“The Angry Consumer”: Embracing Difficult Conversations

Nev Jones, PhDEmily Cutler
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Nearly all of us who have been involved with mental health policy, practice, or research for any length of time have participated in multi-stakeholder meetings, collaborations, or relationships of one kind or another gone awry. And while there are many reasons that interpersonal dynamics can (and do) deteriorate, when it comes to mental health, by far the most common scenario is an interpersonal break-down across clear identarian lines. And these divisions occur both in terms of the issues—of what is being discussed, proposed, or reviewed—and the emotions involved (and, by extension, the style or mode of interaction).

While there is an obvious relationship between issues and emotions (or ‘affect’), there are also ways in which—in your average mental health setting—they are orthogonal. That is, if a given service topic—whether involuntary commitment or antipsychotic withdrawal—has not only personally affected us (as individuals), but also our friends, and a sociopolitical group we strongly identity with, it’s likely that the issue itself will engender deep emotions, some conscious and some not. If, instead, we’re wearing a strictly professional hat, have never ourselves experienced the issue or intervention in question, and our professional ‘in group’ sees little in the way of controversy (for instance, it’s generally assumed that whatever is being discussed is a good, unproblematic thing)—it’s easy to stay calm, cool and collected: to discuss the issue with perceived ‘neutrality,’ to maintain emotional distance. Nothing should surprise us about this.

In fact, one could go so far as to define at least one major form of ‘privilege’ in such contexts as the capacity to remain emotionally unaffected, ‘untriggered,’ calm, neutral—because whatever is being discussed does not bear the weight of a policy or intervention that has in the past, or could in the future, radically shape one’s own mind, body, rights, future, career, and community. And yet, so often, the ability to stay ‘neutral’ is framed as a skill, achievement, and sign of professionalism and maturity. (Or even an indicator of a ‘normal,’ healthy ‘personality.’) The individuals in our boardroom or public hearing who don’t get upset are the ones who really should be there, this logic leads us to conclude—who should be the decision makers. Conversely, reacting emotionally, getting upset, getting flustered, raising one’s voice, is seen as a sign of individual weakness. In some contexts, this might be seen as correctable (‘learning to act more professionally’); in others, even more insidiously, as a sign of deeper, underlying pathology (for example, ‘unstable mood or emotions,’ ‘interpersonal lability,’ or a disordered personality). Within this logic, the anger, despair, frustration, confusion, and shame of the proverbial ‘other’ is all too easily used to confirm existing forms of psychiatric othering and justify gatekeeping strategies and policies that create space only for those service users/survivors who don’t get visibly angry or sad, raise their voices, or ‘emote.’

And now we want to make two points about this all—first, that judgments of the so-called ‘angry consumer’ in fact deeply reinforce divisions (and divisiveness) within mental health policy and services, and even the very emotions they seek to avoid or circumvent; and second, that the only way we can engage in meaningful co-production is not to gloss over histories and legacies of collective exclusion and disempowerment and all the individual pain and anger that goes along with it, but rather to validate and actively work through difficult feelings and emotions: both our own and others’ discomfort.

Whenever a friend, colleague or associate expresses their dismay that some consumer or family member is ‘too angry,’ ‘unprofessional,’ ‘unproductive’ or ‘unable to get along with others,’ we always ask them to try and imagine what that person has, or may have, experienced. In general, people end up advocates or activists precisely due to an express personal and political commitment to the improvement or transformation of systems and services, very often undergirded by a series of painful experiences. As a given group ‘coolly and calmly’ discusses involuntary commitment, for example, the individual may have in their mind the images and memories of riding in a police car to a local ER in handcuffs, of a charge nurse stripping them of all their personal belongings and leaving them to wander around a sometimes frightening ward in a hospital gown three sizes too large and only a t-shirt and underwear beneath. Or discussion might turn to policy concerning antipsychotics and immediately, coloring their own experience of this discussion, are the memories of years or decades spent on drugs that left them too mentally flat and exhausted to do anything, or seriously physically ill, from metabolic or neurological side effects. Some of them—or rather, some of us—also have friends, close and not-so-close, who have ended up casualties of the system in any number of different ways—incarcerated, trapped in state institutions, in poverty, living in SROs or IMDs or group homes where there is little prospect of anything like a ‘normal’ life. And these memories, these experiences, these times we have witnessed the fates of others who are and are not ‘us,’ who are our brothers and sisters and comrades, are often, so often, deeply painful. It hurts to remember, and the images—her eyes, that day, how dim and lifeless they looked when the orderly took her away; the urge to hit something, maybe yourself, mixed with despair, and along with it the color of the cement and the play of the shadows in the corner of the hospital room, waiting to be cleared. Listening to a voicemail from your supervisor, saying you were suspended or terminated, and how your body went limp.

And now, imagine the effects, when that person is told—perhaps they’re even the sole ‘token’ representative of ‘people with lived experience’ in a given group or meeting—‘you’re too emotional,’ ‘you’re too angry,’ ‘don’t you *want* to collaborate,’ ‘why can’t you control what you say,’ ‘do you really think this is the best way to get what you want?’. Imagine what effect these words have, what they do, how they are heard, how they feel. Surely, it does not take too much thought to realize the potential damage likely to stem from repeating—here in the form of judgement, specifically the judgement that ‘excessive emotions’ are not okay, that a person who has or for lengthy periods in the past may have given up entirely on any prospect that they would ever amount to anything and been told so repeatedly, is now again told that they cannot or do not work well with others, are not good collaborators, need to work on their communication skills, won’t be invited back, are too angry and can’t control their emotions in public, however it goes.

Not only do such judgments, publicly or privately voiced, have a damaging and potentially re-traumatizing effect on service users individually, they also harm the entire policy-making and research process. The fact that there are strong emotions tells us something critically important. The emotional reactions we experience in response to particular political topics and issues can give us—not just the individual who is upset, but us, collectively—tremendous insight into those issues. If a person becomes angry and hostile in response to a discussion on involuntary commitment, for example, it is likely that they are reacting to something wrong with the discussion. Most often, in our experience, this stems from the perception that power in the conversation is unequal, that all perspectives are not equally valued, or that there is de facto, however subtle, silencing of views stemming from personal experience and/or collective advocacy. In such scenarios, an individual’s anger and even perceived hostility should not only be tolerated but valued, seen as an opportunity for deeper engaging with issues that area and remain extremely challenging, for which there is no consensus.

If service users/survivors who display strong emotions in mental health research and policy discussions are excluded, we send a strong message that the only purpose of service user involvement is to claim that one or more service user or survivors was involved in the conversation. If we truly value their contributions, not merely tokenize them, this requires that we actually accord credit to the experience of having used services as experiential expertise, with the understanding that such experiences, ‘normally’ and expectably, are often tied to strong emotions. If we are to truly listen to the perspectives of those who have been historically excluded and marginalized, then we need to listen to their emotional reactions as well as their words.

And now let us come back to an alternative to judgement and exclusion: in this alternative space, we accept that calm, cool, and collected conversations are largely a fantasy when it comes to conversations unavoidably embedded in legacies of discrimination, stigma, and exclusion. We assume that diverse stakeholders will bring with them anger, defensiveness, distrust. And then, instead of concluding that they are unprofessional, unpredictable, and too hard to work with, we’ll instead:

  1. Validate. We acknowledge the strong feelings, that anger, that frustration and confusion, are valid, justified, to be expected. We don’t say this in a paternalistic or condescending way. We—whomever of us ends up on the ‘calm and collected’ side, that is, tries to imagine where the ‘other’ is coming from, what they have been through. We ask ‘if that had been me, how might I feel’; we remind ourselves ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’
  2. Commit. We do not use ‘expressed emotion’ as a justification to excuse, judge or marginalize. We don’t even consider it. We remind ourselves that for whatever single service user/survivor might have been immediately involved, there are thousands with the same concerns, the same anger, the same views. And these people deserve—we would even go so far as to say morally obligate us—to be taken seriously, as problems that need to be worked through, not circumvented.
  3. Value. We recognize that often, a person’s strong emotions actually provide deep insights into the relational dynamics at play in whatever conversation we’re involved in. We take a look at what kinds of perspectives might be missing from the conversation that this person’s strong feelings may represent. We prepare to take responsibility for any ways we might be invalidating or minimizing a person’s experiences, emotional ties to peers and colleagues in their identity group, and political commitments. We acknowledge that sometimes, the people who are most triggered by a particular conversation are the ones who in fact have the most to contribute to it.
  4. Work Through. We embrace complexity, difficult, challenge. We prepare to feel uncomfortable, we prepare to feel and experience our own emotions (as well as, and in reaction to, others’). And we are also forgiving—of ourselves, and of others. If a facilitator or mediator is needed—because of the magnitude of what we’re trying to work through—we get one.

No joint venture is ever guaranteed to work. In the larger scheme of things, however, the greatest collective failure is not failure of this or that particular venture but rather avoidance of the deeper issues that, individually circumvented, in fact prevent the deeper and more difficult collective work of ‘co-production’ and deep collaboration from ever actually taking place.

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Nev Jones, PhD
Nev Jones is an assistant professor of mental health law and policy at the University of South Florida, and faculty affiliate of the Florida Mental Health Institute. Major areas of focus include strengthening user/survivor leadership in mental health research and policy and addressing structural inequalities as they intersect with mental health systems.
Emily Cutler
Emily Sheera Cutler is a PhD student in Behavioral and Community Sciences at the University of South Florida, and MIA's assistant editor and community moderator. Ever since her involuntary hospitalization at age 20, she has been passionate about combating paternalism. Her research interests include involuntary commitment, childhood trauma, fat studies, and the social and systemic causes of suicide.

139 COMMENTS

  1. This is an important article, and I’m not sure whether it was Nev Jones or Emily Cutler who wrote it. But, whichever one of you it was, you need to take some lessons in creative writing and proper diction. This article is rife with run-on sentences. You’re constantly trying to pack too much verbiage into one sentence, at the same time that you’re trying to be cute and rhetorical. It would be a lot easier to understand what you’re saying if this wasn’t the case.

  2. kumininexile I am sorry you have difficulty reading the article and are so vain as to be able to post such a criticism as the first comment.

  3. This reminds me of the psychiatrist looking at me saying “wow, I’m feeling a lot of anger”. Too right mate, you lied. Lied about what you could achieve, how you were going to achieve it, how effective your interventions were, what the side effects would be, what were the possible causes. You could have told the truth about your view of the prognosis, what treatments and doses you would be considering, how effective they are, what they do to your body, what is understood about causation, but you didn’t. The only remedy is for this fake doctor to get the hell out of the way, frankly, whilst the rest of us try and help the sufferer chart his/her course to recovery.

    I agree this is an important topic, but for some of us it’s gone too far. Once the Doctor is found out not being fully open and truthful, there is no conversation to have.

    • Very well said. There are a lot of “fantasies” which I believe many of us are ready to let go of–for example, that there can be any reform in the “mental health” industry. I think it’s quite obvious what happens in these “dialogues.”

      Not to be a naysayer here, which is not my usual style, but “it’s gone too far” is a good way to put it, and yes, the lying has been over the top. Time to clean up this mess, for the sake of the greater good.

      Although I do agree with the premise of this article, that being non-emotional is really an illusion. Transparency is truth and emotions do, indeed, inform us in critical ways. But it’s hard to contain in a group of very passionate people when they are also rightfully angry about injustice which has yet to be remedied, so more power to you!

    • I guess my psychiatrist no longer has any answers or insight that I haven’t already indicated I possess. Time to make it on my own and accept that which cannot be changed.

  4. Pat H bread butterski is to walk in there each morning and say howdy.

    And I meditate about the good ideas of colleague or two that have recovery champions that support career goals and contribute to good work cimate.

  5. On the one hand on the first look, there is little bad to say about it. On the other hand, the points being made for change are so feeble that I wonder about the real goal, and that is one reason why I just see ist as yet another trick. The fact that you sell it off as “progress” to consider whether the feelings your subjugates utter might have a meaning makes me angry already (oh look, it identified its emotion, how cute it is! Now TOGETHER we can correct them!)

    My words have meaning (although you likely mean in the to-be-psychoanalyzed-and-twisted manner)?
    I deserve a voice?
    I might have a point? Really…a thing like ME?
    Like i am sort of a little bit a person(while of corse still a mentally ill)?….holy shit, thank youthankthank you for your empowering. Nope, I just have more criticism.

    Your direction seems good, but this is by far not enough.

    – you are willing to do things therapy promises since decades. Listen, give us a “feeling” of being taken seriously, somehow see some unbiquitous “meaning” in evertyhing, and even take resposibility for “designing the realtionship in a favorable manner”.

    BUt what you don’t say you are willing to do is this:
    Admit guilt. How you and your peers might have destroyed and hurt people.
    Admit mistakes. How you were wrong in the way you thought.
    See us as equals.
    Debate, argue and fight on eye level.
    Change.

    -“Valuing” “listening” “not judging” and “taking seriously” are empty phrases in the therapeutic world. It’s so clear to you that we are lesser than you, that if you give us a tiny idea of beig a person, you feel like a holy samaritarian. Your twisted and bended view of these words usually boil down to “we admit that you really exprience what you experience. This is supposed to make you feel fluffy and warm inside. So now, we who are better than you, can teach you why you are wrong.” While you see yourselves as intlligent, you see menta health cases as interesting organisms.

    the follwing sentence says it all: “And these people deserve—we would even go so far as to say morally obligate us—to be taken seriously, as problems that need to be worked through, not circumvented.”

    The people *are* the problem to be solved to you.

    You talk about professinal being “uninvolved” cool and collected, and seem to be a bit critical of this view. But you don’t say WHY you are not.
    You are involved in your own interests. Interests like obeying your authorities, pleasing your peers and collegues as social interets and having your narcissim fostered and feeling the success of a finsihed project. That might play a role in why ‘you’ are so upset and often compassionless when you don’t get what you expect.

    The “valuing” “working through” through my feelings regarding therapy with a therapist, is like a rapist valuing my concerns regarding rape. I imagine they penetrate me, argue that logically speaking it is just a phallus in a body opening, but they validate that I suffer and even allow it. Then while using my body against my will, they offer me to find solutions to be more willing to have sex.

    To me people who are willing to change dehumazing practices and choose to define theselves outside psychiatric labels, just hate that they see their cage. To me they are not the problem, they bring parts of a solution. Anger is the most reasonable reaction to opression.

    You seem to take it for granted that there is the idea that emotion is not the contrary of ratio. Emotion is just emotion. You can describe what a tortured lab rat is going through with the voice of an animals rights activists or a sociopathic scientist and the same conent. If something currently upsets you it can make you too angry to concentrate, yes.
    But any opressed group was angry. According to you women, homosexuals and blacks would have ben solved and put in their place.

    Without emotion we don’t have direction and don’t need values, nor mental health. My interets count, your interests count the interests of society as a whole count and somewhere mental health has its place. But this cannot be figured out if powerful people see people with feelings as problems to be solved, like they see everoyne.

    You are ready to do what is your job since decades, what your kind promises (in a twisted, streched and bended manner) in every branch of media they get a hold on.
    But it was not clar to me if you are ready for the most important thing: admit your MISTAKES and CHANGE.

    • I think the unspoken assumption reflected in the article (and in many other places) is that people’s “feelings” need to be processed through some kind of “system” and monitored by those who are trained in “dealing with” human thought, feeling and behavior. In other words that psychiatry needs to be reworked substituting “human values,” which is like wishing for a vampire to switch to spring water. As long as people see psychiatry and “mental health” as well-intentioned and misguided attempts to “professionally help” people (which they said about Vietnam too), rather than euphemistic adjuncts to law enforcement, they will continue to be frustrated, outraged and astonished when their attempts to “humanize” the system are rebuffed.

      Calling for “alternatives” to psychiatry and/or “mental health” betrays a conscious or implicit belief that psychiatry serves a needed purpose, but needs to do it “better.” Substitute “eugenics” for “psychiatry” and see how logical that sounds.

      BTW Anne Antfield, you should keep your eyes peeled for Auntie Psychiatry, who, as you may not know, is a giant anteater! 🙂

    • The fact that one would have to say “these people deserve to be taken seriously” shows that they are not treated as people. That’s the central problem. The point of honest engagement with one’s clients on an equal power basis isn’t just a “good idea” that people “ought to consider.” It is the key to being able to be helpful in any way at all. How could anyone think they’re being helpful to another person if they don’t take that person seriously? Wouldn’t that other person’s framing of reality be the CENTRAL point that a helping person would be trying to discover and flesh out? Even using the term “these people” is insulting in itself. As if “these people” are somehow different than “us?”

      Why not just take EVERYONE seriously and treat each other with respect at all times? Why categorize people as “mentally ill” and then insist that people treat “these people” respectfully? Isn’t the very act of labeling them as “mentally ill” without even consulting “them” an immediate act of “othering” and disrespect?

      • “The point of honest engagement with one’s clients on an equal power basis isn’t just a ‘good idea’ that people ‘ought to consider.’ It is the key to being able to be helpful in any way at all.” So true, and anyone who doesn’t treat all people as equals is anti-American, since America was founded on the belief “all people are created as equal.”

        “Isn’t the very act of labeling them as ‘mentally ill’ without even consulting ‘them’ an immediate act of ‘othering’ and disrespect?” Yes absolutely. I’ve never in my life met such disrespectful and “delusions of grandeur” filled people, as today’s scientifically invalid DSM deluded “mental health professionals.”

  6. The comments are an interesting reaction to efforts that should have happened decades ago.
    Does anyone know how the Nuremberg Trials were created and who and how witnesses were used?
    Elie Wiesel struggled with the concept of forgiveness for the rest of his life. Again I would look on how others handled restitution and reclaimization. The history is not that great. Intially, freed slaves were promised a small amount of land and money. But somehow it fell through the cracks. The First Nation folks are still dealing with multiple issues of health and sociology- economic status. South Africa did do a Commission but it will take decades to work it all out. The Japanese American containment – proper word? camps just had a SCOTUS long delayed moment.
    So much of human history and now we are so aware of it but instead of using it as a bell toll do many of us continue to hide our head in the sand.
    So many psych survivors myself included and horrirific experiences and done in isolation ie How do you tell close or extended relatives or say children I was put in seclusion and chemically raped. For no good reason other than I was more knowledgeable than staff and was uppity.
    So I think the psych survivor skinf to the sexual abuse folks have another layer of absolute isolation and for the psych survivor we are labeled and in that labeling our entire power our entire ability to fight back had been completely taken away.
    There are the folks on the unit but as mentioned in Eric’s writing you don’t see the folks outside.
    It’s multi layered and deserves an almost separate Nuremberg type trial or Truth and Reconcilliation Committee.

    • “So I think the psych survivor skinf to the sexual abuse folks have another layer of absolute isolation and for the psych survivor we are labeled and in that labeling our entire power our entire ability to fight back had been completely taken away.”

      I’m not sure what “skinf” means. But as to those of us mislabeled with the DSM disorders by doctors and religious satanists wanting to cover up their child abuse crimes.

      I’m here to share my medical research of the scientific invalidity of all the DSM disorders, including the “sacred symbol of psychiatry.” For all mislabeled with these invalid DSM disorders, and made sick with the psychiatric drugs. Don’t lose hope. Have hope. All the DSM disorders are merely a description of the iatrogenic illnesses that can be created with the psychiatric drugs.

      That’s what my medical research proves, read it, believe it. And with confidence, quote my above mentioned research to your doctor, he won’t be able to refute it. And likely, he’ll actually be impressed, with your medical acumen, and medical knowledge.

      • Although, of course, it is recommended you find a doctor different than the idiot “mental health professional” who misdiagnosed you. Since that moron, and all his affiliate “mental health professionals” will, of course, be hell bent on covering their prior malpractice.

  7. I thought this was very well articulated. I think some of the angry comments come from a place of incredulity that such validation of grieved parties even needs to be made so explicitly. But if the gaslighting of survivors wasn’t such a regular occurance maybe you wouldn’t have to explain why survivors are justifiably angry.

    I’m so bitterly tired of being told to lower my voice.

    • We should all RAISE our voices in such scenarios. One of the problems with psychiatry is that is does minimize and dismiss too many of the valid concerns clients have about experiences. Many of my clients, too many, tell me that despite saying to their doctors that they don’t feel any better with pills, or feel worse, more pills keep being offered as a solution. This is certainly reason to be upset and frustrated by a broken system. Docs don’t live the life of any of their “patients”, yet they think they know what is best because they have a degree and privilege.

      • Amen to that! The difficulty from my viewpoint is that the DSM diagnostic system is specifically designed to discourage clinicians from assigning any validity or importance to the clients’ viewpoint and experience. It’s a natural progression from “we get to define your ‘disease’ for you” to “we get to tell you how to think and feel” to “your comments are irrelevant.” It’s a power thing, and it’s built into the system as it is, intentionally so. Listening to the clients immediately starts undermining basic assumptions of the system, and so it can’t be allowed. Clients’ voices threaten those in power, because those in power know at some level that they are emperors without clothing. So any clients who start complaining have to be shut up before people start to realize that “the man behind the curtain” is the actual Wizard of Oz.

        • Steve,

          This comment resonates with me today: “Clients’ voices threaten those in power, because those in power know at some level that they are emperors without clothing.” I asked my manager in our team meeting recently if ALL clients are regularly surveyed to get their opinions on how our services are effecting them. I was told some clients are randomly asked to fill out a survey (with a $5 or $10 gift card given to them upon completion, which may sway the results since the clients are essentially bribed to tell us how they feel); I asked how the agency uses such important feedback, and she did not know. This is very telling of how the system works.

          The people who run my agency and most others really care what clients think of their treatment, otherwise we’d make a substantial and meaningful effort to hear all of their voices and change our system based on their feedback and needs. But instead the agency is making sure it hears from the staff, which again speaks to institutional priorities. My organization should frankly care most about client satisfaction, because supposedly our mission is to help people “recover”. If we really gave a crap about how clients’ lives are impacted by our “treatments”, we’d do a much better job trying to hear from them. But no, our agency talks about how they care about employee “well being” and “client recovery” all the while not changing how the system works for the client. I doubt they want to hear the feedback that clients feel like guinea pigs in some experimental lab, because they have to KNOW this is the truth.

          I can see why many don’t believe reform is possible. The power structure is too hierarchical and patriarchal. I feel a bit dejected at the moment. This is BS.

          • Oldhead, yeah I agree. The more I open my eyes to what is happening around me, the harder it is to ignore the ugly truths. Just today I heard another horror story from someone who spent time in prison and was drugged up on 10 pills at a time, describing walking around “like a zombie who couldn’t think clearly.” WTF? The doctors kept throwing pills at this person and it only made them feel terrible and sick. I don’t know how these “professionals” sleep at night knowing they are killing and harming people by treating them like this? I guess having a nice car and house make it all worth it? This kind of “treatment” of innocent people needs to stop immediately.

          • Lavendersage,
            Thank you for the kind words and the virtual hug! I do love hugs. Maybe I can recommend to all our doctors to prescribe hugs instead of pills? I’m betting there’d be fewer “adverse” results.

            I think I’ve been in denial about the realities of modern “mental healthcare” in western countries. I wanted to believe that we were doing more good than harm, but reality is starting to smack me in the face more and more. Everyday I see evidence of the harm that is doing to people who are mainly seeking to reduce their suffering, get their basic needs met, and to be understood by others. The individuals whom I’ve had the privileged to work with have been told by society that they are disordered, ill, and need treatment in order to be ok. That is BS. Every aspect of society is impacted by the paradigm which we currently find ourselves in, where we see the root of the problem as being with the individual rather than considering the dysfunctional and traumatizing world we all live in as the main cause of the suffering. Be well.

          • Didn’t mean to cause dejection, but it seems an inevitable result of looking at the reality of the system as it is. And your agency appears to be one of the better ones! The arrogance and lack of humility behind the whole DSM strategy pervades everything that happens in the system. Which is why I eventually bailed out and got into advocacy. I started feeling I couldn’t live with myself.

          • Shaun seems to be experiencing a major turnaround in his perception of the system. I’ll just give a thumbs up and try to stay out of the way. 🙂

          • Steve,
            I think it’s ultimately positive that I feel uncomfortable and angry right now. It tells me there is a problem that needs my attention. I have a feeling I won’t be in my job much longer given that I’ve been telling the people I serve that they’re likely being harmed more than helped on the drugs their doctors give them and that the labels we slap onto them are totally unscientific and stigmatizing. My agency may see this as a hostile act!

          • Oldhead, what I see now can’t be unseen. When I hear my manager talk about the importance of treatment plans now, I just want to throw up (I used to just roll my eyes). NONE of the people I see come to see me because they want to do paperwork so we can bill for the service. I’m still unsure how I can quantify human suffering anyway. Such a stupid system we’ve set up. Most providers are unhappy because we are stuck on our computers for hours a day instead of actually talking to our fellow human beings. Finally, I’ll add that most of my clients want to be heard and known, and they feel as though their doctors care about little else than throwing more drugs at them. If the doctors would just listen rather than prescribe, we’d be so much better off. Zoloft with a side of sexual dysfunction and insomnia or validation of your pain….I wonder which option is better?

          • “I can see why many don’t believe reform is possible. The power structure is too hierarchical and patriarchal. I feel a bit dejected at the moment. This is BS.”

            Kudos, Shaun, on your awakening! Excellent work, and I mean that most sincerely. I imagine that the feeling of dejection will eventually transmute its way into more of a feeling of empowerment and passion to help usher in sorely needed change.

            Now spread the word. BS, indeed. I feel a sigh of relief.

          • Alex,
            Thank you for the response. I do plan to spread the word, and I expect it will be a challenging but worthwhile journey. Take care.

          • Shaun — Hopefully you will understand that what you considered my “jabs” at you were in fact directed at the system which you, at that point, were identifying with.

            Anyway, the next step should not be for you to immediately start shouting things from the rooftops, at least those where you work. You need to take time to reassess and be strategic. You are probably already being whispered about as a potential problem, so should be as seemingly content and compliant as possible for now, at least up to the point where this might jeopardize a “consumer.”

            It is most important to take to heart the experience of therapist Michael Rock, who was diagnosed by staff at the facility he worked in when he started going on about R. Whitaker’s writings. It’s pretty stunning, check this out: https://www.madinamerica.com/2016/07/my-fixed-delusion/

          • Oldhead, thanks for reaching out. I don’t take what was said on MIA personally, or I try not to anyway! You are passionate about your beliefs and experiences, and you shouldn’t change that simply because some people may take offense. Your “tough love” of sorts has helped me to challenge my own beliefs about “mental illness” and the effects of “treatment.”

            I just read Michael’s article, and what is so scary is I can relate to it so easily! Michael correctly points out, “There are no lab tests of any kind for any DSM diagnosis. The diagnosis is subjective. The diagnosis can’t be tested for, measured for severity, or tested against. The current system lacks validity and reliability. Everyone inside the system seems to acknowledge this, but simultaneously insist on treating a diagnosis as sacred.” These sentences perfectly sum up the current paradigm and political viewpoints within the MH community. What’s funny is that we are displaying the same “cognitive errors” we try and help redirect with our clients. Clearly people at the highest levels within these systems know on some level that what we are doing is a farce, yet the continue supporting it because they enjoy the benefits of their privilege, and they can feel good that they are “helping people recover” despite knowing the horrible effects from their supported treatments of pills. I do wonder how many of my colleagues and bosses are truly delusional. I think they could easily meet criteria in the DSM. So much cognitive dissonance.

            I do plan to present my concerns to my team at a supervision next month about the reliability and validity of the DSM. I also plan to ask them to read some critiques of the DSM from NIMH. Many of my coworkers, I suspect, will generally agree with the criticisms, but many will fear for the jobs and will maintain the status quo. Many of them tell me that tell their clients that the diagnosis they give, like mood disorder unspecified, is just a collection of symptoms which label’s their suffering. While this is slightly better than saying, “You have a disorder called Bipolar because you are manic”, neither are scientifically validated. There is power in truth, even if those around us don’t see it the same way. I do plan to ask my colleagues to think critically of what we are all agreeing to and subjecting onto our clients, and I’ll report back on how it goes. I would love to see a revolt, but this moment I would be content with some critical thinking and challenging the status quo.

            Thanks again and be well.

        • Steve, “Listening to the clients immediately starts undermining basic assumptions of the system, and so it can’t be allowed.” But once the patient has been handed over their medical records, due to total disgust by ethical nurses, and reads them. And she realizes the staggering delusions and complete and total lack of clothing of the truly “delusions of grandeur” filled person, the psychiatrist, since he never listened to a word she said.

          She then confronts the delusions of grandeur filled psychiatrist with his plethora of provable delusions about her life. That delusional, naked, albeit newly filled with more information from pedophiles, psychiatrist then has staggering “delusions of grandeur” he can actually convince his client that her entire real life is a “credible fictional story.” What an insane LOON! Time to run away!

          When “Listening to the clients immediately starts undermining basic assumptions of the system.” Anyone with a critical, thinking mind should know that such assumptions are insane, and the whole system is based upon a fraud. Shame on today’s “mental health” industries, due to the fact so few within it actually have critical thinking skills. Thanks for pointing this out, Steve.

          Shaun f, I too congratulate you on your awakening, and hope you will continue on that awakening journey. There are millions online now “waking up,” who are learning that our society’s problems are caused by evil systems, like the psychopharmacology/medical/religious industrial complexes’ sins and crimes against humanity. The sins of the fiscally irresponsible, war mongering and profiteering, globalist banksters, who you “mental health professionals” are actually slaves to, and were miseducated by, are being aired all over the internet, too.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XIiQuzS7xDQ
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6J_7PvWoMw

          Continue your awakening journey, Shaun f, and find a way to help bring about a better world, please.

          Oldhead, “This is an epiphany which represents progress. Seriously.” We’re waking people up, one at a time on this website, which is great. But also, how frustrating and unproductive. Go out and speak your knowledge to the masses on youtube, please Oldhead. Almost the entire right wing, and I apologize, I don’t remember if you are right or left wing. But even if you are left wing, go speak to both the left and the right wingers. Because there are millions of “right wing” God believers now online talking about the truly satanic systems of the “elite,” who actually control America. The whole left/right paradigm is a fraud.

          Hugs to you, LavenderSage.

          Alex, let’s keep praying “the feeling of dejection will eventually transmute its way into more of a feeling of empowerment and passion to help usher in sorely needed change.” Because that is what is sorely needed in our society. God bless you all.

          • The whole left/right paradigm is a fraud.

            The way it’s usually presented is, anyway, which is why I am attempting to use it less. It’s also a matter of misdefinition, with Rush L. referring to liberals and Democrats as “leftists,” when they are all, him included, playing their respective roles in a good cop-bad cop scenario as more and more of our collective wealth gets transferred to the .1%.

            I’m just a name. There’s nothing I can say that anyone else can’t say if they decide they want to. What we need is some agreed-upon principles and analyses which can serve as guidelines for whoever decides to take on the task of dispensing this vital information. Everyone needs to become a leader in that sense.

            MIA is not my only focus btw. But communicating to and with the right people is as important right now as reaching massive numbers of people. The audience here comprises the cadre of anti-psychiatry proponents who will ultimately go on to educate many diverse audiences, so we need to try to keep on the same page as much as possible.

          • Someone Else, very inspirational, you are so speaking truth it made my eyes water. We are, indeed, experiencing a mass awakening, how can we not be? And yeah, we’re witnessing it right here.

            “There are millions online now “waking up,” who are learning that our society’s problems are caused by evil systems, like the psychopharmacology/medical/religious industrial complexes’ sins and crimes against humanity. The sins of the fiscally irresponsible, war mongering and profiteering, globalist banksters, who you “mental health professionals” are actually slaves to, and were miseducated by, are being aired all over the internet, too.”

            I guess some would perhaps still see this as “radical,” “extreme,”
            “conspiracy-related” and the like, but imo, it is perfectly stated and *absolute* truth. This is my perception of it, these so-called “systems” which rule the world. I think those pejorative words are actually programs to keep the truth hidden. These are unfounded judgments, imo.

            And while “evil” may even be a word of judgment, I believe it can still justifiably apply here, in all good faith, because we’re talking about institutions which basically bilk people for all they’ve got, cause tremendous suffering (and have for generations) because they, in reality, thrive and depend on the suffering of others (for profit of course), and actually present themselves as “helpful, supportive, healing,” yadayada–when, in fact, we know these are all based on all kinds of oppression and vampirism. First, they create the suffering, then they exploit it. I do think people get this now, I’d tend to guess we’re pretty much all feeling it one way or another in this day and age.

            I think we want to do better, which is why the awakening is happening. I believe therein lies the key to change, and it’s radical because it begins with shifting consciousness, waking up. It’s in everyone to discover what this means for themselves.

            Shout out to the commenters, and also to the authors who created the space for this, set the energy with their words, and then sat back and allowed the conversation to unfold naturally, trusting the process. Really outstanding example, I believe.

            I think this is an exciting and perhaps breakthrough discussion, and an example of great shift in present time. I was on the dubious side, but alas, things unfolded in a surprising way this time. Nice!

          • Alex, I love your “vampire” analogy.

            They don’t just use people as cows to milk. Cows NEED milking after they calve.

            They suck helpless, suffering victims dry of vital juices. Killing them by degrees and fattening themselves in the process.

        • After my diagnosis it wasn’t just my psychiatrist and other MH professionals who refused to take me seriously. My family and the few friends who didn’t shun me quit listening to anything I said.

          I no longer had thoughts or feelings. Just symptoms. It was okay to treat me like crap as long as I took my “meds.”

          I no longer had a personality–just a disease. I was a disease.

          You are your “illness.” It defines you in a way no literal illness can.

          • I’ve definitely heard this story from folks I see. They are viewed through the lens of illness rather than as a whole person. There is a dehumanization process that takes place once someone is diagnosed. I’m sorry to hear you also had this experience.

      • I would interject that the term “client” implies equal status and a contractual, consultant type relationship, and is disingenuous at best when it is applied to those who are being drugged. I would suggest that it be regarded as an inappropriate description of the relationship in such circumstances.

        • Can’t disagree with you there. If you’re not interested in the goals, purposes, feelings of the person you’re supposedly “helping,” they are no longer your “client.”

        • I have dealt with a large number of professionals who hated having me in groups or even talking to me. They preferred working with the developmentally delayed. These secretly hated me and would tear me down in “day treatment” to belittle me before others.

          They also would sick everyone else on me to tear me apart. I found out this is standard practice in cults. They call it “breaking point.”

          I came home one night–I lived with my folks. I was taking a shower and started screaming and weeping from the head games I’d endured at group that day. Mom was really worried and mentioned how I always seemed worse after Day Treatment.

          I was warned to never tell anyone about these groups because of confidentiality. 🙁

          • The concept of confidentiality in groups is meant to encourage members to keep personal things shared in group by others inside the room, to not share that knowledge of others’ experiences with outsiders. Members can always share their own experience outside of group, but the point is to make members feel safe so that what they say in group doesn’t get said by other members outside of group. Of course this gets broken at times because people talk.

          • My point was that the group leader and his/her conduct and statements — other than those specifically identifying other group members — are fair game for outside-the-group conversations, as the “therapist” isn’t the one the confidentiality is supposed to protect.

          • I found out later it does not, Oldhead. They were using it for their own advantage.

            I kept doing what got me in trouble with Sunday school teachers as a child. Asking questions they couldn’t answer.

            “If our meds are helping us, why aren’t we gainfully employed and getting along better in our communities?”

            “If Keats, Dickens, Tolstoy, other folks diagnosed posthumously by Dr. Jamison did so well unmedicated how come our lives suck?”

            “Why can’t they figure out a way to measure our brain chemistry to more accurately prescribe stuff to normalize it accordingly?”

            One caseworker (not a psychotherapist Shaun!) had a screaming tirade at me. Nearly frothing at the mouth she accused me of not accepting the fact that I had a mental illness darn it!

            This reduced me to tears. My firm belief in my brain disease led me to take my “meds” religiously but it made me desperately unhappy–even suicidal. I felt my suicide might be justifiable since at any time my meds could quit working or I might not be able to get new ones and I might become violently, murderously insane killing innocent people. At least suicide would only end my life even if it sent me to Hell.

    • Kindredspirit – I, too, am so very weary of being told to “calm down”. What I appreciate the article stirred up for me is perhaps if my therapist actually listened to me and I were able to express the outrage, I would naturally calm down. Communication can only work properly when it is a form of two-way connection, as with any tool. I would add one other thing, not only are the “survivors” losing out, the ones in the “helping” position are also.

  8. What a load of total bullcrap. Psychiatry, as well as the entire mental health profession, need to be abolished. Period.
    That articles such as this, which attempt to reconcile irreconcilable forms of being — the freedom to be and oppression, are taken with any level of seriousness is a shame and reflect the attempt to maintain the oppressive power structure within the “mental health profession’ despite the authors attempts to convince otherwise.
    I have found the ONLY way to ‘recover’ from is to hit the delete button on the whole profession(along with drugs and other superfluous accouterments, look within, and find your own answers. The constant coerced. painful, and harmful attempts by the/rapists, psychiatrists, and other societally designated PRO-fessionals to rewire victim/patients in their desired images is inimical to true healing and shedding the oppression.

  9. When full reparations are paid discussions can continue . Meanwhile give the “social work” and “therapy” to those that refuse to pay reparations . And let us have a complete and permanent moratorium on psychiatry, a complete abolishment of tormenting , poisoning, and torturing other human beings etc etc etc . There is such a thing as freedom and we must take it !

  10. ‘….Conversely, reacting emotionally, getting upset, getting flustered, raising one’s voice, is seen as a sign of individual weakness. In some contexts, this might be seen as correctable (‘learning to act more professionally’); in others, even more insidiously, as a sign of deeper, underlying pathology (for example, ‘unstable mood or emotions,’ ‘interpersonal lability,’ or a disordered personality). Within this logic, the anger, despair, frustration, confusion, and shame of the proverbial ‘other’ is all too easily used to confirm existing forms of psychiatric othering and justify gatekeeping strategies and policies that create space only for those service users/survivors who don’t get visibly angry or sad, raise their voices, or ‘emote.’’

    Absolutely Agree.
    Psychiatry exists only to ruin the human psyche and it is to serve the fallacy that only apollonian traits of character are human, the rest is an (fake) inhuman illness. We lose the meaning of the words like – Apollonian, Dionisian, Hades like, because we do not know anything about psyche and what actually word psyche means. Like I say, psychiatry destroys people mainly because of psychopatic inhuman language which has nothing to do with the REAL human psyche. They create pseudo medical utopia and destroy state, the same way inquisition did (Manufacture of madness)

    Why we are searching for psychological help in institution that hates psyche? Because thet told us to. And THEY are enemies of the psyche or people in the least psychological archetypes, they are apollonians, so they think they are better, because they do not touch the psyche reality (they call it mental illness). We must remeber that, people who call themselves mentally health are the least psychological, and they ARE using PSYCHE and psychological man for their own purposes.

    The built artificial problem from what they have firstly get rid of using toxic ideologies like theology and ego apollonian hegemony, and then they are blaming people for traits of character THEY HAVE BANNED. Artificial institution which destroyed and banned human psyche serves the human psyche. Yeah, right.

    They serves only themselves, the apollonian destroyers (law, scientism, psychopathy, theology in the place of psyche) False pseudo medical empirism in the place of human psyche. I believe that they destroyed the REAL state, human state. I believe that this is not even a state, because what kind of state is the state in which real human psyche is a fake illness? Everyone shoul read Hillman’s Re -visioning psychology.

    We are living in artificial inhuman reality created by apollonians fictions and rituals.And the main trait of Apollo state of mind is the lack of emapthy. So, now you know the roots of evil. And this is not human psyche that destroyed the state, THE Apollonian sect did it using their shallow fantasies about psychological reality.

  11. Apollonians are authoritarians minds, the least psychological, they have their duties, BECAUSE THEY HAVE THE EASIEST LIFE AND THE DUMBEST PSYCHOLOGICAL LIFE EVER. The rest, the PSYCHOLOGICAL minorities are psychologically beyond the blindness of apollonian shallowness,

    AND THEIR PSYCHOLOGICAL WORK IS WORK OF THE TITANS, NOT THE PSEUDO MENTAL ILLNESS. IT IS TITANIC psychological EFFORT, their psychological life and life in material meaning is much more HARDER THAN THOSE OF Apollonians, and they should not be attacked by FAKE AUTHORITARIAN antipsychological inhuman presupmtions. There is a hierarchy in the psyche.
    Read Hillman, you will understand better.

  12. There is truth to this article.

    When dealing with clinical staff where I work the expectation is that I will not raise my voice or get upset when discussing anything. They are incredulous that I’m upset and then blame my being upset on the fact that I’m a former “patient”. The lower echelon staff, not clinical, understand perfectly why I express anger and am upset about many things.

  13. When I was working for voc rehab as a client-turned-staff, they were accusing me of all sorts of things, totally falsely, and I did so many things to attempt dialogue–I responded to their reprimand in writing, requesting a dialoguing before signing anything (because I disagreed with their crazy lies), and they got madder and madder and continued to punish and intimidate me, and refused to help me transfer out of there to another agency. They were angry that I was reaching out in order to attempt getting clarity on anything! They just couldn’t believe I had the audacity to simply want a meeting with management. Who was I to express myself?

    They were atrocious, and I wound up suing them because they simply would not talk to me. After being fired, I requested a meeting for closure, and the CEO wrote me and said, “I don’t have to talk to you, I’m under no obligation,” (seriously), after which I filed a grievance with the appropriate agency, and they made them take a meeting with me, if only for closure.

    I eventually sued at EEOC and won, and even then they did not change their Dickensian ways, and they ended up closing eventually, having lost their funding.

    These folks CHOSE not to dialogue, CHOSE not to change, and instead, CHOSE to close their doors. Gaslighting, stonewalling, avoiding, defensive–yes, that is the standard. Dialogue? Listening? Honesty? Fairness? What’s that? I know it seems so over the top and preposterous, yet it is the exact truth.

    Next story: Years after graduating, I worked for few months as a co-facilitator of a group at the grad school from which I got my MA in counseling psychology. In this group, more than anything, the students complained about the fear they had bringing up any issues with their professors, who of course, were psychotherapists. They described them as avoidant, manipulative, and shaming. It was surreal to sit there and hear all of this.

    Honestly, it took me years to finally grasp the extremely profound extent of this pig-headedness when it came to the non-communication, lack of self-responsibility and extreme lack of regard for others which came from this field. I just couldn’t fathom it. I come from a different reality, a bit more respect than this.

    After 20+ years in or around this field one way or another, I have tons of stories like this.

    Wtf? is all I want to know.

    • Alex, I am not surprised at what happened to you with the university students. Institutions, including universities, have a tiered power structure that is unbalanced to begin with. You have the full professors, adjuncts, those waiting for tenure, grad assistants, never mind admins. There are “staff” such as librarians and secretaries, these have their own power structure also. Even among the students you may find a power division.

      I am surprised at how naive institutionalized patients can be about the power structure of a “hospital.” When I was on the wards, I’d say the majority blamed the doctor, the unit psychiatrist, for various bad decisions the institution made on the patient’s behalf. Reality is that the doc is only a pawn. Many patients aren’t aware that behind the scenes, admins are talking to insurance companies, wheeling and dealing for money without regard for human life.

      Likewise in a university. Profs are not always acting alone. There are admins such as deans behind the scenes. What a dean decides is not necessarily in everyone’s best interest. What is “best interest”? They likely follow the money’s best interest, though it depends on the U.

      I saw profs who didn’t have the best manners. Some were arrogant. Some were always late for class. In some U situations I ran across lazy professors and wondered how they kept their jobs. For the most part, though, they were awesome role models, excellent instructors, admirable people you just don’t forget.

      The best ones set a great example for us students. I learned how to teach by observing the methods of my professors over the many years I attended college. It was so much a healthier environment than the “hospital” setting. Considering how much you pay for a hospital and how much you pay for a U, I ask, therefore, which one is clearly the better bargain?

      While the cost of college has skyrocketed, you do learn there, you benefit. You leave with a degree, the friends you made, and a loan to pay back. You leave a hospital with a diagnosis, trauma, wrecked reputation, possible loss of job and breakdown of family relationships, and on top of all that, drug addiction.

      • “Institutions, including universities, have a tiered power structure that is unbalanced to begin with.”

        Yep, right on, Julie. When we can see past this illusion and not buy into the assigned roles of established power hierarchies, then we are waking up. We can transcend these by knowing our own power (knowing our truth), because in reality, it doesn’t matter where we are in the pecking order. People are people, each one of us no one more or less than another.

  14. This article reflects an extremely ironic contradiction in the “mental health” world – those running the system are invested in keeping expressed emotion to a minimum, while those IN the system are often suffering from being forced (historically AND in the present) by safety concerns to suppress their emotional expression! So in essence, these supposedly therapeutic people are unable to deal with someone being angry. What the f*&k kind of help can they provide if they’re not willing to deal with anger? Don’t know about the rest of you, but 90% of my own (very helpful) psychotherapy was dealing with suppressed anger at how I had been treated as a child, and I never would have gotten to where I am today if I had not learned how to feel OK about being angry and expressing my anger to those who are transcending my boundaries. Sure, I’ve learned “better” or “more effective” ways to express anger over the years, but sometimes I still “let someone have it” if they’re really being disrespectful.

    It looks to me like those in charge are simply cowardly and unable to deal with their own emotions. If so, they have no business claiming to be in a “helping profession.” If you can’t handle anger (and other strong emotions), you’re not going to be much help to anyone.

    • Guess I better watch my back even more closely, as the goal of much of what I do here is to liberate people’s anger, both at psychiatry specifically and the system in general. Anger interferes with the bottom line, and is decidedly bad for business. How can you run a smooth assembly line with the workers griping all the time?

      The next step after liberating one’s anger is to channel it in a way that is constructive.

      • “It looks to me like those in charge are simply cowardly and unable to deal with their own emotions. If so, they have no business claiming to be in a “helping profession.” If you can’t handle anger (and other strong emotions), you’re not going to be much help to anyone.”

        Yes, tell this to the very last and final case manager/therapist I ever had before finally saying adios to the system in a “client” role–who said to me once, “If you keep getting angry then that will just cause me to distance myself.”

        There ought to be a law against this. This is a therapist? Anger was a symptom, not a human response, each and every time. I believe this would make a person very sick, were they to comply with this oppression and not know better.

        What I did at that point was to tell him that he’s way out of line and if he doesn’t know how to understand emotions and ask appropriate questions and can only sit in defensive judgment, then this is a complete waste of my time. By then, I had had it with this crap. I then requested my case notes, and that was that.

        I walked away and I felt suddenly free of the “mental health” system burden. When I read my case notes, all I could see was his shadow, projected straight onto me.

        What a shame-based field this is. That’s what makes me angry about it.

        How, exactly, is any of this, in the slightest way, “healing?” It is the essence of dehumanizing!

        • It does take great courage for anyone to sit with their own emotions. I find rare people will dare to do so. Next, how to then use the inspiration of anger to “get things done” in an effective manner is what I wrestle with. For all the generations to come I must learn this!

          t

          • I find it helpful to express whatever emotion I’m feeling, including anger of course. I know anger is vilified in the mh world (although it’s interesting because I’ve seen angry clinicians, but that always seems to be ok with them; however when it is from a client–oh boy, look out, here come the projections!). But like it or not, it is a human emotion, and I think it brings clarity and movement to express anger authentically. It is your truth!

          • Alex, I find it interesting how uncomfortable some clinical staff are with strong emotional states (especially doctors!), like anger and feelings of attraction from their clients. Many of my female colleagues will basically shame their male clients who make sexual comments. It seems we all have some defenses against feeling uncomfortable, but it isn’t helpful if therapists and doctors can’t sit in the same room with someone who is expressing a genuine emotion. It also doesn’t mean we should tolerate verbal abuse, and this is very subjective what constitutes abuse in the clinical environment. If a client is acting threatening, obviously we need to address it. But if a client isn’t able to share their real feelings, they probably won’t benefit from counseling and we are wasting our time.

          • Sounds like you are talking about transference, Shaun. No one should tolerate verbal abuse. Expressing anger isn’t the same as taking it out on someone else, that’s another matter.

            Working in transference is rather dicey, imo, and can lead to all sorts of power dynamics and fuzzy boundaries. I found myself more the target of counter-transference than anything. It was amazing for me to discover what clinicians will assume a client will feel based on their actions. I’ve had therapists actually argue with me about what I was feeling. I think that’s so abusive in a clinical relationship.

            I never went into therapy looking for a surrogate parent. I was trying to figure out what I was doing wrong and why I was living with so much chronic anxiety, and then, how to do life better, with more clarity, ease, and confidence, so that I could fulfill my life in a way that satisfied me. I needed–or so I believed at the time–a professional who had clarity where I did not.

            Therapy was not only not helpful in this regard, it was the totally wrong focus for what I needed, it turns out. Live and learn.

            Most unfortunately, it actually did do me a great deal of harm, in the end. I had to fix my brain from all that “analysis,” which took me in chronic and crazy-making loops until I was able to reprogram my neural pathways. That was my brand of healing, eventually.

            I say this with all due respect, Shaun, I sincerely hope are not taking this personally, because in no way do I mean it to be. What I express here is all based on my experience. Who knows if our paths had crossed differently and I had actually been your client, somehow, I’d have a different perspective. Maybe I’d be able to say, “But there was this one guy who got it,” I don’t know.

            And despite these conversations, we’ll never know because we’re not in a power relationship. On MIA and in the world at large, we are peers, eye to eye. Were I sitting in your office as a client, this may or may not be the case. What I think is interesting is how subtle yet powerful a shift like that can be, and what a difference that can make in how we present ourselves.

          • Oh yeah, left out the most important thing–ultimately, it just degenerated into what felt to me like character assassination (hello, stigma!). That’s when I fled, altogether.

          • Not to belabor anything here and go off topic, but Shaun, I have to say that what you said about sexual transference really triggered some memories from my days in training.

            I remember there was this one director of a well-known training program to which a lot of interns applied post grad school. He was infamous for stopping the interview and then saying to the women who were applying to work there and have him as a supervisor, “Now I feel it is my responsibility to be open here and express that I’m feeling a sexual transference and it’s important we get this out of the way up front, for the sake of our professional relationship.” Something to that effect, and I kid you not.

            And they would come back to our training group at the clinic where I was doing my practicum, and report this, to which everyone would groan and say how creepy it sounded. Don’t ask me how many ended up applying anyway, because I don’t know. I’m simply remembering what this guy was putting out (so to speak).

            This was over 20 years ago, and perhaps since then this has changed, I hope. But, honestly, how is this not power abuse driven sexual assault thinly disguised as the product of transference? And for some reason, no one at that time thought to file a formal grievance, nor did our clinical director take any action, nor was that even in anyone’s awareness. It was uncomfortable for people, but that’s where it stayed, when there could have been so many possible actions to take. These programs are so, so powerful, which is why we’re asking for people to wake up. These things need to be addressed in the open, so that they can be eliminated from practice!

            I had one therapist tell me directly that I was attracted to him and that I should know better than to deny it, given my training. I can assure you that this was not the case, in the slightest. And, in fact, at the time, I’d been with my partner for over 25 years, we’re still happily married, more so than ever after having shared this experience and woke up to it all at the same time. That bonded us even more deeply. So for him to project this, and then try to double-bind and gaslight me that way, is downright criminal, wouldn’t you agree?

            If a male client is being inappropriately sexual with a female therapist, then no, of course she shouldn’t shame him, but she should protect herself, and perhaps suggest a referral? Wouldn’t that be the right message to send, more honest and direct, not to mention self-caring?

            I’ve known plenty of therapists who have crossed that line, themselves, btw.

          • Sexual feelings are a part of being human. I agree with Shaun that ideally this would become a part of the discussion with the therapist if it seems appropriate to the issues at hand. Behavior, on the other hand, is a choice. I would have no problem with a client letting me know they felt sexually attracted to me. I WOULD have a problem with them getting physically close, touching me in inappropriate places, using suggestive language, etc. The actions of that director do, indeed, seem very creepy and bizarre. Clearly a person who has not dealt with his own “sexual transference” and is projecting it onto his trainees like crazy. I’d hate to be his trainee, but even more to be his client.

            And you’re right about therapists, too. I knew a guy who had sex with one of his marital therapy couple. Disgusting!

          • Alex, I take no offense at your commentary and critique of your experience with therapy. There are too many lousy therapists out there, just as there are many lousy electricians, dentists, politicians, etc. Most therapists find themselves in this field for a reason, and if we haven’t done our own work, countertransference (or just plainly inappropriate behavior) is definitely going to become a problem in treatment (or supervision). Any good therapist will recognize their own stuff and deal with it appropriately, like be in therapy themselves.

            I have seen multiple therapists for myself in the last two decades, and I had mixed experiences. Most were good who weren’t directly involved with a larger system like Kaiser. Clinicians in private practice tend to be more creative and flexible in my experience because they can feel more free to do the work that resonates best for them. They aren’t stressed about stupid treatment plans or case notes!

            I try to be a “guy who gets it”, but I know I have to keep pushing myself, learning new perspectives (like here on MIA!), get outside my comfort zone in this vast MH system, etc.

            “If a male client is being inappropriately sexual with a female therapist, then no, of course she shouldn’t shame him, but she should protect herself, and perhaps suggest a referral? Wouldn’t that be the right message to send, more honest and direct, not to mention self-caring?”

            Good question. I find that when talking to my female colleagues, some of them get uncomfortable with any conversation about how their clients may find them physically attractive. I think that instead of immediately referring when the therapist is uncomfortable, maybe exploring the issue more with the client would be fruitful? If they are being bold with their therapist about how they feel, this behavior may also be displaying itself elsewhere in their lives, causing other problems, like social isolation. Also, this is a grey area. One therapist may have a high tolerance for this kind of behavior from clients; I, for instance, have male clients flirt with me on occasion, and it doesn’t bother me at all (I’m heterosexual). Other male therapists may feel differently about it, especially if they have different beliefs about what it means to be gay or bisexual. They may inadvertently shame the client if they are reactive to the situation because of their own biases.

            I would never suggest a therapist put themselves in harms way. There is a big difference between a client saying I have “cute shoes on” versus “I want to have sex with you.” The truth is that most clients are just trying to connect to their therapist in one way or another, and sometimes they overstep in that process. It doesn’t mean the client should be punished but rather it can be used as a learning moment around social appropriateness. If we just had more conversations, much of the tension around transference/countertransferrence could be resolved without being an impediment in the therapeutic relationship.

            Your therapist and director stories are clear examples of these “professionals” stepping over the line. Someone with authority needs to be very careful how they wield their power. Both therapists and directors have a responsibility to share their feelings about those they are working with very carefully and judicially. These people should have been in their own therapy to deal with their issues rather than project their stuff onto others.

          • Thanks for your very thoughtful response, Shaun. There are, indeed, no clear cut answers, and situations and people and relationships so widely vary and are each unique. As far as what is appropriate to the best outcome, there are different answers for different situations.

            You’re right there are a lot of lousy therapists out there and that is not a harm-free situation. A lousy therapist can do a tremendous amount of harm. These 1:1 meetings are risky, when one member of the relationship is vulnerable, foggy headed, hurting, and/or in need. How to discern a useful vs. useless therapist is a problem for a lot of reasons, and by the time a therapist shows their true colors, much money and energy has already gone down the drain, and disorientation–sometimes quite severe–is the result of bad therapy.

            “Someone with authority needs to be very careful how they wield their power.”

            Yes, I think that’s a truism. What is not clear to me is when a therapist considers himself/herself to have some kind of authority over a client. Why is that? To me, that is a counter-transference because a client has their own agency, pure and simple.

            A psychotherapist provides a service, and whether or not they provide it with competence and effectiveness would be up to the client to report. Yet, critical feedback is most often turned into some kind of symptom, delusion, or transference, and worse yet, the therapist can become so easily defensive. That’s happened to me more often than I can count, and it is truly maddening.

            It’s quite unclear what the truth would be in a relationship like this, I believe. It is simply not straightforward and direct, which is where we find clarity.

            This is why I don’t like the paradigm in which “psychotherapy” is taught and practiced, regardless of the diverse schools of thought and ways of practicing what is called “psychotherapy.” It still boils down to this vague idea of what service, exactly, is being provided here? And what would be considered a reasonable scope of practice?

            The extent to which it can be extremely harmful, if not provided with clarity and competence, needs to be emphasized because I believe it happens more often than not. Can’t prove that, of course, but it is my personal belief, from what I’ve seen and experienced during my lifetime.

            When I was in graduate school, one course I did not see in the catalogue was, “How You Can Do Harm to Your Client if You Are Not Careful, Clear, and Conscientious.” I believe that would be a responsible and eye-opening course to offer, leading to hardy and necessary self-awareness, in order to be “client-ready.” At least that!

            Good discussion about this, thank you, Shaun.

          • “I knew a guy who had sex with one of his marital therapy couple.”

            I am not surprised to hear this, it happens a lot. One of the most prominent professors/psychotherapists I had would talk about how in the 1970’s, it was quite a common therapeutic technique, to have sex with a client. Isn’t that clearly prostitution? After all, in these cases, the “therapist” is taking money for sex!

            So violating personal boundaries in the name of “service” has been an issue for quite a while in this field, not to mention extreme abuse of power, in the most overt ways possible. That’s a problem which needs to be addressed in all sorts of ways educational and legal.

            Well, on second thought, it is addressed in school because I did take Law and Ethics of Psychotherapeutic Practice and anyone would agree that engaging in sexual activity with a client is not in the slightest a sound idea for anyone concerned, that it’s entirely abusive, and it is, indeed, illegal, I believe. Yet it does not stop people, they lose their judgment somewhere along the line.

            Just like with teachers engaging in sex with their underage students. I think that’s been going on for a good long while, too–perhaps since the beginning of time–but at least that is being reported now and teachers are getting arrested.

          • That I know of, most states have laws against any sex between therapist and client. How can it be consensual in a relationship that isn’t equal to begin with? That I know of, you lose your license in most states, am I right?

            Alex, thanks for validating that most therapists are either incompetent or abusive. There’s crossover between the two. I have known many to overstate their competence. This is rampant with eating disorders, which until very recently were rare or just not seen. I have known many therapists and also hospital doctors who claimed they had experience, training, and competency in the field, and didn’t. You are right that it takes a while to learn, and by that time, you’ve wasted time, paid the therapist’s paycheck, and likely gotten worse. When I had training in life coaching we learned that it’s unethical to misrepresent your competency.

            My guess is that such misrepresentation is illegal if done by a licensed professional in any field. It constitutes abuse and gross exploitation. I am thinking, for comparison, Harold Hill in The Music Man…who claimed he could teach kids to play musical instruments, but he was actually a swindler.

            I remember one therapist outright lied to me about his competency. Since I was young (25) and inexperienced I had no reason not to believe him.

            After a year I found out the bitter truth. My worship of this therapist blinded me from seeing him as he really was. He was “nice.” One day in a flash I realized what a humbug he was. The disappointment and letdown were just too much for me at the time.

          • “thanks for validating that most therapists are either incompetent or abusive. There’s crossover between the two.”

            I actually had a really good, caring, and straightforward therapist early on, when I first began receiving psychotherapy back in the early 1980s.

            It was later, starting when I moved to San Francisco in the late 90s and began graduate school that I found myself swimming with the sharks, and I dove deep into the black hole of this paradigm. I was going from therapist to therapist, each one more demeaning, arrogant, judgmental, and presumptuous than the last, until I entered the public system and it was like a mine field of incompetence and abuse.

            I agree, Julie, there is a crossover between these two. When the therapist is incompetent, what makes them incompetent is their lack of self-awareness, so all their crap gets relentlessly projected onto the client, and that is nothing short of abuse. And extremely dangerous for the client, lots of post-traumatic stress in the making here.

            Can also lead to suicide ideation, when it adversely affects a person’s feeling of self-worth, which can happen if the client is particularly vulnerable and getting clobbered by their therapist with one shadowy projection after another. That’s not at all uncommon. In fact, I’d venture to guess it is the norm.

          • Julie,
            As far as I know, all states have laws against doctors/therapists having sex with their clients. There is so much room to abuse people that it should be outlawed. I think my my state you can only initiate a relationship with a prior client after 5 years. I have mixed feelings about this.

            I would say it’s unfair and inaccurate to state that “most therapists are either abusive or incompetent.” We’d need to do some kind of study or some data collection to determine the actual numbers of therapists who fit into either category. Obviously, as folks on MIA have stated, many of their experiences in the MH system have been abusive and poor, which is totally unacceptable. MIA posters have had particular bad experiences, however it is a jump in logic to say that this is transferable across the board. I know many wonderful therapists, some of whom I’ve seen myself, and they have been supportive, helpful, and caring. Doctors, on the other hand, I can’t say the same thing (some have been good, but many are too blinded by the medical model). I think there’s a big difference in inpatient settings vs. outpatient private practice. I continue to hear horror stories about the former but not the latter.

        • Alex,

          Thanks for the response.

          “What is not clear to me is when a therapist considers himself/herself to have some kind of authority over a client. Why is that? To me, that is a counter-transference because a client has their own agency, pure and simple.”

          Most therapists I know don’t try and prop themselves up as an authority, per se, but the law and the nature of the relationship dictates this to some degree. Therapists are mandated reporters of suspected child and elder abuse and neglect, and we also have a legal obligation to place someone on a hold if we deem them to be of imminent risk to self or others or gravely disabled. We also have the power to sign off on paperwork for benefits and housing. So we do have power given to us by the law and the system we are in. I’d prefer to be on equal footing with my clients, and I do my best to remind them that they are in fact the authority in their lives.

          • “Most therapists I know don’t try and prop themselves up as an authority, per se,”

            Again, our experience is different here, Shaun. My former colleagues as well psychiatrists and psychotherapists I saw did exactly that. I heard often “they need a ‘dad’ figure,” for one thing, which to me seemed exactly “to be propping themselves up as an authority.”

            So if one starts out already perceiving him- or herself as a parental figure, what do you think they would elicit from their client, even in the most subtle ways? That’s how it begins, and it can be either conscious or unconscious. But I do feel it is written into the fabric of this paradigm.

            They sold this bill of goods in graduate school, too. It was called “re-parenting.” I think that’s dangerous and can potentially cause a great deal of harm in a fee-for-service relationship.

            I was a “mandated reporter” at one time, too. Plus, anyone in any kind of social services position is a “mandated reporter.” I’ve sat in all sorts of staff meetings where “to report or not report” was discussed.

            I will be honest here, I cannot stand that phrase. I’m sorry but I think it’s a euphemism for “gatekeepers to the system.” It’s an easily abused power and “mandated reporters” can take themselves way too seriously, using this “authority” specifically to flex their “I have power” muscle. A bit overcompensating, would be my guess. And I’m sure you can imagine how incredibly UNSAFE this is for clients!

            “We also have the power to sign off on paperwork for benefits and housing.”

            Wouldn’t the term “responsibility” apply here rather than “power?”

            I believe there is a bit too much emphasis on the word “power” in the mental health and social service industries. It’s always about “power.” It’s why I feel the entire paradigm is faulty.

            Being human is partly about personal power (to create the life one most desires and live freely), but it is not about having power over others. That is the essence of oppression and corruption. That’s where a society becomes toxic and beyond redemption, when it is based on who has power over whom? That’s what needs to change, and it won’t be easy. That program of “hierarchy” is exceedingly powerful, and stubborn in an established system. I tend to find it toxic, by definition. I believe more in the natural order of things, which is not ours to choose, but that which unfolds from integrity and authenticity.

            When a person has power over another, there is inherent imbalance and injustice, and suffering is inevitable. And that is exactly the “mental health industry” paradigm, to the last drop. That will never solve anything because it’s what most people are trying to get away from.

          • Alex,

            I agree with you, and I’m sorry to hear that many therapists, social workers, and doctors abuse or misuse their “authority” in the situation in ways which are damaging to their clients. Societies and organizations naturally create hierarchies, and over time they tend to take on a life of their own. People fall into line or they get punished (eg., fired from a job, getting kicked out of a program, etc). I do prefer the term responsibility over power.

            Regarding mandated reporters, I’m not sure how else this can be handled. I mean, we are there to inform the authorities that innocent people are (potentially) being hurt. If children or the elderly are being abused, something needs to be done about it both from a moral and legal perspective. You can come up with another phrase, but the basic principle of ensuring that people who know about abuse report it is very important in order to (hopefully) stop the abuse or neglect from continuing.

            There will always be “inherent imbalance” in human relationships, say with kids and their parents, but it doesn’t mean that it’s inherently unjust or abusive.

            In regards to the MH system, I would love one day for clients to have equal say as to what is happening in their care. There are a couple models out there of shared leadership, but they are all too rare. I interned at one place where the boards were equal number of clients to staff/professionals, and I think this should be the standard everywhere.

            Regards

          • “I’m sorry to hear that many therapists, social workers, and doctors abuse or misuse their “authority” in the situation in ways which are damaging to their clients.”

            I’m sorry, too, and I’m sure society at large has laments here, as well. And instead of just being sorry, let’s do something about it. I’ve taken abusers to legal task, I’ve written letters, filed grievance, I’ve called out a lot of abuse in the system over the years.

            You’re willing to turn in families you suspect of abuse, but you’re only “sorry” when clinicians are being abusive? Who is the watchdog here? Who is the “mandated reporter” in this case, to call out abuse and protect innocent people? I wonder.

            Hierarchies are, in reality, illusions based on delusional thinking. That is the norm right now, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. A shift in consciousness and paradigm would highlight this easily. But you can’t see it as long as you are a willing participant in the current system. Radical change can mean so many things.

            I believe that when it comes to “authority,” “empowerment,” and “mandated reporting,” we’re talking about how so easily, and seemingly by second nature, the psychotherapy and social service industries try and play God. That’s a huge problem in psychiatry as we’ve noted often in discussions on here, and I believe it is pervasive in the “mental health” world.

            “There will always be “inherent imbalance” in human relationships, say with kids and their parents, but it doesn’t mean that it’s inherently unjust or abusive.”

            I hardily disagree with this statement on so many levels. In fact, there is a lot of room for discussion here, Shaun, but I will stop now because, in the end, it is all a matter of personal perspective and experience. As long as we walk our talk, we are in our integrity and that’s what counts, I truly believe. We all have different realities, each of our paths and perspectives are unique.

            It does feel good to express my feelings about all of this, so I once again thank you for the dialogue. All the best!

          • Thank you for sharing your feelings, Alex. Clearly, change is necessary. I hope there is a way to get there. I worry that monied interests, e.g., big pharma and psychiatry, will work very hard to keep the status quo.

            Be well.

          • Change is already here, Shaun. Yes, status quo begets status quo. Who needs that garbage? It has failed us all, that’s as clear as a bell.

            The idea is to buck the status quo, be brave and groundbreaking. We can each choose to live by our own values and ideals, not those of others. That is freedom–creative, spiritual, and otherwise.

            Change happens one person at a time, transformation by transformation. The biggest gift from having lived through the challenges of my particular journey is that I got to heal from soooo much, it was top to bottom transformative. Now I help others through their core shifts, transformations, rebirths, etc., which lead to creating a whole new life for oneself, consciously, on new and updated terms. That’s my life vocation, I did years of healing and training. Turns out I have an affinity for this kind of work, so thanks to all that happened to me, I found my life purpose.

            It’s here for anyone who is ready to embrace change. It’s inside of us, first. Outer change will come rather effortlessly as the result of internal shifts. That’s how energy works, projected outward from within.

          • Alex,

            I can’t disagree with anything you said. The reality is that our inner world is the only part of life we really have any control over. We can choose to go against the status quo to one degree or another. My point, however, is there are very powerful, coercive forces in the various systems which we all interact that do impact our choices to a certain extent (e.g., capitalism, corrupted government leadership). We live in a toxic world with inept leaders, and of course this will have an impact on all of us.

            I, like you, try and live by my own values and ideals, which is why I’m doing the work I am doing to begin with. Take care.

          • Shaun, I truly believe we are getting closer to common ground here.

            “We can choose to go against the status quo to one degree or another.”

            I’d say “to disregard the status quo,” rather than “to go against.” Going against something is effort and usually creates more of what one pushes against. Whereas disregarding something is to not give it any power, to, literally, not regard. That is a solid choice to make, and totally doable.

            Again, a shift in consciousness is required here or one will not be able to get how this is done, but I’m an example of it in many ways. I believe you are going in this direction, based on what I’ve been seeing in these discussions.

            “My point, however, is there are very powerful, coercive forces in the various systems which we all interact that do impact our choices to a certain extent (e.g., capitalism, corrupted government leadership).”

            Yes, indeed, and again, when we disregard this–which, granted, takes practice because we are shifting focus, beliefs, and neural pathways, but it is THE practice of transformation–we disempower this group and in the process, we take back *our* power, which was ours to begin with.

            Toxic vampire cultures feed on others by projecting disempowerment onto others (oppressive shaming, fear mongering, etc.). When we heal this internally–and yes, that is a process–we take back our power, and we pay it forward by NOT doing the same thing–by all of us owning our shadows and inner conflicts, so that we do not project it onto clients. We have to know that this is ok, that we won’t be “punished” for owning our foibles. We are all human, that is a given; but it seems to be often forgotten, in clinical practice.

            “We live in a toxic world with inept leaders, and of course this will have an impact on all of us.”

            Yes, we do, and it will, because we are all part of the collective. Some will be motivated to end their lives, as is what happens in a toxic world. Others will be motivated to sit in victimhood and grow bitter, that is not terribly uncommon. Some will try to save themselves from this toxicity while some feel motivated to save others.

            Some people want to know something different, others feel they are stuck with what is. Some it inspires to create and others this reality inspires to think more deeply and seek truth. It does, indeed, impact each and every one of us, and how we each choose to respond to this toxic reality is widely diverse.

            Shifting consciousness and operating from a new set of beliefs–a new being-ness, I guess I’d say–is one way to address the toxic reality we live in. Personally, I favor this approach, for myself at least, because it is what leads to the most interesting and attractive change, and it’s radical, which I also favor away from toxicity. I do not compromise here, because it is such a matter of well-being and quality of life.

            You have the belief that this elite group of coercive forces has power over society. I’m admonishing that belief. I believe individuals have way more power over corrupt groups than we are led to believe. I also believe that this belief saved my life, given the options I found myself with at one point years ago. I chose to shift consciousness and do all this internal work because I could not change others, and I believe that is universal. We can influence others with our example, but we cannot force people to change, that is elementary.

            And by changing myself to the extent I did, it led to others around me following suit, because they were motivated to do so, they could see and feel the positive changes in me, and in my life it was unmistakable. That’s an interesting story, too detailed for here. But seriously as a result of shifting at the core, my entire reality changed, the world around me. It’s still rippling, give it time 🙂

            Shaun, I must say, you are thoughtful and clear in your responses and it has inspired me to continue, because I do not feel we’re going in circles here. I do very much appreciate your presence here. You bring good stuff to the table, I feel your truth. Gratitude.

          • Hi Alex,
            Have you ever written for MIA before? If not, I think you should. Your message is an important one of self-empowerment.

            and thank you for taking the time to have a dialogue with me. I have been frustrated on MIA with some conversations because to me they sometimes lack the quality of mutual respect and empathy (it can feel like a boxing match at times).

            I am doing my best to grow, and frankly it’s uncomfortable because I feel I’m in no man’s land. I’m not radical enough to be accepted by some in MIA (e.g., abolish the system, psychiatry is evil), nor am I accepted by the establishment mental health system (e.g., psych drugs help more than a harm, diagnosing is benign, forced treatment is often helpful, etc). I’m trying to find a balance to it all.

            I am also trying to find my truth again, because what I was taught by the system, doctors, managers, etc., was a very biased view of “mental illness.” I am scared that I have harmed people by using my “authority” as a mental health provider to encourage clients to see doctors who prescribe them toxic substances. I know I have done good, too, by creating a safe, non-judgmental environment for my clients to talk about their lives, their pain, their traumas. I hope the good has outweighed the bad, but it’s so subjective, so who knows?

            Moving forward I do plan to tap into my power and do my best to “be the change I wish to seek in the world.” Hopefully that will lead to some good things.

            Thanks again for the encouragement and sharing your own personal insights and growth. Your story encourages me.

          • Shaun, thank you so much for sharing your truth of the moment so openly and with trust, and also for getting what I’m about–which is, indeed, more than anything, personal empowerment. That was so necessary for me to get when I was at the bottom of the pit, and it really mattered. That is our most powerful support tool in life—our own ever-evolving sense of self–and it is in all of us, somewhere in there. Yep, you do get it, no doubt.

            I have very much felt in no man’s land, too, and it goes back and forth. I’ve been at odds with clinicians after having been among them, and that separated me from that culture; and also I’ve been at odds with other survivors, and that served to further individuate me to where I could start feeling and nurturing my unique sense of self.

            That is the groundbreaking transformed me happening, away from any norm, fully on my own and living my own truth. It is extremely vulnerable making, which is when we are at our highest creative potential, so the inner work to reinterpret any negative projections or other resistances coming at us is vital and powerful here, because it only strengthens our creative abilities.

            Our power, then, becomes spiritual/energetic, based purely on courage of the heart, as opposed to coming from our “ego,” which I believe is more about fear.

            I’m still here talking about it because on some level, I can feel it making a difference, even when it feels I’m talking into an echo chamber. Still, in my heart and gut, I can feel energy moving, and I’ve been seeing results around me in all sorts of ways. That’s where I find my encouragement, from how the universe is responding to me. Sometimes it comes through people, while at other times it is in other non-personal ways.

            Sounds like you are well on your way along in a transformative process, and in fact you seem to have been doing that, allowing change to occur as you speak your truth, regardless of what comes back to you. Individuating from established groups is a necessary part of that process, I do believe. That is an experience which we can navigate internally, tons of feelings come up. We can transmute them by expanding our perspective and seeing/feeling the soul growth happening. That is exactly the consciousness shift to which I refer.

            It’s also a flexible and ever-changing stream, so keep going, you are right on track. I say this because I do feel that is an inherent part of transformation and individuating from the corruption and oppression of the world. That’s kind of a dark-night-of-the-soul feeling, isn’t it?

            When we can align with that and see it as part of the journey, then you will appreciate this phase for what it is and move on to the next layer of evolution, which is you coming into alignment with who you really are, and trusting that process! This is where it gets exciting and even kind of magical, as far as manifesting goes. I kid you not.

            Not sure what else to say, other than I’m so respecting and appreciating your process, Shaun, I can see you going with it while taking good care of yourself. Let’s see what manifests from this clarity!

            Oh yes, and regarding why I don’t blog for MIA, that is a long story which I don’t feel comfortable sharing here. Let’s just say I felt I could use my voice well here in the comment section—“one of the masses,” so to speak, at least a representation of that. That way, I avoid feeding into the “illusion of hierarchy.” 🙂

          • Oldhead, I’d love you to identify how I have “vociferously defended forced incarceration and ‘”treatment.”‘ I’ll wait to see the damning evidence. All I have said is that I do believe it is sometimes necessary to complete a mental health hold, like when a client says they plan, intent, and means to kill themselves or others. I have no legal choice. Does that mean I always agree with the law or the current options for dealing with the situation? No. Please get off my back. Seems to me you want to convince others that I’m some fraud or something. You are just proving my point that you seek to attack people who disagree with you rather than searching for some productive dialogue. I doubt you’d ever say anything like this about Amy Hoopes, who is making a similar argument.

          • Alex,
            Thank you again for the kind words of support. I believe you are a very genuine person. I do think you understand my process and journey, and for that I am grateful.

          • Oldhead–ugh, you reached out in two directions and got us both in one sentence.

            How is “New Age Kumbaya-talk” any different than any pejorative, stigmatizing, judgmental, and condemning/shaming label which people like you–and all of us on here–work so diligently to eradicate? It’s a rhetorical question because methinks there is no difference at all.

            Like it or not, I’m speaking my truth, and if it is in a language which you either do not understand or on which you project some kind of judgment or negative feeling about, then I don’t have to take that on because in my primary community, which I love and with which I feel affinity, this–what you hate so much–is the norm. It’s a different consciousness than what you have going on. You’re not alone, and neither am I.

            Still, I can see some bigotry and prejudice coming through. Am I wrong? Does this not stand to reason? What you send in my direction feels extremely judgmental, and without foundation, it’s just your opinion.

            What I’m describing is how I healed, recovered, and freed myself. Should I not speak about these things on here? Please enlighten me.

            Shaun–the feeling is mutual, and indeed, I am genuine in what I speak, it is always from my heart. Thank you again.

          • Oldhead and Julie, I still don’t know what the hell you two are talking about, but whatever!

            For some reason, I’m not terribly bothered by this because I continue to feel my respect for you both. And if you think that’s just more bs for you to wade through, that’s fine, too. Although I’d be sorry to hear that as it would be your loss to not accept this, because I really mean it. How could I not? I think everyone on here is brave, for different reasons. But I do see everyone’s courage and commitment to something important.

            Seems however, we can’t seem to agree on what is important–or do we? I don’t know, hard to tell! Probably a mix of misunderstandings, personal disagreements, and seriously opposite and irreconcilable perspectives. I do wonder how the chips would land, in the end, when deeper clarity manifests, which it inevitably will.

            Shaun, they do know my story I’ve shared many aspects of it on here for years, and I’m quite accustomed to this. Yet another interesting component to my journey, a core paradox for me. Continues to be meaningful in ways, but I’m not quite sure how to resolve it at the core! I believe there is a lot of good and clarifying truth if I could get to other side of this, once and for all. All in good time, things unfold as they will. And I do trust that process wholeheartedly.

    • Normal people aren’t healthy. They are just the majority. The less psychological, the more normal (apollonian) they are, the more psychological (Hades reality) the more disturbed- in authoritarian fictional language.

      In psychological language there’s no mental health and there is no mental illnesses THERE IS ONLY PSYCHOLOGICAL NECESSITY, and we are being told that this psychological necessity is evil or mental illness (Re-visioning psychology),
      BECAUSE OUR PSYCHE IS BEING DEFAMED DESTROYED AND MISTAKEN WITH apollonian ego dominion, SPIRITUALITY OR THEOLOGY. WE DO NOT HAVE THE PROPER LANGUAGE FOR DESCRIBING PSYCHE ,BECAUSE IT WAS STOLEN BY TEHOLOGY/CHRISTIANITY = INQUISITION IN MEDICAL DISGUISE.

      The problem is that people don’t want to know what is hiding under fictional words, because they are too stupid to even noticed that there are words with false inhuman meaning. We are trapped in primitive language, and that LANGUAGE HAS GOT ABILITY TO KILLING PEOPLE.

      The lack of PSYCHOLOGICAL imagination is because of economy in the center, and simple spirituality neraby. There should be PSYCHE and phenomenology of psyche in the same line with economy and spirituality, and there is a big hole there. We are being robbed. And people do not know even know about it, that ‘s why Hillman’s Re-visioning psychology ought to be a handbook in schools, and at homes. God has got his bible, AND WE PEOPLE, OUGHT TO HAVE OURS. If not, church believers will use theology in medical disguise to kill (psyche =satan/evil for theology) humanity as something worse that theological/spiritual soulless illusion of humanity. SAD BUT TRUE. Manufacture of madness is Szasz best book. The best book written ever, in the same line with Hillman works. Because THAT ARE PRO PSYCHOLOGICAL BOOKS, NOT THE ANOTHER APOLLONIAN EGO INHUMAN SABOTAGE OF THE PSYCHE. APOLLONIA EGO IS A TERRORIST, AND THE LAW, THEOLOGY AND THE SCIENTISM IST THEIR FORM OF EGOIZATION/WDESTROYING THE HUMANITY and the phenomenology of the psyche.

      THE HAVE STOLEN THE THE REAL HUMAN STATE AND THE HUMAN PSYCHE. I AM NOT SURE IF ANYONE KNOWS THE ROOTS OF STEALING THE LANGUAGE AS WELL AS HILLMAN, EMPATHS OR PHENOMENOLOGISTS

      NO ONE KNOW ABOUT IT AS WELL AS THE POETS WHO USED IT FOR DESCRIBING HUMAN NATURE…. AND MAYBE POETS OR CHILDRES AT SCHOOLS SHOULD START TO WRITE STH LIKE THIS —-, I SAW F33 YESTERDAY, IT WAS WALKING THE STREET.

      KILL DSM, DO IT TODAY.

  15. I really like this post. I’ve sat in a lot of meetings and got blacklisted for having an opinion. It’s spot on. I don’t know why people commenting are pissy, I bet a lot of them haven’t sat in those meetings.

    I am starting to think that sitting in those rooms is pointless, but at least I tried. At least I earned my exclusion.

    • Corinna, that is what I was saying. Most of us have not worked as professional peers. Which is why I questioned the point of view of the article. Most have not sat in on administrative meetings. We weren’t employees. We were prisoners.

      At my workplace, which has nothing to do with MH, I haven’t revealed anything about my past and do not intend to. I have attended workplace meetings where I am treated the same as the other workers of my level. I am not singled out as a nutcase because I don’t have a known diagnosis at work. Have I shown emotion? Of course. In a civil manner, because it’s my job and I want to keep it.

  16. I don’t know why people commenting are pissy, I bet a lot of them haven’t sat in those meetings.

    That’s sort of the point. The article begins “Nearly all of us who have been involved with mental health policy, practice, or research for any length of time have participated in multi-stakeholder meetings, collaborations, or relationships of one kind or another gone awry.

    From the start the audience the article is addressed describes a small slice of the MIA readership — those who are trying to “change the system from within” to the extent that they regularly attend “mental health” conferences and symposiums, and subject themselves to the insufferable expectations of “mental health” promoters and apologists who effectively curtail any effort to change the system into something it is not and was never meant to be, i.e. a caring respite for people traumatized by a heartless culture. Some who have been through the mill a few times may be “pissy” because it is very hard to watch people trying to be “progressive” while simultaneously trying to adapt the mh system into something that serves the people, especially while clinging to at least some of its attitudes. This is like trying to “reclaim” prisons as asylums. Oh wait, they do that already? I almost forgot…

  17. Hmm. A doctor was sentenced to life in prison after knowingly misdiagnosing people with leukemia to sell them unnecessary chemo and other hazardous cancer treatments. Some were killed; others maimed for life.

    Those who survived were angry. Gosh! Pretty weird huh?

    You don’t suppose they were psychotic or something?

    Before fleeing psychiatry my interactions reminded me of the end for Hunt for Red October. The bad guy (Joss Ackland) has been lying to the Americans about a Russian defecting to America with a submarine. Jack Ryan finds out the truth. Finally the American and Russian reps face off, lying through their teeth. The American slyly shows they have the goods on the bad guys (keeping up appearances.) Both continue to smile. The American says, “I really appreciate your candor.” The Russian says, “Allow me to return the complement.”

    That’s the only kind of relationship we can have with psychiatrists. Lying through our teeth and wearing masks.

    But they decided to base our relationship on a lie. They continue to lie to and about us.

    Will I scream or act stupid? NO WAY. But knowing someone lies all the time makes me distrustful. And any respect I display is a facade colored with scarcely concealed irony and disdain.

    Oh yes. I feel justified in lying to them as much as possible. Most think I’m a subhuman imbecile incapable of independent thought so they can’t pick up on how I despise them for their utter lack of character or conscience. If they were used car salesmen I wouldn’t buy from their lot!

  18. The article made me angry for various reasons opening paragraph words I’d no idea what they meant orthogonal is that to do with gonads ???. Angry consumers or lived experience people wont get to be invited to events because the people they want there are the passive victims who agree with drugs and restraint and worship the psychiatrists and psychologists and think anyone who doesn’t needs more drugs.
    In Australia they even run special courses to help you tell your story what this means is toning it down and being grateful to some person who broke you if you cant lie in this wy you won’t get to go to nothing. The same apologists will be wheeled out time and again t public events to represent the lived experience .. It’s a joke..in fact what will save you is refusal to engage with any organised groups events or professionals and hold on to your anger as it is the purest and best response to what has happened to you it is valid ‘do not look for healing at the feet of those ‘professionals’ who broke you !(with apologies for plagarising to Rupi Kaur) find your support or not outside the main stream as the mainstream will lead you back down an open sewer. Frank is quite right about the emperors nakedness unfortunately the Emperor is also the most powerful individual on earth as he can in prison you,drug you or electrocute you without impunity or review even with his gonads hanging out for all to see!!Keep up the fight you wonderful posters at MIA Oldhead someone else, don’t tone it down keep that anger stoked up..protest and survive that’s what recovery means gird yourself up like warriors as we are fighting for our lives and for people we love do not be cowed or sheep like as we all know what that leads to!much love to all including the authors who really don’t understand.

  19. This article hit an emotional chord with me, except the context is one I have not been involved in. I have never been a consumer/administrator nor have I worked in a professional capacity as Peer. I have never been to college to study mental health nor been on the decision-making end in any MH scenario. I was the recipient only, the one on the bottom of the totem pole, the “patient.” So I have not attended such a decision-making meeting in that context. I am wondering why the article focuses this way, when clearly, most readers have never been through this.

    I have, however, attended more shrink appointments than I can count, or even those group shrink meetings where there are ten shrinks and only little ole me to defend myself. Like being on trial (but where’s the crime?).

    What I recall of those meetings is that sometimes, I was there for token purposes only. They either did not allow me to speak or time-limited me to one minute. Or they’d say I had a few minutes, then, invariably after I uttered a sentence or two they’d cut me off and say “We have to wrap this up.” They’d end the meeting and whatever I said didn’t matter because it was a done deal already.

    If I dared complain, they would claim, “But we invited you to the meeting and let you speak.” That was always bullshit and constituted gaslighting. They knew I had not been heard.

    There were times I got emotional, for the reasons stated so beautifully in this article. It was my freedom taken away (and they threatened to take away what I had left…), my home I was at risk for losing, my body they were forcing drugs into, and my beloved dog Puzzle I would have had to give up had they gone through with what they were trying. One time, had they not let me go, I would have died of dehydration while interred in the facility.

    Yes, I got emotional because I care about my life. I begged, cried, and pleaded for them to give me water. Please! Please! I was so desperate and terrified. How can one remain totally calm when one’s life is at risk? And the fact that I begged them, doesn’t that prove I care about what happens to me?

    If I were suicidal, I wouldn’t have cared. I would have just let myself get dehydrated.

    Then they had the nerve to claim I was suicidal. Why? Because I got emotional. Because I cared deeply about the one body I have. Because I wanted to see tomorrow. I realize now the total incongruity of their actions and words….But I suppose their desire for power, and desire to silence me and take my rights away, trumped any sense of logic they had.

    • Julie,
      Stories like yours need to be told. Clearly, there is an abuse of power in the mental health world; clinical folks, especially doctors, too often see themselves as the expert and minimize anything negative their clients have to say about their treatment. I am sure this is the case with drug effects, where very frequently a client is just given another pill to deal with another problem rather than trying to remove the problem (pill) from the equation. A lot of doctors I’ve met are well meaning but they have big egos and don’t have the lived experience of their clients to empathize with the real suffering that is taking place.

      One doctor I know states (and documents) that many of his clients have a “fragile personality structure”; this speaks volumes about how he views his clients as being broken at their core. This is the sort of BS that we all should be angry about. Frankly, I see my clients as both fragile and resilient, like I see all people. We all have different parts of ourselves, and if doctors only see the “weak” or “fragile” sides of their clients, they can’t expect many of these individuals to ever “recover”. Of course their interventions will usually never help someone recover from trauma, but rather to stay dependent on a system which too often fails to empower the people who are supposedly being served.

      • Exactly, they write crap about our personalities to imply we’ll never get better, stating it in our records. When they treat us this way, with these MI expectations, we fall into those helpless roles very quickly without realizing it. I learned that this is called the Looping Effect. I always wondered what the name was for “becoming exactly what’s expected of you.”

        A striking example is among foster kids who are told they’ll end up in the CJ system. Told that from day one, and treated like they’re already criminals.

        • You are right. When people don’t feel valued as equal human beings because of mistreatment, they will rarely meet their full potential. If we tell people they will always be sick, poor, stupid, under performing, criminal, etc, it is too often a self-fulfilling prophecy. Be well.

  20. Anger made me an activist and if didn’t feel total outrage over psychiatry and it’s lovely “System” I would not be a decent activist. Anger gives me energy, energy vital to life. It makes me spunky and gives me my quick sense of humor. Anger makes me ever so more to stay alive, I stay around to see my goals and dreams actualized. I have psych to “thank” for my anger, because when they pushed me too far, they pushed me out of their desperate grasp.

  21. Thanks to Nev and Emily for opening up this issue. In the spirit of embracing it, I trust I am allowed to say without being bullied out of it, that we cannot allow what might be called the tyranny of the service user perspective. People should not be undermined in mental health debate. We need to have this debate in the spirit of respect for different views.

    • Duncan, I have enormous respect from the critical stance you have taken. What you are hearing here is rage from embittered “users” who have been lied to and abused. Power appears to have been wielded cynically by a cult of evidence-denying medics, the ultimate power to lock up and effectively lobotomise. The tyranny scales are completely with the medics – how can someone with no choice be a tyrant?
      Please undermine my argument because I can’t believe its not a bad dream!
      Coming back to this article, it doesn’t matter about the patronising skilful speech, full of validation and compliments, that the doctor gives you if it’s simply the prologue to a bunch of psuedo-scientific hogwash and a prescription that will knacker the next 5 years of your life if you are lucky. The keyword for me is understanding. First the doctors need to understand mental issues – I’m afraid they don’t, they are going down a terrible blind alley, and they need to get a grip on the evidence and listen. Then they need to translate that understanding into collaboratively and honestly helping the user.

        • Duncan, undermining of humans has no place here or anywhere.

          In writing classes, we had to be reminded: We’re not here to talk about the writer as a person. We’re here to talk about the writing.

          This is a major challenge for writing students in beginning memoir classes, where the temptation is to say something like, “This piece shows what a strong person you are.” This, too, is comment on character and not about the writing. We were encouraged, though, to express our own emotional reaction to the piece of writing and discuss reader impact.

  22. OK since this commentary still seems to be going strong, let me add two considerations:

    shaun spoke of an “abuse of power.” However the real abuse is in the existence of that power, not whether it is exercised brutally or “compassionately.”

    Second, I think we should “abolish” the term “consumer” as an at best obsolete and at worst oppressive term. It was adopted in the first place as part of a strategy to undermine the mental patients liberation movement. It stands for “consumer of mental health services,” which contains the denigrating implication that “consumers” are “mentally ill.” Let’s just stop using it and acquiescing when others do.

    • Oldhead,
      Can I ask this: If real abuse is the existence of power, how do we overcome this? It seems to me that any powerful entity will abuse it’s power because it has the ability to do so. Power corrupts in my experience. I was watching a youtube video with the lead singer of the Smashing Pumpkins and he was talking about the music industry’s abuse of artists. This seems to happen to one degree or another in all big businesses, including mental health.

      I agree with your second point completely. The “consumer” term is ridiculous. My agency has gotten away from it, preferring “person served.”

      • Not the existence of power in the abstract. I’m talking about the specific power of psychiatry and its related tentacles have to their will on others, which is illegitimate power. It’s not even true power, but most of us don’t argue when there’s a gun at our heads.

  23. Here is some illuminating history of the power that psychiatry wielded during World War 1 with military and political governmental backing , and from what I can see has never relinquished , constantly refining it’s “technique” and expanding the population under it’s “influence”.
    https://researchgate.net/publication/21393649_Psychiatry_psychoanalysis_and_politics_during_the_First_World_War?enrichld=rgreq-49ccffa

    also informative- Exposing Psychiatry’s Secret Agenda by Dr. Group-YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8LdbZjVAa8

      • I am also thankful to you and all those with lived experience who comment and blog here . Seems MIA is a place where we all can learn , those of us who can see ever more clearly the horrific danger of the multi- tentacled psychiatric system and it’s tendency to enlarge itself and assimilate ( much like the evil Borg in the Star Trek TV series) all who would would not fight it from a strong anti-psychiatry stance. Also dedicated oppressors can learn here about those of us that oppose them .Most importantly captured individuals may learn how to escape and breathe the air away from psychiatry .In present real time there are those that make it harder and those that make it easier to do so.
        I appreciate oldhead your calls for analysis and I must admit my own analysis sometimes scares me . For example , I know that the oligarchs recognize global warming is real because they have spent huge amounts of $$ raising off shore oil rig platforms to greater heights in acknowledgement of rising ocean levels . And yet they refuse to do what is necessary for the mutual survival of humanity . Because they see a different solution . Eliminating huge numbers of the human population by many means simultaneously . Psychiatry is one huge staging area prelude , there are so many others . There is a battle for survival going on . If the people cannot see the value in mutually guaranteed survival as opposed to the murder of populations, what can anyone say? In any case in regard to psychiatry I consider myself anti-psychiatry.

  24. Hi everyone,

    Thank you so much to all of you who contributed to the conversation! I really appreciate all of you who shared your views and perspectives about the way consumers/survivors are treated in both clinical settings and policy/research settings.

    At this time, I (as moderator) will be closing the comments section, as I feel that most of the comments that have been coming in are off topic and have led to some arguments including personal attacks. Please feel free to continue the discussion in a respectful way on our forum.

    Best regards,

    Emily Cutler
    Community Moderator

Comments are closed.