Speech presented at the United Nations annual conference in New York, September 7, 2005 by WCP delegates to the UN, Professor José T. Thomé, M.D from Brazil and Guillermo Garrido, M.D, from Venezuela.
Title: Introducing A Holistic and Practical Vision of Human Rights from different Perspectives: the Psychotherapy Perspective
This United Nations workshop is addressing how we can achieve a holistic and practical vision of human rights from different perspectives. Our addition to this equation is to add a psychotherapeutic perspective. This perspective recognizes the basic human right to be free from fear. Through psychotherapy, people can solve personal conflicts that create fear, so that they can feel peace within themselves and therefore feel peaceful towards other people.
We present this perspective as a representative of the World Council for Psychotherapy. The WCP is an international organization of therapists from all over the world, whose mission is to address – and eliminate -- emotional suffering. We are all familiar with the experience of suffering; however we usually think of suffering as related to physical illness, poverty, lack of education, and other problems addressed by the Millennium Development Goals (the MDGs).
Last week thousands of psychotherapists from over 50 countries met at the annual meeting of the WCP in Buenos Aires Argentina. At a symposium on WCP’s role in the United Nations, we realized that a 9th goal can be added to the impressive 8 Millennium Development Goals. This 9th MDG would insure human dignity and freedom from fear that would help achieve collective security and reduce violence, genocide and war.
This proposed 9th MDG is freedom from emotional suffering.
Statistics show that up to twenty percent of people in the world suffer from emotional problems, especially depression and anxiety. Women suffer twice as much depression as men. High rates of suicide, especially of adolescents, are increasing in every country. Drug and alcohol abuse is also increasing; for example, after the tsunami, a dramatic increase in alcoholism was noted in the region. The disintegration of the family, and domestic violence, is pervasive in every country. Add to this, the financial cost of stress that leads to sickness, reduced productivity, and missed work days costs countries billions of dollars.
Emotional suffering further impacts maternal health, child health, and vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases. Therefore, addressing emotional suffering helps to achieve the other MDG goals.
A major study from Kaiser Permanente Hospital has shown that solving such emotional suffering reduces medical problems by 70 percent.
A Brazilian philosopher and psychoanalyst, Jurandir Friere de Costa, has proposed that humankind is suffering from a syndrome of uncertainty, where people are out of touch with their own personal pain and the pain of others. Only when this personal pain and the pain of others is addressed can people regain a sense of human dignity, be free of fear, and extend tolerance to others. This will reduce aggression, prevent acts of domination towards other cultures and religions, and help people resist the impulse to resort to violence against others in order to assert a false sense of power and superiority.
There are several reasons people feel fear and a lack of human dignity. One major reason is alienation people feel from their own culture. This alienation can be a negative outcome of globalization, whereby people lose contact with their own unique local customs and feel an internal void. Coming from Brazil, I am aware of this problem in Latin America. The same internal and cultural void from alienation from local customs is happening for many indigenous peoples.
What is psychotherapy and how can it help increase human dignity, and reduce fear and impulses leading to war, violence and genocide?
In psychotherapy, people are able to express their feelings in a protected environment, to a person trained to listen with understanding and compassion. The process helps people reconnect with – and honor -- their roots, affirm their identity, and develop healthy ways of being in the world.
In the European and Western system, psychotherapists use “talk therapy” and varied techniques to alter emotions, thoughts and behaviors. In other cultures, in parts of South America (where we come from), as well as parts of Africa, Russia, Asia, Canada, the United States, and so on, relief of emotional suffering is provided by traditional healers, some of whom are called shamans or medicine people. Traditional healers use rituals, including dancing and singing, and ceremonies to transform negative or evil spirits.
The main goal is not only to work in psychotherapeutic settings, but to encourage multi-stakeholder dialogue with the intention of mutual understanding, reconciliation, and the construction of common fields of discourse.
At the United Nations, in forums like this, we have the opportunity to exchange information about how these psychotherapies work. When a person’s emotional suffering is addressed, the personal, interpersonal, social and financial costs lessen. By restoring an individual’s human dignity, and personal and cultural identity through psychotherapy, people can regain emotional resilience and achieve sustainable mental health to overcome fear and deal effectively with personal suffering and trauma in the world.
Submitted by: Alfred Pritz, Ph.D. (Austria), Judy Kuriansky,Ph.D. (U.S.A.), Darlyne G. Nemeth, Ph.D. (U.S.A.), Gloria Alvernaz Mulcahy, Ph.D. (Canada), Neil Walsh (U.S.A.), and Sylvester Ntomchukwu Madu, Ph.D. (South Africa).