While Psychiatry Slept

George Mecouch, DO
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It is an absolute privilege to write a blog post for Mad in America. I had contacted Robert Whitaker asking if he might read a new book of mine that will be coming out from Belly Song Press this fall, called While Psychiatry Slept. To my great pleasure he agreed to do so, but he also asked if I might write here to tell about my vision for the book and also about my friendship with John Weir Perry, one of the early and brave pioneers in treating first episode psychosis without medications in both hospital and milieu environments.

By way of introduction, I have been a psychiatrist working in both private practice and community mental health throughout my 35-year career. I received extra training in Jungian analysis, though not an analyst myself, and also in Process Oriented Psychology as developed by Arnold Mindell, PhD. I am currently the medical director of a community mental health center in Vancouver, WA and maintain a small analytically oriented private practice.

Sadly, during this time, I have watched the field of both psychiatry and psychology move further away in their theoretical stances from the centrality of dreams, the importance of body, the necessity of story and imagination and, especially, away from more creative ways of dealing with extreme and altered states of consciousness than the biological.

The Mad in America blogs draw out writings from many people, all questioning, at some level, how psychiatry could have fallen asleep to alternative views on psychosis, medication, side effects, therapy, commitment laws and other crucial topics. My goal in penning While Psychiatry Slept was to point out, with tongue in cheek, how in its somnambulism, psychiatry has forgotten that dreams were once the ‘royal road.’

We now know that the ‘dreaming,’ as the Australian aboriginals have called it, is occurring all the time, and arises in the conduits of the soul’s choosing: dreams of the night, symptoms in the body, the waking dreams of psychosis in hallucinations and delusions, relationship issues and synchronicities with the environment.

You might ask here as a reader, “But why are dreams so crucial to psychiatry?” I would tell you that they are the forgotten language of the psyche. They are the native tongue of the middle world, and this dialect is composed of metaphor and symbol, simile and synecdoche. All who enter the world of non-consensus reality, or what psychiatry calls psychosis, long for a physician with a therapeutic ear, trained to hear the patois of image. For as Jung emphatically stated, “Image is psyche!” It is only from here that we, as therapists, can track the deepest longings and movements of our client’s psychic reality.

I would like to explore, in a series of articles in coming months, how I believe returning dreams to their once central position in psychiatric theory can revitalize a field whose defining ideas have become completely materialistic in imagination.

I thought a good place to start this exploration of the dream-world would be with a section from the book’s introduction on the etymology of the word mad. When I was in the midst of writing my book, I struggled mightily with a case of writer’s block. It was then I had this dream:

Dr. Jung was with me while in his later years, moving slowly yet clearly still quite vibrant. Jung and I began to speak about what the problem had been with my writing and what was holding me back. I talked about my work hours, but said that these had improved and were no longer an issue. I told him that I was sure it was my ongoing struggle with being disciplined, but to my surprise he did not agree. He suddenly turned and faced me and with an impish grin said, You must write from your madness, as I did.” He seemed to do a little jig and then added, How do you think I wrote so many books?”

What does Jung mean that he wrote from his madness and what does it mean to write from mine? Does it symbolize writing from your deepest passions and beliefs, from where you feel the anger that something is terribly wrong? Could the roots of the word madness give us a hint to the answer?

Mad meaning: gemaedde or out of one’s mind, implying outside the typical collective views, seeming to be foolish and stupid. It comes from ga-moita and the latin mutare, meaning to change. Mad births also from migrare, the changing of one’s residence. An interpretation might be imagined to read: “Writing from our foolish self, the one that seems stupid and not agreed upon by normal views, leads to a possible change in direction from the current consensus ideas and theories. It opens us to the ability to change where we are sitting in our resident beliefs and see the world from different vantage points.” It may take a touch of madness to do this.

So, I believe that all of us writing for MIA do so from our foolish and mad selves, hoping to bring to the debate table the missing viewpoints that have been left out of psychiatry’s consensus ideas.

A man who never followed the consensus beliefs on psychosis was my friend John Weir Perry. He was a psychiatrist, trained at Harvard, who in the late 1940’s went to Zurich, Switzerland to study and analyze with CG Jung and was one of the first of Jung’s students to come back to America and help start the Jung Institute in San Francisco. He had already begun to question the current treatments of schizophrenia long before while still in medical school, as at that time the use of insulin coma was quite popular. Later in the 1960s, he along with Julian Silverman started a project at Agnews State Hospital, treating first episode psychosis patients without medication. This later became the Diabasis project in San Francisco, where people with first episode psychosis were treated in a home in the city that was unlocked and the success of this is well documented in his book, The Far Side of Madness. Dr. Perry went on to write multiple books about his ideas including: The Self in Psychotic Process, The Lord of the Four Quarters, The Heart of History and Trials of the Visionary Mind.

I first met Dr. Perry briefly in the late 1970s, when I was doing a psychiatry rotation in San Francisco. I had been at an art therapy consultation at the clinic where a Jungian analyst was explaining how he was able to read from the patient’s artwork, by the colors chosen and the fragmented borders, that her psyche was already predicting a psychosis weeks before it occurred. This was my first exposure to Jungian thought and because I was so excited my preceptor told me she would introduce me to John Perry and have me see the reopening of Diabasis.

I didn’t see John again until years later, in the early 90’s when we met at a conference in California exploring alternative views for understanding and treating psychosis, featuring Stan Grof, John Perry and Arnold Mindell. I was asked to give a small seminar on the work from my residency, treating first episode psychosis with psychotherapy and without medication. John and I bonded at that time over late night wine and wonderful conversations about this treatment and the state of the field. We remained friends until his death.

In my next article I will talk about Al de Half, a fictional figure who appeared in my dreams years ago, telling me that the Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry was not the right book to be studying if you wanted to know how to be of help in psychosis. His bible was instead A Separate Reality by Carlos Castaneda.

I will also tell about the last time John and I met, sitting up again late into the night, this time at my home, talking about the dream of Al de Half and the paper I was writing for the conference we both were to speak at the next day. It was a conference on the Oregon Coast with Arnold Mindell and Joe Goodbread, exploring Process Work and Jungian methods of treating extreme states of consciousness. That was more than 20 years ago, and yet that conversation is still remembered vividly today; not only for John’s mentoring friendship, but also because of the hints that Al de Half gave to both of us about his separate world. I will look forward to sharing these with you in my next writing.

47 COMMENTS

  1. Mr. Mecouch:

    Kudos to you for trying to change the system from within. I am very keen for my daughter to find a therapist like you or a shamanic practitioner who will take the time (years, if necessary) to help our beloved daughter sort out all of the symbols of her visions and dreams (she experiences her dreams while awake) and help her lay the groundwork for living daily in consensual reality, a place which isn’t really all that bad, after one has learned to put even the bad things that are out of one’s control into perspective.

    She is a very attractive, intelligent and expressive individual, cherished, creative, and well loved but we don’t yet have a shared language or vocabulary to navigate through this world together and her father and I don’t have any training in psychology or Jungian theory, or process work, so our daughter keeps conveying information to two people who have no idea how to process it! There are very few non medical model resources and trainings for parents like us who want to remain in solidarity with our loved one, not negate her experiences, including the extreme states labeled as ‘psychosis’ and there are even fewer practitioners who use the approaches you described.

    Her father and I seem to be the only consistent walls against which she can bounce her ideas and thoughts, People who are stuck in the mental health system, on average, move around from hospital to foster home to psychiatric facility every six months and with every ‘relapse’ the cycle starts over. With every move, diagnosed individuals are assigned a new set of medical industrial contractors, each contractor embraces his/her pet theory or framework, and each must start anew to hear her evolving story, a time consuming task that many dispense with, in favor of fifteen minute ‘med-checks’. Since mental health care workers who work in an industry that is rife with high turnover and burn-out, sometimes a particularly sympathetic counselor will take the time to listen to her story but they disappear professionally on short notice. Now, she is home at last and I hope we can establish some continuity.

    Moreover, the ‘therapeutic alliance’ we heard was the foundation of good therapy was severely damaged during her first ‘break’ from reality in which she was forcibly injected, restrained, and institutionalized though she was no threat to herself or others. Hardly an auspicious start for anyone to ‘share their story’ no matter how sympathetic a psychiatrist may be. A person in your profession should be aware of the impact that psychiatric abuse has on individuals.

    For years, we have tried to remain sympathetic with our daughter’s voices and visions, and we try to cultivate curiosity, and we strain to avoid being judgmental or pathologizing even if she gives voice to some offensive, taboo ideas, which is quite often. For years, we have been receptacles for an enormous amount of information that she conveys to us nearly on a daily basis (except on the days when the drugs her brain is habituated to cause her to remain for hours on end in bed). Sometimes she convey these strange visions and dreams with great emotion, sometimes without emotion.

    Her unusual beliefs which the medical system calls delusions are often quite poignant and harmless. She often thanks me if I “humor her” (her word, not mine) by talking about her symbols sympathetically without judgement.There are delightful times when her poetical expressions are very pleasant, sometimes she is a mixed media artist, combining sound, mime, music, and story telling. Sometimes she is an enigma, using silence and humor to shake up our entire household, so much so that I did some research on court jesters. Did you know that the last documented court jester in the English Court was in the late 1700’s? The demise of the court jesters roughly corresponded with the Age of Enlightenment.

    And of course, she often expresses unpleasant but insightful truths about our family dynamics, that incite strong emotional push back from other family members, but strangely facilitate all kinds of healing in the most unexpected, unorthodox ways.

    If our ‘mad’ daughter had a purpose in society, she would not be so lonely and our society might give her an opportunity to live freely without fear of being institutionalized, forcibly medicated. I think we need to repurpose madness from being a ‘drain’ on society to a condition experienced sometimes by some people to keep the mighty from being too mighty.

    • madmom,

      you can learn to enter into your daughter’s world: it just takes time and practice. I do it every day with the 8 girls in my wife’s d.i.d. system. It took time, but I had to learn to see things thru each of the girl’s eyes and NOT thru mine. When she tells me stuff, I validate it and ask questions, so I can understand better. I don’t correct them: I learn from them. Once I entered their lives, they attached to me securely, and slowly we have made our way together to a better way of seeing this world for both of us…You and your husband can do what NO expert can do because your daughter, hopefully, will trust you in a way that no sane or ‘mad’ person would trust a stranger (especially one who is drugging her!). Don’t belittle your lack of ‘expert’ knowledge (though you should learn about attachment theory in adult relationships if you can)!!! I have helped my wife heal from d.i.d. in a way that the experts say is impossible because they simply don’t have the access with their patients that I have with my wife.
      Sam

    • As I’m sure you know already because of your research into the topic, court jesters were the only ones at court who were allowed to state the truth about the king and his thoughts and actions. They were the only one who could call him into question and get away with it. It seems as if they were an attempt to keep kings and rulers in touch with the reality of their humanity and an attempt to keep them somewhat humble. And they told these truths under the guise of being “crazy” or mad.

      It strikes me that much of what your daughter does and says may come swirling up out of mythological themes and backgrounds. Jung’s work on archetypes as well as Joseph Campbell’s work concerning mythology might also be helpful for your family to understand some of what your daughter is trying to share. I’ve always believed that much of what psychiatry likes to call psychosis is very symbolic and symbolic language is not always easy for modern humans to understand. But there is a richness and depth to be discovered in the world of symbols, which dreams use constantly.

      I was almost ordained as a Roman Catholic priest. I taught Religion in Catholic schools, specifically Hebrew Scriptures and the Gospels, both of which are filled with such deep and important symbolism used to try to express truths that can’t always be captured in mere worlds. After teaching I went on to do chaplaincy work in hospitals and nursing homes. It’s obvious that I’ve always gravitated towards work that deals with spiritual things. Well, I had this dream over and over. I’m in a building that’s kind of like a barn that has two stories. I’m alone on the bottom floor and I have a fishing rod with a lure at the end of the line. On the second floor there are people sitting on benches that go around all four walls. The room is packed with people along the walls. There is a hole in the floor of the room above me and I flick the lure through the hole and onto the floor of the upper room. I slowly reel the lure back to me, hoping that one of the people will pick it up so that I can reel them down to me on the first floor. At the time I kept having this dream I had a spiritual director who was an Episcopal woman priest. She was Jungian. I finally brought the dream to her and after listening to me describe it she laughed and said, “you really can’t figure this one out on your own?” It’s all about the “fisher of people” idea that Jesus talked about and some of my unresolved issues about not getting ordained those many years ago. I’ve never had the dream since the morning that we unraveled its meaning for me. The unconscious only has symbols with which to communicate with us.

      I suspect that your daughter lives in a very symbolic world, a world that’s probably very rich and full of depth in many ways. I suspect that you may even be able to find some recurring themes in the things that she shares with you. I also suspect that your daughter is a very complex and interesting person in many, many ways.

      • Stephen Gilbert:

        After nearly seven years of conversations with my daughter, you are correct about “recurring themes” becoming apparent. Many of them have emotional force behind them. We’ve learned that the paradoxical nature of the medications is that they actually make it harder, not easier for people to process strong emotions. As my daughter’s current psychiatrist lowered her medications to a fraction of previous levels, and she was given the liberty to move into her own place, as opposed to a secure psychiatric facility or a foster home, the energy required for her to be heard has diminished and the emotional force behind her symbols has gone from roaring to chatty. The symbols and the patterns are easier to discern when the conversation is calm and I think that more and more parents are starting to understand the paradoxical nature of medications and that for many, they create more problems than they solve.

        I’m convinced that much of the behavior that gets labeled as ‘psychosis’ when people are locked up goes hand-in-hand with the tremendous effort it takes to being heard ‘Psychotic rage’ seems to me to be some individuals trying to force other people to listen to them. And then there are adverse reactions to medication that we are only starting to honestly deal with.

        Clearly, some people are practiced in the art of deafness and mental health professionals in particular even get rewarded for their deafness by appearing to be more distant and ‘professional’. As parents, we don’t have the burden of the professional who aspires to be right, just the knowledge of the joy that awaits our family when our daughter is restored to good health and vitality and purpose.

        Anyway, this was an interesting blog and I’m encouraged to see at least one clinical director is lamenting that something is missing from his profession.

        • Agreed. Thanks for sharing. I believe that you ought to be appointed as head of “services for the mentally ill” in the area where you live because you obviously understand what the wonderful “doctors” have absolutely no understanding of. It’s good to know that your daughter is making progress in taking control of her own life. She could never had made it this far without your support and huge understanding. You get it, unlike so many others who sit there thinking that they actually do get it.

  2. I also look forward to hearing more about your research, experience, and theories, George. As one who had a dream query about what it means to be “moved by the Holy Spirit,” misdiagnosed as “psychosis,” resulting in the typical psychiatric egregious maltreatment. But I escaped, and eventually found the medical proof that the antipsychotics can indeed create psychosis, via anticholinergic toxidrome, which all doctors should know, but all psychiatrists I found claimed is impossible.

    I will say I’m interested in Jung, Perry, et al’s work, since I was dealing with a “spiritual emergency,” both before and after being weaned from the drugs. The after issue would be what ethical doctors would theoretically claim is a “drug withdrawal induced super sensitivity manic psychosis.” This, for me however, was like an amazingly serendipitous awakening to my dreams, with well wishes and the help of many other souls. And the awakening to my dreams was precisely about the existence of a “collective unconscious,” many of whom I did not personally know in my waking hours.

    I had perfect strangers talking to me about my concerns. I would take drives and people’s vanity plates would coordinate with my thoughts and the music on the radio, it was like my life was a movie. Others mentioned “I can feel the power.” An ethical pastor of mine told me, “Some people can’t pray in private.” And what’s really somewhat odd is I can now tell my entire life’s story in the lyrics of music. As if God were, “Singing my life with his words Killing me softly with his song … Telling my whole life with his words Killing me softly with his song.”

    It was as if God and I are muses for musicians, or something, you know the ones inspiring all the “stupid love songs.” And I’ve noticed recently that the internet is filled with “truthers” who share my concerns, and are trying to awaken others, regarding the improprieties of the banking system, child abuse, the problems with never ending wars against a concept, as opposed to an actual enemy, and other systemic problems in our society as well.

    Of course, I was also drugged for understanding in 2001 that there was something terribly wrong with 9/11/2001. So glad others, excluding the majority of the psychiatric and psychological industries, are awakening to this reality, and to the reality that the banking powers that un-Constitutionally took over this country in 1913, and have been waging never ending wars for decades or a century, are staggeringly unethical, just as our founding fathers claimed them to be.

    Looking forward to hearing your tale of speaking from “outside the typical collective views, seeming to be foolish and stupid.” That’s a synopsis of my tale of such, as an ethical, fiscally responsible, non-war profiteering American Christian banker’s daughter, who escaped the psychiatric system because my Holy Spirit blaspheming “Jewish” psychiatrist finally looked at my work and realized I was “insightful,” and I could not believe his deluded belief that my entire life was “a credible fictional story.”

  3. madmom,

    Please listen to what Sam is telling you! I went through my own “mad” experience years ago, totally without “help” from a psychiatrist or psychologist, even though I tried to find one who would listen to me and not just write me off as schizophrenic, or whatever. One of the very few things that helped me endure the experience was my loving husband’s ability to honestly listen to me and ask meaningful questions, instead of writing off what I said as “offensive” or “taboo.” How about getting some Jung books and reading them yourself, instead of endlessly searching for an “expert” who has? Read Jung’s autobiography (Memories, Dreams, Reflections) and see how he handled his own experience of alternate reality. Read Joseph Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces.” Read Adyashanti (aka Steven Gray), especially his “The End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment.” Show the books to your daughter and talk about them. Ask her what she really wants to do with her life. For example, would she like to go back to school and get the kind of degree that will let her help others deal with what she is dealing with?

    Best regards,
    Mary Newton

  4. madmom,

    Sounds to me like your daughter is a budding Wizard, and her parents are stuck in the boring Muggles world. You might read “My Mysterious Son: A Life-Changing Passage Between Schizophrenia and Shamanism” by Dick Russell, for how a loving father successfully tackled this problem. Your daughter sounds quite intelligent, so you may not need to use measures as drastic as Dick Russell’s. But for goodness sake, find out what’s on your daughter’s mind and start listening to her!

    • Mary, I consciously try not to ‘nod out’ or ‘blank out’ when she has expresses a stream of consciousness but there is so much information that my brain is simply not capable of processing it all. If I were a genius or professionally trained to filter the information based on a legitimate framework or reference I muse that I may be more helpful. But alas, my brain is slow and the most I can do at times is consciously work at not judging because I tend to be very critical.

      There is so much information coming from her, that I can’t even memorize it to recount it to someone is a genius or better trained than I. Since her dad is a poet and a songwriter/musician, his interactions with her seems more punctuated with joy than mine. I hear them laughing a lot in the other room, singing, rapping, drumming, playing the piano together, etc. and sometimes they try to ‘outpun’ one another. But I don’t have my husband’s creative gifts so that window is not available to me. My focus is to get my daughter to stay clean, have good hygiene, get out when possible to socialize and volunteer in the community, and help her wean safely off the medications that make it difficult to do all of the above.

      I think there is a lot of hope in our situation, we have very helpful friends and extended family members and I can’t count our many blessings but it would be nice if we could trust someone in the ‘system’ to hear every family members story, provide some insight and encouragement on a regular basis and support our daughter’s desire to live a med free existence. It seems that the medical or disease model has filtered down to the rank and file of every professional in the ‘system’.

      • Hi, Madmom,
        You are very articulate and insightful in telling your story, so I suspect that you are a better listener than you give yourself credit for. If I may offer one bit of advice from my experience with my son, it is: don’t bother looking for help within the system. Help doesn’t exist there as a place we can turn to on a regular basis with any confidence. Instead, when possible, bring your daughter more into contact with holistic and creative types (people like your husband). From what you write, it sounds like you’re probably already doing this. I agree with the above comments – immerse yourself in the readings that your daughter is already doing. You’ll find out pretty soon how creative you really are!

        • Rossa, thanks for the kind words and advise. I think I see your point in the futility of finding someone helpful in the ‘system’
          Being’off the grid’ in the sense of being emancipated from psychiatric services and other services which are paid for by the state is in itself a sign of recovery, leaving individuals and families more time to pursue those creative people and living communities that promote health and wellness through connectedness and community building because after all, isn’t that what we are all searching for?

  5. George

    Welcome to MIA as a writer and not just as a reader.

    I find your approach interesting, but I fear (as a first impression) that it drifts too far away from a “materialist” analysis of what is so wrong with a human environment that produces so much trauma like experiences in people’s lives. It is these real life (trauma) experiences that are most often the source of people’s need to “break” from “consensus reality” as a necessary *coping mechanism* of survival.

    You said: “So, I believe that all of us writing for MIA do so from our foolish and mad selves, hoping to bring to the debate table the missing viewpoints that have been left out of psychiatry’s consensus ideas.”

    I would point out that this above statement mischaracterizes why many people write here at MIA. There are several authors, and people who are regular participants in the discussions at MIA, that DO NOT want to somehow reform the “mental health” system. We want this System to be completely dismantled and eliminated. We believe that there are many OTHER forms of social supports that have been (and can be) created that are much more humane and successful in helping people deal with with extreme forms of psychological distress.

    And as for the future of Psychiatry, once again, there are a growing number of people who believe that Psychiatry cannot, and should not, be reformed. The main problem with this institution is NOT somehow that it has drifted away from Freud and Jung towards the “biological.”

    Psychiatry has a sordid history that predates the takeover by “Biological Psychiatry,” which has now become the worst of Psychiatry on steroids. Psychiatry is a medical specialty that is fundamentally based on fraudulent science and the incorrect understanding of what comprises those human thoughts and behaviors that get labeled as “mental illness.” These incorrect ideas and practices in the world are very harmful to millions of people.

    I do recognize that there are some INDIVIDUAL psychiatrists who are more focused on therapeutic type supports and are truly helping people in distress. And there are some other psychiatrists who are also helping people more safely taper off of toxic psychiatric drugs. These individual psychiatrist can play a positive role in the world in the coming decades.

    However, trying to REFORM Psychiatry, is misleading people as to the essential nature of this overall oppressive institution. Dissident psychiatrists should be both raising hell within their profession by targeting the criminal leaders of the biological takeover, AND pointing out the fundamental scientific and philosophical flaws within Psychiatry, in order to work towards ultimately *abolishing* Psychiatry as a medical specialty. The more honest and humane psychiatrists can then migrate towards *neurology* or *therapy* modalities as a more legitimate alternative.

    When Psychiatry has finally disappeared from our planet we will know that human society has truly advanced to a far more humane place to live.

    Respectfully, Richard

    • Richard, I hear your call to completely eliminate the mental health system, which you are sure is a higher calling than just reforming it.

      So here’s a question.

      When people have very severe psychological distress and confusion, do you think that possibly they might be in need of forms of support that are a bit different in some way from the forms of support that are available in general to everyone……or not?

      If you would propose that nothing special is needed, I would propose that you are being naive. More likely you will suggest we do need a bit different of an approach to people who are in extreme states, and that this approach needs at times to be organized – but you just don’t want to call such an organized approach a “mental health system.”

      I would say you are kind of like a person that wants to get rid of the government rather than reform it, and who claims this is absolutely necessary – but really this person also know we do need some way of organizing ourselves and managing things, it’s just that they don’t want to call anything that isn’t corrupt a “government.”

      Any system or organized approach to helping people in psychological distress can be reasonably called a “mental health system” just like any medical approach to supporting recovery in such cases might be called “psychiatry.” So I think it’s kind of foolish to talk about eliminating such categories completely, when it is clear we need something along those lines, just not the corrupt versions we have today.

      Anyway, I should also thank George for writing his article, I hope to hear more from him!

      • When people are in “very severe psychological distress and confusion” as you put it, Ron, the usual response to this “distress and confusion” is to imprison the distressed person, to torture that person, and to drug him or her, or, at least, to attempt to do so, into non-distressed non-confusion. Imprisonment, torture, and drugging represent our chief “forms of support” for such individuals. No support, to my way of thinking, is a vast improvement over those “forms of support”. The idea of other “forms of support” actually descends from those “forms of support” (i.e. imprisonment, torture, and drugging). Such, at any rate, is my tentative answer to your question, put to Richard. I hope Richard will find the time to reply to your comment eventually as I would really like to see how he might answer you as well.

        • Hi Frank, I would very much agree with you that a corrupt or misguided system can easily be worse than no system at all. But that is very different from saying that the best solution is to not have any system whatsoever! Those seeking reform are looking for a system that is likely to help rather than hurt, and that’s what makes the most sense to me. We need reform that is quite radical, not just bandaids, but I would hate to see our movement organize around the notion of getting rid of any system of caring or helping.

          • I kind of agree with Richard here, Ron, in that I think the system arose out of a perceived need for social control, not because people were upset. When they are upset (distressed, confused), nature is the better physician. I definitely don’t think it a matter of reform. There are two types of reformers, those who want a more restrictive system, and those who want a less restrictive system. Restrictions coming with the system, no system is best. The extreme numbers of people in the mental health system today arose because the system existed in the first place. Once a business (treatment, for instance) becomes established, expansion becomes an aim, and a factor in the “mental health” treatment business is always going to be this matter of selling “mental illness” labels, the prerequisite to treatment.

      • Ron

        Either you believe the current System is “rotten to the core” or you are promoting a view that it has simply gone astray and needs a few adjustments. You might even be inclined to say that it needs “major adjustments,” but even this misses just how deeply the poison of the Medical Model has permeated every pore of our entire society, let alone how completely Biological Psychiatry has totally seized control of, and has penetrated every aspect of this so-called “mental health” system.

        This System must be completely “dismantled,” otherwise we will be in danger of some of the totally corrupted elements infiltrating any new types of support systems that emerge to replace it. Of course people need supports of various kinds, but these will not, and cannot, be anything remotely related to what currently exists.

        And as long as you are still comfortable holding onto language like “mental health” to describe different ideas, feelings, and behaviors that deviate from the “norm,” it shows how even you are still very much influenced by, or willing to conciliate with this “sick” System on some level.

        The same point goes for your willingness to still accept a “medical approach to supporting recovery [in such cases} might be called “psychiatry.” ” Here again you are ready to conciliate with a “medical” or “biological” approach to supporting people in some sort of psychological distress.

        There is absolutely no scientific basis to have a medical specialty like Psychiatry, since none of the issues they are suppose to be addressing are medical in nature. And those medical issues that do affect people’s thought processes (such as thyroid problems etc.) can be dealt with by other categories of medical doctors.

        And we can certainly see the enormous harm that Psychiatry is perpetrating on this entire planet. While there is a tiny minority of psychiatrists doing positive things for people in the world, as a whole, this medical profession is also so “rotten to the core” that there is absolutely NOTHING to salvage or redeem here!

        Ron, you said: “I think it’s kind of foolish to talk about eliminating such categories completely…”

        So who’s really being “foolish” here? Given how deeply Psychiatry and THEIR system has a hold on our entire society, why would you even consider trying to reform any of this? Psychiatry currently has certain political power (which only seems to increase as each day passes) second only to the Executive Branch of our government.

        With a simple signature of a pen by a psychiatrist you can be incarcerated in a Psych Hospital/Jail, labeled and forceably drug against your will. The System’s need for this type of social control only seems to be increasing as we speak. Despite all our efforts at exposure of their faulty science and prolific drugging, Psychiatry has only gained in power and influence in the recent period. The “cabaret” goes on right under our noses and you are still calling for “reform.” How foolish is that, I ask???

        Richard

        • Richard, you write that “Of course people need supports of various kinds, but these will not, and cannot, be anything remotely related to what currently exists.” Really? So for example one kind of support that currently exists is that people talk to other people about what is going on in their lives – do we really need to eliminate that, or anything remotely relate to it?

          One of the most dysfunctional aspects to mainstream approaches is the frequent oversimplification of complex human realities. I don’t think we will fix things by offering oversimplifications of our own, especially not ones that insult all those who are currently trying their best to do what helps and stop what hurts, and who are part of the better side of what currently exists in the form of supports. (Calling such people and their networks “rotten to the core” is probably not the best way to win allies.)

          Perhaps you could fill us in on how you imagine this complete dismantling of the system, that allows for absolutely no “danger of some of the totally corrupted elements infiltrating any new types of support systems that emerge to replace it” will work. Will there be a ban on anyone who currently provides support from working in the new system, to prevent any “infiltration?” Or maybe we could just ban anyone who has ever read a book or even thought much about “mental health” from providing such support, since maybe they too are corrupted by bad ideas related to current practices?

          I do share your disgust and horror at most of what is going on in our field. But I’m urging you and others who are reading this to attempt to be strategic in how you channel that disgust, so that we can avoid driving away potential allies and can work toward changes that are actually possible, instead of pining away for a day of perfect dismantling and starting over completely fresh that will never happen. And I know I won’t reach all of you with this appeal – but hey, if I get some of you thinking, that’s an accomplishment. I do celebrate partial victories!

          • “Really? So for example one kind of support that currently exists is that people talk to other people about what is going on in their lives – do we really need to eliminate that, or anything remotely relate[d] to it?”

            Whatever conversation is–you call it “support”–I’d say it is rather safe, and it will resume as usual regardless of whether mental health torture is permitted or not. I don’t think anybody is out to stifle “talk”, nor “caring”, so long as it isn’t phony, the way so much of “mental health” “care” (& bureaucracy) is phony. We’d just get rid of the phoniness, and the system that “supports” it (i.e. phony baloney-ness).

            Simplicity is a virtue, Ron. The ancients were aware that this is so. One can create mazes out of vague fears, and conjure a Minotaur from the mundane and commonplace. Were people to live more in accord with their natures, and less with the contortions and distortions brought on by the modern and urban addiction to rapidity, maybe they would ‘get it’. “Hunters and gatherers” had a sustainable lifestyle, and little to no “mental illness”, on top of it.

            There is such a model for the complete dismantling of the mental health system actually, it is called the times before the enlightenment. Until nearly the 18th century there was very little institutionalization as we know it. Folly was a part of life, to be handled by families and communities, and rather than despaired of, expected. It was a part of the daily grind (as it remains) despite the “mental health” police. “Wising up”, too.

            I do see a problem in overly “black and white” thinking, but I think there is even more of a problem with covert collaboration and collusion. Aiding and abetting a corrupt and murderous system is not the way to go. Caring can and does exist outside of the “mental health” system. Life, real life, is there. Institutional psychiatry, forced treatment, the phony system, must go. We’re all better off without it.

          • Frank, I agree with you that we have much to learn about how what are now usually called “mental health” issues were handled in simpler societies. But in many ways these approaches were not “simple” – they were embedded into stuff like spiritual or shamanic practices that we have mostly lost touch with these days, or that we have only the most superficial understanding of. And I also agree with you that caring can exist outside of any organized “mental health” system approach – but a problem is that when people go into extreme states, they very often disconnect from or lose their ability to access the conventional kinds of relationships that involve caring in our culture. People can get very isolated and do very poorly. Just letting that happen is not a solution, just a different kind of problem. We need real solutions, and such solutions, like Open Dialogue, will inevitably draw on the best of our current system while rejecting the corruption etc. that defines so much of what is happening now.

        • Ron

          So I guess you don’t believe this System and its main (and most powerful) leadership, Psychiatry is “rotten to its core.” Since you have essentially evaded my above questions, and my response to the “foolish” label you placed on me in your prior comment.

          Then, as part of your avoidance to these questions, you totally mischaracterize my words when you say: “Calling such people and their networks “rotten to the core” is probably not the best way to win allies.”

          My references to “rotten to the core” are clearly directed at the overall “mental health” system, and to the vast majority (and core leadership) of Psychiatry.

          You twisted my words, as if I was condemning every individual working in the “System.”

          If you have read any of my past blogs and/or hundreds of comments, I have always supported and defended dissident workers, and other truly compassionate caregivers currently working inside the System. At the same time, I have always encouraged those people to take more risks in challenging the System while walking that “razor thin line” it takes to remain truly ethical while working inside an overall oppressive System.

          When looking at the System as a whole, those “programs” and “networks” and “individuals” doing really positive work are an extremely small minority of what is out there. So when making the kind of changes I am advocating, YES, the entire System needs to be dismantled, while preserving a few of these tiny exceptions.

          When I said in my prior comment “Of course people need supports of various kinds, but these will not, and cannot, be anything remotely related to what currently exists.” I was characterizing the 95% of the entire System. If you are talking about individual counselors and therapists doing overall positive work, I would put that percentage at a higher level. But much of their work is often canceled out by the mass drugging and forced hospitalizations.

          To again clarify my meaning here: there are a tiny minority of psychiatrists doing positive work in the world today. The rest are completely bought and sold and doing harm to people. Can they change and possibly “jump ship?” Of course they can, but it will not happen because people coddle them or conciliate with them. Confronting this institution with the truth about their role in the world can be very uncomfortable and painful, but it needs to happen without mincing words.

          And actually, our task here is to mainly convince people OUTSIDE of Psychiatry about this oppressive institution, for their own selfish “guild” interests blinds them to the reality of the harm they carry out. And change there will MOST DEFINITELY primarily come from the outside.

          So in conclusion Ron, I believe (based on your writings) that you do helpful work with people, but your “reformism” and defensiveness about preserving the System, and the overall UNDERSTATING of the severity of the PROBLEMS, is both troubling and misleading to those people who follow your words.

          Richard

          • Richard, I think our disagreement stems around what we are calling “the mental health system.” I am, I believe, thinking in broader terms than you are. To me, anytime a few people join together for a coordinated approach to helping people in distress, you have a bit of a “system” of care. And when someone forms a Soteria house, or a system of Open Dialogue in an are like Tornio, they are part of the “mental health” system, just a better part of it. (And these approaches draw on some of the better parts of mental health care that have been around for awhile, as Open Dialogue drew on psychodynamic and family therapy approaches, and that illustrates that future improvements are likely to build on the best of what we already have, rather than on rejecting everything we currently have.)

            I think if we are ever going to succeed, we need to focus our language and focus our attacks. You may be clear in your own mind that when you call the mental health system “rotten to the core” that you aren’t attacking all the counselors and even some psychiatrists that are out there doing good work. But don’t expect this is going to be clear to anyone else. It sounds like you are attacking everyone. It’s better I think to attack just what is bad practice: I agree with you that bad practice is what is dominant, but we need to be careful not to lump the good bits in with the bad.

          • Ron

            Open Dialogue and Soteria are “outliers” hovering on the edges of the System. They are such a tiny percentage of what is overall happening to people who encounter the “mental health” system. For you to say they are somehow “…a better part of…” the “mental health” system is simply a totally ridiculous statement when looking at how small and isolated these alternatives are at this time.

            Because they are SO small and this System is SO completely dominated by Biological psychiatry, BOTH are in serious danger of either being totally crushed and/or co-opted by the System. Any serious examination of the history of social change would teach you this reality.

            I am not trying to be negative about the prospects for change WITHIN the System, I am only being realistic about what we all up against here.

            Again, you are seriously underplaying the nature of the problem here, which seriously clouds your ability to see what the solutions are and how they will have to be brought about.

            Richard

  6. George, your writing interests me but I regret I have very little faith in psychotherapy. I was far more harmed by therapists than I was by psychiatry. I am sick and tired of hearing “non-drug approaches.” Frankly if therapy is still okay round here I’m out.

    And as for writer’s block, maybe try getting incarcerated in a nuthouse. If you ever leave in one piece, you’ll leave with plenty to write about.

  7. Thank you for this article; “forgotten knowledge” is a problem in psychology/psychiatry. I consider dream interpretation (based on simile and metaphor) to be an extremely valuable tool in retrieving memories of extremely traumatic injustices that are typically too painful for recall. I consider it extremely important to “mental health” to recall traumatic injustices in order to neutralize and counter them. I believe that the value of dream interpretation is forgotten knowledge because it is part of Freudian theory that is no longer accepted. It is also forgotten knowledge because the “false memory syndrome” fad of the nineties damaged the credibility of dream interpretation.

    Respectfully, Steve

  8. Hi George, it’s really great to see a fellow Jungian writer here on MIA, writing on dreams who also was friends with John Perry!
    I look toward to your continued posts on dreams!
    John and I were close friends for about 20 years and I did a doctoral research follow-up study on his med-free Jungian madness sanctuary, Diabasis House. Here on MIA I’ve written a couple of articles you may enjoy about dreams, Jung, madness and Perry.
    A provocative one is called- “Jung’s First Dream, The Mad God Dionysus and a Madness Sanctuary Called Diabasis.”
    In my MIA article- “Dreams: Still the Royal Road to the Unconscious” I share a dream teaching that Jung personally shared with Perry in Zurich about Jung’s own dreams, that John passed on to me in the 1980’s.
    Welcome aboard to MIA!
    Best wishes,
    Michael Cornwall

  9. Do a session of past life regression with a trained hypnotist and you will experience mental phenomena in spiritual realms only experienced by those that have fallen off the spinning wheel of sanity. I don’t know how you can write about it, or speak about it unless you have experienced it. The therapist is a guide and most don’t know the route at all. Most are trained in the visual world of the critical mind where we must think about it before we do it and analyze it before we try and fix it. Our dreams line the path of the sub-conscience mind where few go other than those that play there. What a complex organ the brain and its gift the mind that we have have been given to guide and train for life. Fear not!