The DSM 5 — Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — now recognizes hoarding as a disorder. Google [CBS News Seeking help for hoarding] for a short report on this. Frankly, I say we have more of a diagnostic disorder. In our quest to identify human problems as disorders, we are blind to the core cause of many so-called disorders. How can we effectively deal with a set of problems as long as we avoid accepting core causes? This is like the binding of women’s feet in China and then diagnosing a walking disorder in females.
Seeing Problems vs. Accepting Causes
Overall, we’re quick to identify problems, yet very slow to face the underlying causes. Some of this is due to the ease of seeing problems versus the toil involved in seeking underlying causes. Another reason may be that we fear facing true causes, partly because many have no real solution. Finally, facing true causes threatens advantages we hold dear. We feel we’ll lose out… we want to have our cake and eat it too, as it were. Hence, we just stick our head in the sand and grasp onto superficial solutions. All this amounts to the ‘ignorance is bliss’ side of life.
Fortunately, I find seeking and facing the core cause of a problem doesn’t deprive me of the ignorance is bliss side. I retain an ignorance about knowing what to do, and chapter 3’s doing without doing (wéi wú wéi) hints at how to find bliss in that ignorance. Knowing that something needs doing doesn’t mean I am willing or capable of dealing with it. I suspect our innate belief in free will may actually hinder our ability to see things as impartially as they are. For example, if we admitted civilization or language had serious downsides, we’d instinctively feel duty-bound to change these. However, sensing the impossibility of corrective changes, at least over the short term, we naturally rationalize alternative reasons that promise quick solutions. Owning up to realities that we are powerless to change threatens our entire free will paradigm, and perhaps civilization itself. The true causes are overwhelming and so it feels so much safer to stick our heads in the sand.
This feels sad, but as Buddha’s First Truth begins, “Life is sorrowful”. Clearly, we can’t return to living a hunter-gatherer existence, nor return to our pre-language primordial state. We are stuck with imagination, thought, and language. We are stuck with civilization. We could never give up the added comfort and security these afford us. Nevertheless, I find ruthlessly facing the facts helps me manage problems better even if the causes are irreversible. This is especially true vis-à-vis the negative consequences of civilization and language.
Our all or nothing tendencies also hinder our perspective, and thus an ability to see beyond ourselves. Everything stands disproportionately large in our present. In truth, we are still in the early phases of self-discovery as a literate species. It was only a few thousand years ago that Buddha succinctly articulated the practical causes of human suffering, and early Taoist articulated the ultimate subtler sides the human cognitive problem: names, words, and thinking which altogether add up to language.
Our list of disorders grows and grows.
As you read the list of disorders in the chart below, try to imagine the likelihood of these being disorders under hunter-gather circumstances. Surely, any genetic susceptibilities between hunter-gather times and now would not have changed. Only the circumstances have changed, and thus can be held to account. For instance, any aboriginal with Hitler’s genes would not have the same affect on the tribe because circumstances would make the historical Hitler’s behaviors impossible. Indeed, a ’hunter-gatherer Hitler’ would not stand out at all. The healthy circumstances of his upbringing would have made him fairly normal.
Circumstances strongly affect how genetic traits play out. We, like other animals, are naturally attracted to rich food. In the wild, high caloric content favors survival. In the cornucopia of modern civilization, obesity and eating disorders result. In the social isolation of modern civilization, anxiety and psychiatric disorders exist. In material abundance, a hoarding disorder follows naturally. In a techno-academic culture, dyslexia stands out.
Since civilization is here to stay, these problems are not going away. However, accepting that either civilization and/or language are primary causes of these disorders could only help to understand and manage these situations better. Perhaps many would agree that circumstances of civilization play a key role, and yet we never hear this addressed. Or if we do, the complaints focus on the specific evils of civilization, such as, war, capitalism, drugs, etc. We think that if we could just rid civilization of those bad aspects, everything would be great again. Like I said, we want our cake and eat it too, which makes it terribly difficult to face life honestly.
The following is from The Kim Foundation. They seem to do a good job of outlining our main disorders.
Mental disorders are common in the United States and internationally. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older or about one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year.
Children diagnosed with Autism 2% Boys diagnosed with ADHD 11.20% Girls diagnosed with ADHD 5.50% Dyslexia disorder occurs in an estimated 10% Obsessive-compulsive disorder at some point in life 2.30% Mood disorders 9.50% Anxiety disorders 18% Panic disorder 2.70% Social phobia 6.80% Eating disorders 5% Hoarding disorder 5% Feeling they have too much stuff. 33%
Viola! The Hording Disorder
Professor of Psychology Randy Frost studied hoarding for 20 years. I list a few of his findings below. Again, consider these finding vis-à-vis a hunter-gather existence. One thing that stands out at once is how this inherited hoarding trait would be an asset to anyone living in the wild. Wilderness living would keep hoarding in balance just as it does for our attraction to rich food. Most, if not all, of our so-called disorders would facilitate survival in the wild. Are we not like Cinderella’s sisters trying to stuff our fat civilized feet into nature’s slipper?
1) Hoarding affects people across the whole economic spectrum;
2) There is evidence that hoarding behavior is inherited, at least in part;
3) A significant number of hoarders also suffer from depression;
4) The region of the brain that determines the importance of objects (the Anterior Cingulate Cortex) shows abnormal activity when hoarders are faced with making decisions about dealing with their belongings.
“The cut-off for where this becomes a disorder really has to do with the place at which this behavior influences their functioning, to the point that it is harmful or impairing their ability to live,” said Frost.