Lou Reed: That Which Does Not Kill Us Can Radicalize Us


While not as well-known as “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Perfect Day,” and not one of the classics he wrote for the Velvet Underground (such as “Heroin” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror”), Lou Reed’s “Kill Your Sons,” about his electroconvulsive “therapy” (ECT) as a 17-year-old, gives voice to an event that majorly radicalized him to distrust authorities. That is the conclusion of Aidan Levy in Dirty Blvd.: The Life and Music of Lou Reed, one of several recent biographies about Lou Reed (1942-2013).

“All your two-bit psychiatrists are giving you electroshock,” is how Reed begins “Kill Your Sons,” and though in Lou’s case, ECT trauma would fuel his art, such trauma often only destroys; as the ECT that Ernest Hemingway and William Styron received late in their lives only served to hasten their end. And even in Reed’s case, his ECT fueled not just his art but his rage, which sometimes hurt people who cared about him.

As a teenager living in suburban Freeport, Long Island, Lou felt alienated. He became increasingly anxious and “resistant to most socializing, unless it was on his terms,” according to his sister Merrill Reed Weiner, whose parents were overwhelmed by her brother’s behaviors and by his disregard of them, and so they sought treatment for Lou. They would comply with a psychiatrist’s recommendation.

In the summer of 1959, Lou was administered 24 ECT sessions at two-day intervals at Creedmoor State Psychiatric Hospital in Queens, New York. Weiner recalls, “I watched my brother as my parents assisted him coming back into our home afterwards, unable to walk, stupor-like. It damaged his short term memory horribly and throughout his life he struggled with memory retention, probably directly as a result of those treatments.”

Lou Reed loved evocative lyrics—his own and others—and my guess is that he would have appreciated the description of his ECT by Aidan Levy:

The doctor paced back to the machine, then the two trembling orderlies, barely out of high school and only a year older than Lou was, laid across his chest and knees to brace him for the shock to come. He had read Frankenstein;now he was living it. The doctor flipped the switch on the metal box, the size of a small amplifier, and Lou Reed, who had up to that moment in his life been an acoustic being, became quite literally electrified.

Weiner continues to be pained by her brother’s ECT, and she feels sorry for their parents who, she tells us, may have been guilty of much poor parenting but not, as some have suggested, of seeking treatment for Lou’s homosexual urges.

Weiner remains angered by doctors for destroying her family, concluding that “the ‘help’ they received from the medical community set into motion the dissolution of my family of origin for the rest of our lives. . . . My parents were like lambs being led to the slaughter — confused, terrified, and conditioned to follow the advice of doctors. . . . Our family was torn apart the day they began those wretched treatments.”

Levy concludes about Lou’s ECT, “The punishment solidified Lou’s unflappable spirit of rebellion.” While psychiatry rejects Levy’s view of ECT as “punishment,” Lou himself would likely have agreed with this Levy analysis: “His parents and by extension civilized society objected to his defiance—even then, he refused to play by anyone else’s rules, and as punishment for breaking them, he faced an adolescent’s worst nightmare.”

Prior to his ECT, Levy notes, “Lou had already embraced the counterculture, but electroshock secured his allegiance to the underground. If he wanted to escape, he would have to do it himself. No one, not anyone in mainstream society at least, would do it for him. He would later dedicate his life to exposing the seamy underbelly beneath the sanitized reality presented by the mainstream, eternally distrustful of any authority figure, especially any record executive, after he had seen authority be so wrong.”

Lou’s talents enabled his rage over his ECT to be transformed into the kind of art that deeply touched society’s outcasts and victims of illegitimate authority. But while Lou found artistic fuel from his ECT, it scarred him with an unpleasant defensiveness. Throughout much of his life, Lou would protect himself by attacking, and he was often viewed, even by his friends and lovers, as a “jerk” and an “asshole.”

Psychiatry would prefer the general public hear ECT testimonials from advocates such as Kitty Dukakis rather than the ECT realities of Lou Reed as well as of other public figures for whom ECT was a disaster, a lengthy list including Ernest Hemingway and William Styron.

A seriously depressed Hemingway was treated with ECT as many as 15 times in December 1960, then in January 1961, he was “released in ruins,” according to one biographer Jeffrey Meyers. Another biographer and close friend, A. E. Hotchner reported in Papa Hemingway  that Hemingway’s loss of memory caused by the ECT made him even more depressed and hopeless, as Hemingway had stated, “Well, what is the sense of ruining my head and erasing my memory, which is my capital, and putting me out of business?” In July 1961, shortly before his 62nd birthday and soon after Hemingway had been given still another series of shock treatments, his end came by suicide with a shotgun.

William Styron is another ECT casualty. In a 2019 article “William Styron: His Struggles with Psychiatry and Its Pills,” journalist Joshua Kendall reports that in early 2000, when Styron became even more depressed while on the antidepressant Wellbutrin, he became desperate and vulnerable to quick fix recommendations. Kendall reports:

“The quick fix that Styron settled on was ECT. ‘One of the reasons that he wanted to try ECT was that he had had such a bad experience with drugs, and he didn’t want to take another one,” Rose [Styron’s wife] says. . . . Once when Rose accompanied him to an ECT treatment, he yelled at her, ‘You’re killing me!’ . . . .The ECT was then abandoned, but not before possibly causing the Parkinsonian symptoms that emerged that summer, as Alexandra [Styron’s daughter] notes in her memoir.”

Many Americans are surprised to discover that ECT continues to be used as a psychiatric treatment. Psychiatry is well aware of ECT’s negative public image, so in recent years, its administration is not as painful to observe as it once was. Unlike Lou, patients today are given an anesthetic and oxygen along with a muscle relaxant drug to prevent fractures. However, while ECT no longer appears quite as torturous to observers as it appeared prior to these procedure changes, ECT’s effects on the brain are as damaging as ever. Moreover, as I detailed in 2017 (The Electrical Abuse of Women: Does Anyone Care?), a recent comprehensive review of the research on ECT effectiveness concluded that there is “no evidence that ECT is more effective than placebo for depression reduction or suicide prevention.”

For Lou, it is likely that in addition to his ECT at Creedmoor State Psychiatric Hospital in Queens, simply being a patient there cemented his strong reciprocal connection with society’s “untouchables.” I grew up in Rockaway, Queens, and telling another kid that “you belong in Creedmoor” was one of the greatest of insults that we hurled at one another. And so Lou was handed the choice of either being shamed by his outcast status or celebrating it. He had the courage to celebrate it.

I also spent some time in Creedmoor, but under very different circumstances than Lou. In 1976, a locked ward at Creedmoor served as my first trainee internship, and it was here that I began to be embarrassed by my chosen mental health profession, especially by its dehumanizing attempts to control people. While psychiatrists utilized drugs and ECT to control patients, psychologists’ arsenal of control included “behavior modification,” which included the “token economy.”

During my internship at Creedmoor, I recall one severely depressed man who refused to talk to staff but who chose me for some reason to shoot pool with. Spotting my interaction with him, a clinical psychologist, my boss, told me that I should give him a token—a cigarette—to reward his “prosocial behavior.” I fought it, trying to explain that I was 20 and this man was 50, and that it was humiliating to treat the man in the manner of training a dog. But the psychologist threatened to kick me off the ward. So with staff watching—but not hearing—from behind the nurse’s station window (similar to what I had just seen in the 1975 film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”),  I asked the man what I should do. Fighting the zombifying effects of his heavy medication, he grinned and said, “We’ll win… let me have the cigarette.” In full view of staff, he took the cigarette and then placed it into the shirt pocket of another patient. Next, he shot a look at the staff which clearly expressed: “I may be a patient in Creedmoor but you staff are the truly sick ones.”

While most students training to become mental health professionals are initially jarred by their observations of dehumanizing chemical-electrical-behavioral controls, many of them become numb to these experiences and go on to become professionals who repeat these practices. For other students, these upsetting experiences kill their interest in a career in psychiatry, psychology, and the mental health profession. But for a small handful who do not exit the profession, these observations radicalize them and compel them to resist and speak out.


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.


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  1. Bruce, this is so amazing. You are one of THEIR worst enemies. I hope you keep yourself well protected because THEY tend to retaliate. I love your writings so much and because of this I am very very proud to call myself antiauthoritarian. I hope to get a diagnosis of the severest form of oppositional defiant disorder possible. Disorder? No, it is what keeps me alive, keeps me speaking out when others cannot or are afraid to, keeps me telling the truth. I must do this, as I see it as a sacred duty as a writer. I really hope they hate me, too. I should add, too, that I was a Lou Reed fan. Now I know why.

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    • Thanks, Julie. Perhaps you are right that I should care more about protecting myself, however, my experience for the most part is that shrink authoritarians simply ignore me — and I don’t waste my time caring about their reaction to me, as I’m more focused on critical-thinking open-minded people. Of course, you are right that within institutional settings, when bastards have more power over patients/inmates and dissident professionals, retaliation is routine for questioning, challenging, and resisting illegitimate authority.

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      • Bruce, I experienced the retaliation first hand. I never spoke out against them until I was abused in a hospital…I was 53 and they deprived me of water. There was no argument here, this is not a “perception” or “opinion.” I have diabetes insipidus and they really could have killed me by doing what they did. Never mind the verbal and physical abuse as well.

        After that, I was so badly traumatized that I ended up not being able to handle it and they hospitalized me. The doctor there tried to get me into a state hospital but I guess it did not work, so they let me go after 26 days. I kept wondering why that had happened but now I realize that they felt they had to silence me.

        I tried telling my therapist and she insisted the unit I said I was on did not exist. Really? Possibly she was psychotic. I am not sure.

        That silenced me, except in my blog where I complained about it bitterly and repeatedly. This was a way for me to heal from the trauma. One day, must have been about a year and a half after the trauma, the same hospital, Mass General, told me over the phone that my insurance did not cover therapy there. This was actually a lie. I knew that what they had told me was somehow not legal. I put that in my blog and up on Twitter.

        Now, MGH had caught wind of what I was doing. I believe it was April that I went for my monthly “meds check” (ick) and my doctor chewed me out, yelling and hissing at me…really very bad and “mentally ill” behavior. I was so embarrassed I didn’t know what to do. I was sure that others in that office suite (8th floor of the Wang building, Wang 815, if anyone cares) had heard her. I knew they likely thought it was some patient “going off.” I am not sure how she explained it all to her colleagues later on. Anyway, she insisted I take an antipsychotic, saying, “Any antipsychotic will do, just take it! I’m giving you this drug to stop you from writing!” She explained that her administration had insisted on this, specifically to silence me. After that, after I had been seeing her 12 years, I fired her. My last appointment was June.

        In August, 2013, that’s when my kidneys failed. I made the major mistake of telling them it was okay to contact my former psychiatrist. That’s when they started abusing me very badly. Physical abuse, verbal abuse, etc. Before that, they had been quite sweet to me. They tried to force me many times to take an antipsychotic drug. They also tried to have me committed to a psych ward. When it was clear that this may not be possible, they then told me they wouldn’t let me out unless I took Zyprexa. I took one pill because they were threatening me so badly. I believe their intention was to get me onto an injectable. That did not happen. They had an outside team evaluate me and they determined that I wasn’t a danger to anyone and then, the hospital was forced to let me out. I promised them I would go to a day program. Just to make sure I did not have a cop raid, I went three days, and then, quit.

        I saw one other shrink who insisted I had not been abused, that I was “psychotic” and she said “If you refuse to take an antipsychotic, you have no use for me.” I was very happy not to have any use for her. She also asked me five times if I had a gun and if I felt like killing anyone. Huh? I never saw a shrink again. I saw a nephrologist for kidney disease and after he threatened me, I realized I was going to have to leave ASAP. I did! I left the country.

        Even then, I had online bullies. I believe they were hired people and likely, it was MGH that hired them. I managed to use spam filters to get rid of them.

        In 2017, I had a speaking engagement lined up. Months passed and after they published the list of speakers, apparently some unknown person called the conference organizer and then I was then canned. I did not find out who it was. Likely, they told her I was psychotic. I’m so, so tired of these accusations. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not, but these assholes out there continue to accuse. I think they do not want to hear my story, or they want my story totally discredited.

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  2. Bruce, there is growing momentum for a campaign — conducted along with other related campaigns — to delegitimize psychiatry as a field of medicine, both in the common perception and via withdrawal of recognition by whatever institutional “authorities” are deemed the arbiters of such “official” certification. Would you be in support of this?

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    • Re: the campaign to “delegitimize psychiatry as a field of medicine” – that is what I’ve been doing for over 25 years. Psychiatry should have as much “legitimacy” as does any religion in a non-theocratic society.

      In theocratic societies, religious authorities have authority to coerce and control, and I think it’s humiliating for many Americans (especially those with lots of schooling who have bought into psychiatry theology) to believe that to the extent that they have given psychiatry the power to control is to the extent that have chosen a theocracy, as psychiatry’s beliefs have no more scientific merit than any religion.

      Oldhead, I think it is wise on your part to use the word “delegitimize” rather than “abolish” because people should have “freedom of religion,” a right to believe in anything they want as long as they don’t impose it on others.

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      • I unapologetically support the abolition of psychiatry, which is not a philosophy any more than slavery was a philosophy, but an institution of repression. Part of the strategy to abolish psychiatry is to call for its delegitimization as a field of medicine, which kicks out a major prop of support. Also part of this strategy of course is to ban government support for psychiatry, including all physical coercion. Combined with public education these would accomplish the end result of “making psychiatry history.”

        There is some confusion about what the term “abolition” means, as abolitionists are not usually calling for some sort of decree banning psychiatry. But the cumulative effect of the above steps would be the same. Again, we are talking about actions and nor beliefs; people could continue to call themselves “psychiatrists” and talk shit to their hearts’ content, they just wouldn’t have the power to harm people.

        Anyway I’m glad you agree with my original point, and with the legitimacy of this goal.

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        • I am for abolition of involuntary treatment, and unapologetically so. As for abolition of psychiatry, why bother? If one can’t be treated against one’s will, where’s the problem? You don’t want it, you walk away from it.

          The other side of the coin is why would I support abolition of voluntary treatment. I don’t support abolition of voluntary treatment any more than I support the abolition of voluntary anything. I think if you’re looking for a strong man, as Josef Stalin is often called, to put things to right, your efforts are likely to backfire.

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          • FrankB, we should not be allowing our gov’t to license Psychiatry or Psychotherapy.

            As far as this forum, we need to find some areas of agreement, enough that we can plan and implement some actions. It is these actions which have the potential to electrify the public.

            As it is now, Survivors are looked at as people who need all the Therapy and Recovery they can get.

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          • Realistically? I hold my tongue.

            I agree on a need for action. The MIA forum though I hear is history.

            Theoretically people don’t survive the “mental health treatment” bubble. People that call themselves survivors, according to some of the so-called experts, perhaps have had “personality disorders”, but were never truly “mentally ill” in the first place.

            Fundamentally, if you do want to survive, it’s best not to ground yourself in “mental illness” mythology.

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      • Bruce

        I believe that psychiatry can neither be “delegitimized” nor “abolished” under the capitalist system. As an institution, psychiatry has now become (over the last several decades) TOO important to the “Powers that Be” to be allowed to fail or lose its Executive power to drug and/or incarcerate people against their will.

        The vital position of Big Pharma in the U.S. economy with its high profit margins (in its collusion with psychiatry and the meteoric expansion of psych drug sales), AND the increasingly important role of psychiatry to label and anesthetize (and thus render ineffective) the more potentially rebellious sections of U.S. society, makes it highly unlikely the ruling class will do (or allow) ANYTHING to weaken psychiatry.

        In a truly just and Revolutionary society, psychiatry would immediately be stripped of all medical legitimacy and Executive powers that involve any kind of FORCE. At the same time, all of psychiatry’s pseudo-scientific and paternalistic theories and activities would be openly criticized and ridiculed through a People controlled media.

        In this way (outlined above) psychiatry would eventually lose ALL credibility and interest from the masses of people, and thus simply “wither away” from society. THIS is how psychiatry will ultimately be “abolished” from the face of the earth.

        The word “abolish” should STILL be used today to describe our movement here among the more radical activists. This is true even though in a Revolutionary society the actual process will one of “withering away.” The word “Abolish” has a more radical and unifying effect among the more advanced activists, and clearly identifies psychiatry as the extremely oppressive institution it truly IS in the world today.

        Richard (BTW, Great blog!)

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        • Abolitionist, of course, was a word for people out to end the institution of slavery. Where psychiatry most resembles slavery I think people are quite right to speak of themselves as being abolitionists with their intent to get rid of it. Accounting people 3/4ths of a human being is unacceptable these days. Ditto, this disenfranchised a fraction of a citizen. Second or third class is the way some folks have put it.

          One problem in the past is that some big wig shrinks of the time were also with this independence struggle or that, and so we get the revolutions of the 18th century associated with moral management, the treatment reform and asylum/”prison” building movement of the time. This puts us further behind when it comes to figuring out that if 1. slavery doesn’t mesh with democratic values neither does 2. labeling, drugging, and scapegoating people for their differences in opinion, behavior and demeanor.

          I don’t think it necessary to get rid of capitalism to get rid of psychiatry, however, I also don’t think it necessary to get rid of psychiatry to get rid of capitalism. Getting rid of both? What a beautiful idea. Maybe we could work on that one together.

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        • I agree pretty much both with Richard’s conclusions here and the reasoning behind them. There are several definitions of “abolish” in Webster’s, at least one of which is consistent with the concept of “withering away.”

          However there is no strict “before” and “after” the revolution (other than the formal transfer of power), and no reason why great strides in AP consciousness-raising and organizing can’t be taking place as we speak.

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          • The fight to abolish psychiatry is really on the radical edge of the overall struggle to end all forms of psychiatric abuse and the entire Medical Model.

            The above mentioned struggle is really one of the newest waves of Human Rights struggles in the world.

            And as such, any and all political exposure and organizing done (including here at MIA) as a part of this Human Rights struggle, can play an important role in raising consciousness and resistance against the ultimate source of modern day oppression – a class based capitalist/imperialist system.


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          • I don’t go along with any of the “withering away” mythology, an aftereffect of Marxist ideology. The idea is that class society will “wither away” under autocratic rule that purports to be for and of the working class has to be the kind of baloney it sounds like. This is much like Marxist scientific materialism which is only a way of stacking the deck in favor of your own philosophy. You can’t say, whoops, sorry about that, but I was wrong. We wrote that classless society was going to win out in the end, and because you read it in a book, it must be like anything you might have seen on TV, that is, “true”. Error is the province of other people’s philosophies, philosophies that don’t have “materialism” on their side, philosophies that lose out.

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          • OK, then I guess we can officially classify you as “anti-communist” for future reference.

            FYI for anyone else, the purpose of marxist socialism is to reverse the current dictatorship of the ruling class (sometimes called the 1%) over the vast majority of people, and establish a dictatorship of the 99% over the 1% (which Marx called the dictatorship of the proletariat, or working class). During this period there will still be a state, though one run by the people, to prevent the bad guys from re-establishing power. Once people realize the benefits of true socialism (not the Bernie/AOC version) and the former ruling class has lost its ability to stage a comeback, the state will become less and less relevant and will “wither away.” So that’s what we’re sparring about here.

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          • “withering away” is what Harriet Beech Stowe expected.

            Abolitionism means zero tolerance. And when this really works is when ways of intervening are found.

            Satanic Temple has found ways of interceding in school corporal punishment.

            Similar things could be done regarding forced psychiatry, like with psychiatric holds and the typical drugging.

            But there could also be ways of interceding with the fix my kid therapists.

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          • OK, then I guess we can officially classify you as “anti-communist” for future reference.

            I’m a communist, an anti-capitalist, but of the anarchist variety. I’m not a Marxist ideologue, no.

            “withering away” is what Harriet Beech Stowe expected.

            I’d hardly call the War between the States, otherwise referred to as the American Civil War, as a “withering away”. The Emancipation Proclamation might have come out of the Civil War, but without that war, there would have been no Emancipation Proclamation. There was a time even when Abraham Lincoln was talking about slavery continuing until the 1950s if the Union could have been preserved in the process. The south couldn’t see all new states coming in as non-slave states, and so things came to a head, with war the result.

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          • Bruce

            This part of the discussion on the issue of “abolitionism” has evolved since your last comment. Could you please share your views on these more recent comments starting with my first comment above.

            Thanks in advance, Richard

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          • I’m a communist, an anti-capitalist, but of the anarchist variety.

            Communism and anarchism are diametrically opposed, other then for the end goal. There is no “anarchist variety” of communism, which is about seizing the means of production and reversing the dictatorship of the ruling class, i.e. instituting socialism.

            Anarchists are very good at breaking windows and defacing things with graffiti, but they are rarely serious revolutionaries.


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          • You’re absolutely wrong about communism and anarchism being diametrically opposed. Nor is anarchism all about vandalism.

            There are two traditions of anarchy, actually, individual anarchism (capitalist, and bad) and social anarchism (socialist, and good).

            Mutualism, collectivist anarchism (revolutionary socialism), anarcho-communism, and anarcho-syndicalism…all are communistic variants of anarchism.

            The Haymarket Riots, that event which gave us May Day, were more anarchist inspired than Marxist. It wasn’t until Vladimir Lenin’s first successful Marxist revolution in Russia gave us the USSR (now defunct), that the labor movement came to be associated with Marxism.

            Now that that “wall” between east and west has come down, and the Russians have ruined their revolution, to the point of counter-revolution, with bureaucratic stupidity, and Stalinoid mass murder and oppression, perhaps anarchism has a much better chance of resurfacing. The luster of Marxist revolution–what with that great blunder–has certainly worn off.

            It’s not like Marx himself didn’t do a lot to alienate and stymie followers of Bakunin, and if his prestige has suffered in recent years, well, as they say, ‘what goes around comes around’.

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          • I could enjoy these discussions regarding communism and Marxism as a form of entertainment if the historical record of the unlearned lessons of the 20th century weren’t so crystal clear. I suppose that it is only in a free country that was founded on principles that are diametrically opposed to communism and Marxism that such utopian fantasies can be so freely entertained. Besides the millions of innocent victims of communism, those who survive and labor under the real constraints imposed by communism don’t have time to entertain such utopian fantasies.

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          • In the good ‘ole USA where everything revolves around the Yankee dollar, we’ve got the 60 billion $ man. This, and people working 3 jobs, and still not being able to make ends meet. I don’t know what you mean by the “free” world, apparently it isn’t quite “free”, in fact, it’s very costly. If the 60 billion $ man is worth 60 billion $, where does that leave everybody else? In the hole he dug? I think there’s got to be, if not a better way, at least a more equitable one.

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          • What constitutes communism is not subjective. It was clearly set down by Marx (not Bakunin) and expanded by Lenin and Mao until Mao was overthrown and capitalism was reestablished in the USSR and China. Anything else is revisionism.

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  3. Loved Lou’s song, Kill Your Sons. Another good one is Billy Was A Friend of Mine. It’s about the choices people make, and how sometimes one path doesn’t lead you to the place where you thought it might have led you.

    Lou mentions the effects of Thorazine in the song Kill Your Sons, too. “All of the drugs, that we took, it really was lots of fun But when they shoot you up with thorazine on crystal smoke You choke like a son of a gun.” There’s that difference between psych drugs and recreational drugs again. I had a friend, now deceased, who was there at the counter when this lady he knew, on a neuroleptic, choked on a donut. She ultimately ended up in a coma, and then had the plug pulled on her. Apparently her brain had been deprived of oxygen for too long a time.

    Shock treatment was more utilized as a general purpose treatment (cough, cough) before the development of neuroleptics. I know of a person now who is on court ordered ECT treatments. I think that’s really scary. Apparently things haven’t changed so much after all. Why, in other words, court ordered shock? The “mental health” authorities have to keep this guy alive at all costs? You think? I wonder what is really going on there. One thing I don’t think the courts should be doing is forcing harmful treatments on people, and that, in his case, is exactly what they’re doing.

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    • Yes, Frank. In the above piece, I linked to “Kill Your Sons” so that people could listen to all the lyrics. . . I’m with you on Billy’ – it has some very insightful lyrics. . .You might be interested if this: In that Levy biography, he mentions that at college at Syracuse, Lou was actually a ROTC trainee, but Levy states: “His stint was brief; rumors circulated that he was dishonorably discharged for holding a gun to the platoon commander’s head.”

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  4. Thank You for this important article. Hemingway, Plath, especially poets, were terrorized by psychiatric monotheism. Because monotheistic anti human scientism have killed metaphor first. Nazis party and their anti human utopian ideology is the source of the greatest evil today.

    The roots of psychiatric slavery = psychological monotheism. Monotheism is a form of a very destructive and limited thinking.


    “This idealized unity requires for its earthly realization, an ideal man, the Hero, who can receive the (divine) commands and overcome in his own person and at large, the obstacles that stand in the way. These obstacles must also have a mythic dimension. Whether the story is retold in an Islamic, Christian, Jewish or Hindu setting, some dragon of dangerous strength must have its head chopped off, traitors everywhere must be sought out and eliminated since, ‘you are either with us, or against us’. The Marxists, therefore, require(d) the Capitalists, the Western Powers their Communist threat and more recently, Muslims, who in turn, require the Great Satan and their own heretics. In sum, the heroic requires problems and, by implication, Final Solutions.

    Similarly, psychological monotheism tends to regard difference and diversity as irreconcilable opposites and reduces all psychological life to moral issues. Particularly in the light of the impossible-to-resolve ‘Problem of Evil’ in Christianism, this kind of moral reductionism and its fusion with the heroic archetype, provides the justification for all types of action and violence against whatever seems ‘outside,’ a prescribed idea of ‘unity’. Thus, Jung’s view of the West’s ‘monotheism of consciousness’ is directly related to the internalizing of a particular type of Christianity. As both he and Hillman reiterate, it does not matter if one is a Christian or not, ‘believer’ or atheist. Rather, it is a particularly narrow psychological attitude towards self, others, religion, knowledge, in short, life itself.

    James Hillman “Re -Visioning psychology”
    Thomas Szasz – “Manufacture of madness”

    Everything should be clear after reading these books.
    Psychopathology is a metaphor, the form of the highest psychological art. And authoritarians and their small brains are destroying people in the name of their lame materialistic and convenient fantasy about mental health – apollonian – hegemony.

    The problem is the limited monotheistic psychology, not the human psyche.

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  5. Really scary indeed.
    When “mental health ” authorities have their focus on a person, what they “so expertly testify too” and readily lie about commands the court .This is for the “benefit” of the “patient”,”society”, and “their own careers ” ,weather in person or by amplified phone call to the “court”. , The general result is predetermined choreographed, the players march in lockstep their boot heels collectively on the person’s neck. The Judge and mha’s protect their own asses . The person is generally too poor to afford real representation and the court appointed public defender is in on the act. This is a KANGAROO COURT . I tried once to hire a former prosecuting attorney that was now in private practice in Oregon over the phone , that at first wouldn’t admit it but once I told her what I had clearly seen agreed with me that a person alone with a public defender in court opposed to “mental health authorities” is in a KANGAROO COURT.
    Bruce Levine is some kind of hero .Thank you . I just listened to Lou’s song Kill your Sons. I wasn’t previously aware of it . I can say Lou Reed is dead accurate . I also had high voltage electric shock forced on me against my will ,15 of them, one every other day over a period of a month when I was 17 in 1964 . It’s certainly to this day , along with forced injected thorazine , stelazine , haldol , starting at age 16 helped turn me into a rebel against injustice especially against psychiatric but unfortunately I’m one that doesn’t play well with others and trusting without knowing people in person and even then is very difficult for me.
    Done some good things in my life . In my youth never hid that I was in and out of “mental hospitals ” lots a times and even escaped 5 or 6 times from their clutches against their will of which I’m very proud of . One of the stupidest things I ever done– when I was 20 years old my mother begged the psychiatrist to hire me to work in the “mental hospital” as an orderly ,cause she said I was nice to people and she thought I would be good at it ,and besides I told everyone I had been in “mental hospitals” and no one else would hire me for anything close to a living wage .So I was hired and was kind as I could be to the people confined and I told people I was previously confined as they now were. In the 6 months I was there I worked with those addicted to alcohol , senior citizens, teenagers, and general population. The people and other employees liked me and I was dating a student nurse. One day the psychiatrist who helped me get hired asked me if I could assist in giving someone a high voltage electric shock treatment (he just said ECT) . I thought about it for a while and got the idea that once I was there I could maybe smash the box or stop them from shocking this person somehow. So I agreed to assist . When I actually got downstairs to where they gave the electric shock treatments they told me I’d be holding the person’s knees down when they went into convulsions and that it would prevent them from possibly breaking their legs or pulling out their muscles or knee joints . Once there I was too scared shitless to try and sabotage this high voltage electric shock “treatment” and prevent them from proceeding . I was terrified that if I did try to stop them that they would electro-shock me . I was like Winston in the George Orwell novel 1984. He was terrified of rats I was terrified of high voltage electric shock “treatments”. So I held the man’s knees down . After the one “treatment” I told the “doctor” I cannot ever do this again . And I didn’t ,they didn’t fire me . I was an orderly there at Ridgeway Hospital for 6 months in Chicago until I quit to volunteer to go to Israel to try and fight when the 6 Day War broke out in june of 1967. I arrived in Israel 2 months after the war ended.
    My favorite part about Mad in America is all the people that comment here especially the ones that recognize that at the very least forced “Treatment” must be abolished. I’m for persistence in resistance and an insistence upon justice including reparations . And the hope that psychiatry the hoax would be buried deep within the dustbin of history and that nothing like that would ever exist to torture human beings again. My best wishes to the total success of Anti-Psychiatry.

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    • There was also cogentin but actually the thorazine was many times force injected , the others were mostly I took by mouth . But really I had no free choices . They were trying to chemically lobotimize me .I didn’t know it then. I always quit their shit when I got on the outside .Yet I could of been somebody. I await reparations. I had big trouble trying to sleep . At some point I was shown by a natural doctor that I had been poisoned by mercury amalgam dental work . Once I got that all removed I regained my ability to naturally sleep again . But recently after being badly injured in a car accident psychiatry captured me again for 2 months. But now I’m home again with my woman and our dog . We are together an happy again . I’m hoping I can walk again in a matter of months . I’m driving again and use canes , scooter, walker and lots of hours in a recliner where I mostly live when i’m home . I take no Big Pharma “medications ” When I sit in a chair I have no aches and physical pains. But I hate Psychiatry and Psychiatrists and those that aid them , the exceptions are rare and as Arnold would say ” I’m as back as I can be”. Maybe we could slip that ayuhausa hallucinating herb into their food and drink and they would all give up practicing psychiatry and see the folly of their ways , sort a like a hail mary.

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      • Wow, Fred, that is terrible that 1. you were injured in a car accident and 2. that they decided it was a mental disorder. Yes, I agree, we all need an apology and some should get some monetary reparations. I keep thinking the lost wages for 35 years would certainly get me a big sum. I think, also, they should pay back American taxpayers who paid a bundle for my fake treatment. This includes ECT. If anyone thinks that was therapy, they’re delusional.

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    • Fred, you’ve been a stranger, WTF??? Anyway please stay on our radar! Hope you’re ok.

      The legendary Howie the Harp and, especially, his partner Joyce Kasinski both had nightmarish tales to tell about Israeli psychiatry in the 70’s as well, don’t know if they might have a story about it buried somewhere in the Madness Network News archives.

      Anti-psychiatry is doing fine, come visit more often. 🙂

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  6. First, to clarify, this piece was written for a CounterPunch audience, some of whom are “liberal apologists” for psychiatry but many of whom are “anti-authoritarians” who don’t know much about psychiatry but are open to the idea that there is one more illegitimate authority out there.

    CounterPunch ran it as one of their top stories on May 3 for their weekend edition at https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/05/03/lou-reed-that-which-does-not-kill-us-can-radicalize-us/, and MIA, also on May 3, chose to “cross-post” this as a non-featured blog.

    What I’m hearing back is that (unlike Hemingway and Styron) all age groups – including many young people – are interested in Lou Reed, but even the majority of Lou fans do not know about his teenage electroconvulsive trauma, and actually even a significant number of people in the MIA orbit were unaware of Lou’s ECT.

    The largest positive reaction I’m getting from several people outside of the MIA orbit is about the end of the piece, about the 50 year old Creedmoor man, and how psychiatry social control is not only “chemical-electrical” but also “behavioral.”

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    • Maybe it would be constructive for people to know that Lou Reed wrote “Heroin” because he was pissed off at the shitty job he had at the time. Most likely he was never a heroin user. He was into stimulants, though. There is a picture of him in 1974 injecting something into his arm on stage.

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    • Styron and Hemingway are very much studied in writing and literature programs. Maybe you need to talk to the writers and literary scholars. The entire idea of a supposed “treatment” that takes away a person’s ability to write is like the absolute worst nightmare for a writer. Talk to the folks at my graduate school, Goddard College. I would be happy to join you, too.

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  7. Desired behavior is encouraged by the threat of torture under the guise of health care doublespeak and morphed into behavioral health by all means necessary. The very wealthy do as they please. The 1 % steal everything in sight . The Preachers rape children. The Psychiatrists poison them. What about their Behavior ?

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      • I would discourage anyone from engaging in Open Dialoguing when really what it means is bare your soul to people being paid to keep their own true selves under lock and key.

        It’s just more bullshit wrapped up in pretty packaging.

        Never freely give something to people unwilling to reciprocate.

        Better to meet them on their own level and engage them in Open Bullshitting.

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  8. I listened to the song, looked up the lyrics. Reed is very bitter. I bet no one apologized to him for the cruel injuries he was subject to.

    They never apologies.

    We must fight back.

    All your two-bit psychiatrists are giving you electro shock
    They say, they let you live at home, with mom and dad
    Instead of mental hospital
    But every time you tried to read a book
    You couldn’t get to page 17
    ‘Cause you forgot, where you were
    So you couldn’t even read
    Don’t you know, they’re gonna kill your sons
    Don’t you know, they’re gonna kill, kill your sons
    They’re gonna kill, kill your sons
    Until they run run run run run run run run away
    Mom informed me on the phone
    She didn’t know what to do about dad
    Took an axe and broke the table
    Aren’t you glad you’re married
    And sister, she got married on the island
    And her husband takes the train
    He’s big and he’s fat and he doesn’t even have a brain
    They’re gonna kill your sons
    Don’t you know, they’re gonna kill, kill your sons
    Don’t you know, they’re gonna kill, kill your sons
    Until they run away
    Creedmore treated me very good
    But Paine Whitney was even better
    And when I flipped on PHC
    I was so sad I didn’t even get a letter
    All of the drugs, that we took, it really was lots of fun
    But when they shoot you up with thorizene on crystal smoke
    You choke like a son of a gun
    Don’t you know, they’re gonna kill your sons
    Don’t you know, they’re gonna kill, kill your sons
    They’re gonna kill, kill your sons
    Until they run run run run run run run run away

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    • What strikes me, is that he was so famous, and no one even have noticed that he was almost destroyed by psychiatry. Hemingway Plath and many others were also tortured by psychiatry. But for people who do not give shit about that fact, they were just poor bad luck people who apparently deserved it. Because of their “mental illness”.

      I can’t stand the things that pro psychiatric people are thinking about human psyche. They are like psychopaths. And people who are aware of how dangerous psychiatry is, are so alone.
      So brave and so alone. Because the truth does not have many friends.

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      • I agree that it isn’t a justification for ECT. Even though there are many people whose names I know and who have had some measure of impact on the world following ECT, when, in all likelihood, they would have remained in obscurity had they not had it.

        A similar problematic rose from the ashes of Nazism and the Holocaust. Names like Primo Levi and Viktor Frankl… had they not endured such horrific experiences we probably would never have heard from them.

        That isn’t a justification for the Holocaust.

        Simply an observation that horrible experiences can lift people out of the mire in a way that hugs and cups of tea don’t seem able to match.

        Simply a reminder that life is not black and white, always — and that “being nice” (for the best?) also brings with it mundane outcomes, obscurity, and boring people.

        Which is why I am warming to your perspective. All the Recovery and the Therapy and the Life Coaching is banal and fosters banality.

        Only a political fight with all its risks and dangers and passions can truly awaken what’s inspiring and honest and worthwhile in people.

        To be fair to myself, I’ve long endorsed this perspective. I think it gets covered in the toxic cultural dust of “putting on a front”, “fake it ’till you make it”, “be positive and change the world” kinda baloney that we are all under pressure to comply with.

        A good dusting down from time to time is necessary.

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        • We should be setting up a defense network, so that people who don’t want to be cannot be funneled into the psychiatric system.

          They will always be trying to get anyone who seems not to regard the Self-Reliance Ethic, onto drugs.

          Many no that the most important thing is to refuse to talk to them, but others will not, they will talk. Then from that point forward they can just use whatever you tell them to pick at you.

          We must see how ours is an Anti-Colonial Struggle.

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          • A friend of mine was kept in a psychiatric ward for nearly 3 years because he refused to speak to the psychiatrists. It was only at the point of being threatened with ECT that he relented. He lied to them and thanked them for helping him. And soon after they let him go.

            I don’t understand what you mean about middle class families and capitalism. I also am not sure what middle class values are? Aren’t they the same as working class values but with a fear of working up a sweat or getting the hands dirty or risking the nails?

            Also, I’m not sure about the need to eradicate psychotherapy. I mean, as you’ve written, people will go on paying people to listen to them drone on about themselves. And in many cases, you’d *have* to pay someone to pretend to be interested. Only objection I have is that the payments go in one direction only. Most therapy seems to be about making the therapist feel better about themselves. So they should be paying their clients.

            Life coaches are another matter. A life coach is a more pragmatic individual. They will tell you what you already know but don’t want to hear, and charge a premium for it.

            The only advantage I can see with the psychiatrist over the other two is that, by the by, they aren’t going to pretend to like you or pretend to be interested in you. That’s something I do admire about them. You can be sure they will make it absolutely clear they consider you to be contemptible and beneath them.

            I also concerned about what all the pretentious people are expected to do if we do away with these professions?

            The New Age is a big enough circus as it is…

            I do agree with you that there needs to be some kind of defence network to help people that don’t want to mix it up with these self-professed experts that can do a lot of deep damage.

            In fact a defence network is an excellent idea and I’ll approach you soon with some ideas of my own which may help you move these ideas forwards.

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          • Rassulus, I agree that the main concern of therapists, or shall I say, “therapists,” is that if we abolish therapy, they won’t have jobs.

            I don’t buy that at all. Too bad! How many patients and expatients on here have stated that psychiatry stole their career? And that’s okay?

            Should we feel sorry for them? I don’t. Get another job, for godsakes. We writers call it a “day job.” Bag groceries. That’s what one shrink told me to do, if I recall correctly. Okay, so they ruined my career and that’s their answer? Go work for Dunkin Donuts or McDonald’s. They’re always looking for people.

            Funny, they counsel people who are jobless, feel oh so sorry for us…fake empathy…and then they panic over their own potential joblessness.

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          • Worst comes to worse, I would always advise giving the warning that you will be exercising the power of Citizen’s Arrest.

            We should have wallet cards that people can carry which says they have a religious objection to Psychiatry and Psychotherapy. That may not really carry legal weight, but it might deter some.

            If they go to the web site or call the phone number, they will get much stronger warnings.

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  9. Harriet Beecher Stowe thought her novel would lead to a souring of attitudes about slavery, and then a withering away. And maybe in the UK this is what happened. More copies were sold there than in the US.

    But she never anticipated how offensive her protagonist was to free black males. Immediately they acted to try to distinguish themselves from her protagonist, by demanding service in the Militia of Massachusetts.

    The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act set up an intolerable condition. The Stephen Douglas’s idea of Popular Sovereignty, letting new territories vote on whether or not they would have slavery, proved to be explosive, leading to a guerrilla conflict in Kansas Territory.

    Southerners insisted on being able to expand slavery into the West, especially the Mexican Concession. So the final breaking point, the last chance of being able to turn back, was at the 1860 Democratic National Convention. Southerners insisted that the party platform include “A Slave Code For The West”.

    When they didn’t get it, they followed the lead of the Senator from Mississippi, Jefferson Davis, and walked out. This split the party, meaning the new Republican Party, always anti-slavery and always Northern only, would win.

    In December, South Carolina, followed by Mississippi, announced their intent to secede. The inauguration back then was not until March. Bye that time, 7 states had announced intent to secede. They had taken over all post offices and court houses, leaving little else besides Fort Sumter.

    As Lincoln was inaugurated on March 4, 1861, he entered DC under cover of darkness and with snippers on the roof tops. He moved at once have military occupation of DC and Baltimore.

    Then Confederates attacked Fort Sumter, and Lincoln asked states to supply troops to put down the cessation, starting in Charleston. But this was when the four additional states announced their secession, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, making for a total of 11.

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  10. Jule Green wrote: “Rassulus, I agree that the main concern of therapists, or shall I say, “therapists,” is that if we abolish therapy, they won’t have jobs.

    I don’t buy that at all. Too bad! How many patients and expatients on here have stated that psychiatry stole their career? And that’s okay?

    Should we feel sorry for them? I don’t. Get another job, for godsakes. We writers call it a “day job.” Bag groceries. That’s what one shrink told me to do, if I recall correctly. Okay, so they ruined my career and that’s their answer? Go work for Dunkin Donuts or McDonald’s. They’re always looking for people.

    Funny, they counsel people who are jobless, feel oh so sorry for us…fake empathy…and then they panic over their own potential joblessness.”

    I dunno, I am quite a sentimentalist at heart. When I read about the last hangman in England, I felt a tinge of sadness for a lost profession, a lost art, despite that I am against the death penalty and that hanging, in particular, seems designed to appeal to some peoples’ need to attain multiple sadistic emotional orgasms in answer to their grief and anger and vengefulness (the fact that many innocent people swung is a secondary concern).

    I’m not sure who to point the finger at with regards my laughably ruined life. Multiple fingers have to point back at myself because some of the choices I made, from the age of 5 years old and onwards, were tragi-comically self-defeating and although numerous therapists and wannabe therapists have chastised me for being less than charitable about the “inner child” I don’t think I have an inner child, the child is long gone, adults that claim to have an inner child come across to me as a little bit creepy. An inner tendency to at times be child-*ish*… well that’s something else entirely.

    But I digress. I think it’s sad for anyone to lose their jobs, especially if they have made a lot of sacrifices for it. Psychiatrists invest many years to attain that role. As do psychotherapists and really all serious professionals will undergo a lifetime of supplementary learning throughout their careers.

    I think a lot of them would do better to work with abused animals. There may come a day in our lifetimes when the cattle and meat industries find their consciences and are gradually phased out so these poor creatures destined for ritualistic slaughter are emancipated and reintroduced to the wilds, or somewhere between the death-camps and the wilds, there will be lots of openings for compassionate and empathic individuals to help them.

    And certainly a lot of psychotherapists would find their skills far more appropriate in helping cows and pigs and sheepies and wotnot rather than be trusted with other human beings.

    Psychiatrists might also be better suited to working with emancipated meat too. They certainly show a real flair for working with meat. Of course the stringent guidelines against abusive practices might put many of them off, but I am sure many could adapt, and adapt very successfully.

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