I’m really sick of the cliché, propounded by both the
natural-healing and the medical professions, that we should listen
to our bodies. I propose a more reciprocal relationship: Our bodies
should also listen to us.
I’m not proposing to fight fate with wishful thinking. What I
really want is for the medical profession, the pharmaceutical
industry, the healing ‘profession,’ and the developers of medical
technology to move toward a more collaborative–as opposed to
authoritative–relationship with the ‘patient.’
In the 1950s, in the field of psychotherapy, Timothy Leary
proposed a change in the doctor-patient relationship that has
largely been adopted. The therapist would no longer be the one to
define optimal psychological health, make a judgment about the
patient’s state, and offer proscriptive and prescriptive regimens
for improvement. Rather, patients would be presented with a chart
defining current behaviors and attitudes, then define their goals
according to a realistic assessment of their potential. The
therapist would be a ‘coach,’ helping patients get to where they
wanted to go.
The medical profession needs to make the same transition. Right
now, I have an ulcer and asthma. These conditions obstruct the life
I want and need. The social lubrication of going out for drinks,
for instance, is seriously impeded. I can no longer use
Leaving pleasure (a perfectly valid need) aside, these denials
have their own consequences. Mixing it up in an alcohol-loosened
environment leads to new relationships, connections, opportunities,
projects. Occasional stimulants increase my productivity and
provide a clarity that results in life-changing decisions.
Recently, I visited several doctors to discuss combating my
lifestyle restrictions with stronger medicines. Three different
doctors told me that, yes, it would be possible to prescribe
stronger medications that might allow me to live more the way I
choose without increased suffering. But they wouldn’t do it. They
were adamant that I follow the proscriptions for the pathology; the
prescriptions should be secondary. This attitude needs to
In my dream life, we get together with our doctors and tell them
what we’d like, without guilt or taboo. ‘I’d like to be able to
drink one or two glasses of beer with dinner every evening, doc.
I’d like to be able to get an erection five times a day. I’d like
to be able to use a little pick-me-up a couple of times a week. And
party like a complete maniac on Saturday night.’ The doctor and I
put our heads together. My dream doctors are so well informed that
they know of a new brain drug that releases increased vasopressin
without any side effects. Another drug, combined with a specific
food, counteracts the acidic effects of alcohol. And so on.
Together, we chart a more satisfactory regime.
This sounds like the crazed rantings of a dope fiend–and it is.
But so what? The notion that our bodies should conform to our
agenda is already at the center of feminist and transsexual
Sex-change operations and breast implants are examples of
procedures that require medical professionals to acknowledge an
individual’s agenda and to give it precedence over the absolute
ideal of risk-free care with intervention only when physical
pathologies exist. In this situation, the doctor becomes the coach,
and the patient defines the goal.
Of course, asking society to work toward autonomous drug-taking
by redirecting the medical profession away from authoritarianism
and toward collaboration is pretty much tantamount to coupling a
taboo and a pariah.
But that’s OK. This is the age of Jack Kevorkian and Larry
Flynt, when the neomorality crusade of the mainstream media awaits
a hailstorm of taboo-smashing. Within my lifetime, I expect to be
among the first human beings in civilization to be treated as a
From 21 C (Issue 24). Subscriptions:
$24/yr. (4 issues) from Box 3000, Denville, NJ 07834.