On the Day I Die

By Rumi

On the day I die,
when I am being carried toward the grave,
don’t weep. Don’t say, He’s gone, He’s gone.

Death has nothing to do with going away,
The sun sets and the moon sets,
but they’re not gone.

Death is a coming together.
The tomb looks like a prison,
but it’s really release into union.

The human seed goes down into the ground
like a bucket into the well where Joseph is.

It grows and comes up
full of some unimagined beauty.

Your mouth closes here
and immediately opens
with a shout of joy there.

Rumi – Translated by Coleman Barks

(Contributed by Zoë Robinson, H.W., M. on the passing of Prospero Joe Ciriello on August 28, 2021)

Book: “God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church”

God's Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church

God’s Perfect Child: Living and Dying in the Christian Science Church

by Caroline Fraser

From a former Christian Scientist, the first unvarnished account of one of America’s most controversial and little-understood religious movements.

Millions of Americans-from Lady Astor to Ginger Rogers to Watergate conspirator H. R. Haldeman-have been touched by the Church of Christ, Scientist. Founded by Mary Baker Eddy in 1879, Christian Science was based on a belief that intense contemplation of the perfection of God can heal all ills-an extreme expression of the American faith in self-reliance. In this unflinching investigation, Caroline Fraser, herself raised in a Scientist household, shows how the Church transformed itself from a small, eccentric sect into a politically powerful and socially respectable religion, and explores the human cost of Christian Science’s remarkable rise.

Fraser examines the strange life and psychology of Mary Baker Eddy, who lived in dread of a kind of witchcraft she called Malicious Animal Magnetism. She takes us into the closed world of Eddy’s followers, who refuse to acknowledge the existence of illness and death and reject modern medicine, even at the cost of their children’s lives. She reveals just how Christian Science managed to gain extraordinary legal and Congressional sanction for its dubious practices and tracks its enormous influence on new-age beliefs and other modern healing cults.

A passionate exposé of zealotry, God’s Perfect Child tells one of the most dramatic and little-known stories in American religious history.


Living in Fear: Christian Science and Hypochondria

This post is by ExCS group contributor Karen C.

 BY THE EXCS (exchristianscience.com)

In God’s Perfect Child, Caroline Fraser writes a few sentences that carry a lot of weight in my life. In a section about Ex Christian Science authors who have published accounts of their experiences, she calls out

“the hypochondria and narcissism that are characteristic of the Christian Science way of life: when you have no way of knowing what’s wrong with you, particularly when you’re a child, you fear the worst, becoming more obsessed with your body the more you try to repress any thoughts about it. Exaggerated fears can arise from the simplest symptoms, or even from no symptoms at all.” (Fraser, 1999, p. 325)

This was me. I was plagued by fears for my health. Sometimes the fears were fleeting: “What if that’s an ingrown toenail?” The next day, I’d be fine and forget about it. Other times, fears gathered into dread that spanned weeks, months, or years: “Why is my breathing shallow? Do I have a heart condition?” Some fears were not put to rest until I left Christian Science and began medical checkups.

So I’d like to list them. Here are all the health scares I can remember having in my life as a Christian Scientist. There were more, I’m sure, now fortunately forgotten. I’ll start the list with Lyme disease because I distinctly remember, as a girl of 14, lying awake one school night, tossing and turning in fear that I had this disease, because I’d seen news reports about it.

Lyme disease
pink eye
heart disease
internal bleeding
various kinds of infection
an ingrown toenail
a broken toe
a stroke

Without knowledge of the body, I could think that I had appendicitis because I felt a pain on my left side. Without knowledge of the health care system, I could be overcome with dread at the thought of pink eye: How do I heal it? Fears common to the human experience (“Is something wrong with me? Am I going to die?”) blew up even bigger in my mind because I knew I would have to heal myself alone, with only my thoughts, with no ability to discuss what I was going through.

I’m actually a fairly healthy person, and now I realize that I always have been. The tragedy is that instead of enjoying my health, I spent decades magnifying the smallest symptoms into something disastrous. My physical health was fine; my mental health quivered and quaked and tore itself down over and over again.

Another tragedy, more difficult for me to articulate, lies in the narcissism that Fraser mentions. People in this world actually do experience diabetes, thrombosis, and other serious conditions for which a cure is challenging or nonexistent. And I think that all my crawling fears prevented me from feeling sympathy for those afflicted. It was all about me: If symptoms persisted, I was afraid. If they did not, then I could assure myself that the condition wasn’t real because disease is unreal because God didn’t make it. A person in the real world who accepted the reality of disease might learn about a condition, rally to bring awareness to it, give to a cause to find a cure, become a healthcare professional, or do something else real and practical.

I’ll conclude with a story about my life since leaving CS: Last year, I was the support person for a friend who underwent surgery. I was to take him to and from the hospital and stay with him for a week afterward. The night before surgery, my throat felt sore. Then the thought: “Oh no. What if I’ve caught the flu! What if I pass it along to him!” Thoughts spiraled; panic grew. But I went to bed anyway. As I lay there, trying to sleep, I told myself, “Let’s be realistic: I did get my flu shot two weeks ago. And now, either I have something or I don’t. Time will tell. The best thing for me to do is get plenty of rest.” I slept, and I woke up feeling fine. And the surgery went smoothly.

It’s a vulnerable existence, knowing that an illness or accident could come and knock me over at any time, and even if I did muster an army of “God-like thoughts,” it would make no difference. But unforeseen events are part of life. Frankly, it’s much, much better to accept reality than to live in ignorance and fear.

Work Cited:
Fraser, C. (1999). God’s perfect child: Living and dying in the Christian Science church. New York, NY: Metropolitan Books.

The ExCS

This site offers support resources to help individuals negotiate a transition in a manner that best fits their needs and convictions. We do not advocate any one particular path but acknowledge that there are many legitimate pathways that can be personally and spiritually fulfilling.

Tarot card for August 31: The Ten of Wands

The Ten of Wands

The Lord of Oppression is a hard card to come to grips with, for it indicates blocked or thwarted Will. We want something badly, and yet we seem to stand no chance of getting it. We feel frustrated, irritable and disappointed.

If a situation marked by the Ten of Wands goes on for too long, we will begin to feel trapped and deeply unhappy. We will begin to lose faith in ourselves, and our abilities to make our lives into what we want.

There are a couple of things to bear in mind if the influence of the Lord of Oppression is a fairly fleeting one – sometimes we have to wait for the right moment to get our heart’s desire.

However it’s worth bearing in mind, if you ever read on a specific situation, and this card comes up in the final result position, the reading is probably telling you not to waste any more effort on a conflict that you cannot win. Sometimes we are better off just walking away.

The long-term appearance of this card carries a warning with it that you really cannot ignore. If the Ten of Wands is a regular feature of your readings for some time, you are probably hurting yourself more than you care to admit. You are not fulfilling your needs, and you are leaving yourself open to negativity.

Time to get a little bit of Ace energy in there, and sort things out!

The Ten of Wands

(via angelpaths.com and Alan Blackman)

The mind does not exist

The mind does not exist | Aeon

The terms ‘mind’ and ‘mental’ are messy, harmful and distracting. We should get rid of themEmbodiment. Photo by Denis Sinyakov/ReutersJoe Gough

is a PhD student in philosophy at the University of Sussex in the UK.

Edited bySally Davies

30 August 2021 (aeon.co)

Aeon for Friends


Someone’s probably told you before that something you thought, felt or feared was ‘all in your mind’. I’m here to tell you something else: there’s no such thing as the mind and nothing is mental. I call this the ‘no mind thesis’. The no-mind thesis is entirely compatible with the idea that people are conscious, and that they think, feel, believe, desire and so on. What it’s not compatible with is the notion that being conscious, thinking, feeling, believing, desiring and so on are mental, part of the mind, or done by the mind.

The no-mind thesis doesn’t mean that people are ‘merely bodies’. Instead, it means that, when faced with a whole person, we shouldn’t think that they can be divided into a ‘mind’ and a ‘body’, or that their properties can be neatly carved up between the ‘mental’ and the ‘non-mental’. It’s notable that Homeric Greek lacks terms that can be consistently translated as ‘mind’ and ‘body’. In Homer, we find a view of people as a coherent collection of communicating parts – ‘the spirit inside my breast drives me’; ‘my legs and arms are willing’. A similar view of human beings, as a big bundle of overlapping, intelligent systems in near-constant communication, is increasingly defended in cognitive science and biology.

The terms mind and mental are used in so many ways and have such a chequered history that they carry more baggage than meaning. Ideas of the mind and the mental are simultaneously ambiguous and misleading, especially in various important areas of science and medicine. When people talk of ‘the mind’ and ‘the mental’, the no-mind thesis doesn’t deny that they’re talking about something – on the contrary, they’re often talking about too many things at once. Sometimes, when speaking of ‘the mind’, people really mean agency; other times, cognition; still others, consciousness; some uses of ‘mental’ really mean psychiatric; others psychological; others still immaterial; and yet others, something else.

This conceptual blurriness is fatal to the usefulness of the idea of ‘the mind’. To be fair, many concepts build bridges: they exhibit a specific, generally harmless kind of ambiguity called polysemy, with slightly different meanings in different contexts. The flexibility and elasticity of polysemy binds disparate areas of research and practice together, priming people to recognise their similarities and interrelatedness. For example, if a computer scientist talks about ‘computation’, they normally mean something slightly different than an engineer, a cognitive scientist or someone chatting with a friend means. The overarching concept of computation links all these conversations together, helping us to spot the commonalities between them.

The problem is that making links like this isn’t always a good idea. Sometimes it spurs creative interactions between different areas of expertise, and offers helpful analogies that would otherwise be hard to spot. But other instances of polysemy lead to harmful conflations and damaging analogies. They make people talk past each other, or become invested in defending or attacking certain concepts rather than identifying their shared goals. This can cement misunderstandings and stigma.

You’ve got to give it to mind and mental: they’re among the most polysemous concepts going around. Lawyers talk of ‘mental’ capacity, psychiatrists talk of ‘mental illness’, cognitive scientists claim to study ‘the mind’, as do psychologists, and as do some philosophers; many people talk of a ‘mind-body problem’, and many people wonder whether it’s OK to eat animals depending on whether they ‘have a mind’. These are only a few of many more examples. In each case, mind and mental mean something different: sometimes subtly different, sometimes not-so-subtly.

In such high-stakes domains, it’s vital to be clear. Many people are all too ready to believe that the problems of the ‘mentally ill’ are ‘all in their mind’. I’ve never heard anyone doubt that a heart problem can lead to problems outside the heart, but I’ve regularly had to explain to friends and family that ‘mental’ illnesses can have physiological effects outside ‘the mind’. Why do people so often find one more mysterious and apparently surprising than the other? It’s because many of the bridges built by mind and mental are bridges that it’s time to burn, once and for all.

The psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and ‘antipsychiatrist’ Thomas Szasz argued that there was no such thing as mental illness. He believed that mental illnesses were ‘problems of living’, things that made it hard to live well because they were bound up with personal conflicts, bad habits and moral faults. Therefore, mental illness was the sufferer’s own personal responsibility. As a consequence, Szasz claimed that psychiatry should be abolished as a medical discipline, since it had nothing to treat. If a person’s symptoms had a physiological basis, then they were physical disorders of the brain rather than ‘mental’ ones. And if the symptoms had no physiological basis, Szasz claimed, then they didn’t amount to a true ‘illness’.

This argument relied heavily on the idea that mental illnesses are categorically distinct from ‘physiological’ ones. It’s an instance of how the dualistic connotations of mind, associated with certain metaphysical theories of the mental, can be imported inappropriately into psychiatry. Yet many mental illnesses have physiological causes and effects, and even those with no clear physiological cause often warrant medical intervention, because the people suffering from such conditions still deserve medical help.

In contrast with Szasz, I believe that mental illnesses are mental only in that they are psychiatric. Ordinary understandings of the mind, and what is and isn’t part of it, have nothing to do with it. Perception is generally considered to be mental, a part of the mind – yet, while medicine considers deafness and blindness to be disorders of perception, it doesn’t class them as mental illnesses. Why? The answer is obvious: because psychiatrists generally aren’t the best doctors to treat deafness and blindness (if they need treatment, which many Deaf people in particular would reject).

When people talk about ‘the mind’ and ‘the mental’ in psychiatry, my first thought is always ‘What exactly do they mean?’ – which precise meaning of mind and mental are they drawing on, which other area are they trying to appeal to, which bridge are they trying to get me to cross? A ‘mental’ illness is just an illness that psychiatry is equipped to deal with. That’s determined as much by practical considerations about the skills psychiatrists have to offer, as it is by theoretical or philosophical factors. But this pragmatic approach hides itself behind appeals to ‘mental illness’. In many contexts, the term mental tends to bring along inappropriate and stigmatising connotations – showing that the wrong bridges have been built.

Convincing others that your pain is not ‘mental’ might be how you defended the reality of your condition

Imagine that you suffer from long-term, chronic pain. You go to the latest in a series of doctors: by this point, and especially if you are a member of a marginalised group (a woman or person of colour, say), doctors might have dismissed or disbelieved you; they might have assumed you were exaggerating your pain, or perhaps that you were a hypochondriac. After some tests, and some questions, you’re eventually told that your chronic pain is a mental illness, and referred to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist, you are told, will not prescribe drugs or surgery, but will instead prescribe psychotherapy, also known as ‘talk therapy’, and occasionally, ‘mental therapy’.

You might, quite reasonably, think that this doctor disbelieves you too. You know there is really something wrong, and that your pain is real, but the doctor is here telling you that your illness is mental, and in need of mental treatment. Perhaps they think that you have a delusion, or that you’re lying because of some kind of personality disorder? Convincing friends, family and colleagues – not to mention medical professionals – that your pain is not ‘mental’ might well be how you have defended the reality of your condition. Indeed, The Guardian recently published a series of articles investigating chronic pain, one of which was headlined: ‘Sufferers of Chronic Pain Have Long Been Told It’s All in Their Head. We Now Know That’s Wrong’. In other mainstream pieces on the topic, being referred to a psychiatrist is seen as tantamount to being disbelieved, dismissed or called a hypochondriac. Some advocates appear to argue that fibromyalgia (a condition that causes chronic pain) should not be considered a psychiatric condition because it is ‘real’ and not ‘imagined’.

It’s understandable that you might be annoyed for your condition to be branded a ‘mental illness’. But what about your doctor – what did they want you to take away from that interaction? It might well be that they absolutely believed that you were in severe, involuntary pain, caused by heightened sensitisation of the peripheral nervous system as a result of ‘rewiring’. Pain that results from rewiring of the nervous system is known as ‘nociplastic pain’, recently recognised as a highly medically significant category of pain. They don’t necessarily think you’re lying or delusional. In invoking ‘mental illness’, what they might have meant is only that it might be best treated by talk therapy, and best managed and understood by a psychiatrist.

Despite your legitimate annoyance, your doctor might also be correct. The term mental in the phrase ‘mental illness’ just means psychiatric. Your doctor might know that psychiatrists and psychiatric researchers continue to play an important part in the recognition and study of nociplastic pain. They might be optimistic about the effectiveness of talk therapy, because they know it’s effective at alleviating many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia and chronic pain, perhaps even to reduce the pain itself. They might also have read a recent review that found that talk therapy can be effective as a means of intervening on the immune system – indeed, as effective at reducing the inflammation associated with rheumatoid arthritis as common medications.

So you and your doctor might actually agree about the nature of your condition – and yet, you are left feeling understandably let down by your referral to a psychiatrist. Something has gone very wrong here. The problem, I think, is the idea that psychiatry deals with ‘mental illnesses’, disorders of the mind. Indeed, it’s common wisdom that mental illnesses are disorders of the mind, and that psychiatry treats mental illnesses. If you look in dictionaries, textbooks or diagnostic classifications, this is the characterisation of psychiatry and its domain that you’ll find. The key problem is that mind and mental come with associations that are wildly inappropriate when characterising a medical discipline – ‘mental’ can, after all, be contrasted with ‘real’, ‘biological’, and ‘physical’.

What we have is a problem of miscommunication, stemming from the messiness of the ideas of the mind and the mental. The terms mind and mental can be used many ways and can carry many different meanings, sometimes implying a lack of reality, sometimes indicating a relationship to psychiatry – and sometimes meaning something else entirely.

Depression and schizophrenia are no more ‘all in the mind’ than chronic pain

Imagine, instead, that your doctor told you that you had a ‘psychiatric’ illness, but stressed that psychiatric illness is not ‘mental’ in any important sense. Imagine if they told you that you might be prescribed ‘talk therapy’, but emphasised that many conditions that are not ‘in the mind’ are amenable to talk therapy, which can affect almost all of the ‘plastic’, malleable parts of a human being. Imagine, even more optimistically, that people did not generally infer that categorising an illness as psychiatric made it automatically mental, or think that because a condition can be affected by ‘mental’ states such as one’s beliefs or expectations, that it was therefore non-biological or non-physical or ‘all in the mind’.

Not bringing in ideas of the mind and the mental makes for much easier communication. You might go away from such a conversation with your doctor feeling like you’d been believed, and that psychiatry could help you. Yet your doctor has not actually done anything differently; beyond assuaging your concern that your illness isn’t taken seriously, the course of action is otherwise exactly the same. While chronic pain might be psychiatric, it’s not imaginary or non-biological – and the terms mind and mental blur all these things together. The problems of the mind and the mental are not confined to the treatment of chronic pain. It adds to the stigma surrounding other psychiatric illnesses to describe them as ‘mental’ too: depression and schizophrenia are no more ‘all in the mind’ than chronic pain.

As well as reinforcing the stigma around mental illness, the messiness of mental also fuels misguided arguments for radical reforms to (and even the abolition of) psychiatry as a medical discipline. At the other extreme from Szasz’s antipsychiatry views, many people argue for a merger of psychiatry and neurology. This relies on certain philosophical ‘theories of mind’, popular in cognitive science: some people think that the mind is the brain; others think that the mind is the software that runs on the brain, the way that Windows runs on my laptop. This argument relies on the notion that, because psychiatry deals with ‘mental’ illness, it should defer to philosophical views of the ‘mind’ popular in cognitive science. The issue is that the ‘mental’ in mental illness just means psychiatric, which is not what these philosophers and scientists are talking about.

As a result, we should be suspicious of appeals to the mind and the mental in psychiatry. Psychiatric patients certainly don’t need the burden of any extra stigma, and understanding psychiatric conditions is difficult enough without the constant risk of conflation and miscommunication. Without a reason to retain them, we should eject the concepts of ‘the mind’ and ‘the mental’ from psychiatry. And not just there: the concepts are wreaking havoc in cognitive science and psychology too.

Just as psychiatry is meant to be the branch of medicine dealing with mental illnesses, so cognitive science and psychology are supposedly the sciences concerned with the study of the mind. However, psychology and cognitive science do not study quite the same thing. Disciplines such as personality psychometrics are historically a core part of psychology, but only dubiously part of cognitive science at all. Conversely, cognitive science has inherited broader interests in self-organisation, information processing and adaptive behaviour from some of its predecessors, especially cybernetics. The domains of psychology and cognitive science also do not line up with the domain of psychiatry. Perception remains firmly within the domain of psychology and cognitive science, but blindness and deafness are not psychiatric illnesses (again, even if/when they are illnesses at all).

The domains of psychology and cognitive science also include capacities that you probably don’t mean to invoke when you talk about ‘the mind’ in normal life. For example, there are cognitive models that cover the way organisms survive via homeostasis (maintaining stable internal parameters in the body such as heart-rate and blood temperature) and allostasis (adjusting those parameters and behaviour depending on the context).

There are also ways of mapping immunity in cognitive terms. In the 1960s and ’70s, the work of the US psychologist Robert Ader uncovered a surprising feature of the immune system. He trained rats to avoid a harmless sweetener by administering it alongside a sickness-inducing chemical called cyclophosphamide. When testing that the training had worked, by administering just the sweetener, the rats began to die. The more sweetener, the faster they died. This was a mystery. It turned out that cyclophosphamide is an ‘immunosuppressant’, a chemical that turns off the immune system. The immune system had ‘learned’ to turn off in response to the sweetener alone, and this left the rats vulnerable to normally harmless pathogens in their environment, which killed them. In other words, Ader discovered that the immune system is amenable to classic Pavlovian conditioning.

Should we count the immune system as ‘mental’ because it’s psychological and cognitive?

This led to the creation of ‘psychoneuroimmunology’, an area that involves, among other things, psychologists who study the immune system. Later research uncovered many more exciting facts about the ‘wiring’ and signals that link the immune system and the brain. The immune system responds in complex ways to stress and trauma – an imbalance in the immune system is associated with several trauma-related psychiatric illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder (both of which are often linked to trauma). The immune system also plays important roles in controlling social behaviour. For example, some scientists believe depression could sometimes be a side-effect of your immune system reducing your social motivation in order to minimise the risk of spreading disease; the idea is that your immune system has been triggered into possessing an erroneous ‘belief’ that you are infectious.

Sticking to the construal of cognitive science and psychology as studying ‘the mind’ creates a misleading impression of what these disciplines are up to, and raises potentially pointless questions such as whether we should count the immune system and its capacities as ‘mental’ because it’s psychological and cognitive. Once again, the bridges built by mind and mental have proved unhelpful. Psychoneuroimmunology has had a hard time gaining widespread acceptance, especially among immunologists. In large part, this is because it is widely counted as a form of ‘mind-body medicine’, a term that applies to as much chicanery and overblown self-help as it does to legitimate medical research. The bridges built between a kind of sloppy holism, con artistry and psychoneuroimmunology owe much to mind and mental, and have done little to help the disciplines they supposedly serve.

It’s much better, instead, to talk of psychology as the study of the psychological, and cognitive science as the study of the cognitive. This might seem circular, but it only reflects the fact these disciplines are in charge of discovering their domains, and that we simply don’t know enough yet to say exactly what those domains should be in totally independent terms. No-one has any trouble describing physics as studying the physical, and the idea that it’s the study of fundamental laws of motion and contact has long since been abandoned.

When we see the concepts of mind and mental doing such harm, we have good reason to get rid of them. Rather than talk about ‘minds’ and ‘the mental’, we would be better off discussing the more precise and helpful concepts relevant to what we’re doing. The good news is that they already exist for the most part, and work perfectly well once their connections with mind and mental are broken. Psychology has psychological, cognitive science cognitive, and psychiatry psychiatric. Outside these areas, there are many, many more – consciousnessimaginationresponsibilityagencythoughtmemory, to name but a few. Feminist work on relational autonomy and the relational self, and historical precursors such as Homer provide promising avenues for developing conceptions of people that don’t call on the notion of mind – notions according to which people are coherent wholes, not because they have some unifying inner core, but because of the way they, their relationships and their environments conjoin.

The conclusion is that there is no such thing as a mind, and nothing is mental – even though you and I both think, feel, believe, desire and dream. Whenever you come across the terms ‘mind’ and ‘mental’ – especially when they bear a lot of argumentative weight – you should wonder what they actually mean, and ask yourself what equivocations are hiding below the surface.

To read more about ‘the mind’ and ‘the mental’, visit Psyche, a digital magazine from Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts.

Philosophy of mindMetaphysicsPsychiatry and psychotherapy

The Hard Covid-19 Questions We’re Not Asking

Aug. 30, 2021 (NYTimes.com)

Credit…Natalie Keyssar for The New York Times

By Joseph G. Allen and Helen Jenkins

Dr. Allen is the director of the healthy buildings program at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and has studied how Covid-19 spreads in indoor spaces. Dr. Jenkins is an associate professor at Boston University School of Public Health and an infectious-disease epidemiologist.

While the availability of vaccines refocused the U.S. response to the pandemic, many policy questions remain. Should vaccinated people get boosters? Does everyone need to wear a mask? Are unvaccinated children safe in schools?

We think much of the confusion and disagreement among scientists and nonexperts alike comes down to undefined and sometimes conflicting goals in responding to the pandemic. What are we actually trying to achieve in the United States?

If the goal is getting to zero infections and staying at that level before dropping restrictions, one set of policies applies. If the goal is to make this virus like the seasonal flu, a different set of policies follows.

Let’s use masking of children in schools as an example.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pegged its masking recommendation for vaccinated adults to local transmission rates. If high, all people should mask indoors. If low, no need. But, it did not set similar metrics for children and masks in schools when it recommended universal masking. In failing to do so, it avoided not just the obvious tough question — When can kids stop masking in school? — but also an even tougher, fundamental one: What is the purpose of Covid-19 precautions now?

One often discussed timeline for ending masking in schools is the date that a vaccine is approved for children under 12. That seems reasonable, but it raises yet another question: What happens if vaccines for children younger than 12 are approved at the end of the year but only 35 percent of this age group get vaccinated? That is exactly what we see now for 12- to 15-year-olds, who have had access to vaccines for months.Opinion Conversation Questions surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine and its rollout.

If it’s conceivable — and even likely — that in March most children will still be unvaccinated, does this mean masks should come off then anyway? Or would masks be recommended indefinitely?

To answer those questions, it must first be considered that there are several possible aims of any policy addressing whether children should wear masks in schools. Those goals could include the protection of immune-compromised people; reaching zero infections, zero deaths or even reducing transmission of other respiratory pathogens — and achieving these aims might require indefinite mask mandates. But if any of these are part of a school’s rationale, its leaders need to say it clearly and have an open discussion about the pros and the cons.

Any organization setting a mask mandate at this point in the pandemic in the United States must pair that mandate with an offramp plan. Sleepwalking into indefinite masking is not in anyone’s interests and can increase distrust after an already very difficult year.

What if the stated goal is simply, “Kids need to be in school, period.” Considering the devastating costs of having children out of school last year, including dramatic and quantifiable learning loss in math and reading, this is a very reasonable and defensible goal. How might that then drive policy? Setting that goal would mean deploying more tools to keep children in school, like using rapid antigen tests and allowing kids who test negative to go to in-person class rather than mass quarantining hundreds or thousands of children who had close contact to people with the virus, as is happening now. Or, we accept that there will be more cases in children, recognizing that disease severity for a vast majority of kids is low.

Another hard question that is most likely also causing confusion and disagreement is how we define “severe” disease in children. Children can get Covid, but their death and hospitalization rates are much lower than for adults. The inflammatory syndrome MIS-C is rare. Long Covid has gained wide attention, but recent studies have shown that rates are low among children and not dissimilar to effects caused by other viral illnesses.

We’re not being cavalier by raising these points. Consider that in Britain the government doesn’t require masks for children in schools, and it’s not clear it will advise kids to get vaccinated, either. Britain has experts, as we do, and they are looking at the same scientific data we are; they most assuredly care about children’s health the same way we do, and yet, they have come to a different policy decision. Schools were prioritized over other activities, and the risks of transmission without masks were considered acceptable.

This reveals the crux of the problem in the United States. It’s not just the C.D.C., but everyone — including us public health experts — who is not always connecting our advice or policy recommendations to clear goals. The conflict is not about masks or boosters, it’s about the often unstated objective and how a mask mandate or a “boosters for all” approach may or may not get us there.

We use schools as the example here, but much of the same applies to broader societal questions over mass gatherings, live entertainment and returning to offices. There are questions around how vaccinated people should live their lives if the vaccines reduce the likelihood of spread but don’t absolutely and completely prevent breakthrough infections and transmission, which was never going to be the case.

If the goal is zero spread, which we think is not realistic, then the country would need to keep many of the most restrictive measures in place — an approach that has serious public health consequences of its own. If the goal is to minimize severe disease, some states with high vaccination rates might already be there. Low-vaccination states would still have work to do before loosening restrictions. Treating the country as a whole just doesn’t make sense right now because of the widespread differences in vaccination rates.

The emergence of the Delta variant has, understandably, caused many Americans to step back and use caution. But the same questions will be there when we emerge from this Delta surge, whether in a few weeks or next spring. We shouldn’t let ourselves off the hook with “easy” decisions today. At some point, the country needs to have an honest conversation with itself about what our goals really are.

Joseph Allen is an associate professor and the director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the chair of the Lancet Covid-19 Commission Task Force on Safe Work, Safe School and Safe Travel. Helen Jenkins is an associate professor at Boston University School of Public Health and an infectious-disease epidemiologist.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on FacebookTwitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

(Contributed by Michael Kelly, H.W.)

What is Forgiveness?

Forgiveness expert Fred Luskin explains what it takes to give up a grudge.

BY FRED LUSKIN | AUGUST 19, 2010 (greatergood.berkeley.edu)

This month, Greater Good features videos of a presentation by Fred Luskin, a pioneer in the science and practice of forgiveness. In his talk, Luskin discusses why forgiveness can be so hard to practice and explains his research-tested “nine steps to forgiveness” that have helped thousands of people worldwide give up their grudges, from Northern Ireland to Sierra Leone to communities across the U.S. Here, he sheds light on what it takes to be ready to forgive.

I’ve been teaching forgiveness for more than a decade, and the simple definition of forgiveness that I work with now is that it’s the ability to make peace with the word “no.”

© Cliff Parnell

People have come to me with a whole host of problems, and the essence of all of them is: I didn’t get something I wanted. I got “no.” I wanted my partner to be faithful; they weren’t faithful. I got “no.” I wanted somebody to tell the truth; they told a lie. I got “no.” I wanted to be loved as a child; I wasn‘t loved in a way that I felt good about. I got “no.”

It’s so important to be able to understand the universal experience of this—of objecting to the way life is and trying to substitute the way you want it to be, then getting upset when your substitution doesn’t take.

The essence of forgiveness is being resilient when things don’t go the way you want—to be at peace with “no,” be at peace with what is, be at peace with the vulnerability inherent in human life. Then you have to move forward and live your life without prejudice.

It’s the absence of prejudice that informs forgiveness. You realize that nobody owes you, that you don’t have to take the hurt you suffered and pay it forward to someone else. Just because your last partner was unkind to you doesn’t mean you always have to give your new partner the third degree. With an open heart, you move forward and accept what is, without prejudice.

You don’t just accept it because life sucks and there’s nothing you can do about it—though that may be true—but you accept it in a way that leaves you willing to give the next moment a chance.https://www.youtube.com/embed/qS6BL9AONNk?fs=1&hl=en_US&enablejsapi=1&origin=https:%2F%2Fgreatergood.berkeley.edu

The resolution of grief
But before you can forgive, you have to grieve.

At the most basic level, forgiveness is on a continuum with grief. The way I understand it now is that when you’re offended or hurt or violated, the natural response is to grieve. All of those problems can be seen as a loss—whether we lose affection or a human being or a dream—and when we lose something, human beings have a natural reintegration process, which we call grief. Then forgiveness is the resolution of grief.

But the challenges we have with grief are twofold: Some people never grieve, and some people grieve for too long.

A deep human being feels pain and allows oneself to suffer because that’s part of the human experience. Without acknowledging that you’ve been wounded and you’ve lost something, you don’t gain the benefit of the experience—of acknowledging that you’ve been hurt and mistreated, but also of healing. And so there is a power that comes from the experience. 

But a deep human being also lets go of their suffering—he or she doesn’t maintain it forever, doesn’t create his or her personality around it, doesn’t use it as a weapon. You don’t cling to the negative part of the experience so that you can have something to hold accountable for your failures.

In my experience, I’ve identified three steps of grief that are essential before someone can start to forgive.https://www.youtube.com/embed/50oNi4KUaqU&hl=en_US&fs=1?enablejsapi=1&origin=https:%2F%2Fgreatergood.berkeley.edu

Steps to forgiveness
The first step is to fully acknowledge the harm done, whether by you or somebody else, and to own the fact that you’ve lost something—that you didn’t get something you wanted, and it hurts. In a therapeutic context, that could be painful work. Sometimes its take therapeutic work before somebody’s ready to forgive because they’ve suppressed a bad experience or been in denial about it, and it may take effort to get them to acknowledge the harm or its consequences.

  • MORE ON FORGIVENESSWatch the video of Fred Luskin’s Greater Good talk on forgivenessRead more about Fred Luskin’s pioneering work on forgiveness, including his research-tested Nine Steps to Forgiveness

The second step of the grief process is to experience the feelings normally associated with the negative experience. It’s not enough just to have someone say, “Hey, I was beaten for 12 years and I want to get over it” if they’ve never been miserable about their suffering. They’re going to have to be miserable before they let it go. I’ve never met anyone who suffered real loss and didn’t suffer at some level. You experience a range of emotions—you’re sad, you’re scared. But when you forgive, you understand that there are other options besides continued suffering. You’re not letting go of the event—that’s immutable. But you can transform the emotional response to it.

The third and final step is that what you’re grieving can’t be a secret. I try not to let people forgive stuff that they haven’t shared with others because there’s such good research on resilience showing that people who go through harmful experiences and don’t tell anybody have much worse consequences than people who do tell others. The human connection is central to healing.

That said, the people who tell everybody about their grievance have the second worst outcomes. The resilience research shows that what you need for a healthy response to difficulty is to share your problem with a few select, caring people over time. You don’t spill your guts to everybody, and you don’t spill your guts to nobody. For people who don’t have trusted confidants, I have suggested that they go to a therapist or enroll in a 12-step program—something to make sure they’re not holding any shame.

If you proceed through these steps, you can reach a point with your grief where you’re ready to forgive. But it takes time. I once had a woman come into a workshop of mine, very early in my experience teaching forgiveness, and say, “I need to forgive the fact that somebody murdered my son.” I didn’t know what to say. I hadn’t done work with families of murder victims yet, and so the only thing I could ask was, “When did it happen?” And she replied, “A month ago.” I said, “Go home. This is not what you need now. Come back in two years. Come back after you’ve done the unimaginably hard work of grieving that loss, then forgive it.”

 Get the science of a meaningful life delivered to your inbox.Submit

About the Author
  • Fred LuskinFred Luskin, Ph.D., is the director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Projects, a senior consultant in health promotion at Stanford University, and a professor at the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology, as well as an affiliate faculty member of the Greater Good Science Center. He is the author of Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness (HarperSanFrancisco, 2001) and Stress Free for Good: Ten Proven Life Skills for Health and Happiness (HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), with Kenneth Pelletier, Ph.D.

Book: “Civilization in Transition”

Civilization in Transition (Collected Works, Vol 10)

Civilization in Transition

(Jung’s Collected Works #10)

by C.G. JungHerbert Read (Editor), Michael Fordham (Editor), R.F.C. Hull (translator), Gerhard Adler (Translator)

Essays bearing on the contemporary scene & on the relation of the individual to society, including papers written during the 1920s & ’30s focusing on the upheaval in Germany, & two major works of Jung’s last years, The Undiscovered Self & Flying Saucers.