The big reveal: what I really do when I am not producing docu-mental
Plus, the seven steps to creating herd immunity to anxiety and depression
vol. 3 issue 26
Three years before covid was a thing, I trademarked the phrase “Creating Herd Immunity to Anxiety and Depression™”. That is what I intended to do with docu-mental: mapping the american state of mind. I had no idea that “herd immunity” was lurking along the edges of our Zeitgeist, or that it would be a useful framework for a public discussion about freedom.
I simply believed there was a connection between our public and economic policies and our ever-increasing rates of anxiety and depression. I also suspected that the notion of freedom had intentionally been twisted into a propaganda tool. Soon, I discovered the idea of “herd immunity” would also become warped.
Writing and podcasting my way through both the pandemic and the 45th presidential administration changed me at a fundamental level. It helped purify my sense of purpose, and to my surprised delight, helped to calm my own fears and embrace an optimism that is antithetical to my former levels of anxiety.
In effect, docu-mental has become an exercise in the healing performance art of thinking deeply and clearly, out loud.
I haven’t always gotten it right. My views on police reform, controversial to many of my readers, for example, are still evolving, thanks to readers who took the time to educate and dialog with me offline. Still, my sincere desire to push aside the clutter in pursuit of what’s true, I hope is detected and appreciated by my audience.
In my experience, security, and thus freedom, are rooted in curiosity and a willingness to ask more and better questions, ones that challenge the status quo.
Every docu-mentaled trip I’ve made through our american mindset seems to have led to the same place: a crumbling, but still indomitable, hierarchy that separates us from the despairing soul imprisoned within. My curiosity, witnessed by each of you who have helped sustain this publication, has led me to conclude the infectious agent of our nation is hierarchical thinking. If you’ve not been along for the ride, check the archives and soon you will be caught up.
Hierarchy makes us all sick, no matter where we might be in the linear order of things, no matter with what symptoms we present. It infects freedom and democracy, and its “mechanism of action” is its ability to separate us from ourselves and one another.
It is the basis for nearly every single public and economic policy set in place in this nation.
Without hierarchy, we would not have the clamor for equality that proliferates across all demographics. We would not need it. We would instead have equal justice before the law, equitably shared resources, and peaceful tolerance of all that is not the same but certainly equal about each of us in the eyes of justice and freedom.
The docu-mental method
In the meantime, to say I am creating herd immunity to anxiety and depression™ implies I have a methodology. Happily, I do. It’s one backed by the long division of all the docu-mental analyses I’ve written and the conversations I’ve had with my guests, all of which have been made possible by your varying material support and loyal readership.
Consequently, reflecting upon all that I have learned, I have come to believe that much of what has been omitted from our lexicon of coping can be found by looking to what science dismisses and what marketing and money try to control when it comes to how we engage.
That is to say, the only antidote I have found to the poisonous mindset of hierarchy is loving kindness.
The personal essays, critical analyses, and interviews that comprise docu-mental, I hope, demonstrate how complex and nuanced this finding about kindness as cure actually is.
The big reveal
I have come to accept that for me, working with others to administer the healing power of kindness is best achieved through purposeful dialog with the heavens. Astrology, in other words.
That I have over the course of the past year become a professional astrologer might not really be that much of a shock, considering the increased number of astrologers I have featured on the podcast, but here in Washington, revealing who you really are, professing what you actually believe, and aligning your actions with your words is just not the trend. That too, even though a sad statement of fact, is also not likely to shock you.
Having made my career and reputation as a science writer and policy reporter, it took some time to accept, much less admit publicly that I have so changed my profession, for fear of being ridiculed and ostracized, but decades of suspecting that there was more to this life than consuming and obeying has always meant I have led two parallel lives: one that was acceptable to the status quo into which I was born and well-entrenched, and another “secret” one that was sometimes even ecstatic with joy and wonder, but not quantifiable or prescriptive.
That is the life that now joined with the one lived through my analytical mind and work calls me to my mission statement of helping create herd immunity to anxiety and depression.
You might think of astrology as delusional, even silly, but the field is deeply academic, taught by highly credentialed, rigorous scholars from many disciplines such as history, literature, linguistics, anthropology, and various medical specialties. My purpose here is not to defend it, only to declare that I value it. If you want to learn more about the field generally and my consulting practice specifically, you can visit my consulting practice website here.
What I have learned, and continue to learn, from producing docu-mental has deeply informed my one-on-one work with clients. And just like here on the page with you, I might not always get it quite right the first time. But, together, in earnest dialog with my clients, we clarify the paths that thread the way through the status quo cages around our authentic hearts and minds.
I wake up every day excited to continue my studies in the various academic schools of this ancient art and science, and especially to take on the challenge of helping decode people’s charts with them so they can unlock their truths and authentically claim their place in their communities.
This is the true foundation for how to create herd immunity to the infectious, pernicious disease of hierarchy. Anxiety and depression are merely its symptoms, whatever our clinical explanations and subsequent interventions for them might be. Focusing on healing the wholeness of each and every citizen leads to healing the wholeness of the nation. Unlike the herd immunity that some have asserted during this pandemic should come by way of just letting enough people get sick so they build their immune system, the kind of herd immunity I seek to create does not require collateral damage.
Similarly, it would be irresponsible of me to declare something is true without evidence, even if I am cautious and critical of what others have termed “scientism”. Looking back, however, I realize some of my podcast guests have laid the groundwork for us to reconsider the hierarchical framework we currently use for collecting and measuring our minds and other aspects of our mental distress.
Among the most exciting body of research along these lines is that of Sapien Labs founder and Stanford-trained neurologist, Tara Thiagarajan, PhD who shared with us that her team’s investigations into how defining mental health is impossible without the collaboration of those being evaluated. This is in stark contrast with the top-down hierarchical approach most of our science has been founded upon to date.
If we don’t understand the whole spectrum of how people behave, we don’t really know where to draw the line between what is normal and abnormal,” Dr. Thiagarajan says in
this interview. “How do we define mental well-being? Until now, there have been no tools that account for the full spectrum of human responses to life’s experiences.
The status quo likes to put astrology down as a “pseudo-science”, but my own experience fuels my expectation that this condescension will eventually give way, especially as new clinical end points such as those sought by Dr. Thiagarajan and others are developed and tested.
To wit, I remember practicing yoga in relative secret in the most unlikely of places: a dusty, unused conference room in the top floor of an Upstate New York department store flagship location that had seen better days. This was back in the late 1980s when yoga was considered outré and the only way to learn about the classes was by word-of-mouth. Now, for good or for ill, yoga is a multi-billion dollar industry, with a growing body of clinical literature behind it. Meanwhile, billions are already being invested in apps to proliferate astrology. Could the scientific literature be far behind?
Especially among astrology’s old guard, the field’s growing popularity is cause for concern. They worry that bashing this technical art with the same blunt instruments of the reductionist, cause and effect world of consumerism will force it to act in ways deleterious to its inherent nature, which is mystical, even if based on precise rules and a traditional canon of literature that has been interrogated as thoroughly as any scientific or other field of study.
I am certain their concerns are valid, but really, my own considered view is that we are as much acted upon as we are the actors in what happens in this world. Zeitgeists come upon us; we merely detect their arrival even if we are unsure at first what it is we are perceiving, as evidenced by my own experience with the compulsion to create herd immunity, even while ignorant we were at the edge of an ensuing pandemic.
And so, like it or not, it seems astrology’s time is soon to come, or even already has.
Either way, the anecdotal evidence I have of the field’s efficacy for now is that my practice has grown simply by repeat business and referrals, just as did the yoga circles I frequented decades ago. When people find something that elevates their level of self-acceptance they like to practice and share it.
So, there it is. My other life, now entwined with this one. My mission to create herd immunity now has its method and means.
Activating the immune response to anxiety and depression
While I am unsure as to the origins of the destructive global pandemic of hierarchical thinking — what on Earth could ever have compelled some humans to seek ways to enslave and own other human beings, for example — I have faith in the idea that we can still protect ourselves from the disease of hierarchy destroying us.
In keeping with the infectious disease analogy, how do we cultivate a robust response to injections of kindness in order to protect us against the anxiety and depression that results from hierarchical thinking?
The lessons I’ve learned producing docu-mental each week have helped me delineate seven steps I now consider core to cultivating that immunity to anxiety and depression, both in ourselves and so in turn, our communities. I’ve listed them below. They also happen to be the very same steps I’ve found crucial to dismantling the hierarchy.
The more of us that cultivate this immunity, the stronger the herd. The stronger the herd, the more likely our policies will change and peace will prevail.
Next week I return with the promised podcast, this one with Alice Sparkly Kat.
Until then, I wish you peace.
Seven steps to creating herd immunity to anxiety and depression:
Be humble. You are probably not as smart as you think you are, no matter how many degrees or how much “street cred” you have.
Be curious. Ask more questions, better questions. Don’t assume what you’ve been told is the whole story.
Be patient. You probably don’t have the whole story about anything at all, but that most likely is not because you are a special target and people are out to get you. Believing that is hierarchical paranoia. People might be holding back on you, but most likely, they are just doing what they are told and modeling what they see. Jostle them from their complacency. But don’t hurt them. To do so is unbalanced. Are you unbalanced?
Solve problems, don’t create them. The world as we know it is ending. Focus on the future because it’s here and it’s wild and to enter it alone is to die. Creating problems for people wastes time. We don’t have time to waste. Don’t be a jerk. Narcissism is disgusting and it doesn’t work. Connect with others instead.
Stay focused. The status quo is entrenched by the aggregation and manipulation of our attention. Don’t be easily distracted. Essential to staying focused is to follow the money or the power trail. If you are obedient, who stands to gain at your expense? These are topics explored at length in the pages of docu-mental. Check the archives. Whose dream are you dreaming?
Test your truth. It’s really just steps one through five, with conscious intent. Reality is an excellent feedback mechanism. Use it. Does life seem to add up to what you are learning from what you are asking, doing, and experiencing?
Be responsible. Blaming is losing. We can only demand others take responsibility by first taking it ourselves. Look around. Who can teach you such maturity? I have found elders and others in the black, brown, queer, and “other” communities who figured all this out long before I came along thinking I am so smart. They welcome and love me all the same. I seek to return the favor.