We Are The Ones

Alice Keys, MD
23
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My public writing has brought my mother and I closer together than we’ve been in decades. There have been disagreements. But now, my almost ninety-year-old mother tells me she reads everything I write. She recently told me that she’s glad I see things so clearly.

“Maybe people will wake up,” she last wrote to me.

After high school I performed the act I had been groomed for by the education arm of our industrialized nation. I left home abruptly and went far away from the farm in search of my new individual life, free from family shackles. I had been taught by my teachers and counselors at school that my family, with its farm poverty and immigrant surname, was to blame for the angst I felt. My family was responsible for any and all troubles I encountered during my school box years. With sympathetic whispers and wrinkled noses I was led to loathe and blame my home, family and parents.

I learned I’d have to separate myself from my family if I was ever to get ahead.

When I was in college studying to be an elementary school teacher, I was taught to blame families. During sociology, psychology and education courses I was taught that we young people, banded together in peer groups and wielding modern education ideas, could create a brave new world. Old people had nothing of value to say. Their old ways were the root causes of our societal ills. History was boring.

I learned this same “blame game” again during medical school. I was taught that multigenerational (family) poverty was the cause of the medical and psychiatric suffering I was to treat. I learned that if we could only separate a lovely young child from her mother, we could prevent that child’s individual adult distress. Lip service was given to putting aside the concept of  the “schizophrenigenic” family that had been blamed for “mental illness”. This made way to shift the blame for modern human suffering to inherited “biologic” (family) causes.

This  blame game, with individual families and communities as the cause of human suffering, continues today. It is a now a core cultural belief, a sacred cow within the religion of industrialization.

This cultural lie, that family and community are the specific causes of personal unhappiness and anger, is a wedge used to rip children from their families and tear communities apart. If people are allowed to keep their family and community relationships, they are not so easy to melt into our materialistic pot. Small individual-sized bits melt better than larger hunks of humanity.

The destruction of family and community is a root cause of suffering in any industrialized country. It is at the root of the emptiness, loneliness and rage that drives our unceasing consumption, restless driving and violence.

There is, nonetheless, resistance to awareness that we have been intentionally misled by our wealthy industrialist forefathers who designed the current American culture.  We are many generations deep inside the digestive tract of immortal corporations today.

There are no family farms and small towns to return to. There are no extended families waiting to take us back in.

We are the ones who will have to make a difference now.

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Thanks for reading, thinking and writing.

All the best.

Alice

Alice de Saavedra Keys MD

23 COMMENTS

  1. IMHO this is one of your best pieces of writing. It’s powerful and straightforward like a punch to the gut.

    As a high school religion teacher I had to teach a class on social justice. It raised some of the very issues you point out. This was in the 1970’s and ’80’s. The school was ahead of its time, but in the Economics and Business classes the teachers had to teach a class called The Judeo-Christian values of American Capitalism. This class was mandated by the state legislature. The students were often very confused.

  2. That’s what the Luddites were saying. They were not anti-technology. They were opposed to the family and community being torn apart by industrialization’s requirement to have a mobile and docile population to manipulate. And they were right.

    Thanks, Alice!

    — Steve

  3. “I learned that if we could only separate a lovely young child from her mother, we could prevent that child’s individual adult distress.”

    Personally, I loathe my birth mother – will not ever “forgive” her – and wish the state foster care system had done a better job. They failed and now the damages and harm are a condemnation. I will not ever be “forigiving” any state agency, either.

    From the mom-ent they were in my womb, the people of this world were hell-bent and determined to rip my children out of me and away from me. They had their reasons.

    I was an underage teenager.
    I was unmarried.
    I wasn’t rich.
    I was dependent on tax-payer / government money.

    “Have an abortion”, dozens of people told me, with each of my three pregnancies. This world did NOT want my children to be born.

    When I didn’t have an abortion, “put them up for adoption” people said.

    I think my youngest daughter, whom I haven’t seen in 4 years, and will not ever see again, in this lifetime, will eventually be adopted by her foster parents. I’m so glad she’s a tax day baby. And I’m so glad the dutiful tax-payers pay their taxes. Keep paying for it.

    In my life, I have learned that mother is a bad word.

    My motherhood was nearly criminalized. I was made to feel like a “convict” and a “criminal” for having “gotten myself pregnant”, daring and defying to have given LIVE BIRTH. I think the “family” were “ashamed” of me, but I can’t be sure since they might have been shamed by all the sexual abuse that came pouring out, at the same time my son became part of the world. Motherhood has some interesting effects on some women, an inner drive to PROTECT. I got pregnant and instead of having “morning sickness”, I had “secret” sickness that needed to come out.

    I deeply regret my motherhood. I deeply regret conceiving children. I deeply regret giving birth. The sickest part of me saying that is the amount of wicked and evil people in the world, some who know me and others who do not, who will smile and feel victorious. I deeply regret that I myself have been born.

    These horrible things to say are the effects of JUDGMENT & ABUSE, not “mental illness”.

    My motherhood is not without elements of War.

    I don’t feel like editing or censoring anything I’ve communicated, in public, to the whole entire wide-open world. I hope you hate what I’ve said as much as I do.

  4. I agree Alice that families are under attack and have been for some time now, due to our fast moving, consumerist world. Psychiatry compounds this by blaming families, mothers and genetics for ‘mental illness’. Social workers identify risk and separate children from mothers. Abortions/terminations in pregnancy are routine and unquestioned. Now there is perinatal psychiatry so that pregnant mothers are labelled and drugged before giving birth. In addition to the scandal of children on stimulants, labelled ADHD. It’s a mad, mad world.

    My mother was in the psychiatric system in the 50’s and 60’s due to periodic nervous breakdowns, the only person in her family to have mental ill health, being the youngest and her mother having died when she was 13, then having to go live with relatives. Because of the psychiatric engagement she had a lifetime of being labelled and latterly injected with depixol. Not because she had any sort of mental illness, which doesn’t exist, but because the system wouldn’t let her go. I am very unhappy about this, my mother was a gentle woman, and is one of the reasons I’m now a survivor activist and resistance fighter, psychiatric system wise. Also because all of my family have engaged with the system. At present I have another son in the system and will be helping him disengage.

    I see the psychiatric system as irritating and an annoyance. Like the wizard of Oz it only sounds like it’s got power but actually is ineffectual and hiding behind a curtain. Others describe it as the ’emperor’s new clothes’ story and it’s only a matter of time before everyone will see the nakedness. Seeing it in this way removes its power and helps me to extricate family members from its influence. Having passion also is useful.

    It’s good to hear of your closeness with your mother. I was fortunate to keep close to my mother over the years and looked after her when I could. She had a ‘good’ death in 1998, aged 68, and I was able to keep an eye on her treatment until the end. Although having lung cancer, she smoked, my mother had very little pain, she was peaceful in her final days and we had many happy conversations which I remember with gratitude. She had coped well with psychiatric engagement, accepted the labels and drugs, wasn’t bitter. It’s a testimony to her character. I couldn’t have been so non-judgemental.

    As the matriarch now in my family, mother and grandmother, it is my responsibility to keep watch over them, is how I see it. I’m happy to do this, it’s not irksome. It’s great to be 60 and have life experience, also having completely recovered from mental ill health and psychiatric treatment in 1978, 1984 and 2002, due to postnatal and menopausal transitions. I don’t accept any of the psychiatric labels put in my notes. And recently got the 2002 label put in ‘perpetuity’ by the psychiatrist who treated me back then. He had to agree that the label wasn’t permanent. Because I have made a complete recovery, despite their ‘lifelong mental illness’ prognosis back then. How embarassing for them!

    All the best with your writing Alice, it’s encouraging to hear your story, Chrys

    • Your family is lucky to have you as their matriarch and lucky to have a matriarch at all. Another consequence of capitalism and consumerism and the destruction of families is that it removes the “wise woman matriarch” so that the family has little or no guidance from the older, and hopefully, wiser adult. It’s another way to remove more power from the family. Matriarchs can be fierce fighters when it comes to protecting their own. My grandmother and mother were great matriarchs.

  5. When it was in fashion for people to complain about their parents, in high school. I didn’t. Probably just wasn’t socially enough capable, which isn’t a loss. My parents also are both psychologists, and good enough at mind control to make a person terrified of this.

    It’s only when they decided that I was “crazy” that I started, after years of confusion, to realize the real deep inner wounds they had caused. I mean deep ingrained fears that surfaced in psychotic episodes (for like 20 y ears or more) because they just weren’t there for me. In the beginning I was just disturbed; but they didn’t know how to simply be parents. You just don’t raise children with such moralism; to act like one is radical and abating fear (and psychologically progressive) by doing the most forced unnatural things; and then acting like the children are supposed to understand this. This is just not what a good parent does. And parenting is about being a parent not instilling psycho-analyses. Or having a political agenda.

    And with me, this really goes back to the basic principles of what a healthy mind is. I’m truly fortunate that I never was forced on psychiatric medications. And my parents never had me institutionalized. They did get me on disability. But that has nothing to do with healing, except it gave me the space to not have to be part of the system. So, instead of being part of the grind I did something greater. I’ve found the healing in arts; and there’s quite a few people I’ve been able to help. And I’m actually an example of the fact that there’s another way. The amazing thing is that all of the things that happened in my youth actually helped to push me in the right direction. I can either fall into dwelling on them; or I can decide to do something like compose an interlude for piano, write a poem, a novel, paint, meditate; follow any of the healing modalities like the books of Marlo Morgan, what Anita Moorjani and others have shared about our spirit selves, or A Course in Miracles. In many ways my parents were “good” parents, they thought they were doing good, they actually were “thoughtful” about what they were doing; and quite “normal.” That just doesn’t really make a good parent. But then that doesn’t make them attractive as to what ideas I’m going to follow in my own life, either. I don’t care about Moses: “Honor thy Mother and Father, either. If he had looked further he might not have ended up in the wars he did. I searched further, and I have searched further, and it’s rewarding to look further rather than deciding they were supposed to be different. There are people I encounter every day where I wonder what’s going on with them; I can’t try to change their lives either. I can change mine, and that changes all of perception. I can see them as people that are making mistakes rather than people to hate. Or I can just decide I don’t know what’s going on, and judging them isn’t going to help.

    A healthy mind is a mind that’s allowed to be happy: that doesn’t have to have political venues to make itself superior to others; that doesn’t need to follow moral tenets to make itself better than others: that doesn’t believe that no pain no gain means you get special privileges. And if I mention that evil word forgiveness, that’s what forgiveness is about. That you have the right to happiness, whatever that may be. It’s not about overlooking a flaw to find yourself superior. That doesn’t really make you happy. Then you’re investing in the same system that you’re trying to fight against.

    It’s all fear based programming. And a great part of “psychology” seems to be about fear based programming. It’s not about finding happiness. It’s about control. When you start to see how this all goes completely wrong. How it can’t work, although that is the majority of what you encounter every day; every hour, every minute, every second, every split second of thought. Someone who is simply letting go of stress, rather than believing they need to be doing something to take part in the fray of fear based programming; they might even feel as if they aren’t doing anything. When whatever they would be trying to do could only make things worse. And it ceases to matter what people have done; what great wrong perceived by society they have perpetrated; because the answer never would be in the vice and vice-grip that fear based control tactics promote: all of the stress to get people to behave in a certain way; while inevitably (like what happens when you put stress on anything) something breaks; and you get all of the behaviors that people are supposed to hate. Accepting the very stressed based fear based system which caused them is supposed to fix them. And everyone cheering when they’ve caught “the bad guy” isn’t true happiness either. It’s promoting the fear based stress based system which caused the problem. And I’m just saying that you can find happiness, instead. I’m not condoning anyone’s behavior, which didn’t bring them happiness themselves: whether “criminal” or “moral.” Let go of that ghost. The faulty idea of linear time which says that when you terrorize people into behaving how you think they should, that this is looking at the past to change the future; this is completely wrong. It’s a complete vicious cycle.

    I agree in ways about this emphasis on the family, when it simply becomes another way of causing duality. And the last thing I ever would want to do is get stuck with some therapist getting me to haul over everything that happened to me as a child; and then making me feel supported as the victim; all of this facilitated by a produced atmosphere and me believing that all of this mechanized kindness, these candy affirmations was some kind of magic. It’s not in investing in more duality that I find healing. It was in art, for example. Where everything is part of the whole. Every character in a novel, every note of a piece for piano. Every word in a poem. Not just those things which uphold society’s fear based programming. And in art one can make themselves completely vulnerable and find peace. No need for revenge.

    This idea that genes cause mental illness (and thus the family causes mental illness) is ridiculous, and there’s also no proof of it. Using the idea that the family causes mental illness, in order to analyze people’s families in arbitrary ways, regarding whether they fit into the fear based mold; this is exactly the opposite of looking at what causes emotional distress. And it gives people freedom to project their emotional distress on people they judge as not fitting into whatever arbitrary fear based agreements they’ve come up with to judge people. It doesn’t have anything to with looking at how a family might cause emotional distress; and it doesn’t excuse that a family might cause emotional distress, either.

  6. I am affraid parents often traumatise their children and most of the time they don’t mean too. Often parents want the best for their children but they forget to ask their children what they want and don’t allow them to have their say. I had very good parents and yet my father whom I loved very much was directly to blame in my breakdown. Luckily he realised it and “picked me up” and helped me back on my feet and we stayed close until he died. My mother was a gentle person who didn’t understand a wild child like me but who always tried her best. We just weren’t born on the same wave-length: it wasn’t her fault. The best thing about her: she was never judgemental.

  7. I find it insulting, frankly, to be told that the multitudes of abuses heaped on me by my “family” (not to mention my small-town farm community) is not “really” the cause of my lifelong distress, that the true cause is, apparently, my decision to remove myself from my tormenters; that I’m “not woken up” (the implication: that I’m stupid, delusional, incompetent) if my experiences differ from yours or if I disagree with your worldview.

    No, but of course you’re right: my family’s mistreatment didn’t cause my trauma, the profound terror I’ve lived with for much of my life. My escape is, retroactively, to blame, as is… uh, the industrial revolution? If I think otherwise it’s clearly because I am simply a stupid, stupid young person who doesn’t understand that all-knowing, infinitely wise middle-aged and elderly people obviously know more about my own experiences than I do.

    Please.

    This article would have been much stronger had you focused on your own experiences, rather than making far-reaching claims about some sort of universal truth that denies the reality of so many people’s lives. There is no single root cause of human suffering — humans in fact suffer for a wide variety of reasons.