Unusual Beliefs and Behaviors vs. Objective Realities and Truths


I just finished reading Reverend Dr. Epperson’s treatise on abnormal ideas and behaviors as they relate to mental health. Similar to my thoughts about Sera Davidow’s article almost three years ago entitled, “Mental Illness Does Not Exist, and Neither Does Mental Health” (see my response then), I was moved by his knowledge, insights, empathy, and responsiveness. There is little doubt that some of the greatest achievements this world has ever known came at the hands of those who were ostracized for “unusual” beliefs and lifestyles. There is no doubt that the lack of empathy for others’ ideas and curiosities is one of the greatest atrocities the world has ever known. And there is no doubt that increased empathy and responsiveness is the number one way we as a society can improve the world we live in. To this, I have no arguments.  

But as a father and a child psychologist, I do feel it is critical to consider this perspective from another angle. I will start with Reverend Dr. Epperson’s final thought:

“A growing body of research and practice is showing that the most effective, humane and mutually transformative way to help someone deal with unusual beliefs and experiences is not to deny, argue, institutionalize or drug them out of their perceived reality. Rather, it is to invite the person to talk about their beliefs and experiences, and actively listen without judging them or trying to modify their beliefs. Find out about their reality, and then look for ways to help them cope more effectively with things as they perceive them.”

Much of this I agree with, as noted in my first paragraph. But when it comes to the last line, this is fraught with serious complications when it comes to parenting and psychological practice. My wife just had our 7th child – which many of you might consider unusual in its own right – and I wonder just what would happen if my kids came to me with the following ideas:

“Dad, I was raised by aliens and transported to this house.”

“Dad, I am thinking that drinking alcohol and taking morphine daily is good for me and my homework.”

“Dad, the pillow on the front couch is bright green.” (But red by my and others’ estimation)

“Dad, I think that the toilet is a portal to another universe.”

As a parent, any of these statements pushes me to consider just how I might respond. In agreement with Reverend Dr. Epperson’s thoughts, the immediate “shut down” response is probably not the most effective, and certainly not the most empathetic one. I believe youth should be heard and respected for whatever ideas they hold. But when it comes time to go beyond initial respect and empathy, I can’t ignore that how I “weigh in” on these ideas may have all sorts of consequences. As noted in my response years ago, failure to label children’s healthy or reality-based ideas for what they are could lead to dire consequences down the road in regards to their relationships, jobs, living situation, health, and well-being. My kids have a right to their feelings, thoughts, and perceptions no matter what they are; however, I as a parent must do my best to “play the parenting odds” in teaching them what will most likely lead to a healthy and happy life, and what I believe is real. A half century of research indicates that permissiveness (in whatever way this is manifested) does not lead to good adult outcomes for kids—not just by our standards, but also theirs.  

Yet if I am to take this idea further, imagine you are a teacher of a 3rd grade class, and your students came to you and challenged you on the following ideas:

“Mrs. Smith, the bulletin board is not red.” (Even though by all other standards it is)

“Mrs. Smith, I don’t need to listen to what you say.”

“Mrs. Smith, my desk has aliens in it.”

“Mrs. Smith, vodka and gin helped me get my math done last night.”

Again, as a teacher, it behooves you to consider what all your students are saying, and understand what is driving what they say and think. But I believe anyone reading this article could easily understand just how impossible it would be to manage a classroom if everyone’s perceptions and behaviors, not objective realities and clear expectations, were seen as the “gold standard.”

One fundamental mistake I believe is repeatedly made today when it comes to working with those who feel disenfranchised, marginalized, discounted, or discriminated against is believing that the opposite response must be the best response. By this I mean that it seems that there is a certainly prevailing notion by some that in order to truly be a caring society, we must accept all beliefs as if they hold truth. Now, to some extent, the idea of “truth” itself is a slippery slope fraught all sorts of potential conflict and emotionality, especially when the goal of a communication is to “prove someone wrong.” This ill intent almost never leads to good outcomes, and certainly not mutual respect and love. But a complete negation of truth and reality is not the answer either.  

As a parent, and a child psychologist, and just as a person, I believe that acquiescing to the idea that we should simply help people “cope more effectively with things as they perceive them” falls short of the most effective and even most loving response. If I have every reason to believe that a person’s actions (e.g., drug use, bizarre public displays) or beliefs (e.g., “everyone is out to get me”, “she is the devil”) are causing or perpetuating negative outcomes (by my standards and theirs), then it is my civic and personal duty to help people understand what I perceive and why this is the case. Furthermore, any action or belief that leads to potential harm of others is not acceptable either. No one has a corner on the truth. But we all have an obligation to do our best to seek it out and provide it, especially in situations in which someone is struggling or in need of formation, as with youth.  

And as far as the Roman Catholic piece in transubstantiation, I agree with Reverend Dr. Epperson’s sense regarding this idea. It is one of the most mystical tenets that exists, and if it weren’t for its basis in recorded historical events, two thousand years of Catholic teaching, and countless Eucharistic miracles that defy any other secular scientific explanation, there is no way I would even entertain the notion of transubstantiation.  Even with all of this, I must admit that it is a leap of faith—and one that to this day is easy to deny.

Ultimately, every human being has the potential to learn from every human being. An atheist can teach a Catholic much. A drug abuser can be a brilliant mathematician. Poor, unkempt, strange hermetic people line the annals of Catholic saints. Kids can provide countless insights for their parents, as I have learned repeatedly over the years. And without a doubt, anyone who thinks that they know more than they don’t IS certifiably insane. But let’s not forget that there is a very important place for reality, truth, and authority in this world, just as there is for empathy, respect, and responsiveness. When used in an abusive, uncaring manner, the former entities can be horrible. Yet the only action worse than abusive their abusive usage would be to let go of the search and promulgation of wisdom, knowledge, and authority altogether, and assume that the world would work just fine if everyone was okay with how you or I perceived it. That’s a recipe for mass chaos, or at least a household or classroom in disarray.  


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. What do we have here? A “grand canyon” between reality as it is perceived and reality as it exists? I have a problem with the following statement because it is as if you are not taking people at their word.

    “One fundamental mistake I believe is repeatedly made today when it comes to working with those who feel disenfranchised, marginalized, discounted, or discriminated against is believing that the opposite response must be the best response.”

    Basically, the problem I have with this statement is that if you are objecting to feelings of disenfranchisement, etc., it must be because you doubt the reality of the people you are referring to, that is to say, you think they are being dishonest. This leads to an either/or. Either it is you, or it is them being dishonest. If they actually ARE disenfranchised, marginalized, discounted and/or discriminated against, maybe the best response would be enfranchisement, acceptance, tolerant and engaging social justice. If this (your view) is a rationalization for working for a state that endorses disenfranchisement, marginalization, negligence, and prejudice, the fact that the police force, air force, etc., is with you does not put you, nor it, in the rights.

    I think the problem I have with your view is seeing it as a tacit endorsement of those things that are wrong in society, filed perhaps under the heading “the human condition”, rather than making a commitment to social change. Of course, such a view conveniently keeps you employed in, and by, an oppressive system, and your family, at least, taken care of, and out of “need” itself.

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    • Not sure what’s bugging James exactly about respecting people’s perceptions, but most of this article is a vague jumble of “on one hand this, on the other hand that” generalities with no clear focus or bottom line. You did ferret out the tangible quote which has some concrete implications in the material world, i.e. the part about experiencing disenfranchisement, etc. vs. the “opposite response,” a curious phrasing which implies that a person has a choice about how to experience his/her experience. Schroeder leaves this thought unfinished as well.

      I’ve been trying to contact you btw…

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      • I finally got around to replying to your messages.

        James is out to play mental health professional, and to correct people for being ‘wrong’, and thus ‘mentally ill’, from his authoritarian perspective. (He is also out to protect society and his children from them.) I’m offended in the sense that I see it as demeaning and insulting to look down on other people so, that is to say, I think he’s prejudiced against the very people he works with. I myself am into anti-mental-health-system-ism, and that being the case, I see people like James as a big part of the problem. Mental health professional disorder, in other words, must be “treated”, and preferably with many a pink slip.

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  2. I think that Postmodernists would argue with you about your concept of truth. I’m not an expert on Postmodernism but I think that it says that every person’s truth is valid, period. There is no absolute Truth. I suspect that Catholics are not great fans of Postmodernism nor would I expect psychiatrists to follow it. Both groups like to claim absolute Truth about a lot of things.

    If a person’s ideas don’t go along with consensus reality but don’t hurt them or others I have never understood why it’s so important for them to be forced into our consensus reality. I suspect that this forcing of people to accept consensus reality is a lot more about power than about helping them find healing and well-being in their own lives.

    I believe that all sentient beings are God. This idea certainly doesn’t fit in with consensus reality (although the mystic traditions in the major world religions, as well as Buddhism, teach this but of course the mystics don’t fit into consensus reality do they). Most of the time I keep this “delusion” to myself since most Christians and psychiatrists try to abuse me into thinking otherwise. But my unusual belief hurts no one and it doesn’t hurt me, as long as I don’t share it with the wrong people.

    So what is the big deal? Why is it so necessary to force people into believing the way that you see reality?

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  3. I couldn’t disagree with you more. If a child tells a teacher the bulletin board is blue when the teacher objectively “knows” it is red, won’t anyone consider whether the child or the teacher is colorblind before suggesting either of them is wrong?

    If the child says alcohol and meth helped them do their homework better, who says the teacher shouldn’t believe them? Personally, some of my deepest poetic thinking has come while spaced out on drugs and or alcohol. LSD, anyone?

    If the child says he was born of aliens and transported to your home, how are you to know that your memory hasn’t been altered by the same aliens? It’s folly to think we are alone in this vast universe.

    I’m not a Christian, but the one thing I know is that if Christ is real and returns to earth, he will surely be locked up and given drugged until he admits his insanity.

    The major problem with your opinion is your fervent belief that you hold the absolute truth and it’s your duty to disabuse your children of theirs.

    This article is shameful and the direction of MIA articles this week is disturbing – from the one suggesting more drugs are needed to this. I’m starting to wonder why I’m still reading this garbage.

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  4. Thank you for this thought provoking piece. I am intrigued by how you relate your ideas to “permissiveness”. We raised our three children (now in their twenties and thirties) in this kind of permissive attitude of respect and acceptance for everyone’s beliefs and values. In the case of our youngest, who has been diagnosed with a mental illness, it has resulted in a situation where he smokes a lot of pot because he says it helps him deal with his anxiety better than anything his doctor prescribes. I have accepted this behavior somewhat reluctantly because I can see the negative effects on his life but still do not want to discredit his experience. I would love to hear more about how you and others think a family should react to an adult child who has decided to spend his life mostly being stoned.

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    • I graduated with triple honors while being stoned out of my mind. One of the other Honors College students regularly shot up heroin in the staff bathroom. There wasn’t a brighter kid in our class and he could argue you in circles on almost any subject.

      Living in the capital beltway region with a professional fiancé, I know journalists, lawyers, doctors, and engineers who relax at the end of the day with a joint instead of alcohol.

      Your argument that spending ones life stoned is bad is simply fallacious and an extension of drug war propaganda.

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  5. There is a need for a consensus reality of some sort for us to operate as a society. But that reality needs to be a negotiation between different viewpoints or else it degenerates quickly into an authoritarian mess. Kids have very important information about their experiences as kids that both parents and teachers need to know about and respect. Dismissing every kids’ experiences as wrong if they conflict with the adults leads to rebellious or demoralized children.

    An example: I was acting as a classroom aide in a school for kids with behavior problems, but sometimes I helped the teachers with reviewing the kids’ work. I got a true-false quiz from one really bright first grader, and I saw that he answered several questions “wrong” according to the answer key. Knowing how smart he was, I went and asked him about his answers to each question. In all cases, he had a completely rational and sensible reason why he answered as he did. Marking these “wrong” would have invalidated an unusually deep kind of thinking for a first grader, but that’s what happens all the time to kids in school.

    The proper response to “the blackboard is red” is to say, “What makes you think it is red?” If you find disagreement, it’s fine to say, “Well, I have to say, to me it looks green.” But it is not necessary to “correct” him/her and insist your viewpoint is correct.

    When it comes to things like classroom rules, I’ve always found that having the kids make them up with you is the best approach, and creates an excellent consensus reality to work from. But that’s an AGREEMENT between parties, not the dominance of one viewpoint just because the person has more power than you.

    It seems there is always a way to let someone know when your viewpoint differs from theirs without invalidating their viewpoint.

    — Steve

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    • Steve, your point about the first-grader marking down answers wrong according to the answer key but having rational reasons for his answers, really speaks to my experience in public schools. While my mother did a lot of damage in other ways, I’ll give her credit for going to bat for me against teachers who couldn’t accept why I answered things differently. An especially strong memory is an 8th grade algebra teacher who marked my answers wrong on a test not because the end result was wrong – it was actually correct – but the method I employed to get the answer was not what he taught. Instead of realizing I was thinking independently and had found another way to work out the problem, he failed the test. My mother complained about that and he wouldn’t even let her finish speaking, got up from the teacher parent conference and dismissed her. I am especially amused that the way my teacher taught it is no longer used now that Common Core is teaching it the way I did it.

      The authoritarian nature of institutionalized schooling is intended to quash individualism and creativity in favor of mass producing a predictable citizen. Anything that deviates from the mean is incorrect and to be corrected.

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      • Well said. My oldest is super gifted in math – could translate negative 100 Centigrade to Fahrenheit degrees IN HIS HEAD at the age of 6, and even knew without being told that he had to add 32 degrees to adjust for the difference in the zero points of the two scales! But he was failing 6th grade math. Found out that the teacher gave them “steps” to memorize and repeat, and they got one point for each “step,” and if he skipped half the steps, he got 50%. Her most common quote was, “Math is just a mechanical process.” The next year, he did independent study and covered two year of material in 7 months and was taking math at the high school by 8th grade. But this dumbass lady was flunking him for not following her steps. Idiocy!

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      • I think it’s swung a little too far in the other direction. Young teachers these days are reluctant to correct mistakes. Schools are there to teach children conventional English. If they want to later make a choice and write like e.e. cummings they can but at least they have been taught the rules of conventional, academic English. In math there are many ways to solve a problem, however some of the kids who struggle in math might be better off learning one way really well so at least they’ll be figure out the electric bill when they grow up.

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        • “In math there are many ways to solve a problem, however some of the kids who struggle in math might be better off learning one way really well so at least they’ll be figure out the electric bill when they grow up.”

          The point of public school is to create citizens who can minimally function within society as it stands today. The point is not to nurture the bright students to reach their full potential. Those kids are supposed to come from affluent families who can afford private school, tutoring and extra academically stimulating activities, therefore not upsetting the dominant social order. Unfortunately for the social dominant order, some of the children born outside of their social class perform far better than desired but often only when given the opportunity to do so. Instead, some of these children have their imaginative processes restricted. Few will become revolutionaries and overturn the establishment’s apple cart. Many simply become bored and drop out or develop behavioral issues that are then medicated into oblivion.

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          • Kids can be bright in many ways. Are these new math programs actually teaching math better to more of the children than we did thirty years ago? I think in many cases the answer is no. Are American graduate students the most brilliant mathematicians now? That’s a genuine question. Are these new programs creating bettermathematicians?

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          • SummerKaren,

            I don’t think the new methods are better in any way you look at it. I think American public schools in general are failing miserably. There are many reasons for this but teaching to the test is just one reason, lack of recess, art, music, poor nutrition, lack of parental involvement, violence in schools, media etc, compound the problem. It certainly isn’t a matter of how math/English/subject is taught but rather a truly systemic issue. I’m not convinced there is political will to change the situation either. In any case, I think few teachers are equipped with the professional skill and personality traits necessary to effectively teach in the current schooling environment. As much as my own experiences from 20-30 years ago bother me, I wouldn’t want to be a child in today’s schools. As far as what’s needed to fix the situation? That’s above my pay grade. And without having children in school, I lack too many specifics about current practices to comment on it beyond my own experiences and that of my kids years ago. But are the mathematicians better now? Interesting question. My fiancé says matheticians are born and not taught and so those who are likely to get to the very top may succeed regardless of their learning/home environment. I differ in my feeling on this as I was in a decade long relationship with the son of a mathematician and university president. The son was really a genius in many ways but had not had his curiosity nurtured and lived his life as the failure son of his genius father, intermittently medicated and struggling to even support himself despite his incredible IQ and seemingly endless depths of knowledge. In any other situation, this person could have gone far further, so I’m not sure it’s true that mathematicians are born. I think learning environment and nurturing curiosity in a welcoming, accepting and challenging atmosphere have a large part to do with eventual outcome. And so I guess I suspect that mathematicians probably aren’t better now, just different.

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    • I tried communicating that way for a few years and my dates handed me my walking papers. I think the opposite sex prefers confidence and independent thought. Stimulation as opposed to constant validation.

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      • Although with the ladies I still have problems communicating, albeit a new one. “All lies and jest, Still a man hears what he wants to hear. And disregards the rest.” ~ S & G

        Although ….While not going into too much detail I don’t just strip down to basics and validate. Someone who studies semantics would have a grasp of the English language and be able to comprehend more meanings and emotions rather than just state back. There is normally more going and it’s inundated. This may be better training than the graduate courses they give now.

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      • Not sure how validation and confidence/independent thought are not compatible. While I have very strong personal ideas about what is right and wrong, I also understand that I don’t always see how things look from others’ viewpoints. I’m not shy about sharing my views, and strongly, but I’m also always interested in hearing where others come from, and especially WHY they come from that viewpoint. In the cases where I do think a person would benefit more from being able to see things my way (I’m a pretty smart and observant guy and I think have a lot of insights to share in many situations), it still works much, much better if I understand what the person is thinking before I intervene.

        A great example: I used be a supervisor for a community suicide/crisis hotline. Once I got a call from a woman who was suicidal, and I asked, as I always did, what benefits they thought would occur from suicide, or in essence, what problem they saw suicide solving for them. She said, “Because the pain would end.” Now I don’t know why I said this, never have said it before or since, would probably be criticized roundly by most “mental health” professionals for doing so, but for some reason, it seemed the best thing to do. I said, “How do you know that?” She said, “What?” I said, “How do you know the pain would end?” She said, rather heatedly, “What are you talking about??!!” I said, “What if when you die, the pain doesn’t end, but you have no body but you still have the pain?” She said, “Oh, my God, I never thought of that!” We were then able to talk about other options she might have short of suicide to reduce her pain, keeping in the background that suicide was always an option she could return to if need be, but a rather uncertain one at best. At no time did I tell her that she shouldn’t commit suicide, nor that committing suicide would NOT end her pain, I merely pointed out the possibility that her certainty about the outcome might be misplaced.

        So I validated her pain and her desire to be rid of it, but I neither validated nor invalidated her solution. I simply created grounds where we could talk honestly about the pros and cons. I showed I understood her and accepted her viewpoint and needs, but let her know that other viewpoints might be possible, as well as other solutions. I was certainly both confident, even bold, and quite independent in my approach, while still validating her reality. It can be done.

        — Steve

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      • Not all women want the same thing, Pat. I’m unusual in what I prefer in a man.

        Humility is a good thing; but I want a man brave enough to stand up for what is right.
        Poverty is okay, but not laziness.

        The older I get, the pickier I am when I date. It’s just I’m picky about character more. Less so about looks, money, etc. Don’t want a wimp or an “alpha male.”

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  6. Psychologists aren’t *friends* of the crazies and that’s is a fact! Rather that they will explain human behaviour with proper biological explains, they still define normality vs madness *issue*, by certain religious book and not by real evidence based science and biology, as they should.

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  7. James,

    I realize you tried hard to put a lot of caveats into your article. And I can appreciate your attempt to thread the needle between a belief in rigid, black and white absolutism, and the ‘anything goes’ of relativism, but I was never imprisoned in the mental health system like many of the MIA readers.

    I still think you are approaching this subject as an ‘authority’ does. It comes across in your feeling of ‘civic duty’ to correct others who are “perpetuating negative outcomes” by their beliefs and actions.

    Growing up as a conservative Christian, I used to feel that way. I thought I had a ‘duty’ to tell others ‘the truth.’ But as I’ve walked alongside my wife and helped her heal from d.i.d., I realized that ‘duty’ was misplaced. My wife is an autonomous moral agent. In fact part of her healing was allowing her to embrace her ‘personal autonomy’ even when I disagreed with it. I believe ALL 8 girls in my wife’s system are part of ‘my wife’, but only 1 girl ‘feels’ she is my wife. So I live with the other 7 girls according to their reality, their perspective. And from within their perspective, I am slowly able to move them toward a more healthy ‘reality.’ They all know that I consider them part of my wife, but I don’t ever try to impose that view upon them. There are a lot of ways they could function more healthfully if they’d give up some of their beliefs, but I can’t force that. I can only interact with them as an equal and live in such a way that I hope to draw them to myself and a more healthy way of living.

    I think we Americans tend to get caught up in our moral superiority complex, even when, like you, we try so hard to add lots and lots of caveats to say otherwise. I appreciate the spirit of your article, but sometimes the mature thing is to realize affirming another person’s worth and autonomy means we MUST allow them to retain the rights to their beliefs, EVEN when they are clearly dysfunctional and unhealthy.

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      • Our ‘story’? No, as I’m still in the process of helping my wife heal. She’s come a long way, further than the experts over at ISSTD even believe is possible. But I do blog about how we have walked the healing journey together at samruck2.wordpress.com. I use attachment theory as my foundation. So what I do is pretty science based. I simply can do things as a spouse that the ‘experts’ can’t possibly replicate. Sadly they are unwilling to admit their inherent limitations.

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  8. “One fundamental mistake I believe is repeatedly made today when it comes to working with those who feel disenfranchised, marginalized, discounted, or discriminated against is believing that the opposite response must be the best response.”

    This sentence clearly states the problem. Those “who feel disenfranchised” are at the bottom of a social pecking order of emotional abuse; their “unusual beliefs and behaviors” generally reflect the emotional pain. The “opposite response” is by far “the best response:” emotional support is the best response to traumatic injustice (and behaviors that reflect emotional suffering). It is difficult to empathize with emotional suffering without experiencing true misfortune; emotional suffering is not a disease. Believing emotional suffering to be unnatural leads counselors to discount the distress caused by traumatic injustice and to exaggerate their ability to solve a client’s distressful life circumstances. If a child writes a parent a note “I hate miself,” the parent should not be thinking that their child has a spelling problem.

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  9. Unusual Beliefs and Behaviors vs. Objective Realities and Truths.

    Who is crazy is relative. Who has the power to define reality?
    The disenfranchised has to be able, and have the skill to repeat the lies of the powerful back to them.

    A prison that is called a hospital because those in authority want it called a hospital, and for the family of the imprisoned to believe the loved one is getting medicinal treatment and not punishment.

    Poisons voluntarily and involuntarily given/taken called medicine because otherwise psychiatry would be just a talking experience akin to a religion. And we can’t have a forced religion.

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  10. Unusual beliefs and behaviours are defined by most of Psychologists, as Mental Illness. Different language and
    terminology, won’t delude me, but if other crazies here on MIA blogs, belief to any Psychologist lies, I certainly don’t!!! My first comment on this blog is a death *sentence*, for entire Psychology existence. They should rather resign together with Psychiatrists right now and world will be a better place to live in, if you are crazy of course! Anti-Psychology movement is also needed!!!

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  11. As a practicing psychologist, my caseload includes clients who (for example) believe the body sensations they experience during a panic attack will result in imminent death, or that merely thinking about something bad happening to another person means it will actually happen. These individuals are operating on a false premise and their lives have suffered mightily for it. There is a mountain of evidence attesting to the power of therapy that involves helping these individuals come to a new understanding of reality, not by me authoritatively persuading them that my way of thinking is right and theirs is wrong, but by encouraging them to change their behavior to learn for themselves what the nature of reality is. By facing rather than avoiding feared situations and finding that feared outcomes rarely happen and that distress is tolerable, belief change naturally occurs, and life change follows.

    According to some comments here, it is morally wrong for a therapist to work with a client to explore the possibility their beliefs might be maladaptive or irrational and that coming to see the world in a new life could be more adaptive and conductive to living a valued life. The entire profession of psychology should be abolished along with that of psychiatry. All who work in them, even thoughtful people like James who are keenly aware of and respectful toward issues that matter here at MIA, are crazy and harmful. Any mention by a therapist of the potential value of a strategy that suggests clients change anything – potentially problematic thoughts, behaviors, and so on – is dismissed out of hand as Orwellian social control.

    I have read every article on this site for years and understand well the terrible experiences some people have had in the healthcare system, and it’s clear that sometimes “mental health treatment” can be an exercise in pathologizing normality and crushing individuality. But sometimes it is not, especially I would guess when provided by someone like James. At some point, if MIA is serious about influencing those who work within the system to see the light, it will have to wrestle with the conflicting motives of those who wish to reform it vs. those who wish to blow it up and demonize all who work within it.

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    • At some point, if MIA is serious about influencing those who work within the system to see the light, it will have to wrestle with the conflicting motives of those who wish to reform it vs. those who wish to blow it up and demonize all who work within it.

      What is it that you think MiA should do in order to have a greater influence on those who work within the system? What would it mean for MiA to wrestle with these conflicting motives you have mentioned?

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      • Uprising, those are excellent questions and I’m not sure about the answers. I am fairly certain that in my professional neck of the woods – scientifically-oriented clinical psychology – those who might otherwise be sympathetic to MIA’s mission would likely be turned off from engaging with this site or possible MIA initiatives because of the tendency of some here to demonize them, fairly or not. It takes not only dedication to MIA’s mission but unusually thick skin to post what James did here, knowing commenters will question his judgment, morality, and sanity, even when making a point that would seem fairly evident (i.e., sometimes it can be helpful to know what reality is rather than hold beliefs that are objectively delusional).

        I suppose MIA is a big tent and represents many perspectives. Most here are united in their stand against the current dominant model of psychiatric care. But beyond that, it’s not clear to me that a consensus exists in terms of what people stand for. When someone sticks his/her neck out and offers a solution that involves working within the mental health system, it’s often the case that person is vilified. And so we end up tearing down those who offer potential solutions, and creating an environment that probably precludes the participation of many influential people in the system who might work to change it.

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        • As for me, I felt awful before I went to a psychiatrist. I started out depressed and anxious. Wound up higher than a kite on anafranil after not sleeping for 3 weeks. Now I have a bipolar label.

          Personally I have no problem with “talk therapy” between consenting adults. Even psychiatry would hurt fewer folks if they had to tell them the truth about the drugs they prescribed and never drugged or imprisoned them without consent. Real doctors have those guidelines; the fact that shrinks don’t makes their whole branch of “medicine” suspect.

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          • I’m sorry to hear that, Andrew. I remember wondering what happened to you when you stopped posting, because I liked a lot of what you had to say.

            I really don’t know what to make of all this, though. Is it really not possible for “mental health” pros to not understand that some people out there on the internet are going to oppose anything related to the “mh” system? I wouldn’t have expected that since most people are here, after all, because of the rottenness of the “mh” system.

            Does everyone who doesn’t care for a particular “mh” guild need to be silenced in order for professionals from that guild to feel comfortable publishing a blog? If so, then what does that say about said professionals?

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    • I am not sure the critique is exactly what you’re suggesting, at least in my case. You might want to see my post above. I believe, from direct observation, that it is not only quite possible to influence someone’s views while still being totally validating of their viewpoint, it is actually the key to good therapy. A woman living in a domestic abuse situation and imagining she can make it better if she tries harder is not a situation I want to see continue. However, it’s very clear from my experience that telling the person she’s wrong about her ability to make her abusive partner change either alienates me from her or makes her feel stupid and incompetent, neither of which leads to the desired reconsideration of her reality. What I have found DOES work is exploring her belief that something good is happening by staying or at least that something bad is being prevented by staying, and validating that reality, which almost always makes a lot of sense when you take the time to hear the reasons behind it. I then try to turn the discussion to one regarding what THE CLIENT wants and whether or not the current situation provides it IN THEIR VIEW, and honestly explore the pros and cons of staying vs. leaving, at NO TIME telling the client she is wrong for staying, and in fact letting her know that many if not most DV victims stay for long periods of time trying to fix up the situation, and for very understandable reasons. Of course, I am also willing to share my personal thoughts on what is happening and why if they are interested, and also how likely I believe it is or is not that this will work out, but I don’t present them as REALITY, simply as my personal views based on my own experience with this kind of situation.

      So one doesn’t have to AGREE with a “delusional” (is there not implied negative judgment in even using that word?) viewpoint to validate that it looks that way from the client’s perspective. Nor does one have to invalidate that viewpoint in order to help the client see that other viewpoints also exist and may have validity as well. It’s the difference between saying, “There are no voices talking to you – you are imagining it” and “I understand you are hearing these voices, but I personally can’t hear them and don’t know what they’re saying.” The first invalidates the other person, the second merely states the reality that you’re having two different experiences, and doesn’t privilege the therapist/helper to having the “right” viewpoint.

      — Steve

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      • My mother was paranoid, and one of her beliefs was that people would put things in her food. I would get her groceries and she would ask if I had put something in her milk, and I would say no. But she would say she knew I did that. Sometimes I would get outraged about it, but she was undaunted. Now I wonder if I had said, oh, you feel like I spiked your milk, and just let the conversation go from there, never telling her my version of what I knew to be reality. Maybe a lot of why she felt that way could have been revealed. She saw many psychiatrists, took many drugs, and never did change her mind.

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        • I always validated the fears of the various girls in my wife’s system. I think the WORST thing people do is to delegitimize or belittle other peoples’ fears. Even when I didn’t understand the reasoning behind the fears, I believed the girls had a reason that was ‘reasonable’ to them. When I validated their fears and stood with them IN THEM, then they no longer felt alone and their defenses began to lower and AT THAT POINT they were able to consider other possibilities. But as long as they were afraid, they were unable to consider any other point of view.

          In your case, I would have offered to eat your mother’s food first: serve as her ‘cupbearer’ so she could see that the food was safe for her to eat. Fear overwhelms a person’s ability to think. Invalidating a person’s fears, simply convinces them they are alone and they become more fearful in their isolation rather than less fearful; and hence, they become less able to consider alternative possibilities.

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        • Well, I’d suspect your mother is deficient in the mineral zinc, which is necessary for our senses of smell and taste to work right. In addition to being her “cupbearer”, you could also induce her to take a 50mg. Zn. tab every day with both of you going to the store to get bottles of them to reduce paranoid thoughts of poisoning conspiracies- besides, you may need to set the example for her by having her pick hers and yours from the store display, both of you taking 1/day until the bottles of 100 are empty. Hunt for literary works of the late Carl Pfeiffer, who could explain this much better than me.

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      • Thank you, Steve. I think more of your style is desperately needed in therapy offices. All I personally hear from Brett and James are demands to respect their authority. I certainly wouldn’t last long in either of their offices. We aren’t all trying to blow up the system. But we are trying to rid it of the treatment providers who view our altered realities as wrong simply because they are different. The type of validation you offer is especially important when the client’s unusual belief is actually harming them emotionally. I can only imagine how these two would have made the situation worse during some of my episodes of disturbing thoughts.

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        • Thanks! Honestly, I really don’t know what others are perceiving or why they are perceiving what they are. And I’m genuinely interested in understanding how and why they believe what they do. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t receive any formal training before starting my work as a counselor, so I had no illusions that I understood anything except as the client explained it to me. That approach has never failed me yet!

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          • “Kindredspirit, thank you for personally providing an excellent example of why this site can be insufferable for those working in the system. You managed to twist my post into a demand to respect my authority, in the process insulting me. I would take the time to describe how your characterisation of my approach as demanding clients respect my authority is very wrong, that I neither said nor implied anything of the sort, they I agree with Steve, and so on, but I have no interest in doing so because I have no desire to engage in this conversation any longer. Which again, comes back to my original point, which is that MIA, for all its great value, is unlikely in its present form to make much difference in the hearts and minds of those who work within there system in this kind of environment. Over and out for now, feel free to respond with further personal attacks if it makes you feel better.”

            It wasn’t a personal attack. It was my opinion on your defense of the author. As I said below, I don’t comment on this site to make the professionals comfortable. I’m not the only one who had a problem with your comment but you feel the need to single me out with a tantrum that you then deleted. Again, seems like you don’t like when your professional opinion is challenged. Amazingly, I get along quite well with the treatment providers who treat me and others respectfully and who don’t use harmful terminology such as “delusional”, as you did. I stand by my comments. I don’t lash out in anger and then delete them. The great thing about MIA is that I can say what I’m really thinking and not worry that a provider will exact revenge in some way. If you don’t like the anger that erupts from former patients, perhaps do more to change the system than complain on a website about those former patients and their attitudes toward the industry that pays you.

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          • I had decided to leave this alone and deleted my response. But given that you copied and pasted it and wrote a response to it, knowing I deleted it, I feel obligated to respond. A few things. First, I stand by what I wrote, every word. Second, I read your comments as a personal attack, a perception that is now validated by your second post. Third, I’ve done more to try to change the system than 99% of the people in know in my profession. I would provide evidence to support that assertion but that’s not why I’m here. I don’t have to justify my credibility or competency to you, and given your comments I doubt you’d care anyway. Fourth, some beliefs are in fact delusional because reality exists. If there is no objective reality, we may as well abandon all scientific inquiry, and all technologies produced by scientific discovery, because it’s all based on a lie. Fifth, the fact that some beliefs are not consistent with reality not at all mean a clinician has to demand a client yield to their authority (as you falsely and offensively suggested I do). I agree with Steve’s post a few up that it is “possible to influence someone’s views while still being totally validating of their viewpoint.” Sixth, before you (the pot) call me (the kettle) black for “lashing out,” have a read of your two posts. Finally, I noticed you ignored the central point of my last post, which was the central point of my posts above that. I guess you had other priorities in responding.

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          • “Fourth, some beliefs are in fact delusional because reality exists. If there is no objective reality, we may as well abandon all scientific inquiry, and all technologies produced by scientific discovery, because it’s all based on a lie.”

            Now your assertions have simply become comical. But don’t take my word for it. Here it is from your peers:

            In psychology:

            In philosophy:

            In science research:

            Others on this post have pointed out how consensus reality can be harmful.

            There are an awful lot of “you” statements in your post, sir – I don’t believe you realize how you actually come across to others. You chose to single me out. You made a mistake in doing so. I am not easily cowed. And the fact that your assertions are so readily disproven makes me wonder why you continue to espouse them so forcefully. Once again, reality does not exist.

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          • Regardless of whether someone thinks they have been misinterpreted, it’s always pretty pathetic when people who have no previous familiarity with another complain of “personal” attacks.

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          • “Do the laws of physics exist?”

            As a matter of fact, physics is a fascinating and ever evolving topic of scientific inquiry. Our ever increasing knowledge of space and black holes has changed fundamental long-held beliefs about the nature of gravity and time. As our knowledge increases, the level of our understanding changes.

            To quote Wikipedia: “The strength of a scientific theory is related to the diversity of phenomena it can explain. As additional scientific evidence is gathered, a scientific theory may be rejected or modified if it does not fit the new empirical findings; in such circumstances, a more accurate theory is then desired.”

            Wouldn’t it be useful if psychiatry/psychology and those practicing in said fields actually followed the scientific method?

            Please do take a time out until you can cope with others challenging your world views and authority.

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          • The law of gravity and all other scientific laws/theories are human inventions. Gravity (as in the tendency of massive objects to move toward each other, at least in the 3-D conception of space) does appear to exist, but it can be viewed in a number of different ways, both mathematically and philosophically.

            While reality does clearly exist, we know, even in physics, that perception can and does alter the very nature of reality itself. Without a consideration of viewpoint and perception, any description of reality is incomplete, hence the need to create AGREED-UPON reality between the clinician and the person they are trying to help, even if the client’s viewpoint appears to us to be distorted or “wrong.”

            — Steve

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    • Maybe you are correct, Brett. Maybe it’s a conversation that MIA needs to have. It’s a historic question. When faced with a cancerous institution, as has happened repeatedly in the past, do you reform from within or blow it up and start a new institution from without? Maybe MIA should consider starting a sister organization so it can facilitate both positions and ‘may the best man win’.

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      • My first thought is that lumping psychology in with psychiatry obscures important differences between them related to this conversation. My second though is that whatever MIA might organize has no realistic chance of competing with and replacing established professions. I suspect MIA’s best chance to influence matters related to its mission is through a combination of educating the public and policy makers, but mostly through changing the hearts and minds of people of influence within mental health professions (who influence the public and policy makers). Which brings me back to my initial point, which has since been reinforced by some of the comments on this thread.

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        • I agree that it doesn’t make sense to conflate psychology with psychiatry. Psychiatry is fundamentally flawed, but that is not true of psychology, whatever problems one may have with it.

          That said, I have had mostly negative experiences with talk therapy and I can totally understand why many people here are hostile to the very idea of it.

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          • I see psychology, and social work, in the main, as colluding with psychiatry in being agents of the state in oppressing a certain portion of the population in the interests of maintaining the status quo. For somebody who does want to be left to his own devices, these guys just won’t let well enough alone.

            Now psychologists want prescribing rights so they can be as bad as psychiatrists. Mostly they are doing the bidding of psychiatrists anyway. Ditto social workers.

            The mental health professional who goes against the drug, drug, drug grain is not going to be your conventional mental health worker as a rule. It is not uncommon for doing so to destroy a career, but luckily life doesn’t begin and end with the mental health field.

            As far as the mental health service industry as a whole goes, it’s a big, big shaky bubble whose popping is long, long overdue.

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        • I must respectfully disengage from this conversation. The last thing I will say is to ask MIA to consider that the environment here is not conductive to the participation of well-meaning people within the mental health system who share MIA’s mission. This has huge implications for the ability of MIA to achieve its mission, and saddens and frustrates me because of how important MIA’s mission is to me. I would like to see more people in my profession become active here and support the cause, but I can’t see that happening given the current environment here. Goodbye.

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          • uprising, to be fair, the professionals are mere humans like the rest of us. Nobody likes to be challenged. Most of the MH professionals who post on MIA do so with a greater level of maturity and composure than this. Maybe the guy is having a really bad day.

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          • Brett, I believe that you have made some really great points on here. I think that some people do not make any distinction between psychology and psychiatry as you have noted and that they see them as two signs of the same coin, i.e. authoritarian systems of coercion and control. I do believe that psychology as a profession does need to distance itself more from psychiatry and I believe you when you are saying that you are doing more than 99% of the people in your profession to achieve this and how important the MIA mission is for you. I have noticed that there are some people on this site who if they sense a whiff of a person expressing some authority on the reality of human behaviour they will attempt to tear that person’s argument apart. This is understandable given some people’s experiences with those who have been in authority. I believe that Kindred Spirit is hearing what she expects to hear from those in authority as she states: ‘All I personally hear from Brett and James are demands to respect their authority,’ ‘I am the result of years and years of harm by the mental health industry’ and in previous posts she talks about ‘Having been a child victim of horrific chronic abuses’. Kindred Spirit, it seems perfectly reasonable to me for you to have the belief that all authorities are bad. To me, this is how you come across in these posts. You have been incredibly let down by those who were authoritative figures in your life but please do not put James and Brett in this same category as from what I have read they do not strike me as authoritative figures who are out to force their views or opinions on others. For example, from James: ‘There is no doubt that the lack of empathy for others’ ideas and curiosities is one of the greatest atrocities the world has ever known.’
            ‘I believe youth should be heard and respected for whatever ideas they hold.’
            ‘My kids have a right to their feelings, thoughts, and perceptions no matter what they are’
            ‘Again, as a teacher, it behooves you to consider what all your students are saying, and understand what is driving what they say and think.’
            ‘Ultimately, every human being has the potential to learn from every human being.’
            ‘Kids can provide countless insights for their parents, as I have learned repeatedly over the years.’
            And Brett: ‘There is a mountain of evidence attesting to the power of therapy that involves helping these individuals come to a new understanding of reality, not by me authoritatively persuading them that my way of thinking is right and theirs is wrong, but by encouraging them to change their behavior to learn for themselves what the nature of reality is.’

            They are both emphasising how if you challenge people’s belief systems in an open minded, respectful and compassionate way you can safely guide them back to a closer version of reality where they will find it easier to operate in the world. James and Brett have both highlighted how this takes exploration to see why the person believes what they believe and from what I have read from both of them they are both willing to be corrected in their own belief system or to allow new possibilities in as long as it doesn’t contravene facts that we can safely say we know about reality. For me, having a better grasp of the reality of the world in which we exist helps us to operate more constructively and cohesively and also helps us to form a far better understanding of ourselves and our experiences. This explains to me why psychiatry and its central message about chemical imbalances causing ‘mental illness’ is so destructive as it has no basis in reality and thus if we believe it we begin to live this lie as well taking us away from figuring out the real reasons for our distress. Psychology is not psychiatry and I do believe this distinction is important but, as I have stated earlier, I do believe psychological associations need to make this distinction more apparent. I think that James and Brett can and do help in this. I believe that psychology as a therapeutic endeavour really does try to align itself with scientific reality far more than psychiatry has ever done. While it does need to be approached with skepticism there is valuable and beneficial information to be gained and spread from this field of inquiry.

            Also I don’t find the word ‘delusional’ offensive and I know other people who do not either. Sometimes I have been ‘delusional’, i.e. my views about certain facts about the world were completely removed from the actual facts. The word itself does not bother me. It is the context in which it is used that can be dangerous, i.e. with anybody who wants you to believe delusions that they believe, e.g. the reason for your distress is because of a ‘chemical imbalance’ and these harmless pills will help sort it out. In other contexts where it is me being delusional and a person who has a better grasp of the facts we are speaking about points this out to me, well, that’s ok by me and could be really helpful. I would also hope that Brett and James can admit that they can be delusional at times as well and I think that they would given what I have read from each of them. The danger with psychiatry and the vast majority of psychiatrists is their inability to do this. As long as psychology and psychologists maintain their humility and as James points out as long as they admit they know certain things but they know less than they don’t know it should be kept it check.

            So Brett and James, I would say keep up the good work and keep rocking that boat within the field of psychology and getting the MIA message about the harms of psychiatry and the biomedical model across and now that you are in the positions that you are both in I hope that you will use that influence to the upmost.

            KindredSpirit, I enjoyed reading your challenges and your readiness to question the concepts of ‘truth’ and ‘reality’. I apologise if this post is presumptuous of me based on the few comments I have read from you. However I think that there are dangers of completing throwing out the idea of an objective reality and moving into postmodernist ideology and its overriding emphasis on the evil of authority/power systems. I would cite Sam Harris as one of my heroes too as he helped open my eyes to some of the hypocrisy and inconsistencies within religion. I was raised Catholic then moved away from it but am now slowly back on a deeper more meaningful journey to my Christian roots which are grounded more in the power and truth of metaphors/images/ideas while not drifting away from science too much. One of my current heroes is Prof Jordan Peterson who I would recommend to anyone on here and who provides a great insight to and critique of the dangers of postmodernist ideology and the abandonment of objective reality and objective morality. His second podcast with Sam Harris is particularly good.

            God, man, I can never post a short post 🙂 Finally, I think as Rage Against the Machine said it’s important to ‘Know your enemy’ but we also gotta know our allies in this battle as well and for me, James and Brett definitely are.

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          • Brett, I’m sorry to see you go. And I’m sorry that James never engaged the comments. I do understand how hard it is to be attacked especially when the anger is misplaced. When my wife first began to deal with her childhood abuse, and her defender came out, which meant ZERO filters on the anger and defensiveness, I had to suffer thru 6 months of her anger. Some of which I deserved for we had been married 20 years at that point, and I was certainly not blameless. But I also realized that somewhat I gave her a person on whom she could vent for all the sins of her abusers. It wasn’t easy and I cried after many of those sessions. And so I certainly understand that you feel no need to take the vitriol hurled at you for the sins of others in your profession. I do hope you will continue to fight for change within your profession even if you don’t feel safe here to interact on subjects like this one.

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          • Samruck, I too am sad to see Brett drop out of the conversation. But “attacks”? “Vitriol”? I don’t think so. Not that I agree with all the comments, but MiA has one of the tamest comments sections on the internet.

            By the way, do you have your wife’s permission to talk about the most personal details of her life here?

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          • All this sounds like more crying of “reverse mentalism” on the part of MH pros who aren’t used to having their self-image challenged by their “clients.” If they’re feeling misinterpreted they have the capacity to clarify, so if they instead choose to take their ball and go home I see no reason to chase them down the street apologizing for “offending” them.

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          • To Brett Deacon

            Please email me from the list of MIA authors. For I would like to set up a time for a telephone conversation about what took place in this comment section and your decision to withdraw from participation at MIA.

            Respectfully, Richard D. Lewis

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        • Hi Martin,

          I don’t actually consider myself a post-modernist. If I had to label myself, I’d say I’m actually an existentialist, having been heavily influenced by Sartre in my college years. And I can certainly appreciate cause and effect and the concept of a physical reality that most people agree on. However, it’s my nature to push back against authority and those claiming to possess authoritative sounding knowledge of concepts like truth and objectivity when we do live in a often abstract world. Making meaning of experiences is far more important than arguing over who has the best grasp on these concepts. I’ll look up that professor; thanks for the recommendation.

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          • Uprising,
            “Samruck, I too am sad to see Brett drop out of the conversation. But “attacks”? “Vitriol”? I don’t think so. Not that I agree with all the comments, but MiA has one of the tamest comments sections on the internet.

            By the way, do you have your wife’s permission to talk about the most personal details of her life here?”

            Attacks and vitriol are in the eye of the beholder. Isn’t that somewhat the ENTIRE point of the comments afterward by those who disagree with James? Brett specifically used the words ‘personal attack’ and you specifically denied his reality, even as you and others have complained about him and ‘the experts’ doing the same thing to their patients….and that is why we NEVER get anywhere. We refuse to apply the Golden Rule and do unto others as we wish they would do to us UNLESS they do so first…and so the vicious circle continues ad nauseum and we drive people like Brett away who may be flawed, in your opinion, but who are honestly trying to make a difference.

            As for my wife’s opinions…#1) Sam Ruck is NOT my name, it is the pen name I use on my blog. #2) I have run my blog about our JOINT healing journey from her d.i.d. for over 7 years on wordpress, and though it is certainly sanitized from daily life with someone who has d.i.d. it is far more graphic than anything I say on this site. #3) As part of the ‘deal’ for me staying in the marriage with someone who was/is extremely dysfunctional, she knew I needed an outlet. Her d.i.d. is also MY d.i.d. in many, many ways. I keep her anonymity per her demands, but she allows me an outlet for the extreme distress her issues cause me per my needs. If she’s ok with it, hopefully you can be, too.

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          • No samruck, I am not denying “Brett’s reality.” Clearly he and I have very different ideas of what constitutes a personal attack. (Please also note that I have already defended the existence of objective reality on this page.)

            Meanwhile, I’m glad that your wife is okay with you posting anonymously about her life. You definitely deserve support; it’s just that most of your comments are about how much you have helped her and how broken she was before you found her, how much of a burden it is on you to be her husband, how long-suffering and gallant *you* are in the face of your wife’s terrible condition. I suppose as someone with “mental health” disgnoses and a history of trauma – someone who is probably in your wife’s position in the stories of people that I know – it just bothers me. That is “my reality.”

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          • Brett specifically used the words ‘personal attack’ and you specifically denied his reality, even as you and others have complained about him and ‘the experts’ doing the same thing to their patients….and that is why we NEVER get anywhere. We refuse to apply the Golden Rule and do unto others as we wish they would do to us UNLESS they do so first…and so the vicious circle continues ad nauseum and we drive people like Brett away who may be flawed, in your opinion, but who are honestly trying to make a difference.

            No. You know what they say about good intentions, especially when combined with arrogance. Maybe you’re trying to be ironic.

            If Brett was not in fact attacked his perception of consensual reality may be skewed, but Uprising in pointing that out is not in a position to “enforce” Brett’s acceptance of such a determination. So he’s not doing the same thing.

            For the record, the reason “we” don’t get anywhere is because we spend way too much time arguing with mh professionals and far too little time organizing to stop them.

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          • Kindredspirit, thanks for reply and further clarification. I can understand your position and I’m glad that there are people like yourself pushing back against authority while I’m also glad to find people like James and Brett in positions of authority who seem committed to truth. I think that Jordan Peterson expands on a lot of what I have mentioned and I hope you enjoy checking out what he has to say as he really drives home the importance of meaning of experiences/myths/legends/religious stories.

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  12. I feel that the last sentence by Dr. Epperson is only problematic if one is focused solely on the empirical truth value of other people’s beliefs while overlooking the metaphorical truths that such beliefs may contain.

    One fundamental mistake I believe is repeatedly made today when it comes to working with those who feel disenfranchised, marginalized, discounted, or discriminated against is believing that the opposite response must be the best response. By this I mean that it seems that there is a certainly prevailing notion by some that in order to truly be a caring society, we must accept all beliefs as if they hold truth.

    Can you provide examples for this? Because it doesn’t sound as if you are talking about children here.

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    • Thanks, Steve. I love my wife deeply in spite of how hard her d.i.d. makes things. I kind of hate to use the word ‘dysfunctional’ because it’s NEVER how I treat her which I believe is one of the biggest reasons she has healed in a way that the ISSTD experts say is impossible. Whether I’m dealing with the 3, 3 year old girls, the 5 year old, the 6 year old going on 35, the 2 millenials or my wife’s host I ALWAYS treat them respectfully and as EQUALS!!! Always, always, always. And some day I hope to see a win/win for both of us, and we’ve already seen so many awesome milestones that others with d.i.d. rarely see, but it’s so systemic that it just takes awhile: whole lotta love and patience…

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    • “Meanwhile, I’m glad that your wife is okay with you posting anonymously about her life. You definitely deserve support; it’s just that most of your comments are about much you have helped her and how broken she was before you found her, how much of a burden it is on you to be her husband, how long-suffering and gallant *you* are in the face of your wife’s terrible condition. I suppose as someone with “mental health” disgnoses and a history of trauma – someone who is probably in your wife’s position in the stories of people that I know – it just bothers me. That is “my reality.”

      I’m posting about OUR life and healing journey together. Independence in a relationship is a western myth that I don’t subscribe to. I fully embrace attachment theory. My wife and I are doing this healing journey TOGETHER: her d.i.d IS my d.i.d. in so many ways. Her dysfunctions affect every facet of our marriage and so in a very real and tangible way they are MY dysfunctions, too.

      I’m sorry that your past experiences have left you so cynical that all you can see from my comments is how wonderful I think I am and how awful and dysfunctional I think my wife is. I realize you don’t get the full picture over on this site like my blog readers do over on wordpress. I try to share what is possible with a fully engaged healing partner.

      I guess if you speak for the majority on this site, it’s not the first site I’ve been made unwelcome or outright blacklisted. I’m sure it won’t be the last either. I understand you are only one voice and there may be others like Steve who feel the opposite, but I get tired of putting myself out there to try to say there IS a better way and even on a site like this, you are so caught up in the fallout from the biomedical model and lack of people willing to join hurting people in the trenches that you attack people like Brett and me who are trying to make a difference no matter how imperfectly we may do it.

      I guess your trauma gives you the right to judge the rest of us since we aren’t trauma victims but are willing suffer the secondary trauma effects so we can help the ones we love rather than walk out like so many SO’s and family members do…

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      • Nope. I’m not pretending to know you; just giving my impression of some of your comments and telling you how I feel about them. There is no majority on this site and I don’t speak for anyone but myself.

        Maybe one person’s lack of boundaries is another person’s “attachment.” I’m no therapist, so what do I know?

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      • You’re overreacting to a simple and reasonable question. I don’t see Uprising judging anyone. That’s my reality.

        Objectivity is relative in my view, that doesn’t make it less valid within the relevant parameters. So most of this entire discussion for me is sort of angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin in nature. Especially following such an unfocused article.

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      • Hi samruck2,

        Sometimes I sit with things awhile to have a better understanding of my reactions before speaking. Uprising’s characterization of your comments didn’t feel on-spot to me, but in the middle of that feeling sat some sort of grain-of-truth, so I clicked on your name and went back and read the entirety of your comments, and I think I get it now. I do not see what uprising sees. Please hear that. I understand that you are here expressing your thoughts and feelings relating to this healing journey you are taking with your wife, you’re being real about it, about how hard it’s been. Please know there is room for that. Sometimes the way you express yourself might cast shadows that resemble those that hurt us, and that’s what I heard in uprising’s comment. Reading the exchange, the phrase nothing about us without us kept resounding for me. You use the psychobabble terminology (system, alters, host) even though you’ve expressed clearly that your wife’s girls just wanna be referred to as girls, and even though you’ve expressed clear discomfort of your own using them- one of your comments had “gag” right alongside ‘alters’- so why do you use those terms? To me, it feels disrespectful to do so when the psych terminology doesn’t really seem to sit well with either you or her/them. I find myself wondering how your wife would present herselves, and how different it might be hearing about the journey from their perspective.

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        • Hi Lavendersage,
          if you were on my blog you would RARELY hear me use the terms ‘alters’ and the other psycobabble terms except to tear those terms down. On my blog, just like in real life, I pretty much just use the names of the 8 girls and have a little side bar so readers know which girl is which. But just like an author on MIA recently said, sometimes it’s easier to use the common term even if it’s not the one I prefer or agree with. Plus over here on MIA I’m ‘just’ a commenter and no one knows me or my story except for bits and pieces that come out in my comments.

          I would love, love, love for my wife/my girls to join me on my blog. I talk about it with them regularly, but d.i.d is the ‘soup d’jour’ of mental health issues in Hollywood, and how is it painted? As a bunch of psychotic murderers and now a cannibalistic supervillain thanks to Switch. And so my wife, sadly, sees herself as a ‘monster’ (her term) even though our son and I have NEVER, EVER treated her with anything but respect. I treat ALL the girls in my wife’s system, even the 3, 3-year old little girls with respect and as my equals, for I view them as all part of my wife, and as I help them connect and interconnect, those lines are already beginning to blur as I recently wrote on my blog.

          Maybe some day when I get the last girl connected to the other 7, and technically she will no longer have DISSOCIATIVE identity disorder (because they will no longer be dissociated/separated) maybe then she will allow us to drop the pseudonyms and join me to show the world there is a much, much, much better way to address d.i.d. and most mental health issues via the things I have learned from attachment theory, neural plasticity and some other things I learned to help her along the way…

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          • and maybe I should add…she used to be on various forums and boards for abuse survivors, but after a couple of years on the healing journey she was so far past where any of them were, that she got tired of arguing with them about what was possible and do-able, and so she bowed completely out. I feel her absence on the internet is a great loss because I know there’s a natural skepticism against me. I would love for her to validate what we have done together…for it really is as a team even though she doesn’t understand some of the technical aspects of what I do for her, there is NO power difference between us. We are completely egalitarian on this journey and she has full rights to reject what I suggest.

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          • Thank you so much for explaining that! I must admit to being intrigued and have thought about visiting your site, but was very reluctant to do so for the terminology used here. Additional info changes the picture, so please re-post the link?
            I intend to write my own story here on MiA, but I don’t carve out the time required to do so, and life has been throwing a lot of challenges at my family these last few months that have me feeling spent, so I don’t know when it will be complete and cohesive enough to present. But I will say this for now: I am on a similar journey (there are way more people in my house than there are bodies). But my experience is very like, and very unlike, that of folks who claim the label DID or MPD. I, too, have tried to connect with others with whom I could find community, but I don’t fit and the needs a community might meet for me go unmet. Reading the psych terminology very much puts me off (it is self-preservation to tune out) and I find myself unable to trust those who seem comfortable using those terms, and so, unable to connect. If you are inclined to ditch that vocabulary, I encourage you to do so. Would make you/your story more approachable.
            I have found it liberating to self-define, and refuse to cede that to doctors, therapists, screenwriters, even other Mad folk. I don’t need to wear their shades to see myself, and can’t really be seen by anyone looking through those lenses. My hope for your wife (and more importantly, for her girls) is that they can separate the truth of who they are from the “self/s” others have imposed on them.
            Ok, I feel like we’ve “met” each other a bit, now I’d like to come visit on your turf 🙂

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          • Hi LavenderSage,

            for some reason my computer is only giving me “reply” boxes on some comments and not others…not sure why, so I put this reply as close as I could.

            Anyway, I struggle what to say and how to say it on this site because there’s so much in our background and there’s just not room in my comments to give it all which is why I capitulate here and use the ‘common terms’ associated with d.i.d. even though our journey is anything but the ‘common way’ which I believe is why my wife has healed so well.

            Anyway, I’m over at samruck2.wordpress.com if you want to see what we are doing.

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  13. From the comment section I don’t know if people had read the same article as I have read. It seems because James is a child psychologist some people immediately think that he is some malevolent enforcer of social control/norms. Do people make the distinction between psychiatry (a field I am firmly against and which has no scientific basis for its claims) and psychology (a field that has meaning making as one of its primary focuses and, which while I feel that it should do more to challenge psychiatry, is still far more scientifically and morally legitimate than psychiatry)? I have outlined my points in relation to this further in an exchange with Matt Stephenson here so I won’t get into this further: https://www.madinamerica.com/2017/01/understanding-extreme-states-interview-stephen-harrod-buhner/

    A couple of commentators have particular concern with this sentence: “One fundamental mistake I believe is repeatedly made today when it comes to working with those who feel disenfranchised, marginalized, discounted, or discriminated against is believing that the opposite response must be the best response.” Have you read the whole paragraph which outlines what James meant by this, i.e. the dangers of abandoning truth and reality. I’ll give an example of this as this is what I interpreted it to mean and how negating the truth is dangerous. Please correct me if I am wrong in this James or if this example doesn’t fit what you meant.

    Recently it has been shown that Pacific Islander Youth report have three times as many suicide attempts as NZ European youth who are the majority population in New Zealannd. A clinical psychologist (and this is where I have a problem with psychology/psychologists and their attachment to the medical model) and chief executive of an organisation for Pacific people experiencing distress, Dr Monique Faleafa, said that this was because of the underdiagnosis of ‘mental illness’ and the stigma attached to talking about ‘mental illness’ and asking for help from your doctor. She failed to report or didn’t know that Pacific youth are sexually abused at three times the rate of NZ European youth, are over three times as likely to experience violence in the home, 3 times as likely to be overweight/obese and 4 times more likely to have fast food 4 or more time per week. They are also far more likely to come from a deprived area. Now, let’s say that a Pacific kid who has experienced all these things comes and says my suicidal feelings are caused by a ‘mental illness’ (biological reductionism). I would guess that most of the people on here would say it’s definitely not because of a ‘chemical imbalance’ as this has been discounted and discredited many times on here and many people would ask the kid questions about how they have come to think of their distress in this way. Now, say the kid says that my distress is caused by ‘systematic racism/oppression/being disenfranchised by the dominant NZ Europeans who have all the power’ (social/cultural theory). From the comments I have seen I think most people would see this as a reasonable interpretation of his distress and would say find it reasonable to agree that ‘it’s the corrupt social/cultural system that has created your problems’. Of what benefit is it to the kid if we stop asking questions because we have come to see his answers as reasonable enough or because they fit with our own models of how the world/system/society operates?

    In my view disenfranchisement/financial hardship does not justify sexual abuse or violence towards your children and all the postmodern/cultural/social relativistic theories in the world will not convince me otherwise. Also people may cite cultural reasons for the maltreatment of their children, like female genital mutilation, in some countries. Now if someone says that this is justified within someone else’s culture but not our own are we then not guilty of the ‘racism of lower expectations’? Or is this seen as an acceptable form of racism today due to our creeping postmodernist/moral relativistic way of seeing the world? Where do you think this will lead?

    James said ‘failure to label children’s healthy or reality-based ideas for what they are could lead to dire consequences down the road in regards to their relationships, jobs, living situation, health, and well-being.’ In the example above, failure to explore the kid’s interpretation of their reality a bit more could lead to lifelong suppression of the horrors he experienced and develop into misdirected anger at and suspicion of NZ Europeans rather than angry at his family for the cruelty they put him through. Psychiatry has been accused of silencing child abuse and I definitely think this is the case but could we be guilty of it as well if we chose to always believe or not challenge what the person, especially a kid, is saying/believing.

    And people may respond, ‘well you wouldn’t understand disenfranchisement/distress, etc…’ Well, I’m Irish born and bred. We have a long history of it but I don’t blame my historical issues of colonial oppression or Catholic authoritarianism for how I act in the world today. I’m aware of them and I have learnt from them but I am not hung up on them. I take responsibility and I try to accurately pinpoint who and what is causing me and society harm in the world at the moment and in this life. Psychiatric drugs almost killed me so psychiatry is one of those problems and so is postmodernism ideology as James points out that if we ‘let go of the search and promulgation of wisdom, knowledge, and authority altogether, and assume that the world would work just fine if everyone was okay with how you or I perceived it. That’s a recipe for mass chaos.’ Also I believe that postmodernist/relativistic views of seeing the world also allow the ‘chemical imbalance’ view to keep growing as no matter what the facts are or what reliable scientific evidence says if we take the view that whatever a person believes is as close to reality as anyone else’s views what’s wrong with saying I have a ‘brain disease’, ‘mental illness’ or ‘chemical imbalance’? I believe that people should really be aware of the dangers of postmodernist/moral relativistic thinking as I believe that if it becomes more prevalent in society and within MIA it risks created friction and division and solipsistic thinking and I think that elitists/globalists/Big Pharma are well aware of the power of certain ideologies.

    James, I found your post on an obviously sensitive topic excellent and it was delivered with wise compassion and a commitment to truth and reality. For example your sentence: ‘No one has a corner on the truth. But we all have an obligation to do our best to seek it out and provide it, especially in situations in which someone is struggling or in need of formation, as with youth. ‘ I think people seem to have missed this.

    I feel that for anyone who wants to know more about the dangers of postmodernist ideology and where our society will inevitably end up if this takes a hold (as it has already done in most US universities) check out Professor Jordan Peterson and his critiques on postmodernism. I believe that psychology/psychologists still have a lot to offer but they need to disavow themselves from psychiatry and make stronger stands against it if you want people to trust you and create a distinction between the two disciplines. I believe that the likes of James are part of this group who are making a stand while still remaining committed to truth so I admire him for that.

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  14. A few points:

    1. Science only acknowledges as real those things that can be observed and measured. It is rarely acknowledged that this is a fundamental limitation on its authority to deem anything not real. Germs existed before we had microscopes to observe them, radiation existed before geiger counters, etc. Some people are very sensitive, and can detect things others cannot. How many people out there felt an awareness about the US gov’t spying on us all and got labeled paranoid or worse before Edward Snowden’s revelations confirmed their knowledge? Have you ever considered the possibility that their perception is based on more information than yours? That they may be sensitive to things that you are unable to perceive?
    I can sense energy fields/auras around people, and put full faith in my ability to discern certain things about an individual based on their energy. Someone with bad energy is not trustworthy in my world. Period.I have often made this determination upon a greeting handshake, without even a word exchanged. I do not talk myself out of following my intuition, and cannot be swayed by rational arguments. I am more sensitive than most people; that is my truth.

    2. Children often express their knowing with the best vocabulary they have, which is often symbolic. Let’s revisit the example of the child who says they were placed with their family by aliens. Perhaps they were adopted, and though it’s been kept strictly confidential the child feels the truth. Or perhaps the child, though natural-born, does not at all fit in with their family, is a shy quiet bookworm in a family of rambunctious jocks, and aliens is the explanation they have found for this situation and why they feel so different/out-of-place. There are kids who realize they are gay from very early, and others who feel a pervasive sense of “otherness” long before they understand why. I was one of those kids, though gay is just one facet of my “otherness.” Take them literally and you not only miss a precious opportunity for deep understanding, but you damage their trust in their own intuition.

    Rev. Dr. Epperson wrote in a previous essay here on MiA about a young woman in the hospital who would not interact with anyone, but would only lay under her bed and claim to be a fish. A young man decided to be with her “where she’s at” and laid under the other bed, facing her, and only said “glub glub” and this went on for a bit, until the woman felt safe enough to share with him (a fellow fish) the atrocious thing she witnessed that made her so distrustful of humanity that she decided to be a fish. By entering her aquarium, he was able to help her build a sense of trust in some humans again, and she was able to heal. Your approach would not.

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  15. Please tell me that you are not treating colorblind people as if they are mentally ill. Sometimes people are colorblind to only a single color and they perceive it as a different color. For instance in your example, “Yet if I am to take this idea further, imagine you are a teacher of a 3rd grade class, and your students came to you and challenged you on the following ideas:

    “Mrs. Smith, the bulletin board is not red.” (Even though by all other standards it is)”

    The child might perceive the bulletin board as yellowbecause he is partially color blind. I would explain to the child about colorblindness and talk to the parents about having the child tested for it at the eye doctor’s. It is a special test and doesn’t come up in a normal vision exam.

    That was the most egregious point from your piece.


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    • Yes firstly it may be some kind of colorblindness or physical difference. Secondly, myself as a child wondered what those in authority would do when I told a harmless lie.

      One time as a child I told a lie of the sink drain backing up and this bunch of dirt coming out. My mother went along with my fictional story , while my father got angry at the lie and said it was impossible for the dirt to back up. So I knew at that point who was going to confront a lie.

      Perhaps these children who report red for green colors are not psychotic and are testing the intelligence of the adults?

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  16. I have many thoughts on what I just read, perhaps I’ll just deal with one or two, as TLDR; is a constant in today’s busy world.

    To begin with, seven children sir, have you considered the resource wars are geared towards supplying such large broods with oil, would that then not mean you are helping to create the very pressures that often negatively impact and generate the “mentally ill”?

    The statement “Dad, the pillow on the front couch is bright green.” (But red by my and others’ estimation) is curious, given the recent internet craze of “The blue and black (or gold and white) dress.” In fact, the history of the color blue may invalidate your concern. Blue is not mentioned in Greek literature, Koran, ancient Chinese stories, or the ancient Hebrew version of the Bible. The Egyptians “discovered” the color blue and then this color spread to other civilizations. Perhaps the couch pillow is bright green after all and your perceptions are limited?

    I am somehow reminded of Einstein, who first considered that time did not flow at a constant rate, but rather it was the speed of light that remained constant, and time was relative to the position of the observer. This is a most difficult concept for many even today. Einstein could well be considered mentally ill by those who might insist that the couch cushions experience time the same way humans do. Perhaps some cushions zip in and out of existence, which may be perceived as a bright green color by the more enlightened, who can tell? Am I, I wonder, mentally ill when I perceive source code that performs inefficiently as a muddy brown, and perceive errors as blotchy? Maybe had you corrected my reality when I was learning to code, I would be a far worse coder than I am. When one attempts to “correct” another’s reality, rather than cope with it, is the problem not rather that you are afraid, that you do not understand, and that you are attempting to maintain control and continue to validate your perspective, even though it may in fact be wrong?

    Perhaps you should explore your desperate need to control the realities of small children, is it based on a preconceived notion of what the definition of success is, so that you feel the need to guide them towards this kind of success, rather than allow them to explore their own imagination and find their own way?

    And there, I seem to have already gotten to TLDR; and I didn’t even begin to talk about the edge of the forest being the edge of ancient human reality, as eyes fail to focus when presented with apparent infinity.

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  17. I would say that even the term “consensus reality” has some problems when you examine history. What was the “consensus reality” regarding Black people in this country during the period of slavery and after (even to a lesser degree today)? The “consensus” among the vast majority of people would have contained the most blatant forms of racist prejudice, including all forms of racial inferiority and stereotypes.

    And what was the “consensus reality” in Nazi Germany in regards to the Jews, gay people, communists, and those labeled “mentally ill?”

    There is “consensus reality” and then there is the actual true reality independent of any one particular human being attempting to comprehend and understand it. Some people may have a closer approximation of exactly what that reality is at any given time.

    Yes, it is important for all of us to seek out and attempt to understand “reality” as it truly exists at the moment and within our surrounding world. And not knowing this reality, or somehow having a distorted perception of it can cause problems for any given individual and the society at large.

    So the author of this blog does have an important point he is making. But based on his prior blogs and his vehemently uncritical and total acceptance of Catholic doctrine, he leaves himself open to enormous contradictions and hypocrisy in his thinking and overall ethical approach to morality.

    In prior blogs he has strongly defended the Catholic church in its stand against gay people and homosexuality. This stance by has (in reality, “consensus” and otherwise) caused enormous harm and death (through murder and suicide) to perhaps hundreds of thousands of people. And given the Aids crisis in Africa, the Catholic church’s position on birth control has also directly led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings. These are irrefutable facts by any standard measure of reality.

    While this author has written some good blogs and is willing to question today’s “mental health” system, his critical thinking skills seem to reach a sudden halt when it comes to evaluating the true role of organized religion in the world.


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    • Richard

      James is certainly not like some professionals who’ve posted things here on MIA, professionals who seemed to think that they had the answers for everything that ailed us and if we didn’t accept their ideas then we were terrible. But, in my humble opinion he does have some blind spots in his thinking where he seems to refuse to open the door to shed some light on things. This makes me uncomfortable for reasons that I can’t explain when I read what he presents. Perhaps you’ve shed some light on my discomfort for me. We all have our blind spots I suspect. I think your explanation of the Catholic thing makes sense to me and does somewhat explain the niggling little feeling of discomfort I feel when reading his work. I can at least read and consider what he has to say though a lot of times I don’t really agree with him.

      As Humanbeing states below, the word patriarch does make some sense here when dealing with James and again this makes sense what with his total acceptance of Roman Catholic teaching. Patriarchal seems to be the perfect word to describe the Roman Church and all of its mechanizations that it has going on.

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    • “Consensus reality,” by definition, requires consensus, doesn’t it? The word itself is basically an admission that many viewpoints can constitute reality, and that common reality is defined by consensus. Hence, the only thing really “wrong” about “delusions” is that they defy what most people choose to believe is true. Your point about slavery is very well taken. There are plenty of “consensus reality” beliefs (such as the belief that psychiatry is a scientific field!) that are of pretty questionable validity.

      I do believe there is a “reality” out there that we all perceive, but even physics, the most reality-based discipline there is, has run up against the problem that even perceiving reality alters that reality. So any perception of reality, no matter how precise, is always an approximation. Admittedly, some approximations comport more closely with the actual DATA of reality, but they are still approximations and subject to modifications when new data comes in.

      Bottom line, reality for humans exists as a relationship between the perceived and the perceivers, and no two people perceive reality the same way. Consensus reality is always a negotiation, and I think you’ll agree that we get into big trouble when only a small subset of humans get to be involved in the negotiations and the rest of us have to live in their “reality!”

      — Steve

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  18. I want to appreciate James for bringing up this important issue! He certainly didn’t address it perfectly in my mind, but just pointing out there is a real issue there is an accomplishment.

    Sometimes it can come up in a very graphic way. If someone holds up something that looks to me like rat poison and says that it is a medicine that will cure them once they drink the whole bottle, I might have a real hard time helping them without trying to modify their belief! (The same might be true, in a less urgent way, if the person is holding up something that looks like Risperdal, and says that it will keep them healthy if they just take their prescribed dose for the rest of their life.)

    I believe that at times it is quite possible to help people without seeking to modify beliefs at all. Actually many people who are doing fine in the world hold beliefs that psychiatrists think are delusions – one study found that 10% of the general population hold more “psychotic beliefs” than do the average psychotic inpatient! So sometimes we can just help people learn to handle life better while continuing to hold their belief.

    But often other approaches are needed, or can help. When I teach CBT for psychosis I suggest thinking of 4 ways of helping, with helping people find ways to handle life better being just the first. The second involves reviewing with people how they came to have the belief, which can both create understanding of why things looked that way to the person while increasing understanding of why it may look differently to others with a different history. Third involves working with what may make the person vulnerable to having the belief: so if the person can be helped to feel better about themselves, they may not need so much to have a grandiose belief, or if a person learns to handle worry better, they may not be so likely to take worries as definite realities. Finally, it can sometimes be helpful to actually review evidence with people – for example, what is the evidence that suggests that the Risperdal really will keep you healthy for the rest of your life, versus what is the evidence that maybe not?

    There are so many individuals and so many stories, so there is no one way of what works or how to approach things. But if we aim to be respectful, and if we are aware we don’t know it all and that some of what we think we know may be wrong, we can have good conversations and often figure things out in a good way.

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    • I find your last paragraph to be the most important. We fail our clients, or the people we’re trying to help in any capacity, when we believe we know more than them and are entitled to dictate reality to them, and when we believe our knowledge is “right” and infallible. Being open to our own vulnerability and potential lack of understanding allows the client to also be open to the possibility that their viewpoint may not be the only “right” way to view the situation, either.

      — Steve

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      • Thanks Steve. I think this all gets tricky because of the way things can go wrong in more than one direction. So we can go wrong by being too sure we are “right” as you emphasize. But we can also go wrong in some situations by being too passive, and not emphasizing the way we may be right in an important way “I think the truth is that the rat poison will kill you!” So we have to approach each situation with some sensitivity to various ways of going wrong, in my opinion.

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        • I agree 100%. But the way you frame that is YOU think the truth is x” vs. “You are wrong and need to listen to what I say.” There is all the difference in the world between letting the client know what you honestly think vs. telling the client that they need to think the same way you do. It is subtle but can make the difference between eating the rat poison and not eating it.

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    • My problem with his approach is that in none of the scenarios he presented, did the child appear to be in any way distressed. What he presented was his opinion that the treatment provider/parent/teacher/authority person should correct beliefs they don’t agree with. Now Brett did bring up beliefs clients hold which were causing them distress, and so had somewhat more ground to stand on, but the approach was still that the belief needed correcting. Rather, what I and other former patients find helpful is an approach that helps us to cope with harmful beliefs. I have rarely met a fellow patient who truly 100% believed the altered perceptions they have. I, for example, know that swarms of bees aren’t really going to come flying out of my car’s AC vents. But the *feeling* that they are can be strong enough to prevent me from driving, which prevents the shopping for food, and the seeing of the therapist, etc. So if I can’t cope with these extreme fear producing feelings, does it really matter whether or not the fears are justified by anyone else’s version of reality? So the first thing I’d say is if the “false” belief is not hurting anyone, then it does not need correcting. And, in fact, the attempts to correct these beliefs lead myself and others (as has been said above) to simply avoid telling anyone about them. Second, if they are harming me or others, then learning to cope with them is the answer. Telling me my perceived reality is false will surely shut me down. But I don’t expect this to get through to those who think the way to help us is to correct our “delusions”. The only authority on my perceptions and my reality is me. The approach that I and people like me need fixing is 100% of the problem with this article and with many treatment providers.

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      • Hi Kindredspirit,

        I would like to comment on a couple points you made…..

        I think some of James’ examples were not about something that was causing any immediate distress, but something that would likely lead to distress if the person kept doing or believing it. So believing vodka helps with homework may even be true the first time one tries it (particularly if anxiety was getting in the way of the homework) but continued reliance on the vodka may lead to disaster, and extreme distress. Such possibilities might be worth talking about……

        In my experience, I have found that it is often very important for people whether or not they think a belief is literally true, though even when they think it isn’t, they may still have the problem with a strong feeling that it is true such as what you describe.

        If one thinks it is literally true that swarms of bees will come out of the AC vents, one will have no good reason to even contemplate driving the car. So a first step might be to get to where one knows intellectually that this is not going to happen. Then there remains the problem of how to face the feeling that it is going to happen. I end up talking with people about how this can be hard but is often very liberating work – learning that one can do things even when strong feelings are warning against it. I can use examples from my personal life, like when I was still terrified of the dark but was old enough to know an empty room that was dark was not dangerous, etc., and so I was willing to venture into the dark room despite my fears. Often people can recall their own examples of times they successfully faced such feelings. And it can help for people to imagine they have a part of themselves that does believe the fear, and to talk to that part in a soothing way, while also refusing to give into it if that part cannot present good evidence for the existence of actual danger.

        Obviously all this kind of work is only likely to succeed in the context of a friendly and respectful relationship. But within such a context, curiosity about what may actually be true, and an interest in challenging possibly inaccurate beliefs, can play a vital role.

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        • Hi Ron, I agree that having a conversation with someone when you are concerned with the direction they are heading in is valuable. I don’t necessarily share the belief that substance use isn’t helpful. James didn’t say the student got shitfaced drunk. He said the student thought the alcohol helped him do his homework. I personally feel alcohol is less damaging than taking antipsychotics or psychiatric poly pharmacy, though one seems to cause professional concern and the other doesn’t. A large number of people in this country and around the world use substances daily, and use them in moderation.

          I take extra exception when this is presented in such a way as to correct children’s behavior, and coming from someone who treats children. My personal experience of devastating childhood trauma is that the therapist I had to see for seven years did far more damage to my psyche than the actual abuses from my caregivers and for that reason I push back hard when I hear authoritative figures using words like reality and truth and suggesting that for their safety, children need to have their realities corrected so that they match the grown ups perceptions?

          Could I word it better? Possibly? I’m not here to make the professionals comfortable. I am the result of years and years of harm by the mental health industry. Some days I phrase it better than others but the message is roughly the same.

          Thank you for your thoughtful approach.

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        • Of course, but I think most of us pay attention to signs that say “watch your step” as well so we don’t trip. Then again, I am awfully tempted to run and slide on a wet floor despite the warnings that I might slip. I think we’re arguing semantics at this points. 🙂

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        • A human body is made of 99.9% nothing, the space between atoms creates most of our form. If not for the electromagnetic forces between our atoms interacting with light, we would appear transparent. Quite possibly we may find a way to briefly negate the electromagnetic forces holding us together and allow ourselves to drift through objects. Right now that truck may well be deadly, but our reality may change and we may eventually be able to survive such situations. It would certainly make prisons harder to implement, and I have to wonder how many wards of the state wish they could ask Scotty to beam them up. Given how much historical science fiction has become science fact, it doesn’t seem implausible to think that a Truck could drive through you, which again begs the question, is there really an objective reality, or only the knowledge, however flawed it is, that we currently possess?

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  19. Here’s a great podcast by one of my heroes Sam Harris which touches on the importance of civility online and the nature of reality. While I disagree vehemently with the author of this blog post (and with Brett), perhaps this is a good message to remember. If my initial reaction that this post was garbage was harsh, I hope I have clarified my position in further comments.


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  20. We will won first *round* against Psychologists and Psychiatrists, only when 10 000+ or more *crazies*, will protest before NIMH and WHO. *Field* representation is all what will change or simply dismantle MH System. System infamy can be displayed on publical level, prior any protest will take place. But first you have to bypass
    mainstream media *blockade*.

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  21. To All Who Have Commented,

    I first want to thank you for taking the time to read my post. A few thoughts as it is tough to keep up on life these days, especially with a little infant in the house, so a mass post is the most conducive given that finding even a few minutes is challenging. I had a feeling that this topic would provoke a lively discussion given it critical nature and deeply entrenched topics, and it didn’t disappoint. Despite the sense of feeling despised and vilified at times for being a professional who is writing on this site, I have no ill will towards any of you. I know some of you have experienced some real tough situations with mental health professionals; I just wish you would consider that being a psychologist has as much diversity as any other profession.

    As far as the article, I will let it stand on its own merits. Certainly all my articles could use more work, but I feel it adequately expressed what I wanted to say. I do admit disappointment that I felt a number of commenters “read over” some of the sections, and then commented as though I had not acknowledged certain important issues. I appreciate MartinMC for bringing this clearly to light. Although the article was intended to explain a particular position, these comments were not caveats or afterthoughts—they are critical pieces of the entire piece I mentioned, which without them, my whole position falls apart.

    I notice that some of you have tried to characterize me by my “Catholic” or “psychologist” self, or even using words like “controlling”. It disappoints me that you pigeonhole me in this way as an attempt to discard what I say. Yes, I am open in saying that I am Catholic and obviously a psychologist. Does that mean I don’t struggle with particular Catholic beliefs in trying to discern what is best from a humanistic and/or theological perspective? No. Does that mean I don’t constantly speak out on other sites and locally about reforms desperately needed in the church? No. To try and sign me off by using these labels is exactly the kind of practice that I hear so many of you openly despise on a constant basis, so it shocks me you would do it here. So I would ask that you consider this first: I am a human being that is Catholic and works as a psychologist. I also run in the woods for hours on end in subfreezing temperatures by myself in the dark. I am one of the 2% of those in my age group who don’t own a mobile device (and have no desire to own one). And for 10 years, my wife and I owned 1 car while raising 6 children, and I bussed, biked, and ran to work (and still do). If you think you know me, I think you are wrong, and unless you really start reading much more of what I have written and understand that I could care less about religion or authority or any other practice unless it turns out to be the best for humans in this life and the afterlife (which, yes, despite being a rationalist, I do believe), then you are far from knowing what I am about.

    Second, I do echo Brett’s comments as I am concerned about the kind of culture MIA is developing. Few professionals—including those that share similar values as mine—would ever step into this forum for multiple reasons—the biggest being the responses they would receive. Some professionals which have already posted in the past—and really are in it for the right reasons—have already told me they are considering stepping out. If MIA is really going to be a community and a forum for discussion about all that is best that is related to psychology, psychiatry, mental health, or whatever term is best used, then you want more people writing, not a small group of people that are going to largely play to a group of constituents. There is a danger that this is happening, although I do think that on a global scale, MIA has already started to make a difference. But the question is just how much and for how long, and if not careful, any organization can implode upon itself if not careful. And I worry about that here.

    Enough for now. I just ask everyone to please remember that we are all people first, and everything else second. I just got done changing a diaper, picking forks off my back driveway, and trying to figure out how I am going to talk to my son about his latest interesting decision. Please consider having patience with me and others on this site as I will with you. I am not responsible for others past sins and mistakes, but I am responsible for my own. And I have a lot of work to do in this regard.


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    • This is a great comment. I’ve sometimes been guilty of making negative assumptions and attacking people who I don’t know personally in the past, and it shuts down dialogue and doesn’t advance goals in the long term. It’s a case of short-term feelgood attacks but long-term failure to grow one’s support network and advance one’s goals. So I think Jim is making a great comment here in calling for giving people the benefit of the doubt, being curious and trying to understand where someone is coming from before judging or attacking them, and so on. Well done Jim!

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    • James

      I find it necessary to repeat something I’ve said to you in prior discussions over the years: I respect your writing here at MIA. You have published many excellent blogs and critiques of what is wrong with Biological Psychiatry and their whole “mental health” system. I have learned from your writings and hope you publish more in the future. At the same time there are some issues we have major differences on when it comes to inconsistency in moral beliefs, political agendas, and religious doctrine.

      Somewhere in the comment section under your prior blog a few years ago titled “Addressing the Mental Health Crisis: What Really Matters,” you made the following statement: “”But the ONLY thing I care about is understanding what truly is, no matter how inconvenient, unpopular, antiquated, or mundane they appear. Period.”

      James, I want to hold you to this comment. I hope this statement would also apply to any and all critical appraisals of your words and written blogs, even when the first tendency (that all of us tend to have) when we are criticized; that is to be defensive and sometimes deflect the discussion to other issues.

      In this case you are now bringing up the fact that some people writing here at MIA cannot always handle heated debate of their ideas (and are thinking about not writing anymore blogs here), including those times when people may express their angst against professionals (and their being part of the System) and the Catholic religion etc. And yes, at times that includes dialogue that crosses the line into angry outbursts and what may appear to be personal attacks.

      I would say that if we truly are interested in learning from this process (that includes all of us who author blogs here and believe we have something to teach others) then we must be able to weather the many different forms of debate and political struggle that occurs at MIA. Despite a minority of examples where these discussions digress into bad forms of communications, OVERALL there is very positive dialogue going on here at MIA, and there are enormous opportunities to learn about the world and ourselves.

      James, why not step back for a moment and consider that some people have picked up on a particular tone or rigidity in how you presented your ideas here. You just might learn something if you can get beyond the defensiveness and search for the underlying meaning of what people are saying. This includes even those times when they might not be expressed in the best way.

      I am the one who brought up the Catholic issue and I will explain in a subsequent comment why I chose to bring that into this particular discussion.

      Respectfully, Richard

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      • James

        I actually agree with the essential point you have made (in the above blog) about the importance of searching for (and helping others search for ) a true understanding of reality as it truly exists in the the objective world – independent of any one persons subjective interpretation of that reality. Not being in touch with this objective reality can be a serious problem for individual members of society and our society as a whole.

        Where I think people picked up on some issues with your blog is on the question of how do we go about living with (and working with) people who have a different or distorted view of that reality. I think this is where some people may have picked up on some rigidity or paternalism etc.

        I saw this blog as an opportunity to go back into some of your inconsistent moral and scientific beliefs (as expressed in prior blogs where you defended Catholic doctrine on very controversial issues) which are quite contradictory at times. Since you very often insist on the importance of science and acknowledging the true nature of objective reality (as in this blog) I am totally confounded by your moral and political inconsistencies.

        And James since you are such a gifted writer and seeker of the truth, I believe you underestimate the impact of your words and moral stances in other contexts, especially when it comes to defending Catholic doctrine and how that might influence other Catholics or would be Catholics.

        You said in your earlier comment that you advocate for reform in the Catholic church, yet some of your writings in Catholic publications such as here (http://www.aleteia.org/en/scienvironment/article/10-ways-that-science-is-proving-the-church-is-right-and-the-cultures-wrong-5881921179484160) were using a very limited version of scientific understanding to justify a very backward and harmful social agenda.

        If you were really advocating for reform in the Catholic church why would you not use the same standard and method that allows you to criticize Biological Psychiatry and their whole System (in such a deep going way) but yet not take those same types of risks in challenging the Catholic hierarchy and their harmful doctrine when it comes to women and gay people etc.?

        You could potentially be a powerful force for change within this institution (Catholic church) yet you seem to spend more energy convincing others (with extreme forms of mental gymnastics) to go along with and accept this doctrine. I am totally perplexed and confounded by this moral inconsistency, especially since I do respect many of your other writings.

        Respectfully, Richard

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        • Richard,

          I can’t reply for James, but as a former, far-right, conservative, evangelical Christian I can speak for how hard it is to question how you were raised, (though I would make the same comment about everyone). It was only in the crucible of helping my wife heal that I questioned EVERYTHING I had ever espoused and if it didn’t mesh with reality or help me help her heal, it got discarded or modified. I haven’t thrown out my theistic worldview, but I am much more moderate in my beliefs and practices, but only because I was FORCED to re-evaluate everything.

          And I think most of us are that way. Parts of me knew for decades that some tenets of evangelical Christianity simply didn’t mesh with anyone’s life experiences, but it was easier to go with the flow…until I was in an extreme situation that nearly ripped me and my family apart and then I couldn’t afford the luxury of beliefs that were unhelpful and even harmful.

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    • Jim, I want to leave you with one final thought. If MH professionals such as yourself truly want to understand current and former patients who object to your ideas and push back against them, you could take a page from animal psychology research. If you raise an animal to receive an electric shock with their meals, they will eventually stop eating. It won’t matter how delectable the food tastes or smells because you have taught them that it’s unsafe to eat. This is what happens to patients when you challenge their reality. They stop trusting their own instincts. It’s especially harmful when it happens to child patients who are being abused at home and the treatment provider/teacher/trusted adult doesn’t validate their experiences.

      In fact, I was medicated for childhood bipolar at 13 because my own mother told the doctors I was (hallucinating at best, lying at worst) the stories of abuse by my father. She told others that my brother didn’t do what he did and that the court-appointed therapist had “planted” stories in my head. It took an older sister years later telling me that dad had done the same things to her for me to realize I wasn’t imagining that abuse and for me to realize those horror movies in my head were real; I wasn’t psychotic. Oh yeah, but that seven years of therapy started every week with a trip to the corner for punishment for lying about my parents abuse. Every week. When I told the therapist at the age of 12 that I wasn’t standing in the corner, she suggested to my parents that they send me away to a state group home. I am firmly of the belief now that child therapy is not for the benefit of the child, it’s for the benefit of achieving good behavior for the adults dealing with that child. The child is not the patient, the family/teacher/other adult who has to be pleased is the true patient, and after all, they are the ones paying the bill, not the child.

      So I suppose I wish in your article that you had emphasized how important it is to create a safe validating atmosphere so that the child is heard and understood, and most importantly, *believed*. From what I read, it was aimed at making sure the adults guide the child from making mistakes but nowhere did you actually provide guidance on how the adult/parent/teacher/counselor can actually do so in a way that won’t potentially severely harm the child. That’s why it comes across as authoritarian and solely validating the adult’s POV.

      I don’t know anything else about you and have no other opinions about you as a person, only that you have the potential to do great harm. i hope that rather than perceive pushback as insults or personal attacks, you and other MH professionals can truly try to hear where these perspectives come from. Hopefully, none of your own former patients will think of you the way I think of my former child therapist. I’d like to piss on her grave when she dies. I don’t even feel that badly about my father and others who initially hurt me. It was the people who were supposed to be the helpers that did the greatest harm.

      – K

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    • Jim, I just wanted to say that MIA staff share the concerns you and Brett have expressed here. We strive to maintain a space where people can “speak truth to power,” but when such speaking drives people who have power to change the system away from participating in the conversation at all, that goal is undermined, as is our mission to rethink and remake the mental health system. We recognize the difficult position that many ‘dissident’ professionals are in, often risking their careers and facing condemnation from their peers when they break away from the pack, only to be met with a barrage of criticism from the other side for not being radical enough. It’s understandable that some are unwilling to put themselves through that.

      There is no easy solution for this problem, really. But we will now be offering writers the option to turn off comments for their posts if they want to share their work and their experiences without facing the firing squad, so to speak. This way, “unusually thick skin” will no longer be a requirement for writing here. We hope that this will broaden the range of writers we can bring in, and also help raise the caliber of comments as people learn that keeping things constructive is the way to keep the conversation open.

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      • Are you sure that this new policy is a wise thing? Most of the time, I learn more from the comments that are made about something that’s posted than the post itself. The struggles that take place in the comments section often challenge me to broaden my view of many things. I don’t think that stopping comments is a good way forward with all this. It will certainly lead to me spending less time here in the hopes of learning something.

        Many professionals are so used to never being challenged about anything that they say, even the ones who lean more towards our movement, what ever movement there is. Even the good ones often don’t try to see things from our perspective and lived experience. You may broaden the range of your writers but I suspect that you will lose many people with lived experience.

        This is very disappointing to me, very disappointing.

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        • I’m with Stephen in his reservations about this new policy, if it is one. I’ve been in situations where mental health professionals would not speak about Open Dialogue, going off psych-drugs, and such because it was considered “too controversial” a topic. Anyway, that was their excuse.

          When the going gets tough, the tough quit…You think? If it’s censorship you’re after, well, I suppose there is a long history of that, but shouldn’t your experts expect sticky questions rather than avoid them. I’m not one who thinks it is a great idea to cave into the intimidation of the likes of Jeffrey Lieberman, Ronald Pies, Allen France et al., and I wouldn’t be encouraging cowardice from people who have real questions.

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        • Hi Stephen. We won’t be stopping comments altogether, it will be per post and up to the author. I expect that most authors will prefer to keep comments open, but this way they’ll at least have a choice.

          By the way, it isn’t just mental health professionals who have issues with the comment section. Writers with lived experience sometimes do too, and it becomes a barrier to participation here.

          I hear you on professionals not always being willing to make the effort to see things from the perspective of people with lived experience. But the reverse is also true — people making no attempt to see the good in what a professional is doing, instead bending over backwards to find fault and assume the worst, sometimes missing the point of a blog entirely or reacting to things the writer didn’t even say. Certain topics become a flashpoint for rage, which is certainly understandable, but not always constructive.

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          • So seeing the good in what a professional is doing is “good” while seeing the bad in what a professional is doing is “bad”. I don’t know, Emeline. Must we demand such “blind spots” out of people, such “holes” in the fabric of truth. I don’t think the issue of whether a service is good or bad is going to be settled by niceties. I think it rather depends on the evidence. I don’t, for instance, see anti-mental-health-system-ism as a bad, and, therefore, negative thing, but perhaps you do. I see it as a very positive thing. I do imagine, on the other hand, that some people’s prejudices, prejudices directed against other human beings, support the mental health system. That said, I do think it a good idea to let the bloggers themselves be the judge of what needs monitoring, and what doesn’t.

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          • Emmeline

            You said:”I hear you on professionals not always being willing to make the effort to see things from the perspective of people with lived experience. But the reverse is also true — people making no attempt to see the good in what a professional is doing, instead bending over backwards to find fault and assume the worst, sometimes missing the point of a blog entirely or reacting to things the writer didn’t even say.”

            I would say in this situation the onus/responsibility is mainly on the professional to step back and not overreact, or take things in a personal way and respond on that basis. This is true even when we are, in fact, personally attacked by a commenter and/or survivor.

            I am not suggesting this is easy to do, nor am I suggesting that this comment section should be allowed to become a free for all battle of competing comments without any rules of decorum.

            As a professional, we should assume form the git go that many people have been harmed by this oppressive “mental health” system and that many therapists have engaged in the negative aspects of the inherent power differential (therapist/client relationship) and taken in some of the worst influences of the Biological Psychiatry paradigm – labeling, “disease/drug based model etc.

            I read MIA carefully for 6 months before I dared to comment and/or write blogs here. Some might say I shouldn’t had to do such intense preparation before participating. But others might say it was a smart and necessary process of preparation.

            I guess you might be critical of how I participated in this particular discussion. I believe I have given the author credit for the important points he has raised, but also tried to understand where all the objections and criticisms have come from as well.

            Emmeline, if you are critical of my participation in this comment section I hope you find a way to engage me on where you believe I was off the mark. And that does not mean it needs to happen now in the comment section.

            Respectfully, Richard

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          • I am with Richard. I think being a professional means taking responsibility for the effect you have on your audience/client base, whether intended or not. I always figured that people have the reaction they have, and whether they were polite about it or not, there was almost always important information to be gained from hearing and clarifying their reactions. Part of being a professional is understanding that the client is going to have reactions and that it’s your job to set the tone of respectfulness, not theirs. Not that this means a professional has to put up with abusive behavior, but the professional has a responsibility to handle it, well… professionally.

            — Steve

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          • But the reverse is also true — people making no attempt to see the good in what a professional is doing, instead bending over backwards to find fault and assume the worst, sometimes missing the point of a blog entirely or reacting to things the writer didn’t even say.”

            So you’re talking about “reverse mentalism/sanism”? In power terms you’re drawing an equivalency between the oppressed and the oppressor. There are some white supremacists who are loving fathers, maybe we should take that into account before we criticize them.

            If somebody is misinterpreted I’d say that comes with the territory. Happens to me all the time. They’re literate enough to respond.

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        • All survivors pick up on attitudes that even well-meaning “professionals” are oblivious to. If the “so-calleds” have such brittle egos that they can’t handle these attitudes being pointed out and criticized they should not be claiming to be on our side. Or writing for MIA.

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      • But we will now be offering writers the option to turn off comments for their posts if they want to share their work and their experiences without facing the firing squad, so to speak.

        “Facing the firing squad” meaning having the courage of one’s convictions? If someone is trying to destroy MIA this will be an excellent start.

        I for one will not even click on any article whose author hides behind this “option.” Is there a way we can identify such articles ahead of time?

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          • Exactly.
            I learn the most through the interaction that takes place between commenters and the original authors and between commenters and commenters. Let’s face the reality here that most of us already know about what is written about many times. We’re intelligent and knowledgeable people so oftentimes we know the material. It’s in the interaction among all of us, writers and commenters, that leads to a broadening of all our perspectives.

            It’s coming to the point that it seems like MIA is developing the same atmosphere that a lot of college campuses have developed where there cannot be an exchange of ideas from opposing sides because the students feel too threatened by opposing ideas. Well guess what? My response to that is that perhaps you need to consider pulling up your big girl or big boy pants and get on with things and quit being a baby about it all. If someone is going to post here they need to know that they better know what they’re talking about and then be able to defend what they write with intelligence and knowledge and wisdom. I believe that this community does control itself most of the time when responding to blogs. But we will not accept patronizing, patriarchal patting on the head that some professionals approach MIA with.

            I believe that we need to develop understanding between groups but all those groups must want to bring about better communication. I am not going to sit down at the table and sing Kumbaya as I try to hold hands with people that have no desire nor intention of holding hands with me. I’ve been lectured enough, I get it each and every day that I come to work and I come here to MIA to find some respite and rejuvenation from all that. But it seems that I might have to consider trying to find somewhere else to get that from here on out.

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          • Stephen Gilbert,
            You are one of the people whose words have been the most valuable and meaningful here. If you do jump ship, I will sorely miss you. Please consider leaving a “forwarding address?”
            I come here and I read, and you and Alex, Steve McCrea, and oldhead and madmom and acidpop and humanbeing and kindred spirit (and others) make me feel less alone.

            The thought of any of you being driven from this home has me crying right now,

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          • It feels like entitlement – that “professionals” somehow are entitled to be protected against anger and being perhaps unfairly targeted of others’ rage. Naturally the recipients/victims of the “mental health” system are not entitled to any such protections.

            An important contribution of Freud was the idea that clients who have been unable to speak their rage and helplessness will make us FEEL their rage and helplessness through their behavior. Professionals worthy of the name ought to know that well and understand that especially if they are “safe” professionals, they WILL be targets of these emotions, and they should expect it. I would go so far as to say that any professional who can’t handle this should stay far away from trying to “help” people and do something where they won’t have to deal with the discomfort of people’s real emotions.

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  22. This, for me, was a very enlightening conversation. I don’t quite understand why Brett Deacon got in such a huff and departed. I’ve witnessed a lot more bloodletting about things posted here than what took place for this blog. I thought that everyone was fairly polite most of the time. Of course, I am getting older and I miss a lot of things so who knows.

    As I grow older and try harder to practice Buddhist teaching, especially the teaching about non-attachment, I am getting better at not wanting to defend my position or stand that I’ve taken. My ego is a hard taskmaster and always wants me to let him have total control of my interactions with people. This often causes trouble for me and for others. The more I can look at things objectively, with no attachment to my ideas or assumptions, the more things open up and reveal themselves in ways that are beneficial and enlightening for me. It’s not easy because my ego is constantly saying in my ear, “Yes, but………”. The more I work at this the more I am finding that there is value in what people say, even when I don’t agree with them. There have been exceptions here at MIA, there was a certain psychiatrist who acted abominably. I’m learning that I don’t have to agree to find things of value.

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    • Stephen

      Interesting comment. And I find as I get older (69 an 1/2) and closer to the end of my life, the less willing I can tolerate oppression or ideas that in some way may unknowingly reinforce oppression. And also the older I get the bolder I become in strongly putting out my views and not fearing the response and/or sugar coating my views to avoid upsetting people.

      I still realize I must be careful and respectful how I go about this, but there definitely are changes in how we dialogue on controversial issues as we get older. At least that is true for me, especially over the past two years.


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      • I agree. Now that I’m almost 70 I find myself being much more honest about many things. I’ve always admired your well thought out viewpoints on how to deal with the challenges that face those of us with lived experience. Age does bring some wisdom.

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    • “I’m learning that I don’t have to agree to find things of value.” I think this sums up the big lesson of this comment thread. There may be “objective reality” but no one is the final authority on what “objective reality” is, and it looks different from different perspectives. Even when I think someone is totally “out there” in terms of what’s actually true, there is a lot to learn from finding out WHY the world looks the way it does to them. As long as no one is being hurt, I think we do best to simply realize that agreement is not required to respect someone’s viewpoint on reality.

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    • Good point, Stephen.

      I would certainly like to be one of those people who asks far more questions and makes fewer interpretations. As one who also is attempting to walk a more enlightened path, I have found that trying to understand others perspective is incredibly valuable even when I disagree with them. Though, for lack of a better word, some topics “trigger” the fighter in me. As an activist I am always learning and reevaluating where the boundary should be between listening, trying to be gently persuasive, and shouting obscenities at my screen.

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      • I too want to be one of those people who asks more questions. The older I get the more I have to admit how little I truly know about the universe. I always wonder why it takes us humans so long to find out these kinds of important things. I am glad that you found your way here to MIA.

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    • Stephen, don’t be defensive about your ego if you use it to be more effective at what you do, that’s different from being self-absorbed. Sometimes you’re just right, it’s not arrogant to say so. The art is in knowing the difference.

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  23. I have a lot of respect for all the “mental health” professionals who write here challenging the current paradigm of “mh” care (i.e., psychiatry), even if I disagree with them on some issues. But holy shit, does MiA really need to be “safe space” for “mh” professionals?

    Can we really not expect “mh” pros to have a sense of boundaries and an ability to consider the source of comments that might be abrasive? When, occasionally, comments cross a line, why not just moderate them?

    And if they don’t cross that line, then they cannot be considered “attacks.” Frankly, I am astounded at how some of the professionals who post on MiA seem to expect the same creepy “professional courtesy” from commenters that they get from other “mh” professionals, and how bent out of shape they get when they do not get it. I am astounded at how often criticism of ideas gets taken as “personal attack.”

    I think that allowing certain authors to close the comment section is a horrible idea, because there is already moderation (right?) and it’s not like author participation in the comments is mandatory anyway. I recognize that MiA is in a difficult position with this, because they obviously need bloggers, but I think that this is an overreaction.

    Furthermore, let’s not lose sight of the fact that the majority of bloggers are “mh” pros and the majority of commenters are people who are motivated to comment because their lives have been negatively affected by “mh” pros. There are class issues at play here, and closing the comments seems a bit like silencing the victims of the very system that MiA exists to “rethink.”

    As for the “survivors” who are reluctant to post blogs, let me ask this (also relevant to “mh” pros): How many sites on the internet insist that comments be agreeable to the author of a blog? I swear it’s like MiA exists in some kind of wormhole in which no one knows how the internet works. This is not group therapy, it’s a fucking website.

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  24. I would like to take this opportunity to comment one last time on this thread. James, I was glad to read your response. Among the good points you made, I noticed you mentioned the reality that as a busy person with a family, career, etc., you have a finite amount of time available. You naturally wish to use that time in a manner that seems productive and consistent with your values. I assume writing this blog post fit that bill. But given the direction in which the comments went, you had to assess whether it was a good use of your precious time to defend yourself from criticisms of your character and beliefs, defend the notion that reality exists, push back against the notion that all mental health professions and those who work within them are insensitive and harmful, and so on, when much of this conversation likely diverged from the conversation you perhaps hoped to initiate with your post. Some commentators here obviously have the time and interest necessary to deeply engage in these sorts of discussions. But I don’t fault you for not doing so; your time is very limited and you need to invest it wisely. As you noted, the kind of culture MIA is developing, as evidenced by the discussion in response to your blog post, can be hostile enough to discourage all but the most thick-skinned and dedicated professionals from choosing to invest their available time here.

    Personally, I’m not interested in rehashing the conversation that took place in this discussion, or defending my responses to it, for 2 reasons: (1) I have a limited amount of time and I’d rather spend it doing something more productive and conducive to happiness and vitality, and (2) I am confident that the most respectful, self-effacing, and introspective response I could offer would be met with further criticism, which would make me frustrated, want to respond, and spend more time and mental energy devoted to this situation than I want, which would inevitably take time and mental energy from other more healthy and productive pursuits. I can’t speak for James but I wouldn’t be surprised if he entertained a similar train of thought as this discussion unfolded.

    In my view, several themes are consistently evident in discussions of MIA posts authored by professionals, beyond the expected themes of opposition to the biomedical paradigm of care. These include a bias against science (all science, not just poor science); a bias against all mental health professionals regardless of their profession or opinions or track record of work on behalf of MIA’s mission; the perception that a professional who expresses an opinion on any topic with any degree of conviction is arrogant, dangerous, and likely to harm clients; and swift and cutting attacks on any professional who attempts to argue against any of the above. It’s not my intent here to comment on whether these themes are justified, just to observe that their consistent presence here over the years makes them a central part of the culture that has developed in comments sections at MIA.

    Accordingly, I welcome efforts for MIA to consider what effect this culture has on its ability to succeed with respect to its mission. The new option of turning off comments for blog posts seems reasonable to me; it’s an obviously imperfect compromise that may be welcome to some who wish to post here. Another option would be to consider an “MIA for professionals” site. I suspect there are many people in my profession who would welcome a MIA-style resource for news, blogs, and discussion about issues related to MIA’s mission, where they could discuss and debate important issues among fellow professionals who generally share their values without having to spend their time arguing with those who want to abolish all mental health professions, regard science as worthless, and so on. Practically speaking, a MIA-like site with a culture that welcomes participation by mental health professionals could go a long way toward promoting MIA’s mission. To be clear, I’m not dismissing the valuable dialogue that takes place between service users, professionals, and other groups here, nor am I suggesting it’s not sometimes important to critique science and so on. Rather, I am approaching this situation from a practical lens. In my view, the reality is that absent a cultural shift at MIA, the vast majority of mental health professionals will remain uninvolved both here and with respect to MIA’s mission. An attitude of “if they can’t stand the heat, they should stay out of the kitchen,” however gratifying to purists, seems like cutting off the nose to spite the face. Personally, I will continue to work hard within my profession in pursuit of MIA’s mission and read what is posted on this site. I hope that someday the culture here will allow me to confidently recommend that kindred spirits in my profession become actively involved. MIA has a long way to go before that can happen.

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        • The question is why? In this sort of confrontation conscious “survivors” have the high ground no matter what (and this is not “identity politics”). It’s an attitude I’m reacting to, not specific “points.” What is there for survivors to gain here even if this guy condescends to agreeing with this or that “point”? Also it IS self-absorbed, I’m sure you noticed.

          I just have a harder & harder time watching “survivors” passionately arguing with these devoted “professionals” so insecure about their credibility that they are willing to support outright censorship of those who get under their skin. Does this guy have actual clients?

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          • Sorry I have more important matters if you know what I mean. 🙂

            And I am on the high road, so are you & UR. We’ve just come to a fork, and there’s not necessarily a right or wrong direction; if you find this brouhaha meaningful go for it. I have a hard time respecting any argument made by someone who is content to “pull rank” when their argument starts to look threadbare.

            I see plenty of places where James, Brett et al. may have been misinterpreted, but that’s sort of irrelevant as, again, for me (and I think others) it’s a matter of attitude.

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          • Don’t want to bicker as you’ve done an extraordinary job here deconstructing these attempted guilt trips and other manipulations. All I’M saying is, these comments deserve to be dismissed.

            I note that this “Brett” guy first opted out in response to my following statement:

            When the purpose of an institution is to oppress people it must be abolished, no matter what pretense is offered for its existence. We don’t need “alternative” forms of repression.

            These are not “personal attacks”; they are basic anti-psychiatry principles.

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    • Forced treatment…and forced silence. Good one.

      As long as treatment is forced, and non-consensual, I feel like many of these professionals are behaving very unprofessionally indeed. just as they would be if they were engaged in non-consensual sex. Brute force is brute force, and certainly there are other ways in which business might be conducted. So long as treatment is a euphemism for assault, in a great many cases, I would question your motives for wanting to remove the verbal self-defense option.

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    • Brett

      Joanna Moncrief does just fine as a professional here on MIA and doesn’t request any kind of special treatment. She can hold her own in any discussion since she is intelligent, articulate, educated, and very suave and dignified. She can carry on a conversation with someone who doesn’t agree with her and she smiles encouragingly the entire time as she gives them her full attention. But the biggest thing that you immediately notice about Joanna is that she obviously truly cares about people and their experiences. She never dismisses anyone and treats everyone with dignity and respect. But she never asks for special treatment and I cannot imagine her ever requesting that people not be able to respond to what she writes. She is a professional among professionals and I’d love to sit down with her as my psychiatrist any time. It would be an honor to have a psychiatrist like her working for me.

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    • Brett, you have a right to be hurt and offended. The fact that many of us have been hurt worse than you still gives us no right to be mean or spiteful. I appreciate that you are trying to help us–probably taking professional risks in the process.
      Personally I want to thank you.


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    • I take it you have never been committed to (imprisoned in) a psychiatric hospital, and force drugged and man-handled in the process, following your typical kangaroo court hearing?

      We have a difference of opinion. You think psychiatry and pharmacology, and all that sort of thing, that is, mental health policing, is more scientific than commercial. I see a lot of commerce in it, but the research is so biased, what I don’t see is science.

      Criticizing the mental health system is not a personal attack, not unless perhaps a person deeply identifies with that system. Some of us, frankly, don’t so identify.

      Plenty of mental health professionals, much to my chagrin, blog at MIA, and use the website. I would be happier to see other sorts of professionals using this site as anything. Anthropologists, journalists, lawyers, trapeze artists, clowns, etc. Some of us “purists” feel like caving into the will of mental health goons would be a matter of “cutting off the nose to spite the face”. Alright. I’m not going to lie to you, that would be dishonest, despite the fact that that is just what you want. Sorry, but I’m going to continue to speak my mind. Thanks anyway.

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    • Brett, I am sorry you have felt so attacked by this discussion, and definitely can see how you might have felt that way, as some comments did seem very personal.

      I generally find your comments highly enlightening and thought provoking, but I have to say, this last set of comments makes me wonder if something has triggered your own issues here. I could be wrong, but it doesn’t feel to me like you’re simply working to improve the quality of the comments or improve the likelihood of the mission being effective – you sound angry and irritated, and you’re making gross generalizations, for instance, about people in general being anti-science or positing that there is no objective reality, which characterizes a VERY small proportion of the comments I’ve read.

      I agree that professionals posting here are sometimes attacked unfairly, but again, I think that is a function of the kind of audience this type of a website will inevitably attract, and I agree with Richard that it is part of our job as professionals to be able to respond to such apparent attacks without rancor or judgment. The voice of the oppressed can be harsh, especially toward the perceived authorities, but that is a function of the trauma they have experienced and their righteous rage, not necessarily any reflection on you and your contributions to the movement.

      Which gets to the real point of the discussion, which I wish you had tried to hear behind the anger. The point is not whether there IS an objective reality, the point is whether PROFESSIONALS like you and James and Richard and Stephen and Ron and I are entitled by virtue of our professional titles and experiences to DICTATE what reality is to our clients? Or is it our job to negotiate, test, communicate, question, probe, and encourage our charges to look at things from different viewpoints and make their OWN evaluation of what reality is. I heard one commenter only who pitched the idea that reality is whatever we make it – the vast majority accept objective reality exists, and are objecting instead to the idea that it is James’s or my or any of our jobs to CORRECT the client’s perceived misconceptions of reality, but suggesting instead that our job is to explore with them how and why their “misconception” makes sense to them and move forward from there. Of course, there are times of danger when we may feel we have no choice but to act protectively, but the VAST majority of the time, the client’s “delusions” are no more delusional than the psychiatrists’ idea that their lives can be fixed by drugging their brains, and actually far less dangerous. It’s a question of whether reality is something that the authorities dictate to their subordinates or is something we discover together, understanding that none of us has the full scoop on what “objective reality” truly means.

      I hope this clarifies at least where I and where I think a lot of other posters are coming from. It is really not personal, even if it may seem like that. And being a professional means being able to make that distinction. You are getting the suppressed rage from every time these posters had something to say to a professional but didn’t feel safe saying it or was punished for doing so. It may not be good politics, but it is a natural outgrowth of a certain part of objective reality that professionals in similar roles to you and me have historically tried very hard to deny exists. It’s gonna happen, and it’s not fair, but it’s reality. For all this talk of clients denying reality, I think we as professionals need to be honest enough to admit that the clients’ reality as conveyed, whether fair or not to us individually, is a VERY big reality to be dealt with, and the system change we want to see happen will NEVER happen until we as professionals can not only accept but embrace that reality, the reality of the very clients we are trying so hard to help.

      — Steve

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    • Brett, and James.
      I have read up to here, late I know, so who knows what has transpired since.
      I am getting the sense that this “culture” is seen or understood as hostile and not
      welcome to “dialogue”. What is dialogue? It is that which takes us RIGHT BACK to whether
      the pillow is green. Basically it means that as a commenter, I am supposed to do what?
      If I “nitpick” an article it will be offensive, even if the beginning of my nitpicking starts with
      “respectfully”. And it is rather insulting to be made out to be the “culture” that puts on hold
      the “mission of MIA”. And the suggestion that there be a professional site of MIA, what would that
      accomplish? Would you “change” the “system” with chat between “professionals”? Those chats happen
      without MIA EVERY day, and nothing changes because you all agree with each other.
      It is the comments that are part of “education”.
      And what is “change”. We are ALL the “change”. It just seems like a bullying or patriarchal oppression to
      suggest that comments by individuals are not “nice enough”.

      It is ludicrous to think there is a middle ground in everything. Divorce anyone?

      If all the commentors ran away, or spoke “nice” would there then be true change in the “MI” system?

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  25. I would like to know if Bob W. knows about this new censorship policy and understands the implications for the future viability of MIA as a vehicle for progressive and vital discussion. And again, can we be be warned before viewing a post that it is a censorship-friendly one?

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  26. Brett

    As a professional AND an anti-Psychiatry activist who is determined to be a part of a movement WITH psychiatric survivors to end ALL forms of psychiatric abuse, your suggestions here, if implemented, would be a serious step backward for this entire movement.

    And this perspective, if widely adopted, would only further polarize and exacerbate already existing contradictions among survivors and people working in the system. And don’t forget there are a number of survivors out there also now working inside the system. How would you classify them in this whole dynamic?

    You said: “I suspect there are many people in my profession who would welcome a MIA-style resource for news, blogs, and discussion about issues related to MIA’s mission, where they could discuss and debate important issues among fellow professionals who generally share their values without having to spend their time arguing with those who want to abolish all mental health professions, regard science as worthless, and so on.”

    Your comment about having to waste time “…arguing with those [survivors] who want to abolish all mental health professions, regard science as worthless, and so on…” is a gross exaggeration of how these views get expressed here. A very tiny minority here at MIA express views that “all mental health” professionals should be abolished.” (BTW don’t you indeed desire a world where therapists and other “mental health” professionals are no longer necessary?) And the vast majority (I would guess 90% or more) express deep appreciation and value for ALL the science that refutes the oppressive paradigm promoted by Biological Psychiatry.

    You said: “I hope that someday the culture here will allow me to confidently recommend that kindred spirits in my profession become actively involved. MIA has a long way to go before that can happen.”

    Brett, there are many professionals who blog and comment here who do just fine. Please don’t project your current dissonance onto other professionals participating here, and then make a principle about dividing people off from one another. If you’ve read some of my blogs and commentary in discussions on benzos you will see that I’ve encountered some serious turbulence at times. But I have learned a great deal by persevering with an open mind through these difficult and turbulent waters. And I believe some survivors have learned from me in the course of these debates and discussions.

    Yes, MIA has a long way to go, as WE all do, INCLUDING YOU, before we can end psychiatric oppression.

    Respectfully, Richard

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    • Your comment about having to waste time “…arguing with those [survivors] who want to abolish all mental health professions, regard science as worthless, and so on…” is a gross exaggeration of how these views get expressed here. A very tiny minority here at MIA express views that “all mental health” professionals should be abolished.”

      What about all the time people who could be engaging in activism waste arguing with this guy’s ignorance and arrogance?

      You seem sort of defensive with this guy. Science is worth as much as the goal into which it is directed, it has no value in and of itself. And count me as part of that “tiny minority” that wants to abolish all “mental health professions.” Let Brett prove me wrong if he wants to try.

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      • “Oh, you can’t help that,” said the cat. “We’re all mad here.”
        ~Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

        Radical remedy for “mental illness”, abolition of the psychiatry profession.

        What was once a war on “mental illness” has turned into a war on “stigma”. This war on “stigma” would make the mental patient role trendy, (life long, too) and thus further fuel the “epidemic” we are presently experiencing. Reverse directions, and your mental patient population is going to go down. Why not your mental health professional population as well? Reverse directions, and your mental health professional population might be forced to decline with it. Continue on the present course, and before long, the advancing mental patient majority will be outlawing mental health anyway.

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  27. To Brett, James, Emmeline and ALL

    I just completed a very brief look at the list of all the authors/bloggers here at Mad in America. I attempted to assess the number of professionals who have written several blogs AND actively participate in discussions.

    I believe that Brett, James, and some others here may be exaggerating or over estimating the nature of the problem where professionals working in the System are somehow “victimized” by excessive criticism or some type of perceived personal attacks, and thus, discouraged from further participation here. AND that somehow this requires a qualitative change in MIA policy leading to the closing down of some discussions under written blogs. Or the suggestion that there should somehow be a SEPARATE site for ONLY professionals to dialogue.

    Here is a partial (unscientific list) of professionals who write at MIA on several occasions who do JUST FINE with the comment section. It does not mean that some of their views are not criticized or challenged, but they handle this process quite well, knowing when to respond to certain negative critiques and also knowing how to shy away from dialogue that has reached an impasse: (and BTW, this is a list of professionals for whom I believe have not had any “lived experience” as a survivor, but of course, living in this world today does subject us all to multiple forms of trauma on many different levels, including those stories told to professionals by “clients”, “patients,” etc.)

    Carina Hakanson, PhD – Bonnie Burstow, PhD – Bruce Levine PhD – Kjetil Mellingen PhD -Peter Gotzche, MD – Rev. Dr. Steven Epperson – Jay Joseph, Psy.D – Johanna Ryan – Michael w. Corrigan, Ed.D – Philip Hickey, PhD – Richarad D. Lewis M.Ed., LMHC – Robert Berezin, MD – Sandra Steingard MD – Stuart Shipko, MD

    This list does NOT include professionals who also have “lived experience” which is a whole separate discussion in many ways. And I did not include some writers at MIA who write very few blogs or I am unaware of their personal history with the System.

    The few writers here at MIA who are having the most difficulty with this process should not “project” their personal assessment onto other professionals writing here by exaggerating the nature of this problem in such a way as to pressure MIA into making significant editorial changes.

    And as a last point, I would suggest that some of the professional bloggers who are having the most problems with this process go back and read the many blogs and comment sections of Dr. Sanda Steingard over the past several years.

    If you do, you will get first class lesson in how to stand your ground in the face of very harsh and emotional criticism, yet honor and respect, and YES attempt to understand where the writer is coming from in their traumatic experiences within the System. And she very astutely knows when certain dialogue has reached an impasse and, she artfully moves away from such exchanges before allowing such dissonance to devolve into harmful forms of communication. This does always make people happy when this cutoff happens, but it is a testament to her compassion and personal incite as a human being in a very controversial profession as a psychiatrist. It is also why she is highly respected by her patients, other critics of the current “mental health” system, and also respected by those who even believe that Psychiatry should ultimately be abolished as a medical specialty.


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    • I agree, Sandy sets the ultimate example of how to handle criticism professionally. Her humility and her willingness to learn from other viewpoints makes any attempt to needle or provoke negative responses from her fall flat. That is the kind of professionalism we need from professional bloggers and from professionals in general who want to change the system. If we can’t listen to the distrust and anger our wonderful “system” has helped to create, how will we ever be able to alter things in a healing direction?

      I would also add Johanna Moncrief and Lucy Johnstone to the list of professionals who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and swim into the seas of conflict!

      — Steve

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  28. I just wanted to say that the suggestion to have a “MIA” site for professionals is a suggestion that feels extremely worrisome to me.

    When I glance over the comment section (I did not read it thoroughly) I see both supportive and non-supportive comments coming from both professionals as well as from people with lived experienced. This has also been my experience with other comment sections, and indeed posts. (Posts from professionals who disagree strongly with current mainstream practices often make comments that make other professionals want to distance themselves from MIA). So I wonder and worry deeply why removing the non professional or ‘personal experience’ voice would seem to some professionals to be a solution to this issue.

    I want to add in two comments from professionals I respect deeply that seem to have different solutions then from what Brett Deacon seems to be suggesting about having a `professional only`place on MIA. One is from the late Dr Mickey Nardo who often expressed his irritation with the things that some PROFESSIONALS posting on the MIA site were saying. I once got what I thought was an irritated response from him when I was bringing up how important I think it is for mental health professionals to stand up for ‘informed consent’ for treatment, even if they are not personally involved with any ‘lack of consent’ issues in their own practices. In an email exchange he let me know that he wasn’t annoyed with me and that he seldom got annoyed with service users, his irritation was with some of the anti-psychiatry broad sweeping statements that some professionals express. So although I believe he did distance himself from MIA, my impression was that is was not because of service users, but rather because of how some of the professionals posted here. On his blog both professionals and non-professionals alike were welcome, although he certainly moderated comments that he felt were attacking etc., and closed down the comment section when tempers began to flare in the comment section.

    The second professional is indeed Sandra Steingard, and I agree so much with what Richard has expressed about how Sandra deals with comments in such an amazing way. I myself made many very emotional (hopefully not rude) comments to her (again over the issue of informed consent), and I appreciated so much how she was willing to engage with me over those comments. I once asked if the reason she was able to handle anger expressed in many of the comments was because she could see the `pain behind the anger` and she agreed with that. I find her to be a very compassionate person who understands the deep suffering of those who consider themselves `survivors`.

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    • Excellent commentary Sa.

      I wonder and worry deeply why removing the non professional or ‘personal experience’ voice would seem to some professionals to be a solution to this issue.

      Isn’t that the good old Amerikan way — if you can’t deal with something kill it?

      I didn’t realize he had actually proposed that — I haven’t been reading his posts carefully, especially since the first one or two (I do have a life, believe it or not).

      So it looks like Brett has declared war on survivors. Let this be noted. Bring it on.

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    • I agree, Dr. Steingard is spectacular and I would be honored to have her as my psychiatrist, if I dealt with psychiatrists personally. And you can witness a process of growth within her about all of this and she is willing to humbly admit that she doesn’t have all the answers. This kind of open honesty and transparency is highly unusual for a psychiatrist or for just about any doctor not matter what their medical specialty. I’ve appreciated being able to witness her Journey here on MIA because she’s so forthright and honest and humble. She truly cares about human beings. She is an inspiration to me in my own work within the system.

      And she doesn’t cry and ask for special treatment of any kind just because she’s a psychiatrist posting here on MIA. She knows how to hold her own ground and can go straight to the point when she needs to do so. But she always does everything with such respect and dignity for the individual she is responding to. I remember where she once lightly “slapped” my hand about something that I commented on in one of her blogs. I took it to heart and began evaluating the way I see my own ideas and beliefs and it was a beneficial experience and an opportunity for growth. And she seems to grow in much the same way due to her interactions with us here at MIA.

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    • And the Roman Church “rehabilitated” him as a person in good standing with the Church just a few years ago! Give me a break. The man died under house arrest for speaking the truth about a scientific phenomenon. The Church forced him to travel to Rome on a litter because he was extremely ill and bedridden, but the dear cardinals and the pope wanted to interrogate him about his scientific views. Go figure.

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  29. I have seen this threat to close down discussions used before — such as in response to people discussing psychiatric slavery. Though I normally don’t think we should bother R. Whitaker over comments, I suggest people make their feelings known to him on this, as it threatens the very existence of MIA (which despite its flaws is serving a valuable function).

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  30. I face criticism occasionally. I have learned to consider what is being said, see where it might conceivably be warranted, and incorporate that insight into my behavior. If some criticism is not warranted after careful reflection, and I then discard it. If some of the bloggers are unable to do this, I have to wonder about their maturity level and abilities to self-reflect.

    I pretty much in my life have honed down my friendship base to those who are able to do that.

    I, too, am disheartened by Emmeline’s pronouncement. I consider MiA to be a sort of *home* for me after bumbling into Robert Whitaker’s work, which changed my life. A place where I can learn and be inspired and gain virtual support from others who have been ‘consumers’ in the system and from those who are practitioners and critical of that system.

    To see what is happening here, and the changes *ever since the format change*…the lack of interactivity by staff and now what feels like just more of the same ol’ same ol’ corporate crapification and the knuckling under due to pressure from vested interests. Again, those who have no power are being disempowered by those that do.

    Believe me, I wanted to say much more in my reply to this blog than I did.

    MiA won’t miss me, since my financial contributions are minor. I hope they succeed with their mission without survivor’s voices. But I want to know, just how much are mh practitioners going to learn without hearing the voices of those affected by the system?

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    • Well stated. I agree.

      I can’t believe that this is happening here because like you I bumbled into MIA by accident after reading Robert’s books. He’s almost like the “patron saint” of our attempts to do something here in my eyes. This place has been a respite house for me from my work in a state “hospital”. MIA has been one of the few places that the voices of people with lived experience are listened to and validated. Reading what you and others write here strengthens me in my resolve to keep fighting and pushing forward, even if it’s only in baby steps. This is extremely disappointing to me this afternoon and I leave with heavy heart.

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  31. Hey, have you all heard about the anti-racism website where the disproportionately white bloggers have the option to preemptively block comments if they think that people of color won’t like what the authors have to say?

    How about the LGBT rights website where the disproportionately straight-cisgender bloggers can preemptively block comments if they think that LGBT people won’t like what the author has to say?

    Or the women’s healthcare advocacy website where the disproportionately male bloggers can preemptively block comments if they think that women won’t like what the author has to say?

    Yeah, I haven’t either.

    MiA, if you are going to do something like that, then please take the phrase “social justice” out of your tagline immediately. Thank you very much.

    (If you don’t see the parallels, then you are not taking psychiatric oppression seriously.)

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  32. Dear James: thank you for the thoughtful response to my piece on Unusual Beliefs. And sorry about the negative ad hominem responses above.
    Consider the fact that historically, there are at least four “schools” of biblical interpretation going all the way back to the Church Fathers. Knowing that a “literal” interpretation of scripture just wouldn’t cut it with many readers/believers, imaginative and alternative ways of understanding and making meaning of holy writ were created–allegorical, analogical, historical and mystical. Each “school” has found its accepted place, down through the centuries, within the larger community of interpretation. And the Christian world has been richer and more expansive as a result. (Think of how impoverished modern- day literal, fundamentalist reading of scripture is by comparison.)
    You get my drift–the “text” of a person’s life presents us with various interpretive strategies. And, inspired by Tamasin Knight’s work in her “Beyond Belief: Alternative Ways of Working with Delusions, Obsessions and Unusual Experiences,” my congregation has become more sympathetically adept at responding to persons presenting unusual beliefs and behaviours.
    I appreciate what “Lavendersage” noted above, with her reference to the story I shared with MIA readers about the way Arnie Mindell entered imaginatively, empathetically and effectively into the life-world of a deeply traumatized person. He was, in effect, coming up with an alternative “school” of interpreting this person’s distress. Other health workers were seemingly locked into one and only one way of interpreting it, with the outcome that they could not reach this person and walk with her step-by-step from her catatonic state toward recovery, whereas Mindell was.
    BTW: I am not a post-modern relativist. I am not into “truthiness.” When asked, I agree that there are certain laws of nature which necessarily obtain. Octavian decisively defeated Marc Antony’s and Cleopatra’s naval forces at the Battle of Actium. Russian intelligence interfered with the 2016 Presidential election. On the other hand, assenting to the doctrine of transubstantiation requires a considerable leap of faith, as do many religious dogmas. I try at least, to imaginatively inquire what do these unusual beliefs mean to those who hold them? How do they actually impact on the behaviour of a person and community that believes them to be true?
    go well, Steven
    PS-regarding your example of a child who believes that the “toilet is a portal to another universe”? She’s absolutely right, and brilliant! What could be more different than the world “up top” from the universe of sewers and excrementa that we bury, hide and flush away down below? And think of examples from popular culture/movies–Carol Reed’s “The Third Man” and the chase in the sewers of Vienna, Peter Weir’s “The Last Wave” and the mysteries in the sewers of Sydney, and the terrifying ordeals Katniss Everdeen and her crew face in the sewers of Panem. That child is imaginatively, definitely on to something! And what is she getting at? Let’s ask her.

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    • Octavian decisively defeated Marc Antony’s and Cleopatra’s naval forces at the Battle of Actium. Russian intelligence interfered with the 2016 Presidential election.

      Last time I checked, one of these was a historical fact and the other was a politically expedient partisan allegation that was not backed up by any evidence. I’m always open to new evidence, though.

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    • Hi Reverend Dr. Epperson,

      I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to read my article in response to yours, and for providing such a great forum about an important topic. Just as with your article, the insights on your comment are much enjoyed and appreciated, and I loved your creative take on the portal comment. Your note on biblical interpretation was very interesting. It would be fun to sit across the table one day and hash out this discussion in person, but I just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to read and write back.

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  33. I belong to a professional organization with over 5000 members. Most members are psychologists and are united by their interest in cognitive-behavioral therapy, science, and improving the human condition. I have worked hard in recent years to raise awareness of issues related to MIA’s mission. I commissioned a journal special issue that featured an article by Robert Whitaker. I organized the 2015 annual convention with 3000+ attendees and invited Bob to be one of the 4 keynote speakers. I served on a panel discussion criticizing the biomedical model with Bob and several colleagues that was presented to a standing-room-only audience of 400+ people. At last year’s convention, I presented a workshop with Stanton Peele on how to disconnect psychological therapy from the biomedical model. My impression is that there is considerable interest among my colleagues in issues relevant to MIA’s mission and I have done what I can to encourage that interest. Yet to my knowledge, I am the only person in this 5000+ member organization who has ever engaged with this community in any way. I am not sure exactly why more of my colleagues have not become active here, but since 2015 I can rule out lack of awareness of MIA and Robert Whitaker’s work.

    I do not know if the culture here is a barrier to more professionals engaging with MIA, but I think it is possible. Speaking for myself, the hostility and condescension evident in this discussion is a barrier to further engagement here. There are other aspects of the culture here (e.g., biases against science, MH professionals and professions) that further discourage my participation. I had intended to author some blog posts here in the near future but after further consideration of the issues raised by the present situation I have decided to direct my efforts elsewhere. I am aware that some other professionals like Joanna Moncrieff do not find the culture here to be a barrier and I’m sure my reaction to this discussion is influenced by the person I am (e.g., I don’t like it when people attack my character and competence, I don’t support the abolition of MH professions). But I also think there are lots of other people like me, who support MIA’s mission but who are hesitant to engage with this community because of its culture. And also, perhaps, because they are more interested in discussing certain issues with their peers than with a general audience.

    In any case, I wish you all well, and I wish MIA the best. Thanks for the opportunity to be a part of this community.

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    • Unfortunately, Brett, in a situation like this it’s difficult for many people who have been hurt by the mental “health” establishment to look past your “paternal” title.

      I remember when my mother kept having incest survivors and rape victims over when I was ten. Most hated men, so my dad had to leave the house. Dr. King had problems with white folks who wanted to help and were rejected by the African-Americans. Is this right or just? No. But it is understandable and human.

      Many commenters hate authority figures. (I don’t; I hate being lied to or abused by authority figures but I’m not an anti-authoritarian or anarchist.)

      Like many others here, I realize you are not to blame for what all the abusive members of the “System” have done. I hope you realize that these attacks are not so much against you personally as the fear and distrust of abuse victims against someone they see as belonging to the “oppressor” group.

      Nevertheless I understand and sympathize with your choice to leave. I wish you well and the best also.

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    • Brett

      Your record proves you have made great efforts to advance a more radical critique of Biological Psychiatry. I have read some of your articles in the past and found them to be skillfully written with important exposure of the entire “mental health” system. You have also made some very valuable contributions to some of the addiction discussions that have followed some of my blogs critiquing the “Disease” Model of addiction. You ARE a part of the MIA community and you BELONG here and I hope you decide to remain here.

      That being said, it does not mean that you and I (and the rest of this community) share EXACTLY the same assessment of the current objective reality facing us, necessarily agree on the best strategy to advance this cause, or share exactly the same ultimate goals of this movement. AND we don’t need to ALL be in exact agreement on these things to all work toward advancing this cause. NOR should we expect to ALL be on exactly the same page at this time.

      Your above comment actually reveals a great deal of the frustration and yes, anger, we all feel about why our movement against Biological Psychiatry is not at a more advanced stage. We have THE SCIENCE to refute them, a significant number of articulate and outspoken survivors, and a solid number of credentialed doctors, scientists, and other professionals, YET the “Cabaret” still goes on seemingly unabated. In fact, if anything, it is more accurate to say that their oppressive System is stronger than ever, and still getting stronger every day. How do we explain this?!

      You said in the above comment:
      “I do not know if the culture here is a barrier to more professionals engaging with MIA, but I think it is possible…. But I also think there are lots of other people like me, who support MIA’s mission but who are hesitant to engage with this community because of its culture. And also, perhaps, because they are more interested in discussing certain issues with their peers than with a general audience.”

      Brett, you are a firm believer in science and the scientific method. You, indeed, practice it in both your writings and in your professional work. Yet, in the above statement you used the phrases “I do not know,” once and “I think,” twice, and the phrase “perhaps because” once. And then you followed those phrases with a predetermined (possibly subjective) conclusion as to why MIA and our movement is not growing faster. And that conclusion was your proposed belief that it must be all the edgy and sometimes combative discourse that takes place in discussions that follow MIA blogs.

      Respectfully, Brett, you have seriously veered away from the scientific method here and perhaps imposed a conclusion (out of our universal feelings of frustration and anger with this f@#king System) that flows more from your own subjective discomfort with contentious debate, and yes, sometimes dialogue that comes across as personal and cutting. While I have somewhat steeled myself against over reacting to this, I can’t tell you how much sleep I’ve lost and emotional stress I’ve experienced when my blogs are up and the debate and discussion gets pretty hot.

      I’m not a survivor, so my words are especially scrutinized by many readers here. But I’m OK with that, because we have to endure these pressures if we truly want to change the world. And I also know many therapists who do harmful things in their work.

      The same sort of contradictions are present when white people are involved in Black Lives Matter or men are involved in struggles against women’s oppression. This System has placed enormous barriers of racism, sexism, classism and the endless other divisions created by this System, including between psych survivors and professionals working in an oppressive “mental health” system. We all have to work through this, and yes, suffer with some angst and anxiety when people disagree with us etc.

      I believe the future success of MIA and its mission must involve a foundation (including a growing number of developing leaders) of outspoken, and YES, edgy, articulate, and sometimes openly angry victims/survivors who educate us professionals about the true underbelly of this oppressive System. Those same survivors also need to be open to learning a few things from the scientists, professionals, and other intellectuals who have the skills to use science against our enemies who operate this gulag.

      MIA would not even exist without the original core of survivors who were the impetus and inspiration for this entire project, and have been the heart and soul of Robert Whitaker’s books. The future of this endeavor must, and will, involve a growing core of activist survivors, or it will fail and fade into obscurity.

      I believe the MAIN reason why it has been SO difficult to grow our movement is because we have underestimated exactly what we are up against. Biological Psychiatry, in collusion with Big Pharma, has literally spent several hundred BILLION dollars over the past 4 decades on the biggest PR campaign in history to perpetrate some of the most deadly myths in human history. This mythology is deeply imbedded throughout the entire population, both among those who are highly educated and those who are functionally illiterate.

      Let’s be clear, we are up against an empire here and Trump’s new appointee for “mental health” has already declared her desire to INCREASE the power of BIOLOGICAL PSYCHIATRY in the coming period.

      Brett, don’t let these frustrations get the best of you and/or let the System turn us all inward fighting among ourselves, resorting to subjective type conclusions for why our movement is not growing more at this time. Try to remain as scientific in your personal efforts to dialogue at MIA as you are in your professional life.

      Let’s all take a deep breath, and then dig back into all the rich discussions here at MIA and struggle (including within ourselves) with searching for a deeper understanding of the truth and finding the ways to ultimately bring down this Beast of a f$%king System. Carry on.


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  34. Given this guy’s attitude (as well as his statements) I have no idea why you think he in any way shares your goal of bringing down the system. He seems much more interested in being a revered spokesperson for liberal “critical psychiatry” platitudes. And he is appealing to MIA to censor our irritating “survivor criticisms” so he doesn’t have to “waste time” having to read them. Fuck that. For me that’s the only issue here right now.

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    • Oldhead

      Who says he has to share my “goal of bringing down the system.” You are being just as subjective in your own impatience with this f#$king System as he is, only in a different and more “ultra left” way.

      Did you read Brett’s comment above? Did you you not pick up on his frustration trying to make change against all these overwhelming powerful forces out there? Did you you not pick up on his personal admission that he has difficulty with contentious discussions? We both have no idea of what personal experiences Brett has endured in his life that might make him more sensitive to this sort of dialogue.

      Sometimes it’s hard for me and many others that participate here to deal with certain comments and difficult exchanges. Some are more seasoned and experienced than others. I believe it is his frustration with the System and his personal difficulty with certain exchanges that led Brett to make what both you and I believe are bad proposals for how MIA’s blog dialogue should be operated. This does not make him some “enemy” that deliberately wants to take down MIA and destroy its vital core.

      MIA does NOT have a revolutionary agenda, nor should we expect it to have one. It is a “community” of people seeking the truth about what is going on with this oppressive (my description) “mental health” system and seeking solutions for those harmed by it.

      Oldhead, if you are really interested in changing this f#$king System you’re going to have to figure out how to communicate with people like Brett and James (the author of this blog) and others not at your level of critique or political experience, or you’ll end up in some corner somewhere hurling insults at people, and not advancing this cause much.

      Sometimes you act like you can’t discern the difference between your enemies and your potential friends in the Long March we are on in this movement. I stand with you in your overall anti-Psychiatry critique, but some of your methods of struggle need some adjustment, Comrade.

      I disagree with Brett on a few important issues, BUT he is still on OUR side of the barricades and we must work toward “uniting all who can be united” in this struggle to build a broad based movement. Oldhead, why aren’t you attempting to win over Brett to your perspective instead of assuming that he will hold onto, forever, what it is you think he needs to change???

      Respectfully, Richard

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      • I don’t care if he changes. These are not the people I’m interested in uniting with in any but the broadest terms — certainly I’m not going to validate his delusions of his own importance when he thinks he has the right to squelch us; by advocating for this he has clearly aligned himself against us. My goal is to change the balance of power so that the opinions of him and his ilk don’t matter either way. If he reaches a point where he wants to recant his attitude and start fighting the real enemy I’m sure people would be open to that and give him a chance.

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  35. Richard, I appreciate your thoughtful post(s). Thank you, sincerely. I certainly, obviously share your frustration/anger at a broken mental health system that shows no signs of reform despite a mountain of scientific evidence highlighting the urgent need for it. I have fought the good fight for years and will continue to do so in the future regardless of my involvement (or lack thereof) here. In my view, trying to change psychiatry from within is a lost cause, for reasons described in Bob’s book (with Lisa Cosgrove) Psychiatry Under the Influence. My hope lies in changing the hearts and minds of other mental health professions, principally psychology which has the most power to challenge biological psychiatry. I’m interested in facilitating actual change, not just ranting with like-minded frustrated people in an echo chamber. And so, my thoughts turn to how and where to invest the limited time I have available in order to affect positive change in my own profession.

    As I said before, it’s frustrating that to my knowledge not a single one of my 5000+ fellow ABCT members has chosen to engage in this community despite information about MIA and issues related to its mission being widely disseminated. I don’t think the enormously successful PR campaign of biological psychiatry, by itself, is a satisfactory explanation. I suspect that the average person in my profession, upon reading this blog post and the full comments that follow, would decide that the culture here is sufficiently hostile that their participation would be more trouble than it is worth. I’m not defending such a decision, simply pointing out that it seems likely.

    Personally, I’d like MIA to be more welcoming to professionals friendly to MIA’s mission. Indeed, some colleagues and I have discussed the idea of a site where like-minded professionals from around the world could meet to share our perspectives and practices about issues related to teaching, science, practice, and so on (e.g., what abnormal psychology textbook to use? anybody have lecture slides to share on the DSM? what articles should I assign to facilitate a critical discussion on the biomedical model?). It did not occur to me, when I suggested the possibility of a place at MIA where professionals could chat just with other professionals, that I had just “declared war on survivors.” The discussion in which that comment occurred suggests to me that MIA will continue to be an especially challenging environment for many professionals who might otherwise participate here, and that seems an unfortunate but largely inevitable consequence of the strong survivor voice that is present here. I understand where that voice comes from, I fully support its presence here, and I am not questioning its righteousness, but I do think it is worth considering the effect it has in limiting MIA’s reach and impact into the mental health professions, and thinking about possible solutions for mitigating these effects.

    I used to think active involvement at MIA might be an effective means of affecting positive change in my own profession, but I don’t have any evidence to suggest that is the case, or to realistically hope that it will be in the future. That leaves me being here as a part of this community for my own sake, to interact with people who share my commitment to MIA’s mission. I know discussions can be contentious in this community, but the present discussion sets a new bar in my experience for unwarranted (not to mention unmoderated) vitriol. I have reasonably thick skin but every person has their limit and I have reached mine. Steve, you make an excellent point: “The voice of the oppressed can be harsh, especially toward the perceived authorities, but that is a function of the trauma they have experienced and their righteous rage, not necessarily any reflection on you and your contributions to the movement.” I completely agree, and also agree with the value of hearing behind the anger. You excel at this, as do Richard and Sandy. I think I find it difficult to do this as well as you all when my character is being repeatedly insulted. Anyway, the dealing with a harsh (often aggressively so) environment here seems to be the price mental health professionals can expect to pay when they engage in this community. So far, perhaps a few dozen professionals have been consistently willing to do so, but that’s it. I’d like to see a few hundred professionals here. I’d encourage MIA to think about whether this kind of environment, whatever the reasons for its existence, is conducive to achieving success with respect to its mission.

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    • Brett

      Thanks for that thoughtful and personal response.

      I still believe that MIA must retain and nurture its solid survivor base with all its edginess and yes, anger at times, in order to continue its mission. In fact, I would say that in many ways this “voice of survivor” edginess actually attracts many professionals to come here and explore in a deep going way the actual effects that this system, and those of us that work in it, are having on the very people we are suppose to be serving.

      Some professional people may be hesitant to write or comment here, but I believe they DO VERY MUCH want to know what is truly on the minds and in the hearts of those they profess to serve. AND I believe those same professional people want very much to be accepted into this community by the most ardent and critical survivor activists.

      This whole process may take some time because the overwhelming majority of professionals do not yet truly understand the inherent nature of the power differential in their relationship with their client/patient relationship, or understand the terrible harm perpetrated by this System.

      Brett, I remember a previous period a few years ago when you stepped back form participating at MIA for the very same reasons. BUT you came back again to try and fit in and actively participate. I am confident that your heart is in the right place and you will, indeed, be back with us in due time for another try. Next time, don’t wait so long OR reconsider now, and push on through all your reservations and fears.

      There are many people here who want you to be participating in this community and witness the changes that you (and all of us) will go through in the coming period of intense struggle against the EVIL EMPIRE (I do not use this term lightly) of psychiatric oppression.

      Respectfully, Richard

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    • HI Brett,

      I want to thank you for your latest response here and also for the work you have done over the years to promote MIA’s mission. I am glad that you described all that you have done over the years in your previous post, I found it very helpful to know about your contributions. It will make me sad if after this comment thread you won’t feel comfortable to post here. I hope you will reconsider.

      In my previous comment I expressed my deep concern about creating a MIA site for professionals and this continues to be something very, very important to me. I think my worry over this suggestion overrode everything else that people were discussing. I personally feel okay about people posting and choosing to turn the comment button off. (Although I would prefer to hear the blogs with comments, I would rather read the blogs with no comments than not have the blogs at all.)

      My deep concern over a ‘professional only’ site mirrors something that has recently happened in my community which may in part be why I found your comment so difficult to read. Although for privacy reasons I won’t go into too much detail, my 24/7 experience supporting a loved one in extreme distress for years , did not ‘qualify’ me to work with people trying to promote change in the system. Although this in itself might have been understandable, (perhaps there were things about me personally that did not seem conducive to the group’s mission); however, at the same time, a ‘professional’ whom we recently hired and who was not known to the group (and who had no other experience or training in the area of extreme distress then what we provided), WAS considered to be an appropriate candidate. (If this professional had joined, they would have had to draw from our family’s situation as their contribution to the group!)

      I believe this kind of devaluing of experience happens very frequently to both people with lived experience and their families even from the most well meaning, thoughtful people. I believe it is very common to have professionals ‘speak for’ people with lived experience and their families and I think MIA is one place where that does not happen. I think division into ‘groups’ of professional from non professional people in the area of human distress is very, very problematic and can lead to all sorts of wrong directions as has happened so frequently in the past. “Nothing about us, without us” seems to me to be a very important motto for people to keep in the back of their minds when they strive to support those who suffer in this way.

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    • Brett, I really appreciate this reply – it certainly reflects that you fully read and digested my comments, and I feel fully heard. It is actually quite a conundrum to me: I’d really LIKE to have lots of mental health professionals join this site and the movement in general, and I know that angry survivor voices most likely impede that; at the same time, the main REASON I’d like to see more professionals is because we generally don’t pay attention to or block out the very voice that is being expressed here. I don’t see any real progress in the field until and unless hearing the voice of those harmed by the system, and even those not yet harmed but who are at high risk to become so, becomes the PRIMARY voice by which we operate.

      I was fortunate to come into the mental health field by the “back door,” so to speak (my MS is in Education, actually), and I was in a position initially where I had very little theoretical training but a lot of compassion, and I actually developed my initial knowledge base almost entirely from talking to clients and seeing what they needed and how they reacted to my approach. Of course, I made lots of mistakes, but I did so with an open heart and an open mind and was almost always prepared to be corrected by the client’s verbal or nonverbal communications. I think this last part is what many professionals are lacking, and the DSM and the current system of dismissing trauma and blaming the victim makes it WAY too easy for professionals to dismiss their clients’ righteous indignation (at them or at their previous traumatizers) as irrelevant or “inappropriate” (I HATE that term!) That absolutely HAS to change – the client’s emotions and reactions and information HAVE to be the basis of all we do, or there is really no point in putting ourselves out there as helpers. Which is why my initial reaction to this idea of “correcting” the perceptions of others was so strong – it just plain doesn’t work, and it leads to exactly the kind of anger we’ve seen on this thread. Survivors of the MH system are not ever going to be OK with having their own realities invalidated, because it’s happened WAY too many times both before and after entering “the system.”

      That being said, I really do appreciate your efforts and I also really do understand your frustrations. As I said, it is a conundrum of major proportions. All in all, I’m really glad this discussion happened, and in my view, by taking the risk of expressing your own experience here, you were a catalyst for the conversation going much deeper than it otherwise would have gone, and I really appreciate you for putting yourself out there and taking some hits to get folks to dig down deeper. I hope you can reflect back on what’s happened and see the value in the discussion, even though I know it caused you some personal pain to participate.

      Thanks again for all you have done to move this project along!

      —- Steve

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  36. Back when the Roman Empire was in it’s heyday could anyone even of imagined someone even asking the authorities verbally to stop the practice of crucifixion ? It was the authorities version of “shock and awe” to keep the population in line, or else, you know what’s going to happen .” I built the colosseum for you, what else you expect from me .” They had a consensus reality they insisted you believe .After Rome fell I guess at some point crucifixion stopped.
    Psychiatry is getting even stronger in spite of our hopes and efforts because people in prisons and those captured by psychiatry and i’m sure others, are used to keep the rest of the population in line . Showing the pharmaceutical matrix which includes psychiatry and other professionals, the real science , makes no difference to them .They long ago realized that pseudo science (” science is whatever I say it is”) backed by enough dollars, facilitates their goals of some kind of twisted eugenics ,the boost they get from power, the right to do whatever they want without any interference tolerated whatever the cost humanity must pay.
    They talk and do but why considering that Harvard Psychiatric Clinic is in the leadership of psychiatry altogether do not all the alumni of Harvard whose words appear here at MIA, together lead a demonstration at the gates of this Clinic. Get maybe some mainstream media attention and at least maybe put a monkey wrench in the growing snowball of psychiatric oppression .
    Meanwhile information must be available to the population on how a human being can avoid the pharma psychiatric dragnet . Survivors working together can do this. Meanwhile MIA cannot be Missing In Action when it comes to supporting anti – psychiatry ,the voices of survivors , the voices of future survivors, and any assault on human rights . Many of our problems here could well be that people with degrees that have not spent time in the frying pan and fire of psychiatry, hallucinate that their points of view should have more weight than those of survivors . And that furthur more that the words of survivors can be beat down and clubbed with the word antidotal.
    Emmaline, please reconsider and let our voices be heard .
    Thank you, Fred

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  37. As I have been traveling, I just came onto this conversation. I have to say it leaves me feeling disheartened.

    MIA’s mission is simple: We believe the current paradigm of care is harmful (and based on a “narrative of science” that is belied by the science,) and needs to be rethought. We believe that this “rethinking” should involve people with different experiences and different ideas: people with lived experience, professionals, family members, philosophers, social workers and so forth. It really is meant to be a forum for expressing diverse opinions, with the only unifying thought that the current paradigm needs to be rethought.

    Given this mission, we can be a place where people write about the goal of “abolishing psychiatry.” At the same time, we can have people write about how to “reform” psychiatry. And we can have discussions about how to think about “psychosis,” “diagnosis”” and so forth, and MIA’s position is meant to be this: WE DON’T HAVE THE ANSWERS. We only know that the current biological narrative that governs societal thinking about psychiatry and its treatments is a false one, and thus needs to be rethought. And that rethinking happens when a diversity of voices can be listened to and respected, even when the views may be different than one’s own.

    But we are struggling in this mission for the very reason that is articulated here: there are many, many people who have quit blogging on MIA, including people with lived experience and including people who come from a psychiatric survivor perspective, because they think the comments turn hostile too quickly (and personally so.) And our ability to moderate comments is an impossible task: it is so hard to say where to draw a line that tries to protect civil discourse and disagreement, without being seen as censoring comments.

    Our inability to manage this, to create an environment that promotes comments (which can be so important), and yet allows for writers to voice different opinions without feeling that it takes a “thick skin” to write on MIA, leaves me feeling disheartened, and feeling like we have failed. And I also believe this, unless we can be a forum for a diverse group of voices, then MIA will fail in its mission to help foster a new narrative about “mental health.”

    Allowing writers to turn off comments is an imperfect solution. I don’t like it. But if we are going to try to have a diverse group of writers here, it seems like a necessary step.

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    • You know, I think that when many people write things like these blogs they do so pretty much from their own viewpoint without much thought a lot of times to the many and various groups who do not believe as they do about particular subjects. Boy……that was one long sentence. Then, these writers are shocked when things blow up all over the place. It’s like that Congressman who stated at his town hall meeting that no one ever dies because they don’t have health insurance. I suspect that he truly believes that but his audience knew that his statement was not correct.

      In my work I just assumed that all people locked in psychiatric institutions want a life beyond the walls of the institution and that they want to be recovered and have health and healing and well-being. Well, I’ve been disabused of that thought numerous times in the past seven years and it still amazes me that everyone doesn’t feel the way that I do. I used to go around asking myself the question, “What is wrong with people……..why do they want to believe that they are ill?”. What I’ve learned is that it’s their right to believe that they are ill, no matter what I believe and what I want them to believe. What this has taught me to do is to evaluate anything that I write for the “hospital” community at large and everything that I say to groups, both “patients” and staff. Many of the staff don’t even believe that recovery is possible for people of our experience.

      Although I do not agree with each and every group that I deal with at the “hospital” I have to struggle to understand where they’re coming from in their understanding. Otherwise, I will never learn how to talk with them. It aggravates the bejesus out of me to have to do so but I must do this if I’m going to be of any value to what is going on in that place. The experience has taught me a lot about me not having all the truth about everything, it’s sort of been like trying to develop some cultural competence because the groups within the “hospital” are different cultures and the people who come to MIA are kind of like different cultures.

      I believe that Dr. Steingard and Dr. Joanna Moncrief are two examples of people who have learned how to look at the total broad picture. When they blog here they bring that viewpoint and understanding and seem to rile tempers very little. When there is disagreement between them and some of us they’re able to handle the disagreements with finesse and intelligence and there is very little shedding of blood that takes place. Not all professionals who blog here have developed such an understanding as these two women have developed. We on our side are not as restrained as we could be at times and the bloggers get their defensive hackles up and the battle begins. As far as people with lived experience who blog here; I believe that when contention develops the issue most of the time seems to be the taking of the psychiatric, psychoactive drugs. This makes my hackles go up because I cannot understand why anyone would want to take the things. But what I’ve learned is that I don’t have to respond to a writer when I disagree with them. I can read what they have to say and then move on.

      This is what I am afraid will be destroyed here at MIA if you institute this new policy of yours. I don’t think the blogs are nearly as important as the discussions that are created from the blogs. It takes time and effort to change one’s thinking. I feel sometimes that the expectation is that we survivors and ex-patients are the ones who need to do this while the professionals who blog here are kind of exempt from doing so. This is a two way street.

      The thing that shocks me the most is that you seem to be giving up on this. I don’t know the situations that exist behind the scenes of MIA and I suspect that it’s a real struggle to keep everything moving forward, but I never thought that you’d consider closing comments to blogs. This is disheartening.

      I apologize for such a rambling post.

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    • Alright, those totalitarians who wish to end dialogue, will have no dialogue, hopefully, not ending dialogue altogether. I presume discussion on various posts can continue in forum if need be. I just want to point out that this kind of decision would not be an advance for freedom of speech (and thought for that matter), and as a result, MIA may be hurt by it in the long run as a result. “De-voicing” people who use this website is certainly not going to increase its appeal among those same people, and some of those “de-voiced” people are likely to feel that the time has come to flee to more accommodating, and less threatening, quarters.

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    • Bob

      Thanks for this response to such an important and intense process that is occurring within this vital social justice resource that you were so instrumental in creating.

      I still strongly advocate for a policy that ALL people who blog here should be required to participate in some way or level in the discussion that follows their publication. Even if that participation (because of time constraints and other responsibilities) can only be one summarized response at the end of the discussion addressing some of the main themes etc.

      Don’t forget that all the authors publishing blogs here at MIA are getting the ENORMOUS PRIVILEGE to promote their ideas, their reputation, their books, and even their BRAND, if you will (some make a living off of their writings and business endeavors related to their writing interests), to a broad internet audience. MIA has grown in readership significantly over the last few years, so this is no small opportunity and privilege that authors are given.

      The least they (the authors) can do is make an effort to provide some give and take with the readership base of this blog. And Bob, I hope you are hearing how vitally important these comment sections have been, especially to survivors who read at MIA on a regular basis. Some people have stated that they learn more from the discussions than the actual blogs themselves.

      IF IF IF you decide to allow some authors to close discussions (and I hope you don’t), then I would hope you make sure you impress upon ALL authors that you would STRONGLY PREFER that they engage with the readership, and NOT allow these closed blogs to become even close to a “norm” at MIA.

      Recently, the two nutrition writers who promote their books and “brand” at MIA closed off such a discussion after a few people raised some legitimate questions. These questions were not raised (in my opinion) in any kind of a hostile way, but they were “pointed” probings of exactly what was being promoted in the writings. I felt this may have fueled the beginnings of a bad precedent or direction here at MIA.

      Is it not also the role of MIA moderators to “soothe” the egos of some authors and help clarify what readers are REALLY asking of the authors? So that they can see that they are not being “attacked” by these questions, and that further dialogue and clarification would only enhance our efforts to arrive at the truth of the matter being discussed, and actually advance EVERYONE’S goal of improving scholarship and knowledge.

      More food for thought – ONWARD!

      Respectfully, Richard

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      • Richard, I’ll reply to your last question as it pertains to me. The role of MIA moderators is ultimately just to remove comments that aren’t in line with our posting guidelines. When I was the moderator I did attempt to mediate between authors and commenters at times, and generally tried to help people understand where others were coming from. So maybe that’s where you got that impression.

        As for allowing writers to close the comments, we’ve actually been doing that for some time now, when it was requested, and a few blogs have been published that way. The main difference with the recent decision is that we’ll be offering this as an option rather than waiting for writers to get so fed up with the comments that they request it. This way comments will effectively be “opt-in.” So far, everyone offered the option has opted in, and that will likely remain the case for the most part.

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        • Emmeline

          Thanks for that response.

          That still doesn’t answer the point about what efforts will MIA make (in delineating a preferred policy based on its overall mission etc.) in attempting to persuade all bloggers about the value AND importance of participating in discussions to enhance the search for the truth and the ultimate goal of social justice.


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          • Oh, and I’d like to add the point that I believe someone (the moderator or someone else) should attempt to do what you did in the past. That is, act as a go between – between blogger and commenters – when the blog comment section hits some serious turbulence.

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          • That would be ideal, yeah. But as you might imagine it can be pretty challenging, and moderating is already very difficult work. We’ve burned through a string of moderators at this point — it requires an even thicker skin than being a blogger, and a pretty specific skill set. It also takes up a lot of organizational resources, which are not infinite.

            As for your other question: we do see value in bloggers participating in discussions, and we could make that more clear in our invitations. But we’re not going to make responding to comments a requirement or attempt to persuade writers to do anything they don’t have time to do or don’t feel comfortable doing. They are already participating in the ‘give and take’ by sharing their work here.

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          • Emmeline

            Have you considered this. In the future, this policy may force people like myself to just go ahead and write an entire blog that is a devastating critique (within the appropriate standards of writing) of the prior (silent) author, as a follow up to a particular blog.

            I bet you might see that author suddenly appear in your comment section when her/his viewpoint/positions are totally deconstructed by other commenters and the new author, her/himself.

            As you know, I eventually did this once at your suggestion to deescalate a particularly hot comment section. Although the blog came out several months later and was also very hot in the comment section, the final result (after my actual testimony for the MA benzo bill) was a very rewarding reconciliation among almost everyone involved.


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          • BTW, I didn’t mean to imply that my blog was a “devastating critique” of another blog. In fact, in that case I praised that blog and agreed with the essence of the blog, but only that it was essential to raise some important secondary points that the original author left out.

            Just needed to clarify my prior post.


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      • Richard, I know that your suggestion about MiA encouraging writers to engage in the comment section is coming from a good place, but I would disagree with you on this. MiA’s whole problem is that they need more people to write. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense for them to place additional expectations on bloggers.

        I think that they should do the opposite, actually. They should make it clear to all bloggers that they have no duty to participate in the comment section unless they want to. As has been mentioned, there are already bloggers who don’t. That’s why this whole business of now allowing bloggers to “opt-in” to comments doesn’t make any logical sense. They could always opt-in or not. This is more about protecting bloggers from questions and criticism, and it is a horrible idea.

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        • Uprising

          I see no evidence that there is a lack of bloggers trying to be published at MIA. The blogs keep coming and coming, and many from first time writers. And sometimes I even lament that fact when my blogs so quickly get pushed down to the bottom of the front page and then off the screen.

          Let’s hope that MIA becomes so popular (with tons of good blogs submitted) and widely read that MIA staff can set the terms more decisively about required participation.


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          • No, I don’t. In fact, I even have a hard time with glibness such as yours.

            However, your argument here is preposterous. It is not the job of your readers to provide “safe space” for your bloggers, especially when the majority of your bloggers are “mental health” professionals, and the majority of commenters have been psychiatrized.

            Please take responsibility for your own website and moderate comments that cross a line, and tolerate comments that don’t.

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          • We can and do moderate comments that cross a line, but that doesn’t undo their damage when authors have already seen them. The only real solution for that would be to make all comments go into the moderation queue to be approved before they appear, which would result in considerable delays in communication.

            No one’s arguing that it’s “the job of readers to provide ‘safe space'” (whatever that means). It’s the responsibility of this organization to manage our website in the way we think is best. And that’s what we’re doing.

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        • I think this is a good point. David Healy has never responded to comments made about his blogs and he gets some difficult comments due to his acceptance of shock treatments as good treatment. This doesn’t seem to stop him from posting blogs when he desires to do so.

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    • Regarding “Allowing writers to turn off comments”
      This would go with the supply and demand for new material for the website. If there is a lack of material for the website, yes I agree with allowing writers to turn off comments.
      If comments are disabled on a post it is a reflection on the writer and no big deal in my opinion.

      Keeping the website healthy is the most important thing as it is a place for disseminating alternate opinions and facts on the success of psychiatric treatments.

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    • I actually believe that this discussion was a very healthy one in many ways, and is full of learning opportunities if we can all put our hurt feelings aside.

      There are some comments which possibly could have been moderated, but the rate of comments is so fast, I’m not sure it’s realistic for anyone to intervene quickly enough. But I still find discussions like this INCREDIBLY valuable, because we are now discussion one of the most fundamental problems/issues/conflicts with the current system, not just the mental health system but our social system as a whole: WHO GETS TO DEFINE WHAT IS TRUE/REAL/VALID? And it’s not an easy question!!!

      I would exhort ALL posters to take this thread as a lesson on how important it is to be respectful and to own our own views without invalidating others who post. After all, isn’t that the very thing our most passionate posters are objecting to? The idea that “mental health professionals” are allowed to invalidate your reality? Well, let’s not do that to our allies in the mental health professions, either, or better yet, let’s all commit not do that to ANYONE who posts here!

      There are many professionals who have been extremely courageous in their battle to make things better for those condemned to interact with the system for whatever reason, and Brett and James are certainly two who qualify. If they say something that we object to, let’s treat them the way we’d want to be treated, respecting their viewpoint while respectfully disagreeing and expressing our own. Let’s model how helpful human interaction SHOULD be right here on our site! Similarly, we who come from a more professional background, let’s understand that feelings will get strong in this kind of discussion, for very good reasons, and let’s not take it personally and use our best professional skills to moderate the conversations ourselves rather than escalate them with our own emotional reactions.

      “Be the change you want to see in the world” – we can do this, all of us, right now. It’s really the best, maybe the only way to counter the crappy treatment that so many authorities dish out.

      In the end, this was a very valuable discussion. It will be more readable and will affect more people in the way we want it to if we ALL take the time to moderate our own comments, as well as accepting it if we may have offended someone else and taking steps to make it right. Stephen is right (as usual) – if we consider that we’re dealing with very different cultures colliding here, and act accordingly, we’ll come out much stronger and more effective in the end.

      — Steve

      P.S. One last thought – I wonder if we might have a cadre of “on-call” moderators available for the times when a discussion like this one gets big and deep and powerful? I’d be happy to volunteer for that role. Emmeline, let me know if you’re interested!

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    • You know Robert, I had a way thin skin when psychiatry assaulted me over a 40 year span and not just with words .Repeated forced injections with poisonous substances ,forced tie downs , forced electricity, Verbal torture beyond belief with calculated lies, solitary confinement , the taking of my only child from me.Essentially I was dead man walking many times . So people like me can’t comment back to Brett because he can’t handle the truth. How is that going to do us any good . If you need an honest wise Blogger ask Julie the mad blogger to blog . She’s great for people that want to learn truth . And have people ask me questions. Let me have a column “Ask Fred” I’m 70 years old been around the block and have real helpful answers. Of course i don’t know everything and yet more than anyone could imagine. And I mean for free to help others .Thanks , Fred

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    • I imagine it is not easy Robert.
      I think it is important to remember that survivors do not need or want others to define them or “MI”. And exactly because of the mission of “rethinking”, I hardly think it can ever happen if it remains a professional voice only.
      And so we come to an issue of whether we are personally offended by a person who comments. It seems the authors and other “MI” helpers get offended. But I am very curious about this since Subjects in “MI” care are ALWAYS challenged on being “offended”.
      And I can guarantee that conversations do indeed shut down, NOT because of one person being the one who “shut down dialogue”, but because they completely disagree with each other.
      Obviously this happens among “professionals” way more than they would like to admit. They either just go along with each other despite not in agreement, or part ways and I can assure you that many of us have experienced not seeing eye to eye in our daily lives that have zero to do with “charged” beliefs, and even those small inconsequential discourses cause grief and hurt feelings, shutting down and walking away.
      I for one do not want to be portrayed as the conduit that shut down dialogue and certainly not by “professionals”. I see it as the bullying controlling paradigm that is already telling us what normal is and I really don’t want to be told or guided in how to respond to a writer in that “normal” way. ALL our responses come from experience or perceptions. So do those from the “professionals.
      And it is just an excuse to paint the commentors as “argumentative”. The excuse is because they run out of arguments to sustain a narrative. You would think if they wanted to “change” a system, they would not look towards reform without taking in what the actual subjects that they make their money off are saying.

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  38. MIA have no-chance at all, to *re-think* mental health! And zero chance, to change stone *hearts* of MH experts. Most of Psychologists and Psychiatrists will defend their own professions and *institute* inside cursed MH System. System is totally wicked and corrupted. And *it* *takes* 8 millions of lives, each year. Such are *death* *stats* of MH System, according to NIMH *research*, *about* *mortality* in MH System. And are Psychologists really humanists? Majority of them will condemn animal *torture*, but never a torture of
    us crazies in MH System!

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  39. Not one comment here and not a single person who wrote them, didn’t *violate* any MIA *posting* *guidelines* at all! Only Brett did! Apperently there is *someone* who wants to *eliminate* one of few websites on *web*, where people can still *tell* truth about MH System.

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  40. Why do I comment here? 40 years a prisoner of psychiatry then becoming a “treatment free” psychiatric survivor. I’m 70 years old . I’m a beacon of hope and a wellspring of experience and knowledge backed by lived experience. MIA needs my input as much as a human being needs air whether they know it or not. Within my comments are some major keys to becoming free from the clutches of psychiatry. I’ll tell you what , even the “professionals” who think psychiatry is mostly marvelous will one day find out just what psychiatry is , unless they figure out how to avoid the nursing home.
    One question , how if a commenter stops commenting can a reader access their past comments ?
    I most always find the comments from psych survivors more important than blogs by non survivors. I must say that Robert Whitaker’s writing gave me enough hope and info to help me withdraw myself finally from haldol when before that I had believed that maybe I had a brain disease and would be on it for the rest of my life . I remain forever grateful and anti- psychiatry forever. Pseudo-science pharma and psychiatry are in effect a human created replicating plague for profit and control.Tyranny in action .That’s what we should be discussing , how to effectively crush this Tyranny.

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  41. Hi all,

    I am saddened and frustrated to see the direction MIA are looking to take following this discussion. I do not believe it is the best interests of MIA and those have come to participate here to change the current format. I defended the post by James and the comments by Brett initially and the efforts they are making. I stand by this defence and support for both of them. However I do not see the need for any changes due to the feedback from both of them. I say this as people have already outlined the need for people to be able to respond to any posts/comments and not give those deemed ‘professionals’ a safe space from criticism/anger/frustration/challenges/resentment, etc. I think ‘professionals’ hearing and experiencing some of this may actually reveal to them the depth of suffering their professions have caused. From working with psychiatrists especially I know that they can often be in an echo chamber of praise and ego massaging. I know that some ‘professionals’ may not have contributed much, if anything, to this suffering but inevitably some guilt by association/representation is going to come up. (Note: by putting ‘professionals’ in inverted commas I am not questioning Brett and James’ professionalism rather highlighting how hard this term is to define in the first place and where you would put people like myself who has a lived experience, a MSc Psychology degree and now works as a paid peer).

    I think coming here you have to expect some serious challenges and criticism. Kindredspirit has shared her story (who I feel did the main pushing back) and highlighted why she pushes back against authority as she does. This is really understandable. If ‘professionals’ aren’t willing to participate in a discussion forum because they feel that there is some hostility towards them when they do, then I really question whether these ‘professionals’ should be working with people who have been incredibly damaged by the system or authorities in the first place. Inevitably some of the angry, criticism, resentment will be transferred to the ‘professional’. If a ‘professional’ can not tolerate this reaction or decides to chastise the person for it or has the inability to work through it with the person then I really question whether they are in the right profession.

    This pushing back against authority or the system is what you can expect from people screwed over by the system or authority. For example, I went to a ward community meeting last week and told people I am a peer support worker with a certain organisation. A woman had previous experience with this organisation where she said they played a role in getting her kids taken off her and she told me to ‘f off’. Now I felt hurt by this as it hurts to be told that but I had to steady myself and try to see what I represented to her. The woman left the meeting shortly after that. I will probably be at the meeting again next week again and I may see her again. I won’t be avoiding interaction with her. I will be trying to gain her trust in whatever way I can by being open, authentic and compassionate in my approach with her but she may never trust this organisation again. That will not stop me trying to get to know her story and trying to show her that I am on her side and in her corner.

    Brett and James, I know that you both have worked hard to become psychologists and you may not get much recognition or praise from your colleagues who are steeped in the medical model and you probably both come up against challenges with colleagues and management and now here you both are getting challenges and criticism from those you are trying to help. You could have been or could be like Dr Monique Faleafa, who is the deputy chair of the NZ Psychology Board, executive director of a major mental health provider in NZ, gets to travel all over the world and who also received the prestigious NZ Order of Merit amongst other continuous pats on the back for promoting the idea of ‘mental illness’ and the need for early intervention. But you probably ain’t ever gonna get this sort of public recognition/reward while fighting for the MIA cause and you will get lambasted by all sides at times. However, to use a Biblical analogy, this is your cross to carry. Trying to change the way things are currently done is not going to be an easy fight. Instead of warning professionals away from this site because of the perceived culture perhaps just make them aware of this by explaining how some people and commentators here are very skeptical of any ‘professional’ due to their horrific experiences. Instead of considering the need for MIA to alter its forum how about ‘professionals’ show a bit more understanding and commit to working that bit harder to earn the trust and respect of those that they are trying to help.

    I still think that comments that you both said were missed and that there was some sharp or edgy criticism but that is going to come with the territory. You also have some comments of thanks, praise and encouragement (These are the people helping you carry the cross). I do not feel that MIA needs to step in and change the way things are done currently as from what I have seen the community here seems to be able to moderate themselves well through civil, passionate discourse and exchange of ideas. I fear this change will take away the edginess and will stifle free speech expression. By doing so MIA can shape itself to be an almost perfect circle of tolerance and appropriateness but you may also shave off the people from these edges and those are the ones whose voices have been silenced previously and this could do it again. Brave New World springs to mind here…

    So yeah I don’t see the need for any changes. ‘Professionals’ need to be aware of the environment they may enter into and be ready for hearing from people who their profession has either abused or been complicit in allowing the abuse to happen. If psychology and psychologists want to be seen as more distant from psychiatry well that is up to psychology and psychologists to do so. Brett and James, I hope that you can continue to be role models and advocates for the changes that are needed within psychology and the mental health field. Good luck on your journeys and please keep inviting colleagues/acquaintances this way. While it might not be a typical welcome, e.g. you may find a person who will tell you,in some sense, to ‘f off’, if they continue to make efforts and show that they are committed to the cause they will be given a ‘céad míle fáilte’ (Irish for a ‘hundred thousand welcomes’)

    Changing the format could also affect comments on posts such as those as Vlado whose ideas/advice I criticised myself. If he could have switched to the ‘no comment’ section I believe that his advice, which I and others saw as dangerous and dubious, would have been left unchallenged and could have influenced more people.

    Please let the community moderate itself as much as possible and do not change the current format Robert and Emmeline.

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      • Thanks Sa, I’ve just started expressing myself more online after many years of self reflection, analysis of the work I do/direction I am going in and the current political/social/cultural environment in which I live. It is nice to get your feedback and this comment section/discussion has been really helpful in giving me space to express myself and my ideas. I hope to continue to do so on here.

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    • Just to clarify, this change was not implemented due to James and Brett’s feedback — it had already been decided at a staff meeting several days prior. The discussion here about writers leaving due to the comment section just seemed like a good place to mention it.

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      • Alright, I’m not just frustrated and saddened I am angry and annoyed. I do not like the direction MIA are going and the change that has just been implemented. Why wasn’t this change announced? Who are these writers that are leaving or threatening to leave? Are they mainly psychiatrists, other ‘professionals’? Are they mainly highly educated people who have spent considerable time in leftist-liberal universities? Are they mainly under 35? Are they people who see using psychiatric drugs as positive and feel criticised by people on here for their choices? Who are these people leaving or threatening to leave?

        If psychiatrists or other MH ‘professionals’ feel criticised, well they should realise that this is going to come with the territory. They need to work at gaining the trust of some of the people on here for obvious reasons. I won’t get into this again as I have made my point above.

        In reference to whether people that are leaving or threatening to leave went to liberal universities and or under 35… I say this as it strikes me that these universities are creating people who have been very protected from criticism and potentially offensive remarks due to the rise of extreme political correctedness (which started off as a positive movement to protect minorities but I feel now has morphed into a beast where it has stifled our ability to speak to each other and criticise each other’s ideas), safe spaces and micro-aggressions. I have experienced this while working within a cross-cultural psychology department where if you dared say anything critical about the ideas or practices of a non-white or non-Western culture and you didn’t continuously whip yourself for being a white male you would be considered a ‘racist’ and a ‘sexist’. How would this sort of environment be helpful to open, honest and critical discussions? And where do people go if they don’t know how to speak like this or are rejected by those they try to speak to? I believe that this type of stealth like adherence to the social norm and shutting down of debate and criticism only leads to people feeling more lonely and isolated and makes people seek out groups where their voices can be heard. As Carl Jung said, ‘Loneliness does not come from having no people around, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.’ MIA may do this to people by continuing with this new policy.

        There has been quite a few comments on the dangers of patriarchy and how it can manifest itself in aggressive control and dominance. This is something to be aware of as it has raised its ugly head in our history and continues to do so, particularly in non-Western societies where women’s rights are not equal or protected. I believe that matriarchal control is beginning to become more prominent in Western societies. This, like aggression and anger in certain situations, has its benefits, e.g. compassion and care for the most vulnerable in our societies. However it also has its dark side. This manifests itself in trying to protect everyone from danger and threats in the guise of care and compassion. I experienced this from my mother who would defend me from criticism from my father even if my father was fair and justified in his criticism. I had to move away from my mother and fly the nest to grow as an independent and strong-minded man. You need to be able to hear and learn from justified criticism to develop and defend yourself from that which is unjustified. It does not help to be constantly protected from any criticism. The world is a difficult and scary place at times and you will meet your fair share of assholes along the way so you have to put up with some criticism and challenges and have the tools and skills to face it and/or deal with it. This is particularly true if you want to make a positive difference in the world.

        I have also noted that many of the staff at MIA are young and have spent considerable length of times at the types of liberal-leftist, echo chamber universities I described above. Are you trying to bring this type of ‘enlightened’, politically correct and safe environment to MIA? Are you projecting your experiences of these environments onto this community? Also, not all of us spent so much, if any, time in liberal-leftist environments where we learnt this ultra politically correct, extreme cultural sensitive art form and many of us just know how to speak our minds in straightforward, plain language which used to be common parlance but now is deemed offensive to many and causes severe triggering. For example, it seems like you can’t even say to people they are overweight or just plain ‘fat’ anymore as it’s all about ‘fat pride’. This is not helping people and I feel that pharmaceutical companies are happy with this turn of events as it means people more easily accept the weight gain from their drugs rather than people seeing their weight gain as unpleasant, unhelpful and unhealthy. It seems to me that leftist-liberal universities are turning many people, particularly white men, into cowering, guilt ridden, wimps (has this ‘triggered’ anyone? :)) who virtue signal by showing how culturally sensitive and enlightened they are. I should know. I did this for a while but I have opened my eyes to how damaging shutting down discussions can be by looking and expecting offense or to be offended and then playing the intellectual hero when you call it out.

        And the reason I mention the possibility that people who are on psychiatric drugs being offended and leaving the sites is because trying to remove stigma about taking psychiatric drugs is exactly what pharmaceutical companies want and what they have been working towards. They and psychiatry don’t want society or people to feel bad about taking these drugs and they promote the idea that we shouldn’t judge or criticise people who ‘need’ these drugs. Well, if there are people leaving or thinking of leaving who feel criticised on here for taking drugs and this is helping to change MIA policy well then MIA is playing directly into the hands of the pharmaceutical industry and psychiatry and is beginning to be co-opted by it. As you are probably aware the pharmaceutical and psychiatric industries definitely see MIA as a threat so I would speculate that they have plans to try to damage MIA’s reputation or format. It’s costing them business. There may be people amongst those threatening to leave who are not who or what they seem as well.

        I hope that MIA tries to remain apolitical as this battle against the pharmaceutical industry, psychiatry, its supporters and those tagging along for the ride needs support from all sides. From what I have seen at MIA it verges towards the left and progressivism, which if it goes too far from the centre ends up verging away from liberalism and progressivism and into regressivism and dominant matriarchal control. I would put dominant patriarchal control on the far right. It seems like everyone sees the danger of the far right but not as many see the danger of the far left as it raps itself in the ‘noble’ cause of tolerance,social cohesion and compassion. If acting on these virtues go too far without balancing them with criticism and judgement people and societies can end up in some pretty dark places.

        I hope that MIA can balance itself and not feel it has to continuously protect everyone from everyone else as this is also how psychiatry justified and continues to justify its status and approaches and look where that has got us. Let this be a space where people can grow and learn through passionate exchanges and where freedom of expression takes precedence over people’s feelings and let the individuals and the community decide, as much as possible, where the line is drawn, not MIA staff. I really feel that starting out on the direction you have chosen is a very slippery slope and I hope that you can prevent these slips before it leads to disastrous consequences.

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        • Oh yeah, just wanted to add this piece of research in case anyone thought I was exaggerating with the ‘liberal-leftist echo chamber universities’ remark: http://verdantlabs.com/politics_of_professions/ This suggests 90 out of every 100 professionals in academia and mental health vote Democrat and 100 out of 100 research psychologists (who a large share of the MIA staff are) vote Democrat. Echo chambers are safe places but they are not a good place for challenging and developing oneself and one’s ability to think critically and defend one’s ideas against critical alternative viewpoints. Please do not let MIA become that echo chamber.

          Also this is an interesting bit of research (though it is done by Buzzfeed which has a comparable reliability to the Lancet Psychiatry these days) where it highlights how Democrats are far more likely to be diagnosed with a ‘mental health condition’ than Republicans so while I know that there may be other better explanations from this I would guess that psychiatry, its affiliates and the pharmaceutical industry would only be delighted if more people became or voted Democrats and they would be firmly behind any policies that shut down Republican or Libertarian voices or opinions or people that aren’t steeped in bowing down to political correctedness or people’s sensitivities. I think MIA, unconsciously, may also be moving in that direction which would be a shame: https://www.buzzfeed.com/annanorth/what-your-politics-say-about-your-mental-health?utm_term=.vlqeNGjZr#.bi2A2NJO3

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      • The comments here from Martin are excellent.

        I especially agree with this section: “I have also noted that many of the staff at MIA are young and have spent considerable length of times at the types of liberal-leftist, echo chamber universities I described above. Are you trying to bring this type of ‘enlightened’, politically correct and safe environment to MIA? Are you projecting your experiences of these environments onto this community?”

        As some here know, I am a staunch supporter of free speech, and think MIA’s existing moderated comments sections are valuable and fine as they are, and should not become “optional” depending on the whim of the author.

        Allowing professionals to speak but not be spoken to will not be without consequences – such a decision will result in a loss of credibility for Mad in America in the eyes of many of its supporters, a loss in credibility for those authors who choose to block commenting, and a lack of feedback and learning potential for these authors about both positive and negative aspects of their writing.

        In a way, such a decision will make certain Mad in America articles come to resemble liberal university “safe spaces” in the way Martin describes – and, ironically, may make this aspect of the future MIA similar to what occurs in some closeted professional institutions, where certain party lines cannot be questioned or discussed (in those cases because people are scared of losing their jobs, in the MIA-of-the-future, because the MIA editors have allowed people to speak but not hear feedback).

        The reality is, there are no real undisturbed safe spaces that last for any length of time, and trying to artificially create a pristine, uncriticized environment always results in unforeseen adverse consequences occurring elsewhere in response, just as it does at liberal universities. In this regard, some readers might be interested to see this article which gives an example of one possible “endpoint” of illogical censoring, one which we can only hope that MIA never stoops to:


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        • MartinMc and Matt

          Neither one of you did much with these comments to advance ANY confidence from MIA readers in your ability to advance the causes of social justice beyond perhaps a partial critique of what is wrong with today’s “mental health” system.

          First off, let me be clear where I am coming from, so there will be no attempts by MartinMc to smear me with some kind of liberal democratic brush.

          I am anti-capitalist and condemn both the Democratic and the Republican Party as being tools and instruments of the 1% constituting a ruling class that is an impediment to future of human progress on this planet. They have always been, and will continue to be, totally unable and unwilling to provide any thorough going advance of any forms of social justice for people in this country, and most definitely for people around the world, as they control the number one Imperialist power dominating the world stage.

          My views on MIA policy have been well stated several times in this blog and I will not repeat them again here.

          MartinMC’s critique of MIA staff members and the supposed source of their political decisions about blog policy is shear nonsense cloaked in a sophisticated attack on women’s liberation and other related struggles for social justice in the world.

          MartinMc’s says: “I believe that matriarchal control is beginning to become more prominent in Western societies…”

          Oh, so I guess you believe the struggle for women’s liberation may have gone a bit to far for your liking. And in particular, perhaps the role of women in leadership positions at MIA is the cause of the so-called stifling of the *freedom of speech* of mainly male bloggers in the comment section.

          MartinMC should I anticipate that you believe that perhaps the struggle against racism in America may have also gone too far for your liking, with their being perhaps too many minorities promoted into positions of power in this country. And therefore this has now become the source of some kind of “racist” backlash now oppressing white people.

          Have you somehow forgotten that the political system in this country just took a MAJOR leap in the direction of Fascism with the election of Trump. That every single struggle for human rights, from women’s control of their bodies, gay rights, advances against racial oppression, the struggle against psychiatric oppression, protection of the climate etc. are in serious jeopardy of being set back or wiped out completely.

          MartinMC you allegedly speak out strongly for *free speech* but what direction is the “freedom” moving in regards to the struggles for human rights that I mentioned above. AND please tell us exactly what is YOUR agenda on these vital struggles that you cloaked in a sophisticated rant against MIA moderating policy.

          MartinMC you said: “…where it highlights how Democrats are far more likely to be diagnosed with a ‘mental health condition’ than Republicans so while I know that there may be other better explanations from this I would guess that psychiatry, its affiliates and the pharmaceutical industry would only be delighted if more people became or voted Democrats…”

          Now MartinMC, in this comment you have totally exposed and embarrassed yourself, and once again revealed a not so hidden form and agenda of bias and discrimination against oppressed people in this society. Apparently you believe that people who get diagnosed with “mental illnesses” in this country are the same “numskulls” that fall for the liberal Democratic and/or other types of a Left political agendas.

          As has been proven here at MIA by its publication of legitimate science and correct (is it safe for me to use this word?) political analysis, poor people subjected to all aspects of poverty, racial minorities, women, gay people, transgender people etc. are ALL more likely to be diagnosed with a so-called “mental illness” and drugged in this country.

          The fact that more people from these particular groups vote Democratic proves nothing in this context except that, as expected, – environment trumps biology when it comes to understanding the kinds of social stressors that push human beings beyond their ability to cope. The fact that less Republicans get diagnosed has more to do with their *class* position in society than any other factor you are trying to imply here.

          So MartinMC, if you were trying to offer a well thought out political analysis for why the MIA moderating policy is wrong, you failed miserably. And as much as I agree with some of your initial concerns about the closing down of the comment section of some blogs, I DO NOT want to be within a million miles of the rest of your political analysis.

          And Matt, you have just embarrassed yourself as well, by saying: “The comments here from Martin are excellent.”

          Do you really want to cosign MartinMc’s above comment?


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          • Hi Richard,

            Thanks for your reply. I suppose it might be good for me to outline my political belief/agenda. I would describe myself as anti-corporatism, anti-elitist and anti-globalist. I wouldn’t say I am anti-capitalist as I believe that giving people the opportunity to bargain between themselves about what they are willing to offer each other for their efforts or products while having a limited governmental or judicial process to go to if an agreed deal or contract has not been fulfilled is an essential component as I don’t just trust the market enough to correct itself. I do not believe that free trade deals across countries or globally are helpful as while we might make sure we don’t screw over our neighbour/community due to social shaming or by word of mouth and therefore loss of business, at a global level I believe corporations will be more ruthless as they won’t have as much consideration for a community they don’t belong to and they can not be socially shamed for dodgy dealings or unethical practices in the same way, for example, your local butcher would be. I would classify myself mainly as a classic liberal or perhaps libertarian in my political stance though this is mainly rather than totally as I don’t want to pigeon hole myself into one political belief system due to the complexity of many of the problems we face in the world.

            Now, I’ll go through your points Richard and point out where I feel you have misrepresented my views and you have seen some words I have written and jumped to the conclusion that I must have a racist, bigoted and sexist agenda. By doing so you have kinda proved my point when I said ‘if you dared say anything critical about the ideas or practices of a non-white or non-Western culture and you didn’t continuously whip yourself for being a white male you would be considered a ‘racist’ and a ‘sexist’.’

            I expressed some concern about the potential pathological side of the matriarchal archetype, i.e. where too much concern and protection can disable somebody. I wasn’t criticising women in this and I am all for women’s liberation and freedom of choice. With the rise of women into positions of power in the Western world (which is all good by me) they do bring with them a more natural tendency to be more interested in other people and their welfare than men. From studies of one day old babies females seem more interested in people while males seem more interested in things/objects. I was warning about the dangers of matriarchal control if not balanced with the patriarchal archetype. Also this matriarchal type of pathological compassion and protection can manifest itself in both genders, not just women. You may have noticed that I did say that pathological patriarchal control needs to be kept in check as well and is a serious problem in our world or maybe you missed this? I think taking the best from the patriarchal and matriarchal archetypes/roles and balancing them in ourselves and then society is the way forward. I think that we are currently still working on creating that balance.

            As for Trump, well from the outside looking in and as someone who is very skeptical of mainstream media I believe that the threat of Trump is very overplayed and overhyped by mainstream media. Like any person who wields considerable power, he needs to be kept in check however I do not believe that he is a racist, fascist or a homophobe and I think that his efforts to repeal Obamacare would actually do a lot to challenge psychiatric oppression not enforce it. Pharmaceutical companies and psychiatric business stand to lose a lot of money if it is repealed so I’m all for that. I’m not sure about the medical insurance system works in the US so I don’t how that will play out. I don’t know enough about his stance on abortion to comment on but I am concerned about his attitude towards climate change and his close links to the gas industries. I don’t believe he is the next Hitler as the mainstream media seems to want people to believe and I actually believe that due to his lack of financial ties to and support from the pharmaceutical industries that he could be a better ally than other presidents for those facing pharmaceutical and psychiatric oppression. I’m not that steeped in the US political scene but for me, the whole pro-Trump and anti-Trump divide looks like a deliberate tactic by mainstream media and other influential players, e.g. Big Pharma and banks, to create division and distract people from uniting to fight common enemies.

            In regards to the Democrats and Republican difference I did say ‘I know that there may be other better explanations from this I would guess that…’ I was speculating and yes, class, could be one of the better explanations for this difference. I was trying to point out that if I was a psychiatrist or pharmaceutical rep and I wanted to grow my business or clientele I might be happy to see more people vote Democrat as this seems to correlate with more diagnoses and thus more business. I’m trying to speculate, ‘If I was a pharmaceutical CEO or rep what would you be a better political environment in which to make more money and which party would I support?’ If I simply saw this data, I’d be more likely to push for the Democrats but as I said there may be better reasons for these difference as it was just a survey from Buzzfeed. I don’t want more people to be diagnosed and medicated so I’m trying to second guess the pharmaceutical/psychiatric industry, not make a definitive statement over what political party affiliation is right. I was not implying that anybody was a ‘numskull’ as I know how powerful the propaganda has been and continues to be. I believed that meds would solve anxiety and suicidal feelings I was experiencing at one stage myself.

            Your facts on which demographics are diagnosed and given psychiatric drugs are wrong in relation to ethnicity and right in terms of gender differences as far as I can tell from a brief search with a higher percentage of white people and white women on psychiatric drugs in the USA: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/psychiatric-drugs-study-reveals-widespread-use-women-men/ As for ADHD diagnosis and medicating this is disproportionately white children: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/08/22/peds.2016-0407?sso=1&sso_redirect_count=1&nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token and white boys as I think has been highlighted here on MIA before. I’m not pro-white by the way (judging someone by their skin colour is a ridiculous way to judge somebody), I’m just pro-facts.

            Richard, I don’t mind engaging with your political analysis and how this relates to psychiatry and medication, why do you say that you ‘DO NOT want to be within a million miles of the rest of your political analysis’? Is it because you have inferred from what I have said that I am hate filled bigoted, sexist, racist? This is far from who and what I am and I don’t believe I said anything sexist or racist. I am also all for maximising individual freedom in society so I do not believe in oppression of any group of people. I don’t even believe in oppression of ideas as I believe that debating and challenging all ideas or systems of belief rather than oppressing them will result in the most beneficial and rational ideas coming to the surface.

            You state that I have ’embarassed’ myself a couple of times and ‘failed miserably’. Look, Richard, all I was doing was sharing my ideas some of which were speculative rather than grounded in hard facts. I’m not looking to win anything here or to gain plaudits so I don’t feel I have failed or embarassed myself. I will let my words speak for me and see if they have any impact or resonance for people. Those who want to see a sinister hateful agenda behind them can do so if they wish. I defended Brett and James because I believed that some people saw what they expected to see from mental health ‘professionals’ but I felt that these reactions were understandable. Now, I think that the same thing has happened to me as I feel you have read far more into my words than what was actually stated. But hey this happens and your reply has given me a chance to try to prove to you that you do not need to stay away from my analyses and that I’m not as nasty and sneakily cunning as you seem to perceive me to be.

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          • I have a little difficulty MartinMc seeing how anybody who describes themselves as “anti-corporatism, anti-elitist” would not also be “anti-capitalist”. As for “anti-globalist”, I can’t completely sever the local from the international, especially where GLOBAL warming and INTERNATIONAL human rights violations, including war crimes, are concerned. Corporations, for one thing, are multi-national now, and they’ve got their ways, bought politicians and run-away industries, of effecting circumstances throughout the world. That’s global! If there is something to isolationism, it’s not the evolution of the homo sapiens, which as a species, has with time become rather wide-spread. I see a problem in exceptionalism, I don’t see a problem in internationalism. It’s not like people are a different species just because they happen to live in India, or Africa, or ‘south of the border’, from those in more affluent countries. Affluent countries, BTW, out to dominate and lord it over, by exploiting natural resources and cheap labor, the rest of humanity. Affluent countries that also are threatening survival for many people, and beyond humanity life itself, throughout the world, including within the borders of those same affluent countries.

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          • MartinMc

            Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I want to be clear that I am not somehow labeling you as a bigot or a Right Wing fascist sympathizer.

            HOWEVER, your current analysis and previous comment was “cloaking” (and maybe you are not even aware of it) a very dangerous set of ideas that, in fact, mirrors in similar ways some of the main themes of the Right Wing Libertarians in this country.

            The fact that you have such a blase view of Trump also scares me, and tells me volumes about your political instincts AT THIS TIME. There are many people with far less knowledge and political sophistication as you that have an appropriately visceral negative reaction to Trump, especially women and minorities. And your above comment shows a complete failure to grasp the more subtle (and sophisticated) forms of sexism and racism in today’s academic world.

            So, no MartinMc, I am NOT somehow putting you in the camp of the people I would describe as the ENEMY. However, that being said, the views you are currently professing, if taken to their furthest extension, do end up in some scary places.

            My pointed use of sarcasm in my above comment is mainly to alert you and other readers the very dangerous extension of these set of ideas.

            MartinMc. you said: ” I wouldn’t say I am anti-capitalist as I believe that giving people the opportunity to bargain between themselves about what they are willing to offer each other for their efforts or products while having a limited governmental or judicial process to go to if an agreed deal or contract has not been fulfilled is an essential component as I don’t just trust the market enough to correct itself.”

            As to your description of modern day Capitalism, I don’t think I’ve read a more “benign” sounding description of today’s system of wage slavery that, not only fosters and maintains class oppression in this country, BUT operates the most DESTRUCTIVE form of Imperialist domination throughout the Globe.

            Don’t forget that the U.S. only makes up slightly less than 5% of the world’s population, yet it sucks up and controls vast percentages of the worlds natural resources AND holds a vast number of countries in a constant state of economic and political backwardness to serve its Imperialist needs and agenda. Do I need to bring up Imperialist wars, for one example, to make this point?

            AND look what havoc, crimes, and distortions the capitalist profit motive has wreaked on today’s system of medicine, the”mental health” empire, and its huge barriers to fostering legitimate independent science.

            As to your positive references to Carl Jung and his use of maternal and patriarchal archetypes, don’t forget that Jung had sexual relationships with several of his “patients.” What does that say about his judgement and views toward women?

            MartinMc, I still maintain that I want to be a “million miles” from several of the views you profess here, because all my political experience and understanding of history tells me EXACTLY where this type of viewpoint is headed.

            MartinMc, you said: “… your reply has given me a chance to try to prove to you that you do not need to stay away from my analyses and that I’m not as nasty and sneakily cunning as you seem to perceive me to be.”

            First off, I never used words such as “nasty” or “sneaky,” those are your words. And further, it is very unfortunate that you are seemingly NOT currently open to changing your thinking on these critical issues. What this comment tells me is that you currently have NO INTENTION of reevaluating your above comments or learning from my criticisms and analysis here, BUT you ONLY want to defend and restate and/or double down on these backward headed viewpoints.

            MartinMc, I hope you, and others who may hold similar views here at MIA, will seriously reevaluate where these ideas will take you and our entire society, if taken to their final extension.

            Respectfully, Richard

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          • I tend to agree with Richard in that it seems kind of over the top to suggest that “matriarchy” is anything close to a power in the USA. I have heard from my own son that there is a certain authoritarianism that can arise in his left-leaning college and that he finds that offensive. However, this is not a manifestation of “matriarchy” so much as of AUTHORITARIANISM. Anyone who believe the right has cornered the market on authoritarianism has something big to learn, and there are also plenty of conservatives who are open minded and not sexist or racist. So we shouldn’t be making over-generalizations as if they are the truth, because that’s another form of authoritarianism right there.

            I think authoritarianism itself is the real enemy, and both Martin and Richard are recognizing it in different forms, but I find we get into trouble when we allow ourselves to be herded into the classic “liberal-conservative” discussion frame, as this seems to me to be an anachronistic frame. Richard and especially Frank hit hard on this – it is this belief that the global capitalists/corporatists have our “best interests” at heart and the unchecked power they now wield that should be our target. And I gather that all of us agree on that point. So I’d suggest we get away from blaming liberals or conservatives or those under 35 or their parents or matriarchy and direct our energy toward the hegemony of the rich and powerful, as well as all the manifestations of authoritarianism, both on the left and the right, which impede our ability to attack those targets. At the same time, civil discourse, including cross-cultural awareness and sensitivity, is going to be very important to moving forward with these goals, not because people “aren’t tough enough,” but because people are very susceptible to being misdirected into foolish discussions such as whether Democrats or Republicans are responsible for the mess we’re in (or for that matter, which party is more likely to be “mentally ill”) and it requires diplomacy to help get people over these barriers and to see what’s really going on and that their enemy isn’t black people or women or white people or liberal universities or matriarchy, but CORPORATE POWER AND AUTHORITARIANISM. It’s not a matter of rightness, it’s a matter of effectiveness.

            — Steve

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          • Hi Richard,
            I just saw this; I don’t feel embarrassed at all. Martin made a number of insightful points; I did not agree with everything he said, but thought some of it was quite valuable. By assuming I agree with certain things he said (when you couldn’t know all that I actually agreed or disagreed with), you might be making a mistake.
            Fortunately, I am not too easily upset now by people disagreeing or criticizing me, so your comment doesn’t disturb me.
            As to my own comment, I was just emphasizing my own position on the importance of free speech and being able to give opinions, even when they are upsetting and controversial. I hope we can agree on that. In general I always really like your comments and your passion, btw.

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          • Hi Matt

            I am still very surprised you still want to cosign MartinMc’s comment. I hope you read ALL the follow up comments beyond his original comment.

            I believe myself and a few others made a strong case that he was in essence putting forth his own version of a form of biological determinism that in the final analysis only reinforces aspects of Biological Psychiatry’s pseudo-science. This same view ultimately reinforces certain prejudices regarding common fears of the rise of the Women’s Liberation movement.

            Matt, you said: “…I did not agree with everything he said, but thought some of it was quite valuable. By assuming I agree with certain things he said (when you couldn’t know all that I actually agreed or disagreed with), you might be making a mistake.”

            I would say that in my own participation in commenting on blogs, I am VERY CAREFUL when agreeing with someone on a few points to distinguish that agreement from other parts of that person’s analysis that I find objectionable.

            The fact that you were NOT clear on exactly what you agreed with, AND DID NOT follow up your comment with any objections to other parts of his analysis, leaves you very open to fair criticism of you basically co-signing what MartinMc wrote here.

            And MartinMc was also presenting some major political themes that quite often dovetail with Right Wing Libertarianism in this country. I believe it is very important to criticize these political views because they are so utopian when it comes to understanding the true nature and role of capitalism in today’s world.


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  42. I am just going to try to respond generally to this discussion, criticism, and what it says about MIA.

    First of, if you just read this list of comments, you will see that MIA allows for a vigorous discussion, including sharp criticism of MIA (and even disdain toward MIA.)

    Second, as Emmeline noted, nearly all of the bloggers are saying fine to keeping the comments turned on. And by having this option, this provides an understanding between us and the bloggers: we are not moderating critical comments, but only comments that run afoul of our general policy for maintaining what we would like to be a civil discussion. As such, I think the opt/in or out policy may help strengthen the site and the participation of commenters, because there is an understanding now by writers: there may be critical responses to an article.

    Thus, we are hardly engaged in creating a “safe zone that shuts down speech” or discussion. We are in essence doing the opposite: we are saying to writers, this can be a contentious place, but while we do try to keep the discussion civil, you have to be prepared to have your ideas and thoughts challenged.

    As for those few who may choose to turn off the comments, well here is the point: They weren’t going to continue blogging as is, and yet we think they have opinions worth hearing.

    For MIA as an organization, the “comments” section is both a blessing and a curse: The blessing it that there is often so much to be learned from the comments, and the discussions so often are quite thought provoking. So many of the comments are informed by knowledge of the scientific literature and by personal experience of many types–lived experience, professional experience, and so forth. The curse is that trying to keep the discussion “civil”, and thus to set some standard for moderating comments, is a near impossible task. It wears out our moderators and is a drain on our very limited financial resources, and it exposes MIA to criticism from all sides, including those who are eager to dismiss MIA and attack it.

    I don’t know how to ease the curse part of it, while keeping the blessing part. The opt-in, opt-out policy is an attempt at doing so, and we’ll see how it goes.

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    • Hi Steve, Frank and Richard,

      I’m not going to go through each point you raised but I will clarify my position in relation to comments I have made about the patriarchal and matriarchal archetypes and how I feel the pathological aspects of these archetypes manifest themselves in individuals and society. I am sorry if I miss some of the challenging questions you have posed me but I hope what I outline makes it more clear where my beliefs currently stand.

      I would see the manifestation of pathological patriarchy in our societies in rampant, self focused, ruthless capitalism.

      I would see the manifestation of pathological matriarchy in our societies in overly compassionate, ultra protective, tribalistic socialism.

      The combination of these two forces: ruthless self focused capitalism with ultra protective socialist governments can and does result in corrupt corporations and callous corporatism.

      I also believe that these patriarchal and matriarchal forces reside in each and every one of us and through individuals they manifest themselves in our systems, cultures and society.

      I believe that there is no actual human being who has managed to align these two forces perfectly for the common good although religious devotees may challenge this as there is a representation of individuals, e.g. Jesus, Mohammad, Moses, Buddha, who have been tempted by and fought off the evil within to live a life and spread a message that is seen as divine, enlightened or perfect by many who follow that path.

      I think that religions make some deep, meaningful points in relation to our inner battle with our light and dark sides. Star Wars and Lord of the Rings also provide epic tales of this ongoing battle and I think that this is why they are so popular as almost everyone can relate to the central themes of fighting the darkness within, winning this battle and choosing good or failing this battle and going over to the dark side, e.g. Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader, Frodo not throwing the ring away to be destroyed in the volcano. I believe that this may be depicted as such to highlight our imperfections as individuals and emphasise the power that evil, e.g. greed, revenge, lust for power, can have on us.

      So how does this relate to my comments on matriarchy? Well, I believe that unless we are truly aware of the potential for evil within us (I believe anyone is capable of evil atrocities given certain circumstances as we have seen particularly in Nazi Germany, Stalin’s Russia, the Rwandan genocide, Mao’s China) we will be blind and potentially entrapped in committing evil acts without even realising that what we are doing is evil. I believe that if we allow the overprotective, tribalistic side of us (which I would describe as the pathological side of matriarchy) take over it could result in severe consequences for individuals who are seen as non-compliant or seen to be disrupting the social cohesion. These individuals will be forced back into line or worse. I believe that this is what most psychiatrist and many other mental health professionals do and they are rewarded handsomely by the government who state that they wish to keep society in order and care for its citizens.

      Now the desperate need for protection and to maintain social cohesion is then exploited and encouraged by ruthless, self centred capitalistic forces (pathological patriarchy) that promise governments and societies solutions to the problems these non-compliant, socially deviant individuals pose to society. The pathological sides of patriarchy and the pathological sides of matriarchy co-evolve and work in unison as they are of mutual benefit to each other. Much like biological co-evolution these two forces though initially viewed as opposing to each other can actually help each other to flourish and grow and become symbiotic in their pathological development.

      So the reason that I highlighted matriarchy as a potential pathological force is that most people seem to be aware of the dangers of the pathological side of patriarchy. I don’t believe that people are so aware of how the pathological sides of patriarchy AND matriarchy manifest themselves in us and then into our society and culture.

      For example, the Canadian Diabetic Association recently published guidelines on diabetic medication prescribing (near 70% of those involved in this publication had pharma links). They sponsored a study to review adherence to these guidelines: http://nouvelles.umontreal.ca/en/article/2013/10/18/female-doctors-are-better-than-male-doctors-but-males-are-more-productive/ They found that female doctors are more likely to adher to the guidelines and prescribe more meds to people. This does not bode well for the future as female doctors begin to outnumber men (and no, it’s not women in powerful positions that I have a problem with it, it’s what they will do in these positions of authority, power and influence that concerns me and if it will help or hinder the MIA cause). Now, you could make the point that ruthlessly capitalistic patriarchal forces are taking advantage of this groups’ desire to protect and care and maintain a healthy, safe and socially ordered population. Or you could also argue that this strong desire to protect, care and maintain a healthy, safe and socially ordered population is creating a market for forces to jump into. Or you could also argue that because many people are not critically self reflective and only see the good in themselves (particularly doctors, male and female) they are not aware of how compassion and protecting can become pathological, e.g. the abuser who is convinced he is only showing love to those they abuse or the mother who never lets her child out of her sight and completely smothers and disables the child with the thinking ‘that’s what love is’.

      I’m not naive to the reality of evil. We are all capable of it and we need to be aware of this so when there are forces within and around us pressuring us to commit evil acts we will not blindly go along with those forces but we shall be able to shine forth our own light and fight off those temptations. I believe that the pathological side of patriarchy is more visible as I believe that it is more ruthless, direct and blunt. The pathological side of matriarchy is less visible as it comes in the form of a wolf in sheep’s clothing and just like many people know at MIA your visit to the ‘compassionate’, ‘sweet’, ‘helpful’ doctor and the care they show you, e.g. ‘take this harmless wonder pill, my dear’, then becomes the very same person that shows it teeth and devours you in time.

      I believe that free speech, open dialogue and speaking your truth to those who hold opposing truths is one of the cornerstones that opens up the door for us to acknowledge and bring to our attention sides of us and our society that we would rather keep hidden or suppressed. Once we do speak or articulate our personal truths I believe that this is where the personal healing begins. I believe that continuous dialogue and interaction with opposing views in our society and confronting the dark shadows or underbelly of our society is where our society’s and the world’s healing begins.

      I believe that global corporatism led by those see themselves as ‘elites’ and ‘enlightened’ (who I don’t see as having addressed or paid serious attention to their shadow selves and who allow pathological matriarchal and patriarchal forces/ideas to guide their actions) could lead to the destruction of our societies and communities. I believe that this is already in process and I hope to do what I can by speaking the truth, as well as I can perceive it, to help combat these forces.

      I hope that the above makes sense and resonates with some people. I believe that a lot of what I have said is better articulated by Prof Jordan Peterson but he does not make the pharmaceutical/psychiatry connection that I have made.

      So, now I’m gonna respectfully step away from this discussion now as I’ve been here quite a bit lately and I’ve a couple of other things in my life that I need to focus on. I also feel that I have articulated my truth and my views so I will leave it at that.

      Thanks all for the interesting debates, challenges and lessons learnt as it did challenge me and then help me to articulate my ideas more clearly. By doing this I feel I have more clarity about my own ever evolving belief system. I still don’t agree with the new changes as I feel that all contributors should be wiling to be exposed to the dark underbelly (the hatred, the anger, the angst, the resentment, the distrust) that corporate greed and corrupt or unaware ‘helpers’ has created but I do appreciate the efforts to try to provide the rationale for the change. Richard, Steve and Frank, I’ll probably see you on other discussion boards in the near future and we can, no doubt, lock ideological horns again then 🙂

      Go n-eiri an bothar leat, a chairde (May the road rise to meet you, friends)

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      • Martin,

        thanks for an interesting post. Having grown up far-right and finally extricated myself from much of its ideology, I’m sadden when either side self-righteously rails against the other. IMHO it seems the further one goes to the right or left the more unbalanced he/she becomes. Whether you call it matriarchy/patriarchy, conservative/liberal, or whatever other label you put on it, it’s the loss of balance that seems to be the key.

        As I’ve helped my wife heal and brought the 8 disparate and dissociated girls together, they’ve side-stepped so many of the pathologies that others with d.i.d. have because I’ve taught them to balance each other. I try hard to find win/win solutions. And it’s the balancing of the voices within my wife instead of allowing one or two voices (girls) to dominate that has helped her to become one of the most beautiful and well-balanced people I know.

        But sadly so many people prized “single-mindedness”. I know my own Christian upbringing taught that anything less was being ‘double-minded’ and wishy-washy. But in retrospect, I now understand that is a recipe for unbalance and obsession and lack of perspective.

        Anyway, I’ve enjoyed the dialogue from all.

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      • Yes, thanks for responding, MartinMc. I have a problem with a person trying to pathologize society, or populations within society, or social trends and characteristics. To my way of thinking, so long as society is not inundated with pathogens, pathology exists in individuals, not social groupings, as a rule of thumb. Ask Google, and pathology is defined as “the science of the causes and effects of diseases, especially the branch of medicine that deals with the laboratory examination of samples of body tissue for diagnostic or forensic purposes.” I suspect what you’re calling “pathology” has more to do with morality than it does with lesions in physical organs, or disease, properly speaking. Are destructive actions symptomatic of disease? I would suspect that they are not so symptomatic of disease as they are of bad decision making. I suppose the question remains, are bad decision made by broken brains or fallible human beings? Whether men, women, or both sexes hold the reins of power isn’t a matter of pathology as far as I can see. I don’t myself see pathology in gender and power relations, and I don’t think you change those power relations by pretending they are matters of pathology, and handing them over to the medical profession, thus making power brokers of physicians, who are, more likely than not, going to serve themselves.

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      • MartinMc

        Your above analysis represents a clear example of putting BIOLOGY above the more dominant and principle influences of ENVIRONMENT as the determining factor when examining the evolution (with some periods of rapid revolutionary change) of human culture and human nature. You are making a different version of the very same errors as Biological Psychiatry.

        You have taken a “brief” snapshot of some of the more common ways men and women behave in today’s world in this historical era (or projected your own narrow personal experiences growing up) and, in an unscientific and mechanical way, projected that onto a very static and limited view of human nature. In the final analysis, this view only serves to reinforce the status quo and some of the worst stereotypes regarding what constitutes sexual identity and the social roles of men and women in our society.

        THE MOST IMPORTANT AND DOMINANT FACTOR in how human beings socially interact with one another within society is rooted in the fundamental way in which the necessities of life are produced, the ownership of those means of production, and the type of political organization that is developed to oversee production and manage social life within the broader society.

        Both human culture and its closely related construct called human nature are quite malleable when looking at the history of the human species.

        While one can’t discount that there are some biological (especially the levels of certain hormones) differences between men and women, these differences are not only secondary to the influences of the culture and society surrounding them, but that very culture itself can have a direct impact on a person’s biology, including levels of hormones etc. depending on what is happening in that environment.

        In today’s world most human beings live in large social groupings, including large urban centers. Production of the necessities of life on also done socially, most often in larger group settings called factories. So we live together socially and produce socially BUT the very means of production built and operated by a working class is OWNED and CONTROLLED by a SMALL CLASS of capitalists.

        In order to survive, those in the working class must SELL THEIR LABOR POWER to the highest bidding capitalist. This my friend is just a higher form of slavery – called WAGE SLAVERY.

        This same class dominates and controls the entire political system and we are duped into thinking we live in a democracy.

        It is this societal framework in which the social roles and so-called differences in human nature between men and women are fostered and developed. The role of women, as oppressed second class citizens, within this framework has been necessary and vital to the ruling classes to maintain their power and control throughout society, despite some limited changes in First World countries.

        MartinMc, you can put Maggie Thatcher or Hillary Rodham Clinton in major positions of power in a capitalist dominated political system and they will act (and have already acted) just like the men who preceded them. The internal logic of *capital* is to “expand or die.” In the final analysis they will end up doing things within a general framework of expanding and protecting the Imperialist empire. The fact that they have given birth to children or have higher levels of estrogen in their bodies will mean virtually NOTHING when it comes to their political decisions and actions as a government leader.


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      • Your comments make sense to me. We need to seek a balance, and stop trying so hard to be “right” at the expense of someone else being “wrong,” which to me is the very essence of authoritarianism. I’m sure we’d have some fascinating discussions in person! Thanks for sharing your thoughts so articulately.

        — Steve

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    • Bob, thanks for all your have done to set up and continue MIA. It is such a great resource.

      Although I don’t agree with allowing authors to shut down comments – in fact, I strongly disagree – I also think it’s not the end of the world if a few articles are “uncommentable.” Those articles will probably just get less attention. I fully expect as you said that most authors will still allow comments. Also, if you see potential value in the idea, maybe there is something potentially beneficial to it that I couldn’t see. As the founder of the site, I think we supporters should support you to experiment with things, even if we disagree. At worst, it can be tried and if it has serious adverse effects, then it could be reversed or modified in various ways.

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    • I have been thinking about the issue of ‘turning off the comment button’ and just thought of a suggestion that again comes from the ‘oneboringoldman’ site, and Dr. Nardo’s solutions to dealing with very contentious comments. Prior to his comment section Dr. Nardo had a long paragraph explaining how things discussed were often very emotional for people (including himself) and then described the type of comments he would moderate, and when /why he would close down comment threads. One could see that paragraph and read it every time you were about to comment. (I can’t ‘see’ it now so it must have come up after you logged in or they have removed it now). I wonder if MIA could have a paragraph that is included at the end of each blog expressing MIA’s position. Something that would include the ideas that MIA was a site for all ‘voices’, and what MIA values and prefers is open discussion, and comments from all the community, but that MIA understands that conversations get contentious and very emotional for people and for the reason of wanting to hear from a diverse group of bloggers, allows the bloggers a choice of posting a blog without a comment thread. It could also include the suggestion that if a reader wanted to discuss any of the concepts raised in a blog, they were invited to start a conversation in the forum section. (Of course this paragraph would be worded much better than how I have worded it here.) This type of paragraph would ‘remind’ readers that even though MIA may value aspects of all blogs posted, MIA is not implicitly implying that they agree with everything said in the blog, and that there are very many different opinions about these sensitive issues. Another thing I thought about is that being able to turn off the comment button could be very important to some people with lived experience, and I think anything that MIA can do to make people with lived experience feel comfortable and safe on this site is very commendable. It makes me think of all the wonderful contributions that Monica Cassani (spelling?) has made with her website and posts, and I believe she does not (always? sometimes?) have a place for people to comment on her website.

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      • one other thought….maybe bloggers would be more willing to engage with comments if there was a option to turn off the comments after a certain time period…(a week or so) …so they wouldn’t feel that they would have to keep explaining themselves over and over….this could be done by just adding the line of ‘the comment section is closed’ or the ‘comment section is closed at this time’ at the end of the article or after comments depending on whether it was always closed or closed after a time period.

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        • …or even could the blogger decide when to ‘close’ the comment thread (hopefully politely) when they had enough, like we do with other types of conversations (e.g face to face or phone conversations)

          okay …think I am done now :))

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        • There is some expectation that MiA bloggers engage with the comments, only because that’s what usually happens, but this has never been compulsory, and there have always been some bloggers who don’t engage at all, or who engage very little. That’s why the new policy doesn’t make any sense. All it does is take away the opportunity for others to participate in discussing an issue.

          It is the very definition of “safe space” (in the most noxious sense) for bloggers who do not want to have to defend the arguments they make in their blogs, because it creates an environment that protects said bloggers from anything that they might find upsetting, including challenges to their opinions, ideologies, and world-views. It’s a very strange decision for a website that seeks to promote discussion.

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          • Hi uprising ,
            I just wanted to say that I think I really hear your point about how turning the comments off limits the abilities of readers to discuss the issues brought up by a blog, and to challenge the ‘opinions, ideologies and world views’ of bloggers. I know for me, my thinking about all these issues has certainly changed as a result of all the comments I have read over the years. However, what I am hearing from the MIA people is that they do not know how to deal with the negative ad hominem responses that also appear in the comment section and that sometimes attack the blogger’s character. It sounds like moderating these type of comments is not working both in terms of the expense, and because of how it is so difficult to draw the ‘right’ line. So I think it is not just that some bloggers don’t want to engage with comments, (like you say there is no requirement to respond), but they also don’t want to hear comments that are slurs to their character etc. Thus having comments might make some people unwilling to blog at all. ( …..My apologies if I am stating the obvious:))

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          • Yes, MiA has a legitimate problem in terms of moderating ad hominem comments. It is the same problem that any website with a comment section faces. This new policy doesn’t solve that problem.

            What it does do is give a small minority of random authors the ability to silence the voices of others in the MiA community. MiA has a history of tolerating opposing viewpoints that it should be very proud of. It also has a noble history of making space for everyone to have a voice. This measure represents a break from these traditions of tolerance and inclusion, and it creates a bigger problem than the one it is meant to solve. Ironically, it does this for the sake of a small handful of potential bloggers who are themselves intolerant of criticism.

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          • MiA has a history of tolerating opposing viewpoints that it should be very proud of.

            Well, that was a poorly constructed sentence! Should have been as follows: MiA should be very proud of its history of tolerating opposing viewpoints.

            In other news, mother cooked a meal for the visitors made of oysters.

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          • “There is really no such things as the voiceless. There are only the deliberately silenced or the preferably unheard” Arundati Roy

            “They don’t listen to me and then call me crazy for talking to meself” boans 🙂

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          • Woah, and here’s me thinking I was talking to myself again.

            I really liked James. Man with a good heart. We are poles apart but I always got a sense from his writing that he was doing his best to be kind.

            The changes I’ve noticed after being away are difficult to describe. My general feeling though is that there’s been a shift for the worse. Feel like I’m looking for something that I know used to be here and can’t find it. Depends where your standing though I guess. Quality comments from professionals or quantity that includes mugs like me lol.

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  43. Just want to share what comes to mind. Many psych-survivors myself included have not forgotten torture beyond endurance which somehow we have survived while we were captured victims of the pseudo- scientific mainstream pharmaceutical- psychiatric-HOAX . I realize what a miracle it is to have survived and to be able to live and enjoy the feeling of being alive . And yet the tragedy of our brothers and sisters and even the youngest of children still captured or being stalked to be captured by this HOAX is clearly a crime against humanity and we will not forget them and we will try to help free as many as possible even if we have to do it one at a time.
    With this feeling of solidarity, and because the Hoax does not agree to a cease fire of violent and coercive activity, on their part , while debates and discussions are being held , and is offended when the truth is spoken in their presence by their victims , whom they assumed were all , already silenced . Now, they thought, they could freely let their spin fly . So how from all this could a civilized respectful discussion be created between victim and victimizer without a cease fire being honored by the victimizer and the trojan horses that many times speak as their representatives. It logically cannot . Giving people who have been educated by and have gained financial comforts from the HOAX the right to speak and not be questioned or commented to , allows big pharma and psychiatry to send even more representatives here to MIA to create perpetual doubt about progressive ideas , ( as is done by corporations and cartels in so many other areas), creating doubt by way of the lies of fabricated pseudo science making discussions go round and round in circles ( we need more time to do research, ie more time to fabricate more pseudo science, while they continue to torture human beings , develop more torture techniques, and continue to cash in). We must be aware that if Mad in America turns into a virtual Theresienstadt so to speak ( in the sense a show place created where the victimizer can demand politeness from their victims and where they don’t have to own up to their roles in a vast crime ring ), it can only fortify the Pharmaceutical-Psychiatric Juggernaut to continued criminal activity , torture and murder. It is impossible to create a “civil” discussion between victims and ( victimizers who are involved with an organized crime ring that has not ceased and desisted from murder and torture of human beings as a minimal show of respect before appearing at the place where discussions are held. It can only be attempted by more coercion and even then the truth will out .
    Maybe part of Mad in America’s stated mission could be amended, to in addition try an attempt to free the people victimized coercively by the false narrative of the Hoax , by giving psychiatric survivors affirmative action blogging rights whether they have letters after their names or not . And MIA could consider years of lived experience as a victim of the Hoax , then extracting oneself, as something even beyond a college education and doctor’s degree as it pertains to understanding the Hoax and what has happened , what is happening , in the belly of the beast as it continues to digest people .

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  44. I’d forgotten about this blog until Sam P. brought it back up. To me, this was kind of a sad day. MiA was presented with a fork-in-the-road decision on a number of levels. It’s become a very different website, imo, since then.

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