spirituality. The second is my discomfort with main stream psychology’s focus on individuals, and its’ almost total disregard of the impact of power differentials; sexual, social, organizational and racial differences on psychopathology.
With regard to terminology, I think it may be more respectful, and more inclusive, to use the terms Aboriginal or Indigenous rather than “First Nations”. The Aboriginal peoples of Canada may all request psychological services; and can include First Nations, Inuit, and Metis regardless of their status under the Indian Act. This combined group makes up approximately 4.4-5% of the population of the country; it is comprised of 11 major language groups, including 58 dialects and 596 bands and resides on 2,284 reserves, or in urban and rural communities (Statistics Canada, 2008). The Aboriginal peoples are richly diverse in their cultures, lifestyles, and languages. It can be argued that even the terms Aboriginal and Indigenous are inaccurate as the people being described are far from homogenous. They do share however, similar historical experiences that have influenced similar perspectives; and they are welded together through the experience of colonization that has led to a similar body politic and collective identity.
There is much historical evidence (e.g. the somewhat recent Truth and Reconciliation Commission) to suggest that the mental health issues of the Aboriginal peoples originate with “their being victims of colonization”. Much of what they present in a therapeutic encounter can be viewed as symptomatic of an “historic trauma response” (Yellow Horse Brave Heart and DeBruyn, 1998; Duran and Duran, 1995). When this “soul wound” becomes unbearable Aboriginal people can experience what appear to be mainstream “mental disorders”.
It is unfortunate that Aboriginal knowledge systems, in the fields of mental health and its’ treatment, have been underestimated. These systems when recognized and empowered will be able to take their place in a mainstream that enforces silence and conformity to a single dominant theoretical view of “mental disorder”. The strength of these knowledge systems is not merely theoretical, but practical and present the experiences and lived realities of the Aboriginal peoples. For example, the genocidal treatment of their ancestors has left many present day Aboriginal people with a type of “survivor guilt”. This unresolved guilt remains, as Aboriginal peoples have not been afforded the opportunity to adequately grieve and heal. Many of the Aboriginal traditions and ceremonies around death have been erased through colonization. The generations of trauma experienced by their ancestors now lives in the collective consciousness of the present day Aboriginal peoples. It is this “gut wrenching” emotional response that fuels the blaze, consuming interactions and relationships within communities, families, and individuals. Aboriginal/Indigenous health frameworks view the consequences of disenfranchised grief, as masquerading behind mainstream “mental disorders”, and as a shame-like response within the Aboriginal peoples; and this shame derived from one’s identity, culture, and community has given rise to a destructive introjected racism and hatred. The end product then of this unattended grief, may be a community at war within itself as it struggles for a place in Canadian society.
Psychological interventions into Aboriginal communities are best born from decolonization. Decolonizing means assisting the Aboriginal peoples in questioning the conventional notions of mainstream psychology/psychiatry. It means assisting in the assertion of Aboriginal/Indigenous healing systems and the confrontation of a single perspective as the definitive way of understanding psychological issues. It means assisting the Aboriginal peoples in understanding who they genuinely are, gaining confidence in what they know, and deciding for themselves which mainstream ideas they can work with and which they can’t.
Decolonization embraces the politics of identity and its’ construction. In order to rationally challenge the dominance of mainstream psychology/psychiatry, Aboriginal people must be in charge of defining their own Aboriginality. Only then will they be able to abandon the role of passive victims and actively participate in the restoration of their own health. New truths must be established to overcome the “soul wounds” inflicted by governmental policies like “kill the Indian in the child”. And as mainstream psychological methods have been less than successful, there is little to be lost in recognizing traditional healing and cultural methods. For example, preliminary steps on the path to healing require mourning, dreaming/visioning (Laenui, 2000). Aboriginal perspectives posit that in order to break free of paralyzing emotion, people must mourn what has been taken from them. Moreover, the chances of healing are increased by dreaming/visioning what the Aboriginal peoples want in their futures, and how to utilize resources toward that end for the entire community.
Finally, and in harmony with decolonization, the mental health of Aboriginal communities seems to lay in their degree of autonomy. Those communities with more local control and cultural continuity appear to thrive whereas those with less psychological and spiritual connection with their past, present and future seem not to. Those communities with more control of local government, renewed cultural practices, and successful land claims boast overall better mental health for their constituents. Chandler and LaLonde (1998) demonstrated the benefits of this alternative perspective by discovering a strong relationship between the degree of community autonomy and suicide rates in British Columbia Aboriginal communities. They found that of the 196 Aboriginal communities in the Province, those with greater independence and cultural continuity were also those with significantly lower suicide rates among their youth.
To conclude, an alternate perspective on the provision of psychological services to Aboriginal peoples recognizes how powerful differentials between opposing views on healing and well-being are often ignored, resulting in hegemonies that are oppressive and insensitive to historical and local needs. By questioning the conventional notion that mainstream psychology is the “only story”, a more critical approach can be considered as a means to empowerment; a way to assist the marginalized in realistically evaluating their participation in health frameworks that do not recognize indigenous knowledge systems, or meet their needs.
Dr. Mike Webster
Reg’d Psych (#0655)
P.S. Still waitin’ “Brutal Bob”. How’s your training going? Without giving away too many trade secrets, I’m really into this TRX thing!! I’ve almost totally abandoned the “free weights”, for this U.S. Marine designed system, it’s really killer!!…….oh shit, I did it again, was that a threat? Listen m’man, I’ve been thinking. My “rasslin” buddies all think the reason you don’t respond has something to do with poultry and fecal matter. I on the other hand like to give you the benefit of the doubt. You see I figure it this way……I’m inviting you into a world that you are entirely unfamiliar with? You may need a graduated entry, so how about this? How about we make this a tag team match, that way you could have company in the ring and wouldn’t feel so “sheepish”…..that’s a better way of framing your hesitancy……..no? Now right there at NHQ you have a likely looking partner in The “chunky” fellow, what’s his name?………..oh yeah Mr. MacMillan. You don’t likely remember who my partner will be? It will be the chap I held the NWA World Championship Tag Team Belts with. He was a masked man that went by the name “The Pro”. He doesn’t speak very much and when we were partners I did most of the talking (what a surprise eh?). These days I sort of do a channeling thing with him. He told me he’s keen on the angle. I’d love to show you a picture of us wearing the belts but I don’t know how to get the picture into the computer. Maybe you could give me a call and give me some instruction; you look like one of those computer “geeks”. Or maybe one of the followers of the blog could assist me. You would just love this guy, “The Pro”, and would he ever love to get a hold of you………..oh shit!!!!…….I did it again! Anyhooooo “Brutal Bob” give us a shout when you have a few minutes, we have to get this promotion rolling!
“Iron Mike” Webster
G’day all! “Iron Mike” has yet to hear from the Commissioner’s people with regard to the promotion of the huge charity event, “The Chain Match of the Century” (“Brutal Bob” Paulson vs. “Iron Mike” Webster). I’m somewhat disappointed as I have engaged the services of the well known Master of Ceremonies and notorious NWF referee, Marty Gold. He is not only adept at keeping order in the “square circle” but also is a wizard at the business of promoting. He is in negotiations to secure a well known sport venue that lays approximately “smack dab” in the middle of the country; to allow easy access for the entire nation (we have heard via the “grapplin’ grapevine” that this match has become regarded one of the sport highlights of 2015). I wonder if “himself” is feeling threatened——-oh shit!!! There’s that word again. Is my usual bravado e.g. “…….this match will go to the ‘death’, and I assure you, I will be the only man left standing at the finish”, to be interpreted as a “threat” to a public figure, or just a tactic used to sell tickets? Should I expect the “boys” to be knocking on my door?” Should I get the coffee ready? The BC Ferries crew has told me they haven’t yet “picked off” any police persons trying to look like tourists.
Oh well, enough of that. I’m in a somewhat playful mood. Wanna’ have some fun? Here’s a piece based upon an article that appeared in the Denman Island Monthly Bugle some time ago. I wish I could cite the author and the issue but I am not able (remember that whole memory thing?). The names that appear in my little spoof are fictitious and meant to represent no specific individual or organization. Buckle up, here we go! Read more…