Cultural Factors Perpetuate Our Problems II

Ronald Goldman, PhD

Misplaced Focus on the Physical

Our materialistic view of the body gives rise to medical materialism and reflects our cultural materialism. Years ago, twin girls were born premature in a Worcester hospital. They were placed in separate incubators conforming to standard practice in the neonatal intensive care unit. One baby had breathing and heart problems. After a few weeks, she deteriorated into critical condition and was not expected to live. The nurse tried everything to stabilize her, but nothing helped. Then she had an idea and placed the critical baby in the incubator holding the twin sister from whom she had separated since birth.

Immediately, they snuggled together, and the healthier baby put her arm over her weaker sister to embrace her. The weaker baby’s heart rate stabilized, and her temperature rose to normal. She then recovered. Providing the weak infant with only technology focused on physical support was not enough. She needed human touch and emotional connection.

In another example, many medical researchers have wrongly assumed that genes have the primary role in shaping the developing brain for peaceful or violent behaviors. They have also wrongly assumed that deficiencies of hormones and body chemicals are the causes of behavior problems when instead these deficiencies are often connected with adverse previous experience. As I stated elsewhere, experience changes biology. Mistaken beliefs have misdirected research for the past half-century and have prevented creating programs centered on prevention. A primary reason is that there are billions of dollars to be made by drug companies who seek to change and control behavior rather than dealing with the origins of such behavior.

Other Cultural Factors

The perpetuation of cultural practices that disrupt the mother-child bond is part of a repeating cycle. One effect of disrupted bonding is alienation, which is widespread in our society. Researchers have shown that lonely subjects have less confidence in their opinions and are less willing to disclose them. This condition makes them vulnerable to conformity. By relieving the sense of isolation, conformity gives us the illusion of the connectedness we seek. The tendency to conform leads to the continuation of cultural practices, which lead to another cycle of disrupted bonding.

Another factor that hinders change is our cultural arrogance, which makes it harder for us as a society to reconsider our actions and admit our mistakes. Compared to other countries, we want to believe we are right. As a result, we recognize the suffering and pain we have endured but deny the suffering and pain we have inflicted.

Our arrogance is apparent in another respect. Those who support our disruptive cultural practices implicitly suggest that they know better than nature, God, or whatever created us and our world. Their choices imply that what is natural cannot trusted, or that it can improved by human intervention. Invariably, this attitude gets us into serious trouble.