On Wednesday, July 18, the Heritage Foundation sponsored a forum entitled “How to Bring Sanity to our Mental Health System.” It featured Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, who was promoting his new book The Insanity Offense: How America’s Failure to Treat the Seriously Mentally Ill Endangers Its Citizens. Drs. Sally Satel and Steven Scharfstein were brought in as discussants.
E. Fuller Torrey and Sally Satel symbolize the formidable opposition that advocates and activists for human rights face in trying to dismantle the paternalistic, bio-medical model of mental health “treatment” that dominates the current system. These powerful, well-connected psychiatrists evoke images of the “violent mentally ill” (although Dr. Torrey himself asserts that people with diagnosed mental health issues represent only 10% of all perpetrators of violence) to manipulate the public and to perpetuate stigma and discrimination against people with psychiatric histories.
With very little notice, we activists for human rights in mental health mobilized to respond to this very one-sided “discussion” that, unsurprisingly, did not include a single perspective from a person with lived experience.
In fact, Dr. Satel in particular has been an outspoken opponent of the consumer/survivor movement for years, even dedicating an entire chapter of her book PC, M.D.: How Political Correctness Is Corrupting Medicine to mocking the efforts of consumer/survivors to effect change in the system and create peer-run alternatives.
Dr. Torrey opened his presentation by noting that the nation’s mental health system is broken. He then began to elaborate on a policy plan that would shift around responsibility for the mental health system, taking away control from the federal government, shutting down the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and shifting into a combination of increased power to states as well as privatization. I won’t recap his ideas in detail, and you can view his as well as the other presentations (and activist rebuttals) here.
Satel’s distaste for the “inmates taking over the asylum” was apparent (although I believe she and the others speakers tempered their remarks, as it was apparent that many of the audience members were those very “inmates”). Amusingly, she took great care during her presentation to slam the National Consensus Statement on Mental Health Recovery. This statement was developed under the leadership of SAMHSA, that federal agency so despised by she and Torrey for its inclusion of consumer/survivor perspectives and values. Beware: this statement contains such dangerous and radical ideas as “hope,” “self-determination,” “holistic health,” and “empowerment.” Satel’s objections, largely, it seemed to me, stemmed from the fact that she wasn’t consulted in the process, and because the document did not use biomedical psychiatric terms.
What was most disturbing to me was Satel’s continued reference to “benign paternalism;” i.e. coercion of that “sickest of the sick,” “floridly psychotic minority,” either through forced treatment, or through directly tying access to entitlements with treatment compliance. This, of course, is not a new idea; it is how the system already operates, to a large extent. And it is frightening that the word “benign” would be attached to a system of health care that routinely humiliates, takes away choice, denies informed consent, and violates the basic human rights of vulnerable, suffering, individuals.
As the panelists spoke, it was apparent to me that they were simply seeking to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. Shifting responsibility from the Feds to the states, or privatizing the system further, simply ignores the gigantic elephant in the room: forced treatment with harmful, often deadly, psychiatric drugs.
Jim Gottstein of the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights, summed this point up eloquently: “The biggest problem has been the ubiquitous use of psychiatric drugs…to force people on these drugs and to say that it’s ‘benign paternalism’ is really outrageous. The use of these drugs has been the paradigm for this system that has become broken. And to say that the problem isn’t forcing people to take these drugs is outrageous…”
Gottstein reminded the speakers of the early mortality associated with the use of these drugs. People diagnosed with “severe mental illness” are dying twenty-five years earlier than the general population. This includes my own mother and father, diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, who died at ages 46 and 63 respectively, directly due to complications and health issues connected with long-term use of neuroleptic drugs.
When challenged by Gottstein and other advocates and activists present, Scharfstein admitted that there were “very problematic outcomes” for many of these drugs. He noted, “they are halfway technologies… they make some people better, but not well…and they don’t cure anybody,” adding that “the atypical antipsychotics were oversold by Pharma.” Satel stated that the profession should have a “high threshold” for starting people on meds, to try to use the lowest dose possible, and even to keep people off meds whenever possible. However, we know that in practice, this is not how the psychiatric profession operates. Psychiatric drugs are routinely the first line of defense for everything from shyness to backaches; and even more so for those who have a diagnosis of “serious mental illness.”
What Satel conveniently leaves out is that these “sickest of the sick” — the silent minority that the consumer/survivor movement supposedly “ignores” — were not born that way. It is very likely that they were made that way – through a combination of trauma, further compounded by traumatic experiences of psychiatric treatment, irresponsible overmedication, perhaps followed by failed efforts to throw off the chemical straitjacket. The “sickest of the sick” were created by a sick system that harms the very people it purports to help. It is ironic that perhaps the only people who could possibly reach them — other people with lived experience of psychosis or voice-hearing — are the very “advocates” dismissed by Satel, et al.
Several of the speakers referred to “outcomes;” these were never specifically defined, but reading between the lines, it was relatively clear that these outcomes included increased compliance with mental health treatment, so as to ensure that “violent psychiatric patients” don’t continue to terrorize America.
It is of utmost irony that these individuals who are on a crusade to reduce violence suggest doing it through violent means. I don’t care how “benign” your paternalism is; if it’s forced, it’s not help. It’s violence. As Occupy Psychiatry activist Daniel Hazen said, “we are people who experienced torture. I don’t believe in recovery. I’ll never recover from the injections that were put into me, and felt that liquid poison my body. I won’t.”
The discussion of outcomes got me to thinking about how this is a battle of values, a clash of civilizations. The psycho-pharmaceutical complex, as represented by its henchmen, the biopsychiatrists, is invested in maintaining and expanding the status quo under the guise of “benign paternalism.” The movement for social justice in mental health has an entirely different set of outcomes in mind. We value freedom, rights, self-determination, and choice. We want to see people exit the system as soon as possible; or better yet, or not enter it at all — not to be dependent on it their entire lives. We point our finger at the larger issues of oppression in our society; we do not blame the brains of the individuals who collapse under the weight of that oppression.
Torrey opened his presentation by saying that no one has “divine wisdom” on how to fix the mental health system. That may be true. But we know from our own experience what helps, and what hurts. We know from our own lived experience that healing comes through relationships, through meaningful work, through community, through creativity, by taking care of one other — as equals, not in a paternalistic sense. Daniel B. Fisher, executive director of the National Empowerment Center, challenged Torrey to a debate on these issues, and brought up Open Dialogue as a promising approach to building community and achieving truly positive outcomes for people experiencing emotional distress.
I left the meeting remembering that Gandhi quote: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. We are in stage three of four. They are fighting us, but we will win. We are winning. We have logic and heart and time on our side.
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.
Thank you Leah for an inspiring, encouraging account of the activist survivor response to the sinking ship of psychiatry.
Similar to you I had both parents affected by psychiatric treatment and lives cut short. There is no excuse.
I think you’ve articulated the current situation perfectly. It is going to be difficult, take lots of effort but I’m still hopeful a humane care model is possible. One huge advantage for reform comes by way of the shortened life spans you mention. It is sad and a bit macabre, but as more and more people die prematurely from these drugs, society may (may mind you) be so outraged a wholesale change will occurr. I just don’t want us to have to wait and see thousands of 36 years olds who started these drugs when they were 5 or 6 dying before people get the message.
Thanks for this piece Leah.
Wow! Just watched the piece. That’s tough to take in places. Ms. Satel is particularly distressing to listen to. The “bogey man” she uses is this very small percentage of seriously mentall ill people that she actually characterized as walking down the street slinging their own feces! Wow Dr. Satel. That’s quite a poster child you’ve created to support your point of view. Dr. Satel wants license to control others due to the seriousness or their “illness” She will use her bogey man creation to support all of her extreme and dehumanizing positions (of course she won’t recognize them as such).
Also, Kermit, Torrey says he replied to Bob’s book Bob replied to him (which was posted) and that there was further back and forth. Could that also be posted?
This article so perfectly and eloquently summarizes so many key points that it’s impossible to know where to begin, as I try to comment. So for now all I can say is, thank you, very much, Ms. Harris, for covering this meeting and for your work in general (I just read your bi) – thank you from someone new to the movement as well as a fellow writer attempting to start covering the movement herself. I find this article immensely helpful, as well as the links you provide (I was unaware, for example of SAMSHA’s consensus statement and just printed it out. The “Open Dialogue” system of Finland is also new to me.) I will continue to follow your work and look for past writings as well!
Thank you for this thoughtful post, Leah. More of a worked-out analysis of Torrey et al. than I have seen elsewhere. You mock Satel’s “benign paternalism” well, and you should. But you should also take a look at the benign paternalism of SAMHSA. I find it amazing that people like Satel and Jaffe don’t see how SAMHSA is helping their cause. We used to be a civil rights movement that addressed the general public, where ultimately any change in the system will have to come. Now we are the “recovery movement,” and we mostly talk to the rest of the mental “health” system. Yeah, to the more liberal faction of the mental illness system, but an established part of it nonetheless.
You wouldn’t say that men should lead the women’s movement, that straight people should lead the gay movement, that white people should have led the movement for the rights of black people. But even though our compromised movement has occasional outbursts of militancy like this (which of course I think is great), most of the time, by catering to the wishes of your funders, you are in practice saying that change will come from the liberals in the system. Do you think that Doctor King should have worked with the White Citizens Councils? I think that working on behalf of SAMHSA is the same thing.
Just the same, I want to say again that I liked what you have written,and I respect your intelligence, insight, and commitment in our movement. But I think it is people like you and me, who have been abused by the system, who must be the ones who will change it, not liberal mental “health” bureaucrats.
Really great comments Ted – like these points alot
Thank you so much Leah–I feel both my son and I were well represented at Torrey’s Tirade. This post brought tears to my eyes. You say what I have thought at least a million times…
Thank you Leah for this great and revealing report and essay- and welcome to the Mad in America blogger crew!
The benign paternalism that Satel and others espouse is in fact friendly fascism. Fascism administered with the knowing smile of the true beliver who believe they know best what is needed for those under their control.
The Orwelliian practice of tying people down on such doctor’s orders in 4 point restraints, and injecting destructive drugs into them, while very well trained staff all the time never raise their voices, is a state sanctioned form of torture as Dan Hazen simply says- “We are people who experienced tourture.” That violence as you name it Leah, is going on in every psychiatric hospital in the United States every hour of the day as you know.
Some human rights violations are brutal, openly hate filled beatings, torture and killings.
But the friendly fascism of Satel, Torrey, and every complicit mental health professional, has the agreement of the public to clinically practice professionally delivered, best practice human rights violations- all in the name of the benign paternalism that is encoded in the medical model belief system of bio-psychiatry.
The moral darkness inherant in the banality of evil is possible because it casts no shadow- due it being practiced in full view at high noon in the town square. It has never been more pervasive- as children now wear the mark of it’s reach in the vacant stares they maintain on the school yard while the drugs do their work.
Thank you for your tireless work to expose the shadow of banal moral darkness hiding in plain sight.
Yes, Michael, it IS “the banality of evil,” which Hannah Ahrendt wrote of in “Eichmann in Jerusalem.” I’m glad you said that, and although some folks will say that it is an exaggeration to compare these people to the Nazis, most of us who have been on the receiving end of psychiatry know that is the truth.
While tactically it might not always be effective to say this, we survivors should recognize the evil of what has been done to us and not be afraid to speak the truth. We need to recognize our moral authority, and to insist on speaking for ourselves.
And we should insist on naming names as well. The hundreds of thousands of children whose lives have been ruined by Dr. Joseph Biederman, what about them? Don’t we owe them our witness? Shouldn’t we be speaking out about this man, no different from the Nazis?
I don’t think we become “respectable” when we try to please certain people who claim to be on our side, but counsel doing nothing.
Biederman should be prosecuted and punished for every child’s life he has destroyed. It is not for others to tell us to forgive our tormentors. No one has the right to forgive what has been done to someone else. Let the comfortable Harvard liberals raise their own issues. We don’t need their smug advice.
We should be using our moral authority to speak out against this man and what he has done. We should be in the forefront of demanding that he should be put in prison. Anyone who would defend him is not our ally.
“Friendly Fascism” is a book by sociologist Bertram Gross published in 1980, that many now see as prophetic in it’s anticipatioon of the merging of corporate and government power in ways that disenfranchise, if not bring injury to the public.
This gradual erosion of the social contract and loss of human and civil rights, was seen to be happening by a process of friendly persuasion, or friendly fascism- not through overt force..
I think Gross would see the decades long collusion of congress and the presidency and the SEC with the finacial industry that resulted in the recession, as an example of friendly facsism.
The conservative supreme court ruling that allows unlimited private political contributions might also be an example.
We could view the monolithic merging of psychiatry, academia and the drug industry- and a compromised FDA, as another example of a very successful friendly persuasion/fascist campaign in as much as it legitimizes some human rights abuses..
Though certain treatment practices produce injured casualties, this has not produced a public backlash of sufficient power to stop them being done. This is partly because of the aura of respectabilty given to those who provide medical care, and the massive public relations campaign that has made the drug industry the most profitable industry in the country. They are also the number one contributors to political campaigns.
Such total control over the mental health service industry has been acheived, that every mental health service dollar dispersed by public and private providers and authorized by law as a valid best practice medical intervention, must be documented to be for treatment of a DSM diagnosis.
So when someone is incarcerated on a psych ward, tied down and injected with drugs, there is no recourse for a human rights violation to even be considered to have taken place.
This ubitquitous, commonplace, banal example of violence sanctioned by the state with the public’s consent, does qualify as moral darkness of the first order in my opinion.
That this and other acts such as the drugging of children and forced ECT take place, does not mean the people who are doing it are hate filled, genocidal racist nazis. Because they are not. They are often the pillars of their communities, are most often well meaning people who have devoted their lives to the service of others.
But the banality of evil can exist and be done in the name of the good, and that is what a friendly form of fascism is all about. It manufactures a cultural normality that is blind to it’s own shadow.
Psychiatrists like Satel and Torrey who call forced treatment benign paternalism have never been on the malignant end of it..
A very powerful, pertinent and persuasive comment Michael, with which I absolutely agree.
My recent experiences concur with your point, that the people on the front line forcibly restraining, secluding and drugging, are apparently nice enough folk – in other circumstances.
It’s the psychiatrists who give the orders to forcibly treat then the handmaidens carry them out. A terrible task in any other situation than a psych ward or even in the community. Where people can be coerced to conform with the decisions made on high.
My mother had a saying that everyone knows well. “The way to Hell is paved with good intentions.” Fact is, there;s enough scientific evidence out there now that proves that the drugs are toxic, ect destroys the brain, and that no one, especially children, should be given any of those drugs. We all know that everyone else has freedom of choice in treatment; only people in the mental illness system do not. If we survivors know all of the problems with the socalled “treatment” then the people giving it also should know. I hold all of them accountalbe, even if they sit there and claim that “they didn’t know” any of this. Not an excuse. I agree with your post totally.
I’m sure I’ll be roundly condemned for my writing here, yet as I wrote earlier, a true friend will say things we don’t necessarily want to hear, rather than simply play sycophantic, and adolescent games in the guise of our dependent need of friendship?
The double-bind in our unconscious need of attachment, is often a less than realistic support of our particular groups consensus reality? In this particular group we criticize the bad in them, while they in-turn criticize the bad them, in us?
Consensus reality is an approach to answering the philosophical question “What is real?” It gives a practical answer: reality is either what exists, or what we can agree seems to exist.
The process has been (perhaps loosely and a bit imprecisely) characterised as “when enough people think something is true, it… takes on a life of its own”. The term is usually used disparagingly as by implication it may mean little more than “what a group or culture chooses to believe”, and may bear little or no relationship to any “true reality”, and, indeed, challenges the notion of “true reality”.
The great mystified beast within, THE SHADOW?
“But the banality of evil can exist and be done in the name of the good, and that is what a friendly form of fascism is all about. It manufactures a cultural normality that is blind to it’s own shadow.”
There is no EVIL! The word symbol is a subjective rationalization of that elephant in the room of human mental health, blind animal instinct?
As long as we continue to fudge the reality of our nature, with “not I” colored rationalizations of our own behavior, in way we actually function in the anxiety of the lived moment, no real-life progress will be made in changing THE SYSTEM!
The system, is NOT “out there,” it lives and breathes inside each and every one of us, yet we avoid this internal reality by fixing our awareness on “them.”
There will understandable and utterly predictable reactions to my comments, as a perception of “outsider” reaction stimulates peoples motor-vation, as instinctual orientation rules the NOW of our perceiving?
Yet from my “outsider” perspective, what I see is a profoundly sick society unconsciously immersed in an “us vs them,” philosophy of life which becomes a self-fulfilling reality?
A society founded with the King James Bible clutched to its bosom and highly dependent on that great Benign Paternalist in sky GOD?
How will America Conquer Benign Paternalism, without confronting its highly “dependent” structure of belonging at the root of its mad society? How will America Conquer Benign Paternalism, until it faces the reality of a crazy making “I think therefore I am,” self-awareness?
An “I think, therefore I rationalize my true motivational reality,” of which we are all guilty?
Before you all shoot me, please consider;
“My approach to healing trauma rests broadly on the premise that people are primarily instinctual in nature – that we are, at our very core, human animals. It is this relationship to our animal nature that both makes us susceptible to trauma and, at the same time, promotes a robust capacity to rebound in the aftermath of threat, safely returning to equilibrium. More generally,
I believe that to truly understand our body/mind, therapists must first learn about the animal body/mind because of the manner in which our nervous systems have evolved in an ever changing and challenging environment. (p, 225)
However, there is an almost violent schism lurking in our cultural zeitgeist. Lets face it; the fight against evolution by the proponents of “creationism” and “intelligent design” is not really about professed gaps in the fossil records; its about whether or not we are basically animals. (p, 225)
In fact, the word instinct is rarely found in modern psychological literature. Rather it is purged and replaced with terms such as drives, motivations and needs. While instincts are still routinely drawn upon to explain animal behaviors, we have somehow lost sight of how many human behavior patterns (though modifiable) are primal, automatic, universal and predictable. (p, 231)
In the Beginning, before the Word, was Consciousness.
The primal consciousness in man is pre-mental,
and has nothing to do with cognition.
It is the same as in the animals.
And this pre-mental consciousness remains
as long as we live the powerful root
and body of our consciousness.
The mind is but the last flower, the cul-de-sac. _D. H. Lawrence. (p, 236)
The capacity to anticipate and predict movement is the basis of what consciousness is all about. Any animal that is able to modify its behaviors (in response to changes in its situation) is imbued with some form of consciousness. In this way “mindedness” derives directly from improved organization and execution of bodily movement in time and space. The father of modern neuro-physiology, Sir Charles Sherrington put it this way; “The motor act is the cradle of the mind.” (p, 239)” _Peter Levine, PhD, “In an Unspoken Voice.”
The majority reaction will be “ignore him,” and of coarse its a very “reasonable,” one?
There is, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, a fine line between criticism of the obvious, and a critique of actual reality? Something along the lines of, “any fool can see whats wrong in life……..”
With my sincerest regard for the true nature of existential reality, Michael.
You talk of animal instincts as if they were things, locatable in space. Both ‘evil’ and ‘animal instincts’ are metaphors, the first expressing a value judgement about certain behaviours, the referent of the second being behaviours we deem inhumane. So one could counter, ANIMAL INSTINCTS don’t literally exist, though this of course doesn’t render the usage of the concept meaningless.
Maybe I am missing your point, which seems to me understandable when you’ve buried it in a mound of often incomprehensible language and vague ideas that seem to bear no relation to each other.
Clear mind, clear language.
You say there is no ‘EVIL’, as if some of us were unaware that, like ‘mental illness’, this is what we attribute to things, which I’m sure Chabasinski and Cornwall are quite aware of.
When I use the word ‘evil’, I use it to denounce the behaviours of people who, for example, coerce and con their fellow man, which are the two paradigmatic practices of psychiatrists, fully cognisant that it only exists in the way other theoretical concepts exist.
You interpret reality through your own conceptual framework just like the rest of us, and haughtily describe yours as the ‘true existential reality’.
The concept of ‘the banality of evil’ refers to the way in which human beings commit barbarous acts unthinkingly, inter alia, and does not propose that evil is some thing or force determining human action, not that I’m saying you are saying that.
I’m fully aware of the mechanism of rationalisation in human beings, just like I am fully aware of the fact that some of us don’t impinge ourselves on others’ existences violently like Nazis did and institutional psychiatrists do, and that those who do must be judged by those who don’t.
Not everyone commits acts of physical violence against his fellow man; we don’t all of us prey on people when they are most vulnerable to aggrandize our bank balances and make us feel proud and superior. Does that make us perfect, far from it, but I do believe there are reasonable grounds for dividing human society into those who don’t literally impose themselves on others and those who do. We may all possess these grim potentialities and realize them to varying degrees, but some of us repress them better than others, and do not shirk our moral responsibility to respect what is in my opinion man’s indefeasible right to self-sovereignty regarding their minds and bodies, liberty and dignity. I know that sounds smug, but not all of us have a history of raping and abusing others, and my conscience demands that I denounce them.
Some people might say that if we were in their position or environment, these potentialities would be activated in us as with them, yet history abounds with examples of people who courageously protect their ethical principles even to the detriment of their own safety, rather than torture and abuse their fellow man. Sometimes, the ‘us’ and ‘them’ interpretation of reality strikes me as warranted.
To borrow from Szasz when addressing Ronald Pies’ criticism that he should not judge lest he be judged, you speak as if you were the philosopher king, perched on his throne atop Mount Olympus, wagging his finger from up there in the clouds at his squabbling subjects.
Not only are they not different from the Nazis, psychiatrists were central to the Nazi regime. They were 100% behind experiments on the mentally ill and the eugenics concepts that drove Hitler’s regime. In a sense, Hitler was a front man for a movement that psychiatry not only embraced, but actively forwarded and championed at the time.
Psychiatrists and Nazis have an awful lot in common, including some very disturbing common history.
Thank you Ted Chabasinski—I totally agree!
Thank you, Ted, and thank you, Leah. You both so eloquently express what we all know in our hearts to be the truth. I say name names! Dr. Richard Lippincott, now of Little Rock, Arkansas, is the man responsible for shocking me and killing my young roommate with the insulin and ECT combination at Baldpate Hospital in Georgetown, MA. I have written him two long letters which I know he has received. He has responded to neither.
Great article about some very bad people, who, thankfully are old people and won’t be on this planet for much longer.
(Because they will die of old age)
I don’t know; the mean and bad people seem to live forever!
Leah, as always, you write with such clarity and grace. I’m so glad you and other friends and colleagues stood up to these two in public! Thank you.
Thank you, Leah. Jim (Gottstein) read this article to me and I’m heartened by your leadership on the issue closest to my heart. Victims have a right to justice and perpetrators have earned the right to the same consequences as any other common criminals. Jim struggled over the decision to go and confront Torre(sp?). I have been so sick (as a direct result of psychdrugs) that he was afraid to leave me. We both decided that this is a war that has to be fought, no matter what. We decided that it would be better to regret going than not going. There was some behind the scenes communication between the Heritage director, Stuart Butler, and Jim which did, to some extent I believe, set the stage. The presentation was obviously toned down, and Dr. Sally was clearly quite nervous. Jim had gotten permission to film and they knew this would be on youtube. My favorite moment was when Dr Sally admitted that she knew nothing about Open Dialogue…..and therefore has not read, “Anatomy of An Epidemic”. Now, if she really were concerned about science, or suffering people, or even drug company fraud affecting “patients”…..she would have done her homework. She didn’t. This is how it always goes with religious cults. Don’t read both sides of an issue; you might change your mind. And THEN WHAT? So instead she offered this (in a voice nearly swallowed), “Well I don’t know about Open Dialogue but I would question whether our same rigorous standard of measurements was applied” (OK so I may not have it word for word, but I’m close). YOUR RIGOROUS STANDARDS?????? Let’s see. We have the FDA panel suggesting you actually DO research ( as if Breggin’s 1985 APA address never happened)) on electroshock, and we have ghostwritten articles supporting research done by drug companies……..I’m wondering to what she was referring. I also enjoyed the squirming of the Doc beside “Fuller”. Ah, how he and Dr Sally loved Fuller. It was like a dysfunctional family dinner. I doubt the audience missed the continual fact check that took place after Fuller spoke each time. All in all, it seemed like a success…..except that Daniel Hazen didn’t get to handcuff himself to something. Don’t worry, Daniel, there will be more opportunities. Thank you Leah, and thank you, Ted, for your comments. In Solidarity, Nancy Rubenstein Del Giudice
The nature of something benign does not consist in forcibly reducing someone’s lifespan; it does not consist in committing an act phenomenally similar in its essential constituents to rape; it has nothing to do with the particular species of medicalized terrorism (to use Mr Szasz’s felicitous expression) that these dangerous and unconscionable bigots prescribe.
If only psychiatrists were at least given the rudiments of an education in the humanities, which might have introduced them to the concepts of George Orwell. It is an egregious Orwellian inversion of reality to call coercion, metaphorical rape, torture and murder, ‘benign paternalism’. What more evidence does a person need testifying to the fact that the last people we should be listening to on this issue are psychiatrists (which is exactly what the generality of people do in modern society)?
As is customary, language is made an accessory to the crimes of the powerful, and debauched in the pursuance of their despotic, ego-preserving aims. It seems that not only is liberticide one of the rituals of the psychiatrist, but verbicide as well!
An example of this, which occasioned much hilarity for this commenter (though admittedly tinctured with nausea and despair), is a video of E [email protected] Torrey, recently released, giving his own interpretation of what tragedy means, which of course leaves no room for accommodation within its semantic boundaries the iatrogenic suffering of psychiatric slaves and victims of medicalised con artistry.
Satel was just ventilating her prejudices, evoking stereotypes to justify those prejudices and casting herself as the valiant hero saving decent, sane society from the pullulating swarms of mentally-ill excrement-slingers! I would never throw excrement at another human being, though doing it to a latent Nazi like Sally Satel would have at least one extenuating factor in the fact that you are doing it to someone whose crimes amount to more than mere excrement-slinging.
As for the comment that psychiatrists are like Nazis (and often were Nazis), I agree, especially when they coerce others, yet in their role as con-artists I prefer the metaphor of the cowboy-builder.
In my country we have a superabundance of programmes dealing with this particular species of morally degenerate humans, and I was struck by the similarities.
Both prey on people when they are at their most vulnerable. The cowboy builder goes knocking on people’s doors, telling people (especially the old) that they have a problem they don’t actually have, conning them for financial gain. The psychiatrist is saved this inconvenience through the abettal of the family, the mass-audio visual media and of course the education system specifically, and cultural programming generally.
The cowboy builder, just like the psychiatrist, tells you you have a problem, though in this case, with your house; the psychiatrist cons you into believing you have a disease and that they, like the cowboy builders, can repair it.
Just as the house is rendered in a worse condition by the ‘repairs’ of the cowboy builder, the body and mind is left in a worse condition by the ‘repairs’ of the psychiatrist.
Both are impostors. The cowboy builder feigns expertise in his area, the psychiatrist in his. Victims of the first often have justice; of the second, rarely!
I’m sure any psychiatrists reading this will deem my remarks to be lese majeste, but then they would, wouldn’t they?
I’m not familiar with the “cowboy builder” metaphor but I like it. Are you in the States or elsewhere?
In reply to an emotive “projection” about what I am? And my “incomprehensible language and vague ideas that seem to bear no relation to each other.”
My seemingly appalling arrogance that should I dare to try and raise a real debate about the way we all actually function in the anxiety of the lived moment. All groups band together for support & protection, and it would be very easy for me to simply tow the group line here & write about the obviously BAD in “them.” Yet I have a very strong belief that we owe it to our ancestors and our grandchildren, to go beyond this unconscious and autonomic “us & them,” self-fulfilling, consensus reality.
Sure! At first sight, it looks like I’m being a self-absorbed arrogant, P**k. Yet I try, not to just give an opinion of myself, and I back up my comments with well researched references. In the interest of real-life debate, beyond conceptual rationalizations about the nature of human behavior, and the reality of psychotic experience, I offer the example below.
From the TV documentary “Minds on the Edge.”
“Minds on the Edge,” a Fred Friendly seminar featuring a panel of distinguished jurists, doctors and mental health experts. Together, they address a hypothetical dilemma, in this case, the fictitious case of James, a 32-year-old schizophrenic whose mother has recently died. Frank Sesno of George Washington University is your guide.
FRANK SESNO, Elyn Saks, James, can you give us a sense of what he’s experiencing?
ELYN SAKS, author, “The Center Cannot Hold,” Sure.
I think I actually have special insight, because I have experienced those things myself. I’m a person with chronic schizophrenia.
The best way to describe having a psychotic episode is like a waking nightmare, where things are crazy, bizarre, frightening, confusing. With schizophrenia, you have delusions and hallucinations and disordered thinking. Like, I was on the roof of the Yale Law School, and I was saying, “Someone’s infiltrated our copies of the legal cases. We’ve got to case the joint. I don’t believe in joints, but they do hold your body together” — so, loosely associated words and phrases.
But, experientially, the — the feeling is utter terror.”
“But, experientially, the — the feeling is utter terror.”
From this description of a person with chronic schizophrenia, consider Silvan Tomkins notions of “innate affect” from that decade of reaction to two world wars, the 1950’s? A decade which produced much fearless thinking about the human condition, with the fervent hope that our mindless addiction to the senseless loss of territorial wars, would not be repeated? Freud would perhaps nominate this decade of fearless exploration, as an unconscious reaction-formation to so much death? So profoundly expressed in Monica McGoldrick’s You Can Go Home Again: Reconnecting with Your Family as, “Loss is the Pivotal Human Experience.”
An Existential Crisis & Innate Fear-Terror?
“The nine affects:
These are the nine affects, listed with a low/high intensity label for each affect and accompanied by its biological expression:
Enjoyment/Joy – smiling, lips wide and out
Interest/Excitement – eyebrows down, eyes tracking, eyes looking, closer listening
Surprise/Startle – eyebrows up, eyes blinking
Anger/Rage – frowning, a clenched jaw, a red face
Disgust – the lower lip raised and protruded, head forward and down
Dissmell (reaction to bad smell) – upper lip raised, head pulled back
Distress/Anguish – crying, rhythmic sobbing, arched eyebrows, mouth lowered
Fear/Terror – a frozen stare, a pale face, coldness, sweat, erect hair
Shame/Humiliation – eyes lowered, the head down and averted, blushing
Are these the innate affect/emotions which we are taught to suppress early in life, as we begin to create our socialized sense-of-self? Our Nuclear Family & Extended Group’s – Consensus Reality?
We all shy away from our own inner reality in a well worn process of denial. The consensus assumption about acknowledging our evolved animal nature, driven by the fear of chaos and anarchy. Yet is it a socialized denial of our internal reality, which creates EVIL in our society? In line with the paradoxical nature of being human, I have found the reverse is true of accepting my evolved nature on a felt level of my existence. Unconscious, reactive fear and anxiety about otherness, simply dissolves & I cant help but see myself in “them.”
“There but for the grace of God, go……..”
We say these well meaning words, in the “pass over,” subjective state we call the mind. “Yeah, yeah I know, read that line in school.” What we don’t do is embody those words, on a felt level of our existence? Finally from one who walked the hallowed turf of Esalen.
“Of course there is ruthlessness throughout history and you can’t blame any one people for it: a peculiar thing about all our various mythologies – each of them horizon bound – is that love is reserved for the in-group and disdain, hatred, and brutality for the out-group.” _Joseph Campbell.
What you are stating here is exactly what Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism, the Jewish Kabbala, and the Christian mystics say. Notice I did not mention the main-line monotheistic religions but only the mystical groups within those religions. It is not possible for there to be any separation between one person and another; we are all one and the same. If you read anything that Alan Watts and Joseph Campbell wrote, which you apparantly do, you are constantly faced with this reality. I believe that what you say is true.
However, when I watch how the biopsychiatrist harm people each and every day that goes by in the facilty where I work, and the people being harmed are not listened to and never have a choice as to whether or not they want the “treatment” forced upon them I cannot reconcile anything.
So, help me to reconcile what I honestly believe with what I see being done to people. What am I to learn or understand from the reality that the biopsychiatrist who forces toxic drugs on people is really me. What am I missing in all of this?
At the risk of “talking” too much, I really think the moral issues that people like Torrey and Satel bring out are not that complicated. They advocate for taking away people’s freedom and injuring them, and even killing them.
Not being a Harvard professor, it all seems simple to me. These are simple issues of right and wrong, and once we start getting too intellectual about it, and start talking in abstractions, we lose our moral clarity.
I don’t care to debate whether evil exists or not. It certainly does, and I have been the recipient of it, both in my childhood and all of my life.
Leah’s article was very clear in its exposition of what these evil people have done. Let’s stick to that.
I don’t think we should be debating the existence of evil. I think we should be fighting it.