22 Dec Power Resists Change
Often times when power structures are challenged, there is a direct and disproportionate response. Two cops were murdered by a crazy man in Brooklyn yesterday, and the head of the police union, Patrick Lynch, put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the mayor because he had dared to recognize that the people protesting had legitimate concerns. Other former elected officials and police officers piled on as well. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar eviscerated this response with a spot on and scathing editorial in Time Magazine.
In a Dec. 21, 2014 article about the shooting, the Los Angeles Times referred to the New York City protests as “anti-police marches,” which is grossly inaccurate and illustrates the problem of perception the protestors are battling. The marches are meant to raise awareness of double standards, lack of adequate police candidate screening, and insufficient training that have resulted in unnecessary killings. Police are not under attack, institutionalized racism is. Trying to remove sexually abusive priests is not an attack on Catholicism, nor is removing ineffective teachers an attack on education. Bad apples, bad training, and bad officials who blindly protect them, are the enemy. And any institution worth saving should want to eliminate them, too.
As filmmakers we deal with this issue on some level in almost all of our projects. Who Took Johnny hits it head-on in relation to child sexual abuse. In the film, Paul Sparrow who produced the show “America’s Most Wanted”, points out that big institutions like the Catholic Church and the Police will often protect bad actors in order to protect the reputation of their institution. “Who Took Johnny” details this reality in ways that are infuriating and difficult to watch.
On the surface, there doesn’t seem to be as direct of a connection between our new film about mind body medicine and chronic pain issues, All The Rage, and the protests against the institutionalized racism of the police. However, the response to a recent article about the film on Huffington Post makes it clear that the resistance to the ideas in the film is very strong. Those who have suffered from pain issues and have been told by doctors that they have a structural problem like a herniated disc often get quite irate when someone suggests that emotional factors may be the cause rather than the disc. Doctors who treat from this perspective can also get very angry.
Last month, as we ran our Kickstarter campaign for All The Rage, I spent a lot of time trying to get blogs and other media outlets to share our trailer or other clips from the film. For the most part, I was unable to even get a response from people. I’ve had some success getting blogs to share photos for Kickstarter book projects. In fact, during that month, a big website shared 82 of my photos from another project without even contacting me for permission. It went wildly viral, and got shared nearly 200 thousand times. We tried to get the same site to cover the project we needed attention for, but they blew us off. Frankly, we were taken a little by surprise by the intense resistance we faced. I understand that there is a bias towards only covering a project when it is in distribution, but we kept up our efforts, and after Huffington Post asked to write something about the photos, we got a contact in their healthy living section. Finally, with a few days left in our campaign, we heard back from them and arranged an interview.
I had a very long and robust conversation with the writer, and in the end she condensed our hour long discussion down to a few quotes. The article itself was reasonable, though I did have some problems with how my quotes were used. After a long period of discussion, one tends to not re-explain everything they’ve said, so the quotes that were used from near the end of the conversation sound more flip than if one had heard the whole conversation. I asked the writer to insert two words to clarify what I meant.
It would be great if you could insert “is related to” at xxx in the phrase “What he is pointing out is that the vast majority of chronic pain symptoms are xxx the repression of one’s emotions.” As it is now it suggests it is imagined
I think I had made it clear in the wide-ranging discussion that the situation isn’t black or white. Though the article states that “This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity”, they refused to change the quote for the sake of clarity. However, this was a minor issue. The real problem was when they changed the headline to a more sensational one: “This Doctor Believes Your Back Pain Is All In Your Head”. Again, I sent a note asking that this be changed because I thought it did a great disservice to his work.
Thanks again for taking the time to write the article, and to get it done before our Kickstarter ended. It’s certainly gotten a lot of discussion going.
I understand that you won’t change quotes- However I do hope that you can change the title though as it does a disservice to the ideas of Dr. Sarno and the people who have been helped by them. To say that he “thinks it’s all in your head” is a misnomer that he has had to battle for decades. Instead he is saying that the repression of one’s emotions is a primary causative factor in back and neck pain- rather than the structural ones being put forth by many other people. By using the phrase “all in one’s head” those who are in pain feel dismissed and made fun of, and they react as one might expect.
The whole point of the film is to examine how the process works, and we want to do that with empathy and compassion. The pain is real, not imagined. I know this as I have dealt with it. However, it does have to do with the mind body connection and most of the medical system does not recognize this, which is extremely problematic.
The writer responded to let me know that she was not responsible for the headline, but that she would ask the editor to consider to look into it. It never got changed. The comments section became a battleground rather than a discussion. I’ve spent a long time trying to figure out how to push forward the discussion about the mind body connection, so it’s a bit frustrating that the first press for the film went so badly. However, it was a good reminder that people are very passionate about this issue. Ironically, I had written about how important it is to be even handed just a few days before this article appeared. The first paragraph of that piece read,
“All the Rage” is not meant to be an attack on medicine, though those who are deeply embedded, and invested, in current practice might feel that it is. Instead, it’s an attempt to re-illuminate the connection between our minds and bodies that is too often stuck in the blind spot of the current medical system. The mechanistic model that holds sway at the moment, in which pathogens and “chemical imbalances” are largely tackled through pharmaceutical interventions, has created some astounding advances that have saved untold people from both death and suffering. However, the same structures that have led to these successes have made it difficult to see, or deal with, the complex emotional realities that are often at the core of our disease. People who are aligned with the rigid structures of the scientific method often dismiss the work of Dr. Sarno, because they feel that they need to see data that proves he is correct about his contention that the repression of our emotions is a causative factor in pain syndromes. However, the kind of complex psycho physical processes that lead to health problems are difficult to measure, so they often go unstudied. While it’s simple to see that our emotions affect our health, it’s not easy to figure out what to do about that.
In my conversation with Huffington Post I believe I expressed similar sentiments. I’ll be much more careful with each word that I use going forward. However, there is some good news to come out of the article. Those people who understand the mind body perspective and were cured by paying attention to it, responded to the vitriol in the comments section with patience and good humor. Further, one woman who had suffered from severe leg pain for 8 years found almost immediate relief as she read the article. If the post helped even one person end nearly a decade of constant debilitating pain, it was a good thing.