Recently Rethinking Psychiatry showed Bipolarized, an award-winning film that questions the dominant paradigm around the treatment of Bipolar Disorder, and the diagnosis itself.
The movie’s protagonist, Ross McKenzie, Jr., appears at first to live a truly charmed life. He is a handsome white man from a wealthy family, and he states that he was a class valedictorian and star athlete. However, at some point in his late teens and early 20’s, his life started to fall apart. He began to exhibit textbook signs of mania – for example, his sister recounts the time that he called her from New York City to tell her that he was giving away all his money and possessions to homeless people on the street and that he could fly off the Empire State Building. At other points, he suffered from bouts of severe, debilitating depression, as well as overwhelming anxiety.
McKenzie was subsequently diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and prescribed Lithium. After ten years on the medication, McKenzie felt that it was turning him into a “zombie” and preventing him from dealing with the real root cause of his symptoms. For this reason, he chose to gradually wean himself off the medications with the help of naturopathic healers and seek other forms of natural treatments.
Many people would assume that since McKenzie came from such a privileged background and a seemingly perfect family, that he must have had a “chemical imbalance” that was causing his symptoms. However, we learn later in the film that the truth is far more complicated.
Some people criticized the film for failing to acknowledge McKenzie’s privilege. This is a valid criticism – very few people could afford to travel all over the Western Hemisphere seeking expensive natural treatments, the way McKenzie did. The film would have been improved if McKenzie had acknowledged that many people would not have had these opportunities. Yet, even with all his privilege, McKenzie’s experience with the mainstream mental health system was still incredibly traumatic and dehumanizing.
And it turns out that McKenzie’s life wasn’t as perfect as it appeared. As the film unfolds, McKenzie and his older sisters reveal that their father (now deceased) was at times verbally and physically abusive and that he placed tremendous pressure on his son to be successful at everything – particularly sports – and to repress his emotions. In other words, McKenzie was under constant pressure to be society’s ideal of a “real man” – and eventually, this pressure became unbearable.
This made me think of a one-man show called “Crimes Against Nature,” by Dr. Christopher Kilmartin – a professor of psychology at my alma mater, the University of Mary Washington.
Dr. Kilmartin criticizes society’s mainstream notions of masculinity as “crimes against nature.” Boys and men are taught from an early age to deny their thoughts and feelings, and to act a certain way whether it feels natural or not. They are taught to pretend to like or dislike certain things based on what a “real man” likes or dislikes.
Dr. Kilmartin explains that these unnatural, unrealistic views of masculinity are unhealthy for everyone. These standards are a significant factor in our society’s epidemic of violence, especially domestic and sexual violence. Also, these standards are detrimental to boys’ and men’s mental health. McKenzie talks extensively of how the pressure to be a “real man” – to always be strong, to excel at sports, and to repress his emotions – played a major part in his mental health struggles. These standards are especially damaging for men who cannot live up to society’s standards, such as men who are gay, bisexual, or transgender and men who are not good at sports and other “masculine” activities. Even for men who are cisgender, heterosexual and athletic – like McKenzie – these standards are still often unrealistic and emotionally damaging.
McKenzie comes to the conclusion that his struggles are not simply due to Bipolar Disorder or a “chemical imbalance.” He comes to the conclusion that his symptoms were due to a combination of complex factors, including environmental toxins, past trauma, and societal pressure to fit a narrow definition of success and masculinity.
Both McKenzie and Kilmartin talk extensively about their complicated, troubled relationships with their fathers. Both of them view their fathers as tragic figures who were trapped in their society’s narrow, unnatural standards of what makes a “real man.” In both cases, their fathers were miserable, unable to be their true selves, and unable to be emotionally available to them. Both McKenzie and Kilmartin had to do a lot of soul-searching and questioning of society’s dominant paradigm to heal.
Society’s narrow, simplistic standards of masculinity and society’s narrow, simplistic views of mental illness go hand in hand. In both cases, these standards are truly “crimes against nature.”
In McKenzie’s case, these standards caused him to feel like he was losing his mind. Questioning both the dominant mental health paradigm and society’s views of masculinity was part of his healing.
Few people have the means to pursue the alternative forms of treatment that McKenzie sought. Even if they did, what worked for McKenzie might not work for everyone. Be that as it may, this was an intriguing and thought-provoking film about questioning the dominant paradigms of both mental health and masculinity.
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I am a male and I subscribe to most “real man” stuff. I can do construction and stuff like swapping a motor in a car, boat or ATV and fix most things without calling repair people. I just see having a toolbox and knowing how to use it something dudes should be able to do.
But what I really can’t stand is football, long boring most of the time they just loiter on the field and don’t do anything but their is pressure in society for “real men” to like that stupid game, to talk about that stupid game and to care about that stupid boring game. Football , basketball , baseball this team that team college games they won they lost this player scored this player fouled last night and I DON’T CARE. I really really do not care at all. No care zero nothing none.
Here is a fun webpage
Not everyone is a brain-dead sports fan. Welcome to the home of the International I Hate Sports Club. http://www.sportssuck.org/
Call me less than in the “real man” club I don’t care. Do I want to watch the game tonight ? NO !
In “Crimes Against Nature,” Dr. Kilmartin talks a lot about some men feeling pressure to pretend they like sports. He also talks about how bad he felt when he “sucked” at hockey as a kid. Sports are great for some people, but no one should feel like they have to pretend to like them!
Check this out, I did a poll back on on Sep 03, 2015
Do “mentally ill” people generaly not like TV sports ? http://www.psychforums.com/living-with-mental-illness/topic167578.html
Check out the voting results.
Here is a really good one too, Alex Jones Anti-Sports RANT https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rN80K4Bb68Q
He talks about men being taught you must like sports to be manly and what a crock it is to keep them dumbed down.
One fascinating aspect of this story is the revelation that this person’s “normal, healthy upbringing,” which he himself believed in, was a myth created to cover up some very ugly family dynamics. It is an excellent example of the fact that many people can have very stressful childhoods and not actually realize this was the case, as they generally accept the family narrative and consider the behavior they had to tolerate from their parents or siblings as “normal,” not knowing that any other alternatives exist.
Additionally, it demonstrates how easy the current paradigm and diagnostic system makes it to ignore such causal factors or even collude with abusive/neglectful parents in blaming the child or young adult for developing “symptoms” which are actually indicative of unhealthy family dynamics. In our large scale social enthusiasm to “not blame the parents” when kids don’t fare well, we’ve forgotten that parents are very frequently primary contributors to the eventual “mental health problems” of their offspring. By ignoring the likelihood of traumatic childhood experiences, which we have now learned are widespread and very common in our society, we place the blame on the child for not adapting to the unreasonable expectations that their family and/or society place on their shoulders at an inappropriately young age.
class valedictorian and star athlete…
I know from being involved with alcohol and addiction recovery that people struggling with the perfectionist thing really have a hard time and usually try to do recovery perfect too.
They will have 6 months sober and for what ever reason, to get relief , go out for a night of drinking or do some drugs then they get really upset cause they “failed” at sobriety and the program. Often the self inflicted guilt and shame of “failing” at sober forever then fuels a nasty binge.
Then you have that part of AA tells people to blame their honesty and failing to “thoroughly follow the path”. They say those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to the simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves… This is damaging to some people who read it wrong.
I always tell people if you fall off the wagon then jump back on it and don’t worry about it. Try not to go jumping off the wagon but if you fall get up dust off and carry on.
I can read about perfectionism but I really don’t get it. I don’t care how many consecutive sober days I have or count, or care what some of the people at the AA club think, some of them really don’t like me lol but most do. I am proud to have had no problems caused by alcohol in many years despite “relapsing” slipping and having a one day party every so often. Its my recovery date or staying recovered as opposed to falling back into dependency and quality of life that counts.
Great points, Steve and Cat!
I have to say something in response to “The_cat”‘s comments above, regarding A.A. – Alcoholics Anonymous. How ever you define “recovery”, it is almost never easy, and folks rarely get it right the first time. So-called “relapses”, of various degrees of severity, length, and substance(s) used, are the rule, rather than the exception. In my own case, I attended AA meetings for 2 years, and told myself this: “I’m basically OK, normal even, but I just drink too much, so after I’m sober a while, everything will be FINE. (I later learned “FINE” = F’ed up, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional….). After a couple years, I went on a 6-month drunk that was worse than ever. What happened? That’s too long to go into here, but short version is, I was as “honest” as I could have been at that time. A LOT of really good people stepped forward to help me, and I’m very grateful for that. Yes, there DOES seem to be a very tiny percentage of folks who simply refuse to “get it”, and the AA Literature talks about that issue better than I can express it here.
AA also says that if you can do it on your own, or if you have a better way, then go for it, and more power to ya! As for “on the wagon”, the obvious problem is that life is NOT a metaphor. The best way to not “fall off the wagon”, is to not get on it in the first place! Just drop the stupid metaphor from your vocabulary. AA is so simple. It’s finding a way of living sober that works for YOU. I mostly agree with what “The_cat” is saying here, but just want to add what I’ve learned from my own “experience, strength, and hope”. Yes, and much of that applies to living with the imaginary so-called “mental illnesses” in the DSM. I hear the DSM-IV is FINALLY gonna list “iatrogenic pharmacological disorder”, and “iatrogenic neurolepsis”. (It’s that last “diagnosis” of mine, that the local Docs hate so much….
Oh, yeah, it really *IS* “one day at a time”. I’m at least as happy with “The_cat’s” recovery as he is! Alcohol & the LIES and DRUGS of the pseudoscience known as “psychiatry” are 2 things I’ve had more than enough of, thank-you very much!
….OOOPS! – I meant “DSM-VI”, not “dsm-iv”….
It’s only fair to ask – will there be a “DSM-V-R”, or a “DSM-V-TR”?____
Or will the psychs finally come clean, and dump the whole mess?
I think its perhaps unkind to families to suggest that people who experience ” mental health” concerns may be deluded about the quality of their upbringing. If, as an adult, a person is experiencing any “mental health” concerns and didn’t report any of the above, should the person be encouraged to think harder to try to reframe those experiences as traumatic, even if they weren’t? I’m not a parent, but I did have parents and I certainly passed on responsibility for my challenges to them…when I was 14.
I don’t think this is exactly what is being suggested here. However, I do believe that what some people are trying to express is that today, after the advent and mayhem of NAMI, it’s become politically incorrect to even suggest that perhaps the origin of a person’s distress lies in the context of the family that they came out of. People often froth at the mouth when you even hint at such a possibility, as can often be seen here on MIA from time to time. In earlier years perhaps there was too much stress placed on the family as the source and so the pendulum swung totally to the opposite side where we’re never supposed to even entertain the idea of family problems. The reality is that many people can trace their trauma and distress directly back to what was done to them by family members, either directly or indirectly.
Certainly, there are people who experience distress which has absolutely nothing to do with their family of origin. However, there are many people who were traumatized severely by what they experienced within their families. This does not necessarily mean that they themselves were the recipients of beatings or abuse. Children can be traumatized severely simply by witnessing their mother being abused physically or verbally. All I think people are saying is that it is unrealistic to leave a person’s upbringing and their family of origin totally out of the picture when trying to discover what happened to a person. All things must be considered, including family. This does not mean that we always settle on the family as the only source of the person’s problem. Political correctness should not be allowed to stand in the way of walking with people in their search for healing and well-being.
“Political correctness should not be allowed to stand in the way of walking with people in their search for healing and well-being.”
Nor should anything stand in the way of a person’s healing and well-being. When it does, it is likely to be crushed, one way or another. I believe that the heartfelt desire and intention to heal is so powerful in its authenticity and momentum, that it will trump any resistance.
Note that I said “many” and not “all.” In my view (and I’ve been a therapist for many years), it’s not the therapist’s job to decide for the client what the meaning of his/her experience is. Forcing the client to adopt a belief that his parents are the cause of his distress is probably just as damaging as telling him that it isn’t and that it’s all in his brain. It is for the PATENT to discover the meaning of his/her symptoms and experiences, not the clinician.
That being said, it is VERY common for kids to idealize their parents and not be willing to look at the possible dysfunction that may exist in the home. This person is just one of many examples I could cite. I recall a girl I worked with (16 years old) who said she’d never thought she was abused, even though her dad beat her black and blue on a regular basis. She just thought that was how parents raised kids.
It is also common for parents to want to believe they did a great job and to not want to hear about whatever shortcomings may exist in even the best of homes. Kids learn very early that calling out mom for yelling or dad for being drunk at the dinner table is not tolerated, and they learn to keep their observations to themselves. To suggest that this kind of message does no damage is very wrong.
There are certainly adults who have “mental illness” problems as defined by the DSM who did not have troubled childhoods. We live in a difficult society, and there are many stressors and expectations that may be difficult to address, even for people who had basically supportive upbringings. However, the association of childhood trauma with adult mental health issues is FAR greater than the most optimistic estimate of the genetic contribution.
The following article provides some perspective on how biased the field has been AGAINST viewing childhood trauma having anything at all to do with adult mental/emotional distress, despite massive evidence that it does. It is that bias that I am trying to address. Going to a bias that ALL “mental illness” is caused by childhood mistreatment would be a very large leap from what I am suggesting.
Hope that clarifies things!
Here is the article:
Been thinking about this all weekend….. Something I need to add here, regarding childhood, families, trauma, recovery, etc. And, these ideas were first presented to me in A.A., yes, but they are not unique to A.A…..
They’ve been proven true for me. It’s the RELATIONSHIPS we have, that make us “sick”, and also that are the key yo becoming HEALTHY people. When we look at *relationships*, we can get beyond “blame”, and “fault”, and “guilt”, and move towards understanding and healing, and forgiving and acceptance. That’s powerful stuff, and it takes a good group of friends, and therapists, and whoever. Even writing and reading these comments is part of our healing relationships. That’s how I see it, and it’s worked for me! Thanks!
Beyond Scott McKenzie’s privilege, it seems like disclaimers are practically obligatory with literature about every drug withdrawal venture.
The idea is to discourage freelance wholesale drug withdrawal on behalf of people who might not be up to it. Only under a expert guidance is it safe goes the ruse. I don’t want to underestimate the dangers, but I think the error tends to be in opposite direction.
I hope someday the mental health profession can get over its general temerity. It is my sense that people would be on the whole healthier without such reticence. It would be hard to exaggerate the numbers of people harmed by compliance with medical advice. I’d like to see more people realize that you don’t have to be privileged to taper off psych-drugs. It’s not like it isn’t something that hasn’t been done before on countless occasions, and successfully.
I understand what you mean, but some people swear medications help them, and we want to respect people who choose to take medications. Also, many people who do want to come off psychiatric drugs say it’s a very difficult process. As you may know, advocate Will Hall has created an excellent guide for people who do choose to go off their medications:
Rachel, I would question why you call psychoactive drugs “medications”… giving that the “illnesses” they supposedly “treat” are not known to be actual discrete medical conditions, and therefore these chemical compounds are not truly medications that treat physical diseases. That is what a medication is usually defined as, a chemical compound that treats a disease of known physical origin. It is better to admit that psychiatric drugs are not this type of “medication”, but rather substances having generalized damping or amping effects on the central nervous system.
“Medication” is a euphemism, and it’s dishonest. Drugs are drugs, are drugs, are DRUGS. Calling them “meds” might be politically correct, but it does real harm. Just call them what they are – DRUGS, and the victims of the pseudoscience drugs racket known as “psychiatry” are DRUG ADDICTS. True, they are IATROGENIC drug addicts, but still drug addicts nevertheless. Please stop fooling yourself, and others, Rachel…..
As an anecdotal personal example, I know a 6yr old who lives with his DRUGGIE Mommy, (heroin, meth, etc.,….), and Mom has him on methyphenidate – SPEED.
What’s his “disease”? He’s a normal 6yr old boy, with a seriously dysfunctional mother, who’s being aided & abetted by the local “community mental health center”…. It’s a DRUGS RACKET. Unless you like “medication merry-go-round” better….
It is ironic how writers like Levy, and a number of other commenters and writers on MIA, go conspicuously silent when this criticism of the word choice “medications” is brought up. To me it shows that they are partly under the sway of the medical model. We should remember that all that has to happen for the enemy to win is for good people to do nothing, to be silent…
There’s one really big concept at play here, that begs for discussion. That’s “guilt”, “fault”, “blame”, and TOXIC shame. I’m lumping a lot together, yes, but there’s reason. Let’s dump all that crap, all that old garbage. A lot of the reaction against the idea of families “causing” “mental illness”, is because of toxic guilt & shame, and blaming. ……
Knowing Rachel, I don’t think I can agree that she is any more “under the sway of the medical model than most of us posting here.” That being said, the point is very well taken. “Medication” is clearly a euphemistic term adopted to avoid the obvious similarity (and in some cases, absolute identity) of psychiatric drugs to street drugs. I try to use the term “drugs” unless I am specifically talking to an audience where doing so will in some way impede my bigger message. Language does make a difference – it is a way of exerting power, and reframing the conversation away from euphamistic avoidance of the reality of these drugs is an important part of our message, I think.
I agree, Steve! But that is a valid point that it makes more sense to use the term “drugs ” rather than “medications” in this context.
Just so we’re clear – I have a very well-earned and deserved reputation for STRONG LANGUAGE. I can’t, don’t, and won’t apologize for that. That being said, I’m sure Rachel Levy is a very nice person, very well-meaning, and no, I don’t expect her to agree with me, or “do what I say”.
Rachel, you’re free to call them “meds” all you want!….*smile*….My main point is that EUPHEMISMS such as calling DRUGS “meds” are one tactic to oppress and hurt people. The pseudoscience drug racket known as psychiatry is full of these fraudulent and deceptive euphemisms. But, Rachel Levy, I believe that YOUR use of the word “meds” has different, more personal and healing motivations. My use of the word “drugs” IS accusatory, and I’m accusing Pharma & quack shrinks of doing real harm with their drugs. These little discussions are part of a larger societal healing process, I believe…..
I relate to the unhealthy pressures on men very much. I am the son of two parents who went to Ivy League schools, and went to such a university myself. I was also the class valedictorian (highest GPA) in my high school, as well as a high school varsity and college athlete. I was obsessed with beating others in grades and in sports, with my whole self-worth riding on this achievement. During much of this time, I was also struggling with borderline and psychotic states of mind, and the periods where I could not work or compete effectively due to my emotional breakdowns were even more difficult due to the isolation and judgment I felt society had toward me for not achieving enough.
After college, I was obsessed with making more money than the other men in my work field, and with how women perceived me based on my job success. This continues to some degree to this day. I am still preoccupied with having power over others, with “beating” others, and with being “the best”, even though I know the feelings of omnipotence that I get from these things will not really make me happy.
But today I am healthier than before… I am able to have intimate friendly relationships with other men (despite not being gay), and do not work 7 days a week anymore. I am also financially secure enough that I do not have to worry about money, and I know that making more money at this point will do nothing to make me happier… once you have enough, more money is just pieces of paper or numbers on a computer screen. And, I do not compare myself to others so much because I know that happiness in relationships and loving oneself are so much more important than achievement. Having said that, I am still very competitive.
I think it’s important for those men who can to set examples that men can and should have close intimate friendships with other men, that men can and do need supportive dependent relationships with other men and women… that a man’s wellbeing depends on much more than work and achievement… and that it is ok to be vulnerable and open about feelings as a man. In fact, being open and vulnerable emotionally in a man is a sign of strength and of a “real man”, not the false Western ideal myth of the unfeeling, totally self-sufficient man.
Thanks, BPDT, your story is very similar to mine. I can identify and relate. Part of my recovery was learning how to cry again. I heard “If you don”t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about”, and “Men don’t cry!”, from my Father, many times. Ah, but what did *HE*hear*, from *HIS* Father? I wish I knew for sure. My Father could NOT easily talk about “feelings”, and that affected me, too. I understand that much better now, but there’s still no good reasons for things to be as difficult as they were. Except a distinct desire by *SOME* people to engage in DENIAL, and refuse to be honest. (See also my comment above, about recovery….)….
Loved the one man show, CrimesAgainstNature, Rachel, quite amusing. Wish Bipolarized was available for viewing. As a woman, I’m not too terribly qualified to comment on the absurdities our society mandates as normal for men. Other than I agree, what our society teaches is normal for men does hinder he-men, like my former husband, and powerful businessmen, like my father, from communicating effectively with their spouses and daughters. And my son’s approach to dealing with this societal stupidity fest was to become a soccer fan, so he could still be a “manly” sports fan, but not have to bond with every moronic football fan.
I will say, society’s expectations for women are also way out of whack, too. We’re supposed to work at our job, while volunteering to run a 250 member strong volunteer organization, while also being on the planning commission of our village, functioning as the charter rep of the local Boy Scout pack and as a Girl Scout leader, being a head room mom for our children’s classrooms, while keeping an immaculate house, and providing healthy home cooked meals for our families every night, and properly raising our children. And if we can’t manage all that, and more, while also holding down another full time job. The psychiatrists defame and drug us for being “unemployed” and “w/o work, content, and talent.” Strikes me the the ‘thought police’ expect a bit too much from the women in our society, too.
Funny thing is that one of my children graduated as the valedictorian of his high school class, and (don’t know yet, since my daughter graduates this year) hopefully my other will be the salutatorian. And my psych professionals’ children are drugged and not doing too well at this point in time. Maybe their theology that being an active volunteer and properly raising ones children is “unemployed” is a stupid theology, from a long run perspective?
It is stupid societal beliefs, not, as the psychiatrists believe, “chemical imbalances” in individual’s brains, that are the root causes of the problems within our society.
Maybe their theology that being an active volunteer and properly raising ones children is “unemployed” is a stupid theology
Maybe ? Thats is a dumb theology . I just Googled ‘stay at home mom’ and read some of that stuff. Liberals hate stay at home moms . Labor outside the home is taxed; household work, such as stay-at-home parenting, is not. Instead of receiving a cash wage, they receive something else of value: a clean house and nice yard or a well-behaved child. There’s an ideological factor here, too, because the Left believes deeply in government over family. The State should be your family. Traditional families are a source of independence and resistance against the State. Full-time parents ask a lot more questions about what public schools are teaching their kids.
MSNBC “Collectivist” Host Melissa Harris-Perry » Your Children Belong To The State https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jC3UeluxYgo
What they don’t seem to get is that if parent that raises their own child full time that child needs less resources from the state in many ways and it more than counter balances, like if a child has lots of help with homework and understands the lesson that frees up teacher time for the kid who doesn’t the next day.
They don’t seem to get that liberal policies weaken the family structure replacing it with toxic government dependency. That is a crime against nature.
I was being facetious. It is a dumb theology, and not necessarily just in the long run, but sometimes in the short run, too.
And I personally believe there’d be a lot less trouble with children in the schools, thus a lot less drugging of children, if we had a society where it was recognized that one parent should be properly raising their children. Our current society only views the value of a person in the terms of short run profits only, which is an unwise way to valuate a person’s true contributions to humanity. The expectations of our society, both of men and women, are really messed up right now.
And, given the number of foster children being tortured with the psych drugs in our country right now, it should be obvious that the state makes for a lousy parent. Although, I was very grateful to my many friends in my village, who did help me with my children when I was healing from the attack, defamation, and torture of my psychiatrists – but it was friends, not the village itself, not the school district, nor the state – that was truly of assistance. In other words, the concept that ‘It takes a village’ doesn’t work, if the intended meaning is the government should raise children. It only works when friends help friends.
Great points! Society’so standards of what makes a “real man” and a “real woman” are unrealistic and damaging for most people.
Most liberals do not hate stay-at-home moms. And policies like universal health care, living wages, and paid maternity and paternity leave actually strengthenjoyed families.
“Strengthened” families, I mean.
Of course living wages…
So that means if someone asks me to help them for a day and offers me $100 but the minimum wage is $15 two consenting adults are now breaking the law for making that deal.
All those lefty ideas always have one thing in common, more manipulating how we live and coercion in our lives.
Would be better if the government just got out of our lives.
Interesting story. My father was the central figure in my life tribulations, too, but he was not a typical man in many respects. He hated sports and loved theater and the arts. He was a very humanitarian physician, worked for the county and taught medical school, and, being Latino (Argentinean) he was extremely passionate and on his sleeve with his feelings, no stone unturned there, that’s for sure.
I inherited a lot of his qualities but we butted heads because he wanted me to a be a scholar (influenced by our Jewish-intellectual roots) and I was more interested in simply working full time and enjoying life, creating as I go. And it wasn’t simply that he did not appreciate my life choices, he was chronically and unambiguously shaming about it. I had to learn that his issues and shame were not mine.
The hard part was that I was expected to appease my dad (don’t poke the bear!) as far back as I can remember (around age 4, something like that) and I honestly did not know how to do that and be myself. So I grew up straddling between my dad’s demands and expectations vs. my natural desires and preferences, as these were quite divergent. That was very anxious making, and of course, complaining about it only made things worse, so it was quite double-binding, until I could finally afford to live on my own.
This rippled well into adulthood until I could recognize the family dynamic for what it was, and heal what I had taken on from this. In that process, I had to forgive my dad, to the point where I attended a workshop on forgiveness, and we did a ritual, etc., very in depth.
Then, I re-connected with my dad and we became very close. He’s had a stroke by that time and was debilitated, but I visited him often and we’d go for coffee and share whatever was on our minds. I learned a lot about him and how he felt about certain things, and could really see the good I got from him. It was a nice time for me, and for us.
He passed away about 7 years after I did this particular healing work, so I was fortunate to have established a heart-based connection with him to heal our relationship before he passed. I feel extremely connected to my dad now, almost as though he is guiding me from ‘the other side.’ I imagine he just may be. Abusive or not, I do know he was extremely dedicated to the well-being of his family. Ironic, but true. Go figure…
Again, Alex, your story about your Father mirrors my own story and Father. I was able to fully forgive my Father for all the shitty things he did to me, and what’s more important, was that I recognized and thanked him for what he did RIGHT! My Dad & I were friends, the last few years of his life, and that was very good. It was a long, hard journey, and only *SOME* of that was either my Father, or my doing. Psychiatry, & psych drugs, and the “mental health system” did me far more harm than good….
I appreciate your sharing this, Bradford. Yes, making good here was vital for my clarity and grounding, I could relax from all that finally; and indeed, I could also see how meaningless it was–and in fact, needlessly catastrophic–going the ‘psychology’ route to heal from all this. I found much better and effective support going the alternative and spiritual route, there is more neutrality here around these issues, not all of this personal opinion and defensiveness. What is, is what is, and we go from there.
Although I will, without hesitation, admit that learning about the psychology of family dynamics and applying this was supportive in the family healing process. And one adept therapist recognized the boundary issues which were being violated, which, boundaries were not a concept in my family, of course, so this was new and valuable information for me. Setting boundaries with my father would be impossible, but with my mother, albeit challenging because of how she reacts to being challenged, it was totally necessary and appropriate, and it shifted the family significantly.
And yes, the significant and relevant point here being the travesty that occurs when we turn to the mental health system for support around the family trauma, and they respond with diagnoses, drugs, marginalizing, victim-blaming, and overall repeating toxic group dynamics, with nowhere to turn for advocacy, because by this point the STIGMA runs so deep.
Why I had to go through that to heal with my family, I have no idea. I’m sure there is a purpose and meaning to this, on a spiritual and personal growth level, but as far as healing at the core with my family, the answers came from elsewhere, from other healing avenues I took, an alternative perspective. And that’s what led me to forgiveness as a healing path, and it has served me universally.
Then, with my head finally cleared and my feet on the ground, I turned my attention back to the mental health system to say, “What the hell is going on in here??” What a stupid mess that all is, I’m sorry to say.
Glad to hear you got some good years in with your dad, too, Bradford. I found it released a lot of my own stress, from resentment and blame, to really and truly forgive, lightens the load. Grows us up quite a bit, too.
Yes, “Alex”, **YES!**, **this** is what we’re talking about! You touch on so many points here – and there are so many areas of common experience we share. I hesitate to say TOO much here, just to keep things brief, and not start writing book chapters! And, neither one of us can know how many OTHER people will read our words here. When I was first taken to a *shrink*, in high school, and diagnosed and DRUGGED, I was already a heavy, “black-out”-level alcoholic/drunk. The psych drugs THEMSELVES actually caused most of what were later mis-identified and mis-diagnosed as “symptoms” of the BOGUS “mental illness” that I supposedly had. It took me 20 years, and 3 near-fatal IATROGENIC pharmacological events, to finally get away from the quack shrinks and their poison pills. Yes, it helps me, and you, too, “Alex”, to write and read these words, and I hope others see them, as well. I had to learn what “toxic guilt”, and “toxic shame” are, and how to UNDERSTAND those dynamics. I was both the “black sheep”, and the “scapegoat” in my Family. And, yes, I DO hold the quackery of the pseudoscience drugs-racket known as “psychiatry” largely responsible for filling my head full of crap, and my Family’s, also…. The dysfunction in my Family was mirrored in the dysfunction of the “mental health” system, and especially the whole charade of “community mental health centers”. I was fortunate enough to work with some excellent licensed clinical psychologists who were NOT connected to the local CMHC…. Also, (sorry I can’t give a more complete citation, but…), “Repeat After Me”, and “For Your Own Good”, are 2 books that helped me UNDERSTAND. To me, it’s that UNDERSTANDING which helped the most. Much of what the quack shrinks mis-diagnose as “mental illness”, is in fact a lack of understanding, and the inevitable confusion which follows that misunderstanding. And, most of THAT is simply mis-communication.
I hope what I’m saying here makes sense to you, too, because what YOU are saying here sure makes sense to ME! It’s easy to imagine my Father up in heaven, looking down and smiling. But I don’t mean that in a “delusional”, or “psychotic” way at all!…. Forgiving my Mother, and especially my Father, allowed me a new freedom that does make my life worth living today. What continues to hurt me the most, is the STIGMA, and the LIES of the DRUG RACKET PSEUDOSCIENCE of “biopsychiatry”, and POLY-PHARMACY, which have their roots in GREED, and IGNORANCE. God, I’d love to have some quack shrink come online here and debate me! But I’ll settle for a few words with my cyber-friend, “Alex”. Thank-you,. my friend…..
I totally get what you’re saying here, Bradford, that was exactly my experience with the system, merely a repeat of toxic dynamics.
Indeed, toxic guilt and shame are the very powerful tools of oppression and cause a chronic internal traumatization to occur, like mental loops. They cause us to feel badly about ourselves, anxious, and conflicted, so that we externalize these in a way that creates insidious marginalization. Being second-classed is the essence of powerlessness, which is not a natural state of being. We are inherently powerful, unless we believe the lies that we are not (stigma).
In a toxic system, those that march to the beat of their own drummer are devalued because they will not participate in the system–and for good reason, given that it is not healthy! It’s good self-care to refuse to conform simply from fear of rejection, that is totally compromising to our truth and integrity. If that is the kind of society we’re dealing with, then rejection is a merciful act, and we can be on our way to a better life and way of being. To me, that is transformative healing and personal growth.
I invite you to check out a film I made a few years ago, where 6 of us share our journeys through family dynamics, the system, and our healing paths. I talk all about my relationship with my dad. From all that you say here, I’ve a feeling this film will speak to you.
My website with contact info is in the description. Feel free to be in touch if you feel so compelled. I really appreciate all you share here, we are extremely synchronistic in our experience.
Thank you all for sharing these touching stories.