The Mystery of Madness Throughout the Ages

Ekaterina Netchitailova, PhD
256
2447

It was Michel Foucault, a French philosopher, who claimed that madness is a social construction, and that how we look at it is a direct result of the social forces at any given time.

Thus, during the Renaissance period, according to Foucault, madness was sometimes perceived as possession of a different kind of wisdom, where the mad were viewed as interesting people, deemed of admiration by some artists.

The famous painting by Bosch, The Ship of Fools, or The Satire of the Debauched Revelers, clearly shows this different view on madness.

mystery of madness

In it we can see the debauchery caused by some distinguished members of society. The two figures in front are a Franciscan friar and a nun, quite unthinkable at the time of the painting (1490-1500).

But this painting, in particular, has an additional meaning. The ship itself holds the biggest symbolism. Because it was on this kind of ship that the mad were put and sent into the fools’ paradise (into nowhere) in the Middle Ages.

In this painting, however, there is only one fool, who is put there with a purpose: to remind the viewers that it is the ship of fools indeed which is depicted. But by placing other characters, so called ‘sane’ members of the society in it, Bosch made his view on madness quite clear:

It is not the mad who should be sent away or treated but all the hypocritical members of the society who harm others in the name of God.

Moving from the Renaissance to the Age of Enlightenment, the view of madness started to change. The Age of Enlightenment was characterised by the predominance of reason, where all manifestations of weirdness started to be frowned upon. During the Enlightenment mad people started to be institutionalised, put away in secure facilities but still depicted as curiosities, where the public seeking entertainment could get it through the visits to asylums. In asylums the ‘normals’ could watch the mad, laugh at them, and think perhaps that they were lucky to have escaped such a predicament.

The art of that time still shows though the dilemma of madness, where the artists can be seen to reflect on the existential question: “Should we lock away these people, or should we instead admit the possibility of being different, look at it as something mysterious, something which can never be understood?”

One such painting by Tony Robert-Fleury depicts this puzzle of the question of madness, called La Salptrière (1795):

mystery of madness

In this painting we can see a famous clinician, Philippe Pinnel, who was a chief physician at the famous Hospice de la La Salpȇtrière, an asylum for the insane in Paris. Philippe Pinnel advocated a more humanistic approach to the treatment of psychiatric patients, and there are some rumours that he even managed to liberate some inmates from their ordeal.

In this painting the artist shows how Pinnel orders the chains to be removed from a patient, which also demonstrates the growing power of psychiatry. Give the chains to one kind man in power, and he will liberate the oppressed. Give it to someone who wants to abuse the same power, and you are chained for life.

Moving back to the modern age, we don’t see psychiatric patients in physical chains anymore, but the power is still strongly in the hands of the psychiatrists, who can, by the act of simple words, deny a person of his freedom, independence, and joy of living. There are no physical chains, but there are still walls: walls of the psychiatric hospitals, walls of the forced injections, walls of diagnoses which create stigma and put a mental burden on one’s mind.

The story of modern psychiatry really begins in the middle of the last century, but its roots go back to the age of reasoning when madness was reduced by scientists to an ‘object’ of mind — an object which could be studied, analysed, and as some of them claim nowadays, even understood.

We can see it in the famous painting by Pierre Aristide André Brouillet (1887), called A Clinical Lesson at the Salpêtrière. In it we can witness a clinical demonstration given to postgraduate students by the famous neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot.

mystery of madness

The patient, who is being studied, is depicted as an object and nothing more. She is there for demonstration purposes, reduced from being a person to an object of curiosity, an artefact on display. Her name is Blanche, and it is only the field of academic studies called ‘mad studies’ which calls for attention to her. The academics in this area want to know about Blanche, they are not interested in what Charcot tries to say.

Modern psychiatry reduces all humans coming under its attention to these objects of study, entities which are lost in the background behind the diagnoses assigned to them. Nowadays they are called ‘bipolar’, ‘schizophrenics’ or ‘schizoids’ and it is only when the individuals behind these labels start to speak that we see a person. We can learn then that every ‘bipolar’ is a different ‘bipolar’, that ‘schizophrenia’ and ‘bipolar disorder’ are almost the same thing, and that behind the diagnoses there are fascinating lives, spiritual journeys, but also confinements to psychiatric hospitals for life.

Psychiatry reduces us to objects of study, to victims of some mysterious ‘brain disease’, by its narrative of ‘mental illness’ which claims that “mental illness is like any other illness.” Not only does this make madness a purely scientific domain, deprived of its mystery, it also makes it extremely boring.

But madness is never boring. And it shouldn’t be boring. By reducing it to purely biological explanations (for which psychiatry has failed so far to provide any concrete proof), it removes the personal narratives behind it. It reduces Blanche to an object, it gives Beethoven and Gogol a diagnosis, it sees the whole oeuvre of Van Gogh as a battle of ‘mental illness’.

But as a mad person myself, as a person who doesn’t believe in the narrative of ‘mental illness’, I am interested in Blanche. I want to hear her story. I see the paintings of Van Gogh as the paintings of a true genius. I hear in the music of Beethoven the glory of an unusual and incredibly beautiful mind. I read Nietzsche with curiosity at the marvels of his unique mind and perception, and I devour Gogol for what he truly was, a talented writer, one of the best.

They say today that these artists would have a better life if they were on the medications that are available now — that they would enjoy better health if they had access to modern ‘treatment’.

But it is a big question whether they would be better off. From my personal experience, I know that under the medication that psychiatrists prescribe, one can’t really function, let alone create, write or paint. All the artists I know actively refuse the treatment on offer. Or they actively re-negotiate the terms and conditions of its use.

Would these marvelous people leave us the works of their genius minds if under a heavy dose of ‘antipsychotics’?

They would probably go less mad, but I doubt that we would then enjoy so many paintings of Van Gogh, or listen to Beethoven.

It is without a doubt that many people say medication made their lives better. Some welcome even their ‘diagnoses’ because it gives some explanation, it gives a reassurance.

But behind the diagnoses, and the narrative of ‘mental illness’, continues to lie the mystery of madness. Psychiatrists can resort to their ‘medical’ explanations as much as they want, but the truth remains the same as in the previous centuries.

Madness can never be truly understood, and madness is something that is still very mysterious, unique, and belonging to the other world, a world that only few of us have access to.

256 COMMENTS

  1. During the Middle Ages people treated the “mad” differently. They were more the harmless buffoon. Kids would laugh at them and throw dirt at them, but if they were harmless folks would let them go their merry way till they snapped out of it.

    I wish you had commented on that period Ekaterina.

    St Frances of Assisi went mad for a while. He went to be alone in a cave and did a lot of manual labor trying to rebuild a crumbling chapel single-handedly. While he was never the “normal” Freud or other shrinks would approve of, he led a happy, productive life with many meaningful relationships once he sorted things out.

    What is worth noting is no one was surprised at how his madness resolved itself once Frances sorted out his calling. Everyone welcomed him back to the village. Even at his nuttiest, no one tried to lock him up.

    One conclusion is psychiary creates insanity in many otherwise normal people and prevents all its victims from ever returning to reason.

    I no longer consider myself mad. Most of my insanity was created by the psychiatrist I saw.

    I don’t consider “madness” as the same thing as “mental illness” but a bizarre state of mind and inability to perceive reality.

    • Most of my insanity was also created by the psychiatric treatment I received.

      I have learned to place an intersectional feminist and humanist lens on my early struggles in life. It was all such a predictable reaction to the many traumas I’d survived. I’ve even learned to embrace the PTSD label insofar as necessary to get my needs met, and as an acknowledgement that trauma has significantly impacted my life.

      What I know about trauma and chronic inflammation also leads me to view it as more of a physical injury than a mental reaction or behavior. And of course there is the lyme, which is indisputably widely disseminated and I’ve been in essentially one long flare for the past 14 months, only the severity of which finally led to a proper diagnosis.

      At some point you just have to say to yourself that even a perfectly sane person with no trauma history would have struggled with decades of misdiagnosed chronic illness while being labeled as certifiably crazy and written off. I’ve simply had to learn to humanize my struggles as understandable and not indicative of personal or moral failure. I think that’s the hardest part of getting out of the system – the process of undoing so many years of self-stigma, and learning to refute those internalized judgements when I feel them.

  2. Here we go again with the “madness” stuff. Basically a mystification and romanticization of pain and social ostracizing.

    I’m with Rachel here. “Mad Pride” is an acceptance of and glorification of the oppressive labels put upon us by the system. Like talking about “N-word Pride.”

    Your criticisms of psychiatry are mostly on target, still they don’t go far enough. But you’re learning.

        • Good point. My own were always distressing, even the bizarre highs many others enjoy. One acquaintance used his “manic” states to fight low self esteem that made him suicidal.

          They’d drug the mania away and he’d talk about killing himself. He’d quit cold turkey, get DT’s, and everyone would say, “It’s Dave’s fault cause he’s a crazy idiot who won’t take his ‘meds.'”

          Watching Dave’s suffering made me the “perfect patient” for over 20 years.

          Guess what? Everyone still treats you horribly.

          I have more emotional stability now than ever before in my adult life. Too bad about my body.

        • Pretty sure I’m a mixed bag of distressed and sometimes distressing to others. Mostly I just don’t have much of a filter anymore and say what I’m thinking, which definitely distresses others! I find men get much more leeway in terms of having a gruff or pessimistic personality. Whatever, I’ve earned it. What is that saying about comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable… It’s not actually a bad goal in life. Sometimes people need to be disturbed out of their false senses of security.

        • I agree Oldhead that it can go both ways. I see it here at my center where others (usually family or the court system) are pushing my clients to “get help”. Often the real distressing problem is in the family system or larger society, with issues like poverty, intergenerational trauma, and the justice system.

          • Glad you can see that Shaun F. Counselors notice stuff like that more than psychiatrists do,

            Have you ever read People of the Lie? Written by a counseling psychiatrist in the 80’s before that kind of thing was all but phased out. Interesting ideas, but I disagree that evil can be reduced to a science anymore than a sonnet or Plato’s Dialogues.

            I also am against one human being capable of labeing another “evil.” The author acknowledges the danger of this. My question is how it would help anyone–even their victims? If someone is suffering abuse helping them to escape should be enough.

            I don’t see “Evil” making the DSM 6 however. It sounds like a moral judgment; not sciency enough.

          • I think evil is a characteristic of behavioral decisions, not people. That being said, sometimes people choose evil so very often that the temptation to simply decide they are irredeemably evil is strong. It can be a pretty good approximation to the truth.

          • Rachel, I have not read that book on evil. I do find it to be a useful concept to help describe certain adult behavior. I would venture to guess that nobody would call a baby evil, because it has yet to develop a conscience. What scares me is that some people seem to lack empathy or a conscience (I believe due to neurological conditions we don’t understand, probably often the result of childhood trauma). These people sometimes become serial killers and dictators. They also become doctors, CEOs, lawyers, and politicians! No doubt evil behaviors exist, such as the case during the Holocaust and Hitler.

            Basically evil is “Antisocial Personality Disorder in the DSM; people diagnosed with APD usually have done some horrid stuff to others in their lifetimes and don’t show remorse. They seem to lack the basic understanding of why what they do is wrong in the first place. I have met a small number of people who present like this, and they give me the chills!

          • Actions can be evil. Those committing them are not evil per se, but it doesn’t make much difference when you’re trying to stop them from perpetrating such actions.

    • How about “sad pride” or “frightened pride”? Mental states change not just daily but hourly. Unless something horrible is going on. Why turn something not just very negative and immaterial but transitory by its nature into your core identity?

      I don’t fit my “diagnosis” anymore. Not moody or depressed though my executive function is permanently damaged making me do stupid things so I can’t find work. Cashier/sales associate/server/stocker are the jobs available and I can’t even figure out how to organize my room.

        • Exactly Steve. My point was a period of irrational thoughts and extreme sensations should not be forced on us as a life identity.

          I appreciate “Mad Pride” is not trying to force labels on others. But, like OH, I don’t think it’s a good idea. Their choice though.

          • It may seem like a fine distinction, but — if I can spit this out before dinner, pardon the pun — movement legend Howie the Harp had a song “Crazy and Proud.” It’s still a classic that I would sing. But by “crazy and proud” he meant something more like (joyfully) “call us anything you want, if you say it’s crazy then we’re crazy and proud, and fuck you.” It didn’t mean, “Yes, we’re a special group of people, the crazies/mad, endowed with mysterious virtues the rest of society lacks, and we’re so proud of ourselves.” That’s simply embracing and internalizing the label, whereas Howie was mocking it.

            (I’ve thought about that song for a while and just put my finger on this for the first time, so I’m feeling self-satisfied here. Do any others see what I’m getting at?)

          • “Crazy” etymologically, OldHead, means “cracked”. “Cracked” is okay, and there is a lot of charm to it. One could even twist it into a “Look at me. I been” traumatized kind of thing. I suppose it would not be so charming though to a puritan.

            “Mad”, on the other hand, pre-dating by a long shot any medical model, went back to “changed”. One could, in this instance, ask, particularly with regard to any taint of prejudice, would you rather be “changed” or “cracked”?

            Mad, btw, goes back to the 13th century (1200s), Crazy to the 16th (1570).

            Actually both words are related to silliness and folly, and I think that is a big part of the problem, particularly in pathologizing traits and characteristics (arguably a foolish thing to do), error being, basically, a very human foible.

            The “mental health movement” people, shrinks included, have a problem with both words. Mad and crazy are pejorative terms in their view, and insulting when, in their view again, what we are dealing with are “sick” people in need of understanding and pity.

          • Did I say “understanding and pity”? Okay, I meant to say, more pointedly, “treatment”. The very thing, together with pathologizing (the two go together like horse and carriage), they are promoting and selling.

          • At least no one takes the term “cracked” literally. Though if they tried to treat you for a fractured skull they would stop once they discovered your cranium was intact.

    • Once again, we are not talking about a consistent “thing” but an attempt to throw any disturbing or confusing thought or behavior into a category, which implies something definable and understandable. “Madness” is ok as a subjective term, like “crazy,” but it really means nothing.

      • I think one of the biggest hurdles when discussing “mad” people is differentiating between those with odd behaviors or mannerisms that disturb others (social misfits), those who’ve been seriously traumatized (which I think there is sufficient evidence to show amounts to a physical injury that statistically has nasty long term health implications), those who are simply struggling to survive under the weight of an oppressive profit driven capitalist (racist/sexist) system, those who are physically ill with any number of infectious or inflammatory diseases, and those who are quite literally stark raving mad for unknown reasons. These are five very different cohorts, unfortunately with frequent overlap between groups to confuse issues. I don’t think it helps any of these groups to speak of them as if they are a single population of “mad” people.

        I am still on the fence as to the mad pride movement. I’m certainly happy for the mentally relatively well adjusted social misfits to reclaim their right to be weird without being targeted. But I don’t see how this does much for the other groups who are struggling against forces way larger than themselves, be it poverty, trauma, or infection. A lot of people, including myself at times, have desperately struggled to simply survive our own thoughts in our deepest depressions.

        I was one of many many people who was disturbed by distressing symptoms and honestly thought I was receiving real medical care through psychiatry.

        I am comfortable with calling out current psychiatric “medical” practices as being anything but evidenced based. I don’t think we need to glorify any previous eras in order to make that case. It didn’t used to be better. Just different.

        • Well, said, Kindredspirit. Humans have yet to find the ideal social, political, and economic system which supports the needs of the common people and to protect vulnerable individuals from actual harm. In modern life people are treated as disposable commodities who only matter when the 1% can profit off them (employees) or use them for some other benefit (e.g, our troops). Once we are no longer considered useful (e.g., the elderly), we are discarded and devalued. “Mental health clients” will be used by the system until the system is radically changed or clients walk out. The rub here is that many clients come to mental health centers to seek other resources, such as housing or help attaining public assistance benefits. So many basic needs for the poor are now requiring a doctor’s attestation that the person is “disabled” and thus eligible for affordable housing, transportation, student loan dismissal, and the like. The system is founded on the idea that a doctor can verify that someone is “disabled” and thus determine that the person cannot work. This is very flawed for so many reasons. So while some people are truly distressed by their symptoms, many are also distressed by poverty– the lack of access to basic needs and not feeling safe. We need to get away from linking the two. If someone is poor, they SHOULD have all their basic needs covered, especially in such as relatively wealthy country like America. Unfortunately, we know that many wealthy people hoard their resources and don’t want to pay more taxes to support everyone’s needs. Until everyone pays their fair share, we will continue to find ways to limit “entitlements” to basic needs. The poor will then be forced into finding “treatment” providers who will say they have a disability which makes them eligible for various resources. Additionally, psychiatrists typically will not meet with their clients on an ongoing basis unless pills are prescribed, so this set up coerces people to take neurotoxins when they really don’t want to be on pills in the first place. Screwed up system.

          • Humans have yet to find the ideal social, political, and economic system which supports the needs of the common people and to protect vulnerable individuals from actual harm.

            I wouldn’t say we haven’t found it, but we haven’t yet created the preconditions, i.e. ending capitalist rule.

          • Well, the problem is we don’t have a viable system which would not somehow get manipulated by the powerful monied interests. Socialism in European countries is the best system currently that tries to consider everyone’s needs, but it has yet to be duplicated in large, heterogeneous countries like the US.

          • There has been no true attempt at socialism anywhere — Cuba would be closest — since the USSR and Chine collapsed. What you see in Europe is so-called “social democracy,” i.e. capitalism with some surface reforms compared to the U.S., i.e. a “socialist face.”

        • I think one of the biggest hurdles when discussing “mad” people…

          I would finish that with is not to discuss “them” at all, since there is no such objective or scientific category of people.

          The “category” you are referring to cannot be accurately described as anything but “those who have fallen into the clutches of psychiatric labeling.”

          Of course you already know what I think, but for others I feel compelled to keep repeating this.

          • I agree. Speaking of “mad people” in and of itself shows bigotry, as if all “mad” people have in common is their “madness” and as if such a grouping could even be logically made.

          • When I attended Day Treatment or Clubhouse the folks running the show kept trying to fix me up with guys based SOLELY on our “diagnoses.” Nothing against the men. Often they were nice human beings–sometimes nice looking. But we had nothing in common!

            “You guys are both ‘bipolars.’ You should get together. You have so much in common. Only you can understand people like you.”

            Yeah, we’re all alike. If someone said this about members of an ethnic minority he’d be (rightly) called a bigot. But it’s okay to tell psychiatrized people this crap.

            I vented before about how “bipolar” applies to so many types of people and behaviors the label is about as useless as terms like “dummy,” “stupid,” or “ugly.”

            Ted Bundy the serial killer has been classified as “bipolar.” So has your fun, eccentric Aunt Betty. So has your overachieving neighbor across the street who struggled to be the perfect wife/mother/CEO and snapped from an SSRI reaction. So has the battered twelve year old boy trapped in foster care. All alike my foot! 😛

        • I don’t. It all depends on context, values, and perspective. In the 60’s Jefferson Airplane/Starship often referred to fellow youthful rebels as “crazies” in a very positive sense, just like “freaks.” I recall the line “Amerika hates its crazies and you gotta let go you know.”

          • Crazy became a positive some time before the Jefferson Airplane went there. The beat/beatnik movement gave it a positive slant on the cusp of the sixties.

            As for positive slants, it is my view that the Mad/Mad Pride movement does the same thing with the word “mad”. I’ve got no aversion to celebrating my madness.

            Right now, I see a lot people complaining about antipsychiatry, however, given the negatives of contemporary psychiatric practice, I see it as a very positive term myself.

    • @Oldhead “Here we go again with the “madness” stuff. Basically a mystification and romanticization of pain and social ostracizing … “Mad Pride” is an acceptance of and glorification of the oppressive labels put upon us by the system.”

      Why the animosity? Mad Pride turned my life around and Ekaterina’s blog resonates loudly with me.

      Thank you Ekaterina, I’m looking forward to more.

  3. > that ‘schizophrenia’ and ‘bipolar disorder’ are almost the same thing
    > By reducing it to purely biological explanations (for which psychiatry has failed so far to provide any > concrete proof)

    I disagree with those. I do believe in existing evidence that some mental illness e.g. schizophrenia cause massive gray and white matter disruptions. And also on the surface schizophrenia is characterized by negative symptoms which are not present in bipolar disorder. But what I want to show is that biological psychiatry is biting itself.

    Since people here like to claim that ‘brain matter loss and negative symptoms is due to antipsychotic administration’ I’d like to offer a simple experiment:
    1. We take two groups of people. The first group is diagnosed with bipolar with psychotic features, the second one is diagnosed with schizophrenia.
    2. We give them a comparable amount of antipsychotics.
    3. We measure their brain afterward.

    I believe data on this matter already exists and there is much more gray matter loss in case of schizophrenia. There is also data on unmedicated schizophrenics which also show gray matter loss. And negative symptoms of schizophrenia were known even before antipsychotic emergence.

    Data on brain abnormalities are replicated many times so for me it is pretty strong evidence that there is an underlying disease.

    But what I don’t like about current treatment is that: antipsychotics do cause additional brain matter loss and antipsychotics do cause additional negative symptoms. And this is without talking about other horrible side effects.

    I applaud to everybody here who managed to live without antipsychotic drugs (this doesn’t work for me, although I’m striving to function on as minimal dosage as possible).

    Basically, my path was from antipsychiatry after first psychotic breaks, towards biological psychiatry (Alright, I’m going to be a second-class citizen here with these guys, but at least have a life) then back. Severely disappointed after getting fat, becoming severely depressed and suicidal and having an absolutely blank mind on their ‘minimal effective dosage’.

    The psychiatrist is something like tyrannical impotent who commands his wife, again and again, to lie this way and dress this way, but nothing works. Psychiatric treatment is almost orthogonal to the underlying disorder.

    So, f*ck psychiatry. And f*ck big pharma.

    • Contradictory. You need to stop using these labels with a straight face. Though I support the last two sentences 100%.

      I do believe in existing evidence that some mental illness e.g. schizophrenia cause massive gray and white matter disruptions.

      That’s not “mental illness,” it’s neurological, i.e. physical, not mental.

        • Could her name be Nancy Andreasen by some chance? She is the Godmother of Biological psychiatry par excellence and did a study that she originally thought would show that it was the “schizophrenia” that causes the brain shrinkage and damage but in the end her study proved that it’s the neuroleptics that cause said damage. She was so shocked with the results that she did the study a second time and ended up getting the same results. Then she sat on the results for two years before she finally ended up publishing them. Then she stated that people still needed to stay on the drugs, even though her results show otherwise!

        • I wish that I had saved a post at MIA by a psychiatrist who described the brain volume loss as due to atrophy from under-utilization of nervous tissue. He described how brain volume loss was only common in older institutionalized patients until “biological” psychiatry replaced “Freudian” psychiatry with more drugs. Since then, he is witnessing brain atrophy in “patients” at substantially earlier ages based on sedating nervous tissue with neuroleptics.

          • If you’re trapped in the system you can counteract these effects a little by reading, playing chess, Sudoku puzzles, physical exercise, journaling, etc. Sometimes the keepers applaud this. Sometimes they view you as a troublemaker since you won’t sit quietly in front of the tube 16 hours a day like everyone else.

    • Wish I had a life, Igor. Not (entirely) joking.

      The accurate word for the drugs is neuroleptics though in your case they helped silence the voices. In others’ they are ineffective or amplify them.

      Sorry you have been through that crap. I understand your complaints about the controlling, heavy-handed way the experts treat other human beings. A lot of folks who choose to remain consumers still hate the condescending emotional abuse they receive.

      Hope things get better soon. In too much physical pain to concentrate today, but someone has posted links to studies here about the link between psych drugs and brain deterioration a psychiatrist conducted. Fww, prolonged stress can lead to loss of brain matter as well.

    • Psyche can not only destroy your grey matter. Psyche can kill you. Ego is too small to fight off the psychological/death reality – psychiatry called it schizophrenia, but this is only empty nominalism and theological negation, nothing more.

      Apollonian ego can be broke as matchstick by hades/psychological reality. Medicine, theology has got no power over death reality/strict psychological reality. That reality killed many people –
      Plath, Anneliese Michel, Sarah Kane, poets, many many poets, because of their psychological ability to see the reality of death.

      Ask the suicidal person if he or she want to die. They do not want -THE MUST. Welcome in psychological reality. Because what we have today is a ridicule and theological negation.

      Apollonians are fighters and winners, without battlefield and obstacles.

      We must see the psychological differences between the simplicity of apollonian ego reality and the great cruelty and complexity of archetypes beyond apollonian level. And this is mainly a death territory. And we must remember that we are living in society in which death starts and ends in THE GRAVE, not in the psyche. Because this is apollonic society.

      We must use words that has got a meaning.REAL meaning.

      Yes, psychological reality is death reality and it can kill you. There is no cure.

      AND I WANT PEOPLE TO HAVE BALLS ENOUGH TO ACCEPT THAT PSYCHOLOGY IS NOT F. THEOLOGY.

      BECAUSE MANY PEOPLE WERE BRAVE ENOUGH TO EXPERIENCE THEIR OWN DEATH.
      And that was not their choice, that was a must, the need, a necessity. TERROR is not a choice.

      Suicide is not a choice, it is a psychological terror.

      PSYCHOLOGICAL, read loud apollonians -P S Y C H O L O G I C A L, not material medical or theological. P S Y C H O L O G I C A L.

    • With great respect to Igor, I don’t think the evidence for gray matter changes in so-called schizofrenia is really there. There are loads of studies with the express of objective of trying to prove this, and some look interesting, but they are often small and I do question how anyone gets a diagnosis of schizofrenia without being given antipsychotics, which is what you need to prove the point.

      One thing is clear – antipsychotics reduce gray matter (the monkey study) and that is basically prescribed brain damage.

      But I ask myself, what does it matter?

      1. The brain changes according to the stresses it is under, so its quite likely that any changes would be like the dopamine theory – a reaction rather than causal. And may be transient.

      2. What are you going to do about it anyway? Learn to live with what you have got – thats what. And preferably not shrink it any more!

      So whats the point of looking for brain shrinkage? To reinforce the notion that psychosis is not a symptom of a psychological problem, but of a deeper disease, thats why. Psychiatrists would love to be able to prove that the cause has a physical manifestation in the brain because then they can experiment with more chemical cures and keep the psychologists at bay.

      • I think you’re absolutely right. It’s clear that the focus is on everything a person can’t control, so they can claim there’s nothing you can do about it but submit to their “treatments” and pray. At the same time, if it’s all biological, we don’t have to change any of our institutions that are causing distress, because after all, it’s all in the brain, eh?

        Not to mention the profit motive…

        • Spot on Steve. I recall being stuck in this conversation about “its most important to realise that this is not an extreme form of normal experience, its different, its a serious illness that sadly blah blah” – all I wanted to do was talk about how we actually do things to get better!
          It turned out that, step by incremental step, doing things was the correct approach, and if I could say one thing to that terrified carer in that meeting, I’d say “its all bollocks!”

    • @ Igor,

      Always interesting to hear someone who moved from antipsychiatry to psychiatry and again to antipsychiatry, but still falling for the usual apparently valid bits of (pseudo)science…

      Stephen Gilbert already mentioned Nancy Coover Andreasen. She co-authored a study* in which cerebral atrophy was at least partially, but definitely, the result of the drug treatment. Andreasen was awarded by Bill Clinton in 2000 the National Medal of Science for her contributions in behavioral sciences and neurotechnology.

      What Ekaterina probably meant is that psychosis and bipolar are part of the same continuum and greatly overlapping. A bipolar will usually have psychotic features, and conversely. These disorders don’t form clearly distinct clusters of symptoms, as psychologist Richard Bentall long worked to demonstrate.

      You still like to capture the phenomenon of schizophrenia as a f*cking biological disease. I wonder if it came to your attention that the process of losing grey matter could easily be explainable by the enduring persecution and stigmatization that people so-labeled have lived since their childhoods.

      Anyway, such considerations don’t even address the ultimate problem with psychiatry – a sociomoral, political problem. You may want to tell us how you understand the myth of mental illness.

      * [jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/211084]

  4. Psyche is something from the outside. Psyche does not belong to us, or to our ego or brain. Only ego on apollonian level is arrogant and shallow enough to think that WE CONTROL the mythical reality. When ego is beyond apollonian fantasy about control, that means we are insane.Our culture has got no future, because our psychology is too shallow and egoic.
    The problem is that there is no phenomenology of the psyche. There is only something between pseudo science and BS.

    We do not have to know why people feel the way they feel. People are not scientific objects, we are more than science.Space is not our property, psyche does not belong to ego. The problem is that no one can see the proper hierarchy in psychological reality. We think that apollonian ego is the ruler of the psychological reality. Materialists thinks that way, that is why there is a need of psychological socialism. To replace biological machines, to stop the pseudo medical slavery.
    Phenomenology in the place of false empiricism, psychology in place of theological dogmas.

    James Hillman Re – Visioning psychology.

  5. As an artist, and art teacher, mother, designer, manager, sales professional, planning commissioner, financial manager, art program coordinator, psychopharmacology researcher, etc., etc. A woman with a “fascinating” life, including a staggeringly serendipitous “spiritual journey.” A life which was, indeed, declared to be a “credible fictional story” by a delusional psychiatrist. As well as being a person who was misdiagnosed with a “mental illness,” then made “mad as a hatter” with the antipsychotics, via anticholinergic toxidrome.

    I can tell you that when chaos is created in a person’s brain with the “antipsychotics,” chaos comes out on the canvas. That is the story of a large part of my oeuvre. And I’ve found I can tell when children are on drugs with major drug interactions, just by looking at their artwork, prior to doctors figuring this out.

    And I do agree, “madness is never boring. And it shouldn’t be boring. By reducing it to purely biological explanations (for which psychiatry has failed so far to provide any concrete proof), it removes the personal narratives behind it.” But that magical, mysterious, lyrical libretto of a love story does show up in an artist’s work, especially once she’s been weaned off the drugs.

    As to your question, “Would these marvelous people leave us the works of their genius minds if under a heavy dose of ‘antipsychotics’?” I would say the answer is definitely no. But I’ve learned from a recent art show of my work that a visual journey starting before, then through “painting iatrogenic ‘bipolar,'” then after, is a much more shocking and controversial art show than I had expected.

    So controversial that I have a church up in arms, and was recently handed over an “I want to manage your artwork” contract. That, upon reading the contract, was actually an “I want to profit from, and eventually steal all your artwork, your story, and all your family’s money” contract, by a psychologist. Bummer for him, I wasn’t dumb enough to sign it.

    But the lengths the “mental health professionals” will go to silence us quiet little artists, whose pictures paint a thousand words, are staggering. Although we do not paint good words about today’s pedophile covering up psychiatric and psychological professions. We paint the shocking, truthful, harsh reality about the failure and crimes of today’s “mental health industries.”

    But since “madness is something that is still very mysterious, unique, and belonging to the other world, a world that only few of us have access to.” Us artists also share that magical, mysterious, seemingly “prophetic” or “insightful” other world, with the rest of the world as well.

    And the art world does like controversy, doesn’t it? I mean, the popular artists today are the “Spirit cooking” and pedophile artists. But since we live in a very divisive society, where I think most people are not into that satanic and sick stuff. Isn’t it only logical that our society should also have Spirit led, anti-child abuse artists as well? But belief in that etherial, untouchable, unprovable Holy Spirit is a sin, to the material-world-only-believing “mental health professionals” of today.

    Thanks for the creative blog through the art world’s view on madness and psychiatry, Ekaterina. And let’s hope the art world will some day show the other side’s take on reality. Apparently, the truth is shocking to the masses still.

  6. Here in Mad in America we accuse “medication” of causing the Longterm Mental Illness. So What happened to all the people years ago that Recovered.

    I was certainly compromised by “medications” but to come off them and survive I had to split with “Normal thinking”.

    • Remember kids, the important thing is just to be yourself. Unless you have a “mental illness.”

      Then you need a lobotomy. We can’t fix your social skills or make people like you, but we can make sure you’re not smarter or more talented than they are.

      Ta da! Normal!!!

          • You should really try to locate, on Netflix or wherever, a somewhat dark but also amusing (and educational) movie called “A Hole In One,” starring Michelle Williams and Meat Loaf(!) It’s about a 1950’s mobster’s girl friend wanting to get a lobotomy to make her a better partner and to “help make America strong.” I’m sure you’ll like it. (I’ve mentioned this before.)

  7. Ekaterina thank you for this article. The question I am left asking when I look at the painting of Blanche is why didn’t one of those men get up and put their jacket over Blanche’s shoulders? As for the historical narrative of madness, I sometimes come across examples of things that defy academic views of the past treatment of insane people – examples of people being kind and generous and understanding of those who had become insane.

  8. The image of people chained and being UN-chained Philippe_Pinel_à_la_Salpêtrière_.jpg is the same as today.
    People want the irresponsible in chains otherwise-known-as “medication” or psychiatric drugs. An invisible chain. And there are doctors today who want to reduce the chains, reduce the number of drugs/medicines patients are on so they can recover and become a “healthy” individual.

  9. Pinnel was an interesting man. He worked together with another doctor who was the director of another asylum. I think this doctor’s name was Jean Baptist Pinot, or something like that. This man hired former inmates of the asylum to work in the asylum because they were more compassionate to the people in their care. And in fact, he had once been an inmate in the very asylum that he became director of. The concept of peer workers goes back much further than what most people think.

      • A person has to pay the bills (for an excuse/reason to work in the prison. And the prison is not disappearing any time soon).
        You do know the only difference between the mad and the eccentric is just a matter of the amount of money that they have?
        No money and you are on the street and presumed mentally ill….

        • Well, it would be nice if people were able to work outside the “mental health” penal system as well.

          I’d like to see the numbers of people labeled and treated GO DOWN. Unfortunately, things are NOT going in the direction of a diminished therapeutic state. Instead such rates are on the rise, and part of the reason is…that they have no problem getting people employment within the system, and an expanding system it is. Getting people out of the system though is another thing altogether, and for that reason alone, I’d have to say that many of these “mental health workers” really need “help”. Uh, anybody out there up to signing a few pink slips?

    • When higher education for the blind became popular thanks to Braille you could see a similar phenomenon. Often the students became teachers because there was no place for them outside the Perkins Institute or wherever. Few careers for the visually impaired back then too aside from caning and teaching other blind people.

  10. Hello, Ekaterina,

    I’ve been thinking about this article since I read it yesterday. You and I have very different philosophical approaches to this subject, and so I don’t want to get sidetracked too much by that. My wife has d.i.d., and I never saw her as crazy or mad or delusional or psychotic. I find those terms more to show the ignorance of the user than offering any insight into the person. Once I entered the world of the 8 girls (alters) and learned to see things from their perspective, most made sense, even the ‘extreme’ stuff. I came to understand that most of their ‘world’ was frozen in time, created by the original trauma. So they were kind of in a time-warp so to speak and there was nothing ‘psychotic’ or ‘delusional’ about their perspective once I adjusted for that. And so I decided to walk with them wherever each girl was/is, and little by little she decided she liked her new world and life with me and our son better than that old, scary and lonely one…and that’s where the healing began.

    All that to say…I do appreciate your sense of wonder and mystery. If I had taken the typical route and labeled my wife with those kinds of terms and drugged her rather than walk with her thru all the stuff that came along on this journey, I would have missed so much. I’ve always felt like I had the privilege of watching a star be born as each of the 7 new girls joined me outside, securely attached to me, began to shed her chains to the past, trauma-formed world she had known, and then began to stretch her wings and start to fly in this new life she found with me and our son.

    Having read the majority experience on this site, I am so glad my wife was never trapped in that, or I would have missed the amazing, though difficult, journey with her.

    Yours,
    Sam

  11. “It is without a doubt that many people say medication made their lives better. Some welcome even their ‘diagnoses’ because it gives some explanation, it gives a reassurance.”….
    It should be noted that that “many people” is in fact a SMALL MINORITY, and those “some” who “welcome” their so-called “diagnosis”, are, again, a small minority. Why have the psychs never looked at what seems to be unique about the minority percentage of persons who actually like their diagnoses and DRUGS?….
    Hey, *some* people like heroin & opiates, so….

    • Respectfully, but my wife’s diagnoses of d.i.d. was the BEST thing that ever happened for our marriage. For 20 years we struggled…there was constant tension, and more arguments than I wish. But when it was suggested she ‘might’ have d.i.d. it was a eureka moment for me, and it finally gave me a place to start.

      That’s the problem with the anti-psychiatry position in my opinion: it wants to completely eradicate everything without any kind of thought. Tear it down: burn it down! But it’s not all wrong. My wife’s diagnosis saved our marriage. Sure, we didn’t take the ‘approved’ route to help her heal, and NO drugs, thank God! but without that diagnosis we’d still be wondering what the hell was wrong when we both, clearly, loved each other…

      • Understanding what is actually going on is what helps. Diagnoses may in some cases help understand what is going on, but in most cases, my observation is that they act to obscure what is going on, or trivialize it. Saying someone has “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” tells you that the person tends to not go along with what they’re asked to do. It tells you NOTHING about why or what one might do to improve the situation.

        In your wife’s case, it appears that the diagnosis helped create some understanding of what was going on so you’d know what to do. But you didn’t do what the “mental health” system would have told you to do, you figured it out yourself. So what was helpful wasn’t the diagnosis per se, but your ability to use that information to craft a good approach. The key elements of the improvement were you and her. The diagnosis would have been useless or perhaps even destructive if you’d followed the advice of the “professionals.”

      • Honest question,

        for all of you who are anti-psychiatry. Does that include anti-psychology? Or is that viewed totally separate? I never seem to know based on the comments. Any who follow my comments know I’m a HUGE believer in attachment theory, but maybe that’s seen as good psychology and not in the domain of psychiatry….
        Thanks for any clarification…
        Sam

        • I believe the honest study of human beings and how they develop, learn and grow is extremely valuable. The issue is, it needs to be done honestly. Piaget, Eric Erickson, Carl Rogers, William Glasser, and plenty of others have presented very valuable information that has helped us learn to be better parents and better human beings. I see this as very separate from the current “mental health system” and its pseudoscientific pretensions of being able to “diagnose” someone with a “disorder” based on a set of unusual or inconvenient behaviors. Psychiatry appears to be a total wasteland today, if it ever had anything at all of value to contribute, which history suggests is an extremely long shot. Psychology has been more of a mixed bag, but to the degree that psychologists subscribe to the DSM labels and attendant pseudoscientific concepts of “chemical imbalances” or “bad circuitry” as the causal agents in “mental illness,” it needs to go as well. I’d add further that the need for “therapy” seems to suggest some deep failings in our social system that need to be addressed, rather than have to “heal” people from the resultant damage. It is possible to view therapy as an enabling concept that again puts the cause of one’s suffering in oneself and not one’s relationship to the expectations and demands of the society one is part of.

          So for me, I’ve seen good ideas come from psychology and I’ve known some good therapists, and like to think I’ve provided some quality experiences to people who came to me for help. But I don’t think it matters much how good or kind or capable the individuals in the current system may be – the system itself is rotten to the core, and if that doesn’t change, no amount of honest study will help.

          • Steve,
            Thoughtful post. I would disagree that the system is “rotten to it’s core.” I think it’s very flawed but can be reformed. If we stopped pathologizing and drugging, and instead focused more attention on providing emotional support, the system would be much more effective. The problem as I see it is the medical model dominates the conversation and practitioners just comply with the demands from such a system.

            About half the clients I work with have full time jobs, and most who don’t either have serious medical issues or are caregivers. While some clients are harmed by our services, I’d have to think that if we were that bad, people on the whole would get worse and not better. But that is not what I’ve seen over the last decade. Obviously the harm done by pills is unacceptable and wrong, but that doesn’t mean that other aspects of the “care” people receive isn’t helpful to them in their daily lives. I’d have to think if the system was really rotten to it’s core, none of our clients would be able to work because we’d be harming them so much that this would be impossible. The system is messed up and needs changing, that is for sure.

          • Ah, but pathologizing and drugging IS the core, Shaun! It’s like saying that the school system is controlling children and discouraging independent thinking because they are misguided. Sorry, but that’s the purpose of the school system, and many documents from the mid- late-1800s verify this. Good teachers or administrators can make it more tolerable, and there are schools that exemplify a totally different approach. But it doesn’t change the essential purpose of the system.

            The DSM III was created in order to improve psychiatry’s standing as a “medical specialty” and to increase their market share, which was being undermined by non-MD therapists. This is all clearly documented at the time of these decisions. The decision to make the DSM “atheoretical” was specifically done to make it possible to engage in creating “disorders” and coordination with the drug companies was started very early in the process. To suggest it was anything else than a power play is rewriting history.

            And as such, I continue to maintain that psychiatry is rotten to its core. I won’t even go into other “core” practices such as lobotomies, ECT, insulin coma therapy, etc., nor their participation in eugenics and total support for the NAZI war atrocities. I’m not saying that people can’t help people by listening and caring and asking the right questions and being real. I’m saying that psychiatry itself is based on false premises and corrupt practices, and there is no way to “reform” it other than starting over. Psychology or counseling/therapy may be salvageable in some form, but psychiatry is not. If you take away the DSM diagnoses and their drugs, what do they have left?

          • Another pretty basic definitional sort of thing: “Reform” is something which assumes something is basically legitimate or of some value and has become corrupted or out of date. It cannot apply to something which is based on inherently destructive principles from the start.

          • Thank you for the thoughtful reply, Steve. Maybe my concerns about the anti-psychiatry position is it doesn’t delineate its position well enough and has more of a burn it all and then we’ll sift thru the ashes afterwards attitude.

          • I think “antipsychiatry” folks are also pretty diverse as a group. It’s hard to make generalizations about such a group. I find it more productive to address particular concepts or ideas rather than critiquing the whole idea of “antipsychiatry.” The bottom line for me is that I don’t see psychiatry as it is practices doing anything but harm. Such “help” as they provide is, if it even works, temporary and dangerous. I’m not against the concept of “professional help,” but in the current system, it’s pretty dangerous to even engage with a “therapist” unless you’re already well educated on how the DSM is used and how to avoid it. You found your own pathway forward, but a lot of people can’t do that for a lot of reasons. So on the balance, I think we’re much better off without the psychiatric profession and its antiscientific “theories” and “treatments.” It’s not that people shouldn’t help each other. It’s that people shouldn’t be pretending that they understand and can “help” when they actually have no idea how.

          • Psychiatry is one aspect of the MH system, but there are also many elements which have different impacts on clients, such as case management and therapy services. I agree that psychiatry is very problematic.

          • I don’t see psychiatry as it is practices doing anything but harm

            How could psychiatry practice non-harmfully when it is based upon promulgating the existence of “mental illness” as a literal reality, which one must internalize simply to pass go?

          • Psychiatry is one aspect of the MH system

            Yes, the defining one, as evidenced by the name “mental health” system, based on the psychiatric/medical concept of “mental health/mental illness.” Don’t the decisions where you work ultimately rest upon the final say of psychiatrists in some form?

          • All such decisions are now structured around psychiatry’s worldview, unless you’re lucky enough to find a dissident practitioner who actually sees you as a human being.

        • Sam, my chief problem with counseling is that it sold out to psychiatry. If anyone wants to see one make sure not to get her or him at a Mental Illness Center.

          Better off seeing an independent one–even if uncertified. Psychiatry has contaminated talking “therapy” like it has injured legitimate medical science.

          Szazs said he only worked with consenting adults. This is important. If they won’t let you fire a therapist for bad behavior or personality conflicts, it’s not counseling but a hostage situation.

          Once an ordinary counselor knows you’re labeled hopeless (SMI) they’ll do little but remind you of how hopeless your alleged brain disease makes you and how YOU HAD BETTER NOT GO OFF YOUR MEDS TILL YOU DIE!!!

          Had a woman scream this at me when she found out I had been reading stuff by Dr. Abrams. Mom had started it since she saw how mega-doses of Haldol and Stelazine caused me intense suffering and talked about visiting Canada.

          I guess Dee didn’t give a rip. I left her office thinking of the one way out of taking my “meds.” Suicide. Thanks Dee. 😛

          • Despite all the high-falutin’ “professional” nomenclature, the value of any non-drug “therapy” ultimately comes down to the two individuals involved, and the personal beliefs and perspectives of the “therapist,” whether expressed directly or in the general context of the encounter.

    • I have known a woman who lost all her friends and family after her “diagnosis.” Could no longer earn a living but squeaked by in extreme poverty on SSDI. Suffered Diabetes and countless other health problems. Was a revolving door patient to the psych ward for overwhelming suicidal desires.

      Yet she insisted her life had improved thanks to psychiatry and its magical pills. Furthermore she went out of her way to recruit others to join our “joyful” community of sickly, impoverished outcasts.

      Anyone heard of the Sunken Cost Fallacy? How many psychiatric “cures” are owed to this?

      • Good point, Rachel. Sunk cost fallacy is relevant in many areas of life–jobs, relationships, and psychiatry. I would tend to agree that when people invest a lot of time and effort into their “treatment”, it is hard for them to accept that it has been a waste, harmful to their health, and so on. Also, often people seen in MH centers don’t attribute any positive changes to themselves but rather to their “treatment”. They think that without this “lovely” treatment things would fall apart. I think that many people do see benefit in coming to the MH centers, however, because of social connection. They make friends in groups, connect with therapists, and so on. One problem in America is that we are isolated, lonely, and disconnected. This is a natural consequence of our individualistic culture and the way we live (e.g., living far away from family), and thus MH centers fill a void to help support people who are suffering. While MH centers do some good in this regard, we do badly by our clients when we drug them up with neurotoxins and pathologize them with the DSM.

        • Shaun, I agree that MH centers provide a place of acceptance many consumers lack outside. The problem is the diagnosis and mind numbing drugs ruin other relationships.

          Too sensitive and high strung I always struggled to master social situations. When Dad kept getting fired I blamed my own lack of social skills for our bouts of homelessness and withdrew–afraid of saying the “wrong thing” as I always did. 🙁

          Drugs took the edge off my anxiety created by constant worries over winning everyone’s approval by acting and talking perfectly. They also hampered my social skills the way being perpetually drunk might.

          Now that I’m off I can sense vibes and non verbal cues better. Read people. My sister-in-law thought I had Aspergers–I acted like I did. But screwed up as my thoughts are from anemia and vitamin deficiencies I no longer have enough “symptoms” to qualify for the spectrum.

          Maybe give folks lists of social events and gatherings? I joined Friends of the Library, volunteered and was active in my local church while a career mental patient. One center in a small town was fine with this–though surprised at my desire to give back and socialize with those outside the MI sphere. Another, corrupt and enormous center in S. Bend would get angry and “punish” us in subtle under-handed ways for not staying in the ghetto where they wanted us to stay. Almost like a cult.

          • Intelligent people with disabilites looking for community involvement outside of traditional venues like church will get much more out of taking a community college class than they will by going to a drop in mental health center.

            The local one is filled with shuffling zombies – is literally nothing more than adult day care. The day I dropped in to check it out, I was immediately tapped for my potential as a peer support worker but it was also immediately clear to me that I was infinitely more functional than any of my “peers” there and still retained a significant portion of my intelligence, even as drugged as I was. I never went back. The idea of ever being so dull and lifeless is one of my worst nightmares. Death would be preferable than to be reduced to that.

          • Good idea KS. Though even Community College classes can be expensive unless it’s non-credit or a life enrichment course.

            Also toast masters, the local Y, art centers, library activities, volunteer organizations, and groups you can find using the app Meetup. When I lived near Notre Dame U. they offered free lectures to the public sometimes.

            A local chapter of EA might help you improve your current relationships while making new friends too.

            To any consumers reading this neither KS nor I want to victim blame. We’re mad at those who exploit and hurt you. I used to be a “shuffling zombie” myself.

          • Rachel, my state offers free tuition to community college students who are receiving disability benefits. Pell grant is good for books and fees. And I was lucky enough to get scholarships (cash back in practical terms) from my college’s Honors Association for receiving As in my honors classes.

            I have enjoyed volunteering at the regional food bank warehouse with a Meetup group, which was good for just having something feelgood to do, but nobody really talked to each other. Eventually decided I wasn’t getting enough out of it to keep it up.

            Toast Masters? I love carbs as much as the next person. Are vegan and gluten free options available? (I doubt this is actually a group that gets together for toast, so I’m having fun here.) 😉

          • I certainly do not intend to victim blame. I was lucky to start out intelligent enough to actually realize I had lost a couple of orders of magnitude of cognitive ability. And if someone with high intelligence can see their own cognitive decline, imagine what a similar decline in someone of ‘average’ intelligence might look like. I continue to regain cognitive function even two years off all the drugs. I imagine it might not have been quite so evident to someone who hadn’t previously been so intellectually driven. And to be clear, I am speaking to the neurotoxic effects of the drugs only and not about anyone’s value as an individual. Innate intelligence has nothing to do with anyone’s value either, it’s just that I was painfully aware of what I’d lost. And the drugs do kind of turn ordinary people into drooling zombies, which I think amounts to a criminal assault on their freedom and basic fundamental human rights.

            I think Roberta’s blog about her dad clearly elucidates the damage that can be wrought by psychiatry’s neurotoxins.

        • Shaun, I have started referring to this as “toxic individualism”.

          I’ve been geeking out lately on the research on cytokines and illness behavior, which is so closely associated with depression and other “mental health” disorders. Illness behavior has for generations been left to the realm of psychology and sociology to explain, but the actual underlying physiological mechanism causing it was not understood. Until the role of cytokines in the immune response started to be better understood, the concept of “acting sick” was primarily thought to be psychological (something only effecting the weak willed) and the best known attempt to explain it is Talcott Parsons 1951 definition of the Sick Role in Role Theory, in which he delineated the rights and responsibilities of the sick person in greater societal terms.

          I did not previously understand why so many have such irreverence for the healer role (physician) and why we are so culturally programmed to take our problems to the physician, but I believe a lot of the underlying conflict is a cultural demand that sick people have a responsibility to go to the doctor and do as the doctor says in order to get better as quickly as possible and return to the roles we play. This is entirely a culturally and socially defined construct and it explains the animosity those with chronic illnesses (including chronic depression) face. It’s a daily assault of “what’s wrong with you anyway?” from people when what they’re really asking is “why are you such a lazy faker sitting at home collecting a check while the rest of us have to work?”

          As the article below explains, it has outlived its usefulness in light of more recent understanding of what drives illness behavior.

          http://sociologyinfocus.com/2012/12/the-sick-role-conflict/

          For more info on cytokines and illness behavior, this research article is relatively easy to understand:

          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2740752/#__ffn_sectitle

          • the underlying conflict is a cultural demand that sick people have a responsibility to go to the doctor and do as the doctor says in order to get better as quickly as possible and return to the roles we play.

            An astute observation.

          • Well said. I totally see how toxic individualism damages all of us. It’s very tempting to blame the individual for “all their problems”. This is one of the reasons why the DSM is very flawed, because it essentially says that the person is what is “dysfunctional” when in reality they are responding normally to very difficult and traumatic circumstances, e.g., depression.

    • A small but very vocal minority. And they’re rewarded with a big platform and $$$$$$. Dr. Kay Jamison Redfield who wrote amusing works of spec fiction like Touched by Fire. And Patti Duke who earned a tidy sum as a poster child for pharm-psychiatry.

      Interesting both were treated mainly with lithium. That stuff will ruin your kidneys but it seems to cause less brain damage than a “cocktail” of 3 drugs or more used on most people now.

  12. “Madness can never be truly understood, and madness is something that is still very mysterious, unique, and belonging to the other world, a world that only few of us have access to.”

    Disagree on all counts. We’re all one consciousness, each person expressing a unique aspect of that oneness. Everyone and anyone is capable of experiencing their self-maligning voices, which is where madness gets its power. In shadow, everyone is mad. In the light, everyone is a unique experssion of all-that-is.

      • Close! This would be more influenced by Esther Hicks, who studied and was highly influenced by Jane Roberts. I love the Seth material but haven’t looked at it in a while.

        What I mostly recall taking from Seth is around the nature of our personal reality, creating it as we go from our thoughtforms and practiced self-beliefs. I do very much believe in and focus primarily on the vibrational nature of our physial reality, as per Seth (and Abraham, which Esther channels). So what I said above really is my truth, it’s the awareness by which I live and operate. I’ve integrated this and it’s totally consistent with my experience of manifesting.

        The foundation of this did come from my journey into multiple states of consciousness. Once I was able to ground and streamline the information, this was the result of that particular consciousness work. I think what occurs as we grow into expanded awareness and then ground it (the lack of which is what causes extreme distress and disorientation) is that our innate gifts do begin to come to light. I think it’s natural.

        It may feel like superpowers when we’ve been particuarly harsh on ourselves and systemically demeaned into chronic self-doubt, but to my mind, it is really who we are. I think that’s the path of self-discovery and soul growth, which is way different than the typical “social expectations,” which are what create that boxed-in, limited, and opppresive reality which is really what drives people crazy. I believe Seth and Abraham would both concur that shifting our focus is what changes our reality. I think so, too.

        • It was the “all-that-is” that caught my attention. It may come as a surprise but I’m a fan, and scandalous to some “strict” materialists; however it seems that Newtonian physics may ultimately lead into quantum theory, which reverses some of the “scientific certainties” we’ve been brought up to believe. (And I don’t think any of this is contradictory to Marxism btw.) Anyway I’ve been re-reading parts of “The Individual and the Nature of Mass Events” and skimmed through “Dreams Evolution and Value Fulfillment” (a free e-book online) while pondering a recent discussion here about evolution.

          • Yes, I was thinking of Abraham teachings when I used that particular phrase. Of course, all-that-is=God=inner being=higher self=Source energy, etc., and I try to use language that I feel will most clearly translate in the moment. Not suprised, Oldhead, I’ve seen you refer to Seth. I also agree with you that evolution is inherent in the revolution we’re talking about here. I’ve gotten accustomed to writing (r)evolution.

            More than science, I believe these teachings challenge world religions because they are based on the idea that we as humans are the co-creators of our reality, and that we as humans are an aspect of all that is/Source energy, so we inhernetly have that kind of power, equal to the power of God because we are inhernetly that energy–divine beings having a human experience. When we know this, we are awake to our spirit/soul, and then we can navigagte our lives with infinitely more awareness and a much broader and heart-based perspective, aka heart-mind alignment. It is an expansive, warm and loving feeling of safety, well-being, and innate abundance, and can easily be perceived through synchronicity, if this is our focus.

            Problem is all the brainwashing and programming which has taken place for so long, which makes us feel separate from our own power source/inner being. “Listen to us, not yourselves,” creating dysfunction through co-dependence en masse. To me, the (r)evolution is the healing of this separation of human self from divine self (spirit/soul/higher self), which is heart healing. That would evolve us by quantum leaps, without a doubt, while disempowering oppressors and oppressive systems.

            It is an emotional journey, because when we heal our hearts, we are releasing a lot of old pent up emotions in order to achieve a new present time clarity. It is what makes us abundantly human, which I believe we are validating fully and unequivocally here.

          • The devil is in the details however, and many intuitive insights get lost in translation, or in trying to explain non-linear concepts in linear forms, thus can get turned around and used to create the opposite result — such as implying that we are all responsible for our objective oppression and need to learn to take a “positive” attitude towards it. The fact of mind/body being intertwined is used to justify biological theories of “mental illness,” which despite all this metaphysical talk remains a metaphor being deliberately misinterpreted as something literal, and the core deception underlying psychiatric ideology. And I see this confusion of literal and abstract as being the wave of the future and seed for further deceptions, as it seems to work so well.

          • “implying that we are all responsible for our objective oppression and need to learn to take a “positive” attitude towards it.”

            Not at all what I am implying, but I agree with you that articulating this can be a challenge, especially in a forum such as this one, where it is practically impossible.

            We live in one physical world with a variety of perspectives and levels of consciousness–different realities. As Seth or Abraham would say, different frequencies. Like trying to listen to an AM station on FM radio, can’t be done, it is physically impossible. Best we can do is live our truth, each of us, best way we know how from moment to moment.

            (My “oops” comment was because I had accidentally posted my response to KS here and then realized my error. When I went back to respond to Oldhead, I could not edit this and instead post the comment I eventually made, so Steve, could you please delete it? –the one that says “oops.” Thanks!)

          • OK I’ll have to withdraw from the Alice/Dorothy conversation, I really haven’t considered all these tangents and hidden implications and would be out of my league without reading it all over, which there’s no room for on my plate.

          • I’m not so sure that power is our deepest fear. It was Lord Acton, an influence on Thomas Szasz, who said, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Power in the wrong hands is a real fear.

            It wasn’t too long after the Emperor Caligula woke up a deity, that some people figured he was “off his rocker”, and that he needed to be deposed, or put down like a rabid animal.

          • You’re talking about power over others and I’m referring to power in and over our own lives, to manifest our deepest desires. These are not only two entirely different things, they are antithetical.

            We all have the power to be free of oppression, the way Dorothy had the power all along to get home. But first, she had to take a journey in order to experience and learn many new things. She was in a dream state, an altered state of consciousness. She had company along the way.

          • I don’t really have a great deal of fear of self-control, Alex. In the social realm, it seems, a lot of people have a great deal of fear of the opposite of self-control, that is, they are possessed of the fear of ‘losing it’. In the been there done that department, eventually, this Jesus pushed that stone aside.

          • We all have the power to be free of oppression, the way Dorothy had the power all along to get home. But first, she had to take a journey

            She still had to take definitive action to get home, including slaying the Jabberwock. Oh wait, that was Alice, not Dorothy; Dorothy had to melt the wicked witch (somewhat sexist).

          • No she didn’t. That was on the bogus orders of the wizard, which was merely a projected hologram of power, and which she bought into out of fear and desperation. She went sincerely for help.

            And it wasn’t to kill the witch, it was to get her broom. The witch died because she tried to kill the Scarecrow with fire, and Dorothy threw water on it to save him, and it happened to splash on the witch. Dorothy didn’t intend to kill her nor did she know water would melt her. But it did free the witch’s slaves, so it served a bigger purpose.

            In the end, none of that mattered otherwise because it got no one what they asked for, it was all a hoax and it almost got everyone killed. Sound familiar?

            It turned out that the man behind the curtain was kind-hearted, but he did not know what he was doing and put them through all kinds of hell and torture, and on top of that, Dorothy was sol with this guy. He couldn’t get her home, even though she did kill the witch and free the slaves, and brought him the broom, exactly as he had instructed.

            In the end, she just needed to get back to herself and trust her heart. That was her power, regardless of anything.

            Too simple, naïve, and “Forrest Gumpish” for today’s world? Everyone has to decide that for themselves. We’re each responsible for our own lives.

          • Yes, Alex, it was certainly interesting up until your last point. We are not each responsible for our own lives and can’t possibly be expected to be.

            I think we’re treading dangerously close to victim blaming when we assume that everyone has similar power over their life trajectories and decision making.

            At the age of 22, I went to my doctor with complaints of physical illness, not initially for any emotional complaint. I did not own a working computer, much less have an internet search engine to consult with before and after my visit. I did not have older and wiser family members around to help guide my decisions or to advocate for me. The last grade I had completed was fifth (I attended 6th, 7th, and 8th grades for less than two months each.)

            I went home from that appointment with at least five prescriptions (as I recall), and many of those drugs are known now to directly cause depression. https://health.usnews.com/health-care/articles/2018-06-12/are-your-meds-making-you-depressed

            It’s funny because the longer I’m off the drugs (two years and counting), the more I am able to make a cohesive narrative of the factors that led to my psychiatrization.

            I was not able to make different decisions at the time. I did what I could with the knowledge I had, which was very little. I now have 17 years additional life experience, a college degree, and the ability to look up virtually anything online and, with enough study, develop a fairly broad knowledge base on almost any topic. And I can say without hesitation that I make very very different decisions than I did at 22.

            I do not in any way agree with those who reduce this to simply being responsible for our own lives. This is another version of the bootstrap theory that is one of the cruelest jokes concerning self determination that has ever been played.

            Yes, we are all responsible for what we do and decisions we make in terms of living with the consequences. But we are not all starting out from the same decision making ability, so in terms of responsibility for how I got to be psychiatrized? I was not responsible for that. It was done to me because I didn’t know any better and once I was drugged, I was unable to think clearly enough to make an informed decision.

            Furthermore, I would likely never have come off the drugs without my boyfriend’s (now husband) prompting and support. I would have continued with the revolving door of hospitalizations and medication adjustments because I was too blinkered by the effects of the drugs to do anything different. I had moments of clarity that never lasted or were put down promptly with a dosage adjustment if I mentioned them to my shrink.

            And as I continue to gain cognitive function, retrieve lost memories, add clarity to my timeline, and find meaning from my experiences, it all feels a little like emerging from a fog I wasn’t aware I was in.

            So, no, we can’t possibly reduce this to personal responsibility or self determination when we’re talking about people who are, in fact, being chemically lobotomized in the name of psychiatric treatment and progress in mental healthcare parity. You cannot possibly expect people to have any meaningful level of self determination if they start out without knowledge, wisdom, and experience, and you drug them into not being able to contemplate an alternative.

          • Responsibility requires knowledge. We can’t be responsible for what we don’t know. This is why false advertising and DTC advertising of drugs have to be a target for our efforts, as well as challenging media characterizations of violent or dangerous people as “mentally ill.” Misinformation is a huge part of how this whole juggernaut gets away with what it does.

          • Kindredspirit, I do very much appreciate what you are saying here and I certainly respect that we disagree on this point, which I hear you when you say it is “dangerously close to victim blaming.” I’ve had this discussion and my perspective is one of people-empowering.

            I am a bit shy to use the word “victim,” because I think that can become a state of mind which I don’t feel is helpful in the long run. That’s my belief in any event. Although I am aware many of us have been victimized by betrayal, family dysfunction, and systemic incompetence, corruption, and abuse/bullying.

            What I talk about isn’t a snapshot in time, it is an ever-evolving awareness around our experience, much like you describe. We do the best we can with what we know at any given time, and we have countless opportunities to learn as we grow in life. I believe there is a valuable discussion here about being victimized vs. living life from victim perspective.

            With that said, I went through all of this and have my own epic story of being “chemically lobotomized” when I thought I was being helped, being discriminated against and “othered” blatantly in the system, to the point of filing an EEOC complaint which I won. Did not cost me a cent but I had to be incredibly tenacious about it at a time when I was fragmented and feeling effects of severe trauma on top of toxic psych drugs withdrawal. I had my extreme emotional, physical, and financial hardships for years and years thanks to all of this, all just as I was shifting careers in life.

            I was on a variety of different neurotoxins for years, this is what I thought I had to do for my “condition.” Fortunately, I was able to work and go to school while diagnosed and on these things, but I was not 100% and had all kinds of side-effects I had to work around, and I thought this was my life, this was the best I could do. I didn’t realize it was eroding my organs for all those years, until finally I imploded and HAD to come off of everything. This was right after graduate school, 1999.

            No one in my life nor of all the clinicians I was seeing and all the therapists and professors I knew in graduate school, had ever heard of such a thing, coming off these drugs as I was doing. I had people around me, but that was more harmful than helpful. I was on my own with this. It was catastrophic for me, my life was going down the tubes suddenly thanks to all this, just like you and so many others describe.

            As I was finally withdrawing from all neurotoxins after 20 years (having culminated in 9 thanks to an over-zealous and basically bad psychiatrist) because the side effects kept landing me in the ER, that’s when I was getting bashed by another psychiatrist and a few therapists at a “day treatment” center. I’d been a psychotherapist intern, and I represented something very shadowy for them, because I was speaking my truth, and it did not look good for this field. You want to hear authentic victim blaming? This is where it started for me, in abundance.

            But I was not only speaking THE TRUTH, I was embodying it fully, and quite a mess I was, it was overt. But that was the end result of their work, because I did trust the field. That was my program from my culture, and I had to wake up. This is how I did it.

            So, I finally switched tracks and took all sorts of risks and chances, leaps of faith, and learned all sorts of new things and new perspectives which turned out to be my healing path. Taking responsibility for what I was creating in my life and then learning how I was doing that so that I could actually make a few changes and be more aware of myself is how I conquered all of this, without a doubt. Totally transformed my way of thinking to see how I was influencing the energy of my own life. It was either that or be miserable in life or die, so I faced myself squarely.

            I cherish my ability to be happy and enjoy life, and I worked hard for it, after this “mental health” crap debacle. Makes me cringe a bit when others begrudge me this. But that’s the world we live in now, sadly enough. I have to be very in tune with my inner guidance to keep growing in that kind of environment.

            That’s just me. If we don’t agree, we don’t agree, and I believe we can do that respectfully. But to call my truth injurious to others—well, then that is two separate and distinct realities and I don’t see how they are reconcilable.

            Still, I know I’m not nearly the only person in the world who believes what I believe, this is based on teachings I learned over the years as I healed from all I described above. It’s a truth that works for many people, the basis of tons of healing programs. From the perspective I’m coming, this is how energy works. It’s the nature of things.

            I also know I am a sensitive individual who wouldn’t hurt a fly, certainly not intentionally. But I’ll certainly defend myself against any kind of abuse or injustice. I respect boundaries but I also reserve the right to speak my truth about my healing. I expect that to be respected as well.

            I understand this is not black and white. We’ve all had different experiences and we all respond to life in our own way. We can all have our own story without invalidating others. Our stories are not always going to be in agreement, and that’s when I think we can learn the most, lots to explore when this happens.

            But not if we bash the story or beliefs of others. That is what keeps the status quo in power, all that conflict. Rather defeating and self-sabotaging if you ask me, especially considering our goals to help others. You don’t do that by maligning fellow human beings.

          • I don’t think my critique of your last sentence (which was about everyone having responsibility for their own lives) was in any way a critique or invalidation of your personal experience and the meaning you’ve made of it. I didn’t malign you and I’m surprised you interpreted it that way. I didn’t address your personal experiences at all.

            I did say “you” when underscoring that people aren’t equally responsible for outcomes when they didn’t all have the same start or abilities. I have previous said “we” in this situation and been called out by Oldhead asking who I mean by “we”. I mean culturally there is an undercurrent and tendency to blame lack of personal responsibility, integrity, or moral character to explain why some people thrive and others don’t. It has a whole lot more to do with luck than personal responsibility.

            Still, sorry you thought that was some critique of your own situation – it wasn’t meant to be taken that way.

          • KS–yes, you are correct and I apologize for getting defensive. You made a valid point which I take into consideration. Been a sticking point for me because it’s not a matter of what I believe, but of how I’m experssing it, feeling the limitation of language. I am looking at the impact and implication of what I am saying here.

            My response is a reflection of some of my frustration in this process I’m in, not at all on you. I’m thinking about this particular discussion a lot, and I appreciate your candor, and a lot of what you say. You have really good insights.

        • “Responsibility requires knowledge.”

          I’m talking about taking responsibility for what we are putting out because that is what comes back to us. I believe that is the nature of energy.

          Being human is filled with twists and turns, we all face our obstacles, some people seeming to have way more than others, but still we each get challenged in life repeatedly. How we address these challenges as we go through life is our responsibility. If not, then whose? It is how we grow and learn. I believe this would apply to anyone, regardless of anything.

          So I would say that taking responsibility for our lives is how we *acquire,* both, knowledge and wisdom–as well as take control of our life experience.

          With this said, it is not my intention to blame someone for getting rooked at a time when what they need is help and support. That was my experience, as well, and I had to work hard to get out of that particular cycle. It was like a personal challenge to me. And from working with this internally, I was able to shift this troubling pattern in my life, and that’s when bigger changes began to occur in my life which supported my healing, growth, and freedom.

          So even though it is undeniably true that corruption is ever-present as a sabotaging factor in society, if we do not see how we, ourselves, can influence change in our own lives, then how could we possible expect to affect change in society? There has to be a balance between blame and self-responsbility.

          Again, it’s not black and white, so I do not believe there is an argument here, but more so, an integration to happen, a new perspective. That’s generally necessary to move forward when one feels stuck and unable to get past things that cling like shit on shoes and continue to recreate the same old undesirable reality. I’m saying it is within each of us to change this. That’s my hypothesis, in any event.

      • Considering all the elites I’ve encountered in my time, mad in quotations marks doesn’t seem to really qualify. It’s like ‘somebody else said that’, huh?

        Mad without quotation marks people with hidden powers, I dunno. Mad superheroes. Okay. There may be something to that, however, as of yet, in the domain of SciFi and Fantasy.

        On the other hand, and I must stress this matter, glamorizing and glorifying the mad experience is often the reverse of the disqualification, dismissal, and invalidation you get in society and the system. Pretty mad in quotation marks things to do to people. Have you ever read Dostoevsky’s The Idiot? The protagonist is a rather Christlike figure one might characterize as “too good for this world”.

  13. Wow, Ekaterina, this is really an awesome and enlightening article. If I recall correctly, in my study of music during my early college years I learned about the lives of many famous composers. I enjoyed reading biographies of them, especially those books that wrote about the compositional process.

    I also read a lot of music theory books. Composition is an odd combo of mathematics and creativity. Sometimes it like putting together a puzzle. Some composers believed that a person could compose out of nothing, but I disagreed. Behind whatever we wrote was a backbone of music history, culture, esthetics, and music theory. By all means it wasn’t going to hurt us to study it and learn it well, then, go break the rules!

    An amazing book that I would recommend to anyone interested in the arts would be “Break Every Rule” by Carole Maso. Maso is a writer and the essay within this book, “Break Every Rule,” was extracted from a talk she gave to LGBT writers.

    Rules are good to learn, but as artists we must go beyond blindly following instructions. The greatest art breaks the traditional mold, sets a new path, and shows the reader/audience something they have never seen before. It will make you think in a new way, bringing you from where you are to a new understanding. If you piss people off in the process, make them laugh or cry, this is likely a good sign because you have moved them. You’re not boring. Which is the point, is it not?

    • I would think that one’s point should not be simply not to be boring, but to be enlightening. Simply being able to provoke people’s emotions is not remarkable in and of itself. Ektarina obviously has developed an inner wisdom that helps her navigate, and her writing contains many grains of truth. But designating survivors as having “special powers” is no more legitimate than defining us as “other” because of our supposed inferiority. The only thing “survivors” share that other humans do not is the experience of being psychiatrized. We are not a different species.

      • In educating mainstream people regarding psychiatric abuse this would be a good idea. Instead of othering folks as “mad” and not quite human it would point out how psychiatry could happen to ANYONE. No matter how well-behaved, intelligent, educated, or conscientious you are. Once the shrinks have got you by the frontal lobes you’re dead meat.

          • It works in many cases. “We’re a minority group that has been treated unjustly. Give us our rights.”

            But RR pointed out this can’t work with the notion of the “mentally ill” as an oppressed/separate people. Many of the psychiatrized just want to fit in and be accepted by the mainstream. Talking about your “diagnosis” identity is counterproductive. The fact that it isn’t true makes it more confusing and therefore worse.

          • Maybe it’s not your intent but this comes across as mocking the general idea of minority groups wanting rights. In any case, every oppressed group is primarily composed of those who choose NOT to actively fight that oppression, but to assimilate for the sake of safety and security. So I don’t see any essential difference.

          • It was not my intent.

            However coming out as a “survivor” would not be playing it safe.

            The concept of being dangerous and unstable is not comparable to having skin of a different color. The color of your skin does not show the content of your character.

            However “mentally ill” means someone with character flaws they can’t help/be held accountable for because of defective brains. “Mental illness” is itself a moral judgment. An unjust, arbitrary one. But as long as psychiatrists go unquestioned and unchallenged….

  14. Hi Ekaterina,

    I spotted your article in my Feedly, and I’m stopping here to say a few things.

    Pinel (not “Pinnel”) is often considered the father of psychiatry. Contrary to some recounting, it was Pussin, one of his assistants, who famously removed the chains, likely under his influence.

    Now, more importantly, you wrote:

    “Not only does this make madness a purely scientific domain, deprived of its mystery, it also makes it extremely boring.”

    You don’t sound on good terms with “science”. There are many definitions of it. I usually retain three levels of scientificity, plus a distinction between science as acquired knowledge, research method, social institution, and expert opinion. My preferred, simple definition of science is “rational study”.

    Now, psychiatry is a pseudoscience. That’s the problem with it. Psychiatry shall be combatted with real science, good holistic medicine, and non-coercive psychotherapies and counselling.

    Below is an excerpt I like to share:

    *****
    Dawkins was “fed up” with those intellectuals who argued that science alone could not answer ultimate questions about existence. “They think science is too arrogant and that there are certain questions that science has no business to ask, that traditionally have been of interest to religious people. As though they had any answers. It’s one thing to say it’s very difficult to know how the universe began, what initiated the big bang, what consciousness is. But if science has difficulty explaining something, there sure as hell is no one else who is going to explain it.” Dawkins quoted, with great gusto, a remark by the great British biologist Peter Medawar that some people “ ‘enjoy wallowing in a nonthreatening squalor of incomprehension.’ I want to understand,” Dawkins added fiercely, “and understanding means to me scientific understanding.”
    *****
    (John Horgan, The End of Science, Little, Brown and Company, London, 1997, p. 119.)

    You may reply here publicly until I have to walk away from these mad forums.

    • For what it’s worth Dawkins is himself very pro-psychiatry.

      “If science has difficulty explaining something, there sure as XXXX is no one else who is going to explain it.” To an arrogant scientist’s liking that is. Tough to admit anyone might know something he doesn’t. 🙂

      • I’m a nontheist humanist with atheist roots and I’ll be the first to say the rumors are true – Dawkins is an asshole. I have personally sat fifteen feet from the man and witnessed him belittle and mock someone’s question during the Q and A at a reading and book signing I attended back in 2007 during the release and promotion of The God Delusion. He should not be quoted in support of atheism. Or science. He’s not only arrogant about the superiority of science, he’s arrogant about his own superiority over anyone who doesn’t understand the world as he does. Dan Baker and Steven Batchelor are better examples of atheists/humanists who are also nice people.

          • I think more accurately, not all atheists practice scientism. (*implied is that many do in fact worship at the altar of science and in the same breath as discussing quarks and quasars also virulently deny anything not objectively “real”.)

            I believe in the personal significance and power of mystical experiences. I don’t believe in Magic, special powers, other worlds, planes of existence, heaven, hell, gods, etc. it usually means that I piss off both sides when I participate in conversations about anything supernatural whether it be a belief in personal powers or religion. Oh well. Better mostly to keep out of it.

        • It does tend to become a lifestyle in some circles with the robotics competitions and science fair entries. And no offense meant because science geeks are my favorite people.

          I fell from grace and lost my nerd cred by sharing Retraction Watch articles on Facebook. That’s when I started to realize that the notion that everything can be explained with science does border on a religious belief for some.

          • I’m a total science nerd, and back in middle school or so, I was very much committed to the idea that materialism was the right viewpoint. Thankfully, I have matured a lot since then, but part of my transition away from that view has been following science itself and observing its limitations, as stated in my earlier post. I think the need to believe that science will answer all the questions there are comes from the same need that religions often fill: the need to believe that there is an explanation and the fear that if we don’t know the explanation, we will be vulnerable. For me, though, I get a lot more security from acknowledging that much is beyond our grasp, and may remain that way. Isaac Newton once remarked that everything he knew was like a handful of sand on an endless beach. One of the greatest scientific minds of history recognized that the mysterious is much, much larger than the sum total of everything we humans know, or believe we do.

          • I was very much committed to the idea that materialism was the right viewpoint. Thankfully, I have matured a lot since then

            Hmm. Richard will be scandalized if he reads this. Materialism is completely valid when one is focused on a “material” plane — but if material science leads logically into quantum theory, then the concept of materialism, especially as it relates to political theory and dialectical materialism, needs to be redefined. So whether or not it does should be a big part of this discussion I think.

    • So Deinquisiteur, what is your take on the idea of “madness” as a definable “thing”?

      Also, while we’re at it, what do you say to the assertion that survivors’ issues and states of mind are “mysterious,” and that this is a good thing?

    • It is an assumption that all mysteries will eventually yield to the methods of science. There is no scientific proof to back up this assumption. As soon as we’re operating on unverified assumptions, we’re in the area of philosophy, not science. It IS arrogant to presume that science will answer all questions and to thereby dismiss anyone who believes otherwise. Both operate on assumptions that are not provable or disprovable by science.

      Having a scientific attitude begins with admitting what is not known. Science is most effective at proving hypotheses false. What is true scientifically is always subject to change given new data. Even the most scientific field of all, physics, eventually leads to unexplainable conclusions, such as matter being able to move from one space to another without occupying the space in between, or being unable to actually make 100% accurate measurements (Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle). It is extremely unscientific to assume science will answer all questions. Scientific proof of such a thing is required but will never be available.

      • @ Steve McCrea,

        Indeed, it is extremely unscientific to assume that science will answer all questions… since this kind of assumption is not intended to be “scientific” in the same sense.

        Anyway, your definition of science sounds more restrictive than mine. If I told you that Buddhism was capable to give a reliable account of some of the greatest mysteries of mind, would you be comfortable with calling Buddhism a science?

        • I wouldn’t call Buddhism a science per se, but I think it can be approached in a scientific manner, and it appears that many Buddhists (and the Buddha himself) have done so. I think the variance in Buddhism is that it studies the human spirit, and the number of variables is huge. But I think it is a far more honest and humble study of it than psychology, and the conclusions it draws have much wider applicability.

          • @ Steve McCrea,

            Okay, so your normal definition of science must be stricter than mine if you don’t consider Buddhism as a bona fide science of mind.

            As for “psychology”, its meaning is so broad, that I assume you refer to the Western kind, setting it conventionnally against the Eastern traditions. I’m sure you know there was a psychology in Antiquity, itself strongly related to philosophy still today. And philosophy being considered the science of the sciences 😉

          • I agree, philosophy transcends all sciences. There is no science absent an underlying philosophy. It is a shame that many if not most modern “scientists” neglect to remember that fact.

          • Buddhism isn’t science, but neither is philosophy. It’s the difference, and an important distinction it is to make, between physics and metaphysics that we are dealing with. Metaphysical speculation is a basic necessity, but at a remove from the exact sciences and their inflexible mechanisms.

          • @ Steve McCrea,

            “Science does not think” is a statement from Heidegger’s book Was heißt Denken?.

            [link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-94-017-1624-6_36]

            I found a translation of the relevant excerpt on Evgeny Rudny’s blog, a multilingual Russian scholar (maybe Ekaterina Netchitailova heard of him before!):


            For it is true that what was said so far, and the entire discussion that is to follow, have nothing to do with scientific knowledge, especially not if the discussion itself is to be a thinking. This situation is grounded in the fact that science itself does not think, and cannot think which is its good fortune, here meaning the assurance of its own appointed course. Science does not think.

            [blog.rudnyi.ru/2014/11/heidegger-science-does-not-think.html]

      • The idea of people’s disturbing feelings and behaviors being “mysterious” is often a matter of bias or cluelessness on the part of the observer, or of them being in denial. Labeling people’s states of mind “mysterious,” especially when the source of the problem should be obvious, can be a form of mystification, to play with words a little, or “gaslighting,” which seems to be a trendy term among MIA’ers.

        • Human beings are complex. All of us have mysterious behaviors with layers of motivation.

          Pop culture and psychiatry actually don’t view the extreme states called mental illness as complex or mysterious.

          “Why did that man go on a shooting spree?”
          “He was mentally ill.”
          Assuming that were a thing that STILL is not a motivation. It allows them to dismiss anything that led to that decision. Calling him a misanthrope or nihilist would explain this behavior better. Since hatred of humanity and belief that chaos is the ultimate good actually have motivated the shooters behind Columbine and other places.

          “What was his motive in killing them?”

          “Simple. He was a Villain.”

          Villains do villainy stuff. The “mentally ill” do “mentally ill” stuff.

          • All of us have mysterious behaviors

            Leaving aside for the moment that sometimes we don’t understand ourselves, or hide from ourselves, generally those aspects of our selves that may be mysterious to others are pretty clear to us.

          • Agreed. A lot of unlabeled people do things that puzzle onlookers from time to time, though the people have perfectly sound reasons for doing them. A common plot for sit com episodes.

        • I don’t disagree. I was referring more to the idea of deciding that “mind=brain” in order to avoid the rather obvious fact that nobody really understand what “mind” actually is. Thinking that somehow studying the brain will lead to an understanding of how/why people act in a particular way, or even the idea that all people act in a similar way for similar reasons, is mythological.

          • Yes, that was FASCINATING! Physiological changes in the brain’s STRUCTURE result from meditation. Similar observations have been made about taxi drivers – the part of the brain dealing with geography is bigger and more functional. Epigentics explains all of this – our activities alter how our genes are expressed. But that doesn’t fit with the DSM philosophy, so it is quietly dismissed or not talked about, even though it has everything to do with how to help people deal with whatever distress they are experiencing.

            Ah, well, psychiatry and science, nay truth, never had much to say to each other.

    • I wish people would not digress on Dawkins being too arrogant an asshole to represent Science. His quote by itself is telling, found in a valuable book.

      Science merely is common sense applied with extreme rigor. If psychiatry or other bodies of knowledge cannot explain behavioral phenomena scientifically, well there must be other commonsense, rational approaches. And we will come to realize that psychiatry had no real business in science to begin with.

      It’s up to us, including the social scientist that Ekaterina has gone to be, to theorize the very psychiatric/madness phenomenon.

      • Personally I think the term “social science” is a misnomer and used to lend scientific legitimacy to the fields of social studies. Science at its core refers to the use of the scientific method to test, refute and/or validate hypotheses to develop into theories and laws. And the information gleaned is additive and built upon prior knowledge.

        For the most part, philosophers are great thinkers rather than researchers, and mostly not attempting to be strictly scientific in their treatises, however applicable and thought provoking and relevant their conclusions might be.

        • @ kindredspirit,

          Science at its core refers to the use of the scientific method […]

          To define science as being based on the scientific method is not readily in compliance with the rule of non-circularity. It would help to clarify what the scientific method itself is. And it still sounds like a narrow definition to me, because I thought the “method” was in use in the social domain but with different tools to derive trends and norms rather than “natural laws”.

          • The “scientific method” is the same in “hard science” and “soft science”; the difference is that “social science” applies the method to social philosophy while “real” science applies the method to the “real” (material) world.

          • “Social sciences” are only concerned with probabilities and statistics, and can never be precise and accurate in the sense that the hard sciences are. I’m not saying the “scientific method” can’t be applied, but it requires a great deal more humility and willingness to tolerate ambiguity, because the number of variables is overwhelming. Naturally, psychiatry chooses to ignore that fact and even the results of its own soft-scientific studies, in the interests of maintaining power and profits.

          • I don’t really consider “soft science” science. When it comes to possibility, I find the awe of “infinity”, in that regard, only a distraction, and sometimes a way too time consuming distraction.

          • “social science” applies the method to social philosophy

            Which is subjective, hence not “scientific” in any standard sense. Sort of like applying labels to states of mind.

          • There is a lot more to science than the scientific method. The scientific method is a MEANS to accomplish the ends of science. Science is based on the assumption that there is an objective reality that can be studied and understood independent of the person observing it. It also assumes that humans are inaccurate observers of reality, and that special means must be employed to assure that we are objective despite the inherently subjective nature of our lives.

            Other scientific values are that the primary means of proof is negation of alternative hypotheses; that given several explanations to explain a phenomenon, the simplest is most likely the best one; and that a hypothesis is true only for as long as data doesn’t contradict it. There are a great number of smaller postulates that are in operation as well, such as the idea that a hypothesis is assumed false unless it is proven true, and that replication of an observation is required to substantiate its validity, among many others.

            Use of the scientific method doesn’t define science.

          • Science is based on the assumption that there is an objective reality that can be studied and understood independent of the person observing it.

            An assumption that quantum theory blows away, if one is to accept it. It contends that the existence of an observer — however hidden or remote — adds a quality to the process being studied which changes the result.

          • I might add to Steve’s great description of the scientific method that hypotheses are to be stated in advance of research (to be proved or disproved) rather than concluded from research. Research on identical twins that legitimizes behavioral genetics is substantially based on a confirmation bias that accepts coincidences as science.

        • This is a discussion of “Hard Science vs. Soft Science.” “Hard Science” is real science; it uses the “scientific method” to address the physical world. “Soft Science” is “sciency”; it uses the “scientific method” to address the non-physical world. Soft science contradicts the most fundamental principle of science (parsimony) and cannot be falsified (in contrast to the philosophy of science). Medical sciences are biological sciences- real science that addresses the physical world; actually, medical science is real science except for psychiatry that addresses a philosophy of “mind.” Psychiatry is soft science (“social science”) that masquerades as hard science- real science.

          • Soft sciences used to be labeled humanities in academia. Nothing wrong with them, but when a humanities specialist poses as something they’re not…say an anthropologist claiming to be a heart surgeon..then you have some problems.

        • @ Steve McCrea,

          Your discourse about science visibly pertains to realism (there is a distinct, objective reality) and positivism (knowledge is observable material facts).

          But now, I seem to be a bit more confused by your saying that the scientific method does not define science… I guess you’ll have to specify what you mean by science as a primary concept.

          My earlier definition of science as rational study – alternately, common sense applied with extreme rigor – remains workable to me.

      • I think that is the key point – psychiatry’s pretentions to science are false and disingenuous. They know well themselves that the data doesn’t support their contentions, but they proceed anyway, because it’s not about science, it’s about convincing people to believe you no matter what kind of BS you spew out. AKA MARKETING!

      • It’s up to us, including the social scientist that Ekaterina has gone to be, to theorize the very psychiatric/madness phenomenon.

        For what purpose? More “rethinking”? To provide an “alternative” pseudo-science and negate our responsibility to change the world rather than merely interpreting it?

        The contradictions of psychiatry have been thoroughly exposed, though our analyses can of course become more sophisticated. However theory is supposed to lead to practice, and the lessons gleaned from that practice lead to more advanced theory, which leads to better practice, and on and on. Theory that just leads to more theory defines armchair revolution, and also explains the current state of so-called “higher” education.