Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Headed for AMERSA

I'm gonna miss these two characters!

I’m on my way to D.C. for the annual conference of the Association for Medical Research and Education on Substance Abuse (AMERSA). Here’s a little blurb about the conference:

AMERSA’s 32nd National Conference - November 6-8, 2008

We invite you to celebrate our 32nd anniversary at the Hilton Washington Embassy Row in Washington, DC on November 6-8, 2008. The conference is notable for its in-depth focus on substance abuse education and the high quality of its workshops and presentations. The objectives of the AMERSA National Conference are to bring together researchers and health professional educators to learn about scientific advances and exemplary teaching approaches. AMERSA’s membership consists of a multidisciplinary audience, comprised of physicians, nurses, social workers, dentists, psychologists, public health practitioners, substance abuse specialists, physician assistants, and allied health professionals. (Read more about AMERSA here)

While I’m away I don’t know if I’ll get much blogging done so I wanted to offer some “reruns” for your reading enjoyment regarding addiction and mental health. I’d love to hear people’s thoughts about these posts and addiction and mental health in general particularly how you think they may relate to spirituality.

From "Addiction: Triumph of the Animal Aspect"

“As you know from my profile, I'm a clinician working in the addictions field. I've been wanted to post a Baha'i view about addiction for a while, so here goes. It begins with a Baha'i view of what a human being is. The reality of the human being is the soul and the mind is its essential quality, "Spirit is the tree and mind is the fruit". The Baha'i writings point out that another aspect of the human being is the material or animal aspect. Our spiritual development in this world involves the struggle of the soul to transcend the animal or material aspect of our lives so that the animal aspect can become a vehicle that serves the progress of the soul rather than enslaving it. Addiction turns this divine process on its head and puts the animal aspect firmly in control, spiritually, morally and mentally. It is the ultimate triumph of the animal side of our nature. A human being becomes defined by the need to gratify their animal desire for pleasure and need to avoid pain. That is why we find that people with addictions do things that are dehumanizing to them and everyone around them. This is why addiction is one of the greatest afflictions that a human being can suffer from. Recovering from addictions involves putting the animal aspect of our nature back in its proper place as a servant of the soul's progress in this world. It is thus a spiritual and moral process in addition to a mental and physical one.”

From "The Pursuit of a Pain Free America"

“Generations of Americans who have grown up conditioned by a materialistic, consumption-driven culture have come to believe that they are entitled to a life free from pain or discomfort of any kind. According to this view of life, pain is pathological, even worse than death. The "pursuit of happiness" recognized by our Founding Fathers as an important aspect of freedom has mutated into an egocentric sense of entitlement to happiness on demand, 24/7. Our whole society has become increasingly organized around "feeling good" and if that doesn't work not "feeling" at all. If a pill can make either of those things happen reliably, "PASS ME THE PILLS!" This attitude is widespread and impacts every challenge America is facing at this time. The solution to these challenges requires a willingness to sacrifice, but that would involve pain, which has become unacceptable to the American psyche. This is not to suggest that there are not millions of Americans making sacrificial contributions every day for the betterment of our society and the world. But in my experience even well-meaning people have a "pain threshold" beyond which they are not willing to go even when achieving their well-meaning goals clearly demands it. Why? Because the right to happiness in the final analysis trumps everything else.” (Read the whole thing here)

From “No Less Noble”

“Whenever I remember the reality of the soul of each person I'm privileged to serve, the soul whose light has been temporarily obscured by the clouds of illness, my heart is filled with the Holy Spirit and I feel empowered to minister to them in a way that transcends the sum of the problems in his or her life. When I remember that every single man and woman I try to assist was created in the image of the same God that I was and thus embody divine possibilities, I'm able to focus on discovering with them what those divine possibilities might be. If work really is worship, I get to pray all day. What could be sweeter than that? Each day, I have the opportunity to witness a resurrection of some soul, if I just pay attention. I just have to never forget that these men, women, youth and children are no less noble because of their afflictions.” (Read the whole thing here)

From Bowling for Jesus: Mature Faith and Mental Health

“As I've said before, mature religious faith involves a balance between integrity and flexibility, the maintenance of which is actually written into the very constitution of the Universal House of Justice. It occurred to me that what I refer to as integrity and flexibility in a spiritual sense is what some psychologists refer to as ego strength and adaptability. Ego strength as I understand it involves the capacity of the ego to maintain its "shape" if you will in the face of internal and external stressors, as well as its ability to perform functions essential to a healthy mind. One of these functions is adaptability, namely the capacity to make changes according to the diverse needs the dynamic reality of between self, others, and the world. Both mature faith and mental health demand balance and it is the absence of such balance which is manifest as both spiritual and psychological pathology. Certain forms of religious fundamentalism could be understood as a psychological defense against the perceived threat of disintegration of the ego by hostile internal and external stressors. As such it is an attempt at adaptation, that is spiritually immature and should evoke compassion rather than contempt.” (Read the whole thing here)