Antipsychiatry Revisited: Toward Greater Clarity


A friend reported to me the other day that she was at a conference with other “progressive professionals” in which her colleagues kept passing questionable judgments on antipsychiatry positions and theorists, this on the basis of fallacious beliefs. Indeed, one of the colleagues in question stated, as if it were a matter of fact, that all antipsychiatry activists were right wing — then proceeded to cite as an example thereof an activist who is neither right wing nor antipsychiatry. By the same token, over the last decade, people have commonly made statements to me of the ilk — “What bugs me about antipsychiatry people is they only care about tearing down; there is no commitment to actually helping people.”

Which suggests that there is a serious dearth of awareness about antipsychiatry, the range of its adherents, and what they stand for. This is minimally unfortunate. It impedes our working together. What is likewise relevant, with psychiatry’s power and capacity to harm continuing to grow by leaps and bounds, the antipsychiatry message has never been so important as it is today. This being the case, over the last few years, I have taken upon myself the task of attempting to dispel confusions and to promote clarity.

In other publications, I have focused broadly, providing overall accounts of antipsychiatry (see Burstow 2014a and b). My intent in this piece is considerably more modest. It is to respond in abbreviated form to some very specific confusions/misconceptions surrounding antipsychiatry. I am drawing in this regard on the myth/fact distinction — a helpful heuristic, despite its obvious shortcomings.


Myth: Antipsychiatry theorists deny or minimize the enormity of the personal/emotional distress into which people can sink.

Fact: While no doubt some so minimize, they are decidedly in the minority. It goes without saying that people can end up in truly abysmal states, and like many who coalesce on this territory, antipsychiatry folk are deeply concerned about the welfare of people in distress. What is being maintained, rather, is that emotional difficulties and confusion are not in themselves “diseases” and hence should not be approached as such.  In this regard, antipsychiatry theorists oppose the medicalization of problems in living. Additionally, they draw a sharp distinction between two phenomena that are routinely conflated — being distressed oneself (which may or may not be something for which services are needed/wanted) and being found distressing by others (which can often be traced to societal intolerance or unawareness).

Myth: Antipsychiatry activists have no interest in people receiving the help which they need.

Fact: As people who care deeply about those in distress, antipsychiatry activists commonly lobby for increased services, albeit the commodification of help which is part and parcel of the concept services is something they challenge. More broadly speaking, we strive to co-create a society which is less “distressing” in the first place, wherein everyone has ready access to an abundance of help, moreover, where people in distress are reached out to. What we oppose is “psychiatric treatment” (pseudo-medicine, which is inherently harmful) on the one hand and coercion and manipulation on the other—as distinguished from genuine help which people are truly free to accept or refuse.

Myth: Antipsychiatry activists are anti-drug.

Fact: While some of us have a critique of medicine overall, antipsychiatry activists see a legitimate place for the medical use of drugs (drugs which address bone fide medical conditions). Many of us would additionally decriminalize street drugs. Moreover, we recognize and respect that since time immemorial people have coped with the use of substances which, as it were, “take the edge off,” that allow people who are floundering for any number of reasons to get through the day. What we are against is the “medical” pushing and the prescribing of pseudo-medicine on one hand, and the government support for and legitimation of such substances and practices on the other.

Myth: Antipsychiatry theorists oppose professional services.

Fact. While antipsychiatry theorists reject psychiatry and commonly critique other disciplines, there is no uniform rejection of other disciplines (except in insofar as they have become colonized by psychiatry). More concretely, besides that antipsychiatry advocates have often joined forces with others in lobbying for more non-medical services (e.g., supportive house, drop-ins, befriending services), there are antipsychiatry activists who are themselves practicing social workers and practicing psychologists. This notwithstanding, as people with a vision of a very different kind of society, the vast majority of antipsychiatry theorists oppose the wholesale transferring of human help into the hands of experts, whatever those experts may be called, and would prioritize instead more organic and more community-based services.  Correspondingly, many hold a Foucauldian analysis of disciplinary regimes.

Myth: Antipsychiatry theorists are all right-wingers.

Fact: Class analysis is not one of the bases of unity among antipsychiatry advocates. As a consequence, there are antipsychiatry advocates on the left (e.g., Don Weitz), and antipsychiatry advocates on the right (e.g., Thomas Szasz). Who predominates? The left, the anarchistic, the feminist, the gay and trans positivist, and the anti-racist.

Myth: Antipsychiatry theorists are all followers of R. D. Laing.

Fact: The name “antipsychiatry” originated with Laing’s colleague Cooper (1967). This notwithstanding, the meaning of antipsychiatry has shifted over the years to one of psychiatry abolition. Of these abolitionists, some are influenced by Laing, while others are not, with the latter in the majority. Nonetheless, while rejecting his use of terms like “schizophrenia,” all would agree that society is deeply implicated in the seemingly individual angst that people feel. And by the same token, all would agree that the current  targeting of individuals as “the problem” is woefully off-base.

Myth: If I am critical of psychiatry, then I am antipsychiatry.

Fact: While all antipsychiatry theorists are critical of psychiatry, not all such critics are antipsychiatry. The difference is that in the absence of an abolitionist stance, one is not antipsychiatry.

Myth: Antipsychiatry folk look down on people who take psychiatric drugs.

Fact: Antipsychiatry folk take a position on the drugs and their “pushers,” in essence on the institution — not on the people who use these substances. It is generally understood and accepted that people cope as best they can, often very heroically, under less than ideal circumstances.

Myth: Antipsychiatry activists only work with activists and thinkers who are likewise antipsychiatry.

Fact: Most actively participate in broad-based coalitions. Correspondingly, they put on conferences with others in the community. And they routinely include non-abolitionists in their publications and themselves contribute to publications theorized from alternate perspectives (in this last regard, note the large number of antipsychiatry contributors — e.g., Weitz, Burstow, Diamond, and Starkman — to the mad politics book Mad Matters, edited by LeFrançois, Menzies, and Reaume, 2013).

Myth: Antipsychiatry theorists are hyper-critical of families.

Fact: This misconception stems largely from the ongoing conflation between antipsychiatry and R. D. Laing (who again is at most peripheral in current antipsychiatry). Laing saw family dynamics as pivotal to the emotional distress in which people find themselves, much as psychoanalysts do. In the process, while some of his analyses were highly insightful, he could without question also be blatantly unfair to family members — mothers in particular (see, for example, Laing and Esterson, 1970) — none of which, note, has any bearing on antipsychiatry. The point is, while individuals vary, antipsychiatry per se has no position on the family. That said, where one or more family member has been subjected to psychiatry, insofar as there is a tendency among theorists, it would be to see the family as a whole as a victim of psychiatry, however that psychiatrization came about and whether or not cooptation was involved. What is likewise relevant, in the world for which antipsychiatry activists strive, there would be far more support (read: noncompulsory and non-pathologizing support) available to families in distress.

Myth: To be antipsychiatry is to be a follower of Thomas Szasz.

Fact: At this juncture, it would be hard, if not impossible, to be an antipsychiatry theorist without being substantially influenced by Szasz. And indeed, to date Szasz remains the most pivotal figure. Obvious influences include rejecting the notion of mental illness and seeing the psychiatrist as an agent of state control. Being a “follower,” however, is a separate matter altogether. Besides that the very idea of being a follower runs counter to how most antipsychiatry activists operate, while respecting the foundational works of Thomas Szasz, most antipsychiatry activists have substantial differences with him. Difference include: Unlike Szasz, few are right wing. Unlike Szasz, more or less none see prisons as any kind of solution (in this regard, we are more influenced by Foucault, 1995 than Szasz). Unlike Szasz, most have a strong commitment to transformative justice. And what is absolutely pivotal, all by definition are abolitionists, whereas despite his foundational critique, strictly speaking, Szasz himself was not an abolitionist (see in this regard, Szasz, 1961 and Szasz, 2009).

Myth: Antipsychiatry folk are all ivory tower intellectuals.

Fact: This is at once factually and interpretively incorrect. While academics for sure figure in antipsychiatry circles, it is survivors, whether academic or otherwise, who constitute the majority and indeed the core. Correspondingly, few of the academics could be depicted as “ivory tower.” More generally, people from all walks of life gravitate toward and find a base and a home in the antipsychiatry community. These include: survivors, activists, professionals, academics, artists, family members — and a subsection that is getting larger by the moment — every day people who began with no such politic but found themselves on a steep learning curve having lost family members and/or loved ones to psychiatry.

Myth: To be antipsychiatry is to be unreasonable and impractical.

Fact: On an individual basis, antipsychiatry folk, like everyone else, can be reasonable or unreasonable, practical or impractical. The antipsychiatry mandate, on the other hand, (working to phase out an institution that is serving us poorly and constitutes a threat to everyone), on the face of it, is eminently reasonable. By contrast, positions predicated on continuing to tinker with psychiatry, when, arguably, such positions have themselves contributed to the current state of affairs, are minimally questionable.

Myth: Antipsychiatry folk think that all psychiatrists are bad and deny that some people are helped by their psychiatrists.

Fact: Antipsychiatry theorizing operates on a very different level. It is a position on an institution — not a position on individuals. Advocates in no way deny that some people may be helped by their psychiatrist, just as some are helped by their priests. What antipsychiatry is maintaining rather is that psychiatry’s fundamental tenets and practices are insupportable — both epistemologically and morally.

Myth: Antipsychiatry theorists oppose all psychiatric reform.

Fact: Antipsychiatry theorists hold that reform can never be sufficient for the paradigms and tenets of psychiatry are faulty. What goes along with this, they see reform as having a tendency, irrespective of intent, to reinforce the status quo. As such, it would be fair to say antipsychiatry does not focus on reform and in no way can be seen as reformist. This notwithstanding, as with most revolutionary movements, being antipsychiatry inevitably also involves supporting more limited agendas, this, while keeping an eye on the larger goal. Which? And how are such choices made? Here once again there is no unanimity. Some antipsychiatry organizations support only those initiatives related to increased rights for psychiatric survivors. Some would prioritize support for initiatives around homelessness, others, safety. Correspondingly, those who employ the attrition model as a guide (see Burstow, 2014c) make decisions based on the answer to the question: If successful, will the actions or campaigns that we are considering move us closer to the long range goal of psychiatry abolition? What is likewise significant, a distinction must be made between “not actively supporting” and “opposing.” Antipsychiatry activists seldom oppose reforms that on the surface seem benign. The point is, as with everyone else, our assessment can be wrong, and regardless, we are not in the business of undermining our allies. However, we may or may not endorse or support such initiatives, and where we do not, once again, generally it because we see them in the long run as running counter to the abolitionist agenda, as re-entrenching psychiatry, or more worrisome still, helping it expand.

Myth: Antipsychiatry would deny people the right to protect themselves against “violent others.”

Fact: An antipsychiaty position in no way involves denying that people can be violent or opposing protective measures. Rather, it involves opposing measures based on the assumption that the people deemed “mad” tend to be violent — for statistics show that the “mad” are no more violent than anyone one else. Correspondingly, it involves opposing solutions that are inherently incarceral, controlling, individualizing, pathologizing, harmful, and otherwise oppressive.

Myth: To be antipsychiatry is to be anti-choice.

Fact: Herein lies an ever recurring and profound confusion. The confusion is not limited to antipsychiatry. It also extends to psychiatry and to the nature of choice itself. From a radical vantage point, it is institutional psychiatry that is in the business of depriving people of choice — not antipsychiatry. What goes along with this, to theorize choice in the context of harm, of underlying intrusion, of artificial options, of rampant misinformation, and of ruling institutional agendas, is to fall into a liberal notion of choice (for elaboration, see Burstow 2014d). What is likewise relevant, antipsychiatry activists are working toward the creation of  society wherein people have considerably more choices, correspondingly, where services arise organically from felt needs and desires — not from the vicissitudes of industry profit.

Myth: If antipsychiatry activists had their way, everyone who uses psychiatric drugs would soon find themselves robbed of their life line.

Fact: No abolitionist would find it acceptable for anyone to be put in such straits — irrespective of their position on these substances.

Myth: Antipsychiatry theorists ignore what history teaches us — that if we rid ourselves of psychiatry, some other tyranny would take its place.

Fact: Antipsychiatry theorists are well aware of the history of madness—and of how one type of oppressor succeeded another. We focus on psychiatry because for centuries now, it has been in charge of the “madness turf, moreover because it has expanded that terrain in unprecedented ways. At the same time, as people who do not see any form of tyranny as acceptable, nor tyranny itself as inevitable, we work toward the creation of a more egalitarian and caring society (in particular, see Burstow, 2015, Chapter Nine — in press).

Myth: Antipsychiatry activists are stuck in the past.

Fact: Besides that a case could be made that antipsychiatry has never been so relevant and so pressing as it is today, paradoxically, the problem is in in some ways the opposite of what is expressed above. That is, while antipsychiatry is rooted in a vision for the future, to varying degrees, when thinking about change (and I in no way am denying that some of our allies here are highly progressive), most folk have difficulty thinking very far beyond the present — hence the paradigmatic reformist position. As a result, they keep falling into what institutional ethnographers like Smith (2005 and 2006) call “institutional capture.” What antipsychiatry activists are doing, in essence, is inviting people to think further, to see beyond the structures and conceptions that are now taken as “givens,” and dare to entertain a radically different, more humane, more accepting, more respectful, and more relational way of operating.

* * * * *

(For elaboration on many of these points, see:


Burstow, B. (2015; in press).  Psychiatry and the business of madness: An ethical and epistemological accounting. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Burstow, B. (2014a). On antipsychiatry. Retrieved from

Burstow, B. (2014b). On the attrition model of psychiatry abolition. Retrieved from

Burstow, B. (2014c). The withering of psychiatry: An attrition model for antipsychiatry. In B. Burstow, B. LeFrançois, & S. Diamond (Eds.), Psychiatry disrupted: Theorizing resistance and crafting the revolution (pp. 34-51). Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Burstow, B. (2014 d). Consent and psychiatry: Problematizing the problematic. Retrieved from

Cooper, D. (1967) (Ed.). Psychiatry and antipsychiatry. London: Paladin.

Laing, R. D. and Esterson, A. (1970). Sanity, madness, and the family. London: Pelican.

Foucault, M. (1995). Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Vintage.

LeFrançois, B., Menzies, R. & Reaume, G. (Eds.) (2013). Mad matters: A critical reader in Canadian mad studies. Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press.

Smith, D. (2005). Institutional ethnography: A sociology for the people. Landham: Altamira Press.

Smith, D. (2006). Institutional ethnography as practice. Landham: Rowman and Littlefield.

Szasz, T. (1961). The myth of mental illness. New York: Paul B. Hoeber.

Szasz, T. (2009). Antipsychiatry: Quakery squared. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press.



  1. A very important and well thought out article, I think. My own definition is even simpler.

    I oppose the institution of psychiatry be4cause I recognize that as a whole, it does a great deal of harm to people over which it has power, and its tenets, such as labeling ordinary human emotion as diseases, has corrupted our culture.

    Of course, I could add many details, but the bottom line is that psychiatry does a great deal of harm and very little good.

    I think the fact that psychiatry’s leaders seem to almost foam at the mouth at the very mention of the phrase means that we should use it as much as possible. The more people who describe themselves as anti-psychiatry, the more this position will come to be seen by the general public as a valid and credible point of view. That’s very important.

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    • To each their own. I feel like the term “anti-psychiatry” identifies the source of the problem and the solution rather well. I think this blog post will be an invaluable resource in countering all the misinformation out there about anti-psychiatry.

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      • Agreed. Anti-psychiatry is straightforward and the name defies what it is. If I’m anti-rape I don’t need to call myself “non-consensual sex harm aware advocate”. We should call spade a spade.
        The fact that some people (I wonder who they may be) tend to associate anti-psychiatry with Scientology and “all the crazy people” is just a tactic. They will do the exact same thing with every otehr term we may choose to define our movement. I think we should stop running away, turn around and face the enemy.
        Proudly anti-psychiatry :).

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  2. Bonnie ,
    Most excellent post , now enabling advocates to point others to your blog for an up to date explanation clarifying the anti-psychiatry position .
    For even more clarity I would be very interested to see how you would analyze the question of coercion , in particular the uses of force in other areas also dominated by pseudo science but not recognized as such that act as a “comfortable accepted” precedent facilitating so much unopposed tolerance for forced psychiatry among the general public. For example AMA medical coercion in vaccinating babies, toddlers , children , and adults. Also ADA dentistry installing 53% mercury fillings under the label silver amalgam , dangerous installing of root canals , the danger of cavitations, Google DAMS “dentists amalgam mercury solutions .” What about GMO food ? Of course there are many other examples of force used especially against marginalized populations .We need to understand if force and the propaganda pushing it can be survived, and how, especially when it reaches levels such as it has in psychiatry . Is this not equally a battle against eugenics and those elites that have decided ,insist and finance population reduction and enslavement for profit by many stealthy means simultaneously of whomever their nets can capture ? check out Russell Means Welcome to the American Reservation Prison Camp on Infowars at around 1 hour he speaks on eugenics , vaccines , food. Also check Russell Blaylock MD on Youtube similar subject.
    Thank You,

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    • I must say that I disagree with the anti-vaxxer crowd Fred. However, there’s a problem with the idea of forcing individuals to undergo medical treatment for the sake of others – as much as vaccines in general have saved millions of lives now we see the swine flu and bird flu hysterias where vaccines and drugs (Tamiflu) with no considerable efficacy and possibly disastrous side effects are being pushed. Medicine has to be taken out of hands of people who make huge profit of pushing drugs.
      Btw, psychiatry is not medicine so it should not even be part of this conversation.

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  3. Thank you Bonnie Burstow for this very clear, very well argued piece. This is very much needed at a time when global psychiatry is fighting back with every chance it gets. Allen Frances, the weathervane APA man (the man who changed his mind about the DSM when he felt the wind turn), has now also taken the mantle of criticizing the survivor movement with similar myths infused arguments about anti psychiatry.

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    • Thank you Anne-Laure. With respect to your reference to Allen Frances, I suspect that I am one of the folk being dismissed by him as an “ideologue”. And yes, at this crucial moment, when global psychiatry is fighting back, one of the ways of fighting back is precisely to cast aspersions on every position that involves a fundamental critique. All of which makes it critical for those of us who have such a critique to be very clear about what we and our fellow activists are advocating and why.

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  4. ‘Antipsychiatry theorizing… is a position on an institution — not a position on individuals. Advocates in no way deny that some people may be helped by their psychiatrist, just as some are helped by their priests. What antipsychiatry is maintaining rather is that psychiatry’s fundamental tenets and practices are insupportable — both epistemologically and morally.’

    Appreciate Bonnie Burstow’s clarifications of what Antipsychiatry is about: against what AND for what.

    I resume what I call the legal institution of psychiatry today as the biomedical-pharmaceutical-political complex. The rise and history of modern psychiatry has been analyzed famously by Foucault. The function and history of the ‘Asylums’ play a central role. Kraeplin and Bleueler have forged the paragons of psychiatric diseases in Asylum inmates. Goffmann has later scrutinized how the assumed ‘psychiatrically ill behaviors, especially ‘negative symptoms’ and ‘regression’, were adequat responses to institutionalisaton.

    In the 1960s and 1970s internationally big groups of anti-psychiatric-institution mh professionals rallied for, and in most western nations, often together with other democratic movements, achieved political abolition of asylum institutions and created what was called deinstitutionalisation and social psychiatry.

    In contrary to the US history of anti-psychiatry, in Europe inspirations came from humanistic psychology and from often radically socially positioned psy’ philosophers as, after Sartre, Guattari/Deleuze. The most famous anti-psychiatrists in the aboltion of asylum institutionalized psychiatry were Franco Basaglia and his wife in Italy creating participatory community spaces for the formerly incarcerated.

    Lauren Mosher’s Soteria which inspired per example famous Luc Ciompi was at least as important as RD Laing’s community house.

    I name these historic examples to recall that anti-psychiatrists in EUrope always had humanistic, socially/solidarian values and social democratic political and structural agendas and proects. They were against the asylum-medical-&-oppression psychiatry because and with the socially and community democratically rooted values, agendas, practical community programs they developed and politically faught for to become legalized.

    From a European viewpoint Sasz had very little influence, especially because of the acknowledgement of inustice and oppression suffered by inmates and therefore socio-political programs for social, psychological, collective and educational/vocational support needed, as rights, for those who had suffered injustice and severe forms of distress and isolation/coercion.

    Never, from a European perspective, have anti-psychiatry networks of mh professionals and philosophers been promoting a ‘normalisation of extreme distress’, oblitering its context of extreme social injustices, which some find disturbing with regard to Sasz. Always was the European anti-psychiatric institution movement motivated by
    a/ a relational and contextual appraoch to people suffering extreme distress
    b/ a clear exposure of the oppressive and debilitating impact of psychiatic institutional emprisonment, coercion and de-humanization of inmates
    c/the knowledge and vision of a totally different social, psychological, practical community support and integration for people experiencing extreme distress.

    What seems a challenge nowadays – apologies if I am wrong – is the lack of socio-political analysis of the functions of the biomedical-psychiatric-political complex with the legal extension of coerced treatment in the community. The new challenge in my view, but historically founded by Foucault, Deleuze/Guattari, is to analyze in parallel the criminalisation of the socially oppressed and empoverished, the criminalization and banning of the homeless, and the coercion of people with unusual behaviors and beliefs IN THE WHOLE TERRITORY of the states who have such legislations.

    Psychiatry as a legal and socio-political institution has become much more totatitarian – more fascist than in the times of the asylumns. We are faced with a biomedical pharmacautical legal complex that can be carachterized as part of a total oppressive politics, legislation and execution of diagnostic and de-personalizing/de-subectifying coercive powers – along with criminalization of the empoverished and homeless.

    Historically these total systems of top-down-politically endowed and legalized stigmatisation, control, oppression, emprisonment and silencing have been named fascist.

    Ask me wether I have doubts to be anti-fascist?
    Ask me, as Frances suggests, to be in between anti-fascist and fascist? That is not possible with a totalitarian system and apparatus: todays psychiatric-pharmaceutical-top-down-politics-of-coercion having become extended over the whole nation territory, and in the ‘private’ homes!, we are facing a total fascist system. With biologically and genetically flawed Jews, a non, that was nazi facism… todays scapegoats, see above, the brain-diseased and empoverished. For the brain diseased to be coerced ideolocigally and pharmaceutically there has never been no evicence. For the Jews to be genetically and biologically flawed there was never any evidence either.
    Ask me again?

    Of course a better world is possible!

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  5. Hi Bonnie, a wonderful article that has sharpened my focus on why I’m anti psychiatry.

    I have a myth that I guess is covered in a number of your items, but wonder what you think of this.

    Anti psychiatry is dangerous because it exposes the “little white lies” told by psychiatry that aids in getting people the help they need.

    Something happened today where I was asked to be silent on one of the little white lies at a group I attend, and it bothered me more than a little.

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    • Never good for us to be silent about lies. Yes, if would agree exposing the lies is part of what makes antipsychiatry dangerous. though I think as much as that, it is frightening to people because it is making the case for massive change–always scarey, especially for those who have something to lose.

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  6. Another fine post, Bonnie. Thank you for authoring it.

    I just returned from the Alternatives Conference held in Orlando. There are many good things to be said about these alternatives many people at this conference were working on, one of them is not that they have gotten a great many people out of the mental health system, and standing on their own two feet.

    There was much talk at this conference about the “mennals”: “mennal” health issues, “mennal” health conditions, “mennal” health problems, even “mennal” illness. There was even some talk about “mennal” “wellness” as some kind of goal for some people. Okay, back to pronouncing and crossing my ts.

    I felt to a degree like I had landed on some body of land that Gulliver had missed. Most of the people at this conference saw themselves as possessing poor mental health in some manner of speaking. For all the talk of a recovery movement, most of this talk boiled down to folks being “in recovery”. I was looking everywhere for the recovered movement without much success. Most of the people there, to one degree or another, didn’t see themselves, in speech and deed, as completely intact and wholly self-sufficient individuals. Nope, they were folks in need of some sort government funding, but I digress.

    Back in the day we had what was referred to as a mental patients liberation movement. Here at the alternatives conference this mental patients movement was no longer interested in the idea of liberation. Instead there were all these people who saw themselves as part of some mental health service consumer (i.e. mental patient) movement. I don’t think any mental health service consumer movement could be an improvement over mental patient liberation. I personally have no interest whatsoever in “consuming” my own oppression or enslavement or even injury. Nonetheless, some of the folks at this conference were quite a long ways from reaching their own personally chosen “mental health” destinations. So be it.

    What am I getting at? What I got out of this Alternative Conference was the great need we have for an Alternative to Alternatives Conference, multiplied. People don’t have to put money into the bank accounts of drug company CEOs and psychiatrists. People don’t have to help these scoundrels make a killing, literally, in all too many cases.

    Usually, when we speak of the universe, we mean the physical universe. The mental universe remains an unwritten piece of science fiction. Health is physical, or it is not health. Electroshock and psychiatric drugs do a great many people physical injury. Assault and imprisonment, as forms of “medical treatment”, don’t work much better as far as people’s physical health is concerned. If you want psycho-neurological health, get physically healthy. Medical doctors we need. Quacks, on the other hand, can float down the river with the ducks.

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  7. Thomas Szasz expressly repudiated the anti-psychiatry label. Even the references above include his book in which he criticizes the anti-psychiatry movement and its progenitors. Szasz opposed psychiatric coercion which, Laing et al did not, and he criticized the pseudoscience underpinning psychiatry. He was not opposed to the non-coercive practice of psychiatry, just as he didn’t oppose non-coercive religious or sexual practices.

    Szasz was not “right wing,” he was a libertarian. To be a libertarian is to be neither right nor left.

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      • Libertarians don’t come in left or right. A libertarian equally opposes authoritarian/statism from any source. I’m curious to know what you think makes Szasz right wing. His opposition to the drug war? His support for abortion rights? His opposition to laws against consensual sex and long-time support for gay liberty? What specifically?

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        • Bonnie says of a right wing variety, and considering that there are libertarian socialists and anarchist communists, who also call themselves libertarian, I would say this is true. The perspective of the libertarian party is not the only libertarian perspective around. I haven’t found any criticism in Thomas Szasz of laissez faire capitalism, and given laissez faire economic policies, the fact that, to my way thinking, monopolistic corporatocracy (government by, for, and of the 1 %) becomes almost inevitable.

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          • Szasz was not an anarchist, he was a libertarian. A libertarian h0ld liberty as a primary value. That is as transparently impossible to reconcile with communism as it is with state psychiatry.

            So, anyone who believe in economic freedom is right wing? Then only statists can be libertarians, and the world is upside down. You might just as well argue that someone is right wing because he advocates freedom of speech or religion.

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          • The blog post above has to do with antipsychiatry, specifically, not with Thomas S. Szasz, specifically. Although Szasz was an influence on anti-psychiatry, unwittingly or not, anti-psychiatry does not have to be an influence on Thomas S. Szasz. Anti-psychiatry is free to use the ideas expressed in any book Szasz authored in any way it so chooses. There’s libertarianism for you.

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      • Yes, Frank, you have the freedom to misrepresent a person’s views. You are even free to misrepresent mine, for instance by associating my views with those of the libertarian (sic) party which I detest. (The LP platform once opposed coercive psychiatry, but that part was removed.) By and large the anti-psychiatry movement is leftist, and so has little if any Szasz influence. I doubt the movement will influence Szasz since is is no longer alive. Even more so, I doubt that a leftist movement will lead to less psychiatric coercion. Socialist states have shown themselves to be very fond of psychiatry for controlling dissidents.

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        • “It’s just an old war,
          Not even a cold war,
          Don’t say it in Russian,
          Don’t say it in German.
          Say it in broken English,
          Say it in broken English.”
          ~Marianne Faithful

          I’m making a note. Don’t associate nicmart with the Libertarian Party. Okay. Got it!

          We just identified Szasz as right of left wing. Okay. I think I had that down long ago.

          Nobody is misrepresenting anybody’s views that I know of, but if anybody is, please, keep me in the dark. I don’t need to hear it.

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        • I’m as “leftist” as they come but I recognize Szasz as our intellectual mentor. Szasz gave all of us, “left” and “right,” the analysis via which psychiatry can be deconstructed and exposed for the totalitarian fraud it is.

          On the other hand, I don’t need Szasz to provide my larger contextual analysis of psychiatry, which is that it is a parallel police force which enforces primarily unwritten cultural laws which provide the psychological infrastructure for capitalism.

          And yes, most of the left sucks right now and see the issues only in terms if “more funding for mental health treatment.” That’s something we need to do some vigorous consciousness raising around. This doesn’t negate the fact that it is the violent and dehumanizing scourge of capitalist/corporate rule which is the primary and most fundamental source of our pain, personally and collectively.

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          • I have never heard of Szasz before finding MIA’s community and only read a short piece by him. You don’t need Szasz or anyone else for that matter to be anti-psychiatry – personal experience with the system is usually enough. That being said have no doubt that he’s one of the intellectual fathers of the movement as a social phenomenon and should be respected as such.

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          • “How do you explain the popularity, and even greater repressiveness, of psychiatry in non-capitalist countries?”
            You mean China? China is largely capitalist right now only with even more repressive state-capitalism. Psychiatry is simply an awesome tool for social control in every political system with a ruling class, no matter how this system chooses to call itself.

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    • Nickmart: I have read maybe a dozen of Szasz’s books. He expresses himself on a variety of topics. If I had to pin it down, I would say that he is a humanist who shades to the rightward end of the Libertarian scale. In my favorite book of his, The Manufacture of Madness, wherein he equates psychiatry to the inquisition, his argument is mostly free of this shade of Libertarianism which is at odds with my more Libertarian Socialist ideals-Zmagazine, Noam Chomsky, and the Left-wing Socialist and Anarchist alliance during the Spanish Civil War.

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      • How can “libertarian socialist” not be an oxymoron? Socialism requires state coercion, and libertarianism is the antithesis of coercion. A “libertarian socialist” might support some freedoms (and so did the Soviets, for that matter), but certainly not a comprehensive political philosophy centered on freedom.

        One can oppose socialism and not be a rightest, though some rightists oppose socialism (and many oppose libertarianism). To an unhyphenated libertarian like myself, the right and left have a great deal in common as rulers. They both redistribute confiscated wealth: sometimes to the same constituencies, and sometimes to different constituencies. As socialism progresses, it invariably becomes more repressive. (I’m alert to what might be called The Scandinavian Exception, but it is no exception at all. While Scandinavian countries may have large, expensive welfare states, they are able to fund the welfare by keeping their economic activity relatively free market. In that they resemble post-1989 China. more than, say, Cuba.)

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        • Nicemart: I don’t want to take this discussion to far a field, but I think that we must avoid being sectarianism. The revolution that happened in Spain in 1936 was undermined on all sides including The Nazis, the Catholic hierarchy, the western powers, and Stalin. Recently, the NY Times, what I will call the Yankee establishment, was forced to admit that it was the Cuban Government who was at the forefront in fighting Ebola. This despite the fact that Cuba is up against what is essentially a blockade. There is a great deal of national chauvinism in this country which impedes us from making common cause with others. I just watched the Florida Governors debate where the two candidates exchanged insults for an hour but agreed that the Castro brothers were the bad guys, The countries of the Organization of American States want Cuba readmitted and the vote in the UN is on the order of 179 to 2 to end the embargo on Cuba. As a Libertarian do you support the overwhelming view of world public opinion or do you side with the country that MLK said was the world’s greatest purveyor of violence.

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          • I don’t know any libertarian (small “l” means not a member of the Libertarian party) who favors the Cuba embargo. Not only is it an aggressive act against that country, it is an attack on the freedom of Americans to travel. Anti-interventionism and peace are central to the modern libertarian movement, which is highly critical of U.S. foreign policy, present and past. Two of the most prominent libertarian authors who are American policy critics are Robert Higgs and Murray Rothbard. There are videos featuring both men on YouTube, and quite a few of their lectures on iTunes U.

            In 2009 C-Span hosted a 3-hour interview with Dr. Higgs., which is found here:


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          • I responded to what I think were questions about Szasz relevant to this blog. His ideology was inextricably connected to his view of psychiatry. His ideology has been attacked by other posters, but they have not been asked to move from the discussion.

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        • Nicmart: I belong to the Mountain Party, an affiliate of the Greens. All ballot eligible parties should be part of the debate. Mass surveillance is another point of agreement. The Cato Institute hosted a conference on over policing that was aired on CSPAN Book TV last Sunday. Also Cato has hosted panels that advocate a more humane immigration-policy-The Koch Brothers who have a large say at Cato either do not dictate every thing that happens there or it is more complicated than liberals make it out to be. Ralph Nader recently headed up a panel at Cato which was also on Book Tv. Rand Paul has sponsored legislation to lessen the burden of the prison industrial complex. I can think of one book which could serve as a bridge of the various strands of libertarianism. George Orwell served in the left-wing unaffiliated POUM militia in the Spanish Civil War. He brought a correspondent and outsider perspective to the conflict. He essentially documented how Stalin and the Spanish Communist Party and it’s right-wing Socialist allies became a haven for middle class functionaries, and how Stalin and the leadership in Spain pulled the rug out from under the collectivized war and related industrious in a foreign policy designed to appease Britain and Conservative elements in France.
          It has always struck me that Orwell as taught in the school system where I worked, has been used to support the American Cold War position. Noam Chomsky, an MIT linguist and Libertarian Socialist, needless to say, has a different take on Orwell. His American Power and the New Mandarins is his first political book and he devotes part of it laying bare the liberal interpretation of Spain, which incidentally is very close to the Communist line. Z Magazine’s writer Paul Street recently wrote an article about Michael Parenti where it is possible to begin to discern the difference between Libertarian Socialism and Leninism. Thanks for responding. Sorry if I jumped to any conclusions. I realize that there has been some ruffled feathers when we stray a bit from the overall purpose of MIA. I think that civility is tantamount. Our political leaders are uncivil to each other, and the people in the third world that they see as mere pawns on a chess board stand no chance. We can and do better on MIA.

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        • Oh yes, I left out the most important part. Orwell’s book is called Homage to Catalonia. Orwell also included a forward to either Animal Farm or 1984, where he lambasts the group think of the British literary establishment. The forward did not make into the American edition.

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        • “Socialism requires state coercion”
          You misunderstand socialism. The idea which most people in US have about what socialism is would be like going to D. J. Jaffe and J. Biederman for definition of anti-psychiatry.

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          • Agreed. Most Americans fully support a wide range of socialist ideas and programs, but don’t think of them as socialism because of the incredibly distorted view of socialism we’ve been fed. (Most people believe Socialism is the same as Communism, which most people also don’t really understand, but they know it is REALLY, REALLY BAD! I’ve also seen people equate socialism and fascism, which is a REALLY big confusion!)

            Medicare, Social Security, and the GI Bill are three excellent examples of socialist policies that very few people would argue with. My favorite example of this ironic fact is an anti-government protester’s sign that proclaims, “Government, keep your hands off my Medicare!”


            — Steve

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  8. WONDERFUL article, thank you! Abolition is precisely the correct construct. And btw in that regard, Allen Frances seems to me to be protecting his own investment in psychiatric slavery. His recent plea to end “civil war” among the various advocates for the mentally ill is a classic strategy: he almost certainly means to undermine and delegitimize abolition.

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      • I propose that people who are practicing bogus medicine not be allowed to be called “doctors” and not be allowed to “prescribe” bogus medical treatments. Which may seem like it amounts to the same thing, but in fact does not. No, I surely would not prevent people from taking these drugs.

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        • You want the state to determine what is bogus disease and who is a legitimate doctor, but it is the state that has determined that psychiatry offers genuine treatments for real diseases. My view, consistent with Szasz, is that the state should not be in the medical business. It is up to individuals to decide if they buy into psychiatry and its treatments, just as they might choose acupuncture, homeopathy, faith healing, or abstention from any medical treatment. It is clear that government officials are neither capable of determining what is real medicine, nor of preventing harm by licensing and other regulations.

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      • As an anarchist, I am not keen on having that state involved in the first place and in that respect, Szasz and I are in agreement. That said, medicine is sanctioned by the state, and given that this bogus branch of medicine is not something that medicine itself will stop, yes, of course, I want the state itself to stop what it itself has adopted as its agent (under parens patriae and police powers provisions) and helped expand.

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        • All these discussions get confusing when “the state” is referred to as though all states are the same. A truly socialist state would serve different interests than a fascist state. Even if we might all look forward to a stateless society, if we meanwhile accept one law we implicitly accept that state’s ability to make and enforce laws. When we say that violence should be handled by the justice system, therefore, it doesn’t mean that we accept the inherent injustice of this particular
          “justice” system, but the principle that if we actually had a system of justice it would be the venue for dealing with issues of violent and criminal behavior.

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        • What other prominent critic of psychiatry than Szasz argued that the state shouldn’t be involved in medicine? It’s that involvement which is at the root of such horrors as psychiatric coercion and the war on drugs. You don’t have to be an anarchist to oppose the therapeutic state.

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  9. Bonnie

    Great post. This really helps clarify many issues facing how our movement is being conceptualized and viewed by others

    One quibble might be with how the word “abolition” is being viewed.

    I am firmly anti-psychiatry and firmly on the left; believing that psychiatry is an integral part of a social control mechanism that now sustains a profit based capitalist system. And equally related to its existence is the enormous profits derived from the sale of psychiatric drugs.

    Therefore, I don’t believe psychiatry will go out of existence as long as we have a profit based system. If revolutionary systemic changes were possible, I don’t believe a new society should pass laws to outlaw (abolish) psychiatry. I definitely believe ALL of psychiatry’s methods of coercion and control SHOULD be abolished and its epistemology sharply critiqued and criticized.

    If this were to happen then psychiatry would simply wither away; people would just stop (over time) choosing to be involved or associated with it. Perhaps this is what you were referring when you used the words “phasing” out. In this sense psychiatry would be “historically” phased out or abolished, but not by decree or the passage of some law.

    I am making this point about the concept of “abolishing” an institution as an important departure from some of the past mistakes of prior revolutionary movements and societies where they (at times) mishandled dealing with the middle classes and intellectuals.

    Even though we are not now at the stage of making these kinds of revolutionary type decisions (new laws in a new society) we cannot underestimate the importance of how are movement will be viewed and understood by a growing mass movement on these critical questions.


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    • Hi Richard,

      I really wanted to thank you for your comment here, and your contribution at MiA. I can not tell you how much clarity you have brought to my thinking.

      I made a comment the other day that Psychiatry is to Medicine, what ISIS is to Islam. I do believe that if one takes away the misinformation, lies, coercion and force then these extremists will be incorporated into a larger body that is performing a good function for a lot of people. ISIS back to Islam, and psychiatry back to medicine.

      In that sense it will wither and die with time.

      Once again thanks.

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      • Boans

        Thanks for the compliment. It is nice to hear that (at times) one’s efforts at MIA make a difference and get through to some people.

        I learn from many others at MIA: and Boans, I always find your comments at MIA to be thought provoking and interesting.


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  10. I appreciate the very clear and thoughtful description of what the term “antipsychiatry” means to you. It makes great sense to me. I wonder though, if others who identify with the term would agree with your interpretation?

    To me, that has been one of the problem with labeling in this context. I have to take notice of the fact that while our community is extremely critical and skeptical of labeling when it comes to mental health, we spend a large amount of time trying to ascribe labels to ourselves or others and then define what does or does not “count” as part of those labels.

    I suppose this is unavoidable – some labeling seems like it is a constraint of language and communication. But when it comes to the label “antipsychiatry” I still have a few questions:

    First it seems to me that there is not agreement on what we’re talking about when we speak of “psychiatry.” Sometimes I read people making it very clear that they are making an institutional criticism of capital “P” psychiatry as it is represented through its governing bodies such as the APA. And in these cases, the criticism is tied to biomedical reductionism, bad science (including claiming to know more than you actually know), and human rights/dignity issues (coercion, lack of informed concent.)

    But my experience is that there are also people describing themselves as “antipsychiatry” that are making an individual criticism in addition to any institutional criticism. In this case, the objection is to small “p” psychiatry, which is often not clearly defined. In some cases, it includes anyone providing any sort of service to an individual who identifies as experiencing some for of cognitive or emotional distress. So the small “p” word psychiatry is used, but is then inclusive of everything and everyone at an individual level – counselors, social workers, psychologists, family therapists, kids counselors, etc.

    The position of this latter camp of small “p” antipsychiatry folks seems to be that if a person decided that what they wanted to do for a living in this world is learn more about human experiences and development and then serve other human beings experiencing emotional suffering, they are part of the problem. If I did these things without doing educational study of issues of class, poverty and inequality, theories of human behavior in social environments, effective empathetic communication and exploration of human relationships, then no one would have an issue with me voluntarily engaging with another person voluntarily choosing to engage with me in an emotional collaborative partnership.

    Because this was how I wanted to live, and the kind of person I wanted to BE in relationship to my fellow human beings, it seemed only natural for me to look for ways to do this sort of thing as my career. I certainly did not want to go spend 40-50 hours a week making widgets for some corporation. But many times, when I listen to some who take the label “antipsychiatry” their small “p” criticism that seems inclusive of every single kind of collaborative partnership between a career human servant and an individual, I feel like people are basically saying, how dare you try to earn a living serving other people – you should have done that for free, and you should have done that without having in interest in any education that you might find useful.

    So, I find myself strongly allied with criticism of big “P” psychiatry. And specifically, I oppose biomedical reductionism because I believe it to be anti-rational. I oppose the standard model of psychiatric prescribing that is an outflow of that reductionism for the same reasons. And I oppose the treatment of human beings as “other,” “lesser” people with less rights, less autonomy and less power. Wherever those attitudes arise, in Psychiatry, in politics, in social work, or in individuals, I stand opposed to them.

    But I do not and cannot find myself aligned with any sort of small “p” antipsychiatry that is really just a sweeping generalization about any instance in which a person voluntarily partners with another person who has choosen a path of service as their working career. I am not aligned with the notion of “abolishing” any and every kind of counseling partnership between people. To me that is as antithetical to the idea of autonomy and choice as anything else.

    In your article, I see nothing but a very clear and articulate capital “P” criticism of Psychiatry as an institution. But I’ve definitely experienced the small “p” attitudes as well and those make very little sense to me.

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    • Andrew, I can see no disagreement between us. Are there antipsychiatry people with whom you would have disagreements, who define themselves as antipsychiaty and would object to any people making emotional help their line of work? While they are in the minority, yes, of course, they are–a stand which bears a relationship to our more general worry about the professionalization of help, while taking it to a different level. That said, as with with all movements, where it be feminism, socialism, or antipsychiatry, there are inevitably people with different takes on things. And I see nothing unique about antipsychiatry in this regard. I remember Heidegger (known as one the foremost existentialists) saying that if Sartre was an existentialist (also a leading existentialist), then he was not one. I see these differences as inevitable in any kind of movement. That said, I notice, that there has been no response to my posting of the ilk “I am antipsychiatry and what you have outlined is not remotely what I mean by antipsychiatry”, which I suspect is itself telling that there is a fairly strong degree of overlap in this movement.

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      • Thank you for the reply, and I totally agree.

        Sometimes I try to hold a “agreement in essentials; freedom in nonessentials” sort of approach to community. Though I fully acknowledge the subjectivity of identifying what positions/stances are “essential” and what are not.

        My best attempt so far is this: I can align with people who:

        (1) Reject biomedical reductionism
        (2) Reject psychopharmacology based on biomedical reductionism (leaving some openness to the possibility of selective-use approaches not based on biomedical reductionism)
        (3) Believe in empirical accuracy (specifically, not claiming to more know than we know) and criticize claims to “truth” or “facts” that are unsupported by available evidence
        (4) Oppose the dehumanization and disenfranchisement of minority groups, including persons labeled by a reductionist biomedical system as having a “mental illness” disease.

        Anybody on board with those 4 things is my ally, from survivor to psychiatrist.

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        • Andrew. I consider myself strongly anti-psychiatry, and I certainly have no quarrel with people who do counseling, therapy, even practice psychiatry, if they do it in an honest and ethical way. Many people need this kind of help (I certainly did) and some of them even benefit from it (I did also, sometimes).

          My hero, or role model for how psychiatry should be practiced, was Loren Mosher, who was driven out of the NIMH because he advocated for providing emotional support, not drugs. He was a fine human being. If only most psychiatrists were like him, his profession would be truly helpful, not as generally destructive as it presently is.

          I say all this not to disagree with you, but just to explain my own position better.

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          • It is curious that in his letter resigning from the APA Mosher found no space to criticize the central problem with psychiatry: coercion. I’m not sure he ever fully repudiated the use of violence in the name of mental health, though he took issue with it to some extent.

            Szasz rips Mosher a new one in his 1976 book, “Schizophrenia: The Sacred Symbol of Psychiatry.” First he quotes a paper by Mosher (who was then at NIMH) and John Gunderson*:

            “We need to demonstrate that it costs more not to treat someone than it does to provide care. If doubling the cost of treatment makes it possible to halve the loss of productivity, about $2 billion a year will be saved.”

            Szasz spends a few pages on Mosher and Gunderson, including these snips:

            “Here, then, we are face to face with the inexorable consequences of psychiatry as a state-supported priesthood, and of its collectivistic-positivistic perspective of treating persons as defective objects. The traditional reasons and justifications for treatment in medicine have been, first, that the patient has a disease; second, that he wants and consents to treatment for it; and, third, that a physician agrees to treat him. Gunderson and Mosher now add a fourth justification for treatment to this list — one, moreover, that has long been the favorite justification among Marxists, Communists, and National Socialists: namely, that treating the patient is in the best economic interests of society…. The patients’ desire and consent for treatment, and the physicians’s freedom to treat or eschew treatment are, of course, all matters potentially — and in the so-called mental health field, actually — at odds with the economic principle enunciated by Gunderson and Mosher. This is hardly surprising. The principle they propose is for the benefit of the bureaucrats whose views Brown [director of NIMH] and Mosher represent, that is, the state-employed psychiatrist-policemen.” After all, it is they, not the patients, who are the recipients of the funds here debated.”

            [*Gunderson is described thusly on one web site: “He is most famous for being the first psychiatrist to offer up a coherent and reliable description ( symptom checklist) to describe the behaviorsthat comprise what has been called Borderline Personality Disorder.”]

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  11. To have someone not a friend getting into your head getting paid and also having power over your fate , the power to cause you to lose your income, to have your meds upped or changed to report to others unknown about you to whom they owe allegiance. To have the power along with others to take your children away from you to sit there as if they are someone superior to you . Someone that wouldn’t loan you 5 bucks if you needed , can write down stuff on paper defining you that follows you for life even if it is total BS , who needs it ? Not me that’s for sure .That drugs/meds/poisons generally make people feel precarious in their stability and confidence there is no doubt. That talking to someone after having been weakened seems to help some yes . There is free choice but most people are forced to go to counseling or feel they are in order to keep their social security and to keep the authority from messing with their meds, and most especially to keep getting the “meds” they have become addicted to and that may be denied them if they refuse counseling. I know I was caught in this BS game for decades. Is this the small p you’re talking about. I wouldn’t deny a person counseling , therapy , being social worked ,labeled , written about ,pseudo-friended ,gestapo-like questioned and filed, with possible arbitrary rule changes anytime, if that is what they freely choose after being informed of all the possibilities ,thats up to them. To force counseling is coercion. As for me NO NO NO and NO. Yes I am totally anti-psychiatry as Bonnie and Ted define it . If someone wants to pay you for “therapy” that’s their business and I hope you don’t divulge or leave a paper trail or a label of the encounter and totally respect the privacy of your “client”. Bottom line fascism is encroaching on our lives and no one needs a “counselor” that behaves like a Hitler Youth .

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  12. What speaks most clearly and concisely to me is when you refer to psychiatry as “an institution that is serving us poorly and constitutes a threat to everyone.” Given the economics involved, how on earth can it be justified, in any respect? Were psychiatry to become disempowered and obsolete, resources would undoubtedly abound for more fruitful and authentic healing, not to mention we’d at least have a shot at becoming a just and balanced society.

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  13. I consider myself *proudly* anti-psychiatry, because I am against the *illegitimate* use of force on someone whose greatest “crime” is to be in a state of emotional distress.

    I’m for due process. If the state perceives a person is a threat, then the individual has a right to have their case heard – in a real court, with full and adequate legal representation from an attorney, where the person in question can have a lawyer question their accusers, in front of a jury. In short, the state must *prove* the person is a threat.

    A good lawyer:

    1) Doctor X, can you tell the jury what medical tests are involved in diagnosing a person with schizophrenia?

    2) How long had this person gone without sleep? Could sleep deprivation be part of the problem?

    3) Did you run any test for traumatic brain injury? Why not? Can the symptoms you describe be caused by a TBI?

    4) Do you believe a person with this diagnosis can fully recover? No? Are you familiar with Open Dialogue? The work of several others who have shown enormous success rates in this area?

    5) Have you presented other less-restricted, more-therapeutic options with this person? Their family and friends?

    6) How will locking this person up and/or forcing them to take drugs help in their long term recovery? Do you not see this approach as anything but therapeutic? Would you welcome this approach on yourself, if you were in this position? Really? Explain to the jury why?

    7) Are you familiar with the work of Psychiatrist Peter Breggin? Are you aware that this former Harvard teaching professor refers to these drugs as “brain disabling?

    And on and on …

    I’m for real treatment – helping address the source of emotional distress; finding other medical root causes and addressing those as well.

    Politically, I’m anything but a liberal or progressive. Hardly.
    But we have a forum section for politics…

    Thank you for the post.


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      • According to current administration “due process” does not equal “judicial process” hence drone strikes and forced psychiatry are all a OK. Welcome to the brave new world – Orwell must be rolling in his grave so fast he could probably be used as a turbine to power a small city ;(.

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    • Duane: I think their is room here for people from various walks of life. Part of the problem is what is defined as left by Fox News, talk radio and establishment liberals. It is understandable if people are turned off by identity politics and its inch wide mile deep interpretation of multiculturalism. Most of the left repudiated Stalinism after Kruschev’s 20th party’s speech and the Soviet invasion of Hungary. There appears to be no shame in the Democratic Party. We are up against a dualopoly.

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    • Hi Duane,

      Your post got me thinking about how much I would like to see a movie or documentary called Psychiatry on Trial. Much the same way as Lee Harvey Oswald was with Vincent Bugliosi and (can remember the other attorney).

      Would it change peoples minds? I believe it has the potential to.

      Or maybe even a remake of Twelve Angry Men with the person on trial having a supposed mental illness and an insanity plea.

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    • Duane,

      A great post on ideally what a lawyer should do in this case. But unfortunately, these folks rarely exist and pretty much rubber stamp what psychiatry has decided.

      I knew someone who was involuntarily committed several years ago because she had nerve to be understandably belligerent when the idiot psychiatrist refused to take her complaints seriously about a side effect of a med she was on. The lawyer she had was totally useless.

      How do we find lawyers who give a darn about this situation? It seems to me that involuntary commitment abuse issues seem to be a low priority with alot of lawyers.

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      • I have made a study of the legal-quasi-legal processes that people go through when trying to contest decisions by their doctors, and this is looked at in detail in Chapter Five of my up and coming book Psychiatry and the Business of Madness. It is totally circular with opinions given by the psychiatrist used as evidence to support their opinions. I demonstrate this with concrete examples, and recommend it as something to read for anyone interested in the jurisprudence aspect of this.

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      • “How do we find lawyers who give a darn about this situation?”

        Easy AA, dollars. It’s well known in the courts that psychiatric opinions are something you buy to give support to your case. They are a commodity for sale to the highest bidder.

        I hope I get to read your chapter on jurisprudence Bonnie. I find it fascinating how facts and evidence are converted into opinions and used to spin false narratives.

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        • It uses the Canadian system as an example. A bit different than the American and indeed worse for these things are not determined in courts of law but things called “The Consent and Capacity Board”. this notwithstanding, a similar circularity applies in all jurisdictions, and even good lawyers are constrained by it.

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        • Boans: I suppose it is important to follow all avenues, but I think you are onto something. Advances on the legal front are a slow and grinding affair. Popular culture and film reaches a broad audience and disseminates an idea faster. Hardening back to the movie Brazil, did you ever notice those signs with pithy sayings that hung down from the ceiling. The most apropos for our purposes was “suspicion breeds confidence.”

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          • Sure do chrisreed.

            Don’t suspect a friend, report them.

            Trust in haste, regret at leisure.

            Always think about them whenever I see advertising that encourages the public to “report a nut”. Hypervigilance pushing people into a broken system that damages them even further.

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      • How do we find lawyers who give a darn about this situation? It seems to me that involuntary commitment abuse issues seem to be a low priority with alot of lawyers.

        We need to figure a way to make this a glamorous or high-paying specialty.

        And no, I haven’t a clue as to how. Most of us are poor. Or “middle class,” i.e. poor.

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      • My “advocate” told me that she personally knows all the psychiatrist working in the torture hole I was held in and they’re all good people. So much about legal representation. Btw, she told me that after I was released and came in to complain – I don’t even remember having a hearing, I was so drugged.

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  14. A clarification: Mad Matters is not a “mad politics book” but instead is a Mad Studies book. Mad Studies subsumes antipsychiatry within its umbrella. This is exaplained in the introduction of the book. See:

    Otherwise a great blog Bonnie! I think it is helpful for folks to start to deconstruct the misunderstandings and/or misinformation floating around about antipsychiatry.

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  15. There’s never much for me to add to your posts. As usual, your talking points are all spot on.

    Maybe you could add another one, unless I missed it: To be anti-psychiatry is not necessarily to call for it to be outlawed. When the coercive aspect is taken away it will collapse under its own contradictions.

    (However as I write I’m absorbing one of your points I hadn’t considered: the legally licensed use of drugs for fake diseases. Problem is, psychiatrists are M.D.’s so have the legal right on that basis to prescribe pretty much anything for any reason. They couldn’t be considered medical doctors solely on the basis of psychiatric training, however. Interesting.)

    Do people react to the term “anti-war” as negative? Then why so with “anti-psychiatry”?

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    • It is not my experience that regular people have a negative response to the idea of “anti-psychiatry.” Mostly, what they say is “what is that?” What is happening here is that psychiatrists are doing their usual number of labeling whatever behavior they don’t like.

      We should not let ourselves fall unto this trap. Being anti-psychiatry just means we oppose the abuses of psychiatry. There is nothing strange or far out about it.

      We can’t let the people we are fighting define our position. Frankly, what I see here is that psychiatrists are very worried that the anti-psychiatry position will become popular and seen as an important and legitimate point of view. They are trying to delegitimize it using the same old methods they always use.

      It would be a big mistake to run away from this because the psychiatrists say it’s beyond the pale. The more they freak out about it, the more it’s clear to me that they see this very phrase as threatening their authority in the public mind. And it is just that authority that must be taken away.

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      • Just wanted to join the chorus of folks making the connection that the reaction of the other side to the term demonstrates its strategic importance, and why we should never shrink from the “accusation” of being anti-psych.

        Ted, one semantic quibble:

        Being anti-psychiatry just means we oppose the abuses of psychiatry

        Two ways of looking at the phrase “the abuses of psychiatry”: One interpretation is just that, i.e. psychiatry’s abuses of human beings. Another interpretation would be to infer that psychiatry is o.k. per se, it’s just the abuses we oppose. And I think we should disabuse ourselves of the latter notion.

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    • I don’t think psychiatry is going to wither away without a lot of help. Nonetheless, I think it may be possible for us to give it that help.

      My position is that mental health treatment is not something you want to get stuck in if you can help it. This being the case, walking the other way when you see the psychiatrists office, or the mental health clinic, or an emergency room door, is a excellent exercise in good judgment.

      What are the advantages of the mental health world? Automatically, you have a community, if the community of artificial invalids and artificial “care providers”. From the start, I think there are many things in life that make much more sense. This is to say that if it is community you want, there are better places to find it.

      If there is to be any type of dichotomy in this circumstance, let it be between the psychiatrized and everybody else rather than between the “sick” and the “well”. This represents an acknowledgment that the psychiatrist is just as much enmeshed in the “sickness” system as is his or her patient.

      Beyond the “sickness” system, by the most extreme of estimates, you still have almost 75 % of the population to contend with. There are mental health programs and there are mental health programs in the world today. What the world needs to now is more and more deprogrammers.

      With a little deprogramming, maybe we could bring this 25 + % figure of people with psychiatric labels down, and, at the same time, increase the numbers of people who have no need for psychiatric abuse.

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        • Bonnie

          I agree totally and want to add to your comment.

          My use of the words “wither away” in previous comments was not intended, in any way, to present a passive or patient approach to fighting against Biological Psychiatry. Institutions such as this will never fall unless they are hit at by major mass struggle.

          Because of the pervasive nature of this institution and its role in propping up the status quo by drugging people into passive oblivion and also by shifting focus onto genetics and away from targeting the inherent daily traumas perpetuated by modern capitalism, this makes the fight against psychiatric oppression a very critical human rights battle in the overall struggle to end ALL oppression.

          Fighting against psychiatric oppression actually exposes many aspects of what’s inherently wrong with a profit based system and points people more clearly in the direction of creating a world that provides much more humane forms of human interaction and social supports.

          While Biological Psychiatry will most likely not completely fall until people are convinced enough to fight for a replacement to the capitalist system, the struggle against it could be quite pivotal in this overall struggle. We all have much work to do in order to create more favorable conditions for this to happen, sooner not later.


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        • In complete agreement, Bonnie. As for the ultimate backfire of simple reform, to some extent it is backfiring now. Actually, we have two reform movements. There is that reform movement of people who wish to liberalize the law, and there is the reform movement of people who wish to make the law more strict, with all shades of people in between. I don’t think there is any way to ignore the basically punitive nature of this social control mechanism that would cloak itself in the paraphernalia of medicine. The problem though has to do with the law itself, making it all the more crucial for us to demand a more radical solution, abolition, that is, the repeal of that law.

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  16. Wow, many comments here to get through. Thanks for this clarification, Bonnie, I would send it to my friends but they have now become ex-friends. One defriended me over a misunderstanding you have listed above, claiming that if I didn’t call something such as “bipolar” a disease, then surely I must deny that those diagnosed with bipolar are suffering. We all know they are, ESPECIALLY if they also have been put into the psych regime. I am not certain if you mentioned the permanence factor, that psych seals the behaviors and feelings as permanent in the person’s life, when otherwise they would most likely go away on their own, or with support, or have a shorter duration. Psychiatry makes people permanently disabled, and often puts them out of work and in a position where it is nearly impossible to return to the life they truly desire.

    As for myself, I am not against individual psychiatrists (except the ones that harmed me personally and are still basking in the glory). I am against force. I am against coercion. I am against all incarceration including those who have committed crimes. I am against religious prosyletizing, though I am not against a person’s expression of religious or spiritual awakening or joy. i am for the upholding of all humans as worthy. I am against declaring a person mentally incompetent. i am against the push to force people who are less powerful to submit to the wishes of their doctors or the state. I support honesty, transparency, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom from censorship, freedom of information, and similar freedoms.

    The way I see myself in all this is to continue to live as well as I can, and to follow my own ideas of self-reliance, independence, freedom of thought, and responsibility. I find that practicing minimalism is a joy to me. I enjoy my dog and my life. I recently discovered I love to iron my clothes. I am expressing my joy in taking my body back by running a road race in about a month, especially since I was told multiple times that I was incapable. Meanwhile I do everything I can to encourage others to take their bodies back from institutional ownership.

    I find that many mental health professionals are against the things I am for, and for the things I am against.

    I do not see any mental health professionals at all, not as patient. A few are my friends. I worry that the System sucks people back in, tempting people to try those waters of deceit one more time. I can only tell them to be extremely careful, and ensure you have a doorway out at all times.

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  17. I also refuse to call anyone a psychopath, narcissist, “toxic,” or “negative.” These terms are hate speech. A person may act badly but I do not call that a disease. “Toxic” is a euphemism for mental illness. A pop psychology word that actually means poisonous substance, radioactive, or contaminated with germs, or possibly an overabundance of a substance in one’s body (such a drugs, lead, or mercury). I respect those that wish to avoid people that harm them, by all means, but I do not support disease labeling or quasi-disease labeling. Labeling minimizes the harm, and likewise the suffering people go through.

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    • Toxic EQUALS criminal. It is only those who buy into the psychiatric garbage that see toxic as mental ill, and rapist and child molester etc as mentally ill. That is garbage.

      The freedom to call a spade a spade is what is in question here. Speaking up about people, who for lifestyle, hurt others around them and do it because they get pleasure from seeing the other person’s pain and suffering are toxic or in their own jargon “evil”. This is NOT hate speech. It is psychiatry that tries to legitimize them by calling them psychopaths and sociopaths and narcissists etc.

      I remember too well a time when an abused child could not speak out against an abusive parent and it was also labeled as hate speech. A woman who was bashed by her husband was considered “a domestic” and her speaking up was also hate speech. She better wash her mouth out with caustic.

      Toxic people constitute as much as 15 to 20% of society at present and the problem is only getting worse. And yest they do have medical cover. Their handiwork is denied by denying the study of psi. I have a right to speak out against the toxic people, to blog, to make videos and expose the foul game play that leads to both mental and physical diseases in those that are unsuspecting of what is going on. I reject the notion of free speech being hate speech. Abusive individuals like to hide in the shadows and they can while their methods remain hidden and anyone speaking up is slammed.

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      • I agree with Julie. You use pseudomedical jargon, as do psychiatrists, to label behavior. If “Toxic EQUALS criminal,” as you say, then “criminal” is the appropriate word minus the medicalization. The Nazis could have called the Jews “bad,” but it was much more effective, and dehumanizing, to call them “vermin.” (Not to ignore that the holocaust began with the “unfit” and the “mentally ill,” not with the Jews.

        Psychiatry doesn’t “legitimize” people by diagnosing them, it dehumanizes them, replacing their moral agency with pseudo-disease.

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      • Calling people “toxic” is intended to characterize them as poisonous agents when you really just mean you don’t like the way that they behave. Bacteria, radiation, and chemicals are toxic, but individuals are good and evil in various proportions. The choice to do right or wrong is the essence of humanity, and that is what you and psychiatrists both believe they do not deserve.

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        • Yes, and it takes two to dislike. One whose behavior is objectionable TO ANOTHER, yet may be perfectly okay within the scope of their own culture or belief system.

          Disagreement can only happen if two or more parties’ viewpoints clash. It’s not due to any disorder of one of the parties. To say it is would be disregarding that name-calling involves a relationship between the named and the caller.

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  18. My late husband revealed to me that he was, in his words “evil”. I call this character toxic and precisely because they are like poison. It has no medical or quasi-medical terminology. If you think it is all about disliking someone and “bad behavior” and maybe cultural differences then think again.

    What I was told and what I have since realized because of the violence leveled against me for speaking up and being an activist, and which is now being going on, on a daily basis for about 20 years now, is that these people are networked. None act alone.

    The way that they adversely affect another person is to use a concealed threat, which means the person will experience bodily reactivity but be unable to appraise it correctly. They then use someone amongst their group, who is related to the person they wish to harm (usually the chief offender), in order to be able to make mental suggestions. This is not a one-off occasion. The abuse is meted out systematically and repeatedly over time.

    The reason they do these things are:-
    1. To obtain power and influence over the targeted person in order to manipulate and control them.
    2. To hurt them, to punish or take revenge, which includes killing them. But of course their methods have a medical cover because the means they use, especially mental suggestions are denied by mainstream medicine.
    3. What they call the “quintessential”, which is to get pleasure from seeing the victim’s pain and suffering. This I was told is the defining feature of what it is to be evil.

    You might want to defend those that see it as lifestyle to do harm to others around them and to get their kicks out of see the other person’s suffering, but I don’t. And I don’t. I call a spade a spade. Yes, they are criminals but they are also poisonous. Toxic is an appropriate term in ordinary, everyday language. It has NOTHING to do with psychiatry. The psychiatric terms are all euphemisms.

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  19. And I should add that the foul game play is brutal. The person’s suffering may be mental or it may be physical. At present the damage is labeled disease and traded for profit. It may include things like anxiety and depression but it can also include cancer and strokes and heart disease.

    This has nothing to do with disagreements and bad behavior.

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  20. I absolutely do not support that type of behavior nor do I feel it is even worthy of defense. However, I choose not to use the word toxic at all. I do not see any scientific basis for believing any human is actually poisonous. I would suggest getting away from someone who harms you, or tends to act in a harmful manner. I don’t see any real poison except when a person perhaps carries a very contagious virus. A real virus. Or somehow is has picked up dangerous radioactivity. I hear that can happen during war time. Bad behavior isn’t a real virus, nor radioactivity that’s so toxic that someone will drop dead simply because he/she is in proximity. If that’s true, then anyone deemed “toxic” should never ride a bus and never take a plane ride and most likely shouldn’t even go to a workplace lest the others drop dead or get sick. Show me the actual poison, the physical alteration that makes a person cause others to become ill or have a fever. Lepers, apparently, were so contagious that they had to be quarantined. To use a classification and to say that some are toxic and “the rest of us” are not, I see a dangerous dichotomy here, and that, to me, is really eugenics. What do you propose be done with a person who behaves badly? Imprisonment? Isolation on an island, fake hospital, or in a prison camp? Or outright killing them?

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  21. It sounds like this person is doing you terrible harm. I see some shrinks as having likewise done harm to people, by gaslighting, jeering, force or coercion, sectioning, drugging, or imprisoning innocent people. My former shrinks gave me kidney disease then lied about it. They damaged my brain with shock and lied about it. And more. I still have trauma I am working to resolve.

    I recommend getting away and ending a relationship that is harmful. After leaving my shrinks I still feel the effects, especially the therapy abuse. I have heard it takes a long, long time, even after a hurtful person is completely out of your life. I don’t see them as toxic. They stand by their false beliefs, and/or they’re power-mongers, and/or simply do not care about their patients, upholding money over human life. I have no explanation as to why some, or most, of my former providers were so cruel. I do know though, that they weren’t infected nor radioactive. They were cruel, and treated me horribly, and never apologized nor even acknowledged what they did. Do yourself a favor and any way you can, get away from him. Some domestic abuse organizations do not psychiatrize people, until of course they sell out or run out of funding.

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  22. Yes I understand your concern:
    ” Show me the actual poison, the physical alteration that makes a person cause others to become ill or have a fever”
    It is a valid concern and I will try to address it.

    The “physical alteration” that makes the victim ill is the victim’s bodily reaction to what they perceive as an idea coupled with emotion. There is a cheat involved, which causes the victim to upgrade the idea to a belief.

    The person who betrays the victim is using physical means but such means are not obvious. They pose a concealed threat and at the same time mentally present (through the abuse of relationship) a hateful idea.

    The aim of the concealed threat is to have the person react to the threat but in a way that leaves them only with knowledge of some bodily reactivity, because the knowledge is subconscious. Thus when they perceive the idea at the same time, they may use the emotional reactivity as evidence for the idea. Their reaction is a nocebo effect.

    Allergic reactions are the most simplest form of such cheats and the victim’s reaction may include anaphylactic shock. which can lead to the victim’s death. I don’t know if that is the case in every case, although I suspect as much, but it sure is the case in many cases, as I have seen both in myself and others I have known.

    I have started to document the foul game play that leads to allergies as you can find here in this video on placebo and nocebo effects: (16mins)

    If you want to see how a concealed threat is created and posed, you can view my video series on the Underlying Conditions of Disease. It is 5 video and a total of about 1hr 40 mins but I have added endings to most videos to help people lighten up with some nature studies of birds or goannas etc., because the subject matter is dark, or it was for me. I have posted the link in my comment to Nomadic here: in my first comment (Oct 17) to Nomadic.

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  23. You said:
    “To use a classification and to say that some are toxic and “the rest of us” are not, I see a dangerous dichotomy here, and that, to me, is really eugenics.”

    Eugenics has to do with a preferred appearance of the body and /or enhanced ways in which the body may functions. Thus the aim is to modify DNA and at the same time disadvantage, sterilize or destroy any who don’t measure up to the standard perceived as acceptable or desirable.

    This really has nothing to do with eugenics. The body is a vehicle or an embodiment that allows for a conscious being to have physical experiences. It is the nature of the conscious being that matters. I used to believe that we were born as blank slates but I have since seen stark evidence to the contrary. One of the clearest pieces of evidence is that I have seen about a dozen toxic families with young children. I have seen that they do not attempt to train all of their children in the ways of collectively being harmful to others. They only train those that are already inclined in this way. Those that are not inclined to being hateful they usually torment and disadvantage, betray and sometimes kill but by disease such as cancer, mental torture and suicide etc.

    In society we do make distinctions and create a dichotomy for the sake of peace and survival by identifying, convicting and keeping criminals in jails (quarantine) or killing them (capital punishment).

    It is difficult to identify the criminals in the case of those I am calling toxic for two reasons. One is that the means they use are not obvious, and the second reason is because the medical industry denies the means, especially in ESP and the nocebo effect. Nocebo experiments in medicine / science have been outlawed. And it was done by having some researchers/ doctors do some shocking experiments, which are now pointed to as “what these experiments are about”.

    The reality is that the medical industry would be lost without diseases, both mental and physical. And I strongly suspect that without the foul game play and nocebo effects there would be no disease or at lest a trivial amount, not enough to plunder the public purse and the insurance companies for trillions of dollars annually. Hence the Nocebo experiment, i.e., the evidence, is forbidden. And psychiatry is used to condemn the victims as crazy and drug them, sometimes to death, AND at the same time white wash the offenders as simply having a “personality disorder that doesn’t harm them and hence they don’t need to be drugged.

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  24. You ask:
    “What do you propose be done with a person who behaves badly?”
    I overcame every attack because of the knowledge I was given by my late husband, who was toxic, and from using means such as insight meditation, to investigate what was going on in my body.

    When I realized the true nature of these attacks I was able to overcome them because my body stopped reacting to the ideas realizing that the ideas were bogus, hateful suggestions.

    Humane people can regain and maintain their mental and physical health and deny the toxic/ inhumane people their aims.

    While an awakening is effective, it doesn’t mean the humane person has to continually try to overcome the attack of ideas and being subjected to concealed threats. The humane person has a right to self-defence.
    This also does not need to involve anything physical. The counter attack is made in the mind, the place where the battle is fought and won. See here the last image on this page:

    Mental images of a counter attack against the inhumane offenders, made with intent, have a powerful effect. They either back off or suffer the consequences because a counter attack is effectively a directive to the Universe. An the Mind is not simply personal. There is a Universal Mind and it is through this Universal Mind that one can perceive the ideas and suggestions made by related others.

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