Or… Understanding Why Some People Choose Co-Optation
Or… The Powerful Impact of Being Discredited
Or… I am tired.
I cry a lot at home. I cry at movies, commercials, reality TV, touching things my kids do, and so on. I guess, when I’m at home, I just feel safe to express whatever emotion comes up, and come up they do.
I don’t, however, cry at work very often. More like just about never. One recent Wednesday, there was an exception.
I got a call from a colleague – not someone who works within the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community (RLC), but someone with whom I’ve worked fairly closely over these past six years. To be clear, this colleague is someone for whom I have a great deal of respect and who has been a tremendous support to the work I and others have done through the RLC. I don’t hold this person at all responsible for the things that were shared with me during that conversation.
That said, it was a difficult talk. First, we discussed the negative feedback and ‘concerns’ that had arisen following the RLC’s sponsorship of a couple of ‘Withdrawing from Medication’ workshops offered by David Cohen. In truth, David was great both during the workshops and as a conversationalist in the in-between moments for the two days he was in our area. He is (among many other things) co-author of Your Drug May Be Your Problem, principle investigator for the Critical Think RX curriculum, soon-to-be professor at UCLA (following a long stint as professor at Florida International University), and a true wealth of knowledge on the topic of withdrawing from psychiatric drugs. He was not the problem.
The problem was the typical reaction one can expect when you bring together people in clinical and a variety of other roles who have been indoctrinated to think that medication is the way, and you offer clear and direct challenges to their belief system. Many people (most, even) responded well to the workshop. Some did not. A couple of the people who did not chose to express their concerns on the workshop evaluation form and leave it at that. Others decided to direct their concerns to our funding source.
As aforementioned, these sorts of reactions are typical. Expected. Predictable. But, after a while, they become exhausting and sometimes… I. just. Get. So. tired. I’m not sure how many people understand how debilitating it can be to take on a job where your credibility is so constantly brought into question. I participate in many meetings with providers, and as I sit there, I am keenly aware that it is simultaneously my job to ‘push,’ but not ‘push too far,’ even though ‘too far’ is a forever moving target that isn’t clearly defined and left hidden for me to trip over at any time. I am asked to join specifically for that purpose, and yet my invitation could be (and has been) revoked precisely for the doing. Although many have been quite supportive of my presence, I’ve also been called in by administrators for scoldings at times because I “made other people at the meeting uncomfortable” (which quite frankly I consider a job well done!) or quietly dismissed for unspecified reasons.
When I worked in a traditional provider role, I spent five years being praised for my ‘clinical’ expertise and, more importantly, mostly left alone to do my work. Once I ‘came out’ as having my own psychiatric history and more openly began challenging the ways of the system, I went from clinically praised to scrutinized in literal moments, before finally losing my job.
Having lost all my credibility (and any desire to work ‘in’ the system), I found my way to the Guiding Council of Western Mass and then the RLC where at least I could be a part of building a team and a community that would create some degree of shelter from the sorts of judgments, rigidity and myopic perspectives I’d had to deal with so up close and personal in my prior role. And yet, the shelter is full of holes.
Because a part of our mission is to change the world – and not simply cut ourselves further off from it – we are still fairly constantly interfacing with clinical providers, family members, reporters, etc. That’s the way we want it. We strongly believe that those who have been labeled and those who have not are separated more often by timing, privilege, resources and the like as opposed to some inherent difference in our brains. We largely agree with the concept popularized by ‘Open Dialogue’ that problems often lie in the spaces between people, rather than just in one person on their own. And if we believe those things, then we must include everyone in our work. How could it be any different?
So, we applied for (and were granted) the ability to award Continuing Education Credits for Licensed Social Workers, Licensed Mental Health Counselors, and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists. At the request of a local pharmacist (which I thought was pretty great!), we explored applying for Continuing Education Credits for Pharmacists (though found them too expensive to manage at the moment), and looked into the possibility (also by request) of credits for nurses in the future. I personally spent many hours sending out e-mails and flyers to various professionals and organizations, my son’s pediatrician, and even my former debate partner, Psychiatrist Ronald Pies. We invited everyone to join us, whether or not they were likely to agree with the material (and perhaps particularly if they would not). After all, how can we ever hope to make any progress if we are not at least having these conversations?
And yet, still, I find myself overwhelmingly weary of it all. Following the workshop, another individual with whom I work shared that concerns were being raised about our community bridger work, where people like fellow blogger Sean Donovan will be going into hospitals to connect with individuals hospitalized there and supporting them to transition back to the community if they so desire. Were we, in fact, too anti-psychiatry to be trusted? Did we have the good sense not to be surreptitiously holding ‘Withdrawing from Medication’ groups on the actual hospital units? (I’m paraphrasing here.) That person was given the job to check in with me about these concerns and was trying to make the best of it, calling the inquiry on the topic, “a fair question.”
Yes, I suppose these sorts of questions are fair. When they are a part of a direct dialogue that incorporates the goal of moving toward shared understanding, transparency and ongoing communication. They begin to feel decidedly less ‘fair’ when they are repetitive, aimed at the funder rather than the source, bearing so little relationship to what we are actually saying and doing (we are not, for example, particularly secretive about much of anything!) and couched in assumptions and fear.
When I first began this piece, I alluded to the fact that there was more than one thing that was discussed during the phone call that led up to my work tear experience. Indeed, there was one other thing. It was about my shoes. Or rather, the lack thereof.
For those of you who don’t know me in person, I like to take off my shoes. A lot. When I leave them on too long, the skin on my feet start to feel like its burning and I get preoccupied with my discomfort. So, I take them off. If I’m in a meeting, you might not realize it. I’ll do it discretely under the table. But if I’m at one of our centers, or just about any other place where I’ll be spending an extended period of time, you’ll inevitably catch on.
I’m never entirely without them. I don’t, for instance, leave home without them or walk city streets barefoot. Frankly, my feet are the easiest way to transport my shoes when I’m going from place to place, and so I do put them back on in those moments.
So, there you have it. We discussed my feet and how uncomfortable some people are with the fact that I so often do not have my shoes on. I have to admit that I find this point somewhat infuriating; not at the person who shared it with me, but in general. I was told that some people are able to “get past it,” while others seem to get stuck on the issue. (Interestingly, I’ve never heard so many comments about my bare feet as I did while attending the annual ‘International Society for Psychological and Social Approaches to Psychosis’(ISPS) conference in 2010. Every 10 steps or so, someone would comment. Make of that what you will!)
Here’s the thing I can’t quite figure out. Why on earth does it matter so very much? Why are people so concerned with the state of my feet? I’ve existed this way for decades now, and never once stepped on a rusty nail or piece of glass. I swear it!
The reality is some people actually react quite well to my shoelessness. It’s known throughout my community as a little ‘quirk’ of mine. Members of our deaf community have given me a deaf name that incorporates the letter ‘S’ with the sign for bare feet. Some people have told me how it puts them at ease. Although it would be a silly reason on its own to go shoeless, in some ways, I think it helps reduce the barrier and sense of power differential between me as ‘Director’ and others around me. Surely, I would be received differently and with more trepidation within our community if I came to work in the decidedly business-oriented attire donned by many of my critics.
In actuality, (and though this goes beyond the more straightforward shoe issue) the clothing that might alienate me most from my community is the clothing that would likely give me the best shot at being accepted by many in provider roles. How strange, given that some of those people in provider roles are the ones to entrust me with the funding to build this community in the first place.
But would I truly be accepted if I just changed my wardrobe, or suffered shoes throughout the day? I suspect not. I was wearing shoes, for example, when I testified in court (or, at least, in the small room on the locked unit of a local hospital that they were calling court for that day) at the request of someone in our community who was trying to avoid being committed longer-term. And after my shoe-laden testimony, which consisted primarily of my answering the judge’s questions about my direct experience with the person-to-be-committed, a complaint was lodged against me with our funder for misrepresenting myself as having ‘clinical’ expertise. Never mind that just a few years before I was being lauded for having clinical expertise. Never mind that I never claimed to be anyone but who I was in that moment. Never mind that the people who made the complaint weren’t in the room for the hearing, and that they were likely just upset that things didn’t go their way. Perhaps if I’d only gone shoeless on that day, the judge would have known not to take me seriously!
The truth is that when people are hell-bent on discrediting you, there is little you can do. What I actually say and do holds maddeningly little weight. I could spend all day attempting to please my critics, and still fail completely. Apparently, they want me to look and act credible, but not TOO credible… Not as credible as them, for example, because that’s an inconvenience, too. It seems worth nothing that although I’m referring to myself here, it’s not all about me. This is not a ‘Sera’ conspiracy, and I don’t mean to say that all people with whom I’ve had this experience or others similar to it are specifically after me. Rather, many of us – and particularly those of us working in peer roles or connected to alternatives in some way – are frequently being offered only conditional acceptance provided we step willingly into the “credible, but not too credible/controversial, but within strict limits” box and live there.
At times, it brings many of the same feelings of powerlessness that I experienced when I was stuck in the system in a very different way.
It’s in these moments when my energy feels so depleted and my ‘hopelessness’ meter is on high, that I can find the greatest sympathy for those who have entered this system fully intending to be change agents, but given that up in favor of a more peaceful existence.
It’s also in these moments when I am so strongly reminded of who still remains in control. We can talk about person-centeredness and valuing the wisdom offered by those who have ‘lived it’ all we want, but how much meaning does it really have when those supposedly valued people can so easily be silenced, ignored, or dismissed? Or when they have to fight, play games, and attempt to ‘pass’ according to the standards of those truly in power just for a few scraps of being heard? That I require at least some degree of acceptance in order to continue to exist in this role speaks to who holds the keys to the financial resources. As I’ve learned the hard way in the past, these are also the people who have the power to pull me from my job altogether.
That I need to be forgiven for taking my shoes off or raising controversial topics, rather than being in the position to forgive those who march disruptively into our communities in their unsettling, suited attire and often using unsettling language, says something important about who is still setting the rules. And yes, I know, these ‘rules’ get set in all corners of our society. It is not specific to the mental health system.
I recall early on in my relationship with my husband (when we were both quite young), arguing about the wisdom behind dressing up a bit for a job interview, or the reasonableness of certain restaurants setting dress code standards. For the record, my then-boyfriend was arguing that people should be able to wear what they want, whenever and wherever they want and expect to be judged for who they are, period. I, on the other hand, was the one arguing that “that’s just not the way the world works,” that certain jobs will have particular dress expectations and it’s best not to alienate them until you know what those expectations are, and that perhaps it’s okay for restaurants that seek to create a certain atmosphere to ask their guests to participate in that process.
I still pretty much believe that all to be true, and so I have to pause a moment and ask myself if I’m being inconsistent, hypocritical or just plain stubborn to the realities of the world. Perhaps a little bit on the last count, but I’d also argue that this is quite different than those other situations because one of the foundational elements of work I am doing and the community that I’ve been a part of creating is that it is not supposed to be on someone else’s terms. That’s kind of the whole point. We are creating communities, and spaces, and relationships, and learning opportunities based on the wisdom we have gained from our own experiences. In the environment that we have co-created, it’s not only okay to honor our own needs and preferences, to explore how to integrate our differences into lives that work for us, to regard what may get labeled as our peculiarities as adaptations and strengths, to talk about challenging topics, to reclaim our power to decide… it’s necessary. Sometimes, it is lifesaving.
In the end, while this could be read as a rather self-indulgent blog about my own sense of persecution and exhaustion, I guess what it truly is intended to be is recognition of how hard this work can be; how easy it can be to get to the point of feeling beaten down and wanting to give up; how very frustrating it is to accomplish so much and yet come to understand that it can mean so little in the eyes of some very powerful people. I suppose it’s also a call to action for others, because when some of us get this tired, others need to be on the ready to step up. And, eventually, if there is enough of us (and we are growing), the blows will shake us far less and who makes the rules and sets the standards will simply have to shift.
Here are the facts of the matter:
Personally, I am a (pretty good) wife and mother of two. I own a home, and just managed to pay off my car loan. (Yahoo!) I’ve sustained my job with the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community (RLC) for over six years, and held other jobs on the side. (Mystery Shopping, anyone?)
In my role with the RLC, I have been a part of building something that is pretty great. In six years, we’ve gone from one resource center and a handful of other offerings scattered throughout the area to four centers, a support line, a community bridging team, a peer respite, a young adult alliance, and trainings and events to please (or offend) all. We’ve hosted a variety of nationally and internationally recognized speakers including Dan Fisher, Will Hall, David Oaks, Ruta Mazelis, Daniel Mackler, Jacqui Dillon, Ron Coleman, Rich Shulman, Gail Hornstein, Robert Whitaker, Jacks McNamara, Sascha Altman DuBrul, and, of course, David Cohen.
Our community is deeply invested and engaged in some of the most exciting developments that have taken place in this country in recent years, including Hearing Voices trainings and groups and our Alternatives to Suicide work. Our trainings have attracted participants from as far away as Arizona and North Carolina. We’re about to start up a second round of our Alternative Perspectives Film Series, and we recently finished production on our own first full film, Beyond the Medical Model. We have impacted hundreds of people’s lives.
Our aim is not to tell people what ‘is,’ so much as to challenge the existing paradigm and shift it to one of not knowing, exploration, choice and freedom.
If your aim is to discredit us, you’ll probably succeed in some circles. However, we have also had a great deal of success, and will continue down our path.
Some of us, without shoes.
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.
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You’re doing a lot of good work, Sera!
I really respect people who try to accomplish something while being funded by the very system we are trying to change. But this article shows what is wrong with that. As long as our movement continues to think its role is to reform the system from within, very little will change. Why should it? The people who treat us with contempt are not going to give up their power to people that they know have no power of their own. Frederick Douglass, who knew a whole lot about oppression as an escaped slave, said “Power concedes nothing without a struggle. It never has and it never will.” We are dealing with an evil and destructive system. Without power of our own, the things Sera wrote about will continue.
Ted, I appreciate and agree with much of what you say. That said, I take a slightly softer view on it – in spite of my exhaustion – simply because I’ve crossed paths with some really great people working in the system (including the person with whom I refer to speaking at the start of this blog) who are trying to change things, as well. And I’ve seen some change. Just not fast enough and not without way too many casualties. I’m not convinced that real, fundamental change is possible without some major overhaul that is much bigger than that to which we have access.. And yet, I haven’t given up hope that the one-by-one approach will eventually tip the balance, too…
Reality is a messy thing. I like the voice you raise, Sera. And I am not surprised that raising this voice also entails receiving some (tough) negative reactions. I tend to believe that what you do empowers other people to express what they didn’t hitherto express. And that’s good.
I think it’s great that you can’t discipline yourself into consistent shoe-wearing.
Thanks, Johan! I appreciate your reading and commenting. I too hope that when we all speak up here and elsewhere it also supports others to raise their voices. 🙂
Sera, I always appreciate your blogs and insights. This is a tricky dance and, I imagine, much easier to do with your shoes off sometimes. Which does, of course, risk getting your toes stepped on a lot more!
I’m grateful for all the work Western Mass RLC has and continues to accomplish. Definitely a beacon of hope for many. Thank you for showing up and moving bravely forward, day after day.
Thanks, Jen! I’ve been hearing much goodness about your Mother Bear work out this way, lately, too 🙂
I sat here reading your post, amazed at how you capture what I feel every day I’m at my job! In some small way, I know exactly what you go through in your struggle to make it possible for people silenced by the psychiatric system to find their own voices. Working with the “system” is like trying to balance and dance on the very thinnest of tightropes stretched over a yawning chasm.
I keep going back to my own job day after day due to people like you who are willing to stand with lantern in hand, lighting a very uncertain and difficult path into the unknown. As you say, more of us must find our own lanterns and the willingness to lead so that people can rest and regroup for the continuing struggle for freedom.
I am grateful for you, your lantern, and your willingness to lead, and oh yeah, for your bare feet!
Thanks, Stephen! 😉 I appreciate your appreciation and particularly send appreciation back to you and others who are going in to work in environments where what I described is present even more intensely than what I must face day-to-day. It’s a hard place to be.
“I suppose it’s also a call to action for others, because when some of us get this tired, others need to be on the ready to step up. And, eventually, if there is enough of us (and we are growing), the blows will shake us far less and who makes the rules and sets the standards will simply have to shift.”
I have tremendous respect for what you have done and continue to do Sera. I will support you and work alongside you any day of the week.
“After all, how can we ever hope to make any progress if we are not at least having these conversations?”
Tremendous post! I was so appreciative of David Cohen’s presentation and of the fact that you and others at the RLC made this dialogue happen. I thought David’s presentation was markedly not anti-psychiatry – but in a refreshing way despite me personally being somewhat anti-psychiatry. I thought David importantly exposed a lack of peer reviewed literature on coming off of psych-drugs and expressed a sentiment that I think is good for any community. In my oppinion that sentiment was that there is value in anyone sharing the effects they experience when putting any psycho-active drug in their body and that their is value in describing their expeiences coming off of any psych-active drug they CHOOSE to come off of – and that everyone has the right to do or not do this.
“Or when they have to fight, play games, and attempt to ‘pass’ according to the standards of those truly in power just for a few scraps of being heard?” I worked as a so called “direct care” change agent for three years in various residential facilities. I was a “peer support specialist” who started getting invited to a lot of meetings with suits. When i really started to advocate I got slammed and was very lucky to meet Deron and start working for Advocacy Unlimited right when I had pretty much three options – get fired, quit, or get co-opted. I was told things by administrtators to they effect – we agree with you Greg but it takes time organizations move slowly relative to other organizations we are making progress and you can’t disrespect people or organizations for being in accord with the current and longstanding realities. As you alluded to I felt I did my job when I offended those that were complacent in the face of a 25 year life disparity and don’t assess my performance or contribution based on whether or not I do a
little better than employees around me. I measure myself based on whether I do my job well or to the best of my ability. I don’t think organizations should assess their contribution based on whether or not they meet the standard of being “better” than horrible industries and corporations. In the “peer role” the system said you’ve been labeled Greg and even though you work your tail off, out perform most, and connect with people many can’t handle being in the same room with – here are some crumbs – be grateful. I said no thanks, rejected their damaging gradualism, and started working with Deron who encourages me to cultivate my truth and my voice.
Hey Greg, Thank you for reading and for your post! I also really appreciate your and Deron’s work and it’s good to have found such close and supportive neighbors 😉 I really appreciate many of the points you make, but particularly:
“I felt I did my job when I offended those that were complacent in the face of a 25 year life disparity,” and “I don’t think organizations should assess their contribution based on whether or not they meet the standard of being ‘better’ than horrible industries and corporations.”
There’s something to be said for meeting everyone where they’re at, and understanding why people can’t just jump from A to Z… And then there’s the people dying who don’t have time for a slow and leisurely process of figuring it out!
🙂 gradualism has particulary frustrated me of late – given that I am sometimes viewed as anti-psychiatry for nothing more than reiterating what Insel, former contributors to the DSM, the British Division of Clinical Psychiatry (and others to varying extents wedded to the perpetuation of biological psychiatry)have said. Sometimes people deem me anti-psychiatry for referencing admissions on the part of biological psychiatrists that biological psychiatry lacks validity.
I agree, I quit wearing shoes all the time when I read that going barefoot prevents varicose veins crooked toes, lower back pain… Soon barefoot became the new ‘normal’ and wearing shoes became uncomfortable after my feet adapted to walking outside without them and I guess learned how to walk barefoot by landing my steps correctly. Its also nicer to feel the ground, with shoes I’m missing something.
Despite the fact I live in a beach town with very clean streets and sidewalks I have people ask me “where are your shoes” usually just as a conversation starter at a checkout line asking me if I worry about stepping on things and I was told about the “health code” that does not exist a few times.
Everybody knows about the health code against bare feet, but its a total myth. There never ever was any health code against going barefoot ever at anytime in any pubic place. These are the same people for example who think depressed people have low serotonin despite the fact no one ever gets a serotonin level test . It has to be true cause “everybody knows” depression is caused by low serotonin and those pills fix it.
So many things we ‘know’ and so little time to really find out about them. 😉 Thanks for reading and your post!
Great essay Sera, with an interesting mention of feedback?
“That said, it was a difficult talk. First, we discussed the negative feedback and ‘concerns’ that had arisen following the RLC’s sponsorship of a couple of ‘Withdrawing from Medication’ workshops offered by David Cohen.”
In my opinion, what is missing from the conscious dialogue is an awareness and understanding of our unconscious and autonomic function?
Is there a misperception in our “cause & effect” diagnosis & its “mechanistic paradigm” of faulty logic? Consider my response to a question about trauma causation: The key to understanding, is to stop thinking in “external” images, as I used to, when it was suggested to me that trauma had played a part in my bipolar experience, and realize, that trauma “happens” unconsciously within the body/brain and its “feedback” nervous systems.
We are not OBJECTS, and we cannot analysis our organic nature with a cause & effect logic, as if, we were fixing a problem with a machine. There are multiple organic systems. within us, which function “all at once,” and we cannot “affect” one system without affecting all. Hence the unforeseen side-effects of medications.
Unfortunately, what gets lost in the rational dialogue, is the self-preservation needs of each individual, and way we habitually cover-up this unconscious motivation, with rationalizations? Hence, the civil-debate will continue to revolve around the Cartisian Circle of old, and researchers will demand more research, in aid of their own survival, IMO.
In the meantime though, there are honorable people, less driven by commercialism and doing great, non-pharma research into human development, rather than pathology. People like Professor Stephen Porges and his groundbreaking “The Polyvagal Theory,” which IMO will transform mental health completely in the coming decades.
Also, in the meantime, the internet has transformed our ability to gain self-education and be less reliant on fulfilling our paternalistic needs, by way of an expert, and too often indoctrinated subjective opinion? Please consider my own self-educated research on my Bipolarity;
“MANIA & OUR MASK OF CONSCIOUSNESS?
A readers timely comment & my response;
“How do you propose you approach a person when their emotional desires or needs have either been unseen or misunderstood to the point they have a break with reality? Could you perhaps be wrong in thinking it is a social disorder? It’s hard to argue against your thinking: because I don’t know enough about the genetic underpinnings of mania and if it were something we were born with then it’d have to be a structural difference which it doesn’t seem to be. Leading up to my manic break I was extremely depressed, harassed, and had trouble vocalizing my needs because I felt I shouldn’t have to. I was stubborn in addressing this because my own condition told me everyone should be respectful and compassionate towards each other, but I had an experience which shook that worldview by being isolated from the entire school. I had no one to talk to, so I broke down and was diagnosed with schizophrenia now schizoaffective but it still doesn’t really solve the problem and my rational mind still gets upset about it, while pills help calm me I guess, I don’t exactly accept the idea that it was a random chemical misfire or imbalance I was born with because there’s no scientific explanation for something like that.”
“Thanks for your thoughtful comment.
The timing is interesting, as I find myself in a month, of grappling with how to explain, in simple commonsense terms, that are easily digestible.
In terms of our “unconscious” functioning, where “structure” is our brain, heart, lungs, intestines and our nervous system organization of metabolic energies, which create our “states” of “attention,” within our mind’s. The experience of mental illness, is, IMO, “a right of passage.” It is, our nervous systems need, for us to face reality, as it is. You write;
“Leading up to my manic break I was extremely depressed, harassed, and had trouble vocalizing my needs because I felt I shouldn’t have to. I was stubborn in addressing this because my own condition told me everyone should be respectful and compassionate towards each other, but I had an experience which shook that worldview by being isolated from the entire school. I had no one to talk to, so I broke down and was diagnosed with schizophrenia now schizoaffective but it still doesn’t really solve the problem and my rational mind still gets upset about it, while pills help calm me I guess, I don’t exactly accept the idea that it was a random chemical misfire or imbalance I was born with because there’s no scientific explanation for something like that.”
From a subconscious perspective of survival needs, your depression before your manic break, was about using too much of a “passive” energy mode, to get your basic survival needs met. Then in order to take the challenge of a more mature approach to reality as it it is, your nervous system, needs to correct its previous imbalanced mode, and allow you to face the external environment, without a fearful expectation of needing to be “passive,” to get what your needs met.
The challenge, for our Western educated mind’s, is for others to see the “body language,” in the experience, and the individual, to feel sensations within the body, and discern what they mean. For decades, I got lost, in a subjective interpretation of my “right of passage” experience, in manic periods. I got stuck, in trying to decipher the internal need, within my mind, instead of just enjoying the sudden “un-freezing” of my sensory nature.
I understand, that you can’t see a scientific explanation for your experience. Like so many people, I tried my hardest to accept the “chemical imbalance,” metaphor of a diseased brain. I did this, more for the sake of others, than myself. Yet when I first started reading Allan N Schore and the science of human development, I began to see a different picture, of what others assume, is a “pathology.” Yet, if all we focus our attention on, is pathology, what are we likely to see?
In Silvan Tomkins view of our “innate” nature, we have six negative “affects,” and only two genuinely positive affects. So from this viewpoint, we are hardwired with a “wary” expectation, to maximize our chances of survival. These negative, innate affects, energize our fearful and “passive” responses, while the positive innate affects of “interest-excitement” and pure “joy,” energize our positive responses to life. Hence, the experience of so-called mental illness, is, in most cases, a need to reconfigure, our “unconscious” orientation to life, as it is, in the anxiety of the lived moment.
A right of passage, misunderstood, by psychiatry, because of the general fear of madness, which desperately needs to keep it out of sight and out of mind.“
Thank you for reading, David, and sharing some of your own thoughts. I really appreciate your drawing attention to what underlies what our our intellectualized realities. It’s an important point, but often hard to reach.
You dear, competant, innovative, brave, honest, funny woman!
Your good ideas and generosity are observed and felt at least as far as the north and west reaches of BC, Canada. Thanks to your suggestion, I spent part of today researching the possibility of offering continuing ed. credit for OTs attending a Ron Coleman workshop on living with voices. You’ve helped make some of us, including some inside the system, feel as though we are part of an effort that is bigger than ourselves.
There are others to help when you get tired.
Thank you, Diana and thank you for all the work you are doing and for the kindness and persistence of you and your husband. 🙂
Disagree Ted, we need survivors on the inside and outside of the tent, it’s down to personal choice which you do. Those working on the inside are not hurting stopping anyone else’s work.
Biological psychiatry is a tyranny, *some* of what is promoted as alternatives can also be in danger of replicating that, true freedom is being able to choose what we want and need for ourselves without judgement from anywhere.
There are limitations, there are certain kinds of work/involvement which do feel like banging one’s head against a wall, I couldn’t be a service “champion” spouting whatever the commissioner wanted me to, nor rubber stamp a piece of research, we each draw the line at different points, but not all work within the system, not all collaborative work is a waste of time. Just as not all survivor/alternative work is always nice and supportive.
As for your shoes Sera, that did make me smile, I’ve experienced some versions of that, and if I had henna painting skills I’d offer to decorate your feet!
Thank you for reading and replying, Joanna. Agreed on your points to Ted, though I also understand and agree with some aspects of his. And thank you for your foot-decoration idea. 😉 Perhaps I ought to consider getting some shoes tattooed on. 😉
Hi Sera. Thank you for so eloquently describing the resistance many of us encounter in our naïve attempts to try to change the system, while working within it. I think it speaks of our hopeful nature and sincere intentions. As I’ve written before I do not expect to survive in the field long enough to see it happen myself, which gives me a certain freedom.
The despair and discouragement you describe comes to me when I catch a glimpse of the impossibility of our task. It sucks the wind out of me sometimes. The vast industry of disability.
I honestly try not to look at it. which is also an act of Faith and Denial.
I recognize many of the reactions and arguments you get. The blowback from clinicians and other stakeholders. I think it is denial: a very simple, very primitive defensive reaction. (as a general rule, the more rigid and primitive the defense, the more desperate the person/group is to not acknowledge the truth). Denial (and faith) protect against awareness. This is what Kuhn suggests will happen just prior to a paradigm revolution.
It is pointless to argue matters of faith with evidence, and I’ve tried to stop arguing with clinical people who are actively not listening, or are personally offended by my honest opinion about a case they are working on. This is especially true when they are in numbers, and will only validate each other. It is their numbers that discourage me the most. It seems I am always alone when it really counts.
It helps to not take their defensiveness personally, although I certainly get stuck there myself from time to time. It also helps to focus on the people you are able to reach. I bet there are always plenty of these around you (Sera) everyday.
Another tactic I recognize is shifting the attention away from the uncomfortable facts, and onto some peripheral issue, such as your wardrobe, shoes, or the way your message makes them feel. If some one is defensive (or angry or uncomfortable) –it must be because you are doing something wrong. They might even promise to understand you if you only can change “the way you say it”. (they wont)
first they ignore you
then they ridicule you
then they attack you
then you win
Thanks, Michael, for reading and also for your work. Your points are all good ones – particularly those on how to survive it all. 😉 They are familiar, but sometimes get lost in the ‘tired.’
I know what you mean. I often do very shocking things with my feet, such as going out barefoot in the snow or picking something up off the floor using my toes. People who are horrified by naked feet may have sexual (oops, I mean personal) problems in their very soul.
Heh. Well, I do refrain from using my feet as hands at work, but yes, thank you for your comment, mjk. 😉
Thanks Sera! I really appreciate and relate with your writing.
I was just randomly looking for good pages for linking/posting and found this:
Saying No to Psychiatry
But this year the meeting was affected a bit by a band of mischievous agitators who made their presence known in embarrassing ways. On the third day of the meeting, some 40 picketers marched outside McCormick Place with banners that read, “Hey, Hey, APA! How Many People Did You Drug Today?” and “We’d Rather Be Mad With the Truth Than Sane With Lies!” Meanwhile a plane cruised overhead trailing the simple, straightforward message, “Psychiatry Kills.”
A similar idea was driven home by the dissidents who attended the meeting itself and even participated in panel discussions and workshops. At one session a barefoot young woman, who was clearly not a psychiatrist, wore a sweatshirt on the back of which was written, “Psychiatry Sucks!”
Was that you Sera with the “Psychiatry Sucks” sweatshirt and bare feet ?
Anyway at this years convention I hope that plane with the “Psychiatry Kills” banner is flying again, that’s a really good idea. Tell the whole city !!!!