Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Medication, Depression, and Psychology

A short time ago, I was teaching a moral reasoning class to a group of teenagers.  During the course of teaching the class, I was expressing to the students that no one had to tell them right from wrong, it was written in their hearts. I asked them if they needed to refer to the written law on homicide to know that they should defend themselves when attacked or whether, when attacked, would they respond intuitively? With full knowledge that the attacker was wrong and a defense was imperative?  Their response was telling. Each and everyone of them agreed that there was an interior awareness of right and wrong which seemed to come before the law.  It wasn't the students who had a problem with the natural law it was the intern. After teaching the class the intern suggested to me that there was no such thing as a natural law and the kids were a product of their environment.  I assured him that I did believe that environment and upbringing were a part of their understanding, however, human beings have in their heart and intellect the ability to know the truth and to choose, especially when it comes to morality.  I told him that their was objective moral truth and it could be known. The intern was a psychology major, he immediately rebuked me for bringing God into our conversation. As you may have noticed I did not mention God or the Church. I was simply working from reason. When I pointed this out the intern he became agitated with me. At this point, I asked him if he knew the etymology of the word psychology?  The intern was a very intelligent young man, but this question, seemed to cause a physical reaction. You see after four years in a government college, he had not been taught the answer to this question. This little quandary caused one of those awkward moments of silence and what appeared to me momentary paralysis for my young intern and friend.

I was content to let the moment linger creating just enough drama for the answer to seem monumental (I once took an acting class timing is important -please don't tell anyone I'm a thespian). At a critical point in the silence. I asked, have they not taught you the answer to this question during your four years of schooling? He said no. I responded by explaining the origin of the word. To understand what something is we should understand it's origin. Psychology as it is known to us westerners has it's root in two greek words, "psyche" and "logos". "Psyche," can be translated quite simply as soul or life principle. Of course "logos" is typically rendered as word, however, it can also be understood as "assertion," "principle," "thought," "reason," "account," "argument," and "meaning." Perhaps, the best we can do is to understand it as an account of or study of.  On the basis of this understanding we can best understand psychology to mean: the intellectual discipline or science, which is devoted to the study of the principle of life. Or more simply put it is the study of the soul.

The modern world of psychology is far from sharing a consensus on this definition and in truth, generally abhors such a definition. In fact, to suggest this definition might cause certain members of the field to castigate you or to call you anti-science. But if we take a look at four basic principles which might be useful for determining what a science is it might lend some credence to our definition. They are:
1.  A science is any organized body of knowledge.
2.  The basis for the organization of any science is the first principles of the science.
3.  From it's first principles a science constructs a superstructure of derivative principles and laws.
4. Guided by those derivative principles and laws, a science is then able to speak intelligently and
    revealingly about that particular aspect of the natural world upon which it focuses its attention.
Having these in mind I want to focus on the first principles. "The derivative principles of laws of any science are directly based upon the science's first principles, and therefore their stability or reliability are ultimately tested by those first principles (Philosophical Psychology - D. Q. McInerny). "

In modern psychology the given definition has been almost entirely rejected. What ramifications does this have? If the definition I have given you is correct, if man is a unique composite of both a spiritual soul and a material body (And it is Correct) then the psychological treatment of the human being cannot ultimately be effective by rejecting the life principle of the human person. Man is by his nature a spiritual being, he not merely material in a material world. When we treat man as purely material, and modern psychology tends too, we only partially treat the person. We end up studying symptoms rather than determining the root cause of the illness itself. In fact, if we get the first principles wrong everything that follows will inevitably be wrong as well. Could someone have a need for medication? Absolutely, does everyone whom is on medication today, need to be on medication? Absolutely not. Many people today are spiritually ill. They fail to pray, they have experienced massive trauma at the hands of loved ones and other human beings. Their soul, their life principle has been deadened by sin and trauma. Most psychologists do not even consider this possibility, they do not dig deep enough to determine what the root cause of the trauma might be.  Rather they medicate the anger, depression, or hyperactivity, without giving consideration to the treatment of the eternal soul and the root cause of the symptoms.

We should never forget that medication is big business in this country. Drug companies offer doctors big kickbacks for prescribing particular medications. We should be very cautious about the Doctors we choose, if they have know spiritual life, or no christian understanding of the human person what good can they do for us?  They can prescribe a pill and we may find ourselves relying on that pill for long periods of time, perhaps the rest of our lives. It may mask our symptoms without ever curing our illness. Grace heals, grace is the manner in which Christ intended to heal our souls. As our soul is healed a genuine experience of joy and peace tend to be the fruit of that healing. As a Catholic I am eternally grateful for the sacraments. Especially the sacrament of confession.  I examine my conscience, I bear my soul as I would with any Psychologist, I am given good counsel, and most importantly, I encounter the Holy Spirit who provides the grace for me to overcome, to heal, and to move forward with a clean and healthy soul. I encourage you to make use of the sacrament of confession regularly, if you are struggling with deeper issues, seek out a Dr. who is faithful to the gospel and will consider therapy from a supernatural perspective as well as the natural perspective. "Science" isn't evil, neither are those in the field of science, God, their ability is limited by their humanity.

Pray for psychologists, pharmacists, and all of those who have been placed on medication. Pray that they may find healing in the grace of Christ and that if it be God's will they are able to free themselves from medication. Please pray for the intern. As always pray for me.

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