Based on both my 72 years of a non-sheltered personal life, and from the last 39 years as a practicing dissident therapist, I’d like to share that some of the most highly empathic people that I’ve ever known personally and professionally have been con artists, grifters, charming unrepentant thieves, psychiatric dogma-bound mental health professionals, nefarious seducers, exploitative and abusive gurus and spiritual teachers, cynically manipulative fearmongering politicians, remorseless masterful liars, and heartless and merciless predators of every kind.
I believe there’s a very common, pop-psychology, new-age misconception that conflates being empathic with being caring and compassionate.
But unfortunately, the subjective experience of feeling empathy for another never ensures that caring and compassion for the other are also happening or are ever going to happen.
Having empathy only means “having the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation,” according to the Cambridge definition of empathy.
Because we are vulnerable to being deceived into believing that we are also being cared about when we feel that another person really sees and understands us, while in fact they may simply be empathically tuning into us to be more equipped to control, exploit or even harm us, I felt it important to write this blog post exploring that very real and frequent possibility, and more.
I remember a very charismatic career criminal I’d grown up with, who had spent many years in prison, telling me decades ago: “Man, I’m just like you. I coulda been a therapist. I can’t read minds but in a few minutes I can tell where a person lives inside. They always give away what they want — their wanting to be loved, their wanting to not be alone, wanting to feel safe — and when I know what they want and where they live inside, then the con is on.”
Unscrupulous politicians also use their very developed skills of empathy to discern where voters “live inside” in order to manipulate voters and win their trust. Such politicians specialize in tuning in empathically to people’s fears and then, to stoke those fears, holding out the deceitful promise that only the seemingly empathic and compassionate politician really cares and will provide safety and protection to the voters.
In light of what I’ve written above, I think what often gets attributed to a person having a “failure of empathy” is in fact not the case. The person who doesn’t express genuine caring or compassion when in the presence of our suffering may very well have empathically imagined themselves in our shoes, and may know well what suffering we are experiencing, but to put it bluntly, they simply may not give a damn, except for how that intimate knowledge of us may serve their purposes.
In the case of people whose purpose is to succeed as controlling, psychiatric dogma-bound mental health professionals, very often their use of empathy to gain personal knowledge about us assists them to intellectually reframe our suffering in their theory-laden minds — to define our sufferings as being symptoms of social deviance and as proof of a DSM-defined psychopathology disorder.
Tuning into us empathically serves to allow them to categorize us to fit a damning diagnostic label, one that can justify the objectifying treatment responses that are so often devoid of any measurable essence of the warmth of human compassion.
Maybe we naturally hope that if only the person who consistently doesn’t respond with palpable caring and compassion to our suffering could just empathically put themselves in our shoes, that they would surely care about us then, and would be undeniably compassionate in the face of our suffering.
It’s a sobering experience to try in every way possible to explain and to prove to someone why and how we are emotionally suffering, in hopes of getting that unmistakable light of caring and compassion to go on in their eyes, only to see the blank look of bored indifference staring back instead — or to see the chilling Nurse Ratched eyes of psychiatric authority, or sometimes even the look of contempt and resentment in the eyes of those we fervently hope would be moved by compassion for us.
You might try saying something like this the next time that happens:
“I’m really exhausted trying to get you to show a glimmer of compassion that indicates you have empathic understanding about the truth of why I’m suffering emotionally right now. But I must say I believe it’s not because of a failure of empathy on your part. I believe you know exactly why I’m feeling the way I do, but you simply don’t care that I’m suffering, even though you understand why I am. So my blunt question for you is: You don’t really give a damn about my emotional pain right now, do you?”
I’ve found that it’s not surprising when the person confronted this way will reveal that they really weren’t having a failure of empathy — because they very often will truthfully respond and defiantly say:
“You’re right, I know exactly what’s happening for you and how you’re suffering but I really don’t care!”
In addition to what’s mentioned above about the relationship between empathy and compassion, it may be equally worth exploring how feeling empathy can so crucially be a prerequisite for then feeling caring, compassion and love, for ourselves or another.
If I do start out by feeling empathy, then what might get in the way of feeling caring, compassion and love too?
Focusing first on the need to experience feeling empathy for oneself, it almost seems redundant to say I might need to become empathically aware of what I’m feeling inside. Why wouldn’t I always be tuned in empathically to myself?
Unfortunately, it seems to me that we’ve been programmed since infancy by our culture-wide phobia of the unpredictable subjectivity of human emotion. The psychiatric disease model of suppressing the expression of human emotional suffering reinforces a stifling cultural environment where we have been discouraged from being able to easily know what we’re feeling, to name our emotions to ourselves, or to openly and intensely express our emotions to others.
I’ve previously written here on MIA about how I see the evolution of the social institution of psychiatry, and that it’s been created for and tasked with the suppression and pathologizing of human emotional suffering in our families and society.
So, against the backdrop of our cultural conditioning to avoid knowing and expressing emotional truth, along with psychiatry’s oppressive policing of our emotions, it’s no surprise that the understanding that empathy for ourselves could reveal about our emotional truth is so hard to access.
Once we do empathically get in touch with our emotional truth, though, the next hurdle is often to claim self-love and self-compassion. Finding people who value our emotional truth and feel compassion for our suffering is often the key for the healing and liberation we seek to emerge in that safe and loving interpersonal crucible of transformation.
I’ve found that guilt and shame are often obstacles to feeling worthy to bestow compassion on ourselves. My MIA article “It’s Possible — and Beneficial — to Stop Feeling Guilt and Shame” may be of help in moving toward the freedom to let our emotional empathy and compassion for ourselves emerge.
Since empathy is a prerequisite for having compassion for ourselves and others, it’s valuable to seek out the real reasons why a compassionate response doesn’t always accompany our empathy.
If we’re capable of real compassion, then the stepping stone of empathy is always there to help us reach our goal.
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
Hmm. Your definition of empathy sounds a little different from mine, Michael. That’s okay.
Basically you’re talking about getting inside someone’s head to outmaneuver or manipulate them instead of offering TLC? Like a detective or criminal investigator?
I can see why these people would not help the suffering.
I have read literary critics who lost the joy of reading literature for its own sake and only enjoy picking it apart to support their theories. Some professions do that–not to art or literature–but people.
I remember a game that someone in my party circles used to play. In the moment, it was basically harmless – he was doing it to “mess wit’ you.”
But he could sense exactly what someone’s buttons were, and there, before the bonfire, partying out of our gourds, he would “mess wit’ you,” pushing your buttons to see if you snapped, and then laughing like a coyote when he succeeded. “Gotcha!” The game always ended when you saw that it was just a game. And the party continued.
(This also reminds me of a strategy my older brother would use – anything he could use to see if he could get me in a state. Typical brother stuff – but in the same vein. Years later, my brother has exhibited great use of emotional intelligence and compassion in helping my parents achieve a good death – so his empathy has been used with compassion)
In retrospect it was great training in “not taking things personally,” as well as turning a mirror onto my buttons, and why they got triggered – but I do wonder about the forces that drove him to “mess wit’ us,” – like it was a protective function to keep *us* from messing with *him.*
I think this was a clear case of empathy – it wasn’t just the head, but the whole person he was sensing (I usually think of empathy as a heart quality) – but there was cruelty, not compassion in response.
Thank you for writing JanCarol!
Come to think of it from what you wrote, maybe when empathy occurs and “the whole person he was sensing” happens- “but there was cruelty not compassion in response,” it sheds light on how multi-functional empathy may actually be for humans. Maybe because the capacity for empathy doesn’t restrict empathy to be limited to only being followed by compassion, there has been even a human evolutionary value to having been able to quite quickly sense where “the whole person” right in front of us “lives inside.” Are they dangerous? Do they come in peace? Are they hiding something?
Tuning into the full person right in front of us empathically- their emotional micro-expressions, eyes, body language, voice and the meanings being expressed via their uttered words, all are registering and being weighed.
How we respond to all we empathically learn is not narrowly limited just to compassion.
Maybe that’s not unfortunate as I said in my article, because at times empathically sensing where a person may “live inside” may give us the knowledge we need to run for cover!
Both your article, Dr. Cornwall, and your comments, JanCarol, are EXCELLENT. JanCarol, I used to be your brother! I would make very incisive, very sarcastic, very funny, and very hurtful comments to the vulnerable in my circle of friends. That was during high school / teenage years. I was doing it to protect myself, given the abuse I experienced growing up. But luckily I saw it for what it was, and stopped, eventually. I think many, most, or even all of the persons you described, Dr. Cornwall, were themselves abused in various ways as children, even if it was “only” verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse. I think we need to broaden our view, and see these dynamics as the multi-generational and social-scale functions that they truly are. After all, what is it that too often makes us such good victims for the victimizers? Repeating patterns! Thank-you, BOTH!
Thank you for writing Bradford! I agree with your important point about broadening our view about the complex dynamics we’re discussing.
I do think this is an important distinction to make. I’d add that there is another type of dangerously empathetic person, though. There are definitely con-men and -women who just get into your head to mess with you. I think there are also those who genuinely get HOW you are feeling but don’t get WHY. These folks project their own “reasons” onto you and can thereby justify their actions as “being in your best interests” from their point of view. If confronted as you suggest, they would assure you that OF COURSE, they care about you, THAT’S WHY THEY ARE FORCING YOU TO TAKE THESE DRUGS (or whatever)! Because they are GOOD for you because they’ll make you FEEL BETTER.
What they really mean by this is that if you take the drugs, it will make THEM feel better because they have done something to show they care for you so very, very much. If you deny they are helping, it hurts their feelings and a much less empathetic side will often emerge.
Such people don’t appear to be moved at all when you tell them (or when observation shows them) that their “help” isn’t really helping or is making things worse. Because their worldview depends on believing that their model of “helping” has to work. But they do recognize how you are feeling and try to pressure and manipulate you, very similarly to the con man. I suppose the real difference is that in this case, they are “conning” themselves as well.
Anyway, bottom line is that a person showing empathy for how you feel isn’t necessarily going to be able to help you get to a better place, and may in fact victimize you in the name of “helping.” Real compassion feels very different.
Good point Steve. Sometimes large amounts of drugs can silence the loved one–allowing the family to assume they are “better” though the suffering is unbearable.
This happened to me. Mom insisted I needed more Haldol because it made me quiet, though jumbling my brain with drugs caused my “broken record” behaviors to begin with. I’m sorry I put them through it. Psychiatry screwed us all royally!
Good point, Rachel777.
And I wonder how many people – who have natural empathy – have their give-a-shit-atude (compassion, caring) numbed and even eliminated by the drugs flattening effects.
I know when I was drugged, I couldn’t care about anything (including myself) in the deepest of anhedonias.
I have wondered if this is how SSRIs really “work.” Maybe increasing serotonin induces a “who gives a crap” attitude that might seem a big relief to those who have spent a lot of time worrying about other peoples’ opinions of them. It would also explain why a small subset, like the Germanwings air pilot who flew his plane full of passengers into a mountainside, do bizarre things on SSRIs that appear out of character and totally irrational from an outside viewpoint. Perhaps they stopped caring about the consequences of their actions, so suicide or homicide suddenly became acceptable.
I agree Steve! Thanks for your comment.
I tried to describe part of the dynamic you’re importantly highlighting when I gave examples of how psychiatric dogma-bound mental health professionals use their empathy skills to get insight into a person’s emotinal experiences, so that they can then diagnose/label and “treat” that person according to the clinician’s distorted psychiatric disease model belief system. In that closed echo chamber trap as you say, the clinician can not have real caring and compassion because treatment compliance is demanded based on the clinicians self-anointed superior status of professional, unquestionable authority to diagnose and insist on drug treatment, or other potentially invasive or forced treatment.
Damn, dude. Why can’t you go with me to my psych appointments? You describe me better than *I* can! “They” don’t listen to me, – maybe they’ll listen to you! What you describe here is EXACTLY why I haven’t been back to psychiatry in well over 20 years! BAD HELP is WORSE than NO help at all! Seriously, you need to clone about a bazillion of you!
The term “people” would be inclusive of nonbinary people and others who are not binary male and female, Steve. Many of us are neither men nor women.
Thanks for that feedback. I struggled with that a bit, as “con-people” or “con-persons” doesn’t really work. But “people who play con games” would have done the job.
Thank you! That is just the term I needed.
Hi Rachel777, thanks for your comment!
Since empathy is defined as “Having the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation,” then feeling empathy can be both the necessary prerequisite for then feeling caring and compassion, but empathy also can be used to tune into another person’s inner experience in order to gain knowledge about them that can be used to manipulate or exploit them without feeling caring or compassion for them.
Great for swindlers and emotional abusers. 😛
Reminds me of a Simpsons episode.
Homer: Lisa honey, just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand.
😀 (couldn’t resist)
I think empathy is actually not necessary to feel caring and compassion. I can feel caring and compassion for people who I have no idea how they feel. People in situations I have never been in.
Empathy has got nothing to do with theology love and compassion, it is a abilty of seing sb else psychological archetype. THIS IS A GIFT, A VERY RARE GIFT. However, wthout Hillman’s phenonemology no no one can describe what is depression/ psychosis and so on, because we do not use the proper language, because DSM, ego culture and pseudo scientism, killed phenomeology of the psyche. So we do not know waht psyche means, we think it is a brain or medicine.
James Hillman was a phenomenologist, that ‘s mean he could describe sb’s else psychological “location” on the psychological/mythical map, but he could not feel things he described, he was not an empath.
Empaths are people beyond apollonian ego archetype, that is a requirement, only then you can FEEL things BEYOND normalcy, and normalcy (apollonian ego) is a psychological barrier. To understand it you must read Hillman’s phenomenology.
We are sane as long we are in simple apollonian ego archetype, when we are beyond this archetype, they call as insane or mentally ill. Authoriarians are usually apollonian psychopats, that is why, empaths are usually killed by psychiatry. AND THAT IS WHY PHENOMENOLOGY DOES NOT EXISTS. Because apollonians do not see the psyche in the proper light, they are pathologically blind and useless for psychological reality.
To be an empath, you must be psychologically on the “other side” with people called insane, and then you will see, that they are right, no matter what kind of pathology they represent, so you must be beyond good and evil —-this is a psychological reality. Beyond normalcy, theological good and beyond biblical evil, the phenomenology, the mythical imagination is. Sorry, this is not christianity. Psyche has got nothing to do with the spiritual world or rationalism.
Apollonians are enemies of the psyche, they do everything to destroy it, and they despise and kill everyone who represent psychological reality beyond their primitive archetype ( beyond apollonian ego constraints)
This is a definition of the psychiatry.
James Hillman Re -visioning psychology.
Thank you for your comment Danzig666.
Do not thank me, read Hillman, so You will know what psyche is, because without phenomenology of the psyche there is no defence of the psyche. People do not know what they are defending and fighting for.
Re-visining psychology, 60 first pages.
What is the name of Hillman’s book danzig666 please?
As I read this Micheal, for the first time, the connection between sexual predators and the “mental health” cartels uses of GROOMING tactics to indoctrinate their victims, became clear.
It is frighteningly evident that manipulators utilize techniques to indoctrinate followers/believers of cults must buy-into their view of the “facts” as true. Invented notions that human feelings and everyday life experiences are in fact, symptoms (pseudo-evidence) that they are “brain diseases with mental illness’s” requiring “treatment”.
An entire industry cannot carry out mass social fraud under the guise of “medical legitimacy” without controlling, not just the language, but the entire cultural belief system and most specifically, the individuals who come within their grasp. They do so by hook or by crook, via coercion or force.
Increasingly more people (including those with bona fide medical conditions whose normal sequale and symptoms are being labeled with a psych dx) are becoming aware of the disservice/harm this caused them. Thyroid, Lyme, Mesh victims… the list goes is long. If and when the millions of people this is happening to –become aware- this movement will grow exponentially. It is happening across the board.
The phenomenon of “psychiatric grooming” needs to be explored and exposed in order to educate the public about how to recognize and protect themselves from the “mind-rapists” that permeate the sick care industry.
I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. The man would tell me I was too old and ugly to find anyone else. Abusers also tell their victims how stupid and helpless they are without the abuser to take care of them.
Psychiatrists tell you you’re so sick and crazy only paid professionals can deal with you. They malign you before the community too (also popular with abusers.) They frequently remind you how sick and helpless you are without their “help.”
I ghosted a forum of survivors venting how psych guys had hurt them. One trolling shrink posted a lengthy threat, reminding everyone how stupid, sick, and crazy they were. How they should go back on their brain drugs and submit to their shrinks immediately. They told him some nasty stuff I won’t repeat. 😀
I burst out laughing. The creep never posted after that.
You’re right Judi. People WILL realize how bogus the “remedies” are as well as the “diseases.” Psychiatry is undermining itself by its own overwhelming greed and inability to say “when.” That’s what brought the Salem witch hunts to a screeching halt.
Pointing at the governor’s wife and screaming she’s a witch is a major social blunder. Lol.
It is a very common tactic for domestic abusers to label their partners as “crazy” or more subtly “Bipolar” or “borderline” as a means of either directly confusing them or convincing others intervening in the situation that the victim is the one making the problems. Psychiatry unfortunately plays right into this tactic by tossing out labels that abusers can then use to discredit or attack their partners.
That’s why I want to tear my hair out when I read articles urging abuse victims not to be afraid to seek out “help” from psychiatry. That way she can be totally discredited, lose hope of financial independence and forfeit custody rights to the abuser.
If stupidity were a crime these advisers would be doing life. Being depressed and anxious because your life is in danger is a healthy response to a bad situation. NOT a brain disease to be drugged or mocked.
Oy yes, “Seek help,” egads.
But that seems to be the answer to everything. Energetic children, conflicts with partners or work problems, overwhelm and energetic drains, nutritional problems – “ask your doctor . . . ”
Sigh. Are we shouting into the wind?
No, but you don’t increase your chances of being listened to by shouting over people, you just increase your chances of being heard.
That’s why every one of these three things – Basaglia Law, Bonnie Burstow Antipsychiatry Scholarship and the Rosenhan Experiment are keys to the movement because there are no pillars yet.
Meanwhile your random talk session psychologist/psychiatrist receives at least how many patients per day? Patients who may desire a mother figure but find no one in their life that fills this gap. Patients who may desire a father/priest figure but find no one in their life that provides them with this secure figure.
Providing those two things alone makes anyone hesitant to listen to alternative opinions about their situations while claiming the mantle of a messenger gets you ostracized not just in name but in terms that empower the mental health business because every small abuse on you is due to stigma, every big abuse is due to malpractice and every right you have is based on your capacity to be analyzed as a homo sapien over some arbitrary number that counts you as a person not only of legal age but who isn’t a danger to you or others.
This is just your tabula rasa human. This isn’t even an actual human who got abused by others outside of the system much less realized they will be abused within the system.
The man would tell me I was too old and ugly to find anyone else.
Did you ask him if that were true what it said about him?
Hi Judi. Thank you for your powerful comment.
So many times over the decades I’ve had people describe their initial immersion into the psychiatric disease model gulag and how the deepest core of their naive and innocent selves was veritably transformed. They described a gradual indoctrination into a new form of social and self-identification being systematically created around them in their transformed world as a “mental patient” and also intensley inside them as the almost seamless and inescapable “grooming process” as you say, begins, advances and succeeds.
I tried to shed some light on this insidious and ritualistic process in my MIA article- “Does the psychiatric disgnosis process act as a degradation ceremony?” Another article focuses there too- “Does a psychiatric diagnosis have the impact of a medical curse?”
Hi Michael, a very, very powerful piece about the very nature of personal experience. You don’t pull any punches and l wonder how frustrated your feeling about the politics of politeness and self-avoiding rationalizations of the mental health debate.
For me empathy is more about feeling than thinking and after a decade or so of visceral digestion of The Polyvagal Theory, l now try to be aware of moment’s when l’m lacking in self-empathy, through a felt, subconscious sense of being immersed in fear.
Its a very subtle problem that is more a question of degree than the either, or, sense of fear that is created by the ‘static’ impression of words. For example, in your last blog you described a momentary sense of fear in the face of a threatening other.
While what l’m trying to convey through the limited medium of the written word, is a an internal threat that is a residue of traumatic experience. A muscular and vascular freeze response that cuts off a relaxed an easy access to inner sensation flow, and simultaneously creates a rather numb cerebral tone.
And of course the paradox is the tendency to shame & blame myself for experiencing this subconscious self-defense, thereby losing my conscious sense of empathy and compassion.
Perhaps, as a long serving therapist trained in the art of the depth psychology of the Self, you might agree that as Jung pointed out, the public persona of the mental health debate, has become ‘unconscious’ by thinking itself conscious of the medical perception of madness.
Hope your writing a book about the art of being with Self & Other during life’s most challenging, experiential moment’s.
No wonder Laing wrote: We are bemused and crazed creatures who are strangers to ourselves and each other.
BTW As a depth-psychologist do you ever ponder what prompted Robert to title his book: Anatomy of an Epidemic?
Strange how every human being under the sun has such similar anatomical features and physiological reactions to those primary orienting responses of affect-emotion?
Thank you again BigPictureAwareness for your wonderful comment. I’m glad you shared about how valuable the Polyvagal Theory can be in understanding and heightening the processs of inner knowing and empathy.
i dont feel empathy or compassion for all your articles and those that write them. no. i just feel love.
I almost laughed when I read the following:
“I’m really exhausted trying to get you to show a glimmer of compassion that indicates you have empathic understanding about the truth of why I’m suffering emotionally right now. But I must say I believe it’s not because of a failure of empathy on your part. I believe you know exactly why I’m feeling the way I do, but you simply don’t care that I’m suffering, even though you understand why I am. So my blunt question for you is: You don’t really give a damn about my emotional pain right now, do you?”
The day I walked out of therapy for good, that was pretty close to the discussion I had with my shrink. For the seven years he had sat there, his total failure to respond in any “real” way had in the end left me feeling …almost like …????… Kafka’s cockroach. Totally othered.Totally wrong.
In retrospect, I was probably too persistent in trying to develop some sort of rapport with him, and I think his lack of responsiveness was ultimately quite damaging.
Thank you Bippyone, and for your important comments below.
mik, I’m very sorry your shrink was not there for you in the caring, related and compassionate way that he should have been.
I don’t think empathy is all that valuable. It’s sort of a fad, to emphasize it so much. I think it’s possible to care and have compassion, without empathy. I can care about and have compassion for people who are in situations I am not familiar with, where I don’t know how they feel. People living in Yemen for example. I have compassion for them. I don’t know what famine is like.
I think there’s a lot of fake empathy, where we tell ourselves we’re empathizing and really we are making up our own idea of how the person feels, and projecting it.
Anyway I think caring and compassion are the most important. I think there’s a reason why compassion is discussed extensively in Buddhism and empathy isn’t mentioned.
Empathy is better than clinical detachment. I think the introduction of empathy as a concept, is a step in the right direction in the mental health field. But it’s still missing the mark.
Actually Gautama Buddha (and the many ways Buddhist sects interpret him) was always on about empathy. His empathy was so vast that he didn’t need to use this word and converted it into what the English term calls Nirvana.
That’s why many of his early teachings were linked to ascetism and cruelty pre-attaining Buddhahood.
This was a person who supposedly left his status of being a prince just to understand the compassion he needed to verify how much his compassion is:
“After leaving his Fathers kingdom behind him in renunciation of his former plentiful life as a prince, Siddhartha Gautama began to drift from place to place as a devoted wanderer. In search of the ultimate meaning of life he found and studied with the wisest men of the time. But to his disappointment, no matter how far he traveled, not one knew the answer to ending the suffering that had so greatly affected him.”
Empathy is no fad. Has it been hijacked by psychiatry that we need blog posts like this to realign ourselves with the term? That’s a strong possibility but a person’s mere compassion won’t lead them to put themselves into a famine-like situation just to figure out for himself how much compassion he has for those who are experiencing famine.
Hi Paul, the great Prince of Sense-Ability, as l learned to imagine him after 3 years of Buddhist reconditioning of my nervous system in Thailand, is a fascinating personification story about the human condition.
With most Buddhist people assuming the word Buddha to be the name of a specific historical individual, not a state of being that has overcome the veil thrown over reality by our early life adaptation to the survival skill of literacy and numeracy.
Chopra suggests that the simplistic translation of the word Buddha is ‘awake,’ although not in the normal waking consciousness of “l see and hear reality beyond my skin & l can name & number it,” more in sense of seeing and hearing and feeling a sense of ‘motion’ within and without the organism, we label human.
A sense of the inner and outer motions of reality that are felt more as vibration and frequency resonance, than the static sense of reality created by words.
Hence, a saying attributed to the teaching story of the great Eastern Prince of Wisdom: Words are not reality, only experience reveals the nature of being.
While in terms of his Western counterpart of teaching a wisdom of the ages, through a personification story about the subconscious/conscious paradox of human motivation and perception.
Jesus, the Christ said: marvel not that l said to you, ‘you must be born anew.’ And given that our nervous system is obviously active pre-birth, is the sentience, as a raw, uncategorized by languages, capacity for awareness of sensations, what both these great wisdom stories are really about?
One of the stories of The Buddha’s birth, suggests he walked and talked immediately after birth, which can be read as a koan paradox about the limits of rational thinking and the fact that none of us can explain HOW we walk & talk.
And as for Empathy & Compassion, Jesus advised us to Love our Enemy too. Although Socrates may have added that the real enemy lies within, and is our own diabolical self-ignorance.
As Joseph Campbell said of our taken for granted language skill: myth is more important than history, for history is simply journalism and we know how reliable that is.
And paradoxical as it is, many of us keep journals and write our life-story of a Self, without contemplation of our Mind, as simply a product of Memory.
Thanks Michael and Judi for the after comments.
I would say another word for empathy maybe user and knower of human emotions- more of a phrase but it’s essentially the same idea.
Samenow sp? in his writings of criminal minded folks – the real kind not the forced and contrive school to correctional system elitist pipeline – talked ofcomplete and utter comparentalization. There was no thread between their life just a series of moves of power and control.
“Angels with Dirty Faces” is an interesting take on this as well as”Heart of Darkness”
In my past work with offenders there were several type of folks- some were able to eventually move on past a predator mind set others not. Abuse and trauma were ever present in all of their histories.
I think we see this mindset in almost all of our systematic institutions. Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Oscar Romero – Corrie Ten Boom, Miep Giess, Dorothy Day, Raul Wallenberg, Sr. Dorothy Stang,
James Wendell Johnson, have been and there are now folks who at best died in the face of these forces
or challenged the status quo. And throughout systems there have been so many deaths, so many silenced voices, so many possible great hope futures deliberately or by happenstance killed off.
The predators know human beings well, so well and they as stated in Judi’s commentary take time for the set up. There are many – too many rape walks. A rape walk is when a perp prowls in invisibility around the home or workplace or whatever and sizes things up. They know fear and anger and anxiety. And are skilled in creating it and using it for their own purposes.
My best guess is somewhere there was a choice made by them to go full throttle into this mindset.
The problem is we as patients, or parishioners, or constituents, or consumers, can easily be gladhanded by these folks. And I have found despite my dissident professionalism I still was dragged down into the basement bowels of the psych system. My sense of intuition and trust shattered to the winds. And this is from someone on the at first other side of the desk. What the world has done to so many without my privelge is at times for me devastating.
It’s ironic how psychiatry has never gotten its head around how much of what they are “diagnosing” is down to these people, the predators, hurting people. We are the ones who wear their shame in the form of stigmatisation and discrediting labels, but it never belonged to us.
I know it took me decades to pull my head out of denial about them, yet I had no excuse, living what Michael has called the “non-sheltered life” (love that phrase). I saw it a lot. I just couldn’t ‘see’ it, and now I really don’t know why – I think it may be partly what is called “betrayal blindness”.
For me, pulling my head out of the sand was what it took to be able to be compassionate towards myself, the two just went together – recognising predators, getting it, and finally forgiving myself, knowing that i had always been okay. That’s a big part of the damage they inflict – offloading poison into our minds.
There are too many of those people working inside that system. They are part of why it has never been able to improve across the years psychiatry has been going. Not the only reason, but one of them. Usually they come across, superficially at least as especially ‘nice’, and they do so much damage to people who are desperate to see a little kindness in a desert of cruelty. They are usually as thick as a plank but they always set up little cult followings inside. Its really sad to see the people who get pulled in.
Those with any brains can do much better out in the real world, but the picture is the same, illogical followings, ordinary people very often turned into weapons in their nasty campaigns.
“We are the ones who wear their shame in the form of stigmatisation and discrediting labels, but it never belonged to us.” That is beautifully said, thank you. May I add that, with credit to you, to a little list of quotes I keep around for when I need to remind myself I’m not the only one struggling with these things? It really resonates. I often think about how it’s my eldest brother, my abuser, who should have spent his life living in shame for what he did to me. Not me for having survived his abuse with no help or support.
It is ironic that the shame so often falls upon those who are victimized instead of the ones doing the harm. Psychiatry is highly complicit in continuing and enhancing that pattern.
My other thought is that enuf with trying to figure out comprehendthe other side.
What would be really helpful to me asa psych survivor is a framework – a compass rose- some rituals or paths others have used to not only walk away but continue on and if at all possible thrive in some way.
Reading some of my medical records by myself was almost a revictimization. Talking to others is a literal crapshoot because so many upon hearing your real life story use “ that voice” of now but very effective othering.
And again I have come from a lucky spot.
How to live with the memories?And they come up at various times unwillingly.
EDMR okay but my myriad of issues and practioner change to require meds changed that option for me.
The anger of knowing how I treated folks and the trauma of not in any way shape or kind in return at certain times stillrankles and the inability to dialogue and understand where and why and how these practioners treated me as they did is at times an existential agony.
Anger ultimately is only helpful on a short term basis but forgiveness that is one sided can be achieved intellectually with effort but is hard to retain and unless one is truly a wisdom healer never enough to change life paths in an effective way.
The geographic cure can work but again the issue of memory.
At this time we are seeing memory come up for sex abuse , and. othering and abuse in our nation or world history,but not psych . There have been so much too so many in ALL areas.But a mee too movement for us? Or is that beyond the Pale?
How can we help ourselves bind our own and other’s traumas?
To be effective activists especially now with so many arrests and physical and weaponized ( instruments of all kinds) WE need to walk in and move forward rather than do I what I have done – hide.
One activists suggestedalways carry a second set of clothes so if your taken you have a change. I don’t WANT to be taken and until I have a modicum if some sort of resolution. No- no matter what. If I had not had my 15 years in the system, more than likely I would be out in full force for a variety of causes.
I know one cannot give power to people but when the people still have the power what can one do?
Getting of SSD but nine months and that track record hasn’t been reached though I have tried.
School again? Two graduate degrees and my abilities are as sharp in the past and there were LD issues from birth.
Volunteer one has to disclose or pretend.
Inust want the freedom to be me and offer wheat ever small wisdom I have gathered.
Anyone else have this need for resolution to move beyond?
I think I understand what you’re talking about. I’ve only found a very small number of people able and willing to talk about “what’s happened to you,” and the majority of the “mental health” system are focused on “what’s wrong with you.” Most of the support I’ve found has been people who know little to nothing about the “MH” system but have worked on their own issues personally and can share the perspective of how to move forward. Such people are rare but do exist. I have a way of testing out people to see how far they can go down this path. I don’t think one in a hundred can even go there. It’s frustrating and disappointing, but I am afraid that is reality.
I would love to hear more about your way of testing out people. I too often find myself in this conundrum where I don’t want to test people but then if I don’t – I find myself entrapped in their own insistence of how I live, how I think and how I live life.
Would be nice to read more about how others develop their strategies so that I could enhance my own techniques.
Essentially, I try out gradually more and more potentially emotional or controversial topics. I often start with humor to see what this person believes is humorous. Then I try talking about something that has some meaning to me, and see if this person reacts as I might expect to something more personal. This might happen over multiple interactions, of course, and if I get feedback that this person either a) has no interest or is uncomfortable talking about non-standard topics, or b) grabs on a little too hard and is trying to control the conversation, I back away from sharing anything personal or intimate with that person. It’s hard to exactly describe what I’m looking for, but genuineness and compassion are definitely a part of it, plus a willingness to allow themselves to be a little vunlerable and share some of their own stuff. A person who is empathetic but not compassionate is most likely willing to hear what you’re willing to share (as it might come in handy later in meeting their objectives), but will rarely share their own experiences, or will do so in an artificial and probably dishonest way.
That’s the best I can do. It’s something I started developing as a kid, long before I knew what it was I was doing, so a lot of it is pretty ingrained and hard to describe. I kinda just do it.
Thanks. The most help I have found is through just folks that have been in the system. But for me I also had another life and have lived other paths before, during, and after my time in system.
Having a more non mainstream look at the system plus some folks stigmitism in the past makes it difficult. To pretend or not to be pretend is the question. Much of the time I have difficulty doing either.
Breathing and walking and other alternatives help but to thrive and get back to where I was and that journey in and of itself was not easy. This site and some peer meetings have been helpful but there needs to be more.
Aeopisciplian authority given by the people to medical professionals is a legal and social contract. There had to be a way to break or call
BS to contract that harm.
I await it’s coming.
Given the right environment anyone with emotional issues can thrive. In the right environment and it can be different for different people if there is only one person willing to reach out and believe that person’s story that harm was done to them and this is why they are reacting a certain way maybe years later after the harm has been done and as a consequence there has been to that person a build up of harm without a lucky break. Sometimes if compassion is felt for that person then it can mean a lot but compassion doesn’t take away the pain for that person who has suffered it takes an environment where that person’s needs are met.
People always recover from emotional overwhelm and find themselves in a situation of dire need because they have been uprooted from a society that condemns their actions and says they are at fault not what happened to them. You learn if you are wise to read people but how do you make sense of people in a world where nothing makes sense and you are vulnerable?
When the arm of the law says because you are considered to suffer from strange unacceptable behavior from time to time then the police can come and get you. How do you read whether a policeman has compassion for you or is basically just doing his job and following the law. The Law is compassion-less.
Where the law is involved with the welfare of vulnerable people then those people are bound to suffer and compassion doesn’t exist. The law says we should be taken to a place of safety. Where drugs are forced on people this does not exist although many would disagree with me believe it or not.
People have how compassion towards me and I have to them but nevertheless it doesn’t take away your emotional pain. It is a constant tight rope walk without a safety net and you are so lucky if you manage not to fall.
“but how do you make sense of people in a world where nothing makes sense and you are vulnerable?”
You get better. Evolve. Adapt. Marry. Raise future generations be they your offspring or not in such a way that they can actually do better than you in a fight.
What we think as right environment in the scope of history has really been the wrong environment calling us to action to cherish every second of opportunity we have.
“How do you read whether a policeman has compassion for you or is basically just doing his job and following the law.”
You don’t read a policeman. You rise above him in terms of executing changes within the law that he has to rise above his job.
It’s the old adage of a well equipped private militia able to fight for their rights better than any lawmaker. This isn’t limited to guns. It’s everything from groups to networking to joining a cause to even be the black sheep of a cause – all so that we’re more robust in imparting our compassion in times when we can barely care for ourselves.
“The law says we should be taken to a place of safety.”
Well then make the law realize they are not taking you to safety because we all have fallen before – it’s not a question of having fallen or rising up yet again. It’s about breathing. They took everything but our capacity to exist as a breathing creature with functioning eyes to consume information and other functioning body parts (whatever that’s still functioning) so we take it to them. Not in the sense of charging in blindly but we give what’s left of us to actually push the cause. Bar none. We pressure them into losing their environment and we’ll prove to everyone that the right environment for us is superior to the right environment these people created for us and for other people who don’t think like us.
We mobilize our compassion where others merely show compassion to their fellow earthlings.
We sharpen our knowledge where as others enjoy their bliss.
We take the brunt of the attacks to the best that allow us to remain standing and we make it easier for others to actually build the right compassionate environment for those of us who are younger and have more potential to get better.
Well said, Paul Keith.
Poorly said, Paul Keith. Clearly you’ve never been in conflict with the law. Or had your right to marry outlawed by bigots. Just as a couple examples.
How about you work on yourself before telling the rest of us what to do, hmm?
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Removed for moderation.
I have nothing but negative emotions 98% of the time. (Went off my drug cocktail in 2016-17. Been off everything since August 31, 2017.) This makes me a joy to be around. Lol.
I try to avoid human contact out of compassion for others. Even if I control my temper and hide my irritability successfully I often have crying jags. This worries friends/family.
My physical suffering is very real. Coughing, itching, head aches, painful cramps all over, weakness. My body can’t absorb micro nutrients. Yogurt, saur kraut, probiotics are worthless. For a while my whole body was terribly dry and my left cornea kept ripping off. My folks thought I was faking it for attention till an ER doctor told them 95% of my upper cornea was missing.
My negativity troubles me. Is it realizing the crap I have been through? Or is my brain too damaged to feel joy now?
No one can tell me.
Rachel777 this sounds like withdrawal, so the answer is time.
If you went off the drug too quickly, for whatever reason, then the delayed withdrawal is more intense – it all hits at once, instead of the (usually) more gradual symptoms of tapering.
At Surviving Antidepressants, we call this negativity, “Neuroemotion” – as in – chemically induced emotions. And they seem to be one of the last things to go.
Personally, I still have dips into major “depressive” thoughts and feelings, but I battle them one moment at a time. Feel suicidal? Make a cup of tea. Sounds trite, but those moments I was making the tea were moments I wasn’t thinking about suicide. Little steps out of the abyss may not seem like much when all is total darkness – but the best way out of the dark forest is to keep going.
There’s also gotta be some anger at what happened to you. My acupuncturist speaks of “right application of spleen,” as in – finding good ways to use your anger. Writing, telling your story, helping others are just a couple of good applications for your spleen. I don’t think I would have succeeded in escaping the system if it weren’t for a LOT of anger.
Paul Keith’s comment that “nobody has achieved the right level of compassion” – still places the expectations on others. I haven’t found that to be a successful strategy. Others always let me down. It’s hard to rely on connection when – even in the face of deep caring and compassion – others don’t grasp what you have experienced.
I was listening to a talk last night about emotions – even the negative ones – as opportunities. Neuro-emotions are harder because they are amplified by withdrawal, but even they have a seed of truth in them. Finding the opportunity – interviewing your emotion as if it were a person sitting in front of you: why do you feel that way? Where are you in my body? What happens when I focus on that part of my body? What else is there? How can you be expressed or soothed?
E-motion is the movement of feeling, and really the only way to be healthy with feelings: experience them, explore them, and let them move – on and out. They will. In the case of withdrawal, it may take a few years before you start to experience positive ones. Focus on the 2% positive emotions, as tiny as that is, and feed that wolf.
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Paul Keith at what point did I attack you? Yes I paraphrased – but egads you use a lot of words. It was not meant to “dis” you, just talking about what worked (or hasn’t) for me. I have not name called you or attacked you, and if you perceive that I have, I’m sorry. I’ve been on forums for nearly 30 years and do make an effort to discuss ideas, not people.
I felt that what I discussed (especially in light of the excellent Alice Miller article) was in *addition* to those who are fortuitous enough to have that excellent witness, compassionate shoulder, etc. For many people, this is an impossibility, and even for those who are aware of the possibility may not have access to such a person. I know I didn’t.
I also know that in the throes of withdrawal, a compassionate shoulder is nice, but does not serve the function of time to adjust neurotransmitters back to balance. Akathisia, anyone? There is such thing as “inner akathisia” or “emotional akathisia” as well.
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Jan I think I still can email you. Gonna try to send you info about something.
Oddly, I find that though my negative emotions have doubled or tripled in intensity I find them easier to control than when I took my drugs.
I feel intense anger but don’t act on it. The nastiest things I “do” are my unkind posts on sites like this. I have written some wickedly funny pieces mocking the “Lame Science.”
I feel intense sadness and often cry for an hour in the evening. But I no longer regard suicide as an option.
The drugs helped numb my pain–but not enough to make up for my stolen life. And they destroyed what emotional resilience I had to begin with. Even my mom realizes I’m doing better.
It would be nice to feel happy again though.
It has always seemed to me that learning I can work my way through difficult emotions and even understand their origins was a much better approach than trying not to have those emotions or making them go away. If I know I can handle feeling anxious BY EXPERIENCE, then having anxiety is less worrisome to me, and my anxiety actually lessens over time. And I know that I am the one who did that, rather than someone coming in and messing with my body from the outside.
“Is it realizing the crap I have been through? Or is my brain too damaged to feel joy now?”
It’s neither. It’s no one reaching the right amount of compassion to reach out to you yet.
If you ever need to un-hide your full emotions and I’m around to reply and listen, you can always unload everything on me.
I probably can’t do anything about your physical suffering unless you’re somehow geographically close to me in proximity and even then I’m not fully informed about your conditions but like the book the Upside of your Dark Side shows: Your negative emotions are still your emotions.
Bless yourself in your Darkness (that’s also based off the title of a book) and then connect with others in the dark until you discover someone that will light your path temporarily before you shift back towards the dark and better re-discover someone who will once again make you move 3% better into the world where the rays of the sunlight has more chances to reach you.
Thanks for your kind offer Keith!
No problem. I can only try provided I’m around when you need someone around.
Like the post I wrote just now to JanCarol says, I may not have gone through your exact experiences but I had years where I made no contact with the outside world so I have at least that similarity with you in terms of avoiding human contact (except for family members who brought up food for me to eat)
Don’t trust this guy Rachel. Don’t give him any personal info. Check w/some of your “comrades” about this.
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I generally oppose “moderation” but this is exceptional — someone who has never been here before suddenly shows up with all this info about our people and organizations. This always makes me wonder if the person is an agent of some sort, self-appointed or otherwise.
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Too little, too late, MIA.
Some interesting points that do make a lot of sense about having empathy without having compassion. There is not a lot of either in psychiatry; as Steve noted, it is usually “what is wrong with you” instead of “what has happened to you”.
Thanks for your comment Rosalee! I remember now that I actually wrote an article here on MIA in 2014 that’s titled- “What’s wrong with you? Nothing. What’s happened to you? Something.”
Hi Michael, thank you for the info on the above mentioned excellent article. I recently read it (as well as a few others you have written). Your articles are extremely knowledgeable and validating. I hope to eventually read them all and look forward to more in the future. I am so grateful I found the MIA site. It certainly is a gold mine of incredible information with writers such as yourself. God bless you for your compassion and wisdom. You are a gem!
Thank you so much Rosalee!
Actually Paul Keith I was married for 33 years before my husband died and he was a manic depressive. As a result my son my only child suffered abandonment issues and was sent to the GP and of course they bombarded him with drugs. Now he has a mental illness too. Also my husband was well for 17 years on medication before he died of lung cancer. I on the other hand have recovered but because i have been prescribed neuroleptics for 42 year i can’t get off them because the withdrawals are too painful.
I was and have been through the system and seen many people with these conditions. As for an ordinary woman like myself changing 100 year old law like the Mental Health Act well even Sir Simon Wessley writes that it is an impossibility and we can only just review certain parts of it.
Seems you are very ideological but not practical and down to earth. I have achieved also writing a book and draw cartoons of my situations in psychiatry. I hope go on to achieve further still being on medication.
I actually find empathy is okay by me and all the nurses in the hospital where i am are empathic. I don’t need compassion I have enough of that for myself and I have enough for my son. As far as I am concerned strangers don’t buy into compassion. Why? Because they don’t know me! Seems the kind of compassion you deal out I can very well do without! You don’t know me yet you judged me. Seems you should actually begin to learn some empathy.
Well no offense to Sir Simon Wessley but Franco Basaglia did change the law under worse circumstances.
True the statistical probability is highly unlikely but there are courses provided by Tina Minkowitz for example that deals with educating people about the CRPD.
In fact one of the major proponents of AOT was pushed forth when Misty Mayo’s mother (a lone woman) went on a one woman campaign to further strengthen psychiatric intervention for her daughter.
“Linda knew Misty was homeless and unmedicated but had no way to contact her. Even if she did, Misty’s insistence that she was fine tied everyone’s hands, as the law requires that a person be an immediate threat to themselves or others before they can be committed to an institution for inpatient treatment against their will.
In the end, Misty’s repeated arrests would be her salvation. She was remanded to court-ordered outpatient treatment as part of her parole. For the first time in nearly a decade, Misty was stable, on medication and participating in treatment. To Linda, the order of her daughter’s legal encounters (first jail, then court-ordered treatment) made no sense. What she wanted was a new first step that would prevent these difficulties.
While Linda was venting at a local support group run by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, another parent asked: “Have you heard of Laura’s Law?””
“Seems you are very ideological but not practical and down to earth.”
In one of my 3 psych ward incarcerations, I approached a woman named Crystal who was throwing little bits of something (probably a cube of ice she collected in dinner time) while causing a scene where she threatened to punch me so I approached her, let her punch me (her shouts said face but she ended up punching me on my arms) and this led to her not getting tied up in that particular incident and the staff who saw it on camera merely told me to go back to the men’s room.
In that same time period, I had to do other things such as make the fact known in view of the staff that I would marry this lesbian so that she could be with a female person she claimed to love because according to her, her father sent her there because he wanted her to stop being a lesbian. To do so, I had to rephrase it into a joke that would cause the lesbian and the staff to treat it like a joke despite my serious intentions in order to let these two people together.
Once I got out, I would immediately click around this lesbian’s coworkers and non-direct family members that would introduce this supposed girlfriend of hers to me. This would be how I got introduced to Professor Janice Cambri of TCI Asia (who posted an article in Mad in Asia) before she argued in front of our country’s MH Bill hearing this year where she instructed me on how to approach the Commission of Human Rights.
This led me to filling up this lesbian’s story under the Commission on Human Rights form on top of paying for an attorney to meet with this lesbian’s girlfriend but she opted out of meeting with this lawyer after I had already payed for the attorney because once the girlfriend got out, this person felt it was better to not re-connect the relationship with this lesbian because “she looked happy on Facebook” plus she feared for her life because the lesbian according to her story to me was kidnapped by the police since the father knew some high ranking police officer.
Among other things, last month I had to quickly switch mental health professionals after I was gaslighted while feeling extremely ill in monthly counselling (still feeling ill but have to wait for e-mails besides monitoring FB) cause a hospital policy allows this particular psychiatrist to insist on her views once my legal guardians sends me back to this hospital that they have already sent me back in 3 times already which prevented me from seeking help with my health concerns both last and this month because it also involves a hospital hopping incident in my 2nd time around of being sent to this hospital psych ward.
In this same counselling, the psychiatrist finally revealed we have different memories of why I wanted to switch mental health professional inside a psych ward – a memory that is fresh on my mind because this lesbian along with a former patient I was with was so scared of the doctor I was switching to because it was their doctor whom they cry over every time a in-ward talk therapy session is held – that they called me stupid both for wanting to switch to this doctor and knocking on the psych ward doors to the surprise of everyone even though I would have been involuntary entered inside of it anyway if I didn’t actually knock on the door.
Yet despite the reality that I was mostly sleeping day in and day out these past 3 months, I would still e-mail other psychiatry related individuals such as asking James Gottstein how much for his consultation despite James Gottstein and Psychrights not replying to my tweets and e-mails, despite my lone MIA forum article “pleading” for someone to e-mail kindredspirits or Julia Greene and not receiving a reply, despite my messenger pm to Lauren Tenney who offers a Life Coaching course via Skype and not receiving a reply – I still trudged through creating this post for a stranger from Portland:
The few who replied like Professor Janice Cambri told me the MH bill burnt her out and was handing me a document by Tina Minkowitz to show to any lawyer I could seek but once she stopped replying and I had to e-mail Tina straight up who then revealed CHRUSP doesn’t provide legal assistance and stopped replying too – despite redditors from R/portland accusing me of being naive regarding helping a total stranger named John Cos on Facebook that has reached 93 replies because I couldn’t get through to him and I have to wake up briefly at 2 am my time just to see if he replies and then sink back to bed unless some other issues like a comment by a MIA poster accusing me of being a troll forces me to keep awake on top of needing to do some other new assignment by my new clinical psychotherapist or my BetterHelp psychologist so that I may be exposed more to therapy methods, I still kept monitoring John Cos’ post, I still replied to r/therapy before being banned, I still filled up this legal form by RNWinston’s Lana Benton so that she would not get in trouble for helping me contact the person I need to contact because our country’s laws and lawyers are untrained in Mental Health cases except maybe if some rich guy can quickly tell his lawyer to sue the hospital before they get sent in… https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DRfRTx9JStxaGoabuma2xZNlu0JRWqyw/view?usp=sharing
Despite the printer needing to be replaced, I still manged to sign the forms: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XVhfmply0TF2vF2JMsgA-n7eBqOAa4zk/view?usp=sharing
And to put the cherry on top of this issue,
I still plan to use every one of my 200,000 php in my bank account that my legal guardians could easily prevent me from using to visit Dr. Pesach Lichtenberg next year for the first time in Israel because there is no attempt at a Loren Mosher based Soteria House in my country much less an official Soteria House Philippines in this country.
If you don’t know how much a cheap flight from Manila to Tel Aviv costs, here’s a random screenshot of a random date:
Yes clearly from your response, I still need to learn more about empathy but I think you are sorely mistaken about me having not begun to learn anything about empathy.
I have done everything including fill up this form that Sarah from Mindfreedom.org handed to me after I contacted Jim Flannery asking him about how he got in contact with James Gottstein:
“1. Have you ever been harmed or abused in the mental health system?
Depends. At the time of this writing, to my knowledge, there is only one Filipina Prof. Janice Cambri who has the authority to argue that forced incarceration is torture. Unfortunately (although I do not mean this as a disrespect to her but as a compliment) as she revealed most Filipino lawyers are not informed of torture and she has limited information on certain things like she isn’t familiar with foreign laws when I mentioned whether she knows anything about getting an Alien Tort Statute approved. Her recommendation that I seek out the country’s CHR (Commission on Human Rights) was not based on strong evidence for me to do so based on my seeking out the CHR for one patient who claimed she was being forcefully incarcerated because her father does not want her to be in a lesbian relationship with another person.
Due also to the nature of my life, esp. regarding how my family controls my life along with certain moral muteness from my relatives – there are just as much evidence that the mental health system “helped” me rather than tortured me.
This of course in itself is a form of torture from a philosophical standpoint but these are experts who will say to you in talk therapy that your idea was actually the doctor’s idea. Lack of documentation also puts this argument in their favor.
2. Are you a family member or ally of someone who has been harmed/abused in the mental health system?
Depends. If this were a sports, I have attempted helping people but I have not to my knowledge helped anyone except for a single comment by a patient from my 2nd psych ward who happened to still be there for my 3rd psych ward who mentioned a patient from my 2nd psych ward stating I did something from him.
To my knowledge, this patient commenting did not hint that she knew I visited the province of that guy.
3. If you answered ‘yes’ to either of the above, what do you think should be done to protect people’s rights in the mental health system?
Depends on timing. Last 2 months ago, I had to reveal to my psychiatrist that I was gambling it all to get to Pesach Lichtenberg’s Soteria Israel without knowing anything about Jewish culture or anything. In my words to her, it’s this 1% chance because to my knowledge no other Filipino is aiming at building an official Soteria house here.
1 month ago, this chance increased because Mad in Asia gave Janice Cambri a platform for me to study her interviews but I was extremely weak at the time that in talk therapy the psychiatrist accused me that my studying of human rights is proof that I may be going into mania after telling her I was so sick that there were days where I just got up just to skim some articles about Miss Cambri.
She would use my unemployment as proof that all these talks about human rights were just an idea. Due to the nature of her personality and limited time of talk therapy – I couldn’t just bring up the fact that I only needed 1 month before we start shooting an indie film when my 2nd psych ward led to my parents forcefully incarcerating me in Medical City.
An incident where I was hospital hopping for an unexplained disease at the time involving “chronic weakness” and “eye soreness” except for one comment by a hospital nurse that it could be psychosomatic and later on an eye doctor did replace my Systane Ultra with Hyabak. It also didn’t help that I may have rubbed my eyes too much earlier in that incident.
This incident changes my overall views of what should be done to protect these people’s rights.
I believe Jim Flannery already interviewed a certain person in his website (could be Sean Blackwell) that problem with Soteria houses is that most people send the people to hospitals first during the early stages anyway.
Me being on this other end where I’m so weak that I mostly stay in bed in this laptop while taking advantage of my parent’s ignorance that I am weak by occassionally getting up to eat when the maid cooks something – I feel there’s more of a moral need to communicate in such a way that people may find me rambling, abrasive but also detailed enough that say a family therapist of ours would say I am being eloquent where as my parents aren’t in order to better discover a format wherein a tortured person under duress would be able to say ask for help when they are poor at communicating but also relay a certain life story if they feel they may not have much time to relay a certain message.
An example of this is where I posted a weird message on MIA’s forum asking if someone can help me contact kindredspirit. A tactic born out of necessity because I really wanted to talk to her but also inspired by this one incident where in r/antipsychiatry someone couldn’t just be theoretical anymore about their antipsychiatric beliefs of torture since their brother was forcing him to possibly send the person to a psych ward.
The event was notable to me because rather than say someone with a camera or a car asking if they were close by and they could take a look and help, most of the advises fell into the category of what you expect from a social media site. People did the morally satisfying approach of stating some references, maybe offering some kind words and that was it.
4. Are you a MindFreedom member?
5. How did you find out about this project?
Depends. Whenever I have the chance I browse r/antipsychiatry and Mad in America so that’s how I know the site Mindfreedom.
As for the project, I never really quite understood what the project is about. I could have dig deeper but the opportunity wasn’t there because every month was like chinese water torture where I had to scrap all my plans so that I can prepare for a monthly talk therapy with a psychiatrist.
Certainly the key words were there as far as Human Rights and protests and mental health but it never really struck me as this urgent enough website. Important enough to read up on but like for every news about Open Dialogue training in x country – it would not only be expensive but even if I could afford it, it had these certain conditions like you had to be part of a study group that studies in your local community which meant a lone person in a lone country couldn’t even make it even if they won the lottery in their country.
This isn’t to say MIA doesn’t have their own problems what with the emphasis on likes in their new commenting system and supposedly they only allow 4 personal stories for victims – something kindredspirit among many others were complaining about but Robert Whitaker is still a storyteller. You click one article on him and you could get this detailed story about say Bet Soteria. Still biased and long that it couldn’t be good enough to be handed out as flyers but a tortured victim doesn’t live in a vacuum you know? Every moment counts. Every new surprises can ruin months of research.
6. Do you have a computer with a webcam and access to the internet?
Yes. I never used a webcam before but this is a laptop with a webcam. Access to the internet is a trickier part.
Philippines don’t always have the best net connection so for example we have decent enough connection right now and it doesn’t constantly drop but for some random minute you can find yourself temporarily disconnected. It’s not really a big deal in terms of fearing it would disconnect based on where I am currently but people of torture don’t always have access to the same rules.
You can have the internet for example but maybe some documentary is not available in your country. Or maybe it is available but it’s too expensive and you also have to buy this other expensive book on psychiatry like the Sedated Society or Psychiatry Interrogated and then maybe you get sent to a psych ward again and every has to restart. You have to earn 100,000 pesos for Bennett Alcoba who was in Medical City while you didn’t have a job and then suddenly some other person is answering when you call his gf or sister and you have to convince the very parents that sent you to a psychiatric ward that you weren’t being weird when they give you a ride to some area where Bennett could have live but apparently the sister could be married so the name doesn’t check out but the name of a psych in the psych ward coincides with a person living there who also happens to be a psych of the same gender.
Then in parallel you have to try to find out about CHR and get Brit a lawyer cause according to her gf, the legal guardian was a rich person who when they lived away from the legal guardian for years, convinced Brit that a company car had a flat tire and she had to visit the police station only for the police to kidnap her.
Crazy enough story to begin with but when you finally pay a lawyer to at least sit down and hear the gf’s stories the gf would say she feared for her life despite earlier saying she would at least consider meeting with a lawyer (though she never promised she would file a case) and then she was just happy that Brit got out since in Brit’s FB page she looked happy.
So not only were there inefficient methods that could reduce a person’s cash and time but there are days where you are just on the internet for the whole day waiting for someone’s reply that never comes and then there are days where you are barely on the internet cause you were a lone person who never had friends and was always putting a front for a family or relative that could come by un-announced for some special occassion.”
This while having no current employment to earn money. While mental labels along with my legal guardians having control of my life for these past 4 years by sending me in and out of wards. – I am still increasing my level of compassion to reach out to you in a random comment in MIA.
If my post about John Cos in this comment doesn’t differentiate me from the same strangers who made you think “as far as I am concerned strangers don’t buy into compassion.” then I can’t think of anything more I can do because I’m not feeling well at all these days.
Why would Sir Simon want to change the Mental Health system at all? (Assuming it were possible.)
I have been accused of “demonizing” those poor psychiatrists, But this is just human nature. Psychiatrists are humans. Make a human being an absolute monarch and he won’t abdicate the throne any time soon.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Thanks for the virtue signalling. What’s that Faulkner quote, again? Something about “sound and fury, signifying nothing”. It would be lovely if you would stop levelling accusations and ad hominem attacks at other users, imo.
actually paul keith i don’t get the drift of most of what you write although i am sure it makes sense somehow to you. as for the young lesbian and her father having police authority over her then when she becomes of age the law is on her side and he no longer would have authority over her.
as for abuse i have been involved with psychiatry for 42 years and very rarely witnessed abuse only had one person verbally abuse me in all of this time. yes i have been forced medication on me and you could say this is against my human rights. but i had my injection three days ago against my will and am today a much happier and better person for it.
but you don’t want to hear that do you. maybe things are different here. i do know like i say of abuse happening but not to me or mine.
i wish you well.
“as for the young lesbian and her father having police authority over her then when she becomes of age the law is on her side and he no longer would have authority over her.”
She was over the legal age and had a job. So am I when I was sent in.
“but you don’t want to hear that do you”
“maybe things are different here”
““The Bill also says that I won’t be able to access my own medical records if my doctor says it’s harmful to me.”
Edit to add one more reference:
“For a private mental health facility like Metro Psych, a nondescript khaki-colored building with tinted windows in Pasig, patient admissions have generally been involuntary. Dr. Fareda Flores, the co-founder of the facility, says involuntary admissions are normal as one of the symptoms of mentally ill patients is their denial of their condition.
Flores also says, however, that there are patients who have already been left by their families in Metro Psych since they opened in 1999. ”
Maybe John Cos’ Facebook posts might make sense:
8 hrs. ago:
“Is there anyone in Oregon who can take me in my wife and daughter are being destroyed by my illness I can’t keep doing this to them somehow please God have mercy”
or maybe this messenger reply of mine to someone who was disillusioned by John Cos’ way of speaking would fit your bill since it’s shorter and doesn’t require getting the drift of what I’m writing since I doubt someone can post a reply this quickly considering the length of my post if they really read the entire thing enough to legitimately wish me well:
“Thank you. Take care on your cause too. True, empowerment is key – to my experience though, these people often take ages to empower. Sometimes because people lose faith in them more and other times because they lose faith in themselves. I had been in and out of the same psych ward for 3 years for example and there was this one patient who only prayed and would on occasion call someone “I am uglier than you” according to some Bible verse in Isaiah. It took my 3rd time of going inside before I could prove that this person did not have any issues with communicating since he would never say this to me but because I was talking out loud to an atheist several times while my bed was directly in front of him while he was praying – those were the first few times when it actually empowered him to tap me on the shoulder and say “Could you kindly please lower your voice when I’m praying?”. It’s such a difficult situation for these people, they literally need an enemy to wake them up and force them to move and even then this was face to face. I don’t know if John is just creating a story in his head.’
Michael, I started reading a book last year along these lines that you might be interested in. It’s called Against Empathy: The Case For Rational Compassion. I haven’t finished reading it but the main points seem to be that empathy fails to extend to compassion because (according to the research) humans are apparently somewhat racist and exclusive in offering empathy to those they readily identify with in their racial and socioeconomic class. And that if we want a truly equitable and just society, we’ll need to ditch empathy and practice compassion instead.
This sounds like a fascinating read. Thank you for mentioning it. I’m very curious to check it out.
Thank you kindredspirit for the book on empathy recommendation- it sounds very interesting!
Thank you for writing this article, Michael.
You’re welcome Dannytheworld- thanks for reading it and for your comment!
This is so true. Quacks could always predict my plans, recognize what my dreams were, and, initially, convince me to confide in them. Shamefully, I’d gotten to the point where I’d begun to call them “mom” by mistake. These are the reasons why it took me so long to leave them. Spend enough time around folks with no boundaries, and you’ll start to believe that you can’t have them either.
where i am now on this psyche ward we all feel compassion for one another. you can feel compassion anywhere and in any place with anyone. it depends on you as a person and your own experiences in life. as a little community like i say compassion is shared but we have no tools to put that in a motion where other than words it would help any of us. the nurses and doctors have all the tools. like paramedics. without those tools although the compassion is deep it spreads little to alleviate the suffering. however those with the tools when they show the slightest semblance of compassion it goes a long long way. it happens. nobody here is attempting to take advantage or do someone harm. that i know. they are not con merchants. neither are paramedics. they are back up carers on the front line of emergencies and this to me today although not everyone is best trained they are indeed caring and nobody is taking advantage of anyone. and my medicine is what it is treatment. whether this treatment is wrong or not and isn’t up to date doesn’t mean the compassion is not given out with this tool. without tools to put compassion into work then it only runs a slight course and anyone can use words.
there is no question in my mind that the label of madness is detrimental to a person. a degredation ceremony is not what comes to mind being coerced or conned into treatment doesn’t either but accepting that there was something drastically wrong with my mind does come to mind and receiving help does. that it was the only help available and yes much better than none even if it did numb my feelings give me sleeping hours and take me away from me the torment then that was a good thing.
the fact society didn’t accept me as being a valuable person well that is part and parcel of politics and where money is involved there will always be politics. if we were considered elite members of society everyone would want psyche drugs wouldn’t they? they would all want to jump on the bandwagon. i have no side affects except somnulance and i really appreciate that. i might heart disease but i am after all 67 and they are checking me over thoroughly at present.
really madness throughout history has been frowned upon by every society. very few communities welcome it in my experience and reading we have been ostracized throughout history and generations. nobody when madness attacks escapes from the lowest to the highest in society. that is madness. if you recover then your lucky and can build a life for yourself. but if you continue then madness holds you and blights your life and you are lucky to keep a roof over your head.
i consider myself not only lucky but also extremely gifted in that i will be finding a future now for myself and possibly my son. given god grants me another ten years then i know i can achieve this dream i have and others agree with me. those who you proclaim to be con merchants actually support me with this and think my ideas wonderful to benefit so many.
it take just a break in someone’s life. just one break. it is not just what cards you are dealt with in life it is how you play them.
i wish everyone on here the best of health and good wishes for the future
there is a little wooded grove here by the hospital where a sculptress has carved a large wooded bird.
she has written beneath it the words – have faith in the past – accept the present – trust in the future.
bippyone wrote: “there is no question in my mind that the label of madness is detrimental to a person.”
Because there isn’t a question in your mind it doesn’t follow that there are no questions to be asked. In many contexts the nouns “mad” and “madness” do not connote something undesirable or even stigmatised. The mad artist, the mad poet, the mad hatter. They are quirky, interesting and attractive tropes.
Also when people do mad things, like jump out of planes without a parachute (to inspire people), they will frequently be described as mad, and their daredevilness as a mad act. And not a whisper of condemnation will he heard.
So madness isn’t the problem. Being mad isn’t the problem either. And the nouns mad and madness are definitely not the problem.
So what is the problem?
The problem is how the mad person channels the madness into mad acts. It’s how the madness is acted out, in a mad performance, that is the problem.
Find a way to act out the madness in a way that society accepts (or can learn to accept) and now what was once considered a problem, is an asset.
As Foucault points out, when leprosy retreated from europe, the mad started to be persecuted. It is possible, I believe, to bring back some of those medieval sociocultural accommodations of madness. It’s not all doom and gloom. And it isn’t necessary to forever fixate on psychiatry and the psychiatric process. Doing so is likely to be self-debasing.
I have just been reading about selfish extroverts and introverts..
I wonder if you are describing selfish extroverts?
For whom dost thou pose thee question?
actually ever since i have been admitted to this hospital they have injected or forced me to take something oral then they have messed about with the dosages every week. up an down. increased and decreased and my moods have been up and down too and all over the place.
today had another meeting and you’ve guessed it the doctor saw fit to alter the dosage again.
i wrote him a letter. then another quoting what Micheal suggest we say to these people. Word for word i put down exactly what Micheal has written about them simply not giving a damn. He is back Monday and should get it then.
I have done more sorting my life out from housing and life studies from here on my hospital bed then any of them have done for me and this will be a three months stunt again. all for wasting police time and foolishly asking for help.
Thank you so much Michael for your wonderful post.
Can you possibly figure out what they want to hear and say it to them often enough to have them let you out? Agree with them how incredibly helpful they’ve been and thank them, because you’re “symptoms are under control?” Or won’t that work? It doesn’t sound like rational argumentation is going to work. I feel so bad for you being stuck in there!
thank you Steve. I have been sleeping a lot these past day but went for a walk in the sunshine yesterday. It isn’t all bad thank you for your kindness anyway. I shouldn’t be here much longer.
Thank you again Bippyone. I think Steve’s suggestion sounds good too. I hope they stop messing with your meds as you say, and that you are released soon. Best of wishes,
Thank you Michael!
Just wanted to say i read somewhere that wine is good for psychosis. Years ago when i first started with this condition my mum used to nurse me at home long before i went to visit a psychiatrist. she would take the world off my shoulders and lay me down on the sofa under a warm duvet after giving me a glass of tonic wine. she also used Indian brandy from a little bottle as a hot toddy. with mum’s love and care i always recovered quickly went back to work and had good years of life before i ever consulted a psychiatrist. She in her wisdom taught me another way but unfortunately i still ended walking down the wrong road.
sometimes the simple things can be the greatest cures.
Am sorry to say but alcohol is not good for psychosis. Alcohol is a GABA drug, it does the same as benzodiazepines, the withdrawal of with includes toxic psychosis. You end up pushing glutamate – the major excitatory neuotransmitter – up which is the bodies way of compensating for the alcohol initiating GABA the major inhibitory neuotransmitter. Magnesium regulates the transmission of glutamate via the NMDA receptor by blocking it.
I certainly wish you all the best.
Overlooking the substance, there is more to this “cure” than the wine or brandy.
There is the love of mother, the comforting blanket, the safe space to let go in.
And honestly, short of addiction – it is a much safer treatment than the drugs.
Before they came up with neuroleptics, they would knock out the distressed people with barbiturates or benzos. I’d rather have a benzo than a neuroleptic any day (except for the addictive part). Letting people sleep off the distress is a known treatment, and one which has been forgotten.
The main difficulty I see, is that upon awakening, the emergent person may not remember or understand what the crisis was about – thus facilitating return of said crisis. Resolution and integration is a much better “cure” than sedation.
a couple of glasses of tonic wine got rid of my psychosis and delusions and helped me sleep thats all i know before i ever consulted psychiatrists and went on the merrygoround of drugs.
and the little bottle of Indian Brandy my mum gave me a few drops of. it worked. I went and recovered back into society until i got labelled then everything went downhill except i got married and that was a happy marriage and i have a wonderful son who i love very much.
Thank you streetphotobeing very much!