Do I Have Too Many Questions This Morning?

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What if it were the sun that could cure you; would you have the courage to go and find it? Would you wear sunscreen?

If it were the schools themselves that made your child unhappy and restless; would you take him home with you and keep him there? Would you be too afraid? What if he cried to go back to school? Would you let him?

What if the work that buys the bread for your table and keeps the roof over your head were killing you day by day, blackening your lungs or heart or soul; would you have to courage to walk away?

How about if the pills you swallow each morning to cope with the pain of existence were trimming away two days from your life for every one they blur for you today; would you reconsider? What could you do instead?

What if that quiet voice you almost hear whispering deep inside your chest really is the voice of God? Could you listen? Would you still believe the translations of middlemen?

What if the car you drive every day poisons the planet you depend upon for existence? Would it still be worth the convenience? Could there be other ways to live?

What if the dream of private home ownership and the long and winding roads between us and our neighbors were the cause of car dependency? Where would you live? How could you live? Is change possible?

What if the words “settlers” and “pioneers” meant “invaders” and “killers”? What if westward expansion were accomplished through a hundred years of planned  and intentional genocide? What if the Jamestown colonists were corporate shills forbidden to speak the truth? What if peaceful nations lived for thousands of years on this continent before Europeans sent their invading forces? What if we are both the offspring of these invaders and the children of those who escaped the killings? What if our blood is inseparably mixed?

What if the fuel you burn to drive your car to your American dream house underlies the cause of wars we wage half a planet away? Could you park it for one day a week in protest? Could you park it for two days a week? Could you give up your American dream house for a small apartment even when there’s a drummer that practices across the alley from your bedroom window late into the evening? Could your family manage with only one bathroom and no storage? Would you buy less stuff?

If the foods you buy for yourself and your family are made from chemicals and  poisons, are they worth the convenience? How hungry are you? How much hunger can you tolerate? Can you learn to cook one dish at home or grow lettuce in a pot or walk to the market?

 If, for your clean and polite cubical work that butters your bread and pays your house payment, you design electronic guidance systems for weapons used in the killing fields, what can you do? If you refuse to do the work, what will you eat? How will you make a home for your children?

What if your children tell you they’d rather be homeless than have you carve triggers in a factory all day?

What could your children know about the hard realities of homelessness? What could your children understand about work and bills and taxes and jobs and grindstones and noses? What do your children know about wars and killing the children of strangers?

Does it make sense to drive to a gym to walk on a treadmill?

Have you thought of making do with less, or smaller, or older?

Did you use it completely up?

Have you considered using it till it’s worn completely out?

Can you make it do?

What about doing without?

Why wait for weather reports filtered through anonymous others? Could there be better ways to tell which way the wind blows?

Can any other person know you better than you know yourself? How could they convince you that they do?

Could a paid professional understand your baby better than you? Were they up in the middle of the night rocking and walking and nursing?

Who will have your own best interests at heart if you do not? Can you?

How much fear is reasonable? What if things are scary? Should you be afraid?

How much anger do you want to carry around in your sack all day every day? Is there another way to manage it all?

Are there ways to make changes without fighting?

Who else could know the answers?

Is it possible to work together?

Is it the same sun that shines here and there and way over there, half a planet away?

What do their children know of hunger and homelessness and war and killing?

How much love can you feel in your heart? Is there room for that much? Where would all that extra love go?

Is it possible to love a person who has done things you disagree with? Can you love a person who’s filled with anger? What if she’s covered in scabs? What if he’s still learning, doesn’t have all the answers or struggles to find new ways to do old things?

What if he’s done things you find morally reprehensible?

Would you like to pull the trigger, push the button or tighten the noose? Can anger and killing ever be righteous?

What if you were wrong? How would you feel then?

Is it possible to change yourself even when others cannot, will not, may not change?

Is it possible to understand that others may have shifted their paradigms years ahead of you? Do you think they should have tolerated your lack of understanding, shortage of courage, or limited knowledge base? Did you even realize there was a paradigm to shift? Why not?

Have you discovered yet that all things are not known?

Is forgiveness possible? Can we forgive another? How about ourselves? Can we forgive and forgive and forgive again?

How much uncertainty can you tolerate?

 

As always, thanks for reading, thinking and writing.

Alice

 

 

 

 

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

74 COMMENTS

  1. What if you were being paid more for spending 15 minutes with a guy than he has to live on all week. Would you split the difference with him?

    What if your profession was ruining people’s lives? Would you believe you were different so it so it wasn’t your responsibility?

    • “But I came home at the end of each day with a smile. It was fun to work on the locked psychiatric unit. I loved my patients.”

      I was really stunned to read that in your profile. I was really glad to read on another of your blogs that you aren’t currently practicing. I respectfully suggest that you continue on that path. And seek spiritual guidance. (I wouldn’t suggest psychiatric help to anyone). If you had fun on a locked Charity ward and came home with a smile on your face and believe you loved your patients I think it is likely that you are not capable of helping anyone. I hope you were not under the impression that your patients loved you back.

      I am glad you are seeking to find some meaning in your life. Just as a fellow human being I would advise you to move on and seek to make amends for the damage you did in some other field. You seem sad and defensive and I wish you the best. I hope this doesn’t seem like an attack to you I don’t meant it that way. Keep thinking and open your heart!

  2. That is a lot of questions!I think that asking myself similar questions about the world and the society I was living in at the age of 17/18, is exactly what drove me up the pole and made me rebel and led me to my break-down. If there is no help available some youngsters start smoking pot or just misbehaving. I think each of us has to find answers for ourselves and life is all about balance, about give and take We will never get everything right. Being able to forgive others as well as oneself is a great help. Also things go round in circles and God works in mysterious ways.

  3. A question is a quest.

    “If you don’t ask the right questions, every answer feels wrong” ~ ani difranco, lyrics

    What is the correct answer? The correct answer is the correct question.

    Do you have too many questions? I don’t think so, but I’m wondering if you truly want “real” answers to any of them.

    I like this one: “Have you discovered yet that all things are not known?”. I think all things are knowable and many things are known. What matters most is Understanding.

    The question then becomes, “are all things understood?” and I would *think* the answer is NO.

    Understanding is the Highest Form. One can know something, but not understand it. When you understand something, you cannot not know what you understand. Understanding is the Highest Form – it cannot be surpassed.

    lack of understanding = chaos, confusion, strife

    Understanding = PEACE

    If the people of the world know how to achieve “peace” and “understanding”, will they choose it or not?

    The movie “The Hunger Games” had been equated to “educational” and was studied in American classrooms, while a documentary called “Bully” was fought for and went largely unknown by the masses.

    Advertisement for The Hunger Games was inescapable. People’s choice was made FOR them, without their knowledge that such was even occurring. *IF* “Bully” had been equal in advertisement and promotion, people truly would have had a choice. But they didn’t.

    The Hunger Games was rated PG-13, while the movie association wanted to give Bully an R rating. There was a petition to have the rating for Bully changed to PG-13. It’s more than money motives at work in an example like this.

    Is bullying, certainly an “epidemic”, simply part of basic “normal” human behavior and we can then understand (know full well) that we’ll never fully prevent bullying from happening? How many people would say they were “bullied”, silently, into accepting “The Hunger Games”?

    There’s a lot of action to “ban the advertisement” of psychiatric drugs – WHY? Because it’s a form of bombardment and unrelenting influence, and societal control? Because it’s a VIOLATION of your RIGHT to PEACE of MIND?

  4. My name is Jaime, fifteen years I’ve been to young
    Is it time to taste the truth and toss it off my tounge?
    The world has come a-calling and it’s bleeding at my door
    Am I supposed to turn away, or is this what I’m here for?

    Someone keeps calling my name
    Someone keeps calling my name
    Or is it just the rustling of the wind
    Or is it just that I need a friend
    Someone keeps calling my name, my name” _Harry Chapin.

    Or something keeps calling our name?

    Why an epidemic of mental illness in the Western world at a time when we face the greatest challenge in re-defining our way of life, towards planetary sustainability? A time when such sustainability may be demanding a re-interpretation of who & what we are, & our meaning within a Universe, we are not separate from?

    Can you invest your previous experience as a psychiatrist in this much needed paradigm shift in human awareness? Has psychosis always been an aspect of human experience for a reason?

    “The life of feeling is that primordial region of the psyche that is most sensitive to the religious encounter. Belief or reason alone does nothing to move the soul; without feeling, religious meaning becomes a vacant intellectual exercise. This is why the most exuberant spiritual moments are emotionally laden.” _Carl Jung.

    Can you ask yourself “if madness is not what psychiatry says it is, then what is it?” _M. Cornwall.

    Writing from Bangkok I can assure you it is certainly the same sun over here, just as it is in Laos with its 80 million deadly bombs left over from the Vietnam era. A country of 6 million souls where farm children get limbs blown off, even as you contemplate.

    “Does it make sense to drive to a gym to walk on a treadmill?”

    Interestingly neither Laos or Cambodia have an “epidemic” of mental illness despite obvious and ongoing trauma experience. These poor people might have a wry smile at the thought of such an epidemic, in the great God America? Perhaps its one of Gods lessons?

    Glad to see your searching for deeper perspective Alice:))

  5. i dislike the explanation of the “mental illness epidemic” being just drug companies casting a wider net because it’s a little more complicated than that. psychiatry is one of richard dawkins’ memeplexes. psychiatry’s purpose is to create mental health workers and patients FIRST and be otherwise useful for money or happiness SECOND. the problem with psychiatry is that it is a memeplex that is based on trying to prove scientifically that some people are less deserving of liberty, equality, and dignity than others. that’s just never good. as long as this idea is is supported within a culture people will continue to use science to try to prove it.

    • How could you say that when so many of the questions are quality-of-life related?

      “How about if the pills you swallow each morning to cope with the pain of existence were trimming away two days from your life for every one they blur for you today; would you reconsider? What could you do instead?”

      I really like this one: “What if the fuel you burn to drive your car to your American dream house underlies the cause of wars we wage half a planet away? Could you park it for one day a week in protest? Could you park it for two days a week? Could you give up your American dream house for a small apartment even when there’s a drummer that practices across the alley from your bedroom window late into the evening? Could your family manage with only one bathroom and no storage? Would you buy less stuff?”

      Let’s go for a ride.

      War? Housing? Transportation & Mobility? HUGE factors in matters of wellness and suffering – yes or no?

      War? I watched images of real, live War on television and was severely deeply disturbed by it. My dreams were nightmares and my days were panic stricken. Oh, but those responses meant that I was “mentally ill”? Technically speaking, one might accurately suggest that I was rather intellectually challenged because I didn’t think to turn off the damned television. Duh. But turning off the TV wouldn’t magically make the war end, would it. I was a 15 year old girl – what reason did I have to be disturbed by watching War, LIVE, on television? None, because that sort of thing doesn’t cause mental illness, right?

      Park my car and give up my American dream home? Haha.

      I was in panic for months when MY VEHICLE WAS MY HOME – and feared every day that I’d lose possession of it. It was wintertime, one of the coldest winters of the past ten years, and gas prices were the highest they’d ever been. Five dollars per gallon and my source of heat was a parked and running motor vehicle. I also experienced real starvation those days. I lived in grocery heaven (parking lots of shopping plazas) but couldn’t eat a thing. I wandered 24-hour stores at 2 and 3 AM – terrified of food – because it would “make me sick”. I didn’t know anymore how to feed myself – what was “healthy” and what wasn’t! I was in sheer terror. I was alone in a brand new state, where I didn’t know anyone. I was starving and freezing and in the most severe and extreme pain. Maybe I deserved it, though.

      I’d say these questions are very much on topic. Does it seem like maybe the replies and responses might help to “make or break” this article?

      What really are the issues that cause and DRIVE (no pun intended) our extreme states, conditions, sicknesses and our unwellness? Birth defects, of course. Rotten brains from the start! But war is normal, Doritos cannot hurt me and only a pill or injection will “save my life”.

      Here’s another question I like: “Have you considered using it till it’s worn completely out?”

      Have you ever considered why, after some time, I might grow to become “extremely” ungrateful to STILL have to be wearing OTHER PEOPLE’S CLOTHES my whole entire life – in a country of INCREDIBLE luxury that I can never put my hands on? I *love* Nine West, Calvin Klein … oh, just shut up.

  6. Well, like Anonymous, I have to say that this doesn’t grab me as much as some of your other posts. However, I’m wondering if these are the questions that led you to move to the position that you’ve taken at this point in time. I had many of the same questions as these and had to finally change professions not once but twice because in one I felt I was eing used to promote propaganda and not to do the job as I saw it, and secondly because I was not being honest in the position I held. I was a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and couldn’t continue to live like that. I’ve pointed this out before, that I don’t believe that lot of Americans sit down and evaluate their lives. They allow their lives to be filled with all the “trash” that you’ve cut out of your life. I would suggest that it would be a good idea for all adults to try these questions on for size and see what happens. I do believe that many psychiatrists do know the harm that they contribute to and have done in the past but they don’t want to evaluate it becuase the answers they would come up with would most likely demand some real changes in their lives and they would have economic repercussions. Many people are not willing to take the chance of ruining their lifestyle they’ve grown accustomed to. I too got rid of the media and the car but spend way too much time on the internet. Am working on dealing with that. I think these are important and good questions and that people could benefit from them if they sat down and asked themselves what the answers are. The problem with the post is that there isn’t much to argue about and to post dissenting opinions and facts about. You really can’t say that these aren’t important questions and that evaluating you life isn’t important. Keep writing. by the way, I admire you for working at Charity in New Orleans. Many people don’t or cant understand why some of us purposely seek jobs in the worst of places. I guess they feel that by our presence we are saying “yes” to the terrible things that are done. Call me silly and unrealistic, but I believe in taking a stand for what is right in the middle of all the bad stuff. Others probably see it differently and I don’t have the energy to try to convince them otherwise.

  7. I liked this, because I think it gets to the core of what is wrong with psychiatry. It is assumed that the “patient’s” suffering is a result of some internal process going awry, which the technician doctors will fix for you for a fee.

    But many of the questions Alice asks here are fundamental and can be depressing or angering or inspiring or scary. Psychiatry denies the possibility that a person’s suffering may be a SANE response to a rather INSANE world. Those that “cope well” with the current realty may be suffering similar pains but have learned to repress them effectively, so they can continue to go to work in the missile factory and come home and watch TV and get to sleep at night without processing that they are creating death and being paid for it.

    It seems that values, morals and ethics are all denied by psychiatry as valid parts of the human experience. Instead, we are all expected to “Adjust” to the status quo and “be happy” (but not TOO happy, that would be manic!) with what we have, and not ask the kinds of questions Alice puts forth in her essay.

    Asking questions is painful, but it’s also threatening to the current rulers of the status quo. Psychiatry’s main job seems to be to stop us from asking these questions, or to marginalize those who do into misfits and disease sufferers, so that the only “humane” thing to do is to drug them back into compliance or apathy.

    —- Steve

    • “Societal problems from an emotional systems view:

      All of the people who were, or are members of families replicate the same emotional patterns in society. Family and societal emotional forces function in a reciprocal equilibrium to each other, each influencing the other and being influenced by the other. These observations are based on the same criteria used to estimate family functioning, which is the amount of principle determined “self” in comparison to the “feeling-orientation” which strives for an immediate short term feeling solution to the anxiety of the moment.

      The triangling process in a large family will help illustrate the process in society. It may begin with conflict between a parent and child. When another takes sides emotionally, he is potentially triangled. When he talks (to influence others) or he takes action based on feelings, he is actively triangled. Each person who becomes involved can involve others until a fair percentage of the group is actively taking sides. The controversy is defined on “right” and “wrong” issues, and often as victimizer and victim. In societal conflict, those who side with the “victim” are more likely to demonstrate and take activist postures. Those who “feel more responsible” for the total group will side with the parental side. They are more likely to stay silent or take action in letters to the editor, or to actively counteract the activists.

      One interesting group of activists is made up of members of professional and scientific organizations who attempt to use knowledge and social status to further entangle the triangular emotional system. To summarize the process, it begins with emotional tension in a bipolar situation, it spreads by involving emotionally vulnerable others, it is fed by emotional reactiveness and response to denial and accusation and it becomes quiescent when emotional energy is exhausted.” _Murray Bowen.

      THE SYSTEM, is inside each and every one of us & is “projected” onto that moving picture show we sense as the external environment.

      Its called the “autonomic nervous system,” and mediates survival by whatever means available. That’s why the “identified patient” is a reciprocal volunteer in their adapted functioning. All the rationalizing about the “nature” of human problems will “see” nothing until it turns the emotional projection machine around and feels the impulse and truth of “self preservation.”

      The “status quo” is inside us all, as the need to maintain homeostasis, (comfort-zone, dynamic equilibrium) label it what you will. All the clever subjectivity in the world is meaningless until we come to understand what really makes us tick?

      Until we face up to “what we are,” we will continue down this weary road of, “the more things change, the more they ….”

  8. If we could just get some Republicans on board we could take away the cable TV and the cell phones from the SSI folks and restrict food stamps to fruits and veggies (no junk food) and take away disabled bus passes so folk could enjoy the exercise while saving the planet by walking and require 20 hours of volunteer work a week to receive disability and thus receive the benefits of community involvement and fellowship …….Seriously why should simple living be a luxury for only the elite? Why should the state sponsor disease causing lifestyles?

    Just posting in the interest of diversity 🙂

    • Dear Dr D Lightfull,

      Do you like to fish?

      Last I knew, efforts are already underway to reform food stamps, now known as SNAP. I thought that was a very unintelligent acronym: “I’m gonna SNAP one of these days!”. Gee, don’t they consider sensitivities? I forget exactly what their grand plan is, but I watched a one hour Harvard presentation about it. It was pretty good, actually.

      • I don’t fish. I only eat plants. I’m all loony left in my heart but my head says the fastest way to start reforming the mental health biz is to stop funding it. If the laws were changed to stop SSI from paying kids labelled mentally ill, it would save thousands of kids. There was an article in the NYTimes I think the other day about poor women putting their kids on drugs to up the chances of getting them SSI. That’s pure evil.

        All the emoting about the problem is is fine and I enjoy it too but it doesn’t get anything done and it alienates a lot of people. It would be more effective to find common ground and get something done than try to convert everyone to your own point of view.

        I’m not mad. But my voice counts too.

        • “All the emoting about the problem is is fine and I enjoy it too but it doesn’t get anything done and it alienates a lot of people. It would be more effective to find common ground and get something done than try to convert everyone to your own point of view.”

          Who is “trying to convert everyone” to their own point of view? What does that statement have to do with food stamp reform and defunding “state sponsor disease causing lifestyles”?

          I would think that the amount of people who intentionally (and unnecessarily) put their children on drugs by a motivation of monetary gain is extremely small.

  9. Not too many questions at all.

    I read this slowly and thoughtfully, as I have been downsizing my life in all areas for nine years. We all need some soft time, even if you don’t get “200 comments”. Don’t blame the muse, or absence of it. This is so good, to accompany you on your journey.

    You’re not just a psychiatrist anymore, you are a Thinker and maybe a Philosopher?

    And a Writer. Definitely a Writer.

    Thank you for the (breakfast) food for thought.

    • Yesterday is past, gone, you’ll NEVER get it back. What do you want BE, NOW?

      Some people say we have two aspects of attention on a continuum of self-preservation awareness, we either judge (foreground awareness) or we perceive (background awareness)?

      Then again there is that advice to the feuding couple, “do you want to BE happy or do you just NEED to be right?”

      “Deepening awareness is a challenge. It isn’t a challenge because my parents didn’t love me enough. It’s a challenge because it’s a challenge. I don’t need to take it personally. I’ve spent years excavating my past, sorting and cataloguing the wreckage. But who I really am, the essential truth of my being, can’t be grasped by the mind, no matter how acute my insights. I’ve confused introspection with awareness, but they’re not the same. Becoming the worlds leading expert on myself has nothing to do with being fully present.” Exert from: “In an Unspoken Voice.” by Peter Levine, PhD.

  10. Friend Alice

    The best way to defeat the system is to leave it. This place is as destructive in its own way as the APA and big pharm put together. I am fleeing.

    Remember what the dormouse said! Feed your head!
    It was nice talking to you. Who is Kermit and why is he removing posts? Who is funding this place? What’s the agenda?

    Friend Delightfull