Kurt Harris MD

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« Philosophical Influences | Main | Therapy versus Life »
Thursday
Feb102011

Primum Non Nocere

 

Emily Deans, of the justly popular blog Evolutionary Psychiatry, has just posted some nice commentary on "Therapy versus Life"

She says:

......My style is to think out loud in blog form (such a wretched word, "blog," sounds like some sort of mucousy allergy problem). Some of the ideas are early, not fermented as it were, and I will likely change my mind about some things over the months. There are so many unknowns - it can get frustrating when you realize how much money, effort, and time have been spent looking at nutrition, metabolism, and mental health in such a way as to discover nothing at all.

But there is exhilaration too, especially in the sharing of ideas, and to have (if someone wants to listen) an enhanced ability to heal. Myself, my family, my patients. ........

She clearly gets the point of the post and reflects my own thoughts exaclty.

....Sometimes we are broken, and modern medicine can actually help with the fix. Sometimes we are broken, and there is no perfect fix....

And she seems to clearly "get" me as well. She is a shrink, after all.

....It always settles me a bit when I find myself in agreement with Kurt Harris. Mostly because I can tell he thinks about things. He reads and sits back and asks some questions and reads some more and he thinks about it again, and then he posts. He is not as even-tempered as Stephan Guyenet, but if he jumps at being questioned, I'm pretty sure it is because he's done the time, the reading, and the thinking.

No, I am not as even-tempered as Stephan Guyenet. Who is?

But even Stephan may react if you flick ashes on his Buddha, in his own way. And my blog is unabashedly a blog of cultural criticism in the realm of science, more than it is a nutrition blog. Thinking about medical science, its application and its use in our culture. It is something I've always done, now I'm just sharing a bit of it. For my own pleasure, and for yours if you like to read it and get something out of it. If you don't like it, that's fine. Just move along to some other domain.

And Stephan and I do have something in common besides health/science blogging. We both meditate and have been influenced by Buddhist ways of thought.

Read this post by Stephan - Dogen Zenji on Nutritionism. Dogen Zenji is the partiarch of the Soto Zen branch of buddhism. And note the Kensho symbol in Stephan's clever logo.

Being a complete atheist and having no patience for metaphysics or fairy tales, I'm actually more comfortable philosophically with plain-vanilla theravada than with zen, but there is plenty to be gained by any of these "systems" in helping you deal with life.

As far as mental stability, zazen (sitting meditation) can do wonders for your mental health and stress hardiness. To help you cope a bit when things can't be fixed, when there are no solutions.

You know, like accidents, death, unemployment and your 401K being destroyed and all those things that even the hackers and tricksters may not have any good suggestions for...

I find sitting even more powerful than running in this regard, but actually somewhat harder to stay disciplined about.

The main thing these traditions can teach you is to be comfortable with doubt, to become good at being uncertain, and that not everything has a solution.

Facing the idea of your own inevitable death with equanimity - a buddhist exercise, if not an easily achievable goal, seems like pretty good practice for facing up to insoluble problems.

There are insoluble problems. I am sorry if this makes anyone uncomfortable, but it is what I think.

The positivist western conceit that every difficulty is a problem, and every problem has a solution is just that, an unfounded conceit.

If we believe everything we don't like is a problem and that all problems have a solution, we are very likely to take possible bad situations, and make them much, much worse. I've seen it all the time in my career as a physician. Side effects, complications, the law of unintended consequences.

Have you noticed how the way I make people angriest is when I doubt their certainty? I doubt the efficacy of their method, their supplement, etc..

I am only trying to encourage skepticism to avoid unnecessary harm and disappointment and time-wasting. I am just trying to help people see that we should first do no harm. To ourselves.

Primum Non Nocere

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