Does the Psychiatric Diagnosis Process Qualify as a Degradation Ceremony?


Sociologist Harold Garfinkel, in his landmark article “Conditions For a Successful Degradation Ceremony” wrote that “Degradation ceremonies are those concerned with the alteration of total identities.”

I first read this liberating article in the 1970’s as I was trying to piece together my life after a lengthy experience of madness. It validated my gut-level belief that my avoidance of psychiatric treatment, no matter how much I was suffering, was necessary to avoid having my identity stripped from me and a new identity of life-long mental patient embedded in my psyche.

Garfinkel was greatly influenced by Erving Goffman, the father of Labeling Theory. Goffmans’s book “Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates” looked at how society deals with deviance by codifying and enforcing social roles and identities

But Garfinkel’s work on what he called “Status Degradation Ceremonies,” is very appropriately geared to help uncover more understanding about the impact of the process of psychiatric diagnosis.

Because I believe that undergoing a psychiatric diagnosis process has an uncanny and sinister-feeling quality to it that comes from a deeper aversion than just forming a rational objection to being labeled and subjected to a DSM-5 category.

I think our deep aversion to being diagnosed comes from a fundamental reality; that psychiatry has been invested with the same power to perform identity degradation that has always resided in designated specialists. “It will be treated here as axiomatic that there is no society whose social structure does not provide in its routine features, the conditions of identity degradation.”- says Garfinkel.

When we are diagnosed, we feel the weight of an ancient social sanction of identity degradation, one that has taken many forms from our tribal beginnings, but is still life-transforming in its power – even when carried out now with the best intentions, and for our perceived benefit by mental health professionals.

Garfinkel points to this almost archetypal human experience when he writes “Just as the structural conditions of shame are universal to all societies, by the very fact of their being organized, so the structural conditions of status degradation are universal to all societies.”

The crushing loss of faith in a happy future is profoundly damaging because of the loss of our personal sovereign identity, a rupture occurs in the personal continuity of who we were before we were diagnosed, with who we are said to now be.

Garfinkel asks “What program of communicative tactics will get the work of status degradation done?” A ceremony is required that will secure the “product of successful degradation work to be a changed total identity.

A professionally rendered DSM-5 Axis 1 diagnosis always rests on the belief that a bio-genetic disease process has been established to exist. The diagnosed person is informed that their illness should be of primary concern indefinitely, if not for the rest of their lives. From that fateful day of diagnosis forward, the person shall now be officially identified as someone with a major mental illness.

For Garfinkel, the person undergoing a status degradation process also “Must be placed outside, must be made strange” – and must become – “Literally a new and different person… the former identity stands as accidental; the new identity is the ‘basic reality.’” What the person is now is what they were “all along.”

But I learned there is a way out of this trap, there is good news. As so many readers of can testify, we can “render” all degradation ceremonies “useless.”

When I read the last line of Garfinkel’s article almost 40 years ago it felt like a jail-break to me, because it said I could – with a very simple move – render useless any attempt to pigeon-hole me and take away my identity via a psychiatric diagnosis.

I could simply choose to not acknowledge or honor the socially-sanctioned power of psychiatry to perform a degradation ceremony on me.

Because unless we volunteer to give that power to another person or our society, they can’t wield it.

Oh yes, they can diagnose us, lock us up and do all the human rights abuses they do that they call treatment, but if we refuse to give away our identity, no one can take it from us.

If the social institution of psychiatry is tasked by our society to regulate deviance via the identity degradation ceremony of diagnosis and oppressive “treatments” that are often human rights abuses, then how can such a dysfunctional, dystopian society find its way out of such a spiritually and morally bankrupt cultural dead end?

Can Garfinkel’s baleful pronouncement that all societies inherently are set up to have identity degradation ceremonies take place be flipped, and we claim that our society can and must also be a constant source of an opposite kind of ceremony that we pursue doing status elevation ceremonies, identity valuation ceremonies?

As individuals, we can refuse to give psychiatry the credence or moral authority to perform a successful identity degradation ceremony on us.

But how can our individual defiance reverse the ubiquitous practice of diagnosis/identity degradation?

Briefly, I will just say, as I approach 70 years in our Orwellian dreamscape, that I don’t look to social institutions like the law, religion, academia, political ideologies, or the media to save us from the societal dead end cul-de-sac we inhabit.

The collective horsepower to take back our culture from its blind masters resides right here on Madinamerica and on every psych ward and in every prison yard.

That transformative social power was present in the anti-war and social protest movement of the 1960’s, and the recent Occupy movement, the civil and women’s rights and LBGT movements, and our mad pride/consumer/survivor/ peer/recovery/human rights movement.

Our ceremonies of self-love and love for each other as comrades, and the ceremonies of open defiance we practice together, don’t mean the tragic fruits of rampant anarchy will replace the identity degradation ceremonies and human rights abuses that are masked by medical legitimacy.

Revolution is the word and the answer and it always has been. It is the sure path to personal and societal freedom and transformation. If we listen to our hearts and not so much to our heads, the right direction will keep being shown to us of how to proceed.

Imagine a society where one day psychiatric diagnosis and identity degradation ceremonies don’t happen any more. Like John Lennon sang – It’s easy if you try.


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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  1. Somewhat along the same lines, here’s a link to a discussion that considers how psychiatric diagnoses share the characteristics of “defamatory statements”:

    These issues are complex though. I was having a discussion yesterday with a guy who is now capable of seeing beyond his diagnosis, but he still looks back on the day he accepted his diagnosis as a change for the better. The reason is that until he took his diagnosis seriously, he was instead taking “delusional beliefs” seriously in a way that was ruining his life. The diagnosis gave him a different perspective on what was going on. What we need to do is get better at “ceremonies” that help people shift perspective without the destructive aspects of diagnoses.

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      • Too bad there are no attorneys who will take such defamation injury as a court claim, especially for vets whose occupational life has been ruined not only by military psychiatric diagnoses, but the accompanying secret separation codes impressed on discharge papers which vets were not told of but employers were provided the keys for.
        There is no compensation available for lost income for such vets; The VA and the laws it operates under are oblivious to any harm caused by diagnoses. In fact it is policy that the very psychiatrists performing the labeling ritual are the ones given charge to assess employability of the labeled. This of course is a conflict of interest.
        Lacking too are research studies that would clearly show employment discrimination against those bearing psychiatric labels who are required by prospective employers to release information that the prospective employee may be barred from viewing.

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  2. “Can … we claim that our society can and must also be a constant source of an opposite kind of ceremony that we pursue doing status elevation ceremonies, identity valuation ceremonies?”

    Michael, this is a wonderful question! I would love to see what that could/would look like! We do have institutions like marriage (now more open in many states), promotions, rights of passage like graduation ceremonies, but I’m curious what a “coming through the dark night of the soul” identity valuation ceremony might look like?

    And, since that can be a constantly evolving process, when where and how do we celebrate it?

    Thank you for inspiring me to think about a new kind of ceremony. I love Goffman and take seriously the impact of labeling, but love the invitation to co-opt labeling for good!

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    • Thank you Jen-
      I think we reverse the identity degradation process and celebrate our life’s trials, when we refuse to pathologize ourselves, and instead see into the heroic nature of daily transformation ala Joseph Campbell’s work on viewing life as a heroic journey.
      best wishes my friend, Michael

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  3. Agreed with the spirit of this op-ed, but not that much with the language or the rhetorical devices used herein. In a US context, the Tea Party groups have been more effective affecting change than any of the Occupy groups ever was. While the Tea Party got its people in the US Congress and other legislative bodies, the Occupy movement became to be known for this .

    Survivors will only be successful abolishing coercive psychiatry if they adopt non violent, legal ways of affecting change. In that regard, the way gay marriage reached the Supreme Court presents a much more appealing blueprint (even though I disagree with the notion of the SCOTUS imposing gay marriage over the expressed will of the people).

    I think that recruiting top notch lawyers to challenge coercive psychiatric laws all around the country is more likely to result in the type of change that most survivors want than appeals to civil disobedience. In other words, we need more people like Jim Gottstein.

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    • “Violence” against the American flag (a vending machine,…) justifies violence against people? Sorry, but that’s the same stupid logic psychiatry uses.

      I guess we have different definitions of violence and non-violence.

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    • If you commit a crime and are mentally ill, by virtue of your criminal act, you are awarded rights and privileges. Psychiatric commitment is the only absolute way to strip a person of those rights. How do you think they continue to hold sexual predators after they gave served their time? They have them committed. There isn’t even a true psychiatric diagnosis, but they don’t really need one. They just need a educated doctor to remind them of their moral imperative and that this is for the greater good.

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  4. Another spot-on post that speaks into my life and tells my story, thanks Michael. Yes to the resistance of psychiatric degradation and yes to the revolution and freedom.

    They can’t make us conform even though they make us comply by labelling and coercion. It just means we wait for the opportunity to escape then defy their diagnoses and lifelong prognoses, of mental illness and incapacity, disorder and disease.

    I agree that it’s about the heart and intuition, trusting in your own gut feeling that you know what’s best and what works for you. Don’t believe in the anosognosia nonsense or that non-compliance is any justification for using force. It’s bullying and intimidation by another name and in another setting.

    And I agree that a revolution isn’t about replacing one dictator with another, rather it is about reason and rationality entering the psychiatric situation, resulting in level playing fields and reciprocity. That’s why I’m participating in national mental health groups in Scotland, from the survivor perspective. To bring about a paradigm shift. It seems impossible but I am not discouraged and believe the tipping point is near.

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  5. I’ve been thinking along those lines for quite some time, although wasn’t able to articulate it. Sometimes though, what psychiatry does- especially to children, with antipsychotic drugs- looks more like ritual human sacrifice than just ritual degradation, the difference being that in human sacrifice the individual is destroyed, not just degraded. I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m splitting hairs.

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    • Thank you jw_arndt.
      I believe drugging children is a human rights abuse.
      The proven injury that all psych drugs do to children should cause us all to call for the immediate end of their use. For every psych drug prescribed, there has to have been the DSM diagnostic identity degradation ceremony first take place,

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    • I never got around to reading Garfinkle, Michael. Very powerful it seems. The father of labeling theory was not Goffman–although Asylums was a classic–but Thomas Scheff. In The Politics of Experience Laing proposed replacing degradation ceremonials with “initiation ceremonials.” But what takes place in Psychiatry is one iteration of a process that occurs in different social contexts although Laing said it was most thorough and most dehumanizing in the psychiatric context. Szasz has a great term for it–“existential cannabalism” in which the professional enhances his status by destroying the meaning other people give to their lives. This was in The Manufacture of Madness in which Szasz compared Psychiatry to the persecution of “witches.”
      I have to agree with JW, because it’s plain cannabalism
      these days, and it is not just with kids. People are destroyed by the psych drugs. And of course we see the same things all over. Now that war is becoming permanent we realize that many Americans live or flourish financially through the destruction of others. Very little is productive anymore.Most groups profits from the destruction of other people.
      But I think identity degradation might be the foundation of it all..
      “It will be treated here as axiomatic that there is no society whose social structure does not provide in its routine features, the conditions of identity degradation.”- says Garfinkel. Once we question that, we have to question who and what are we. If we think we are merely bundles of physio-chemical processes, or machines, or organisms ruled by chance and pushed by biology to compete for survival in the rat race, does it matter? Unless we answer the basic theological question in a cogent manner we have no basis to answer the individual’s identity question in a more ennobling manner than the shrink, although one need not be as brutal. If you think
      that there is no intrinsic worth to human existence then you might be kinder to the “patient” but you will still look at her struggles as worthless.Your own soul will be haunted by the specter of the void–although if you are a mental health professional you very likely have never even wrestled with that question. To do so would be interpreted as a sign of psychopathology.Laing pointed out many shrinks thought Kierkegaard was “psychotic.”
      In the Abrahamic tradition
      the human is created in the image of God. In Hinduism the individual soul IS God. These are symbols but they reflect a perspective on human existence that is antithetical to those
      who believe that the most the most the “patient” can accomplish is to cope, or if she is very lucky to “recover” from “mental illness,” and to adjust,and join the rat race.
      From the mystic’s perspective until one realizes one’s authentic divine nature–one’s ultimate worth– one is merely living in Ignorance.Most mad people I’ve met have seen– or see– through the crack in the cosmic egg–and thus they intuit that psychiatric labels are tokens of delusion. Most shrinks have adjusted to the consensually validated delusional system. How to wake them up is a problem– one that the mad have not yet solved.
      Seth Farber, Ph.D.

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  6. I think labeling is something that will never go away. It is a necessary tool, that we humans use everyday, which helps us make sense of and communicate about our world.

    I do however hope that we as a community can work to erase the negative stigma, emotions, and self-doubt associated with mental illness. I think psychiatry is moving in the right directions and beginning to adopt the fact that recovery from mental illness is possible, and no longer a life-long diagnosis, into psychiatric dogma.

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    • Bob1999, you might as well have said that calling people names is something that will never go away, that it is a necessary tool that we humans use every day to make sense of and communicate about the world. And that all we can do is work to erase the negative stigma, emotions, and self-doubt associated with “mental illness”.

      I’d agree that calling people names is a tool to make sense of and communicate about the world. Necessary, though, it will only seem to me to the extent that, for some reason, true understanding represents a threat which projection and scapegoating are perceived as tools to save the person from. Or, if it’s your issue (or shadow, in Jungian terminology), it’s not mine. Or, if I can label the other “mentally ill”, i.e. as not making any sense, it isn’t me who has a problem with true understanding. And for the labeled person herself: In as far as I don’t make any sense, I can avoid having to work towards understanding myself and having to take responsibility for myself.

      Erase the negative stigma, emotions, and self-doubt, and what you get is a tool that doesn’t work anymore according to how it initially was invented to work. A useless tool. What we usually do with useless tools is that we toss them out and replace them with new ones that do work, so the whole circus can start all over again. And it won’t end, unless we realize that, whenever we blame the other, or this thing, “mental illness”, for whatever the misery, what we’re actually dealing with, and would have to look at, in the mirror, is our very own problems with making sense of and communicating about the world.

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    • If psychiatry is moving in the right direction why is it continuing to label more and more people including children? Has labeling some people not given more power to those who label to view themselves as perfect? Discrimination feeds on ‘them and us’. Psychiatric dogma is only a belief that is gaining momentum daily while it more harm than good in it’s wake.
      We who have survived psychiatric abuse know there are effective ways to help people in distress without describing a person as a diagnoses. We even know that when we realise this well on the way to knowing who we really are! Then we have no need for diagnostic psychiatry. No More Psychiatric labels!

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    • The only person who should have the power to label me is myself. Putting the power to label others in the hands of psychiatrists, who are in bed with Big Pharma for reasons of profit and ego-stroking is wrong, plain and simple. Giving anyone the power to label someone else is wrong, period. It may be a part of our society but that does not mean that it’s right.

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  7. Michael,

    Thank you for this great article. “Revolution is the word and the answer and it always has been.” Inspiring statement and so true. I found the last four paragraphs highly motivating. Thank you for that. And yeah we have “the collective horsepower to take back our culture.”


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    • I’ve just created an account so I could make a similar reply. The last 4 paragraphs are stunning. Instead of seeing in a straight rigid line we should be looking around corners.

      I’ve ‘done’ psychiatry and am now trying counselling without labels and stigma. I hope I can soon stop waiting for the weight of a label to be dropped on me.

      “Revolution is the word and the answer and it always has been. It is the sure path to personal and societal freedom and transformation. If we listen to our hearts and not so much to our heads, the right direction will keep being shown to us of how to proceed.”

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  8. It’s interesting to me how the more we rebel against mental health clinicians/societies referring to people as ‘chronically mentally disordered,’ the more they diagnose, label and condemn lives and spirits. In fact, from my experience, they’re rather aggressive and insistent about it, even if they have to fabricate evidence in their minds (and then, in a clinical setting, write it down in their ‘notes,’ as if that were the absolute light of truth, rather than recognizing this as a subjective and cynical interpretation of a human being).

    I discovered this repeatedly, having requested and collected my client notes as I walked away from the mental health field, and this particular brand of madness. They can’t degrade me if I don’t identify with this particularly sinister diagnostic projection. That’s *their* trip, not mine.

    I’m not at all a fan of APA and related mental health groups, but they sure have this part down, I’ll give them that. That, alone can be crazy-making.

    Although when I looked at my integral experience in terms of it being part of my path to own and address on my own road to clarity, I was able to use this traumatic experience as an awakening to heal the triggers of past abuse.

    So all in all, the totality of my experience did bring me to heal my heart and to know my spirit well, so in that sense, it had value. Still, I know there are much, much better, humane, and joyous ways to learn ourselves, and to achieve clarity about our particular creative process, supportive to manifesting our heart’s desires in life.

    From my perspective, self-punishment does more harm than anything, so I found it best to begin with dis-identifying from anything that made me feel badly about myself, in any way. Once I became grounded, that was a much easier process than I thought it would be.

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  9. Michael,

    I love these words:

    “Feelings of worth can flourish only in an atmosphere where individual *differences are appreciated*, mistakes are tolerated, communication is open, and rules are flexible – the kind of atmosphere that is found in a nurturing family.” – Virginia Satir

    IMO, we *must* begin to appreciate differences, and see these differences for what they are – gifts!

    Your brother,


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  10. “As individuals, we can refuse to give psychiatry the credence or moral authority to perform a successful identity degradation ceremony on us.”

    Hummm… If you changed the word “psychiatry” to nazi, I think you can see why I am not resonating with this statement, despite assurances of community and confirmation, leading up to natch! revolution. The most successful, Orwellian “identity degradation ceremony” to ever be performed up until that time, was the one which produced Mussel-man and Mussel-weiber. These were the people who were just moving through, waiting for the end, who were without hope and who were despised by the survivors who fought so hard for their survival in the nazi camps and elsewhere. These were the equivalents of the neoslaves of community mental health services today, forced not only into medication and ect, but into lives without work, without access to affordable housing, education, health care, to intimate relationships, including unpaided for friendships, marriage and children, without those “valued social roles” psychiatric rehabilitation practitioners everywhere go on about and attribute all these lacks, willy nilly, to “the illness”.

    The ‘revolution’ of the sixties and on, wasn’t hardly. Unless you fit into identities of the much self heralded mold of “radical” and “male”. Otherwise you were left on the margins along with the other refuse. This included people like me, who could not afford housing, who could not access education and who had a long history of homelessness (it wasn’t called that them, but rather a “deviant” lifestyle). Oh, and a long history of institutionalization.

    Yes, after multiple decades of struggle, yes, born with white skin and into a family that spoke the king’s english, I found my way up and out. But, no thanks to the revolution. [Excepting my friend, the book(s).] Lefties have a particularly bad track record with anyone labeled disabled, and hide in denial of real problems that real people, not privileged people, face. And those would be (in no particular order) housing, employment, education, nutrition, clothing, health care especially including eye care and dental care, skills training, financial literacy and numeracy, etc. Maybe what our movement needs is something like what the pre-revolutionary privileged russian’s did in their literacy movement? I don’t know, I just know that the quote could have only alienated me more were I still in my twenties and teens. I think it’s far, far worse for young people today.

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  11. “Imagine a society where one day psychiatric diagnosis and identity degradation ceremonies don’t happen any more. Like John Lennon sang – It’s easy if you try.”
    The end result of a diagnosis is drugging. The purpose of the psychiatric diagnosis is to give a valid reason to drug the person and deprive them of liberty.
    If a person is earning income in a legal manner he/she usually has their freedom for following the rules of society.
    The insanity defence has to be removed from the legal system to remove the power of psychiatry.
    Before a trial to judge a persons guilt or innocence , the accused must first be judged sane in a PRE-trial. This pre-trial has to be removed from the system.
    What are the facts?
    Why did they do the (accused) crime? Are they sane? Do what ? There hasn’t been a trial yet to establish a crime has occured.

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  12. I have never met you Michael but your love shines through your words and your photo. Your responses are so encouraging and supportive.
    It is so good to be part of our peaceful revolution. We love variety. We want to be true. We want to experience life with its ups and downs. We want to determine our own lives – to make our mistakes and learn from them.
    Thanks to all the people who have shared their special insights in response to your outstanding article.

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  13. Psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey, of all people, describes this degradation process so well in his brilliant chapter entitled “Mental ‘Patients’ as Not Responsible: The Fate of Jesus and Other Hippies” from his book “The Death of Psychiatry.”

    Torrey states, “there is no question but that calling a person mentally ‘ill’ is pejorative.” He writes, “Since mental ‘patients’ are not responsible, then everyone who can successfully be labeled as mentally ‘ill’ can be ignored, depreciated and even ridiculed. Their thoughts and their actions assume the same importance as those of a circus clown.” Wow, talk about degradation! Torrey was once so opposed to labeling people with “mental illness,” that he called such a label “nonsensical” and worse, “a potentially deadly political and philosophical weapon.”

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    • Torrey started out as a student of Thomas Szasz. The influence was strong–one could have aptly described Torrey
      as a Szaszian. (His book critiquing Freud was fairly good also, despite its neo-con bias against “liberals.”) I don’t know why Torrey changed. Was putting his so called schizophrenic sister away in a custodial institution for good cause
      or effect of the change.Once he became an apostle of bio-psychiatry he DID draw a distinction between “the worried well” and the truly “mentally ill” whose thoughts and actions he regarded with “the same importance of those of a circus clown.” Another sad case of a man who betrayed the ideals of his youth..
      Seth Farber, Ph.D.

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        • In 1997, Torrey wrote that my good friend Jay Mahler and psychiatric survivors like Jay, were responsible for the deaths of at least 500,000 people who should have received forced treatment, after hearing Jay speak against forced treatment.
          Thank you Suzanne and Seth for commenting about Torrey who, along with his sidekick Jaffe, have been demonizing wonderful people like Jay for decades.
          Mental Health Consumer Concerns was founded by Jay in the 1970’s and is the oldest peer run recovery agency in the country.
          Jay had previously received so much forced shock treatment that he developed total amnesia for his personal identity- did not know his name or have any memory about his life.
          His recovery is heroic, and the Torrey’s of the world will never understand why Jay and you and I feel the way we do about psychiatric diagnosis/identity degradation, and the human rights abuses that are justified as medical treatments.

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          • How much of the untold tens of millions of dollars that big pharma has bankrolled NAMI with for decades, has found it’s way to Torrey? How much has his Treatment Advocacy Center received directly from drug companies?

            Thank you Duane and jw_arndt for your informative comments!

            The drug companies and NAMI have needed a prominent psychiatrist like Torrey to legitimize and defend the identity degradation ceremonies of DSM diagnosing millions of Americans.

            But as the saying goes- “Follow the money!”- Torrey was a guest writer in the Wall Street Journal this year. The laws Torrey fights for guarantee more drug sales. Forced community treatment in scores of states means more drug sale profits.


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          • Manipulation by cigarette: works like a charm.

            I now see two people with a family member with so-called mental illness – this Torrey person and Ken Duckworth.

            As the family scapegoat (or in psychiatry’s terms, “identified patient”) I can’t help but wonder if that is exactly what is happening in Torrey and Duckworth’s families.

            Now isn’t that 100% situational, emotional and behavioral and 100% NOT genetic? Or would somebody say that we scapegoats are just the runts of the family and if we were dogs we’d be drowned at birth.

            How does Torrey and Duckworth feel about psychiatric genetics, and when will they be coming out of their mentally ill closets? Which disease / disorder / dysfunction do they have, this one?

            Drug Addicts!!

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          • Many patients are chain smokers–they are compensating for the brain deadening effect of the neuroleptics. Torrey has ruined his sister’s life, like Joe Kennedy did to Rosemary–forced to undergo a lobotomy because Joe did not approve of her having affairs. Later the family lied and claimed she was retarded..
            Michael, I agree these are degradation ceremonies. But for the shrinks it is just the opposite. Since their origins psychiatrists have sought to legitimize their own theory and praxis precisely by seeking to appear as much like real doctors as possible. They have had to compensate for the suspicion that they are not real doctors, like cardiologists or internists or proctologists. The diagnosis ritual does not require legitimization.It
            is one of the primary ways by which psychiatrists have legitimized themselves–by adopting a procedure integral to every other medical specialty. One might say that the very same ceremony that degrades the patient legitimizes the shrinks. What is a degradation ceremony for the patient is a legitimation ceremony for the shrinks–for her self esteem, but more importantly because it gives her credibility in the public eye. I think it would be hard to overestimate how many psychiatric practices over the years were adopted because on the surface they had all the markings of a medical procedure. Thomas Szasz deserves credit for documenting this. This was true of electroshock treatment as well as the lobotomy and today psychiatric drugs, and it one reason why mental health professionals cling to the medical model and resist what several of the bloggers here called the demedicalization of misery. One might add the demedicalization of deviance, including prophetic and mystical experiences in a secular society.
            I don’t think Torrey does much to legitimize anyone.He is such a crackpot even the APA regards him as an embarrassment. His cat phobia is nothing compared to his “brain bank.” You know don’t you that for decades he has been collecting the brains of “schizophrenics”? I read somewhere that he often carries some of these brains around with him in a glass jar so he can study them. Perhaps he takes them to the beach with him when he goes on vacation,as a substitute for “summer reading.” I like to imagine him sneaking around cemeteries looking for the brains of famous “schizophrenics.” He thinks of course he will discover the cause of so-called schizophrenia.
            Although I think he’s viewed as an embarrassment rather than a credit to many shrinks Ithink you’re right though when you say, “Follow the money.” He has been instrumental in passing out-patient commitment laws (forced drugging) all over the country. .And he has been instrumental in the expansion of NAMI which has opened up all kinds of markets to the drug companies.All this creates more markets and ultimately brings billions of dollars to the drug companies
            Seth Farber, Ph.D.

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          • Seth good point about the smoking. Strong coffee is another way of my family who’re on psych drugs minimising the effects.

            Very funny story about Torrey carrying brains of so-called schizophrenics about. Can this be true? If so then he’s needing his brain examined. Preferably before it’s put in a glass jar.

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          • Chrys
            It’s definitely true that Torrey has a large “brain bank.” And he carries them around to study. I don’t know exactly how he transports them. I can’t recall–I just filled in the blanks for humorous effect. It’s also true that he is considered an embarrassment by conventional psychiatrists.

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          • Good for him–he can keep her on nicotine and numerous other toxins in the drugs he forces on her! Amazing how monsters like him have no compassion on their nearest. I almost said dearest, but Torrey seems to only have empathy for himself. His legacy is one of falsehoods and human rights abuses that should earn him a place in historical texts alongside medical pioneers like Josef Mengele.

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  14. @Seth

    I think that your statement above about how being able to label people legitimates psychiatrists as real doctors, in their eyes, is of great importance in the discussion. I believe that this is why they’re not going to turn loose of the power to label until we actually wrest it from them. They’re not going to give it up easily and there’s going to have to be a fight.

    Psychiatric labeling is a two part process; it degrades the person being labeled and raises up the person doing the labeling. Thanks for pointing this out.

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      • There is liberating power in naming something for what it really is. It is a freeing act of defiance. The psychiatric diagnosis process is a degradation ceremony. Shock treatment is a human rights abuse, waterboarding is torture, etc..

        The functionaries assigned by society to control deviance have an enhanced status. In the case of psychiatry, they have even been entrusted by society to define deviance in their echo-chamber diagnostic manual.

        Whether they personally experience the act of diagnosing/degrading another as elevating them during the diagnostic ritual or not, they serve as deviance police for society and are very well rewarded for doing that.

        But some of us defiantly say no. No more diagnosing/identity robbing, no more taking away our identities with the blessing of society.

        Thank you again Suzanne, Stephen and Seth for your great contributions to this discussion!


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  15. Another great article, Michael!

    So nice to see how you have incorporated the very important and timeless works of Garfinkel and Goffman. I learned about these original thinkers when I did my dissertation and uncovered many reasons why (I feel) they are owed a debt of gratitude in our collective fight for human rights in so called “mental health”.

    I also really appreciate how you seemingly have turned the tables on psychiatry here, as you have shown that what applies to us applies to them. In my view, as you compassionately assist those who have been “diagnosed” by psychiatry, this insightful article also laterally reveals the status degradation that psychiatry truly deserves.

    Didn’t the wonderful Robin Williams refuse to be “diagnosed” as well, so he could live his life the way he wanted and use his life’s archetypal energy to make us laugh and cry?

    Thank you as ever, Michael, for your very meaningful contributions.

    Best wishes

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  16. Yes I identify with this article but at 65 yo and given the additional label as disabled I fell hook line and sinker into the trap. Labeled at an early age as schizophrenic when I was just reacting to living in a family where I was psychologically and physically abused by my father and bullied and beat up by next door neighbors and given every single drug available up to haldol which caused me as an adolescent to have muscle spasms at work. I went on to gather other labels and be treated with additional drugs throughout my life. Interspersed with this I somehow managed to obtain a PhD in Biopsychology and went on to hold responsible positions looking for the cure for being me. However I never really escaped the labels since I was never a truly happy person and sought out jobs and relationships that just replicated my victim state. Over time when I had subsequent problems coping I continued to turn toward medication and then ended up involuntarily hospitalized several times where I got more medication and was tormented by staff as well as patients. I became more and more disabled. Unfortunately I also developed physical problems and unrelenting insomnia. I don’t really feel any hope for recovery now. I do accept some responsibility for my actions but my early labeling and subsequent acceptance of and treatment has led me to where I am now. Lack of sleep and damage to my body by self abuse are too much to bear. It was not until I began reading MIA that I had any real perception of what was going on.

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