Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Stalemate and ADD

I keep drawing the Two of Swords, which I can't figure out. I've never drawn it for myself until lately. The problem with attempting to read one's own tarot (or be one's own therapist!) is that you simply can't figure out this stuff for yourself, just as we can't always figure out we don't look good in certain clothes we love anyway. No objectivity!

And it doesn't help that many of the tarot-experts and sources can't agree on the card's meanings. Hm.

I choose the meaning I think is most likely: Stalemate. I am stalemated. At least I know that much.

However, if I am indeed lying to myself (one of the meanings of the Two of Swords), how could I know what the card means? Obviously, I am already in denial, and that means I don't have a clue.

She really needs to take off the blindfold!


Speaking of blindfolds (how's that for a segue?), Chaos is Normal posted FTY: Students, which included an excerpt from a bang-up interview (by Amy Goodman) of one Canadian Dr Gabor Maté. This incisive excerpt sent me over to Democracy Now to listen to the whole show, titled Dr. Gabor Maté on the Stress-Disease Connection, Addiction, Attention Deficit Disorder and the Destruction of American Childhood. Highly recommended!

I hear about ADD every day, as my customer-parents attempt to deal, often buying supplements for their children. I hear all about the endless "symptoms"--which so often to me, sound like, well, just being a child. When did simple childhood become a disease?

I didn't grow up hearing about ADD, which also fascinates me. Is this some "new and improved" diagnosis, in that case? If so, is our culture to blame for stigmatizing certain behaviors? And as with autism, are those same behaviors possibly 'rewarded' elsewhere? (i.e. the preponderance of autism in the Silicon Valley) Dr Gabor Maté believes actual brain development in children has markedly changed over the last generation or so, due to our radical changes in culture. (I have often believed this about addiction, so when somebody with smarts comes out and backs me up, I am thrilled.)

Quotes from Dr Maté I found especially pertinent:

In the United States right now, there are three million children receiving stimulant medications for ADHD... Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. And there are about half-a-million kids in this country receiving heavy-duty anti-psychotic medications, medications such as are usually given to adult schizophrenics to regulate their hallucinations. But in this case, children are getting it to control their behavior. So what we have is a massive social experiment of the chemical control of children’s behavior, with no idea of the long-term consequences of these heavy-duty anti-psychotics on kids.

And I know that Canadians statistics just last week showed that within last five years, 43—there’s been a 43 percent increase in the rate of dispensing of stimulant prescriptions for ADD or ADHD, and most of these are going to boys. In other words, what we’re seeing is an unprecedented burgeoning of the diagnosis. And I should say, really, I’m talking about, more broadly speaking, what I would call the destruction of American childhood, because ADD is just a template, or it’s just an example of what’s going on. In fact, according to a recent study published in the States, nearly half of American adolescents now meet some criteria or criteria for mental health disorders. So we’re talking about a massive impact on our children of something in our culture that’s just not being recognized.
The normal basis for child development has always been the clan, the tribe, the community, the neighborhood, the extended family. Essentially, post-industrial capitalism has completely destroyed those conditions. People no longer live in communities which are still connected to one another. People don’t work where they live. They don’t shop where they live. The kids don’t go to school, necessarily, where they live. The parents are away most of the day. For the first time in history, children are not spending most of their time around the nurturing adults in their lives. And they’re spending their lives away from the nurturing adults, which is what they need for healthy brain development.
In ADD, there’s an essential brain chemical, which is necessary for incentive and motivation, that seems to be lacking. That’s called dopamine. And dopamine is simply an essential life chemical. Without it, there’s no life. Mice in a laboratory who have no dopamine will starve themselves to death, because they have no incentive to eat. Even though they’re hungry, and even though their life is in danger, they will not eat, because there’s no motivation or incentive. So, partly, one way to look at ADD is a massive problem of motivation, because the dopamine is lacking in the brain. Now, the stimulant medications elevate dopamine levels, and these kids are now more motivated. They can focus and pay attention.

However, the assumption underneath giving these kids medications is that what we’re dealing with here is a genetic disorder, and the only way to deal with it is pharmacologically. And if you actually look at how the dopamine levels in a brain develop, if you look at infant monkeys and you measure their dopamine levels, and they’re normal when they’re with their mothers, and when you separate them from mothers, the dopamine levels go down within two or three days.

So, in other words, what we’re doing is we’re correcting a massive social problem that has to do with disconnection in a society and the loss of nurturing, non-stressed parenting, and we’re replacing that chemically. Now, the drugs—the stimulant drugs do seem to work, and a lot of kids are helped by it. The problem is not so much whether they should be used or not; the problem is that 80 percent of the time a kid is prescribed a medication, that’s all that happens. Nobody talks to the family about the family environment. The school makes no attempt to change the school environment. Nobody connects with these kids emotionally. In other words, it’s seen simply as a medical or a behavioral problem, but not as a problem of development.
Daisy pauses to scream a hearty YES!
You see, now, if your spouse or partner, adult spouse or partner, came home from work and didn’t give you the time of day and got on the phone and talked with other people all the time and spent all their time on email talking to other people, your friends wouldn’t say, "You’ve got a behavioral problem. You should try tough love." They’d say you’ve got a relationship problem. But when children act in these ways, we think we have a behavioral problem, we try and control the behaviors. In fact, what they’re showing us is that—my children showed this, as well—is that I had a relationship problem with them. They weren’t connected enough with me and too connected to the peer group. So that’s why they wanted to spend all their time with their peer group. And now we’ve given kids the technology to do that with.
...human beings are shaped very early by what happens to them in life. As a matter of fact, they’re shaped already by what happens in uterus. After 9/11, after the World Trade disasters in those terrorist attacks, some women who were pregnant suffered PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. And depending on what stage of pregnancy they suffered the PTSD, when they measured their children’s cortisol levels—cortisol being a body stress hormone—at one year of age, those kids had abnormal cortisol levels. In other words, their stress apparatus had been negatively affected by the mother’s stress during pregnancy. Similarly, for example, when I looked at the stress hormone levels of the children of Holocaust survivors with PTSD, the greater the degree of PTSD of the parent, the higher the stress hormone level of the child.

So, how we see the world, whether the world is a hostile or friendly place, whether we have to always do for ourselves and look after others or whether we can actually expect and receive help from the world, whether or not the world is hostile or friendly, and indeed our stress physiology, is very much shaped by those early experiences.
Listen to/read the whole thing; Dr Maté has an overall approach you probably haven't heard before. And I think it helps immeasurably that Dr Maté has ADD himself, and has the necessary inside-understanding to talk about the issues.

His newest book is titled In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction, which I have just ordered from AMAZON.

(Thanks Chaos!)


John Powers said...

Here's the card at the Counterculture Tarot. Of course the Tarot speaks to a person's situation, but to understand the situation there's context, and Tarot can draw attention to that too. It's that context which seems an alternative reading. Saying you're in denial seems too hard on yourself. Maybe it's not that you're lying to yourself but rather we're lying to ourselves that's trying to get through.

How to respond depends. If you're clear but the people around you are muddled suggest one sort of response. If instead you're muddled and those around you clear that suggests a different response. My intuition tells me it's more the former than the latter.

JoJo said...

FASCINATING read Daisy!!! Very interesting and, IMHO, spot on too. I have long said that the only reason kids have ADHD is b/c we live in a world that is going just WAY too fast. Too much information being bombarded at us, both parents needing to work, then shuttling kids all over creation to various events.

I was particularly interested in the part about how we don't work locally, socialize locally, etc. In the 70's where I grew up, it was very rare to have a friend's parent work outside of our hometown, and VERY rare to have them work off Cape. We shopped in town, went to school there, did all our errands in town. Most moms didn't work. There were only a handful of TV stations, so we played outside, rode bikes, walked, played in the woods. "Hyperactive" was only used on those more spirited kids, usually boys, who had extra energy. The ADHD diagnosis seemed to really ramp up after cable & MTV became popular and accessible.

BTW, I have a couple of tarot decks and would love to use them, but I am not really sure how to go about it.

DaisyDeadhead said...

John, that is fabulous! I am linking the Countercultural Tarot in my links list!

Jojo, I believe I am psychic, which is probably (rationally speaking) just some sort of over-developed hyper-awareness of people (from a lifetime of nosiness!) --which is why sales is such an easy field for me, as long as I "believe" in what I am selling, as a former supervisor of mine once told me. (On my former job, I wasn't selling something even with a high commission attached to it--and she accused me of not selling it because I didn't "believe" in it, and I suddenly realized she was right!) I can often (certainly, not always) feel around for what people are thinking/feeling/desiring.... This is key to the tarot. And I give people what they want, unless they want a hard-ass/priest/Judge Judy character... then I give them that too. ;)

You might enjoy this one!--
How I learned to stop worrying and love the Tarot

word verification: scarshar. hm.


great post..I have all sorts of tarot decks, books on reading them etc..and still can't figure it out.

John Powers said...

About the Tarot, I think I'm projecting. . . counting the minutes to the SOTU speech. Are we ever in a tight spot! Anyhow was looking for a particular page about tactical magic during the UK tuition protests. I couldn't find what I was looking for. Walter Wink The Third Way is about Jesus. Tactical Magic and Jesus are strange to put together, but really there's something similar. Getting unstuck sometimes requires a change of perspective.

Blindfolds is an excellent seque. You might be interested in John Hagel's recent excursions in The Neurobiology of Passion when thinking about brains.

Blue Heron said...

FYI - Two of swords was always my favorite card and significator- almost had it tattooed on my skin 40 years ago. Weird. Has some alternative meanings - wish I still had my Mouni Sadhu.

SnowdropExplodes said...

I love the Tarot. My favourite deck so far is the Herbal Tarot, which has symbolic and medicinal uses of the herbs that it links with each card (Two of Swords is Passionflower).

Personally, I tend to see the 2 of Swords as a very dynamic sort of stalemate, because of the balanced forces. The sense it gives me is of "something's got to give sooner rather than later". That's just my take on it, of course.


I'm very much in agreement on the ADD thing. I hear descriptions of what kids are like who are supposedly suffering from it and I feel like "that's what children are SUPPOSED to be like!" The stuff about dopamine was interesting, that stuff does so many different things in our brains (there was a programme on over here about how pleasure and pain work in our brains that had some interesting stuff about it).

D. said...

Heh. I have the Fantasy Showcase Tarot deck, which is really artwork rather than cards, but I'd bet it could be used as cards in a pinch.

Naturally, the scanner Doesn't Work. (The Two of Swords looks like a stained glass window.)

Marion said...

I'm glad you found Gabor Mate, Daisy, he has a number of books out that I love. When I first began to read his books, I wanted to pump my fist in the air and shout Yes!

ADD,etc didn't enter the equation until my children were almost out of school, at which point I noticed there were so many medications beginning to be used, until almost every young boy, especially, was on them. I have long thought they were only being children..

The two of swords in my deck the Mythic Tarot suggests a state of tense balance where there is a refusal to face an impending conflict.

Stand and face it, dear Daisy...heh,heh!

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