Reflections on the Torture Parents and the Pedophile Olympic Doctor

Robert Berezin, MD
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I was thinking about the torture parents, David and Louise Turpin and their thirteen children, and Larry Nassar, the pedophile doctor who preyed on hundreds of innocent girls. As a psychiatrist I have heard many horrific stories of child abuse from my patients, each one worse than the last. When I think I have reached the very bottom, a new story, a more depraved one comes to light. I have seen the consequence of the damage done to these innocent children from sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, and emotional deprivation. Recovery requires years of psychotherapy, and even so, traumatic experience always leaves scars. As a therapist I know the depth of pain, self-hate, shame, damaged esteem, and self worth of my patients. I know the hard work it takes to find one’s way to worth and love. I know the difficulty to re-establish a loving trust where one dares to be emotionally open once again.

Raising our children well is of the utmost importance for us all, and for the well being of our society. We want our children to grow up to be loving, responsible, self reliant, and to raise their own children well. Child rearing is a wonderful, trying, and difficult loving commitment. The basic principles of child rearing are boundaries and love. No one can be perfect; we just have to be good enough. This holds true all the way from infancy to adulthood. Love and respect begets love and respect. When sufficient love is not available, and abuse is, people fill the emptiness and attach by virtue of sadomasochistic relating. This is infused in the limbic mapping of emotional experience. It is the source of all psychiatric symptoms. Likewise, it is the substitute foundation that creates human evil.

This means that the mappings of our emotional experience are laid down through the amygdala and limbic system and are infused with sadomasochism — serotonin and cortisol are featured in these mappings. As a result of trauma and repeated mistreatment, this generates what we can call a limbic habit.

As such, new experience follows these established sadomasochistic pathways and becomes the repeated prism of experience. It is through mourning via the process of psychotherapy that one recovers and establishes a new limbic habit that reflects a newly written play of love and trust. The older play becomes deactivated and the sadomasochistic mappings are out of operation. The symptoms and suffering disappear.

I don’t know the story of the formative lives of Larry Nassar or David and Louise Turpin. I don’t know the subsequent traumas they were subject to. But I do know that their characters were founded in sadomasochism. They are the extremes of moral monsters. The harm they have done to children is unconscionable. They have passed it on to these children — the sins of the father…

But what about the rest of us who are not monsters? We all need to look to ourselves to provide the best loving environment for our children. It’s a tall order. Under the best of circumstances, a loving couple looking out for their children is extremely difficult. We have so many broken families, so many unhappy marriages, so many divorces, so many single parents, step parents, children having children, death of a parent, etc. It’s a difficult world out there.

In my view, adolescents need their parents more than ever. We need to deal with them, protect them, oversee them, yes, fight and disagree with them. It all comes with the package. (see “Who’s responsible for Your Teenager’s Behavior? Good Enough Boundaries and Love are the Most Important Guides”). Why is this the most important (and difficult) time for parents? A teenager needs to try out experience for himself. He needs to go out in the world on his own. When he goes too far and loses his way, he needs to come back to the security of his home, regroup with the loving arms of his parents, and go back out there again. This is when boundaries are most important. Any child worth his salt needs to rebel. He needs firm and fair limits to push against. He needs to reject the mores of his childhood and discover the ways of the world for himself. He needs to test the temptations of life — sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

When he inevitably goes too far and puts himself in jeopardy, he relies on two things to right the ship. On the inside, with the authentic-being of a well enough raised child, he says to himself, “What are you doing? You need to stop being so reckless.” And on the outside he needs his parents’ love and limits. The last thing to myelinate in an adolescent brain are his frontal lobes, the seat of judgment. Before this happens he lacks judgment. It is through these experiences, as myelination takes place, that he learns adult judgment.

Parents should be very cautious about entrusting their children to any institution — private boarding schools, ballet schools, training facilities away from home for gymnasts, swimmers, skaters, etc. Parents who aspire to the Olympics for their children need to be extra careful. I am certainly not blaming them for the monster Larry Nassar. But we are all best off raising our adolescents subject to our oversight, rather than entrusting them to others. Many times the special aspirations may well originate in the parents, not the child. I have seen the real consequences of so many of these situations away from home in the service of special goals, or the promise of a great education. It’s not so pretty. No one will love and protect their kids from exploitation like a parent. They need us to be there. The whole person needs to develop in a balanced way, not just one skill: social relations, sexual experimentation, intellectual learning, athletics, music, etc.

How can a well-meaning protective parent know who to trust or where to turn? We have been taught to trust our institutions implicitly — doctors, the education system, the Olympics, etc. Those who should protect us from trauma are harming our children. My field, psychiatry, has lost its way and has become a distribution center for psychiatric drugs. We are putting our children on amphetamines, benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and antipsychotics.

Psychiatric problems and symptoms are human problems, no more and no less, derived from the formation of our characters, as we adapt to our emotional environment. Real psychotherapy addresses what ails us, not psychiatric drugs. Again, I am not calling for a return back to old failed theories of psychotherapy. Instead, we need to look ahead to a new understanding of the psychotherapy of character, which addresses the art and the science of psychotherapy, encompasses a responsiveness to the human spirit, and is consonant with a biological understanding of the brain.

38 COMMENTS

  1. Instead of psychotherapy my doc gave me a drug which took away my ability to sleep and induced a traumatic manic, psychotic episode. Hard to recover from a fall like that. Now I’ve been on antipsychotics for six years because of his mistake. Psychiatry is a disaster.

  2. Psychiatry has not lost its way. If anything, psychiatry has come into full bloom. Psychiatry, the science of lies, naturally produces the terrible problems that it purports to cure. As for psychotherapy, Szasz understood it better than anyone:

    “There is, properly speaking, no such thing as psychotherapy. Like mental illness, psychotherapy is a metaphor and a myth. Hypnosis, suggestion, psychoanalysis, whatever the so-called psychotherapy might be labeled, are names we give to people speaking and listening to each other in certain ways. By calling some types of human encounters ‘psychotherapy,’ we only impede our capacity to understand them.”

    Szasz continues:

    “What, then, are psychotherapists and what do they sell to or impose on their clients? Insofar as they use force, psychotherapists are judges and jailers, inquisitors and torturers; insofar as they eschew it, they are secular priests and pseudomedical rhetoricians. Their services consist of coercions and constraints imposed on individuals on behalf of other persons or social groups, or they consist of contracts and conversations entered into by individuals on their own behalf.” (The Myth of Psychotherapy, p. 206)

    • I think you’re kind of sensationalizing if you want to know the truth of the matter. Here we’ve got these “moral monsters” as you call them, and in a sense, here again is another version of the “violence card” being played.

      Thomas Szasz would point out that where you have no plainly discernible “illness”, in a physical sense, therapy, whether by electric shocks, drugs, or talk, is the wrong word to use. The government, in such instances, has used something that, although it has never been referred to as such, could conceivably be called “water board” therapy.

      I also think blaming the Olympic molester and the torturing parents on sadomasochism is an insult to respectable sadomasochists everywhere. There is such a thing, and you point this out, as stepping over the line, and in both cases, that line had been crossed. We’re not talking about sexual play or illness, we’re talking about criminality, wrong doing.

      The problems we are discussing are human, no doubt, but “therapy” via neurtoxin, electrocution, or talk, is not a solution. Not only is it not a solution, but it is a lie. Say a person is caught up in a bad drama, a tragedy, what you do is hire a new playwright, and change those circumstances, transforming the tragic into a romance or a comedy. I think that talk can help. I’m not denying that, but not so much as action, and neither talk nor action would I refer to as “therapy”.

      We don’t have a “sick” Olympic gym trainer, nor do we have “sick” parents, we have criminals. We don’t have “sick” victims of this gym trainer and those parents, we have wronged victims. The things we are dealing with here have to be faced, and duly dealt with. Transforming healthy people into artificially “sick” and “injured” “invalids” is no solution. Treating criminals only leads to further oppression, and then people within the “mental health” system become implicated by association. Need I add that that can’t be a good thing.

    • CBT is often used in an authoritarian manner – instead of the client deciding what thoughts or beliefs s/he wants to change, if any, the therapist decides what beliefs THEY think the client should change and tries to force the client to change them. When approached that way, it can be extremely oppressive.

      Also, CBT is just one strategic approach that could be used, doesn’t work for everyone. A therapist who is committed to being a “CBT therapist” will continue to force the issue even when it isn’t working or is harming the client.

      A really good therapist will have a range of options available to apply, and will adjust his/her approach to the needs of the client. But I’d estimate that 80% of therapists are not fully capable of doing this kind of work, and as such, they become dangerous.

    • Like I said, it’s a viable strategy. It’s not a panacea, and it can be and often is used in an authoritarian manner. The enemy isn’t CBT, it’s AUTHORITARIANISM. An authoritarian thinks s/he is better than “the mentally ill” and so believes clients need to be “fixed” by having something done TO them. Quality therapy (and I admit it is rare) involves empowering the individual to take action in the service of improving the conditions of his/her own life. It should never be driven by the needs of the therapist, but it too often is, and the DSM lends tremendous credence to authoritarian views and encourages this kind of abusive, controlling behavior in the name of “therapy.” I can completely understand that even one visit with one of these charlatans would turn one off of therapy forever. I was fortunate to have run into a capable therapist early in my life, and I learned what good therapy can do, but I don’t think most people in therapy get therapy at all. They get authoritarianism and/or ineffectual sympathy, neither of which helps anyone get anywhere good.

  3. “When sufficient love is not available, and abuse is, people fill the emptiness and attach by virtue of sadomasochistic relating. This is infused in the limbic mapping of emotional experience. It is the source of all psychiatric symptoms. It is the source of all psychiatric symptoms.”

    ‘it is the source of all psychiatric symptoms’

    Sorry nope, it is very clear in science that alcohol and psychiatric and other drugs are the source of a good deal of ‘psychiatric’ symptoms. Which means GP’s and psychiatrists are a source of a good deal of ‘psychiatric symptoms’ People – mostly – freely drink alcohol and most people freely take SSRI’s, benozdiazepines and other drugs. They are not in a forced sadomasochistic relationship. Information power imbalance relationship with a GP/psychiatrist, yes. Spellbinding by a psychiatrist/GP, yes.

    “This means that the mappings of our emotional experience are laid down through the amygdala and limbic system and are infused with sadomasochism — serotonin and cortisol are featured in these mappings.”

    References to specific science ?

    Long-term potentiation, widely thought to be the biological basis of learning and memory involves the AMPA and NMDA receptors and therefore the glutamate system involving the transmission of sodium, calcium, glutamate, glycine setting off a cascade of events leading to LTP. Part of the science that is known of LTP is described here, please note the gating of the NMDA receptor by magnesium ions, regulating the glutamate transmission:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vso9jgfpI_c

    It is alcohol and benzodiazepine/sleeper drugs that damage this system leading to ‘psychiatric’ symptoms.

    “My field, psychiatry, has lost its way”

    Given the history, that is like saying Nazism has has lost it’s way.

    It has never had a good way. But there have been interesting individuals who verge on being creative. There have also been great artists who were sadomasochists, Francis Bacon was one.

  4. The primary actual function of today’s psychiatric industry is covering up child abuse, by turning millions of child abuse victims into the “mentally ill” with the psychiatric drugs.

    https://www.madinamerica.com/2016/04/heal-for-life/
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroleptic-induced_deficit_syndrome
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxidrome
    https://www.alternet.org/comments/story/146659/are_prozac_and_other_psychiatric_drugs_causing_the_astonishing_rise_of_mental_illness_in_america#disqus_thread

    In reality, all psychiatrists who are drugging up child abuse victims, instead of reporting such crimes, should be arrested and charged, since technically speaking they are mandatory reporters.

    Once the medical evidence of the abuse of my child was handed over to me, the first thing my psychiatrist did was try to get me to send my child to be drugged up by a child psychiatrist. I said no. The second thing he did was try to convince my husband that I needed to be put back on major tranquilizers. That’s when I had to leave that criminal psychiatrist.

    Thank you for pointing out your industry’s torture of millions of children, Robert. “My field, psychiatry, has lost its way and has become a distribution center for psychiatric drugs. We are putting our children on amphetamines, benzodiazepines, antidepressants, and antipsychotics.” This is psychiatric abuse and torture of children on an appalling scale. It’s heartbreaking.

    And if this is not stopped soon it will end just like it did in Bolshevik Russia and Nazi Germany, historically the psychiatrists have always run amok and turned into mass murderers. And the American doctors have already turned themselves into that.

    https://www.naturalnews.com/049860_psych_drugs_medical_holocaust_Big_Pharma.html
    http://www.webdc.com/pdfs/deathbymedicine.pdf

    It’s a shame the psychiatric industry didn’t learn from history, and they repeat the worst of history over and over and over again, in country after country. “Eugenics,” “genetics,” no psychiatry is always about iatrogenic harm and murder of innocents.

    Shame on our multibillion dollar, primarily child abuse covering up, psychiatric industry, and the mainstream medical community that bought into their lies, because it is so profitable. “For the love of money is the root of all evil….” “A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members.” I’m ashamed of my country.

  5. Pedophilia is classified in DSM as Paraphilia. But Pedophilia exists in a spectrum. There are people who are boundary cases but still exhibiting tell-tale signs. I think these people are better off seeking help after admitting their blindspots to reign in their beastly nature. Try hard. If your eye is lusting and tempting you to commit adultery then you should pull out that eye. Try SSRI because it induces asexuality. Do whatever that helps.

    Same for abusive parents. Be honest to yourself and do something to make things better. But I think most of these extremely abusive parents also are deeply paranoid about many things. I have seen people who are impossible to connect – not emotionally but literally. Their understanding of the world is quite bizarre and it is just a miracle how they survived their life until their 50’s and 60’s. They have elaborate reasons why their children deserve abuse and mistreatment. But calling them mentally ill is unfair. People are abusive to other people all the time: slavery, misogyny, genocide. So maybe it is not mental illness but an inclination to cruelty. Maybe it gives them feelings of being in control. Ignorance is bliss. When you deny vulnerability then you are strong.

    But people just do not have awareness. And the last thing they want is someone who will point out their blindspot. Tell them the truth and it is like asking to have a bullseye marked on your left chest.

      • I commiserate with those who feel unfairly judged by therapists because I personally had experiences with being judged too early before they even get to know me. I don’t have any hard feelings to them because I believe these people were either at their early career( still developing their therapy skills ) or just struggling with limited resources.

        What I wrote was about a hypothetical ideal situation where a therapy client can shop around a half dozen therapists and test therapeutic alliance with each, which is far from reality. You have to go with whoever your insurance covers or the least costly option. So in reality most people will try making first appointment with someone their insurance covers and walk away feeling like feces was smeared all over. Then you can leave a scathing review of their practice on Yelp which goes like “Beware of blah blah blah”

        • I have to add a caution for those who shit-post. I just received a very strongly worded letter from an organization that I shit-posted of its many members to “cease and desist” from shit-posting or they will notify the police and pursue legal actions against me. One of my shit-post to one of its employee was about “cease and desist” from gas lighting me, if my memory is correct. Maybe they tracked my digital trails and using it against me.

          Of all mental health professionals who were judging me, the worst was the young female psychiatry resident on night duty on the day I was admitted to a hospital for a suicide attempt. Basically I felt like, “What do you know about my situation? I did what I did for very good reasons.” This young ambitious future psychiatry fellow wannabe ( you know MD’s aspire to specialists and specialists aspire to fellows etc.) asked me ridiculous questions like “Who is providing for you?” Since I was not working at the time I said “Parents” making me feel vastly inferior to all those upstanding tax paying citizens including her. There was not a lot of age difference between me and her–Bitch fuck off. (I almost said that) I don’t know why she pulled out that question out of her therapeutic ass. Was that supposed to help me? What does it do to a suicidal patient? Or was she trying to add insult to injury? If my situation gets better than I will get my jobs of course. If the society deems me useful, I will be employed. Oh, she also ran some brief questions intended to check whether or not I had a psychosis or intoxicated by a drug. Nurses were quietly judging gathered around their nursing station. I could hear them shishing sound. Next to my bed was some drug intoxicated homeless guy who had liver failure/kidney failure? Serious life threatening situation but nurses were responding to this poor man mechanically. Zero compassion to psychiatric patients. ER is a cruel place.

          A much older psychiatrist the next morning were more diplomatic. He was pretending to be compassionate and did not ask any insulting questions. But I did not trust him because he was supervising the psychiatric resident girl and maybe he was the one who told her to ask an emergency psych-patient to ask “Who is providing for you?” Add to that an interview by a psychiatrist costs $350 which I saw from OHIP billing manual.

          So I know very well how impersonal and cruel the mental health professionals can be. There is an enormous power differential. But I guess I have to feel lucky that they did not diagnose me that night of psychosis or something serious. When my 24 hours of observation was over, I took a bus to home. (It was supposed to be a 72 hours but I convinced the old psychiatry supervising doctor that I am basically a good girl who temporarily lapsed in judgment because of my abusive immigrant family. They gave me a contact information to Gerstein House: a shelter for abused women and encouraged me to seek help when needed. This was ridiculous because we all know that shelter bed is always full or ridden with bed-bugs. But I graciously received the helpful information from the healing hands of a head psychiatrist and got discharged serving less than the required 72 hours.) NOTE: My parents refused to give me a ride to home after I was discharged, which is why I took a bus. Also, my parents did not bring me tooth brush, shampoo, or extra underwear during my hospital stay.

          • Oh, I also spoke with a police officer during my hospital stay because before suicide I was a victim in a domestic violence situation. So that is why they told me to contact Gerstein Centre in future crisis. I took a photo of me after I came home. My left eye was bruised in purple black.

            I went back to school. I still struggled with mental health issues or PTSD for five years. Soon my sister developed schizophrenia. Then I was sexually assaulted because I did not stand up with my back straight when I was saying “NO”. My vulnerability was a screaming “YES” to this perpetrator.

  6. Why is Larry Nasser a monster? He sounds like someone with a lot of problems. Meanwhile, the criminal justice system is a monster.

    We have judges in cases like these who are allowed to make jokes about destroying people and are praised for verbalizing brutal state revenge. As far as I understand it Nasser didn’t actually have intercourse with any girls. Not to make light of what happened at all or the pain of the victims. I have been a victim. There is no way I would want to see someone destroyed in the slavery hell of an American prison for the rest of their lives. Yet vengeance and war itself are American values when we are told they are appropriate.

    Sex crimes are the new media circus. This is a large distraction from far more serious issues in our country or the world. If the media doesn’t mention them, you’ll never know. Much more importantly, if social media never discusses threats to our rights, dignity and freedoms, you’ll have a much more difficult time understanding anything. Far more insidious is when social media does mention threats to your rights, but actually disables you from doing anything about protecting them. Elections, a fake Democracy and social media are not going to protect your rights.

    Social media is usually used to deliver propaganda (good and bad) and datamine all of its participants. You don’t have to pay to be psychologically profiled.

    Berezin has been around for a while, perhaps he remembers a country that at one time didn’t seem preoccupied with identity politics, vengeance, victims and victim retribution.

    There is very little discussion about the role Psychiatry and it’s Criminal Justice twin plays in our destructive hyper-Capitalist society. There are crimes commited that rival any by so-called sex predators, but you won’t understand them if you don’t get smart. Some of the immorality of our predatory economy is perfectly legal, it will never make the news. No one will be called a monster.

    Pedophilia has long been debated. I don’t see a debate here, I see bits of autoritarianism and politically correct dehumanization by the good doctor. Apparently the world is filled with monsters who should be destroyed or defended against.

  7. I am not sure that it is a”psychotherapy of character” that is needed. Given the content of this article overall & Dr. Berezin’s other writings, this point may be more a quibble about wording than a disagreement about conceptualization. Leaving that aside, an otherwise good and timely article would have been even better if the last sentence had referred not to “a biological understanding of the brain” but to a “relational and biological understanding of the brain,” following the earlier statement that “the mappings of our emotional experience are laid down through the amygdala and limbic system.” Lastly, reading this piece reminds me again the large debt that many of us have to Allan Schore. Many thanks, Dr. Berezin.