Moulton Lava

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Thursday, May 09, 2013

To Hell with DSM-5

The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) has decided to abandon the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, at least for research purposes.

Back in the 1980s, before I had even heard of DSM III, I was a Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at the Bell Telephone Laboratories in Holmdel NJ.  About that time, the US Department of Justice moved to break up the Bell System, pitting Anti-Trust Law vs STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).  

Law utterly clobbered STEM.  The Bell System fractured and Bell Labs rapidly went to hell in a hand-basket.

During those turbulent times I went to talk to a first rate psychologist about navigating my way through a variety of  real world problems for which my STEM education (Ph.D. in Systems Science from Stanford University) left me ill prepared.  After a few months, I received a DSM III diagnosis of 309.28, "Adjustment Reaction with Mixed Emotional Features."

I asked the shrink what that meant in plain English.  He said, "It means you get upset when upsetting things happen."

Well yeah.

By the mid-90s, I began to catalog a collection of systemic problems in American culture that weren't just troubling me, but, one way or another, troubling just about everyone I knew.  

Eventually, I compiled a list of ten seemingly intractable problems that I had no idea how to solve:

Conflict, Violence, Oppression, Injustice, Corruption, Poverty, Ignorance, Alienation, Suffering, and Terrorism.  

Not only did I have no idea how to solve them, I had no idea how to even think about them with the tools for thought that I had acquired from my high-class STEM education.

And so I became morbidly dispirited and depressed about the survivability of our increasingly dysfunctional culture.  A seasoned colleague of mine suggested I again visit a professional.  This time, I talked to one of the professors of psychiatric medicine at Harvard Medical, who happened to live next door to my professional colleague.  I told him that life had tossed a number of intractable problems in my lap that I had no clue how to solve, and that I needed help figuring out how to solve them.  

He said, "Barry, nobody knows how to solve those problems. But I can give you some anti-depressants so you won't feel so bummed out about it."

I replied, "I don't want to be drugged into oblivion so that I don't give a damn.  I want to learn how to solve these problems."

He said, "I can't help you solve them.  I can only prescribe anti-depressants for you."

And so I declined the "Nepenthe Treatment" and undertook the research on my own.  This led me from Systems Science into Theology, since more than half of the unsolved problems on my list were taken up by the founders of the world's great religions.

I eventually made some progress, discovering the pioneering research of René GirardJames Gilligan, and others, who were coming up with systems theoretic models drawn from many sources, not the least of which was the great literature of the Humanities.  Fyodor Dostoevsky, for example, turned out to be the source for Girard's Model of Contagion as well as an insightful source on many of the other aspects of systemic dysfunctionality in the culture.

My education in STEM had omitted the Humanities and the Arts.  What I needed was to beef up STEM with some Artistry from the Humanities in order to build up a head of STEAM.

So it looks like I don't need DSM or anti-depressants.  What I need in my life is less strife and more humanity.  With that, perhaps we rediscover our place in the cosmos and the proper role of STEM in the advance of civilization.

7 Comments:

Blogger Higs; said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Higs; said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Moulton said...

I spent the better part of the past 15 or 20 years battling low-grade clinical depression. But my preference was to do the research rather than drink the Nepenthe to drown my sorrows.

Then again, my temperament is research-oriented, which I reckon is pretty uncommon in the population at large.

Plus I had the advantage of knowing the singular life events that had unmistakenly plunged me into depression, and I had no difficulty recognizing that those troubles were clearly beyond my pay grade to solve on my own dime.

11:45 AM  
Blogger Higs; said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Moulton said...

Not sure why Tim deleted his comments, but they are archived here.

3:55 AM  
Blogger Allie said...

@Barry - probably because he shared personal information re. one of his children. I'd probably do the same.

3:26 PM  
Blogger Moulton said...

Plausible reason, I suppose.

A couple of weeks ago, someone gained access to his FB account and began posting snarky trolling remarks in his name.

At that point, he abruptly shut down his own blog site, erased all his comments scattered here and there on my blog postings, and also abruptly withdrew from Facebook.

3:36 PM  

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