Madness and the Family: What Helps, and What Makes Things Worse?

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Families are often very important for people encountering severe mental and emotional difficulties.  But how can family members really know what is helpful, and what is likely to make things worse for the person having problems?  Similarly, for those who want to help families, how can they know what will really be helpful for those families, and what will make things worse?

H. L. Menken wrote that “There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”  In the case of madness and families, there are a number of such easy solutions; all, unfortunately, also quite wrong.

But that doesn’t mean there can’t be real solutions.  It just means that we might have to reject the simple, formulaic solutions in order to search together for the humanistic, complex, and individually tailored solutions that might really fit particular people and families.

Paris Williams recently wrote a 3 part series on Madness and the Family, see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.  If you found those interesting, you might be interested in a chance to have some extended dialogue with Paris about these issues in an ISPS “online meeting” on Thursday February 4, 2016, 3:30 PM EST.  For more information about that, and to register, go to https://madnessandthefamily.eventbrite.com  (Note that people who aren’t ISPS members will be asked to make a donation, but it is also possible to sign up without donating.)

I’m looking forward to this meeting and discussion (and I will be hosting the meeting), because I think it will be a great chance to explore how mental health providers can really help families, and in turn, how families can best be of real help to their troubled family members, while also getting better at recognizing patterns or interactions that may be unhelpful.

One of the trickiest issues in just thinking about families and madness is the whole question of whether or how much to “blame” families for the madness that seems to be located in a particular family member.  Biopsychiatry and NAMI of course would say families have no responsibility, other than most likely to have passed on what are presumed to be bad genes, while at the opposite extreme, there have been those who thought the existence of madness was proof the family had essentially created the madness.

But when we step outside the world of biopsychiatric or other sorts of dogmas, it appears that issues are much more complex, even perhaps “diabolically” tricky.

As individuals, we try to make our lives better.  But sometimes our efforts to make our lives better makes other parts of our life get worse, or even way worse.  And if we don’t recognize what is happening, our whole life can spiral out of control, can spiral into “madness.”  Similarly, even well intended families can do things they hope or believe will make things better, but these things may really cause problems for family members or make existing problems worse, in ways that may not be recognized.  And then of course the mental health system and other outsiders can also come in and try to make things better, but really make things worse, in ways that may not be recognized.

So, at all levels, even well-intentioned efforts can become part of a “storm” of madness, and while this storm often appears centered as a “disorder” in one person, really the confusion of many can be playing a part in the chaos.

Of course, when not everyone has great intentions, and when abuse is or has been present, things can get even more complex.  So abuse etc. is important to discuss when it has been present, but it’s also important to not presume anyone has been abusive.  Each story of madness is unique, and better approaches are interested in that uniqueness.

One way of understanding it is that people go mad when they encounter key life issues, binds or double binds, that they can’t resolve within the understanding of themselves and their world that they have put together up until that point.  Madness in a family member in turn creates huge and confusing dilemmas or binds for the rest of the family, and this makes it difficult to respond in ways that don’t inadvertently feed the madness.  But when all of this can be talked about, pathways to healing and recovery for all sometimes open up, even if not easily.

Anyway, if this topic appeals to you, and if you would like to explore the topic in more detail, then please do consider joining us for “Madness and the Family: Practical Methods for Transforming Troubled Family Systems” with Paris Williams  on 2/4/16, 3:30 PM EST.

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45 COMMENTS

    • There are different ways to talk about it, but the issue of responsibility for what happens in madness is a tricky one.

      On the one side, people can get caught up in guilt or blaming others for things in unhelpful, simplistic and polarizing ways. But on the other side, people can get caught up in trying too hard to make sure no one feels responsible, so instead a presumed “biological illness” is blamed. The unfortunate thing then is that now attention has been directed away from the possibility that people could learn to take responsibility for themselves and for their impact on family members in a good way, and instead people feel helpless to do anything other than take pills or ask the family member “did you take your medication?”

      There is a middle way, that is curious about what can be done while also avoiding unproductive blame…..

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      • There is a distinct difference between blame and responsibility. The first says, “You made this happen because you screwed up!” This is rarely if ever helpful to anyone. But responsibility means, “You have had and continue to have an influence on this situation, and your decisions can make it better or worse. Let’s look at what you can do to make sure your influence is positive.” This presumes no ill intent or foolishness on the part of the parents, and yet acknowledges the reality that parent behavior can and does impact the presence and/or expression of psychosis, and so gives the parents credit for some power to help change the situation. Sure, this may lead to some painful self-examination and acknowledgement of errors made in the past, but if presented in the context that “parenting is hard, kids are complex, and sometimes things don’t turn out the way we expect,” it’s pretty easy to create a safe place to explore what may or may not have gone wrong, and more importantly, what to do TODAY to make the situation easier for everyone.

        Avoiding blame is a natural reaction, but avoiding responsibility leads to disempowerment, and that helps exactly no one.

        —- Steve

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        • Hi Ron and Steve,

          The other side of things is that people do genuinely recover and move on.

          There’s a very nonrecovery (or ‘difficult recovery’) model in vogue, but this only because the money is in promoting this type of idea. It’s not in the ‘consumers’ best interest.

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        • Excellent distinction and explanation of how to properly approach family troubles, Steve. But as to, “Avoiding blame is a natural reaction, but avoiding responsibility leads to disempowerment, and that helps exactly no one.”

          As Fiachra pointed out, the current “medical model” practitioners, drug companies, et al are benefitted by disempowering the parents and drugging the children.

          Although, obtaining control in such a manner is insideous, and only results in harm to families. Thus should be banned in any medical related matter, given the medical industry’s promise to “first and foremost do no harm.”

          Medical “care” has gone completely awry when it boils down to a struggle for power over others, followed by utilizing medical information to harm patients for profit. Which is basically what many within today’s psychiatric / psychological / social worker industries are doing today.

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  1. I agree that not all families are abusive and/or dysfunctional. But I’d be willing to wager that where there is family abuse–including covert dysfunction, like families who double bind and gaslight, often quite cleverly–there is mental illness. The problem, as I see it, are those who are in blatant denial of it, and trying to scapegoat others through provocation and appealing to the system as a victim, stuff like that.

    Abuse comes in a plethora of forms and manifestations, and can be so intensely insidious. In addition, it is very often so much our familiar world, that it can be tricky recognizing it happening around us and through us. Waking up to it is the first step in healing.

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    • I agree with you that abuse comes in many forms, and can be hard to detect. And then there are also bad things that happen that are more like accidents, where people are trying hard to do the right thing but make mistakes and so fail to meet the needs of people they love.

      I don’t agree though that abuse is always followed by “mental illness.” I think there is a certain amount of luck or happenstance involved – sometimes kids get abused but then bounce back, they somehow get what they need to work through it on their own.

      Going through abuse is like going through a war – likely to result in injury, but some people come back OK. While some people take a stroll in the park and come back with a severe injury! Life is tricky……

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      • I’m thinking of the wounding that comes from family abuse–betrayal. Also, abusers, to my mind, have something going on that I’d easily call some kind of mental illness. Certainly there is distortion of thought and lack of control going on, especially when adults abuse their children, which seems to be quite common.

        For clarity, I don’t believe that mental illness is chronic, that’s where the system’s influence is so detrimental. But I do think that mental illness occurs temporarily when we are betrayed by abusive family members, mainly because the one being abused is taking on their stuff at that moment. Of course, those neurons can be re-written and our hearts can heal.

        It’s temporary, because indeed we can heal from all wounds. But I do equate family abuse with mental illness, one way or another, originating with the abuser, then being passed along generationally.

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  2. “Blame” is not a helpful word when trying to find causes of social, emotional and behavioral problems. Almost all parents want to raise their children in the best way possible. Unfortunately, there is not agreement on what is “best.” There are many different philosophies about child raising ranging from “do anything to make the child happy,” to “It’s a tough world, and the sooner as the child learns to deal with that, the better he/she will cope.” Some parents demand respect and obedience, others seem to put the child in charge, even when the child has no concept of how to make a decision.

    Each parent has his/her own ideas about how to raise children. These ideas are based partially on what they liked or didn’t like about their own childhood. There are also cultural norms that change drastically from one generation to the next. Dr. Spock or no Dr. Spock?

    Added to this mix is that each child is born with their own genetic temperament. An active child in a quiet household will be treated differently than a quiet child. A fifth child is treated differently that a first born. An infant with a physical problem will totally change the family’s dynamics.

    Yes Mencken, who certainly had his own flaws, was correct on this one — there are no simple solutions.

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    • Thanks Donald, for pointing out the complexities that emerge when different children have different needs. So parents might do things that would work fine for one kid, but those practices may be harmful for another one. It makes sense that we all parent imperfectly, and things can go wrong in so many ways. Normalizing that can help open up space for discussion of what people need right now and what people can do to help.

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      • There is something I find odd about this discussion. The research of people like Richard Bentall and John Read show high rates of negative childhood experiences in people who end up with severe psychiatric diagnosis such as schizophrenia. Some of these, such as the early loss of parent are just bad luck. Some of these are about the child suffering cruelty, such as child sexual abuse or being the victim of violence or witnessing family violence. These are about the extreme abuse of power by adults who have power over children.

        Not everyone who experiences horrid things in childhood become mad, though it does increase the chances of that happening and also of other difficult outcomes such as drug addiction and homelessness.

        It seems, though this is less well proven, that certain things lessen the blow of bad things happening in childhood, such as the effect of a supportive grandparent being around. However in other abuses of power, such as racism, by the police for example, we do not pussyfoot around blame so much and are often happy to, “Call out,” racism, and we also hold people to account. With parenting we somehow hold other standards.

        I was reading a book written by a retired clinical psychologist recently in which she talked about a woman who as a teenager went manic and was hospitlised. It turned out her father was often violent, forced food down her throat if she refused to eat it and who sexually assaulted her.

        Even if her father’s behaviour had not resulted in the child becoming mad and having a difficult life with very restricted eating habits and other life problems I would still want to condemn the man for his behaviour. I would still want to understand why he did them in terms of his attitudes and life history, but I would still want to say what he did was wrong.

        I know that not every mad person has such horrible stories to tell but I have been around the mental health system long enough to know they are fairly common. One thing we can do is to acknowledge that this is so. What we do after that is more complex, but it would at least be a start.

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        • Hi John, I noticed you said you were finding something “odd” about this discussion – I hope you didn’t think anyone was trying to minimize abuse when it happens or fail to acknowledge that it frequently is involved in causing later mental disturbance.

          I am a big fan of the work of John Read and others who have done research clearly showing that abuse, and especially extreme abuse, puts people at high risk of later having problems such as “psychosis.” Once course I teach is on trauma, dissociation and psychosis, and I’m currently working on making that available online.

          But I think what people are saying is that we can’t just assume that parents or other family members have been abusive. There are other kinds of events that can lead to “madness.” So it’s all about getting the actual story as best we can, and then figuring out what people can do starting from now to possibly make things better, including dealing with past traumas if that’s part of what happened.

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          • Although today’s bio-bio-bio psychiatric theology is 100% the opposite of this. It’s about ignoring, denying, and dismissing the person’s real problems. Then lying to the patient, claiming they have a “chemical imbalance” in their brain and a “life long, incurable, genetic mental illness,” with zero proof. And then comes “the staging of bizarre events,” the massive tranquilization and poisoning of the person – to create the symptoms of the illness – for profit.

            This is also known as gas lighting a person, and is “mental abuse,” not “appropriate medical care.”

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          • Hi Someone Else,

            I agree that much of the current mental health system is the opposite of what is needed. But I think you paint an exaggerated picture, especially when you suggest that it’s obvious that the drugs are making things worse. Actually it takes a bit of detective work to see how they often make things worse – on the face of it people are more likely to notice ways the drugs seem to help, to calm down people who otherwise seem at extreme risk because of their agitation for example. And when people stop the drugs, that’s often when really severe problems pop up. Noticing that the drugs can make things worse over time (and that for some people, they make things worse even in the short term) takes some more attentiveness to detail, and noticing how things can be tricky.

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          • “But I think you paint an exaggerated picture.”

            I have to disagree here, Ron. Someone Else’s insights ring completely true to me. I and so many others who have relayed their stories on here and elsewhere have had this same experience.

            I also found a tremendous amount of blatant gaslighting being the crazy-making and shame projecting tool used to silence people. My lawsuit was all about this, and I proved it with success. It was obvious that the folks who ran this agency were way out in left field, whereas they were trying to convince others that I was the one who did not know of what I spoke.

            In the end, I was the one validated for my truth, and they shut down, because they were ignorant and stubborn in their pure bigotry.

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          • Hi Ron,

            It obviously was confusing to my former psychiatrists to try to comprehend that their, in 2001 “new wonder drugs,” were just as bad, or worse, than their old neuroleptics. But it wasn’t remotely confusing to me, that “the drugs [were] making things worse.”

            I was thrown into a terrifying “psychosis” within 2 weeks of being put on my first antipsychotic, just when “the med will kick in.”

            And I did try very hard to communicate this problem to my doctor, psychologist, and psychiatrists. But they were apparently hell bent on trying to murder me to cover up some prior easily recognized iatrogenesis and the medical evidence of the abuse of my child, I learned later from reading all their medical records.

            I do agree it takes some detective work to figure out why today’s DSM treatment recommendations, and psychiatric drugs are harming and killing so many.

            For example, the gold standard treatment recommendations for “bipolar” today suggest combining the antipsychotics, antidepressants, and benzos. Despite the fact all doctors should theoretically know that combining these drug classes is unwise, since they’re known to cause anticholinergic toxidrome.

            So today’s “bipolar” treatment guidelines should be changed to recommendations that are not medically known to make a person “mad as a hatter.” No doubt such bad recommended treatment guidelines, plus the fact anticholinergic toxidrome is not listed in the DSM as a possible cause of “psychosis,” must make it very confusing for all the psychiatric practitioners.

            And I knew, “when people stop the drugs, that’s often when really severe problems pop up.” So I did my best to get off the drugs asap, with the assistance of doctors.

            But was amazed to learn that today’s psychiatrists think the words, “your drugs are making me sick” means, up the meds and / or add more drugs. And they aren’t intelligent enough to comprehend that if one antipsychotic makes a person “psychotic,” than trying all the other antipsychotics on the patient is going to be an exercise in futility, too. Unless, of course, the doctors motives are malevolent. I had just thought I’d dealt with unethical doctors, but this does seem to be a much larger societal problem, called the bio-bio-bio psychiatric system.

            I do know some people claim the drugs are helpful though. And since the neuroleptics can cause “psychosis” in a previously healthy person. I see it as possible the neuroleptics may help a person who is actually “psychotic.” But child abuse concerns are not cured with antipsychotics. And 2/3s of all “schizophrenics” today are child abuse or ACEs victims.

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  3. I would also recommend the psychiatric practitioners stop putting the patients into double binds, too. Which is largely what the whole system is right now. “If you don’t take all the drugs as prescribed, the doctors will all call you paranoid.” That’s threatening a patient, in reality. And if you disagree or question the diagnosis, that’s proof you have the diagnosis, and anosognosia. Then the psychiatric practitioners defame you to your family, claiming you have a “lifelong, incurable, genetic illness.” So your family loses faith, hope, and trust in you.

    And the currently recommended “bipolar” drug cocktails are, in reality, a recipe for how to create “psychosis,” via poly pharmacy induced anticholinergic intoxication syndrome. But, of course, the psychiatrists blatantly lie to the patients claiming their drugs can’t cause such psychotomimetic symptoms, and further lie and call this drug induced illness any number of the DSM billable disorders.

    And when you try to discuss your real life problems, including the psychiatrist’s many delusions about who you are and where you’re from, since some decent nurses just handed over your medical records, so you just learned how confused the psychiatrist is. The psychiatrist declares your entire life a “credible fictional story.”

    I mean, no wonder people leave the psychiatric system. It’s an iatrogenic illness creation system, and a “mental abuse,” via gas lighting, system. It’s a “mental health” system, set up to destroy people, no entire families, physically, emotionally, and financially.

    Anyone with a brain in their head should know distress is caused by interpersonal problems, not a “chemical imbalance” in one person’s brain. That’s a ridiculous, no I’ll say insane, theology. I do thank you for working to change this appalling industry. Although, personally I think it’d be easier to train completely new people, than try to retrain the current psychiatrists, who like system just the way it is. Motivation matters.

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      • Thanks, squash. Don’t pity me, pity all the children and others who didn’t escape and survive.

        At least I’ve got a story about an artist who found the medical proof that the “cure” for “schizophrenia,” actually causes both the negative and positive symptoms of that made up disease. Which also includes a “magical mystery” spiritual journey along the way, and I have no doubt God wants these medical crimes against humanity pointed out.

        Not the story I was expecting to tell in the hopes of creating a market for my artwork, however.

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    • Yes, this is exactly the problem. And it does totally repeat abuse trauma, it’s a double whammy, at the very least. Makes healing seem even more remote and hopeless, rather than possible. I believe this is where ‘chronic mental illness’ happens, totally fabricated from these types of very common and dangerously enabled abuses. Leads to feelings of utter powerlessness, which is not at all a good thing.

      Someone Else, I’m 100% behind you on the gas lighting and double binding. These are the hard to detect abuses that to me have become more flagrant and common place, almost unconscious, part of the culture as a defense, on the part of ‘the powers’ at hand.

      This is what I mean by insidious. This kind of abuse gets under one’s skin, in our cells, and calling it out is next to impossible, that’s why they call it ‘double binding.’ Leads to even further abuse and retaliation. It is downright crazy-making and draining. Best to abandon these environments, for the sake of one’s health–both, physical and mental. That’s what I learned.

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      • It is insideous, what an ethical pastor confessed to me is “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.”

        Shame on the historically paternalistic medical and religious professions for placing their trust in the psychiatrists to defame, discredit, and poison innocent people to cover up your easily recognized iatrogenesis and child abuse crimes.

        And shame on the women who’ve entered those professions. Who are now, not just doing nothing, but aiding and abetting in covering up child abuse for the paternalistic religions, and easily recognized iatrogenesis for their incompetent, and in my former PCP’s case now seemingly medical murderer, husbands.

        A little info from others on my ex-religion and ex-doctors. Given my former psychiatrist’s claims all my concerns, my very existence, my entire life, and everyone in it, are part of a “credible fictional story”:

        https://books.google.com/books?id=xI01AlxH1uAC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

        http://www.illinoiscourts.gov/opinions/appellatecourt/2010/1stdistrict/November/1092463.pdf

        http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/usao-ndil/legacy/2015/06/11/pr0416_01a.pdf

        I find it unbelievable a “fictional” person can blog on the internet. And even more staggering is the crimes and incompetence of my former gas lighting doctors, who are supposedly “fictional,” too, can be found on the internet. And even the “fictional” person for whom I was gas lighted, to cover up the abuse of my child for, has written a book proving he hangs out at a place that is known for it’s sexual deviance.

        http://www.blurb.com/b/2934828-mag-men

        And, of course, my “delusions” include belief in the Holy Spirit, God, and that God delivers justice in His own time. We’re not there yet, but it does seem He’s working in His own time to expose the truth, so I’ll maintain hope.

        If we don’t expose psychiatry’s crimes, we can’t stop them.

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    • I agree with you, Someone Else, that we need to talk about and understand the way the mental health system and other helpers can put “mad” people into binds and double binds, often without realizing they are doing so.

      But I think it’s also worth recognizing that it often isn’t easy for helpers, and they experience their own binds and double binds. For example, a helper may want to support autonomy in someone, but notice that everything they do to help the person get more freedom is used by the person to harm themselves, say by street drug use or moving toward suicide or other destructive things.

      I also think to work with these issues it’s important to appreciate nuance, and to notice when people and systems may not be all good or all bad. So while I think our current system is very flawed, and further flawed by the way it often avoids any discussion of those flaws, I also know many people who find various parts of what it offers helpful at various points, so I think it’s best not to paint with too broad a brush.

      Of course, I understand there are also individuals who have received nothing but harm from the system, I’m not arguing with those stories and I think we need to learn from them, it’s just that I also don’t want to assume that everyone’s story follows that trajectory.

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      • “Of course, I understand there are also individuals who have received nothing but harm from the system, I’m not arguing with those stories and I think we need to learn from them, it’s just that I also don’t want to assume that everyone’s story follows that trajectory.”

        True that some report they are helped in some way by the system, managing symptoms and what not. However, I’ve never heard anyone claiming to be healed from mental illness thanks to the system. Whereas outside the system, many of us have, including form the harm done by the system, and we’ve moved on from all of this, awakened to what the system is really all about (corporate greed at the expense of vulnerable people kind of desperate for help).

        Moreover, from what I’ve read online and especially on MIA for the past 4+ years I’ve been posting here, so, so, so, so many people have been incredibly harmed by the system, including lethally. Families have been destroyed, thanks to the system.

        When I allow myself to think about it, I find it rather overwhelming the extent to which the system harms, and to keep on topic with the article, it’s equally mind-boggling the extent to which it re-creates trauma for victims of child abuse. Now that is true madness. I’m sure quite a few of us find this totally unacceptable.

        At one point do we call the system ‘incredibly dangerous,’ despite the validation of what I feel is a minority of people?

        There are sooooo many alternatives available and growing now. I think it’s time for mass education in what they are. I don’t see how this system can survive much longer, at all. It is a house of cards.

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        • I don’t think anyone recovers just thanks to any system, because a lot of the work is done by the person and also people get help from families, friends and other kinds of allies.

          But I have heard stories where people did credit the mental health treatment they received as being pretty appropriate – and they were people now off drugs and in control of their lives. Of course, they had also encountered somewhat better practitioners, who didn’t peddle lifetime dependence on drugs and treatment.

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          • Agreed, it’s a multi-dimensional effort. Lots of bases to cover in healing.

            My concern is always when the system serves to sabotage healing, and people. That’s what drew me to MIA, those stories, because they matched mine. I was blown away when I read all the negative testimonials, and ironically, took a big sigh of relief because it woke me up completely, to feel that validation.

            Since that time, I feel as though I’ve gotten a great deal of clarity about the system in every respect, as I traversed a variety of levels of it on both sides of the fence, for over two decades. At least California mental health system and its tangents are thoroughly familiar to me.

            Although of course, I only know my slice of experience. Still, at some point, these negative experiences really need to be heard for the priority that they are, and not so readily dismissed because it is not universal, because what occurs when the treatment and staff are NOT competent is atrocious.

            Certainly, to all that feel helped by the system and not harmed, more power to them.

            Although at this point, I’m pretty sure that no one would have the power to convince me that the mental health system is EVER better than natural healing, for anyone. But I do respect that everyone walks the path of their choosing, as much as I hold firm to my personal opinion of this. I earned it, exhaustively .

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          • I think my final point here, Ron, is that, even though I am no longer in any way affiliated with the system, and MIA is the absolute closest I get to it because I really cannot tolerate that energy and dynamic–been there done it–the reason I’ve been speaking out about it as I have is because after what I learned, one conclusion I came to is that, regardless of anything, I do feel very strongly that this particular system is a true blue social vampire–again, of course, my opinion and perspective, but I’ve read that a lot on here from others, and I do agree without a doubt. I feel it is sucking the energy right out of society, with it’s lethal combination of political power, criminal incompetence, and its largely indifference to the personal truth of its clientele, not to mention feedback and personal grievances. That never flies, because it is not welcome. That’s toxic, through and through.

            Yet, it is relied upon by the mainstream, and in truth, it is lost in the wilderness, from what I can tell, eternally loopy. It sets the worst example I’ve ever seen of what is compassionate, sound, and just.

            That’s the most direct and neutral assessment I can give it from where I sit.

            I appreciate the article and dialogue. Best wishes on the meeting. I hope it brings clarity around family and mental illness, and how it is related.

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          • Hi Alex,

            I would agree with you that most of the dominant practices in the mental health field are about as sick as you describe. But I do work in the system and I see good things and practices and people here and there as well, so it isn’t monolithic.

            so I am all in favor of condemning what’s wrong with the system, and I think it’s great when people tell the stories of what went wrong (and even better when people really listen, which isn’t often enough.) But I’m not in favor of just condemning everything about it, because there are those bits of it that involve people actually being helpful, here and there.

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      • Ron,

        I do know you are trying to do the right thing, I appreciate it, and I know there are others within the industry who are now trying to improve the system. So, I am not trying to condemn you by any means, quite to the contrary.

        But, as one who was drugged so a child molester’s crimes could be covered up for profit, by a pastor and doctors, of all people. And so easily recognized iatrogenesis could be covered up as well, again for reason of paranoid induced medical greed. But I’m also one who now realizes that 2/3’s of all so called “schizophrenics” today are, in reality, child abuse or ACE’s victims.

        http://psychcentral.com/news/2006/06/13/child-abuse-can-cause-schizophrenia/18.html

        And I’ve found the medical proof the neuroleptics, alone, can create both the negative and positive symptoms of “schizophrenia.”

        I really think it needs to be pointed out that the psychiatrists are creating “schizophrenia” / anticholinergic toxidrome / neuroleptic induced deficit disorder in lots of abused children for profit. And this is morally reprehensible.

        The psychiatrists need to get out of the business of profiteering off of child abuse cover ups. And we do need to actually start arresting the child molesters again.

        God knows how many other children were raped by the man / men who raped my child. I don’t know, but do know their local school system had the highest suicide rate in the nation by the time my child was in high school. And my ex-pastor was heading up a committee that was pointing out the “at risk” to the psychiatric practitioners.

        Obviously, it’s quite profitable for the psychiatrists to cover up child abuse, but this is not in the best interest of the majority within our society. Plus, it’s also illegal.

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  4. Thank you Ron, As usual I find your writing extremely thoughtful and spot on.

    I love the Menken quote: “There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.” It seems like such a human characteristic to want to not only reduce problems to simple solutions (categorize them, label them etc, ) but also to generalize a solution to be one that ‘fits’ everyone. I believe that this kind of reduction and over-generalization has caused great harm in traditional psychiatry, and have therefore felt very saddened at times when I have heard some professionals on this site fall into the same trap of oversimplification and over generalization when it comes to their theories or ideas about the cause of mental distress. I think professionals and anyone helping people in extreme distress cannot be too careful about expressing the limitations of how their own knowledge and experience (personal or observed) may or may not relate to others.

    What our family has searched for, in terms of people to guide the recovery of our family and our loved one, is for people like you who believe one should “search together for the humanistic, complex, and individually tailored solutions that might really fit particular people and families”. It is hard to see how any helper could go wrong if they approached people with compassion, humility and an open mind, and then really listening to what they are saying ( like open dialogue). This quote of yours particularly resonated with me in terms of what happens to families during extreme distress: “So, at all levels, even well-intentioned efforts can become part of a “storm” of madness, and while this storm often appears centered as a “disorder” in one person, really the confusion of many can be playing a part in the chaos.”

    I also want to say that we found Krista Mckinnon’s (?I hope I got the facilitator’s name correct) ‘Recovering our families’ course an extremely valuable course for helping families. I know other commenters have also spoke highly of this course in other posts.

    ( I haven’t read the comment thread for this post yet so my apologies if I am repeating things that have already been said.)

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    • Thanks Sa, for your kind words about this post!

      As for whether helpers can go wrong if they approach people with compassion, humility and an open mind, and then really listening to what they are saying – well I think these issues are so tricky that it is still possible to go wrong even with that approach, but at least if one has that attitude one is more likely to notice when one goes wrong, to apologize and then be willing to try something else!

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      • Yes I agree with that also. I know we have had to adapt so much in our thinking and responding in order to rebuild our relationship with our loved one. (Mostly learning how to ‘be with’ rather than to try and ‘solve’ what is going on). It is an extremely humbling experience.

        However, when I have worried too much about whether or not my responses have been helpful or harmful in any certain circumstance, our therapist has really helped us keep things in perspective. Our therapist might say to us something like ‘don’t imagine you have that much power to effect how your loved one is processing, thinking and figuring things out for him/herself’.

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  5. Seems to me getting a psychiatric diagnosis earns one the scapegoat position in the family dynamics.

    If you really want to get an idea of what goes on read some of those online forums where people, usually parents, talk about their “mentally ill” children and all the psychiatric “help” they are getting.

    “My 5 year old little girl was diagnoses with child onset bipolar, ADHD, ODD, and Sensory integration when she was 4 1/2. I have only done therapy for her (i.e ocupational therapy, speech therapy, in home therapist and PCIT) Until two weeks ago I started her on Metedate cd 20 mg (ritilan). I have since stopped those meds as they made her rage unbelievably when coming down from the meds. She has been really good the last 3 days since not being on
    those meds. However I saw her psychiatrist today and he wants to try her on Abilfy a really tiny dose 1/2 a miligram once a day to try it out. Has anyone here had their child on Abilify and if so how was it? What were the side effects? I know that every child is different but I am so nervous of medication at all in a child so young, however I feel something has to be done to help my little girl. ”

    http://www.mdjunction.com/forums/parents-of-bipolar-children-discussions/general-support/2598420-abilify-and-my-5-year-old

    i’m actually to tired to write anything about her it does’nt make any since having to deal with this bull shit with a 14yr old bratt she has made my life a living hell and it’s all about her getting her way or no way i’m want too go to sleep now even though i did’nt finish what i wanted to write but that’s just how DEPRESSED i am so maybe tomorrow if i feel better i will post the rest of my horrble life with this child so so sick and tired of her i wish i could just send her away for a good two months maybe more!!!

    http://www.mdjunction.com/forums/parents-of-bipolar-children-discussions/general-support/1500050-so-tired-of-my-daughter-wish-i-could-send-her-away

    I think a seizure cured my daughter!

    Group Leader• 6 years on site• 1654 posts

    Not really of course, but I can always hope!

    She had a seizure this afternoon. She had one last summer too.

    While in the ER she started talking about trying to go to school, cleaning her room, agreeing to see her therapist and her case manager again. This is a refreshing change from the solitary
    crabby lump she has been for the past 2-3 months! Of course it might just mean she is getting manic….hmmmmm. Or maybe she had a near death experience!?

    But if it gets her back into school and with her case manager and therapist it will be worth it!

    Of course adding in seizure meds will probably throw off all her other meds. As it is, one of them (Wellbutrin) lowers the seizure threshold so we need to lower her dosage on it. The last time we played with the dosing of this after her seizure last summer the results were not pretty!

    Any of you who remember Gilda Radner’s character

    Rosanne Rosannadanna? “It’s always somethin’!”

    Read more http://www.mdjunction.com/forums/parents-of-bipolar-children-discussions/general-support/1353395-i-think-a-seizure-cured-my-daughter

    Alot of paste but these links are window into “mental illness” family and psychiatry.

    http://www.mdjunction.com/parents-of-bipolar-children

    The NAMI discussion groups aren’t much different.

    Before NAMI came out with the new website and deleted the old stuff you could read years and years of these parents posting the psychiatric nightmares they inflicted on their kids.

    Ill shut up now, read the thousands of stories in that forum and see what you think about Madness and the Family: What Helps, and What Makes Things Worse?

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  6. The_cat, your post is very powerful.

    It seems pretty clear that there is an enormous amount of evidence that a vast majority of clients of the mental health system have experienced some kind of family abuse, blatant emotional neglect and abandonment, and/or some kind of oppression that would not allow them to be who they are. Many, many people have been just plain battered throughout their childhood, at least emotionally. AND, an equal amount of overwhelming evidence that this repeats in the system, via further scapegoating, stigma, and marginalization, that it becomes a great big ol’ mess of gargantuan proportions, as we see evidenced daily all around us. I believe this has become epidemic in our society.

    I’m not into self-promoting around here these days, but this is precisely what I realized as the film I made, Voices That Heal, came together, while working with professional advocacy (which I naively thought actually advocated for clients, whereas I discovered otherwise later, but at least I can still stand by the premise of my film, which I continue to feel is representative of the truth of the matter).

    There are six of us, here, who speak candidly about our experiences in the family, in the system, offering our reflections of it all. We are transparent, and we ALL speak for ourselves, and a couple of us with our spouses. There is no one else in this film, just us, as our the experts of our lives, thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

    We are diverse in many ways, not of one mind and perspective as we dialogue with each other, as well as relate our stories to an audience, but we do have overlap. One cast member supports the system, and he speaks his truth here, although he’s aware of how his family drove him crazy; and another one felt supported in her family, faulting the system for its shortcomings. For the other four of us, we saw the patterns repeating, as many have spoken about in this blog discussion as well as in others, all over the internet. This is about a system whose goal it seems to render its clients powerless. That is not healing in the slightest, quite the opposite.

    I will post it here again, for anyone interested. Repeated abuse patterns leading to, both, complex and extreme mental distress, as well as the many destructive myths about mental illness, is EXACTLY the point of this film–in addition to the vital message that whatever it is that occurs with us as a result of this chaos, we CAN heal, and there are many avenues to achieve this end safely and naturally. I really hope this comes across–

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AtDGxJWmj5w

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    • I want to add–this issue of ‘to blame or not to blame’ has me a bit confused. Ok, so we don’t like the word ‘blame’ because of the connotation of not taking responsibility for one’s life.
      But in the spirit of science, even, don’t we find root causes by seeing where something originated and how, perhaps, there was fertile ground for imbalance to occur? Wouldn’t that be necessary in order to correct the problem?

      It isn’t about making someone feel guilty or to take responsibility for another; it’s about knowing the truth so that we can heal, and that might mean making a change away from toxic people and environments. If we keep saying ‘don’t blame!” then are we not diffusing clarity on the issue of cause-and-effect? That’s neutral, without judgment.

      I believe, at least, that we live in a cause and effect universe, without exception. If the cause of our distress has been another person all along, then we can learn to forgive, that is healing. Not to let anyone off the hook, that person (abuser) needs to grow a great deal in self-awareness, and that can be quite a challenge for them; but to release our own resentment, which is not a healthy energy to carry around. Forgiving others is an act of self-compassion and self-healing, because we release our own stress and can, therefore, achieve great clarity and insights regarding our challenging experiences, without all those filters from feeling like a victim.

      I like how Steve discerns between blaming and assigning responsibility. What’s been glaring to me is that it is easier for some people to scapegoat, project, and stigmatize rather than to take full responsibility for the power of their influence over another. Parents have got to know that they are the universe for their children until a certain age. That is POWERFUL, the ultimate.

      Yes, it’s a lot of responsibility, but that’s what they signed up for. Just like mental health clinicians and social workers, et al, sign up for what they sign up for. It’s their job to support very challenging situations. I don’t understand why all the complaining, what do they expect? It’s not an easy job, but it’s what they chose. If you can’t handle the job, take another one, with people who aren’t so challenged in life.

      No one ever said that parenting is at all an easy job, but I’m sure there are some cultures and at some point in time where this is a totally naturally intuitive process. Somewhere along the line, that wisdom seems to have gone by the wayside, if we have to read so much about how to be a good parent. If we are in our hearts, we just know when we are being kind vs. when we are being cruel. We may not intend to be cruel, but in defending our own egos, most–if not all–of us have been, at one time or another, and hopefully, we snap out of it and realize that there is a better way to think about treat people. And that, perhaps, our own desires to be cruel stem from our own issues and inner conflicts, not to be put upon children or clients (!!).

      Do people know how to best utilize their power, to maximize the effect of their influence over their kids (and clients) in the most positive way possible? That doesn’t mean being perfect, we’re all imperfect human beings, but that doesn’t mean we can’t always improve, I think that’s never ending. We are all in a process of continual evolution, but it’s easier when we can actually navigate it will full awareness.

      What it does speak to, however, I believe, is to the notion of being aware, living consciously. Frankly, I wouldn’t rate a lot of people as high on the awareness meter, that’s the problem. We are a myopic society. How about we broaden the perspective, somehow, someway. I think too many trauma survivors are suffering needlessly.

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  7. Hi Alex,
    I think why there is a the big problem with the ‘blame’ issue is not about the question of whether or not parents should take responsibility.

    The problem seems to me more to do with outsiders looking at a person in extreme distress and then deciding that THEY KNOW what is the root cause of the problem for their particular situation. (In other words ‘too simplistic’ or ‘inaccurate’ blaming) It is the looking at “symptoms to determine the cause” problem which we all know so well from traditional psychiatry. (A professional on this site have even gone so far as to equate ‘severity’ of ‘psychiatric disorders’ as a way of determining the extent and timing of trauma from parents- These are things someone can not possibly know, yet their opinion on this matter could carry a lot of weight due to their position )

    I, too, love Steve’s points about taking responsibility and I believe it applies to all parents and indeed to all people. As Steve says parenting is hard, kids are complex, but why some people and not other people “go mad when they encounter key life issues, …etc”(to quote Ron) is not known and could be due to a myriad of factors. One thing you say is that ” Parents have got to know that they are the universe for their children until a certain age.” I agree with you, but remember that it usually when people are young adults that they experience extreme distress, and at that time, children do not believe their parents are the universe but rather are trying to find their own reality in the world (so many influencing factors to consider at that point,,,,)

    I believe that approaches that do not make ‘assumptions’ (such as open dialogue) are the approaches that has the least potential for harm and the best chance of supporting the community of a person in extreme distress. In the context of a person’s own community, ‘real”individualized’ ‘problems can be met with (as Ron says) “humanistic, complex, and individually tailored solutions that might really fit particular people and families.” Of course there could be many situations when abuse or family dysfunction would mean that a person would not even choose their ‘original ‘family’ to be part of the community that supports them -but that is why individual solutions are necessary. And of course there could be huge or less huge changes that any or all ‘community members’ of the distressed person need to make to provide a healing community.

    The reason why this is issue is so important to me revolves around the issue of ‘forced treatment’ which I know you also feel strongly about. If families are made into ‘scapegoats’ by being blamed for things that might not apply to them , then it becomes harder for families to stand up against the treatment recommendations of traditional psychiatry that they feel (and their loved one feels) are harmful to their loved ones. If families are ‘blamed in an ‘inaccurate’ way, it is sometimes impossible, and is certainly made much more difficult to be advocates for their loved one. If we did not live in a world where ‘forced treatment’ was allowed, I might feel a little sad about some of the broad sweeping generalizations I have read that I do not believe apply to our family – but I certainly would not be taking the time to write about it while I am in the midst of such intensive family recovery.

    I hope nothing I have said has offended – I certainly do not want to get into a ‘war of words’ with you as I am sure you would win 🙂 I am just hoping you will (or do) understand how important ‘inaccurate’ blaming can be extremely damaging to families just as it is extremely damaging to individuals suffering from emotional distress.

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    • Steve,

      I just wanted to say that I appreciated your comment, and your distinction between ‘taking responsibility’ and ‘blaming ‘ . Another important distinction between the two words is that ‘taking responsibility’ sounds to me more like ‘self evaluation’ which is so important and as you say often painful; whereas ‘blame’ sounds more to me like ‘outsiders’ looking in and deciding what the problem is, which may often be inaccurate or too simplistic. This relates to my comment above.

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    • Hi Sa, not in the slightest offended, not sure what would be the offense. On the contrary, I very much welcome your perspective and insights, as well as your challenges, I think that’s important for a healthy and productive dialogue. I totally respect your experience, like I do all others.

      Although, please, I’m not out to win a war of words or anything of the kind. For me, this is all about clarity for the purpose of supporting positive change in society, truly; and healing, as that is my passion. If that weren’t the case, I would never have made a public service film which was truly a pain in the ass to accomplish from within the system. But I knew it was important, even though I didn’t totally have the big picture at the time. But intuitively, I knew this was going in the right direction, and 4 years later, after having all these discussions, I find that I continue to stand by that.

      I would have also never risked taking legal action against the system for discrimination and retaliation (which I won). It’s hard to take care of one’s self when being an activist out in the field, but for sure, needing to be right for the sake of it would be one way to sabotage self-care.

      But I’m extremely intent on helping to bring clarity we so badly need, and what’s particularly challenging to that is the ambiguity cast by the dismissal of the perspective of the ones abused and crying foul, as per the many methods described all up and down this discussion. This is what I and I know many of us are trying to get across.

      For me, this is about the survivor’s voice, which continually gets drowned out by all the ‘authority’ around them (parents and the system), whether the latter are in agreement or not.

      A bit of copy-pasting here in my response to your very thoughtful post, for clarity–

      “The problem seems to me more to do with outsiders looking at a person in extreme distress and then deciding that THEY KNOW what is the root cause of the problem for their particular situation. (In other words ‘too simplistic’ or ‘inaccurate’ blaming) It is the looking at “symptoms to determine the cause” problem which we all know so well from traditional psychiatry. (A professional on this site have even gone so far as to equate ‘severity’ of ‘psychiatric disorders’ as a way of determining the extent and timing of trauma from parents- These are things someone can not possibly know, yet their opinion on this matter could carry a lot of weight due to their position.”

      I agree completely with this. In every case, dialogue must occur and from that dialogue and interactions, the truth of a situation tends to be revealed. Otherwise, it’s called ‘a cover up,’ and we’ve seen plenty of those come to light recently. It can be many kinds of truth, not just pointing to the family dynamic.

      To me, problems occur when that truth is diffused due to resistance to self-ownership, meaning someone or the system is trying to deflect and distract, that’s a common strategy in a toxic system.

      I’m not at all saying this would be the case for you or for anyone in particular. There are many stories out there and I honor them all, always have. But I know that this particular truth is widespread, this denial of family impact on a child’s mental well-being, emotional balance, and self-perception, regardless of what the issue is. How we address our life challenges is modeled by the family, we learn by example. I don’t think that’s a generalization, I feel its universal truth. If I’m wrong, I’d love to know what the truth here is, but I do feel we teach and learn from example more than anything.

      My one generalization from what I’ve written on this blog is that I do feel where there is child abuse taking place, whether blatant or subtle, there is some kind of mental health issue to address—in the abuser, the originator, and then in the recipient of that abuse. I don’t see how there could not be a distortion of self if your inner world is filled with betrayal abuse from a needy parent. That’s not so unusual.

      And, indeed, both can heal with the right kind of inner work, but I do feel it’s most likely to be the one abused rather than the abuser, as the one abused tends to carry a lot of humility, inherently. That’s a really long rigorous journey to take, for a chronic abuser to be humbled and see themselves in the mirror. I do have compassion for that, but its best they do their healing before being around kids, I think.

      But no, I would never say that in every case of ‘mental illness’ or what have you, there is child abuse involved. Social abuse, perhaps, because that always makes matters worse and our world is rife with it, and that would be an issue of marginalization, which is extremely traumatic and distorting of reality.

      But I agree with you that it is unjust and unfair to call out a family simply because someone has such challenges. Although I will say that families are truly supportive when, and only when, their attention to the one with challenges is dominantly positive, rather than judgmental, alienating, and stigmatizing—aka ‘othering.’

      “One thing you say is that ” Parents have got to know that they are the universe for their children until a certain age.” I agree with you, but remember that it usually when people are young adults that they experience extreme distress, and at that time, children do not believe their parents are the universe but rather are trying to find their own reality in the world (so many influencing factors to consider at that point,,,,)”

      Yes, but breakdowns don’t happen overnight, there are powerful signs that people tend to be in denial about, because it means some kind of change to the power dynamic of the relationship, and that is challenging for the one who feels they hold the power, if only financially.

      The imprint of the parent from those formative years is there, until the adult child learns to separate out their true selves from is not relevant to them, that which came from the family (values, perspectives, etc). That’s a normal process of maturation and individuation, but it gets messed up when we can’t see the forest for the trees, simply from blind loyalty to our family.

      Criticizing the family should be ok, and the family should be able to hear it without scapegoating and turning it around to be about something ‘sensitive’ about the child, that’s horribly demeaning and dismissive, all at the same time.

      And leading our own lives our way should be ok, but often the parent imposes their values on the kids in such a way that the kid is left double-bound, because if they go by their own values and not the families, the family can easily guilt, shame, and blame the child for their own (parents’) discomfort, simply because the nature of that child does not fit into the norms of the family. This is where families can learn to respect what they don’t understand, rather than to condemn it, off the cuff, simply because it is outside the norm.

      I believe we should be allowed to be different. Doesn’t at all mean something is wrong with a person, it means they are brave enough to follow their own truth, and to me, that is an example of virtue and integrity. Of course, when people feel it’s wrong that they are outside the norm, then they will suffer internally. From where do they get that message? Sometimes from the family, and sometimes from society. The trick is to flip the bird to that message, because nothing can be further from the truth.

      “The reason why this is issue is so important to me revolves around the issue of ‘forced treatment’ which I know you also feel strongly about. If families are made into ‘scapegoats’ by being blamed for things that might not apply to them , then it becomes harder for families to stand up against the treatment recommendations of traditional psychiatry that they feel (and their loved one feels) are harmful to their loved ones. If families are ‘blamed in an ‘inaccurate’ way, it is sometimes impossible, and is certainly made much more difficult to be advocates for their loved one.”

      Absolutely, and when discussing these issues broadly as is all we can do here, since this is not group therapy but a discussion board, then people have to be able to separate what does not pertain to them, it wouldn’t trigger in the same way.

      But it applies to so many people whose voices have been curtailed and dismissed so readily as ‘psychotic’ ‘distorted’ ‘paranoid’ ‘angry,’ and as a result, those voices are truly not being be heard, not as anything terribly significant, at least that’s how it seems.

      This is all I’m saying. I don’t know why, but there always seems to be some caveat to a survivor’s story, from the outside, some adjective or wording which seems to instigate doubt—‘paranoid’ is one of the most common I can think of right now, and there are other ways of phrasing things to tilt the scale in favor of the abuser, for the purpose of cover up, just like Someone Else describes.

      I think that’s grossly unfair to survivors, and totally devalues these amazingly courageous stories, and even more courageous, our telling them in the face of doubt from others. Sorry, but to me that is nonsense, in that it makes no sense to invalidate another’s truth, that is no way to find our own truth.

      At least to me that feel’s unfair and just plain wrong, others need to speak for themselves. It is harmful, though, it’s mental cruelty in my book.

      Thanks for being so direct, Sa, I hope my response is aligned with my intention of seeking truth, for the greater good–not to argue about anything, but to collaborate on finding clarity. That takes some tough talk about tough issues, but I always try to be direct. That is my only intention and agenda here. I have nothing else to gain from these dialogues, other than clarity, which to my mind, is extremely valuable when trying to create radical change for the good of all. That’s a daunting task, but that is what we’re after, isn’t it?

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      • My way of defeating psychiatry was to:

        1) see it for what it was and call it out as toxic and dangerous,

        2) get away from it altogether by finding an alternative route to clarity and well-being, of which there are so many readily available and effective,

        3) creating a healing and teaching practice, based on the education and training I received as I healed from my own inner chaos, where, for the past 10 years, I’ve worked successfully with individuals and families in a way far removed from anything resembling the mental health system and all that crap. I’ve helped successfully divert a lot of people from the system, getting DSM diagnosed, and from medication.

        Aside from bringing down a corrupt social service agency by filing a legal grievance and providing a platform for others to speak their truth, their way, without apology, as I do in my films, I’m not sure what else I can do, that is in my power at this time.

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  8. One article on families you all might want to check out is THE REHABILITATION OF PSYCHOANALYSIS AND THE FAMILY IN PSYCHOSIS: RECOVERING FROM BLAMING by Brian Martinadale. It’s available at http://tinyurl.com/j3kd58h

    I like for example the distinction he makes between punitive guilt, which is not to be encouraged, and reparative guilt which can be constructive. Then there’s also a bit about projected guilt…..

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      • The above URL is accurate but it doesn’t seem to want to want to work on here, so I’m posting the relatively brief content below. It centers around the issue of ‘divorce,’ but I think it’s relevant in general, especially with regard to family. Point being, of course, that where there is guilt–of any kind–there is also forgiveness. That’s the healing.

        Forgiveness and Restoration
        By Rose Sweet

        Why Do We Find It So Hard to Forgive?

        One reason we resist forgiving is that we don’t really understand what forgiveness is or how it works. We think we do, but we don’t.

        Most of us assume that if we forgive our offenders, they are let off the hook — scot-free — and get to go about their merry ways while we unfairly suffer from their actions. We also may think that we have to be friendly with them again, or go back to the old relationship. While God commands us to forgive others, he never told us to keep trusting those who violated our trust or even to like being around those who hurt us.

        The first step to understanding forgiveness is learning what it is and isn’t. The next step is giving yourself permission to forgive and forget, letting go of the bitterness while remembering very clearly your rights to healthy boundaries.
        Granting Forgiveness

        • Forgiveness is not letting the offender off the hook. We can and should still hold others accountable for their actions or lack of actions.

        • Forgiveness is returning to God the right to take care of justice. By refusing to transfer the right to exact punishment or revenge, we are telling God we don’t trust him to take care of matters.

        • Forgiveness is not letting the offense recur again and again. We don’t have to tolerate, nor should we keep ourselves open to, lack of respect or any form of abuse.

        • Forgiveness does not mean we have to revert to being the victim. Forgiving is not saying, “What you did was okay, so go ahead and walk all over me.” Nor is it playing the martyr, enjoying the performance of forgiving people because it perpetuates our victim role.

        • Forgiveness is not the same as reconciling. We can forgive someone even if we never can get along with him again.

        • Forgiveness is a process, not an event. It might take some time to work through our emotional problems before we can truly forgive. As soon as we can, we should decide to forgive, but it probably is not going to happen right after a tragic divorce. That’s okay.

        • We have to forgive every time. If we find ourselves constantly forgiving, though, we might need to take a look at the dance we are doing with the other person that sets us up to be continually hurt, attacked, or abused.

        • Forgetting does not mean denying reality or ignoring repeated offenses. Some people are obnoxious, mean-spirited, apathetic, or unreliable. They never will change. We need to change the way we respond to them and quit expecting them to be different.

        • Forgiveness is not based on others’ actions but on our attitude. People will continue to hurt us through life. We either can look outward at them or stay stuck and angry, or we can begin to keep our minds on our loving relationship with God, knowing and trusting in what is good.

        • If they don’t repent, we still have to forgive. Even if they never ask, we need to forgive. We should memorize and repeat over and over: Forgiveness is about our attitude, not their action.

        • We don’t always have to tell them we have forgiven them. Self-righteously announcing our gracious forgiveness to someone who has not asked to be forgiven may be a manipulation to make them feel guilty. It also is a form of pride.

        • Withholding forgiveness is a refusal to let go of perceived power. We can feel powerful when the offender is in need of forgiveness and only we can give it. We may fear going back to being powerless if we forgive.

        • We might have to forgive more than the divorce. Post-divorce problems related to money, the kids, and schedules might result in the need to forgive again and to seek forgiveness ourselves.

        • We might forgive too quickly to avoid pain or to manipulate the situation. Forgiveness releases pain and frees us from focusing on the other person. Too often when we’re in the midst of the turmoil after a divorce, we desperately look for a quick fix to make it all go away. Some women want to “hurry up” and forgive so the pain will end, or so they can get along with the other person. We have to be careful not to simply cover our wounds and retard the healing process.

        • We might be pressured into false forgiveness before we are ready. When we feel obligated or we forgive just so others will still like us, accept us, or not think badly of us, it’s not true forgiveness — it’s a performance to avoid rejection. Give yourself permission to do it right. Maybe all you can offer today is, “I want to forgive you, but right now I’m struggling emotionally. I promise I will work on it.”

        • Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It’s normal for memories to be triggered in the future. When thoughts of past hurts occur, it’s what we do with them that counts. When we find ourselves focusing on a past offense, we can learn to say, “Thank you, God, for this reminder of how important forgiveness is.”

        • Forgiveness starts with a mental decision. The emotional part of forgiveness is finally being able to let go of the resentment. Emotional healing may or may not follow quickly after we forgive.

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