The Professionalization of Mental Health Services Is Ruining Friendship

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We’ve all heard the hand-wringing about the loneliness crisis on the rise in the United States; one in five of us Millennials say they have no friends and over half of us said it’s because we’re shy and so it’s hard to make friends. Amazingly, almost 30% of us said it’s because we “don’t feel like we need friends.” I don’t relate to that last one at all.

Though I do resonate with some other theories about why my generation may be driving the loneliness numbers up—social media over-reliance, the pedestalizing of hustle culture and the rampant advice to cut “toxic” people out of your life (with the permission to define “toxic” however you want), to name a few—there’s one factor I haven’t seen proposed anywhere else: the existence of the mental-health industry.

The damage hustle-culture is doing are obvious by now. Everyone is made to feel that they have no time for anything but work (worse and worse work at that). It isn’t just because the people getting all the positive media attention are people who pat themselves on the back for getting no sleep and spending no time with family (if they have one) but who get a hell of a lot done.

It’s also because late-stage, unbridled capitalism, which I’ve written about before, is getting impossible to keep up with unless you can figure out how to make money in your sleep (which, by the way, you should be shorting yourself on if you want be loved and have your existence validated). Social media over-reliance is more complicated—it depends on how you use it—but generally, it’s mostly fuel for comparison, where everyone else’s filtered, air-brushed, vacation-filled lives filled with perfect partners and amazing careers always crushes your normal, maybe-not-even-that-bad life.

The encouragement that appears on nearly every lifestyle blog at some point or another to cut “toxic” people out of your life, when the definition of toxic may be merely that they aren’t “serving” you (so does this mean that “you” don’t have to serve anyone and the highest goal in life is to be served?) may need some explanation. There are exceptions, of course, but in general, what’s toxic is not a single person but the dynamic between two people who may otherwise be very good people but are terrible together.

Advising people to label others as “toxic,” as more and more therapists are “empowering” people to do, is leading people to make very entitled, selfish decisions and do really shitty things to each other in the name of “self-care.” Again, I’m not at all saying that people should put up with abusive behavior. But the label “toxic” is being thrown around without much consideration for the fact that you’re sticking it to a person.

You have a right to be treated well by the people in your life and a right to stand up for yourself if that’s not happening; you don’t have a right to be abusive simply because you’ve experienced abuse.

The way the mental-health industry undermines both the idea and the practice of friendship isn’t easy to see. On the one hand, well-meaning loved ones want those who are suffering from mental and emotional distress to be well—not only because it’s easier on them as caregivers, perhaps, but also because they probably really do care.

But the only thing our culture, which is extremely emotionally abusive, tells its subjects about mental health is that it requires “treatment” by “professionals” and could involve horrendous things like medications or involuntary hospitalization “for the good” of the person who is in distress. Thus, people are trained that asking “have you taken your medications?” is a caring question, that encouraging people to seek “professional” help is showing concern, that helping people get connected to therapy or other “services” is loving. It is not.

One of the main reasons it’s not is because, as Martin and Deidre Bobgan write in Psychoheresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity, the “skills” that research has shown “good therapists” possess—flexibility, open-mindedness, positive attitudes toward people, and interpersonal skills—are skills anyone can develop, and are what we should expect in friendships.

You remember those free relationships you have with other humans you like and who like you, right? The ones our society completely devalues and encourages us to throw away the moment they become “toxic” or stop “serving” us, whatever that means.

Our society does not provide any tools for creating and maintaining healthy friendships, which is not surprising since it doesn’t value friendship much at all, other than “supporting” people in “seeking professional help.” The existence of such “help” allows people to abdicate responsibility to the people in their life they call their friends. There’s no need to learn how to become better friends, and how to contribute meaningfully to relationships. Instead, people believe that someone else is providing the support, care, and action that people in terrible situations need from the people closest to them.

In my former partnership, I was deeply emotionally neglected, isolated, and gaslighted. I was made to feel guilty for having the human desires of companionship, support, and acceptance for who I am (which I was also made to feel that I should apologize for). When I began expressing little glimpses of my troubles to my friends, the few who believed me encouraged me to seek couple’s therapy. They thought this was being supportive. They thought this “support” was sufficient.

When the first therapist refused to believe my side of the story and instead began “supporting” my ex in “standing up for himself” (which he had no trouble doing, actually), I told my friends. All they offered was, “Find another therapist.” My ex and I tried five therapists, none of whom saw past the surface dynamic being set up and stoked intentionally by my former partner.

After therapist number three, who my ex could so easily manipulate I couldn’t believe she had a license to practice therapy, I stopped talking to my friends about it. Or about my abusive marriage altogether, because the only advice they offered ad nauseum was to “just keep trying therapy.”

And those were the ones who believed me and believed they were being supportive. They foisted off doing the work of caring, listening and taking action on my behalf to a “trained professional” because the mental-health industry has been successful in getting the general public to believe that professionals can “help,” that if such “help” isn’t working it’s because you haven’t found the “right” help yet and that the untrained “lay” person will make it worse if they try to get involved in any way with relational or emotional “problems.”

This is the subtler but more pervasive way the mental-health industry undercuts true friendship: deference to “the experts.” Folks cherry-pick which experts we’ll defer to, of course, but, because of how scary and violent the media constantly tells us those with “mental illnesses” are, people are generally all too happy to point a struggling friend in the direction of a professional rather than learning how to be a support themselves. And the professionals are all too happy to receive more revenue—I mean clients they can feel nice and fulfilled about “helping.”

If, as the common thought goes, it is the relationship that is the healing agent in a therapy dyad rather than any skills or training the therapist has, then all “therapy” is the monetization of an otherwise deeply sacred connection between people. And in a culture that is actively against human connection, it’s no wonder people not only don’t push back against this but direct their friends toward it whenever anything “difficult” comes up.

The violation continues. More and more mental-health professionals and coaches are creating groups and “communities” on social media where they claim to be facilitating that connection humans need among members. These are often (though not always) subscription-based groups so, while the connections you may or may not make among group members is free, you are charged for access to the opportunity to build such connections, which you may or may not be successful at.

So it’s just like what real life used to be/should be, except now you have to pay. Every one of these groups I’ve investigated has also been subject to the “facilitator”—either a self-appointed “coach” or an actually credentialed “professional”—soliciting advice about what they should put in their upcoming book that will focus on people “just like” these members so they can continue their healing journey.

Essentially, these professional helpers want free advice from people who are likely struggling financially (given the statistical connection between poverty and disability/illness/mental and emotional distress plus our current [lack of] social safety net and the state of “services” in this country), to include in a product (a book) that they plan to profit from with no clear plan for compensating the individuals who they want to contribute to the work.

The danger isn’t just in inflicting those who get their existential validation from exploiting people and calling it helping onto struggling people who just need a damn friend. The danger, as I mentioned above, is also that fewer and fewer people are concerned with being a good friend.

I’m not saying that friendship will solve all the world’s problems, but I am saying that it will make communities stronger. I’m not saying strong communities are all we need to change the way we care for those who struggle with what we’re currently still calling “mental illnesses” because I don’t know that for sure. What I am saying is that we haven’t tried it.

And the reason we haven’t is because the mental-health industry couldn’t be more eager to take the “burden” of truly caring about each other off our hands so it can monetize what should be basic human compassion, caring, and concern for those around us. It’s no wonder people are lonely: the definition of a “good friend” these days is someone to maybe grab drinks with after work on Friday (or whatever COVID version of that we’re pretending is “connection” these days) but will likely flake out the same day with a self-flagellating apology that compels you have to take care of them, if they bother to say anything at all.

Asking for anything more, like emotional support, consistency, or being known by each other is either “too much,” “needy,” and “high maintenance,” or the sign of a “mental illness.” Asking for anything like real human companionship is labeled co-dependency; our society thinks that such a need can be “serviced” by a “professional.”

The professionalization of mental-health care has not made friendship better, even as it claims to improve people’s emotional well-being and facilitate self-actualization; it guts friendship by making it so easy to deflect any remotely “needy” friend onto someone else. As long as there is someone “trained” in this or that specialty, there is no felt need to learn how to care for each other the way each of us show up in the world. Because there are therapists that can “fix” people, our excessively avoidant, emotionally fragile culture tells us, the need for love is a sign that you need therapy.

It is time to consider the implications of a system that turns basic human needs for belonging and acceptance into something only professionals who are highly trained can do effectively—for profit. Just because the therapeutic relationship can sometimes go very well doesn’t negate the overall impact it’s having on the state of friendship and the willingness of people to take on the “inconvenience” of learning how to genuinely care for those in their midst, whoever they may be, however they may be experiencing their lives and the world.

It isn’t just about saving us from a system that cannibalizes those it defines as out of the bounds of normal (which, you may have noticed, is more and more of us). It’s about how this system is blocking us from having a world we want.

I’d like a world where I can count on my friends. I’d like a world where counting on my friends and wanting to be loved without having to exchange money for it doesn’t get me rejected for “expecting too much” or diagnosed with a DSM label. But how wild would it be to have a world where we could count on strangers as fellow human beings who recognize us as their own?

Dismiss me as idealistic, naïve or stupid if you like, but think about how many needs currently being either unmet or met by an exploitative system (the mental-health field and capitalism both fit here) could get met. Think about how many legitimate defense strategies and coping mechanisms—that we presently are compelled to not only keep in place but hone by the state of distrust, oppression, and corruption—we could release. Think about how much peace we might be able to find if, when we saw another human, our instinct was to care rather than cower or ignore.

It starts with rightfully taking back our power to care for each other from the experts we’ve elevated to a place they haven’t, despite their gobs of education and training and licenses and credentials, really earned.

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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.

56 COMMENTS

  1. “It starts with rightfully taking back our power to care for each other from the experts we’ve elevated to a place they haven’t, despite their gobs of education and training and licenses and credentials, really earned.”

    I absolutely agree, those who call themselves “experts,” but claim to know nothing about the common adverse effects of the psychiatric neurotoxins, don’t deserve to be called “experts.”

    And I will say, my psychologist told me to “give up all your activities, and concentrate on the meds.” Thankfully, I did not take that very bad advice. And, truly, it was keeping very busy with my friends, which helped me survive and escape the insanity of today’s “mental health” system. Since, my psychologist’s lies (about a “lifelong, incurable, genetic illness”) to my husband and family destroyed my marriage, and strained my other family relationships for a while.

  2. I’m 37 having never had any friends. No intimacy, partners, anything, either. A life of isolation after being destroyed by psychiatry as a kid. What’s worse, is that I’ve had my own place now for over a year, a miracle for sure, but yet I’ve been putting out ads for a companion/roomate/partner for months and it’s just been tormenting me as it’s continually leading absolutely nowhere…

    Meanwhile, I’m living on borrowed time because my next CDR comes up this may, and after how re-traumatizing the last one was, and how it nearly killed me AND my parents, I’m not even going to open the envelope when the preliminary papers arrive.

    Without a “miracle”, I’ll be gone soon. And I don’t care anymore. This species should have never been.

    • Hi Jeffrey,

      I would be delighted to be your email friend, as long as you don’t mind being friends with an older person who has experienced SSRI induced florid psychosis. MIA has my email, so maybe they can give it to you.

      What is CDR? Maybe it’s some sort of a government “benefits” thing? I have had a lot of difficulty with government benefits as well, though I am not familiar with CDR.

      I am hoping and praying for your miracle.

      Best,

      Caroline

      • Yes, continuing disability review. I don’t see a psychiatrist, or am in psychiatric treatment; you could read this to understand why – https://www.madinamerica.com/2020/11/kids-psychiatric-drugs-where-are-they-now/

        Whenever my CDR comes up, I am thrown back into the system with consultative exams and have to maneuver my way out, risking being trapped in the system indefinitely in the process, hence why I am just letting my pittance of an income go by this time; which will mean my parents will look the other way on me, having already mourned my death by now. They put their own money into helping to afford me rent for my own place for the last year, as a means of distancing themselves from me emotionally and giving me a “chance” to get a job and become independent, which just wasn’t going to happen; or to find a partner, which should have happened but waddaya know.

        We never got along living together. They put up with me due to guilt and grief, and in that environment, I was just drinking myself to death. It all came down to my father finally being able to retire and access his savings. Then I moved in here, sobered up, and got rejected by about a thousand people on dating apps and personal ads. Possibly due to the fact I have a shit bag (ostomy), or am just a freak in general. Maybe I’m creepy. I don’t know. Being 37 and having no libido doesn’t help.

        • Hi Jeffrey,

          Thank you for sharing your article. It is criminal that children are put on psychiatric drugs. It’s bad enough that adults are tricked and forced into it, but exploiting children like that is even worse. I am so sorry for all that you have been through.

          I can’t imagine having to go through a disability review once a year, much less having to actually deal with people for it. I am on SSI Disability, and I only get reviewed once every three years, because I was diagnosed with “schizophrenia,” and the fact that I still see a psychiatrist who is helping me off the drugs. One of the things that actually inhibited me from coming off the psychiatric drugs was the thought of losing my survival money before being ready and able to get a decent job. I just had a mail review and filled out my reason for seeing my doctor as “antipsychotic.” I have actually called social security a few times with no info about whether or not I have been approved.

          The punishment that people who are on disability have to go through for the tiniest bit of survival money is inhuman. Personally, I am in favor of a universal basic income, so that people wouldn’t have to go through Hell just to get survival money.

          I am fortunate in that my parents let me live with them, and we get along pretty well now, but they won’t live forever, and I also would like more money than to just survive. When I was your age, I went to college for a time with government college grants for poor people, just for the sake of getting some education. I never envisioned myself actually getting a job, because of all of the brainwashing of mental health professionals. I have sometimes applied for jobs, dreaming that I would actually have enough energy to go to an office for 40 hours a week after ten years on antipsychotics, but with no success. If I had the energy, I guess I could work as a bagger at a grocery store, but that doesn’t actually pay enough to support yourself. My current plan is to go back to community college and get a career degree in web development. It will allow me to work from home with flexible hours. But it has taken me a long time to get to this point.

          My sister Anne, who was two-and-a-half years older than me had spina bifida and was paralyzed from the waist down. She used ostomy bags too. But she was still my absolute favorite person in the whole wide world. Other than that, as far as online dating goes, I have tried that too without success. I don’t feel like that is always the best way to meet people. One of my cousins suggested to me that I might end up meeting someone in a grocery store. Personally, if I end up single for my whole life, I would prefer that over being in a marriage that wasn’t meant to be.

          • Caroline, I was getting a disability income last year because of a diagnosis of “schizophrenia”, but I was not using neuroleptics. Of course I could not be open about it with my psychiatrist. I am mentioning my experience because I think that people who get a disability income should be aware that they don’t have to take psychiatric drugs.

            According to many studies many (if not most) people diagnosed with “schizophrenia” are not regularly using neuroleptics. Obviously it is seen as a huge problem by mainstream psychiatry, as “non-compliance” and a sign of “anosognosia” (lack of insight). Only some of these people talk/write openly about their experiences.

            Many of us do need “survival money” (I am also in favour of a universal basic income) and many people find it difficult to “disobey” psychiatrists. But neuroleptics are so harmful that we should never feel guilty if we refuse to take them – even if it means that we can’t be open with psychiatrists.

            I did have a job myself, I even worked as an academic lecturer for 10 years. I now work as a book translator, but I am unable to earn enough to survive.

            I have not been able to find a new steady job – both because of my own personality (I am an introverted and bookish person) and because of the sheer scarcity of job offers for people with my type of education and professional experience in my country. Fortunately my mum is able to help me (my dad is no longer alive) – otherwise I would be in a very difficult situation.

            I have never been in a typical relationship, but I have realized that I should not feel frustrated because of it – that the idea that everyone (and especially every woman) should keep trying to find a “perfect” partner who will adore them is based on a myth.

            I know that I am capable of love, but I feel that it is difficult to find true requited love in our times – it seems that many people are actually afraid of real emotional closeness or cultivating a very idealized and unrealistic image of love.

          • Hi Joanna,

            Thank you for sharing your insights. I have actually been working on coming off of antipsychotics very gradually for a while now, because they are so toxic, as you mentioned. I am almost totally off of them.
            It is for that reason that I have felt my mind and creativity coming back, and feel able to get a career degree. I do worry with the rules and regulations of SSI Disability that they would cut me off for not taking any psychiatric drugs. However, I am hoping to actually get a decent job in a couple of years, and I am planning on continuing my tapering until I am totally off of all psychiatric drugs.

            I wouldn’t expect any marriage to be perfect, but I feel it should be right for both people. Even my friends with good marriages have to work at it. And I am okay being single, if that’s how things work out for me. When I was younger, I felt a lot more social pressure to get married, but I don’t really care so much anymore.

          • Caroline, thanks a lot for your reply. You say that you are worried that you might lose the disability income if you don’t take any psychiatric drugs. Could these people find out that you are no longer taking these drugs? And is there actually a law saying that a disability income can be paid only to “compliant” patients?

            If only “compliant” people with a diagnosis of “schizophrenia” can get a disability income in the US and if someone is somehow controlling their level of “compliance”, this is truly barbaric!

            It is really great to know that you are now almost completely off neuroleptics. I also hope that you will be able to find a decent job, but I do hope that you will be able to completely come off psychiatric drugs even before you find a job.

            Regarding marriage, I am happy to know that you now have such a relaxed attitude. What I should have emphasized more in my earlier comment is that the idea that everyone should have a partner is a product of social conditioning, though many people are not aware of it. There is no real reason to assume that people are the happiest if they are in a monogamous live-in relationship…

          • Caroline and Joanna,

            My two cents: My U.S. social security disability income does not consider what drugs I am on. They may have when I first applied, but not simply in order to receive benefits. However, I don’t know how a ‘review’ would affect this; it probably depends largely on the doctor(s) opinion rather than any particular drug. I personally have not had a review in probably 6 years for some reason. Often it’s every 3 years, which is what happened on my 3rd year, I believe. Good luck everybody.

          • evan,

            Thank you for your insights. I haven’t yet had a full medical review, just the paper form. I am still waiting to hear whether or not they are going to do a full medical review.

            Joanna,

            Thank you for your encouragement. I do hope to be completely off of antipsychotics prior to getting a job. I just hope that I am one of the lucky ones who continues to improve, rather than developing super-sensitivity psychosis. That would be a disaster!

          • Caroline,

            I want to jump in here and provide some clarifications on the subject of not taking prescribed meds and how that can affect a disability determination by the SSA. This is a topic area that haunts many psychiatric patients who receive disability benefits. Here is what the Social Security Administration has to say about the failure to follow prescribed treatments during a Continuing Disability Review, meaning this specific section applies only to patients who are already receiving disability and are up for review of their case by SSA.

            “H. Continuing Disability Reviews (CDR)
            When we conduct a CDR, we will make a failure to follow prescribed treatment determination when the individual’s own medical source(s) prescribed a new treatment for the disabling impairment(s) since the last favorable determination or decision and the individual did not follow the prescribed treatment.
            We will also make a failure to follow prescribed treatment determination during a CDR if we find that an individual would continue to be entitled to disability or blindness benefits based upon an impairment first alleged during the CDR and there is evidence that the individual has not followed his or her own medical source’s prescribed treatment for that impairment.
            If we determine an individual does not have good cause for failing to follow the prescribed treatment that we have determined would restore the individual’s ability engage in SGA, we will issue a predetermination notice and, because benefits may be terminated, offer the individual an opportunity to respond before terminating benefits. Individuals are entitled to benefits while we develop evidence to determine whether they failed to follow prescribed treatment. If we determine that an individual failed to follow prescribed treatment without good cause in either situation, we will cease benefits two months after the month of the determination or decision that the individual is no longer disabled or statutorily blind.”

            https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/rulings/di/02/SSR2018-03-di-02.html#conditions

            TL;DR: Unless the medications prescribed would be expected to return you to substantial gainful activity (SGA), your noncompliance with prescribed medications will not effect your case.

            Personal opinion: how this unfolds in practice is another matter entirely and may completely depend on how busy your local SSA regional office is and how opposed to disability for psychiatric issues your review officer is. So I would personally probably still worry about the effect of noncompliance and the risk to my own benefits if I were on them, but others may take this to mean it is safe not to take prescribed drugs.

          • Thanks so much for that, Kindred! Maybe since I was considered unable to have gainful employment even while on high doses of all kinds of drugs, the fact that I am now on low doses (with the help of my psychiatrist) wouldn’t be held against me.

            I have so little physical energy now, because of taking high doses of antipsychotics, that I really don’t qualify for the average job. Maybe Social Security reviewers would call that the negative symptoms of schizophrenia, or depression. I don’t think I’ll work myself up about convincing them that I believe it was actually caused by the psychiatric drugs.

            The whole US requirement to take psychiatric drugs is truly barbaric. It would be great if the truth about these toxic drugs was commonly known, so that no one would be required to ever take them for any reason.

          • Kindredspirit, thank you so much for your comment. I am still wondering how people from the Social Security Administration can find out about a person’s “failure to follow prescribed treatment” in the case of orally administered psychiatric drugs unless the patient informs them about it.

            I am also wondering if the Social Security Administration expects neuroleptics to return a person diagnosed with “schizophrenia” to “substantial gainful activity”. After all, “schizophrenia” tends to be portrayed as a debilitating brain disease which impacts people’s cognitive functioning; and many psychiatrists claim in their books and articles that neuroleptics don’t help with the so-called negative symptoms of schizophrenia (this is yet another psychiatric construct!).

    • Jeffrey,
      It angers me that if you find it traumatizing that this is being done. It’s like involuntary trauma being inflicted despite you making it known that this bothers you. Is there anyone that can help you with this? Could you ask or appeal to an organization where someone could accompany you? A place where there are people that have gone through this? Is there someone that is a member of mind freedom that lives close to where you are? Any “peer” sites?
      I am thinking someone that has gone through this, and who is confident and calm would be a HUGE benefit. Can you make some calls to see if there is anyone?

      It’s of absolutely no comfort to you if I can guarantee that there are lots of people that are in your shoes. It should not be that the only way some folks get connections is to go to “mental” programs. It’s ridiculous to think that we need “mental programs” for a disjointed social system. Every streetcorner should have a drop in house with all sorts of interests that should simply read “drop in house”. No “program”, no “mental”. A place to hang or stitch or make plans for outings. Could be as simple as a bunch of people going for long walks.

    • Jeffrey & Caroline,

      I relate to most of this in some way. (I am on social security disability income for ‘schizophrenia’, and get family assistance. Able to live alone after unbearable living with parents or others (and ‘self-medicating’, some legit, some not), dating apps, etc. My ear (eye) has listened (read). I breathe it in and exhale confirmation and some kind of energy directed toward new ways, synergism, and something I cannot describe. I was suicidal for a long time. Aside from my skin cancer and stomach inflammation, the Virus Epoch has been a transformative positive year for me, as odd as that may seem. Is it useful for others, I do not know except in my immediate circle.

      My website is my Way. My email is there. I am an orange leaf falling, drying, and seeping into the soil when it rains. I am sap that moves upward, sticky with leaf nutrients. I don’t mean to seem egg-head, but rather trying, trying. Ok then: http://www.evanhaarbauer.com

  3. If your husband was abusing you as mine did, then he was toxic for you. I went to a psychologist who never explained what verbal and psychological trauma abuse was. At least she did’t victim blame me for the behavior that he chose but with her leading and possible hypnosis, I went back for four more years,which included his gaslighting me to court ordered mental health trip. Wish I had had a friend then who both saw the abuse and helped me get out but it was widely accepted. Someone else may have had a friend supporting them, but even after my divorce people chose to distance or harass me over my saving my sanity.

  4. We humans have a natural instinct to make little niches in our minds where others can feel known and cared about. Be in several niches for some time, and you feel belonging, what we need most. Let us give and get more niches, and let them be soft, tolerant, and kind.

  5. If you go to a therapist who encourages you to rid yourself of all your natural supports in favor of total reliance on medication and support of said therapist, you have found yourself someone who doesn’t know what they are doing. That experience has only taught you that the individual therapist is a poor fit for you, but means nothing about the entire mental health field. To make a generalization so broad about an entire industry is just as unhelpful as it would be for therapists to make generalizations about how helpful your friends and family can be. The writer seems to have had some bad individual experiences both personally and with mental health professionals, but neither speaks to her ability to find success in either realm in the future. It is certainly possible to utilize therapy to sort out thoughts and work through feelings and to enjoy life with your friends without using your time together to complain or talk about problems.

  6. I am very saddened by your experience as a client in therapy, but I see that you are and MSW student, Megan, so I presume there is a possibility of you taking the path towards getting a licensure as a psychotherapist yourself, eventually. The therapist is there to promote better communication and improvement of relationships. Psychiatry and psychotherapy are two very different things, just to be clear for other commenters. Couples therapy is entered in good faith to improve the relationship, and not to play detective by the therapist, or deepen the abuse one of the partners may be imposing on the other. What a person looks for in an individual therapist is an unbiased witness of our circumstances, someone who is not a friend or a relative, who will gently confront us when needed, to our personal features that are dysfunctional and unhealthy, as well as the relationships we are stuck in, in a dysfunctional way. But if you show up in a couple with a desire to improve your relationship, the therapist must, in good faith, address your needs as presented.
    The therapist is there to hold your hand, respectfully, as you sort through the luggage (not to say “baggage”) of your life, and support you when you start deciding in which direction to Marie Kondo your relationships.
    A good therapist will also practice good communication and inspire growth in a client.
    I respectfully disagree with your perspective, though I profoundly respect your personal experience.
    Best things in my life were getting a degree in counseling and having my own therapist for three years. I have had an amazing experience in my training, as well as being supported by my own therapist in getting my burnt-out, post divorce, post-grad school, broke-ass-in-debt life together.

  7. Great article! A subject that badly needs more consideration, so glad to see this here! My new saying lately has been friends don’t tell friends to seek professional help. I’m so so tired of how people can entirely stop being accountable in their relationships by just foisting someone off on a professional. The irony is I know of some therapists where I am who once the person is referred promptly set about destroying their relationship with the person who referred them. Even if the person is not abusive.

    “Advising people to label others as “toxic,” as more and more therapists are “empowering” people to do, is leading people to make very entitled, selfish decisions and do really shitty things to each other in the name of “self-care.” Again, I’m not at all saying that people should put up with abusive behavior. But the label “toxic” is being thrown around without much consideration for the fact that you’re sticking it to a person.”

    The massive irony being many therapists refer to psychiatrists who hand out some of the most toxic pills in existence! If they can’t see that what psychiatry does is literally toxic, then it begs the question do they have any real understanding of what that word actually means?

  8. Thanks for the blog Megan.
    I remember when I first heard the word “toxic” and how quickly I got sick of it. Where would we be without the meaning of psych and therapy interventions and teaching all of us an “uber” awesome vocabulary. Ohh those toxic people, which of course the ones that use that word, are not. Nope, some are so toxic free, that they are capable of making people think of themselves as being toxic.
    IN fact, one can do a symptom or behaviour check list and label oneself as toxic. We could design shirts that say “I might be toxic to your mental health”.
    I can think of many times I was most likely not a good friend, simply because I was an idiot, busy with my own shortcomings, sort of in the way a shrink might be ‘helpful’. Shortcomings and selfish is behind much of who we are, at least I am. Being or becoming aware of it is helpful.
    I look back at a few therapy engagements and I remember the pressure of trying to show that what was happening in the therapy was even remotely helpful lol.

    If we have alarms of discomfort going on, it’s probably best to deal with them, or walk away. I mean if it’s putting a big dent in your personal peace level, I don’t think we can therapy it away.

    Like the covid chit is really getting to me. The part that gets to me is the constant unrelenting HUGE SADNESS ads on TV. The constant promoting of “stay connected” and said with such fucking sadness, it has a goal. It’s reverse psychology. Make people aware of how very alone they are, constantly point it out to them, but make it sound really kind, because after all, there is help and it only costs $150 bucks. There is so much hopelessness in the messages themselves and it’s absolutely no accident.

    It’s the similar messaging of talking to people about “self-care”, “toxic others”, that can have the opposite effect of being empowering. Nothing wrong about talking to people about how others might be affecting them, but I’m sure much advice and messages the mental health community gives us just leads to more need of it. I propose that the, or many mental health people have a way of, or need to feel connection, by people needing them. WHICH IS okay, but it would be awesome if they admitted that everyone needs to feel needed or wanted, and everyone has a way, their own way of seeking some usefulness.

  9. Glad you wrote this essay, Megan! A few notes:
    (1)My first book was about the importance of women’s friendships with each other and what a misogynist society does to try to set us up against each other. It is https://www.amazon.com/Between-women-Lowering-Paula-Caplan/dp/0920510205/ref=as_li_ss_il?keywords=Between+women:+Lowering+the+barriers&qid=1554487600&s=gateway&sr=8-1-fkmrnull&linkCode=li1&tag=whejohandja0d-20&linkId=15dcf99d1d073ab58bfe4dd940563396&language=en_US
    (2)My most recent book is about military veterans and how isolated they often are from their wider communities. https://www.amazon.com/When-Johnny-Jane-Come-Marching/dp/150403676X/ref=as_li_ss_il?crid=1QTVHBGHEWJI&keywords=when+johnny+and+jane+come+marching+home&qid=1554480516&s=gateway&sprefix=When+johnny+and,aps,220&sr=8-1-fkmrnull&linkCode=li1&tag=whejohandja0d-20&linkId=1dbd7dedc192a717801d8a2ccc9ed082&language=en_US A major point of that book is that instead of sending vets to therapists who DIAGNOSE them as mentally ill with “PTSD” (which is, yes, in the DSM) and put them on drugs and say they will never get “well,” we should be telling them that the traumas of war, military rape, racism and homophobia in the military, etc., are upsetting, and that is a deeply human reaction, not a disorder, and I hosted a conference at Harvard in 2011 at which the more than two dozen NONPATHOLOGIZING, EFFECTIVE ways to help reduce their suffering were presented. Each of these is shown at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL51E99E866B9D735E in a video a few minutes long. They may seem too “easy” and ineffective because they are not part of the medical model of reducing suffering. But they work powerfully!
    (3)It is helpful to have a brief list of guidelines that tell how to distinguish someone from “just being angry” to actually being emotionally/psychologically abusive. That list is in the preface of this version of another book, which is https://amzn.to/3apBeTR
    Finally, I have been touched to receive many messages from readers of Mad In America saying kind things about my essays, so I want to mention that I will no longer be writing essays for MIA. People interested in keeping up with my essays can go to the home page of paulajcaplan.net, where I will post links to new essays I write, and to the blog page of that same site, where I will post many of my essays. I am invited to publish on two other wonderful sites, and if I do that, I will post that information at paulajcaplan.net also.

    • Magdalene,

      I suppose I won’t really try right now. But it made me think that maybe it’s ‘Sunday’, and that Friday(night) and Saturday(dawn) come before Sun-day. But while nature has days and seasons, the 4 winds, it has no weeks. I don’t often drink my kool-aid though, but I do dip into my organic juice pouches. I also find (non-sarcastic) humor and an ability to smile and laugh are ‘symptoms’ of an (ideal?) mental health, even if it is roped to pain, grief, and incapacity. Perhaps like a blues musician. If we can laugh, we should at every opportunity. Same with getting goosebumps from experience of art, beauty, and meaning. Laughter and goosebumps are signposts to mental health. Know what I mean? But the ability to cry can also be a sign of health in its own way.

      Lol, I have a feeling this doesn’t fit a ‘universally agreed definition’. Take care.

  10. Thanks so much for writing this. So many truths that need to be spoken and acknowledged. I’ve been through over twenty therapists and psychiatrists, and not one was helpful. Many were deeply harmful. My search for therapists was in the highly educated metropolitan city of Boston, where, with nearly 60 colleges and universities, one might expect to find at least some decent help. I long ago stopped trying to get ‘help’ in this way, and have spent much of my time unlearning the crap I was indoctrinated into. I came to see psychiatry and psychotherapy as a mass colonization of individuals in distress by largely white middle class charlatans. I can envisage there being some individuals in these professions out there who might be helpful to some extent, but the fact that I didn’t hit on even one over a 26 year period is a really sorry statement about the validity of these professions. I believe they deserve the bad rap they often receive.

    I very much agree that we need to work on our emotional fragility as a society. We are anger and grief phobic, and this leads to the alienation and marginalization of most people at some point during their lifetime.

  11. I can now look back.
    And is therapy ever getting it wrong. But I think mostly because they rode piggyback on theory.
    What if a therapist had groups going, like hiking ones, canoeing triups, garage bands, fishing, activism, sewing, volunteering, whatever turns the crank? What if a therapist told clients that she wanted to try something brand new. Getting clients together to go on outings?
    What if a therapist made a community of self helpers?
    What if she helped them get past the differences with each other that might pop up?

  12. Thank you for this brilliant essay. I’m extremely grateful for so many points you made here that are vital and need to be heard.

    There were so many places, as I read this piece that I paused in astonishmen about the keeness of your observation. I do not call this naive, I call it a prophetic voice of reason and a cry to bring us to our senses about what normal actually is. There is nothing normal about the bizarre world that therapizing the population creates. We lose our identity as capable people with some awareness of how to heal ourselves. And as Bobgans mentioned this is truly an alternative religion and an ideology that is destructive to our own wisdom and the power of community. You are right, the therapy world can be a very isolating closed and circular logic system consists of some twisted hellish gaslighting

    ON a side note, I suspect a great number of women committed to mental hospitals over the last 100 years landed there from emotional, mental and physical abuse by their husbands–assisted by a therapist or doctor that decided the partner with insight to the sickness of the marriage was crazy. It depended on who had the power as to who got labeled.

    And NORMAL is anything but the world of psycho-therapy and the false narrative of their insight and wisdom which is incredibly shaped by their own privilege. I once worked in the government level of mental health adminstration where I fielded calls about the quality of mental health services. This involved remediation, training of errant mental health programs, mediation, and complaint resolution. IN my life time, I hope to never encounter the crazy making, gaslighting, nonsense coming from a defensive therapist or agency that screwed up. And they screwed up a lot.

    Moral malfeasance malpractice, absolute incompetance left a trail of ruined lives by therapists from the all too trusting public. Besides this avalance of heartbreaking stories of bs done to human beings by the profession. Organized mental health is neither held to account for their excessive malpractice or transparent about how common it is. As a reminder of the darkside of this profesion and it is vast, I had 2 relatives working at high levels in the field. One managed an entire clinic, the other several programs.

    One was rampently abusing clients, in all sorts of boundary horrors and the other was the definition of superiority, entitlement and upper class priviledge. How someone with a vacation chalet in the south of France, a penthouse in Paris comes to work in public mental health as the “savior” of poor people(and expects worship in her narcisssitic world) I do not know. She liked being exalted in her Epsicopalean women’s country club as the do gooder while she emasculated and infantilized her actual clients.

    I still recall the dripping with condensation voice informing me after a discussion about “recovery” “Well, say what you will about recovery at the end of the day a schizophrenic is still a schizophrenic” She was the “champion” of recovery but with that paternalistic hypocritical and clueless way of still managing to be the savior with profound bigotry towards those she “saved” This did not enhance my view knowing the state paid her salary and the poor people getting her lousy service needed the money far more then they needed her weekly superiority sessions. She lived in an extremely wealthy gated community with her pedigreed wealthy spouse yet could distance herself from her conspicuous consumption by flaunting her piety for working with “those people”.

    By the end of my career in this wasteland of egos I wanted to shout from the housetop if you value your life stay away from organized mental health. In fact, I was asked to speak at a recovery conference for survivors of the system. My presentation included the value of healing friendships, and the power of education, and the transoformation of moving away from labels. In the middel of my presentation which left some of the audience in grateful tears, and I was utterly transparent, a therapist from the local mental health center piped up and interrupted my speech. He said ‘you are not mentioning the value of therapists, as a healing agent, I think your disrespect of therapists is appalling”

    First of all the venue was not for therapists, secondly it was for survivors of their expertise and lastly I was presenting a field study of people that recovered listing the elements that helped them recover. It was my graduate school capstone. Those that considered themselves deep into recovery did not list their therapist as important to that process. In fact, several stated they had to divorce their therapist to recover. We put therapist as number 10 on a list of 10 because several focus group members said. they were a little helpful, and we should have them on the list at least on the bottom of the list

    The group did so with real hestitation. The point for me was the arrogance of someone not invited to this venue, feeling entitled to try to shut it down when I was a member from the group speaking about our strengths to heal ourselves. Its rather like a group of women getting together to discuss their progress in recovering from a rape when a male wonders in and shouts them down “you need to respect men more” But the cluelessness was an illustration of exactly what I observed and what you write of, how damaging it all is.

    I’ve given up speaking to church groups, civic groups, recovery groups about the erosive factors of therapy, about the Trojan horse in the devaluation of our own inner wisdom about the breakdown in community strenghts. I’ve watched therapists take over lay groups, professionalize it and lose the only authentic voices in the room because the expert without lived experience arrived.

    I’ve also seen therapists eviserate relationships that they knew nothing about, and people they never met, diagnosing them, disposing of them under the label of toxic when the therapist is actually the toxic (in terms of destruction) person in the room.

    You might find that it is hard to be the voice calling out the lies and hypocrisy of the system when you work in it. I had to find some friends that kept the knowledge of how endlessly and hopelessly full of bs the system was to themselves, but we shared that silent acknowlegement. We chuckled under our breath at the ego fest in therapists meetings and winked at each other as we saw the steaming pile of manure for what it was.

    • Caroline3, if I could upvote this a thousand times, it would be done.
      A comment I have looked for, most empowering and deserves to be it’s own blog.
      I can see why you gave up speaking, I really can. It’s crazy making
      when you deal with people that cannot see that they are in a firm belief,
      or delusion of being a service that those “others” must benefit by.
      Most therapy as psych is so awful, so pathetically uninformed.
      It not only stunts but reverses possible growth.

  13. Well done, Megan! I always love your perspective and couldn’t agree more.

    As for therapy, all I can say is that the most valuable and helpful counsel I’ve ever received has been given for free from a place of genuine caring and love. It is supportive, non-pathologising, and most importantly, it is reciprocal, allowing me to be in the helper position at times. It takes practice to learn how to be careful with someone else’s vulnerability but it is ultimately empowering in a way that therapy will never be able to replicate. I will never sit across the couch from a paid therapist again.

      • It took a lot of intent, effort, and communication to get here, but using the principles of intentional community worked. So many people are looking for close friendships but don’t know you have to create them. It is work. Rewarding, but work. And that really gets to what Megan is trying to say here. In a hustle culture where we’re all too busy for meaningful interactions with each other, the push to funnel people’s problems off to the professionals rather than tackle them together is very alluring but ultimately leaves most of us feeling lonely, unsupported and disconnected. You have to be a friend first. And you may have to teach others how to be good friends by your example. But I firmly believe we all have the capacity to relearn how to love and care for each other. 🙂

  14. All else equal, my experience with peers has been, if anything, worse than that with therapists. I can start with my teenage years when I was going through a “hippie” phase and talked about the importance of love and loving relationships, to which my “friends” responded, “You’re not a real man. That’s sissy talk. You’re going to be so ashamed of this when you’re older.”

    Or the fact that I would share something private with them, and when things turned sour later, suddenly, the whole village knew about it.

    Or the fact that I would then try to behave in more decisive, masculine ways, as opposed to how I behaved previously, but for some reason, that then meant I was “arrogant” and “think I know everything.”

    Maybe I have just have terribly bad luck with friends so far. Or maybe humans just suck overall. I don’t know.

    • Alex, if someone continually harasses/abuses me, I will have my say. I’m not going to adjust to allow bad behavior into my life. Those are the kind of people that provoke, then accuse you when you when you call them out on their behavior. I divorced out of this.

      • To me, this is at the heart of things right now. I thought that paragraph said it perfectly and simply, to the point, and yet, in reality, it can be murky and seriously rugged and even potentially dangerous, because of what you say. It becomes an abuser-turned-victim situation, victim becomes abuser, sides are taken, lies are perpetuated, heart and truth are lost in the shuffle, chaos ensues, and on and on, back and forth. Nothing to gain from this and that “system” will utlimately destroy itself, so I totally agree, divorce is a wise option, to heal and create positive life changes.

        Yet, I think it’s the norm right now, and it’s playing out in the world visibly. I think that, as a society, it is what we need to evolve out of, to a new normal, NOT based on all this. What would that look like, a fair and just well-balanced system/community/world filled with people who know how to respectfully support one another, despite personal beliefs, so that we don’t have to rely on corrupt systems of mind control?

        I think it’s best to know our own truth and live by it, and these are changing times, so I’d say that living our truth from moment to moment is a practice which requires flexibility at this point. There are many competing realities at play right now. Who knows what truth is for someone else? We can only know this for ourselves.

    • My therapist once told me, and I quote verbatim, “In some situations, it is necessary to be evil.”

      Turning the other cheek is not always a good idea.

      Inevitably, some people are going to see this as “abusive”. But realistically, the maxim should really be: Never be the cause of a situation that objectively requires an evil response.

      • Getting out of abusive situations is incredibly complex and takes a great deal of fortitude, trust, tenacity, a bit of cleverness, and very hopefully, empathic support to help in the transition. We don’t want to repeat it, so there is healing to do. That’s a process subject to a person’s individual nature, to be discovered along the healing.

        Abuse has been generational and social, and the entire world is reeling at this time. We’re all affected by it and I believe each of us has some kind of responsibility in it, however we choose to take that on. I wouldn’t judge any of it. I’m just hoping that sooner than later we can start do better than what is currently failing from profound divisiveness, which is society on the whole, unfortunately.

  15. I wanted to leave a supportive comment for this article.
    My first attempt was too emotional.

    I recently entered into a “friendship” with a Millennial who had been a patient in the mental health system when she was younger and has continued to work closely with it even though she disliked many aspects of her own experiences with it. She sees no alternative to understanding one’s inner life other than that offered by psychology. I offered her an alternative, but she has not been persuaded to take me up on my offer.

    Her ideas and experiences of “friendship” have definitely been shaped by the “expertization” of ordinary human life. You can find authoritative articles on the internet about anything from the best ways to brew coffee to the best ways to make love. She would show me the online advice she used in her job as a social worker, and would give me recipes for “healthy desserts” and urge me to try them out and see if I liked them. Her idea of a friend was someone you could chat with all night on your phone using text messages, perhaps while doing this with several others at the same time, from the safety of your bed. I had real conversations with her, but these seemed stressful to her, even though she would put up a good show of enjoying them (only because I did?). She had, it seemed to me, almost lost the skill to look another being in the face and give them a piece of her mind, or let them give her a piece of their mind.

    Our futures, as envisioned by those who are currently working hard to get us to agree to their plans and ideas, are futures of emotional fragility, lack of courage, and docility. Though some may have “studies” that support the need for this type of human population, their actual reason for wanting this is simply that they are extremely afraid of us. All out of proportion, really, to what we would do if we knew what worthless scumbags they really were. My friend gives her spare food to homeless people. She has a big heart. She would probably treat the real criminals of this world about the same. But they are hoping to make her, and all of us, just as scared of each other as they are. We need to realize that this is all they are really doing. There is no other “power agenda” behind this urge, really. They are very lost souls who have managed to ascend to positions of authority on this planet. They can complete their work if they can just get all of us to “believe the experts.” They never will be able to. But meanwhile, our society goes down the drain. And I have problems creating a simple, quiet friendship with a perfectly sweet and precious human being.

    This all just gives me more reason to work to take down the current system, particularly in the area of mental health, as they so clearly are NOT experts in it! But many of us, particularly the younger ones, are very sold on this system. There is a huge job of “unselling” to do if we want to save ourselves from this “progressive” vision.

    I am 66. I could die in 20 years. By that time, her boys could be ready to be fathers. And I could be one of their children! So, what sort of world do I want to be born back into? What sort of beings do I want my future father and mother to be? That’s why I fight for a better understanding of human experience, and a total clean-up in the field of mental health.

    Why do you fight for it?

  16. Evan, many thanks for your reply. I think that there is currently no way of controlling if a person really takes neuroleptics unless they get them in the form of neuroleptics. I actually remember reading an article by a US psychiatrist who wrote that patients could be rewarded with money for taking the drugs! If psychiatrists have such ideas, it means that it is actually very difficult to force people to be “compliant”, even if they are on a social security disability income.

    I read yesterday that even if a psychiatrist knows that a patient is taking the medication “inconsistently”, they should simply mention it in the Adult Disability Report. As I said earlier, psychiatrists know very well that many people take these drugs “inconsistently” (if at all). “Non-compliance” is much more frequent than many assume.

    I hope that I am again going to get a disability income myself this year. But I will never agree to take these “meds”, even in a very small dose. I know that I don’t need them. My only problem is that for various reasons (but not because of “mental illness”) I have been unable to find a decent, meaningful steady job in my country after losing my academic job.

  17. Guys, this is an article about friendship. I could use some of that from the people here on a more personal level, because this is one of the few places where I’m understood and I may need some help and support down the line. If it’s okay with you, and you want to engage with me, please ask a moderator to share my e-mail ID with you, or just post a reply here and I’ll ask the mod myself.

    Thanks.

  18. This article was frustrating for me to read, for several reasons:

    1. The initial paragraph lists reasons why millenials don’t have close friends, one of which is “almost 30% of us said it’s because we ‘don’t feel like we need friends.'” The writer then goes on to say, almost with irritation or disdain, “I don’t relate to that last one at all.” For someone like me, this sequence is already massively triggering. If you can’t relate to someone else’s feelings, how can you expect to address their needs? I’m not saying that one must understand every little underlying piece of context, but a general openness to another person’s experience goes a long way towards establishing a genuine connection. Reading those two sentences already put me on the wrong foot. I thought, “This article must not be for me, then.” I do in fact feel that I need friends, and I do feel very, very lonely, but in a pinch or if someone put me on the spot for my solitary lifestyle, I could see myself giving that glib reply just to get them off my back and redirect their focus away from an area in my life which is especially raw and vulnerable. And then there are people who genuinely feel that friendship is not a priority; are their needs any less valid? Even if they’re wrong? For an article about the value of friendship and compassionate relationships, this author does not waste time alienating an entire group of readers. 

    2. On a related note, friendship itself is very triggering for me and others with raging social anxiety. It is a terrifying venture filled with potential pitfalls and a huge amount of work, most of which goes unnoticed and invalidated by the other party. It’s worth it… sometimes. It pays off… occasionally. Is it any wonder that the torrent of negative anxiety eventually, sooner or later, overwhelms and destroys any positive rewards that come from a close relationship with peers? Most of my close friendships have an expiration date. The strong ones last about three or four years; weaker ones tend to persist for about a year before fading away. We drift apart, lose contact, stop speaking. None of the people I was close to as a child or a teen have remained in my life except for a couple “facebook buddies” who I can reach out to under special circumstances but am able to otherwise hold at a safe arms’ length. If I were an emoji, I’d be an open, White palm pushing everyone away. Friendship, human connection, as a viable coping strategy, must first be divested of its poison; otherwise it only serves to persist and deepen old hurts and layer new ones on top. Getting professional help is one of the least risky, most beneficial ventures I could embark on to lance these boils and deal with my emotional baggage. After all, I would hate to be labeled as “toxic,” but that is unfortunately exactly what I am, eventually, in most if not all relationships. My emotional needs, my terror of abandonment, my desperate longing to feel loved coupled with my absolutely solid core belief that I am unlovable, always, always win and erode genuine kinship. The fact that I am self-aware enough to recognize these things about myself does not make it easy or (usually) possible to function in a long-term relationship. In many ways, having that much self awareness only deepens the attendant self-loathing. In a world without professional help, author, I am afraid I would sink like a stone. Maybe I am a product of my society, but on the other hand, I am a product of my society. It’s not perfect, but having help available is a saving grace, even if it’s a mixed blessing.

    3. Late-stage capitalism sucks, and its abusive culture is a big part of why I am so messed up. Yes, this is true, and in no way do I defend that abuse. I do not necessarily equate its evil with the existence of mental health specialists. Professional therapists, especially those who spend years in the field and come from a place of genuine love for their work and fascination about the human mind, can draw on a well of experience and intuition that is often unavailable to the average lay person. We do not need leeches who suck vulnerable people dry and don’t actually help their clients. We do need specialists who can offer wisdom and insight into the workings of the human mind and its response to trauma. Author, this article seems to suggest that it’s “either/or” – either we have a field of malicious therapists looking to monetize friendship, or we have a world free of professional help where friendship solves all social ills. I suggest that what we need is a balance, and it is important to point out both the negative and positive aspects of both realities. For some, friendship is an important resource for sustaining good mental health; for others (like me), it is a dangerous trigger that needs to be worked out in therapy.  

    Thank you for reading if you got this far. This response was not written in the spirit of rebuttal; it was written because I needed to say it. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind or offer easy answers. This is just my experience.

    • Wow. It is interesting to get this viewpoint!

      I had a good round of making friends when I was a pre-teen. It was a VERY natural, easy experience. If you fought too much, you didn’t stay friends. If you adored each other you fell in love, or at least played a lot together. Then I moved from California to Michigan. I couldn’t stand the social scene for kids in Michigan! It was so limited for friendships between the sexes. Same sex friends came and went – no big deal.

      But young adulthood for me was super weird because I hadn’t bothered to “grow up” in high school the way kids are expected to. When you are an adult and you don’t choose the socially accepted avenues for meeting people and so on, it can get pretty lonely pretty fast. On top of that, I moved back to California. That’s when I got some counseling. What my therapist told me didn’t require a PhD in psychology! But why weren’t my own parents more there for me? It’s a whole dynamic of forces that is disempowering people in many ways. And psychiatry (I learned later) is at the center of it.

      I am amazed that Psychology turns out any good people, but it does. Too bad they are so poorly trained. But If I were a professional in that field (as it is, I am a semi-professional) I would spend all my effort getting ordinary people trained in the basics of life and how to interact with people. Since my parents were teenagers, the has been the biggest training need, and the biggest lack. Some cultures and sub-cultures do better with it than others. The academic sub-culture is absolutely terrible at it, and that is in part due to the influence of psychiatric-oriented psychology. It serves the practitioners more than it does the people.

      “Late-stage capitalism” is a typical modern term. It is a terrible misuse of the language! Psychology is fine with people using words however they want to, without looking them up to find out what they really mean. What I am seeing currently is an attempt my Corporate that has been going on my whole lifetime (66 years) to take over the planet, at which they have almost succeeded. If we let them succeed, then that’s game over for freedom and human rights on this planet. I think we have to confront the extent to which psychology (psychiatry of course) has been put there to serve Corporate. If Corporate weren’t here trying to turn the planet into some sort of giant factory, psychology and many other subjects would be in a very different state than they are today. I would like to get rid of Corporate, but that will be VERY difficult. Capitalism, to me, is fine. That’s part of a free economy. Corporate is something else. At it’s worse, it means total control. On this planet currently it means devious control and lots of immoral perks for people who cooperate. Very dystopian.

        • I know. Sometimes I shudder to think that my experience might have been unusual. What do most children go through? Also, that was the 1960s. We didn’t really even have that much TV back then. The “entertainment” industry has been misinforming people and separating them. This is an effect I experienced more later in life. And now it is almost unbearable! But I got some repair work done along the way. And it wasn’t by way of psychology. If I hadn’t received that help, I don’t know if I’d even be functional today, living almost totally alone as I do.

      • No, complex PTSD, actually. Along with very severe social anxiety. Believe me, I wish with my whole entire heart things were different. Posting the above was cathartic, and in hindsight I can see how it might come off as strong, but it comes from a very genuine place. I guess if I could add one thing, it’s that I don’t blame the people with whom I am friends for my problems, and I genuinely love them and wish them well. It is hard to have a terrified child running the show inside my head, and harder because that’s not something that’s easy to express to others. To overcome these barriers means redoing childhood as an adult, and in the current state of the world, that’s a laughable enterprise.

        • I know someone, too, who had a very difficult time when she was young. She had “friends,” but today she acts like a total emotional wreck.

          There is a lot of work to be done. And I hope not too many people wait much longer to start. I feel like we are running out of time.

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