The Perception of Pain

I am writing this in response to a report from my youngest sister – who has been operated on, once again – for her back pain. This time she got a RFA, that decreased the ability of the nerves in her back from sending pain signals to her brain. At least, this is what I think happened.

Back pain is a common psychosomatic problem – and I have seen some very smart people disabled by it. How it works is not hard to explain. Pain signals, like many signals from the body (some are evaluated at a local level) – have to be evaluated by the brain – that decides what to make of them.

This evaluation is effected by the brain’s emotional state – it may decide to pay more attention to some of them, or not. If it decides to pay more attention – a vicious feedback loop may be set up, making the pain much worse. And the Back (a very complicated part of the body) is susceptible to this.

Why my Sister has this pain, I do not know. But I do know she is prone to emotionally induced disorders. She thought she was dying once, and insisted on being taken to an emergency room. Where she was diagnosed with an Asthma attack. She rejected this diagnosis, however, and treated herself with a salve she rubbed on her wrists!

All of the family, except for myself – have overlooked her emotional problems. They have problems of their own, and they have swept them under the rug – and intend to keep them there.

When the Mind Goes Wrong, the Body Goes Wrong

I am  reading Is It All in Your Head?: True Stories of Imaginary Illness That I can recommend highly.

My family is a good example of one with plenty of craziness in it – most of it at a low level, but very definitely there, and debilitating. And mostly (or completely) denied.

The main point of the book is relating how mental illness affects the rest of the body – in medical illness, that is. The opposite is also true – medical conditions have a strong effect on one’s mental condition.

Dr. O’Sullivan tries to show how each affects the other. A difficult task, since Mental Illness is very difficult to analyze and to treat. I think she would be better off, if she told her patients this, up front. “No one knows what causes your illness, and recovery is unlikely.”

Or “Your illness has many emotional causes, that are hard to pin down. Complete recovery is unlikely, but some improvement can be expected, if you work at it.” That patient would not stay around long. They want a miraculous cure, and will accept nothing less.

Mental Illness on a Global Scale

I continue in my quest to understand the world – at least from my own viewpoint.

Something is drastically wrong with our world – and one way to understand what is wrong, is to consider it mental illness. How is this useful?

It is useful, because mental illness is something people can intuit easily – they can easily say “You are crazy!” We all know mental illness exists, and is highly disturbing. At least to those viewing it in others.

The people afflicted by it, however, may not feel this way about their illness, at all. But feel they are perfectly normal – and everyone else is crazy. And there is little anyone else can do, to make them better.

This is the main point. Mental illness cannot be understood, or cured. And since the body and the mind are one – the same thing has to be said for the whole body/mind.  At every scale, from the personal to the global.

This is a drastic statement, to be sure. But not a new one. We have lived with mental illness for a long time – and the human race is still here – and is unlikely to disappear.

What we can do, however – is change our understanding of it, as a global phenomena – with intense effects on the people in it.

I can site The corporate wax nose – about Corporate Social Responsibility. Or take you to visit a friend of mine – who is suffering from mental illness, with its associated medical problems. In either case, the results are shocking. But can be understood as an interaction between the global, the corporate, and the personal.

Mental illness on a global scale.

Who We Are Depends on What We Are Made Of

Perhaps this should be stated the other way around – what we are made of, determines who we are. Jellyfish are made one way, and we are made another way. One is not better than the other – just different.

Since human beings operate by neuronal networks – who they are, depends on how these operate, and how fast they operate – in milliseconds. Computers are made of Silicon, and they operate in microseconds.  One way is not better than the other – just different.

In Philosophy – Ontology (what we are made of) determines how we should behave (Ethics). If we do not care what we are – we do not care how we behave.

Beth Was a Part of Me

I must tell you something about my personal history – that also includes my family’s history, and my family’s church. They were all mixed in together.

I will start with my family’s church, the RLDS church, that for my parent’s generation was their whole world. My family lived in a small town on the Mississippi River, in Illinois – but close to Iowa and Missouri. As Midwestern a location as you could get – but they were nothing special for their time – too religious perhaps, but nothing exceptional.

But they knew a Blumenschein family that was exceptional  The father was a doctor, and they ran a medical mission in Honduras to provide medical services for the poor. Awesome!

But the father died, and his wife and children came back to the States. Their oldest daughter, Beth, lived with my family when she went to high school. She was the same age as my youngest sister. I was nine years older, had left the family, and only came home occasionally. Beth and I became sexually intimate – we didn’t have sex, but we got as close to it as we could.

Then we parted ways – she went to college in Iowa, and then in France. I worked for the military in the Cold War. Beth, however, had set her eyes on me, and we started living together in NYC. And then got married, in 1965.

It immediately became obvious, in retrospect – that Beth had severe mental problems. But I overlooked these at the time, and figured I could live with them.

Beth insisted that we move to California – and when she insisted, I had no choice in the matter. In California, her mental situation worsened – and in Santa Barbara, she had a complete breakdown – and was committed to the County Hospital. People sometimes ask me what her diagnosis was – it was schizophrenia – but that diagnosis was worthless. Whatever it was – she ordered me out of her life, and we got a divorce.

She remained in Los Angeles – and I went to a new job in Denver. Two years later, she killed herself. And it took me twenty years to get over her death!

I thought perhaps this was proof that I loved her – but like many marriages, this was not the case. There was some love, but not very much. We had too many problems.

Why did her death have such an impact on me? I have to say, I don’t really know! But it did have an impact, and it took the services of an organization in San Jose, California – who concentrated on Living with Dying, for me to recover.

Mothers in Prison

NY Times

So if we want to reduce female incarceration, we have a solution here in Tulsa that will also reduce crime and pay for itself.

I know some of you are glaring at this article and thinking: It’s their own fault. If they don’t want to go to prison, they shouldn’t commit crimes!

That scorn derives partly from a misunderstanding of drug abuse, which is a central reason for mass female incarceration in America (and a major reason for mass incarceration of men as well, although to a lesser degree). As Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the surgeon general, noted in releasing a major report this month: “It’s time to change how we view addiction. Not as a moral failing but as a chronic illness.” In short, we should think of drugs not primarily through the criminal justice lens but as a public health crisis.


I have a niece (the daughter of my youngest sister) who also has drug problems – and a variety of other problems. She acquired them from her dysfunctional family – her mother’s first son (her uncle) got his 12-year old girlfriend pregnant and dropped out of high school. She stole her Father’s truck, and he turned her in, and the courts forced her to go through a drug rehab program. Which solved that problem – but she has since moved on to many others.