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The sun that didn’t shine

By Timothy Cocks Metaphor and language 09 Oct 2015

From The Conversation:

Blame it on biology: how explanations of mental illness influence treatment

“…people who hold biogenetic (biological and genetic) explanations of mental health disorders tend to have some negative perceptions of those who experience them. They view these people as relatively dangerous, unpredictable and unlikely to recover, and seek greater distance from them.

…biogenetic explanations reduce empathy among clinicians… The clinicians consistently reported feeling less empathy for clients whose problems were ascribed to biogenetic causes.

People who believe their problems have biogenetic causes tend to opt for biomedical treatments… In recent decades, lay people’s explanations of mental health problems have become increasingly biogenetic. This is contributing to steep increases in the use of psychiatric medication and declining rates of psychotherapy… Clients who attribute their mental health problems to biology tend to believe that they have limited control over their problems.” 

Quite a nasty triple threat – implications for the person experiencing mental illness, their treatment providers and the perception of that individual within society. But…

We cannot ignore the scientific evidence that neurobiological and genetic factors contribute to mental health problems. To do so would be to throw the psychiatric baby out with its bathwater. But we need to be mindful that biogenetic explanations have a dark side when it comes to treatment, as they do for public stigma.

The challenge for clinicians and clients alike is to overcome the tendency to view suffering individuals as broken mechanisms. Mental health problems have a biological component, but that fact does not dissolve the person’s subjective experience and individuality(emphasis added)

There are links to, and perhaps a cautionary tale for, Explaining Pain here.

-Tim Cocks

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P.S. The title? From Stevie Wonder’s Blame It On The Sun, seemed apt for the subject matter;

Wish I could tell you,

What I am feeling

But, words won’t come for me to speak


But I’ll blame it on the sun

The sun that didn’t shine

I’ll blame it on the wind and the trees


  1. Hi Tim,

    Milton Erickson approached all his patients with the absolute certainty that every one of them was already perfectly normal and perfectly healthy.

    The process then became one of DE-hypnotizing them from the illness which was overlying this perfection.

    He was one of the best. He was one of the best because he achieved fantastic outcomes for clients. Outcomes for clients. Maybe we can adopt a similar mindset?


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