Recovery Versus Mad Pride: Exploring the Contradictions


I’ve been intrigued by the way the battle against mental health system oppression has drawn on two important and powerful ideas — which happen to contradict each other!

One is the idea that people can “recover” from mental health problems. Asserting the possibility of recovery has been key to fighting back against the oppressive belief that certain people will always be “mentally ill” and will need to resign themselves to a limited life as a mental patient, etc.

The second idea is that people may not have to change to be OK and valuable — that people can even be proud of what has been called madness! Mad pride helps people fight back against the oppressive notion that one has to be “normal” to be acceptable, and that mental diversity means illness.

But, if one is perfectly OK as one is, then there is no need for recovery. In fact, if one is already quite OK, then the suggestion that one should work on recovery can itself be oppressive — like offering “reparative therapy” for gay people.

On the other hand, if one’s mental state and current beliefs are causing lots of problems that are keeping one stuck, then being encouraged to be proud of that mental state can become a barrier to changing or recovering and so can deepen or prolong problems and oppression.

Contradictions like those outlined above can lead to battles between activists about how to move forward. They can also lead to battles, and confusion, within people who are trying to find the best way to deal with their own “mad” states.

What I want to show is that it’s possible to embrace both “recovery” and “mad pride” despite the contradictions. But to do so, we need to be aware of both the advantages and the “down” or “shadow” side of each of these notions.

Let’s start by looking at the concept of recovery.

Compared to mad pride, recovery has been much more widely embraced. It has even been embraced by much or most of the mental health system — though often what is embraced is just the word itself, and not the possible reality! But because of its popularity, it has also been more widely critiqued, and some have even advocated that we stop using the word altogether.

One common critique is that the word “recovery” implies that one must have been ill in the first place, and so this word should not be used when the problem never was an “illness.” However, people do “recover” from many things that aren’t an illness: we recover our balance, we recover from injuries, we even recover from the down side of events that were overall positive, as in “I’ve finally recovered from that wild party I attended last night!” Krista Mackinnon, in her “Recovering Our Families” course, emphasizes that all humans are constantly recovering from all sorts of things, and so “recovery” is not something unique to those who have been psychiatrically labeled.

A stronger critique of the notion of recovery points out that recovery involves going back to something, while many prefer to see their life as going forward. John Herold for example talks about wanting to move toward “discovery” and not “recovery.”  I agree with that up to a point, but I also notice that we often have to go back to something we had possessed previously in order to move forward overall. For example, if I used to know how to face people and maintain friendships, but then I seemed to have lost that ability during an emotional crisis, I may want to recover the skills and habits I had before so that I can then get on with my life and move into that wider process of discovery.

Then there’s the problem of the word being co-opted to mean something much less than real recovery. For example lots of mental health programs use the recovery word, but their practices remain targeted towards lifelong drugging and containment of the person, with “recovery” apparently meaning only getting to where the person won’t be in crisis so much. I understand why that sort of use of the word “recovery” makes people want to vomit, but I would rather work on reclaiming the word, rather than giving it up. The US government can call a nuclear missile a “Peacekeeper” but that doesn’t mean we need to quit using the word “peace.” I think our best strategy is to continue to emphasize the true meaning of recovery and to contrast truly recovery-oriented treatment with that which is not.

Adding complexity to discussions of recovery is the distinction between “clinical recovery,” or no longer experiencing “symptoms,” versus “personal recovery” which has been defined as “recovering a life worth living.”

Interestingly, within standard care, “personal recovery” is often framed as the proper goal because of a belief that “clinical recovery” is not possible. In other words, it is believed that the person will always have symptoms and will always be less than healthy than others because of that, but they may still learn to “recover a life worth living” despite continuing to be ill. (Of course, this notion that they are still ill can be used to convince people to stay on their drugs, which makes this interpretation popular amongst those who embrace the medical model but who still want to offer some appearance of hope.)

But there is a deeper and more valid reason to focus on personal recovery rather than clinical.  That’s because the experiences that the mental health system called “symptoms” may not be a problem at all once the person learns to live with them. Hearing voices for example may be benign or even helpful once the person learns to relate to them differently. And once experiences no longer cause problems, there is no longer a need for drugs or any kind of treatment to manage them.

Of course, it’s the idea that people don’t need to change, and that their differences may be OK or even something quite valuable, that is basic to that idea that sometimes seems in opposition to recovery: mad pride.

“You are only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” Robin Williams

From a radical mad pride perspective, there is only mental diversity, and not any mental problems, disorders, or illnesses. People do best when they accept and become proud of themselves as they are rather than try to change. If people have problems, or seem to be disabled in some way, it’s just because society has failed to accommodate their differences, and so it’s society that needs to change.

But what are the problems with this kind of radical mad pride perspective?

One issue is that if I am suffering in some way, while believing that there is nothing wrong with me but only problems with others, and if it’s also true that I don’t have the power to make others change, then I am stuck with my suffering. Working on recovery from a problem may not require accepting that one is ill, but it at least requires accepting that something needs to be changed; but pride is the opposite of believing in a need for change.

Another problem is the adversarial relationships that a radical mad pride perspective can create with others. If I for example demand that others change their attitudes and start accepting me just as I am and if I demand that they change in other ways to accommodate my differentness, while I insist that I am perfectly fine as I am and don’t need to change anything, I may just piss people off. I’m certainly not likely to be effective at winning friends and forming peaceful relationships, since good relationships tend to be built when people are willing to change at least some to accommodate each other, at least when they are able to do so.

On the other hand, the notion of radically accepting ourselves just as we are can often seem to be the very core of peace of mind and mental healing. So it can all seem quite complex.

How can all this be best resolved? Or, how can we take what is best about mad pride, and what is best about recovery, without getting caught up in the shadow side of each?

I think it may help to take a step back, and look in more general terms at how we can resolve other kinds of contradictions.

It’s not uncommon that things are opposites, but we find ourselves needing both. Breathing in for example is a good thing, but so is breathing out, even though that’s the opposite. Our ability to open up to people and trust is a good thing, but so at certain times is our ability to close up and distrust.

Mental health issues can be notoriously complex. People can go through terrifying, bewildering experiences that may also have a very important positive side. Or, experiences may seem to be quite positive, but then lead to something very detrimental.

It’s also possible that an experience we want to recover from at one point may be something that later we wish to regain. In my own life I can identify times I have worked to recover from “madness” and to regain my ability to integrate with normality, and then also times when it seemed more important to turn around and work to recover from that normality trance, so I could reclaim what I had discovered when I first went “out of my mind.”

One metaphor for madness is that of revolution. Revolution overthrows the existing order — then anything is possible, which is both great and terrible. Revolution is both something to be proud of, when it is necessary and when it works out well, and it is something to recover from, so that order can be restored.

When we over-value sanity, we stick with an existing order in rigid ways that can be oppressive. When we over-value madness, or revolts against sanity, we can get lost in disorder. Life though works best at the edge of chaos and order, so it may require both rebellion against order and efforts to recover order.

One way to map relations between polarities, where neither polar opposite provides a full answer, is to use what is called a polarity management map. These maps make overt what is positive and negative about each polarity, and suggest that each polarity is the solution for the problems caused by the other.

Below is a polarity management map about recovery versus mad pride. It suggests that there is no final answer to resolving the tensions between mad pride and recovery, or between madness and sanity generally. Rather, whenever we emphasize the positive of one side, we will also sooner or later encounter its negative, and then may have to shift to the opposite side.

If we follow this line of thinking, it follows that there are no final answers as to when a focus on change and recovery is best, versus when it might be better to instead be proud of one’s current state and perspective, even if it is somewhat “mad.” Instead, we will be more open to exploring what might fit or seem healthy, or not, in any given situation. And we will be open to the possibility that whatever we choose now, we will later be called upon to choose the opposite.

When we are too sure that our side is right, that “God is on our side,” we end up at war with our opposite. People who are too sure that their current mental view or version of sanity is correct will go to war against that which opposes it, be they voices or other people who are seen as mentally wrong. But going to war just makes everything more extreme, and prevents the “peaceful revolutions” that are possible when people realize that their current polarity is just one side of a more complex picture.

Modern humans are not, of course, the first to struggle with these issues. Spiritual traditions going back to ancient times wrestle with how to relate to the limits of any existing order, and how to find value in what is outside of that order, or “outside of our minds.” While these traditions are not perfect, and have too many times been bent to completely corrupt and oppressive purposes, they also contain reminders that we humans do our best not when we stay confined within a mundane “sanity” but rather when we allow ourselves, at least at times, to open up to what goes beyond.

What would mental health treatment look like if it balanced an awareness of the need for “recovery” with an awareness that people also sometimes need to go “out of their minds” to resolve problems that they haven’t been able to solve otherwise, or maybe that their entire culture has not been able to face and resolve?

To explore some possible answers to that question, I recently put together a new online course, “Addressing Spiritual Issues Within Treatment for Psychosis and Bipolar.” This course outlines some radically different ways of conceptualizing the mental states that get called “psychosis” and “bipolar” and reviews ways that professionals can shift from pretending to “know it all” to being helpful to people as they face some of the bigger mysteries together. In the course, I try to strike a balanced position that avoids both “romanticizing” extreme states and the more common mistake of “awfulizing” or “pathologizing” them.

This course comes with 6 CE for most US professionals, and until 5/22/19, it is available at a discount to professionals and free to non-professionals, such as people with lived experience and family members. Use the links above to get more information, or to register.

A few more thoughts:

One other possibly helpful metaphor for madness is that of wilderness.

It can be disturbing when young people wander off into the wilderness. What if they become lost, and need to be rescued? Sometimes people do need to be rescued. But a society too sure that the wilderness is nothing but bad will seek to prevent young people from ever wandering off, won’t recognize when people are doing OK in their explorations and don’t need to be rescued, and/or will even seek to destroy the wilderness so that everything can be “civilized” — aka, sane.

But any society that cuts itself off from the wilderness, and/or declares war on what is wild, does so only at its own peril. Certainly, modern civilization or “normality” has declared war on the wild, and it does often seem that it is winning. But that “winning” is a most terrible thing, and puts us all in danger!

Rather than winning, we need to focus more on finding a dynamic balance, or peaceful coexistence. The peaceful coexistence between recovery and mad pride that I have proposed is just one example of that.

Emerson said that “People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.” It’s time that we define mental health not as some settled “sanity” but as the unsettled and possibly playful dialogue that results when we value both madness and sanity, and when we explore together with those whom we wish to help rather than impose our own version of some settled, and dead, “correct answer.”


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.


  1. “The second idea is that people may not have to change to be OK and valuable — that people can even be proud of what has been called madness!”

    This dichotomy leaves out the most important idea, namely, that so-called “mental illness” itself is a myth. There is no reason to be proud or ashamed of fictitious “diseases.” The only real madness is psychiatry’s obsession with promoting and promulgating the myth of “mental illness” in order to cover up it’s own illegitimacy.

    • I don’t think the words are the same. Mad people are irrational. Mentally ill people are sick or unwell. The evolution of an idea went like this: first there was mad, and people thought they had to do something about them, and that something included segregating them from society at large (i.e. locking them up). Thinking that the mad would receive less harsh treatment if they were thought of as “sick”, they came up with this idea of “mental illness”. The word has now sort of gone full circle whereby physical treatments, the result of seeing “illness” as the culprit, has resulted in treatments that are maiming and killing people on a large scale. Also, these treatments have less than spectacular outcomes as a rule. Homo sapiens, the word for our species, in Latin means “wise man”. Unfortunately, I don’t think wisdom really characterizes the species. Humans, in case you haven’t noticed, are very gullible. They possess intelligence, maybe, they are knowledgeable, perhaps, but one thing they are not, as a rule of thumb, is wise.

  2. Ron, interesting thoughts but I disagree. There are those two paradigms but you have totally ignored the most important paradigm abuse.
    As a LISW with twenty years of social work in areas of children and adults and families and trauma of all kinds, and in the MH system inside and outside and with experiences with the old state institution system. There are places field students were NOT ALLOWED to go into I know medical malpractice and abuse when I see it, even if I was zonked out of my mind and dealing with life trauma not of my own making.
    I was severely traumatized by the so called treatment from friends taking it into their own hands you need a shrink and calling on my mother who was dealing with my terminally ill only sister and her three small children ect ect ect and saying YOU NEED MEDICATION never once allowing me the gift of oh she ‘s got her hands full but I trust her to ask for help if she needs it. And I never would have chosen a public park system to confront a person dealing with nonlocus of control events. A letter if you really felt the need to become involved would have been hah! the sane thing to do. And then calling my mother with names and phone numbers of shrinks was just the beginning of my years of total disaster.
    And then to have the majority of the so called professionals not to treat that trauma or ask about other non locus of control life events borders on cruel and unusual punishment or I would even venture to say torture.
    Whether a survivor self identifies with recovery or with the idea of a pride movement – whatever works to get you through life. And I would not expect folks to be in one Camp or the other or some may have arms and legs in different streams, again whatever works.
    Restorative Justice. And if one knows anything about it – not perfect and one can never take back the disaster years but a formal apology, a clearing of the diagnosis or diagnoses would be a kind of benchmark to begin with.
    I also suggest you read about anti- facits and Marxist’s in Vichy France who were at risk of internment or prison. Some never recovered.And when I was in an Unit it was more internment than anything else. Some prison systems the ones that are not in the south or made for abuse actually have kitchens, and libraries, and outside time ie The Shawshank Redemption. Club Fed as well.
    This is not the time for thought experiments in paradigms but thanks for your effort. Another time maybe?

    • I agree totally with your point that the professionals not dealing with your trauma was cruel and unusual punishment. I experienced the very same kind of thing. My mother was dying from emphysema. She was being physically abused by my stepfather of 42 years. So, I quit my job in one city and moved myself into their home in another city 250 miles away. I had to give up my home on a lake and a job that I liked but I had to protect my mother’s last 17 months of life. While my stepfather could bully and verbally abuse my brothers and sister into not interfering I became his worst nightmare. He retaliated in many diverse and bizarre ways during that time. She died and was buried one day after my birthday. One year to the day of my mother’s funeral I received word that my sister was dead in New York City. She’d been murdered. These to women were the two most important people in my life and all of a sudden they were dead and gone. I turned my back on my stepfather and two brothers and walked away but I couldn’t walk away from the trauma that I’d experienced. To top everything off, I was trapped in a city that I hated, with no friends or supports of any kind. This eventually led to my trying to kill myself. I almost accomplished my goal but was caught in the net of the mental health system.

      I expected psychiatrists to actually do therapy or something that might actually help people resolve their issues. Boy was I ever in for a rude awakening! I dealt with five psychiatrists in my journey to get back out of the system and only one of the five was willing to listen to my story about what was responsible for my finding myself in the system in the first place. The rest had no use for my trying to explain to them why I was experiencing deep and abiding anguish. They dismissed my story as unimportant and as having no bearing on anything of any importance. When I told one of them that I was not doing well because of my sister’s death, making me feel that my world was crumbling around me, he screamed, “That’s stupid!” And he called himself a “doctor”. I was shocked.

      I was never a great fan of any kind of doctor before all of this happened. Now I have a deep and abiding contempt for most psychiatrists that I meet. I have no use for any of them since they do nothing to actually help people and everything to keep them chained by their issues and enslaved to the drugs that are called “treatment”. They destroyed my grandmother and they tried to destroy me. I was bound and determined to beat them at their own game and I did so. They are useless and do nothing for the trauma that people have suffered. They are beyond contempt.

      • I think your story is compelling, and shows you are a true humanitarian. I hope that one of my children will be so kind to me in my latter years. Kudos to you for being a compassionate and loving man, Stephan.

        I agree, “I have no use for any [psychiatrists or psychologists] since they do nothing to actually help people and everything to keep them chained by their issues and enslaved to the drugs that are called ‘treatment’ … They are useless and do nothing for the trauma that people have suffered.” They actually do worse than nothing, they deny trauma and/or abuse ever occur.

  3. According to Dr Alan Frances (I believe) to be mentally ill a person has got to suffer from distress.

    Psychiatric hospitals came with the Industrial Reveloution when a person wasn’t of much use Industrially if they weren’t “normal” – but there are completely legitimate environments in the real world where to be “normal” a person is not likely to survive (very well).

    (Medicine today, (I believe) itself is now a completely industrial environment where to question anything can mean automatic “death”).

  4. Ron Unger, maybe long ago, when Soteria started, people really believed in Mental Illness, so the idea of Recovery was a step forwards.

    But today, Mental Illness is known to be nonsense. So no I would not go along with Mad Pride.

    But what is Recovery? Well it is used to manage the poor. It is more of a religious idea than anything else.

    So you have the Capitalism and the Middle-Class Family, two sides of the Self-Reliance Ethic coin, used to find a large percentage of the population in non-compliance.

    So then this underclass is managed by Psychiatry, Drugs, Psychotherapy, Recovery, and Salvation Religion.

    And all of these things are pushed by the government.

    So I see the following objectives:

    1. Eliminating the drugs and putting Psychatrists out of business, eliminating their licensing.
    2. Putting Psychotherapists out of business and suing them for “Transference Abuse”, with the ends being the elimination of such licenses.
    3. Shutting down all gov’t related Recovery Programs, like courts sending people to 12 step, and Rick Warren’s programs in the prisons.
    4. Cutting off all gov’t support for Jesusolotry, like the Bush 43 Faith Based Charities.

    And then helping people to see that there never was anything wrong with them in the first place, nothing for the Psychiatrist, the Psychotherapist, the Recovery Program, or the Salvation Program. Help them to understand that the Self-Reliance Ethic is bogus. And then get people involved in progressive activism, so that they learn shoulder to shoulder, from comrades on the barricades.

    • Boycott mental health services, en mass, and if successful, you’ve checked off objectives one through four. Like vegetable products, I think the way to go was illustrated by Cesar Chavez and his farm-workers, a general boycott. Strike, too, if mental health workers are amenable. Were mental health services much less popular than they are now there would be way fewer buyers. Disaffected, damaged and angry ex-patients are the way their pool of buyers is going to shrink. Sappy customers just support business as usual.

  5. I’ve heard NAMIish people talk about “mental illness” survivors. Lol. Rotfl. I’m not a “mental illness” survivor. No, “mental illness” never harmed anybody. I’m a psychiatric treatment survivor.

    I’ve gotten to the point where, arguing against consuming human services, I have to be a little “sanist” with regard to myself, and make a case for my own “sanity”. I don’t have a problem with madness. A confession of madness however, as well as getting a person released from treatment, can get a person locked up in treatment. I can do without the torture, thank you.

    Mad pride beats mad humility. Sane pride is for normal people, and they’re about as boring as you can get. Everybody is crazy, only some of us have been caught. Recovery is slipping back into disguise and the character that goes with it. Mad, you say, perish the thought.

      • E. Fuller Torrey wrote a book on his abolitionist ancestor, Charles Torrey, and I’d say that in doing so, given the parallels, there was a double standard at work. I can’t see how one couldn’t see how chattel slavery relates to psychiatric slavery, nor how a person might not be against one without being against the other.

        E. Fuller Torrey also blames psychiatric casualties on psychiatric survivors, but like I said nobody was ever killed by a “mental illness”. Usually, it’s heart disease, organ failure, suicide (personal decision/one’s own hands), or any number of other ill health conditions that follow from complications due to compliance with harmful psychiatric treatment programs and practices.

        • I have two friends killed by standard psychiatric “treatments.” If either had known about the survivors’ movement she might not have died. 🙁

          Psychiatry has messed up my digestive system. I’m glad I escaped when I did. It was killing me too.

          Btw, someone should ask shrinks who mock the idea that “mental illness is just a social construct” why drapetomania never made it into the DSM. Benjamin Rush firmly believed in it.

  6. An excellent piece Ron. It explains so well how as humans we are complex, we suffer and are diverse in our thinking and beliefs but how important it is to keep an open-mind to diversity – no labels or discrimination needed. The course offered to professionals and at no-charge to those with lived experience and/or family members is super and sure looks to be most helpful. Thank you for your service.

  7. Madness, mental health, mental illness, genius, talent. Those words are weapons in the mouth of apollonian idiot for whom ego in apollonian archetype and theology of the brain is in the center of the psychological world. They are using empty words without proper meaning in completely false context.

    How can it be that someone like Plath was tortured by someone like psychiatrist?
    Very high language was always attacked by psychiatric jargon and poets were attacked by apollonian fundamnetalists.

    Psychiatric jargon is a cancer of the real human language. And only Hillman knew it.

    Why psychiatry is attacking poets? Because psychiatry means apollonian ego fundamnetalism, and poets represent psyche, psychopathology. That is why.
    If you represent real human psyche in society of naive spiritual fundamentalists they will kill you in the name of health (theological naivety).

    To recover means to resurrect. And resurrection is a spiritual claim.

    And only James Hillman noticed it.
    Poets and their high language represent psyche, death, and psychiatric jargon represent impaired reality of apollonian fundamentalists, for whom death and psyche does not exists.
    You must have extremely strong balls to lose with the state like victims of the psychiatry. Because there are no winners anyway, there are only obedient slaves who thinks they win.

  8. “Below is a polarity management map about recovery versus mad pride.” This seems to imply you are diagnosing the entire anti/critical psychiatry movement, or recovery vs mad pride movements, or whatever those of us who comment on MiA are claimed to be, as all “bipolar.”

    I agree with much of what you say, but do disagree that there are only two choices. And believe this is a huge problem with the psychiatric reductionist theology/habit. Human nature and reality includes a wide spectrum of choices, not just two. So I think the “mental health” industry claiming there are only a “mad pride” or a “recovery” movement to choose from is reductionist.

    I’m probably more anti-psychiatry over critical psychiatry, because as a psychopharmacology researcher, I know all the psychiatric drugs can create the symptoms of the “serious mental illnesses.” And I think this systemic, medically known harm of innocent people should end.

    But I also know the antidepressants can help some people. Although I also know the doctors and “mental health” workers were ignorant of the common symptoms of antidepressant discontinuation syndrome, when I was abruptly taken off one, because it didn’t help me stop smoking in 2001.'Brain_shivers'_From_chat_room_to_clinic

    And the medical industry still largely denies and claims ignorance of the harms of their drugs. And millions, including over a million children, have had the adverse and withdrawal effects of the psychiatric drugs misdiagnosed as the “serious mental illnesses.”

    I hope not all the “mental health” workers are hypocritical Holy Spirit blasphemers, as the ones I ran into were, according to their medical records. And I agree, the “mental health” workers should get out of the business of drugging up Christians for belief in the Holy Spirit, so they may cover up the rape and abuse of those Christian’s children, for the hypocritical Christian religions. Which ended up being the motive of my “Christian talk therapist,” and her highly deluded psychiatrist, according to medical records.

    I agree, a “society that cuts itself off from the wilderness [or the spiritual], and/or declares war on what is wild [spiritual], only at its own peril. Certainly, modern civilization or ‘normality’ has declared war on the wild [spiritual/God], and it does often seem that it is winning. But that ‘winning’ is a most terrible thing, and puts us all in danger!”

    I agree. Since our “mental health” workers’ primary function, both historically and today is, in fact, covering up child abuse.

    And “winning,” when that constitutes psychiatrists and psychologists destroying the lives, marriages, health, and reputations of millions, so they may help pedophiles get away with their crimes, is not really a win. It’s more like a lose-lose.

    Because when a society has a multibillion dollar, primarily child abuse covering up, group of “mental health” industries, which is what today’s “mental health” industries are. Well, all of western civilization ends up with child sex trafficking and pedophilia crimes running amok.

    I agree, “It’s time that we define mental health not as some settled ‘sanity’ but as the unsettled and possibly playful dialogue that results when we value both madness and sanity, and when we explore together with those whom we wish to help rather than impose our own version of some settled, and dead, ‘correct answer.’” “Dead” is correct.

    As a Christian, whose entire life was declared to be a “credible fictional story” in the end, which meant I had to leave my delusional, I eventually learned from medical records, child rape covering up psychiatrist. I agree the “mental health” workers should get rid of their hubris, their DSM, and make a serious return towards understanding the importance of treating others in a manner commensurate with how you’d like to be treated.

    Oh, that’s right, belief in God, the Holy Spirit, or Jesus’ theology is a “mental illness” to today’s child rape covering up “omnipotent moral busy body” “mental health” workers.

  9. I also found this to be an excellent piece and a thought-provoking examination of the contradictions between mad pride and recovery. The polarity map was excellent and a useful tool I haven’t come across before. I’ll try and use that when I’m in another mental mexican stand-off. It’ll be useful I’m sure.

  10. I see another choice out there. There is something to recover from. The mental health system!

    I have a chapter in my book on social media and mad pride. Only I titled the chapter something else. I do not think it’s a good idea for people to use social media to boast about how sick they are. There’s kind of a cult around that. If you do that, you’re going to attract followers who are morbidly fascinated with illness and death. The very presence of followers is like a reward. Get sicker, get more admirers. The formula looks lucrative until you realize they aren’t very good friends.

    This is an addictive tendency, sorry to say. It is a vicious cycle. I have seen people go down a very bad path doing that. I fear that Mad Pride is stoking the fire for this. I don’t think this was the original intent of Mad Pride.

    On the other hand, I believe our society needs to be more accepting of human variety of expression. There are no bad emotions, only ones that make therapists upset. This translates in a bunch of mythology being generated in the media, that dreams up a new disorder every day! They post a new disorder, and people immediately latch onto it and then, it’s another disaster, another new doorway to the nuthouse. Pssst…someone certainly profits from it!

      • Malignant narcissism isn’t a mental illness. It’s a personality-style, a tendency to construct grandiose victim-status and vengefulness against perceived narcissistic injuries. Here you’re playing the armchair shaming psychotherapist, placing the atrocities of Rodger squarely on his father, whose probably only fault was pursuing a career at the expense of being present for his son.

        Psychiatry doesn’t depict personality disorder as a mental illness. Although as we all know, it’s often quite happy to drug the individual with personality problems.

        In my experience, narcissists — many of whom are probably acquired situational narcissists — do very well in the mental health system, partly because we are culturally led on to equate fame with expertise. And they exploit that ruthlessly, unsurprisingly.

        If I was to play the armchair psychobabbler, I’d guess that Rodger was a repressed homosexual, and the tragedy there was his inability to come to terms with that. He does, after all, describe in his manifesto the “trauma” of seeing heterosexual sex, and an adult female vagina, and spurns the advances of obtainable females, such that he can go on with his sense of persecution and rejection.

        His father is flawed, his mother is flawed. So is everyone. Choosing to go on a spree killing is entirely the choice of the malignant narcissist/psychopath… it’s just a shame that he couldn’t have been identified sooner, and all tragedy perhaps averted.

        Just to add that I am not equating repressed homosexuality with spree killing, generally. An old friend of mine spent 15 years in a marriage, had 3 kids, and was utterly miserable, but did well by his wife, and his children, and did his best to come out for them as gently as he could, although the whole experience was tragic.

        Only there are complex issues. Rodger was overly-mothered, under-fathered, bullied and hung up about his short stature. He comes across as quite effeminate, and time and time again, people were kind to him, even people that he had previously been bullied by, and despite everything, a life coach that tried to encourage him into work (he lasted 3 hours as he considered manual work beneath him) and friends who offered him homely and humble wisdoms. But he chose a trajectory, a narcissistic trajectory, and no-one is accountable for those choices other than himself.

        • Peter othered his son Elliot, made him into the family scapegoat. And that they were sending him to a psychotherapist, is by itself highly suggestive of this. Said therapist will help with nothing, he just backs up the parents.

          To get justice Elliot would have needed a lawyer, not a therapist.

          Elliot listened to stupid misogynist sources, and he believed them, and the rest is history.

          Psychotherapy is based entirely on lies, the lie that you do not have to fight for justice and restore your social and civil standing. Psychotherapy backs up the abusers.

          So it makes things worse, not better. And we see where this went.

      • He shouldn’t have gone on a murderous rampage.

        Interesting they call him a “madman.” He was mad–or angry at the loneliness and rejection he kept experiencing.

        Eliot Rogers could have used some help. Not from being locked up and tortured but simply someone willing to reach out to him with compassion. One true friend might have made the difference. 🙁

        • A lawyer, and comrades fighting for justice. But absolutely not a psychotherapist. Said therapist will never do anything to help the objective circumstances of a person’s life.

          Only lawyers and comrades on the barricades will do that.

          I am hoping that in Eve Ensler, somewhere in her writtings that she must have come to the same conclusions.

          And thanks to CatNight for some info about her.

          • Rachel, I am glad you have not allowed yourself to be fodder for Psychotherapy, in many years.

            And of course I can tell the difference between a friend and a psychotherapist.

            When it comes to Elliot Rodger, I would say that his life still revolved around the control of his parents, and especially his father Peter. So any potential friendships, or intimate relationships, would be subordinated to his attempts to manage his standing in the eyes of his father.

            So again, what he would have to have first is a lawyer, and political activists, because they are the people who could penalize his father, and hence restore Elliot’s personhood.

            Whereas a therapist would tell him that the problem in in his head and that it is morally superior not to ever attempt to penalize perpetrators or restore his social and civil standing. If the therapist did not believe this, they would not be able to continue to practice therapy.

            There are a few of these high profile rampage shooters which have really shaken people up and challenged present understanding. Elliot Rodger is one of them, I think because of his manifesto and his introduction the term “Incel” in to public consciousness.

            Another is Adam Lanza at Sandyhook. He was in his early 20’s, and he was shooting 8 yo’s. But the first thing he did that morning was to kill his mother, and so in this I am sure one will find the answer.

            The other, as I see it, was Columbine Colorado. Mostly it shook people up because there were two of them, and hence this challenges the lone nut psychopath narrative. Not sure if these two really had any articulated grievance either.

            Thanks Rachel

          • Hi, PD,

            I have to respectfully disagree with your assertion regarding therapists not being allowed to practice if they don’t follow the priorities you mention above. I have tons of experience with therapists, both as a part of the MH system and as an advocate for foster youth for 20 years. I can assure you that therapists are all over the place in terms of practice, and any generalization you’d like to make is not going to be accurate. Some are unwilling to give any direction at all to the client, no matter how bogged down they get, others think they know everything and constantly tell the client what to do. Some believe that everyone’s issues come from poor parenting, others believe that nothing in the past has any impact on the present. Some have people go over past traumatic events in detail, others avoid them like the plague. Some believe religiously in the DSM, others consider it ridiculously simplistic and only use it for billing purposes. Some seek to be empowering, others seek to define and solve the client’s problems for them. Some feel that sharing personal details of their lives is essential to a successful relationship, others consider any sharing a violation of “professional boundaries.” The only generalization that can be made about therapists is that there is no consistency regarding expectations or results.

            I do get that the CONCEPT behind therapy suggests that fixing the person to make them more “normal” is the goal, and I of course find such a goal abhorrent. But therapy for the most part can be whatever the therapist and client make it, and some people report very positive experiences with therapists that have helped them change their lives for the better. (Though I have to admit that such reports seem to have become rarer over the decades.)

            Bottom line, I think comments about the therapy industry as a whole can be reliably made, but generalizations about what would happen to a particular therapist if they didn’t toe some imaginary party line do not line up with what I’ve seen. Therapists can generally do whatever the heck they want, as long as they can bill the insurance company for their work, and as long as they don’t piss off any psychiatrists they have to answer to by threatening their label-and-drug gravy train.

          • I mean the goal of being “normal” as defined by the social norms promoted by our cultural system of values. It is the slavish adherence to this artificial “normalcy” and its conflict with people’s actual reality that is behind many cases of “mental illness.” This is very different from accomplishing what the client personally wants to create as their own “normal” mode of operation. What I find abhorrent is when therapists/counselors/psychiatrists define “normal” for the client and feel their job is to make them “fit in” better to society, rather than finding their own definition of “normal” that allows them to be comfortable in their own skins.

            As for pissing of psychiatrists, it depends if the psychiatrist is in a position to influence your reputation or your employment potential. There are definitely situations where one’s survival as a therapist in a particular institution depends on not being too vocal about critiques of the DSM or “medication” use. I respect anyone who can operate “behind the lines” without being beaten down or giving up. You appear to have established a certain level of respect and independence that has allowed you to be a maverick with limited consequences, but that takes time and skill to develop, and for some, it appears to be beyond their capacity. Working in a psychiatric institution or one controlled by psychiatric thinking can be extremely oppressive toward the workers as well. It takes a lot of courage not to pass on that oppression to the clients.

          • I agree with Steve. Therapists run the gamut. Some are obviously boundary-paranoid. I can always tell! I had one who cried in front of me. She was crying over another patient. whom I did not know, who had died of cancer. What was I to do? She constantly violated HIPAA by revealing personal details about other patients. This was annoying to say the least! She made me be her therapist countless times. Why didn’t she pay me?

            I had at least 20 therapists over the years. I always wondered why it wasn’t “working.” I have realized that their definition of “normal” is culturally-driven. Also, from one generation to another, “normal” changes. From one part of the country to another, from one neighborhood to another, and so on.

            They would talk about “baseline.” After I’d been only a few years in the System they were clueless about what “baseline” really was for me. Also, one’s baseline can’t possibly exist, since it’s not this fixed entity, but always changing and evolving. Even so, they wildly underestimated me for decades.

          • I never really thought about it, but you’re right, the concept of “baseline” is totally bogus. It assumes a person is a fixed entity that is only temporarily impacted by life circumstances. This is rot, of course. People are always developing, and the whole idea of “therapy” ought to be to help someone move onward to their next step in life, rather than returning to some “baseline” equilibrium defined by another person.

        • So Rachel777, are you agreeing with Peter Rodger that Elliot suffered from Mental Illness?

          And someone wiling to help, sounds like you are advocating for psychotherapy. A Psychotherapist is not going to put Peter in handcuffs. But a Dependency Court Judge could.

          Elliot’s missives, the videos and the 135 page manifesto, who was his intended audience? Obviously it was his parents.

          Not clear how much interest Elliot really had in girls. But he had to have that blonde bombshell on his arm, because he was looking to win the approval of his father Peter. Peter had made Elliot into the family scapegoat. And sending him to a psychotherapist was but one manifestation of that. The rest is history.

          Mad is a euphemism for Mental Illness.

          • No, I don’t believe in mental illness. I was talking about friendship. Friendship is essential.

            If you can’t tell friendship from psycho-therapy you must have it rough. I love my friends and family.

            I haven’t had “therapy” in years.

    • Elliot Rodger, he was clearly a young man who was suffering.

      Of course do not agree with his actions. But saying that at this point means nothing.

      I don’t agree with his interpretations either.

      I feel that being sent to a psychotherapist, a clear attempt to mess with his head, was part of the problem.

        • Rachel777, of course I don’t agree with killing sprees. But I also know that for every situation which results in a killing spree, there are 1000’s of others who are suffering in similar ways. And I know that an idea like “mental illness” only makes it worse.

          And I do not agree with Elliot’s misogyny, or this concept of Incels.

          But I have become certain that there were things which must have been done wrong to Elliot, to make him suffer so. Mental Health, Psychotherapy, Recovery, and Religion would not have helped.

          And he had no friends or intimate partners because his social and civil standing had been so trashed. There needed to have been outside intervention on Elliot’s behalf, and to hold the perpetrators, his parents, accountable.

          Where should there have been trip wires? Well, sending a juvenile to a psychotherapist, and without the parents also seeing the same therapist, I say that that should have been a matter subject to mandatory reporting and subject to court supervision, and the juvenile should have been provided with a lawyer.

  11. Mad Pride makes mental illness into a joke. Mental illness is a weaponized concept used to repress.

    What we do not need are Psychotherapists getting people to make personal disclosures when they themselves are not committed comrades, but rather are people trying to tell people that they need to change themselves, need moral reform.

  12. Ron, you want to keep arguing that people need their Psychotherapist because they need to change?

    How about this, start referring your clients to this web site. We will make sure that their eyes are opened. And odds will be that they will change, by virtue of getting politically involved, instead of by confessing on the couch.

    They also might be receptive to the argument that such therapy amounts to Transference Abuse, and so they might be interested in talking to a lawyer.

  13. Nice piece of exploration.
    There ARE so many contradictions and I think that when we begin to examine the language used it IS helpful. Otherwise we risk putting potential allies on the defense. Allies for change. Period.
    And “they” risk putting us on the defense as well.

    We have to be able to listen and communicate somewhere in the middle, I believe, for real change to happen.

    The current standards for FEP(first episode psychosis), in the U.S. anyway, really worry me. Young folks being put on AP’s/neuroleptics/dumb adjuncts to AD’s and then never, ever, being given a chance to come off with proper guidance in tapering and/or with an understanding of withdrawal. Lives often so very limited by over-medication and for too long. Families and friends believing that their loved one is damaged and hopeless due to the media, and/or the proliferation of “diagnonsense”. That darn DSM-5 bible thing.

    And oh, I loved the spiritual stuff.

    And this too:
    One other possibly helpful metaphor for madness is that of wilderness.

    It can be disturbing when young people wander off into the wilderness. What if they become lost, and need to be rescued? Sometimes people do need to be rescued. But a society too sure that the wilderness is nothing but bad will seek to prevent young people from ever wandering off, won’t recognize when people are doing OK in their explorations and don’t need to be rescued, and/or will even seek to destroy the wilderness so that everything can be “civilized” — aka, sane.

    “Not all who wander are lost”
    Yah…..what does being lost mean anyway? Maybe just not being accepted? Or being different from what others expected of us? I don’t know.

    Yes, change is badly needed. I think explorations like this will help.

    Jiddu Krishnamurti: It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

    signed: psychiatric survivor
    I wondered though, if, when I used that term for myself for the first time in a mixed group of peers, offline, in person, if it was understood…..what I meant by that. I guess I just figure they will ask me if they’d like to know more about what it means to me. Some do know that I feel my healing or recovery only really began when I left the psych system and carefully finished my medication tapers. Boy was I getting sicker being “compliant” and riding the merry go round of medications.

    Maybe I should say I’ve been found(no longer lost and wandering/wondering anymore ) I get to be me.

    Thanks for the space. I’m practicing my words.

  14. I believe the spiritual issue for those in crisis is how to ascend the dynamics of such a limited society. In that sense, we grow toward our own individual freedom and unlimitedness. That’s what will move society forward and how the paradigm will shift, when the burden and accountailibty go back to those who program people into believing so negatively about themselves, that they are needy, inferior, and “do not belong.” When these terribly false and damning projections are released from the masses, then, we will be free and “recovered.”

  15. What might be an interesting construct to investigate is the character from “Alice in Wonderland.”
    The Mad Hatter was based on reality. Folks who worked in military factories became irrational and endured altered states. It was eventually discovered the chemicals used in the factory process were the cause.
    I find this haunting especially in our world. So much exposure so many suppressed and or uninvestigsted issues of altered mental states. Trauma is one layer but only one of many.

    • Psychiatry creates insanity through the drugs it tricks or forces people to take.

      When I saw Dr. M at 20 I was depressed and anxious. Thanks to the Anafranil he prescribed I went 3 weeks without sleep and had a terrifying break from reality. The experience was so scary I did anything shrinks told me after that to prevent the very breakdown THEY had caused.

      Gaslighting is what psychiatrists do.

  16. Since often antipsychotics used in hospitals to make old people die faster, talking about “recovery” would be too optimistic, as well as “mad pride” on the one hand is obvious (if you have psychedelic experience), on the other hand there are really sick and misdiagnosed people. Psychiatric survivors is a correct term.

  17. Hello Mr. Unger – I stopped reading because you were basing assumptions on the name ‘mad pride’ while treating mainstream MHC with all its diversity.

    Your 1st flawed assumption is oversimplifying that one who has pride in their madness do not want change in their life – you repeated this assumption 3 times over and I wasn’t charmed by this cutting short of the ‘mad pride’-movement (of which I heard 1st and only in this article).

    Your second flawed remark is writing about ‘people who hear voices’ , all the while I was having trouble controlling anger that was directed at you – we just talked about this telepathically.

    I just responded quite humorously on this post and tried to scare you with my wits by making a telepathic-joke with you – however for (later to be discovered) reasons I got gripped by aggression towards you but we quickly resolved the issue.

    My ‘mad pride’ doesn’t think that changing the world is impossible and I only attempt to ‘please’ other people by giving their POV affirmation when I’m able to change their minds in my direction. For this I need your article but I’m scared that you will disappoint me after I’ve read it completely.

    You see, for the past 5 years I’ve been suffering from ‘social psychological torture’ by society and I would rather die a horrible death than conforming to the mainstream hypnoses. Society thinks that by treating me for a mental illness they can create a better life for me but it’s the other way around, I want to awake society from the mass hypnosis they are under but I have to conclude everybody is still sleeping and are only pretending to be awake.

    If we are only given a little spark of madness in our life, why should we be shamed for this by being called mentally retarded ?

    friendly greetings from
    Alain Bos ([email protected])

  18. There are so many terms to consider.

    Back in the day, I was an ex-mental patient who dealt with sane chauvinists. We said that therapy was change not adjustment in a world of normalization. Then we found the word therapist was really two words, breaking it down to the/rapist.

    These days I talk about people with life problems, like poverty, that often lead to mental problems–not functioning in the way one wants, and/or blocked from forming and achieving life goals.

    Instead of recovery, I like transformation, but maybe this is too New Agey?

    How about we allow informed people to use whatever terms they like for themselves?

    I don’t care what you call me, just don’t call me late for diner.

  19. “the/rapist”

    I love it! Therapy is after all entirely about denial. And denial has long been identified as second rape.

    Therapy is based on a central lie, that you do not need to publicly redress injustice and abuse in order to restore your public honor and identity, and that it is morally superior not to even try.

    Woman goes to a police station to report that she was raped. What she hears is,

    “Well, we have therapy and we have recovery programs. We even have medications. We have everything you need so that you can go on with your life, and not have to be carrying unnecessary trauma around with you. You certainly came to the right place.”

    Why Children Don’t Belong in Therapy — Daniel Macker

    Why I Quit Being a Therapist — Six Reasons by Daniel Mackler

  20. Ron, people need to live true to their life experience, and not let themselves be conned into trying to appease others, or to look like others.

    When Soteria started, the idea of Recovery may have been constructive. Most people then thought mental illness was real and incurable.

    But today, people must be able to see that it is all just the deliberate creation of an underclass, Capitalism and the Middle-Class Family at their best, and aided by therapy, recovery, motivationalism, and the salvation industry.

  21. Ron, your therapy clients, I assume that they have all given fully informed consent. They know about this forum, and that they are welcome to join and post here. And they know that some of us consider psychotherapy to be a scam which preys the most on the survivors of childhood abuses. And they know that some of us believe that we should stop allowing our government to issue therapy licenses. They know that some of us consider the very existence of the Mental Health System as constituting a State of War. And they know that some clients have retained attorneys whom now are suing therapists for “Transference Abuse”.

    You clients, they know all of this, I assume.

  22. This forum would be easier if it were not threaded. A ways above Steve wrote,

    “I have to respectfully disagree with your assertion regarding therapists not being allowed to practice if they don’t follow the priorities you mention above.” And then said something which included, “Some believe that everyone’s issues come from poor parenting, others believe that nothing in the past has any impact on the present.”

    Steve, first of all I do respect your advocacy for children in the Foster Care system, and I believe all your service as a CASA volunteer.

    But I have never said that therapists should not be allowed to practice if they don’t follow my priorities. What I have said is that psychotherapy is a predatory scam and that we should not be allowing our government to issue licenses for it. This would not eradicate it, but it would deny it most of the normative authority which it currently enjoys.

    And then as far as “poor parenting” I would never have said anything like that because that would legitimate parents, and child exploitation is the root problem.

    Steve wrote, “I do get that the CONCEPT behind therapy suggests that fixing the person to make them more “normal” is the goal, and I of course find such a goal abhorrent.”

    Well of course I agree with this, but I also see the problem as more serious.

    Steve also wrote, “Bottom line, I think comments about the therapy industry as a whole can be reliably made, but generalizations about what would happen to a particular therapist if they didn’t toe some imaginary party line do not line up with what I’ve seen.”

    I have never suggested any party line or consequences. I have simply said that we should not be allowing our government to issue any licenses for Psychotherapy or Psychiatry. As far as lawsuits against psychotherapists, those have to be decided one by one by judges and juries. And as an anti-therapy activist, I am not in the jury pool.

    As far as what I think about psychotherapy, and considering what you have written, the basic problem is that the therapist is presenting themselves as your friend and comrade, when in fact they can never be anything of the sort. Rather they are loyal to their profession, and in general to compliance with social norms and laws. So you will have a client disclosing their most personal things, not because you have demonstrated yourself to be a comrade out on the barricades, but because they are taken in by the therapists demeanor and diplomas and licenses on the wall.

    I am not saying that this can be completely eradicated, as adults can consent to talk to each other.

    I am simply saying that we must not allow our government to issue such licenses, and that is important to educate people that psychotherapy is a scam, one which covers up gross social injustice.

  23. After Steve’s post above, Ron Unger posted, “So somebody might not know how to engage with random people in a friendly way…”

    Again, people learn when they are striking out, on the barricades, and they learn from Comrades, not from those who want to have power over them in order to perpetuate their own denial systems.

    And then after Ron, Steve posted,”I mean the goal of being “normal” as defined by the social norms promoted by our cultural system of values. It is the slavish adherence to this artificial “normalcy” and its conflict with people’s actual reality that is behind many cases of “mental illness.” ”

    Our entire society is based on this artificial normality, and it comes from Capitalism and the Middle-Class Family, as these are the two side of the Self-Reliance coin.

    For someone who is no longer part of this, they need to find political consciousness. They have their best chances when they find comrades on the barricades.

    And then Julie posted, “I agree with Steve. Therapists run the gamut. Some are obviously boundary-paranoid.”

    Well what I would say is universal about therapists is that they are not attacking normalcy. They are getting people to disclose personal things, but they do nothing to redress injustice. Rather, they turn you experience of injustice into a medical problem and into a self-improvement project.

    I am only insisting on the de-licensing of psychotherapy, not on any attempts at completely outlawing it.

  24. One of the most basic rules of living in this world, of just being a living thing is, you don’t let people mess with you. You don’t let people attack your basic legitimacy. Beyond a point you have to strike back, no matter what the costs and no matter what the risks and consequences.

    Now we have Capitalism and the Middle-Class Family, and these operate by psychically scaring and maiming children. Most of the time there is no way to strike back. But then eventually a child will realize what is happening and not allow such anymore.

    But then enter the Psychotherapist, and the Psychiatry, and the Recovery Group, and they try to tell you that your experience of distress and alienation is really your own doing. There may have been external triggers, but as of now, the solution resides between your own two ears, and in your willingness to accept instruction from your therapist.

    Well, the basic rules of being alive say that you do no allow this at all.

    So why do some allow it? Its because they are still seeking approval from their abuser parents, and because our legal system is not very good at providing for redress, and because an entire industry has grown up to target such vulnerable persons. And it is because those of us who have survived such attacks on our legitimacy are only just now starting to act to prevent more survivors from being abused.

    The road to redress is going to be long and hard, and we have a massive created underclass. But I believe that all such targeting and scapegoating, and the industries which promote it can be eliminated.

    • I 4 1 gratefully appreciate your comments and would love to have conversations with you, even if it is just by email (I live in the Netherlands and your comment about judges & juries suggests you live in the US, so meeting IRL will not be an option).

      You can reach me @ anti-psychiatrie at outlook dot com (yes with an ie because anti-psychiatry was already taken and this ‘ie’ is the dutch spelling too).

      I hope to hear from you !