The 2019 Institute for Functional Medicine’s International conference in the USA looked at addiction and its related challenges to human life and all that involves. Sharing this learning experience with like-minded professionals highlighted the innate attraction to shared community, engagement and shared values. It was, as one speaker alluded, somewhat ‘tribal’.

So, what does that mean, is it just that certain people seek to improve their lives by ingesting chemicals in the form of food, drinks; and/or participating in activities that alter their brain chemistry and thereby alter their experience of the world? Or that all people form groups with like-minded peers in the pursuit of common goals?

In other words, is it human to alter our reality through foods, activities and rituals, (plus medications, recreational drugs and alcohol for some) and is it human to form tribal alliances?  The answer is yes, and most of the time, the outcome is positive, and we see this in the functional medicine and lifestyle medicine practitioner population.

In his 2008 seminal work “The Globalisation of Addiction: A Study in Poverty of the Spirit” Bruce Alexander persuasively argues that when populations and individuals experience a deep sense of psychosocial dislocation, they seek radical ways to compensate by finding meaning in something that both provides a sense of belonging and justifies or explains their exclusion and the sense of “not belonging”.

Alexander describes “psychosocial integration” as the “profound interdependence between people and society” reconciled with the need for “individual autonomy and achievement”. It can be described as “belonging, community, wholeness, social cohesion or simply, culture”.

For many decades the prevailing culture in health care has been directed at removing personal responsibility from health generation and assigning it to a medical model that focusses on acute intervention, symptomatic treatment and reliance on medications (drugs), a model that is failing at all levels for people with chronic and non-communicable illnesses.

Alexander, through his famous rat park experiments, also demonstrated that when rats were isolated in environments that lacked alternatives and opportunities for social interaction, they would drug themselves to death.

Moved to an enriched and social setting, they resolved their dependency. This lab experiment has also been demonstrated outside the laboratory. For example, monkeys will avoid intoxicating amounts of tobacco when in the wild, but in captivity, they will consume nicotine at every opportunity.

There are several other examples of how animals compensate for suffering through intoxication, but we are talking about people and you!

To that end, we are working to develop the functional/lifestyle medicine tribe, helping you find your place in the delivery of health promotion and recovery. For discovering your place amongst like-minded colleagues, tribal members if you like, that encourage, support and share helpful experiences because they want to find and sustain the professional pleasure of making a difference is intoxicating.

Introducing changes that help a person feel the power of being in more control of their physical and mental health, regain direction and purpose and reduce or resolve their symptoms as a result, is addictive and deserves to be shared.

Being part of the ‘tribe’ is why we are bringing IFM’s advanced practice modules to the UK, because we know, as beautifully sung by Petula Clark (for those of you too young to remember her, do listen to her No1 ‘Downtown’) that when you’re alone and life is making you lonely you can always go … ‘to an IFM event’ to discover the lights are much brighter, there, forget all your troubles and be energised and repurposed!

The first Advanced Practice Module UK event is in November 22nd-24th in the fantastic setting of London’s old City Hall. The first Module offered will be GI. Join your tribe here for 3 days of great food, collaboration, interaction and learning experiences, and awaken collaborative instincts, improve success in your work, develop commonality in your language, share knowledge and integrate.

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