“In every American community you have varying shades of political opinion. One of the shadiest of these is the liberals. An outspoken group on many subjects, ten degrees to the left of center in good times, ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally.”
—Phil Ochs, Introduction to “Love Me, I’m a Liberal” on the live album, Phil Ochs in Concert (1966)
Many self-identified liberals are far more than “ten degrees to the right of center” with regard to psychiatry. With the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, and then even more so following 9/11 in 2001, the United States has swung so far to the right that many self-identified liberals embrace, often unwittingly, a right-wing view in many aspects of society, including psychiatry.
Establishment psychiatry has historically been supported by the ruling elite in return for meeting the elite’s needs to maintain the societal hierarchy and political status quo. Psychiatry has met the elite’s needs by its various attributions—repeatedly proven to be scientifically unfounded—that emotional suffering and odd or frightening behaviors are caused by defects in individual biochemistry and genetics, rather than by trauma and societal defects created by the ruling elite.
In the past, right-wing psychiatry’s individual defect view—in combination with extreme nationalism that requires an entire population to efficiently meet the needs of its state-corporatist rulers—has resulted in policies of sterilization in the United States and, as was the case in Nazi Germany, euthanasia/murder.
In contrast to the individual defect perspective, a left perspective is that the root of much of what is commonly labeled as “mental illness” is a dehumanizing and alienating society—one that has been orchestrated to meet only the needs of the wealthy and powerful and not designed to meet the needs of everybody else for autonomy, meaningfulness, and genuine community. Prior to the 1980s, it was not radical to acknowledge that a right-left ideological battle existed in psychiatry (as it exists in education and many other aspects of society).
In the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, the left anti-authoritarian psychoanalyst/social psychologist Erich Fromm occupied a prominent place in U.S. society, even interviewed by Mike Wallace on ABC in 1958. In Fromm’s The Sane Society (1955), he offers an ideological perspective that today would result in his complete marginalization by the mainstream media, as he states: “Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. ‘Patriotism’ is its cult. . . . by ‘patriotism’ I mean that attitude which puts [one’s] own nation above humanity, above the principles of truth and justice.”
Fromm fiercely criticized the mental health profession: “Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man. . . . Yet, many psychiatrists and psychologists refuse to entertain the idea that society as a whole may be lacking in sanity. They hold that the problem of mental health in a society is only that of the number of ‘unadjusted’ individuals, and not that of a possible unadjustment of the culture itself.”
Today, Erich Fromm is virtually ignored, and to the extent that psychology students read anything about him in their textbooks, he is routinely identified only as a “neo-Freudian” not as a democratic-socialist and an anti-authoritarian critic of a dehumanizing society and psychiatry.
The “common denominator” of the term right wing, according to A Glossary of Political Economy Terms, is “enthusiastic support for the main features of the current social and economic order, accepting all (or nearly all) of its inequalities of wealth, status and privilege.” In this sense of demanding compliance with the current order and its hierarchies of status and privilege, Stalinism too is right-wing; though perhaps less confusing would be labeling such a state as totalitarian and authoritarian.
In the industrial world, the extent that unquestioning obedience to authority is the norm in a society is the extent that it utilizes psychiatry’s psychopathologizing of the disobedient. The psychological common denominator of a population willing to be so ruled is, I believe, a fear and hatred of anything which creates conflict and tension—be it diversity, democracy, or defiance. This fear and hatred results in receptivity to rationales for eradication of these sources of tension.
The left anti-authoritarian political climate of the 1960s and early 1970s created the conditions for successful gay activism against the American Psychiatric Association and for the elimination, in 1973, of homosexuality as one of the APA’s psychiatric disorders. However, by 1980, the more right U.S. society accepted the APA’s DSM-3 (1980) proclamation that defiance in children and teenagers was a mental illness that is called “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD).
The so-called “symptoms” of ODD include “often argues with authority figures” and “often actively defies or refuses to comply with requests from authority figures or with rules.” ODD-labeled young people are not the kids who society once called “juvenile delinquents,” as young people engaged in criminal behaviors are labeled with “conduct disorder” (CD). In psychiatry, ODD and CD both fall under the umbrella classification “disruptive behavior disorder,” which is currently the most common classification of children and teens medicated with antipsychotic drugs.
While ODD kids can produce significant tension in families and schools, many of these young people are exactly the kind of kids who mature into anti-authoritarian adults (including several of the famous anti-authoritarians I profile in Resisting Illegitimate Authority) who have the courage to challenge and resist illegitimate authority.
Phil Ochs’s love-me liberals need to believe that they are completely tolerant and cannot admit that they are intolerant when it comes to certain kinds of defiance “if it affects them personally,” as he observed. His “Love Me, I’m a Liberal” brings this home:
I cried when they shot Medgar Evers
Tears ran down my spine
And I cried when they shot Mr. Kennedy
As though I’d lost a father of mine
But Malcolm X got what was coming
He got what he asked for this time
So love me, love me, love me, I’m a liberal
Since love-me liberals are so self-certain of their tolerance, they believe that what upsets them must be a criminal behavior or a mental illness that requires incarceration or treatment.
A self-identified “psychiatric survivor” once told me, “We all have a bit of a Nazi inside us,” and he wished that love-me liberals would acquire some humility—specifically, if love-me liberals could simply admit that his behavior got them uptight, they might then just stay away from him instead of “treating” him. Often quoted among psychiatric survivor activists seeking either to reform or abolish psychiatry is this observation by C. S. Lewis: “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”
Much of psychiatry’s history is embarrassing for psychiatrists, and so they hope the general public believes that the practices of current psychiatry are a complete departure from, for example, one 1940s public policy debate. “The 1942 ‘Euthanasia’ Debate in the American Journal of Psychiatry,” authored by psychologist Jay Joseph, discusses three articles that appeared in a 1942 issue of the prestigious professional journal, the American Journal of Psychiatry. In the first article, neurologist Foster Kennedy argued that ‘feebleminded’ people should be euthanatized, which was rebutted by psychiatrist Leo Kanner, who argued against euthanasia. In the third article, Joseph notes, “An unsigned editorial discussing these positions clearly sided with Kennedy: that ‘euthanasia’ would be appropriate in some cases, and that parents’ opposition to this procedure should be the subject of psychiatric concern.”
Joseph is one of the few U.S. psychologists continuing to debunk the pseudoscience behind twin studies and genetic defect theories of mental illness. However, outside of a small world of dissident psychologists and psychiatrists where Joseph is highly regarded, he is not widely known. In contrast, even in the 1980s, there remained prominent social scientists whose books were published by major publishers and who made clear the connection between what was then called the “New Right” ideology and biochemical-genetic defect theories.
The 1984 book Not in Our Genes: Biology, Ideology, and Human Nature was authored by evolutionary geneticist R.C. Lewontin, neurobiologist Steven Rose, and psychologist Leon Kamin. They begin by making clear the political ideology behind individual defect biochemical/genetic determinism: “Biological determinism (biologism) has been a powerful mode of explaining the observed inequalities of status, wealth, and power in contemporary industrial capitalist societies. . . . Biological determinism is a powerful and flexible form of ‘blaming the victim’.” At the time of its publication, Not in Our Genes received praise from prominent public intellectuals such as anthropologist Ashley Montagu and paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould (who had similarly criticized the pseudoscience behind hereditary determinism of intelligence in his 1981 book The Mismeasure of Man).
While historically, psychiatry’s biochemical individual defect theories have met the needs of the overall power structure by locating the cause of tension-creating behaviors in the defects of an individual rather than the defects of society, psychiatry’s recent chemical imbalance theories have increasingly met the needs of one major force in the ruling elite, Big Pharma.
Beginning in the late 1980s, psychiatry aggressively sold the notion that depression was caused by the individual defect of a chemical imbalance—specifically, not enough of the neurotransmitter serotonin—which could be “corrected” with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft. It is this theory which convinced depressed Americans that it is irresponsible not to take SSRIs. However, the psychiatry establishment now claims that it has always known that this chemical-imbalance theory was not true and was an “urban legend,” the term used by Ronald Pies, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the Psychiatric Times who stated in 2011, “In truth, the ‘chemical imbalance’ notion was always a kind of urban legend—never a theory seriously propounded by well-informed psychiatrists.”
While this chemical-imbalance theory was in fact discredited by scientists by the 1990s, it has been so aggressively sold by psychiatry and drug companies that this theory continues to be widely believed not only by many patients but even by many physician prescribers.
Since the 1980s, psychiatry has been increasingly colonized by Big Pharma, documented in many books, including Psychiatry Under the Influence (2015). Big Pharma has utilized psychiatry for marketing and sales by controlling it through funding: university psychiatry departments; psychiatry’s professional journals; psychiatrist “thought leaders” who promote new diagnoses and drug treatments; and the American Psychiatric Association itself. Psychiatry’s official diagnostic manual is called the DSM (published by the APA), and each DSM revision adds new mental illnesses that expand the psychiatric medication market. In 2012, PLOS Medicine reported, “69% of the DSM-5 task force members report having ties to the pharmaceutical industry.”
In the version of “Love Me, I’m a Liberal” that is on Phil Ochs in Concert, after Ochs sings its first verse (that I quoted earlier), he briefly interrupts his song to ask his audience, “Get it?” His primarily leftist audience included liberals and more radical anti-authoritarians, and so to pay tribute to Phil, I’ll end by asking, “Get it?”
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
thanks for this. it is…unsettling, though not really surprising, to see many ‘liberals’ taking the pills, playing the patient game (as I call it…), pushing ‘mental health’ ideology on others…
i can think of a few people i am acquainted with (thankfully, no one i am truly close to…) who have fallen for the friendly fascism of private practice psychiatry (for themselves) and are going down a death spiral. no one dares say ‘stop!,’ least of all the ‘experts’ at the private facilities doing shock ‘treatments,’ the outpatient psychiatrists. until i read this, i was somewhat surprised that the PhD psychotherapists weren’t doing…something, anything, to put an end to the madness…
but your article confirms what i saw in my own misadventures and what ive long suspected about the psych guild, as a whole. the masters level lpc and the phd specialists have their roles to play in drugging and destroying and labeling outliers and the distressed, the alienated…
and woe unto those who dare question them, any of them. ever. 🙁
Very interesting that “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” appeared concurrently with the rightward tilt of the US during the 1980s. And in my experience, it’s true that today the politically liberal are just as likely as those on the right to conform to psychiatry’s dogma. Perhaps more so–I see more skepticism of psychiatry on (ugh) Fox News and among Libertarians. Sen. Charles Grassley, who helped expose the role of pharma in overprescribing psychiatric drugs to children on Medicaid, is a Republican. Not sure what to make of that….
What to make of it? Maybe abandon your apparent assumption that all good judgment and virtue lie on one side of the ideological aisle. I suspect you’re a so-called progressive.
I was a member of a supposedly “liberal” church that claimed to be welcoming, but that turned out to be hypocrisy. They didn’t include anyone they did not like, and this meant pushing out the poor, being unwelcoming to black people and immigrants, and of course, anyone deemed to be nutso they felt too embarrassed to include.
A lot of groups that claim to be liberal are just hypocrites. They include only those they want to include. Snobbery prevails. The elite left, let’s say. The elite right, too.
Oh, shall I say the Elite Antipsych community, too? Elitism is rampant.
I am enjoying your book so much, Bruce. I even quit my job, sick of being bossed around by a 21-year-old. Time for a change.
Even at my other job, the one I like, I hate the useless rules. I think rules are designed for those who refuse to think for themselves. They need slogans to help them make decisions that the rest of us can make just as well using common sense. Today I told my supervisor that I refuse to follow a protocol if it doesn’t apply or if it’s illogical.
In 2011, nurses and doctors followed a protocol, water restriction, that nearly killed me. They could have done the logical thing and considered I am a lithium survivor. They did not, because they were too obedient to make a responsible, humane decision.
In the UK (as far as I’m aware) the newspaper presenting the most “honest” approach to “Mental Health” is the (Right Wing) Daily Mail.
“Euthanasia in Mental Health” approved of by all present day Regulators contacted (in the UK and Ireland):-
Adverse Drug Reaction Warning Request Letter sent to Galway Nov. 8 1986
ADR Warning Request ltr Pg 1
ADR Warning Request ltr Pg 2
ADR Warning Request Ltr Pg 3
Irish Record Summary Sent To UK In Response:- but WITHOUT Requested ADR WARNING
1986 Irish Record Summary Pg 1
1986 Irish Record Summary Pg 2
Doctors False Reasurrance Letter Nov 1986
“Depot Antipsychotic Revisited Research Paper 1998” From Galway Psychiatrist
Sorry but I think the is the wrong road to go down. To posit or imply that there is a “left wing” psychiatry which is better than “right wing” psychiatry is a ruse, conscious or not. ALL psychiatry is RIGHT WING and TOTALITARIAN in its premises and function. Any “branch” of psychiatry that professes to be “progressive” is simply a more insidious form of totalitarianism. To get distracted by some bogus left/right debate is a trap, another good cop/bad cop ploy from which we should be mature and savvy enough to abstain.
I think Bruce should also acknowledge that when he says “anti-authoritarian” this is a buzzword for anarchist.
Ok oldhead, it was Kennedy who gave the speech at the APA meeting that suddenly no longer exists. Bruce points out the article that Jay Joseph wrote about the debate concerning the killing of the feeble minded that appeared in 1942. I still can’t find my copy but this article presents everything that needs to be known.
By the way, I don’t have internet at this point.
I just did some research on google and what it said is that the article pretty much gives Kennedy’s opinions about the topic that he expressed at the meeting in 1941. Of course, when you google Kennedy’s keynote address what you find is that it can’t be found! So, the article that Bruce points out is all that we will have.
Pat what it feels like working as a peer at dept of mental health – I need to get out of here. I definitely enjoy working as a peer although better suited to the peer field. I don’t belong here at dept headquarters. I’m worried and I need help.
Anyway here is my video: https://youtu.be/zHEl5bFKtBg
Pat, I replied to your YouTube. Feel free to write to me. I do write back. And I hear what you are saying.
Thanks Julie although I deleted the video. I’ve decided to just be over and done with commenting and video things. Back to reading articles and viewing mental health websites of our leaders and strong people that blog on mental health particularly alternative topics. There are so many women and men to view videos and read blogs and that’s fantastic. Pat
szasz was right wing libertarian, to the core…and he provided such cogent analysis+deconstruction of ‘mental illness’ and all things psyc-related…
well, even tho i lean towards new deal type ‘progressivism’ (read: contain conflict by building the middle class, upward mobility, gov’t programs, reducing but not eliminating inequality and crazy insane concentration of wealth…), I ‘get’ where Dr.Szasz is ‘coming from,’ in some of his essays, books, etc., and…
-sigh- one must make room for dissenting, challening voices, especially when the dissenting, challenging voices belong to brilliant people. agree, disagree, shrug it off and go think about something, anything else…whatever…
one must at least let the ideas, concepts, voices have some space in the inner-dialogue, inner-analysis.
I’m significantly “left” of you, if that means anything consistent anymore, but I recognize and laud Szasz for providing the basic deconstruction of psychiatry that made anti-psychiatry thought and consciousness possible and relevant — even though the people being labeled and drugged are primarily victims of the capitalist system he championed. So we thank him for that and cherish it as a gift; however we still need to put psychiatry into context and identify it as a tool of systemic oppression which serves a particular class. I think they call it a paradox.
the superficial analysis you state about the Right isn’t anymore helpful than when the Right spews the same about the Left. I may have moved to the center, but my wife’s and my upbringing on the Right, its focus on individualism, independence and pulling oneself up by the bootstraps is what gave us the fortitude to homeschool our son through his graduation when our family all thought we were crazy. We produced a world-class scholar who is in his PhD residency at one of the elite schools in the Boston area.
And so when my wife began to show signs of distress from her childhood abuse, I may have felt overwhelmed at first, but I never felt out of my league to figure out how best to help my wife as we walked thru the healing process together. And as we both healed and grew and learned, I realized the elitist experts who openly sneered at me were full of crap for the most part.
I’ve learned a lot from the Left, especially since it isn’t my default position, but to suggest that all our ails regarding this subject are from the ‘authoritarian’ Right and the ‘state-corporatist rulers’ is a simplistic misreading of that position in my opinion. There are anti-authoritarian tendencies on both sides of the spectrum just as there is the tendency to mindlessly follow authorities: they simply come from different perspectives and beliefs.
Maybe I should add Reagan’s axiomatic statement that so many on the Right adhere to:government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.
Capitalist government is the problem. ALL government is in place to serve a particular set of interests, it has no independent character.
“Establishment psychiatry has historically been supported by the ruling elite in return for meeting the elite’s needs to maintain the societal hierarchy and political status quo….” Apparently this has always been the function of the “mental health professionals”?
And this means the “mental health” workers are not performing a “medical” function, but an unjust, outside the law, sociopolitical function. Which means they are NOT actually medically “diagnosing” people, they are merely stigmatizing people with “invalid” labels, for people who claim themselves to be the “elite.”
Someone needs to educate the “mental health” workers, since they have delusions of grandeur they’re real “counselors” and “doctors” participating in “real” medicine. When in reality, they are nothing but the “omnipotent moral busy bodies” that C.S. Lewis forewarned us about. And I do agree, “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”
And I will say, since America was founded on the belief that “all people are created as equal, with certain inalienable rights ….” Writings which deny the existence of some sort of “elite” class, who has the right to behave outside the law, or have “mental health” workers do such for them. I still believe today, what I believed in late 2001, the wrong bankers are currently in charge of America.
And I still don’t understand why the “mental health” workers think 9/11, and the never ending wars that resulted from that event, are good things. Except those wars are bankrupting and destroying America, which is apparently to goal of the globalist “elite,” thus also the goal of their US “mental health” minion.
Lucky for me, lots of people now know that banksters who needed bailouts, then went off stealing “trillions worth of houses,” who have made a mockery of our monetary system, are not good, nor should they be considered the “elite.”
As to the left-right paradigm to which you refer, it strikes me that’s nothing but a divide to conquer, war against the people, confuse and misinform the people, tactic of these bad banking globalist “elite.” Who want a one world banking system, which is a requirement in the communist manifesto, meaning these globalist banksters are actually communists, or leftist, not the traditional right wing. The whole left-right paradigm is misinformation and messed up, IMHO.
But it is these never ending war mongering and profiteering, fiscally irresponsible, bailout needing, home stealing, communist, globalist banksters who today’s “mental health” workers have been working for since at least 2001, in reality since 1913. Meaning our “mental health” workers are actually extreme leftist communists, not “right wing psychiatry.” Since the “elite” globalist bankers they work for are actually communists, despite their claims to the contrary.
Rule and control with deception, fraud, and lies, is the tactic of the globalist “elite,” as well as their “mental health” minion.
Conduct Disorder is not just applied to belligerent kids with criminal tendencies. It’s also applied to kids who’ve grown up with severe abuse and have become large enough to hit back and defend themselves. Suddenly parents who’ve been beating their kids for ages get hit back, the parents call the police on their kid, and the kid is charged with criminal assault, labeled with conduct disorder, drugged into compliance, and dumped back into the situation that caused them so much harm to begin with.
The underlying message is that you will learn to appreciate being abused and you will love your abusers or worse will happen to you at the hands of the state. The state has learned that its best to kneecap potential dissidents and those who fight back against abuse at as early an age as possible. Intervene early, fuck up any chance that kid has to develop some sense of stable identity, convince them they are bad children who will become bad people. It’s no fucking wonder so many kids kill themselves. And then you get feel good antisuicide warnings about smart phones driving kids to suicide. What a fucking farce.
And Conduct Disorder has been disproportionately assigned to African-American children, in my observation, and I believe statistical research backs me up on this point.
Well said, Kindredspirit, and great followup Steve.
First, thanks for the comments, and I am glad that this piece was helpful for some of you.
Some clarification. This piece was written for a CounterPunch audience, which is comprised almost exclusively of liberals and left anti-authoritarians, and the piece was meant to confront self-identified liberals who support psychiatry. CounterPunch ran it on March 22 at: https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/03/22/right-wing-psychiatry-love-me-liberals-and-the-anti-authoritarian-left/
I made Mad in America aware of this piece because I thought MIA might want to note it in their “Around the Web” section. I had thought that MIA policy is not to republish articles that have been previously published elsewhere, but it turns out, I discovered, that MIA does occasionally simultaneously publish, and so MIA also ran it on Mar 22.
I’ve read all your comments and just to respond to a couple of the criticisms:
Oldhead said: “I think Bruce should also acknowledge that when he says “anti-authoritarian” this is a buzzword for anarchist.”
In my current book, Resisting Illegitimate Authority, I profile over 20 anti-authoritarians. While some of these anti-authoritarians are certainly anarchists, most of them are not. For example, one of the longest profiles is on Thomas Paine, who challenged first the illegitimate authority of British rule in colonial America and ultimately challenged the illegitimate authority of organized religion (for which he was almost completely ostracized), but Paine was by no means an anarchist as he was not “anti-state.”
Another criticism has to do with definitions of “right-wing” and “left-wing,” and I think this is fair, as people have different ideas about what these terms mean. As I make clear in the article, by the definition from A Glossary of Political Economy Terms which I refer to, Stalin is right-wing but that perhaps it would be better to just call him authoritarian or totalitarian (and as I make clear in my book, I agree with George Orwell’s view here).
Again, the audience who this article was directed at was the CounterPunch audience, and my goals were to “afflict the comfortable” self-identified liberal psychiatry apologists, as well as to “comfort the afflicted” left-anti-authoritarians who are troubled by psychiatry but who don’t have the validation that the MIA world provides to one another — Bruce
Bruce, you’re a voice of sanity in an insane world. We need more of your kind of perspective here at MIA. Thank you for this piece. Your writing is always validating to me.
I am pretty sure I am an anarchist, too, now that I have read your book and got some clarification on what anarchy is. This is why employment (working for boss) never appealed to me. I like having the money but it wears on you if you don’t have the opportunity to use your mind. Very few jobs require the intellect that college required. Some don’t want to hire anyone who actually thinks for themselves. They prefer blind obedience. I do not fit in at all. They liked me at that last job but they kept badgering me to obey, even when obeying meant doing things that were illogical.
It’s not just “right wing” vs. “left wing”; it’s the whole notion of differentiating a “good” psychiatry from a “bad” psychiatry — also done with so called “biological” psychiatry vs. ??? This is a rhetorical trap.
There is NO “GOOD” psychiatry. Putting it another way, ALL psychiatry is BAD. 🙂
“Biological” psychiatry replaced Freudian psychiatry but has now become synonymous with “psychiatry that pushes drugs hard” vs. “psychiatry that pushes drugs with more finesse.” As along as psychiatry is an accredited medical (biological) science, “biological psychiatry” is redundant and all psychiatry is biological psychiatry- a “medical science” that pathologizes natural behaviors.
Thank you thank you thank you. It was also very biological when they dosed captives on the Ships of Fools with alcohol to keep them compliant.
I agree with you about antiauthoritarian vs. anarchist. It is very much a real possibility to have government that respects people’s rights to make their own decisions. Such governments are, sadly, very rare, as most people are in the end authoritarians, and are in fact heavily trained to be so by our school system and other institutions. But I have, on rare occasions, been part of a group that governed itself in a truly democratic fashion, and it is a joy to participate in.
Hi Bruce, MIA reblogs a lot. I see the same articles published in people’s personal blogs and published here as well.
Great article. I’d like to think Bruce for bringing some of these matters to our attention. Just think, what if the “mental health” authorities, as they have with so-called and bogus ADHD, came up with an adult form of ODD. People might never be seen as adult enough to disobey bad orders. Another potential bombshell is the designation anti-social personality disorder. Here you’ve got a label they attach to borderline criminal activities, so long as those activities are not instituted by federal governments. In Russia, and some places in eastern Europe, disagreeing with the government is seen as a “mental health disorder”. Pussy Riot, for example, was prosecuted for Hooliganism. While in America you’ve got the Patriot Act, I’m not going to put it past the authorities to come up with a “mental health” label that might serve the same purposes. In so far as children and adolescents are concerned, what with ODD, CD, ADHD, etc., they’ve already got those labels, and they are used to keep youngsters in their place and powerless. It’s not a big step at all, as is done sometimes, to extend such oppression to some segments of the adult population.
“By seeing differently, we do differently.”
“My war – and I have yet to win a decisive battle – is with the modes of thought that and conditioned feelings that prevail in psychology and therefore also in the way we think and feel about our being. Of these conditions none are more tyrannical than the convictions that clamp the mind and heart into positivistic science (geneticism and computerism), economics (bottom-line capitalism), and single-minded faith (fundamentalism).”
I think it’s essential to realize that what passes for “the left” today is for the most part NOT a true left, based on overthrowing capitalism as it’s raison d’etre. In fact as far as overthrowing psychiatry is concerned this faux-left is perhaps our biggest impediment, and accepts psychiatry hook line and sinker. Look at fuckin’ Bernie and his calls for more $$ for “mental health” — this is what we’re up against, with even our supposed comrades throwing us up against the wall. Need I say more? With “friends” like these Sean Hannity is not my greatest concern. One Murphy is gone but the other one is still going strong.
Well, it’s essential to realize that ‘liberal’ and ‘left’ aren’t the same thing, and Bruce kind of made that distinction right in the title. As a far I’ve experience as a lefty Green Party voter, I often find more in common with libertarians than with democrats – at least in the capital region, which is politically toxic. The upper coasts tend to have more actual lefties.
The Democratic Party is decidedly NOT left wing though, largely thanks to Third Way types like (the) Clinton(s) and Obama. Jimmy Carter was the last Democratic president who could be remotely called left. I call this new faux left the social justice left. They use a few token issues and special interest groups to get the public worked up over some social outrage, and then watch the money and votes pour in. The social justice left has embraced the idea that “helping” people against their will is “for their own good” because it fits certain narratives like their desire for gun control and they don’t mind kicking an already marginalized group under the bus in order to meet their political goal. The same with abortion or gay rights or the needs of communities of color, what have you. They exploit various demographic groups with promises of token change in exchange for voting in more of the same further enabling both the war state and increasing corporate takeover of government as long as they can secure the pork spending for their constituencies.
I know of almost NO remaining truly left wing organizations by any rational definition. I’m hoping it’s just a matter of regrouping. The Greens do not call for the overthrow of capitalism. I agree with the term “social justice left” or at least get your drift. But the Democratic Party has NEVER had a leftist candidate — and still won’t have one if Bernie wins the nomination. They have always been one of the two ruling capitalist parties and they will shoot us down in the street in an instant if they decide it’s in their interest. I don’t consider this “hard line,” I just consider it consistent, and realistic.
Kinda duh. Left liberal is not left wing. Bernie may call himself a socialist, all the same, he’s a mainstream politician. As is, the question becomes which politician best serves the interests of multinational corporations. Get the corporate money out of politics and you will have done a service to humanity. Right now, both political parties are bought and sold by the multinationals.
Government of, by, and for the rich, or government of, by, and for the ‘middle classes’? Either way, something is missing. You need government of, by, and for the people, all the people, or else you’re double dealing. I don’t need a representative, really. Not when I can represent myself. Vicarious living in excess can never be living.
The middle class is a false construct created by the aristocracy to give just enough prosperity to a large minority of the populace in order to have their assistance and acceptance in oppressing everyone below them who they have been led to believe are less deserving.
Oppressive, toxic personalities (aka bullies, abusers) in positions of power and authority, which marginalize, censor, and generally sabotage others, can come from anywhere along the political spectrum. Some might be overt and on their sleeve about it, unapologetic, while others are more duplicitous and covert about their prejudice, virtually in denial of it while practicing it actively–the now proverbial “cognitive dissonance.”
These are what cause problems for people, and for society at large, and drain anyone and anything in sight. I don’t believe it has anything to do with political leanings, labels, or philosophy. This is way beyond that. I think it’s an extreme lack of sense of self, which can only define itself in relation to others–specifically, it seeks to define itself as “superior” in relation to “inferior others.” (A shadow projection, of course).
I find it very sad that anyone would call another human being “toxic.” Where is the poison? Where is the radiation or dangerous germs? I would never call another human being “toxic” since that is really a euphemism for mentally ill or personality disordered. By all means there are toxic workplaces and toxic social situations, but no human being is toxic. It is a pseudo-diagnosis. What is behind it? It is a declaration of that person’s inferiority, and denial of their human worthiness. Why claim that a person is diseased? It’s really okay not to like another person, or to fail to understand that person. Why can’t we leave it at that, rather than excuse our dislike by calling the disliked person “toxic”? We may not feel comfortable with our own feelings, or our lack of empathy, but just leave it at that without claiming the person is diseased.
Toxic personality, to me, occurs when someone thrives on deceving, manipulating, and sabotaging others. It is control at all cost, with no regard for anyone but themselves. It is the relentless pursuit of and the creating of problems, rather than solving them, and sabotaging to truth, love and kindness.
I looked up “toxic” and found this in urbandictionary.com, which is generally my meaning–
It is not my intention to insult anyone, but simply to identify an aspect of our society which I feel is all-too-prevalent and problematic, causing choas, confusion, and a lot of deep hurt and trauma. That’s my personal perspective on the matter. I’ve known quite a few people who fit this description to a tee. But my point here is that when people like this hold positions of authority and power, I’d call it the root of the problem.
My concern relevant to this website is when mh clincians have these personality traits, and I’ve known quite a few of these, too, professionally and personally. Which would make it “toxic psychotherapy.” I believe that is epidemic, and why I pursue this line of reasoning, to raise awareness about this and bring light to the situation, largely based on my experience, but also based on the experience of others which I’ve read about, including yours, Julie. You’ve often spoken of abusive therapists, and this is what I’d call “toxic,” because vulnerability is exploited and it does harm, and in exchange for this “service,” the clincian gets paid. That’s about as toxic as it gets.
And don’t get me started on politics, which is what sadly sets the example for toxic hypocrisy in our society.
Indeed, I’m sure there is wounding there, I know there is. But often people deny their own wounding, and at least unconsciously, in turn, they inflict it on others. It’s quite common, and it harms people and damages communities. It’s what I perceive most of this “clinical work” to be, in the end–unconscious therapist transfers their wounds to unsuspecting client. I believe that is the end result of most psychotherapy at present.
There is no excuse for abuse. Absolutely none.
I have known people who were cruel and manipulative. My high school best friend was like that. I had a therapist like that. Both fit the narcissist description. It was very difficult dealing with them. I still refuse to call either of them diseased or toxic. I refuse to excuse their bad behavior by blaming a disease.
I never said or implied disease, that’s not my way of thinking. I believe it is a learned behavior and life/relationship strategy. To heal it, we’d have to unlearn it, break negative self-beliefs and thought habits, practice unrelenting self-compassion and compassion for others, and find our way back to trust and integrity. That’s a big transformation, but it’s doable if so desired. It’s the essence of heart healing and spirit mending.
Narcissistic is another word used to describe what I mean. “Malignant narcissism” has become common to refer to this way of being, as in “to malign.”
Narcissistic abuse has become a common theme in today’s society, and there is tons on YouTube about this which I have found to be extremely insightful and healing. People are waking up to what this means and how it has affected so many of us, and how to heal it so that we don’t keep repeating this relationship pattern, beating ourselves up, or paying it forward.
And as my original post states–aka bully, abuser (which we can often be our own, from internalizing this). Whatever word or phrase with which anyone feels best describes this for them, with which one is comfortable. A thorn by any other name is just as prickly…
If it’s something you heal from, then yes, you’re implying disease or disorder. I have seen those complaints about these so-called narcissists. The anti-narc community loves to separate the world into two halves, the Evil Narcs, and those that aren’t Narcs. They’ll even go so far as to say it’s contagious and that you have to stay away from them or you’ll “catch” it. This is demonizing people, othering them. It’s pretty easy to say, “He’s a narcissist,” spread that around, and then, the poor guy is alone and isolated. That ain’t healing.
“Narcissism” is just a description of a way of behaving, nothing more or less. A pretty obnoxious way, admittedly, but it’s just a description. Anyone who thinks that people fall into two classes, “good” and “evil,” will not be very successful in understanding human behavior.
As one wise person once said, “There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it ill behooves any of us to talk about the rest of us.”
Also, in the Urban Dictionary site you supplied the URL to, I was appalled and amused by the commonly misspelled word “lose” spelled as “loose.”
I have to laugh. This error is all over weightwatchers.com as well. But in a dictionary, too?
“If it’s something you heal from, then yes, you’re implying disease or disorder.”
Nope, it implies an “imbalance,” which is human, we all go in and out of balance and everyone has things to heal. Any particularly challenging day or event/experience can throw us out of balance, and the remedy is healing (bringing into balance). That is universal and no one is immune from this.
Abusive behavior throws people–and societies–out of balance. My only intention here is to call it out for the sake of helping to create a more just, kind, balanced and unconditionally supportive world, which takes self-awareness on everyone’s part. Anything else is irrelevant to me ♥
Wow. Julie, Thank you for saying this. I really needed to hear that right now.
On a side note, my mother recently called me “The Other.” I don’t think she meant it in a nice way – more like, “this is why no one wants to talk to you” – but it’s a badge I wear proudly.
I wonder if people who identify as liberals tend to be pro-psychiatry because they see all mental health services as “helping” services? It’s just convenient, if they see someone suffering, to say, “go over there and get some help from the helping people.” And then they can stop thinking about it, without considering what psychiatry’s “help” entails.
I knew people who refused to talk to me, stating that I should only talk to a therapist. I other words, they were able to quickly excuse themselves by claiming they didn’t have expertise on the commonplace life issues I was experiencing. Why? I was a mental patient having these issues. Like regular ole stuff like isolation and loneliness were somehow different because I was an MP. So that, of course, was very isolating having been told over and over that I’m not worth listening to, that only a therapist could put up with me, etc. I’ve learned that this was just a way to get rid of me.
It is a way to get rid of you because people who’ve absorbed a great deal of harm often exude their distress even subconsciously.
We are damaged goods clearly. We live in a throwaway culture. Just look at all the old people tucked away in homes. Out of sight out of mind.
Critical psychiatry facilitates more of the same. It is faux activism. It makes me sick.
End psychiatric abuse NOW!
With respect to the “Right”-“Left” stuff, maybe it will help to share my experience with broadcast and podcast media who have me on because they like what I’m saying and know their audience will be interested. I’ve done bunch of media, and since the publication of my last book, here’s my recent experience:
1. Most of the media who wants me on is the “anti-authoritarian left,” folks like Chuck Mertz on WMUR in Chicago (“This is Hell”), MK Mendoza on KSFR in Santa Fe, Paul Roland on KBOO in Portland, Oregon, and several other left anti-authoritarians on the Pacifica radio network. This is the kind of media where Noam Chomsky is a hero, where Bernie Sanders is a disappointment (for, among other things, his support of Hillary Clinton), where Hillary Clinton is a villain, and where Donald Trump is a clown whose rise to power reveals the failure of mainstream Democrats and Republicans.
2. The other media who wants me on is what I would call the “libertarian” media. So for example, James Corbett of the Corbett Report podcast. These are broadcasters who AGREE with left anti-authoritarians’ loathing of the military-industrial complex and of crony capitalism, but who have a very different view of “free market” and “capitalism” than left anti-authoritarians.
3. On both the left anti-authoritarian and libertarian media, when I bring up stuff like “oppositional defiant disorder,” they laugh at how silly this stuff if, as they all pride themselves on being opposed to coercion and having affection for rebellion.
4. Mainstream “centrist”/“liberal”/“conservative” media ignore me, and it’s only a mainstream producer’s “mistake” that I get booked (recently booked then canceled, probably after they checked out my web site). For these people, psychiatry is very useful in maintaining the status quo both in society and in their own families — and a guy like me just ruins their day!
Bruce, I was accepted among 200 applicants to speak at an eating disorders conference late in 2017. They, too, canceled me out of the conference. Apparently someone contacted them. I can only imagine who it was. They feel threatened by people who relentlessly tell the truth.
So Bruce, don’t know what conclusions you draw from what you wrote immediately above. I’m not overall critical of your article, just the idea of ANY version of psychiatry being posited as the “better” version. Steve S. above sees what I’m saying. Go watch (or re-watch) Sophie’s Choice, you’ll get my gist.
Corporate media will ignore you, no use elaborating or complaining. Otherwise, a conversation I’m having elsewhere involves the idea of telling people what they like to hear to attract their “support” rather than just saying what’s true and letting the chips fall. I’m a fan of the latter, as the comfortable shouldn’t get a vote on how “afflicted” they choose to be.
As for who or what’s “really left” I guess we’ll find out when someone finally figures out how to jump start a general strike, or something equally effective.
“We all have a bit of a Nazi inside us,”
it is in the NT bible as well. kill and burn the useless (tree)
If you are being given shit in your life (dung in the story), maybe it is Jesus trying to fertilize you so you produce something. (joke)
Psychiatry does the opposite of dung-fertilizer for a plant, it poisons people while calling it medicine, and those around the mental patient for some reason still believe the confidence trick, urge their loved one to take the medicine.
YOU TAKE THE MEDICINE!
Dr. Levine, maybe you want to take a look at the expanded edition of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, released a week ago and edited by Bandy Lee. The book in both its editions has elicited the condemnation of the American Psychiatric Association due to the “Goldwater Rule”, which some psychiatrists feel is secondary to the ethical risks from this Presidency.
Someone on this site should review the book.
Bruce, I thought you would appreciate my commentary on a YouTube:
I’ve read this piece several times now, and like many many articles on this site it is both incredibly validating and also gives me a solid explanation, a sort of “name” for what I have felt for decades was just wrong. This is why I so appreciate this website. It’s changed my life (for the far, far better).
I feel the same way. I’m very glad I found this website.
Removed for moderation.
Usually the mental health system, and especially psychotherapy, are associated with a type of liberal. Locally they are always trying to turn poverty and homelessness into a need for therapy, and drugging.
Those of us on the margins, survivors, we need to organize so that we can act and thus gain some credibility and gain some legal standing.
But more completely understood, the entire mental health system is extremely reactionary. And especially with Psychotherapy and Recovery, it is intended to make people neurotic.
Deleuze and Guattari call this “Oedipalizing.” The schizo is the one who resists this.
Should have online materials, and training seminars in how to stand up to verbal or written mental health screenings.
I thought psychiatry and screwed up mental health had nothing to do with politics.
Here in Brazil, liberals may be even worse than conservatives when it comes to defend the psychiatric system. By the way, everyone in my family is leftist and they all try to push the psychiatric agenda on me (even because it was them who put me in a psychiatric hospital 5 years ago). And when it comes to politics, they all love Lula, PT, Che Guevara, feminism, LGBT, environmental issues, anti-racism programs, political correctedness and all those post-modernist movements, but when it comes to psychiatry, they’re like “oh, you really have to obbey to your psychiatrist. He knows everything about you. Just take the pills as prescribed. We love you!”
But the same thing is true for conservatives. Many people who voted on Bolsonaro love psychiatry. That’s what I observed from people I met on internet who came talk to me about my videos on YouTube. Many of them are conservatives who screw up their “schizophrenic” sons or daughters by being overly authoritative.
I don’t think tyrany is a matter of just politics. Not seeing the other side of things is never good.