Sera Davidow is a filmmaker, activist, advocate, author, and mother of two very busy kids. As a survivor of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse as a child and relationship violence as an adult, Sera has faced many challenges throughout her own healing process, including many ups and downs with suicidal thoughts, and self-injury. At present, she spends much of her time working as Director of the Wildflower Alliance (formerly known as the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community), which includes Afiya Peer Respite, recently recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of about two dozen exemplary, rights-based programs operating across the world. She also serves on several boards including the Massachusetts Disability Law Center (DLC) Board of Directors, the DLC’s Council Against Institutional and Psychiatric Abuse (CAIPA), as an advisory board member for the National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma, and Mental Health (NCDVTM), and as a founding Board member of Hearing Voices USA. You can learn more about Sera and her work in an April, 2018 article in Sun Magazine
This interview is the second in a series of conversations being conducted over the next few months around the issue of hotline tracing and intervention. The first interview was with Vanessa Green, founder of Call the Blackline and you can listen to the last podcast in this series with Yana Calou and Robert Jahmil from the Trans Lifeline. It is part of Mad in America’s Suicide Hotline Transparency Project, which was born out of the belief that creating transparency and public access around suicide hotline intervention and call-tracing policies should be a priority. This project includes a directory of lines that do not trace or intervene without consent, a public poll, survivor interviews, and an open call for art. Please visit the project page to find out how you can participate.
The transcript below has been edited for length and clarity. Listen to the audio of the interview here.
Karin Jervert: Hello, everybody. I am Karin Jervert and I am the Arts Editor at MIA. interviewing Sara Davidow from the Wildflower Alliance Warmline. Welcome, Sera. Thank you so much for your time today. Can you tell us just a little bit about yourself?
Sera Davidow: Thanks for having me. I am a part of the Wildflower Alliance Leadership Team, which used to be known as the Western Mass[achusetts] Recovery Learning Community and part of that is a Peer Support Line. We also have a number of other offerings throughout our community.
In addition, I’m also a founding member of the Hearing Voices USA Board of Directors. I love to write and have published a number of articles on Mad in America as well. I like to think of myself as a writer, filmmaker, activist, and a mom.
Karin: That’s quite a lot of things going on there—a mom, an artist, a writer, and the Hearing Voices Network, too, which is a wonderful resource. How did you arrive at your work as a community leader in the Wildflower Alliance – the warmline specifically?
Sera: I am somebody who has a psychiatric history that spent a lot of years trying to figure out what to make of that and what my place would be in the world. I found myself failed by the conventional mental health system, and really what I learned from that was, “Don’t tell anybody.” Don’t tell anybody what you’re going through. So I had to keep looking for other ways to get support and figure myself out.
I started working in a clinical role in the mental health system, which I think a lot of people do, but they don’t admit to it, as a way to try and figure themselves out. I was quite successful in terms of the praise I got for the job I was doing, even in the absence of having any clinical degrees, but when I hit a point in my life where I decided to come out with my psychiatric history, I found myself not so welcomed in that environment anymore.
I ended up finding myself out of that job at a time that happened to coincide with the visioning process for what would become the Wildflower Alliance. A part of that vision was having a peer support home. I should say, all of that was happening between 2005 and 2007 when the Wildflower Alliance became funded. But the Peer Support Line, although it was a piece of the original vision, didn’t take shape until 2012 at the same time that our peer respite was taking shape.
Karin: How is the Wildflower Warmline different? How is it unique?
Sera: You’re referring to it as the Warmline and for whatever it’s worth, I think it’s a really interesting word. Because I think there are warm lines and hotlines, and the implication is that the hotlines deal with the serious crises and the warm lines with something a few steps down from that. In fact, we have found that people who are calling our line are in a lot of distress, and sometimes specifically because they have found that calling hotlines when they’re in that much distress gets them into trouble. They choose these other lines instead. So, we refer to it as a Peer Support Line. I don’t mean to be criticizing your language, I just think it’s an important finding.
Karin: I think the differentiation of how people engage with warm line versus hotline or peer support lines really does change who and why people come to you. It’s important to mention that.
Sera: You’re not the only one who refers to them as warm lines, and I think, in fact, we’re listed on warmline.org or some of these other resources. For me it becomes an issue of internalized oppression of consenting to the idea that we’re somehow lesser than, so we’ve tried to push back on that.
As far as what the Peer Support Line offers, we try to be as flexible as we can in terms of what people need. Sometimes it might be that somebody’s calling from the local area and looking for a particular resource, and our Peer Support Line workers would be expected to explore that with them. They don’t have to be experts.
I think that we get ourselves into a lot of trouble in this world by saying you come here [support lines] for the expert that has all the answers. Our Peer Support Line workers do not have all the answers. But they are willing to explore with people, share what they do know, and explore beyond that. Sometimes it’s about resources, but sometimes people are calling from further away. While we still may be able to find some resources online with them, it’s not necessarily as straightforward.
Honestly, a lot of the time it’s really just someone to talk to. Someone to talk to who is not going to try and take anything away from somebody. Not try to take their liberty. Not try to coerce them into doing a particular thing.
There was a new listing that went up on a particular website recently about peer support lines, and it said that peer support lines can transfer you over to a crisis line. I had our line removed. I said please remove our line until you change that language because I don’t want people to think that if they call us, we’re just at the ready to press some button and transfer them to a crisis line. That’s not how it works.
So, the idea is that you can call and say whatever you need to say to us, and we’re going to listen, we’re going to talk. We’re going to ask you what that means for you or what you want to do with that. There’s also an element of advocacy in there. If someone is trying to figure out what their rights are or where they can go to make sure that they’re getting heard, we will work with them on that.
Karin: What is your philosophy around caring for people who call? For community members who are experiencing crisis?
Sera: I always struggle a bit with these questions, because they’re an ask to boil something down into something really easy to talk about. And I’m not sure it’s that easy. But what I would say is the philosophy is that we are all humans trying to navigate this world, and we all have gained wisdom in our travels, and the most effective way to support someone else is to rely on your own wisdom and be willing to support them to figure out what their answers are.
It’s sort of a long philosophy, but it comes down to all these other ideas that we hear all the time in the peer-to-peer world about trusting people as the experts of themselves, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they have all the answers. But somewhere in them, they have more information about themselves and what they need than anybody else does, and that we have with our [crisis support line workers] questions. We might help them peel away the layers and get to that wisdom that they have inside themselves.
I think our philosophy is very consistent with things like intentional peer support, which is one of our four core trainings that we require of all employees, including the people working on the Peer Support Line. Our other core trainings are a three-day anti-oppression training, and then an Alternatives to Suicide training and a Hearing Voices training.
All of those, ultimately, root back to these values of autonomy, the importance of people retaining or regaining personal power and control in their lives, and the power of supporting people to make meaning of what’s happening in their lives and what isn’t working.
Karin: The Wildflower Peer Support Line specifically offers the community something that is outside of what most mental health crisis lines offer, which is this awareness of the autonomy of the individual. How does it feel to be providing this support for individuals who would otherwise not be able to access this care?
Sera: It feels essential. I also think sometimes it feels really frustrating because there’s not enough of it. We have a Peer Support Line that operates for a handful of hours each day, and it’s answered by one person. Compare that to some of the broader crisis lines where there’s dozens of people available and the calls automatically route to the next person if one person is busy.
We are competing in this way. The lack of access can be so frustrating. So, it feels like an essential thing to be providing. I’m very glad that we’re providing it, and I feel very good about that. But I’m always bumping into the reality that when you have something that’s different, and hard to get to, it can also cause frustration for people. Especially recently, I’ve been really feeling the frustration with our peer respite, with our Peer Support Line, and so many things being too scarce of a resource.
At the same time, as we’ve already talked about, the ability to provide a space, a virtual space where people can say whatever they need to say and have someone on the other end of the line who is not going to be freaked out by it, and not be ready to just shuffle them off, is really powerful.
Too much of the mental health system functions by lying in wait for when someone needs their power taken away from them. Whether we’re talking about the crisis or emergency services, or whatever. They kind of say, well if you’re not bad enough, we don’t have anything for you right now. But we’re watching. The moment you get bad enough, then we’re going to take some power away and we’re going to put you over here. I feel really proud to be able to offer supports that just don’t work like that.
Karin: What you’re doing right is absolutely essential. And so much gratitude for the work that you and everyone at the Wildflower does. That leads us directly into this next question. From your perspective, what are the biggest challenges in this work?
Sera: Again, of course, access and I know we’re talking about the Peer Support Line, but the Peer Respite and the Peer Support Line, while they’re not the same thing, they function out of the same building, and so I think about them both, together, a lot.
The Peer Respite has three bedrooms in a region that has something like eight acute psychiatric units with I don’t know how many beds. So we’re supposed to be proving ourselves as hospital diversion or alternative to hospital. But when you’re always full and there are all these psychiatric beds around you, it gets really hard. Sometimes it feels like we’ve been set up for failure, and I would say similar with the Peer Support Line at times. If you give someone just a little bit of resource, but not enough to really have it take root, or sometimes not enough to pay people to work there consistently, then it can be a bit of a set-up for failure.
While we take whatever we can get, sometimes I wonder if just giving these little trickles of funding sometimes makes it look like “Oh, that’s not an effective approach,” so we don’t have to fund it anymore. I worry about that. Also, we are just one little drip in this psychiatric system. So whenever people come to us, whether it’s on the Peer Support Line or anywhere else, they’ve already come and been through in many instances, but not always, so many other parts of the psychiatric system. So we have to work to gain trust and support people to understand how we’re different.
I don’t begrudge people their need for us to work for them to trust us. I think that’s totally fair given the world we’re living in, and it’s certainly a challenge just to be able to get to the conversations that are the most useful because people have been so harmed in the systems that we’re in. And that’s tough.
Karin: Considering all these challenges that you’re talking about, how can listeners of this podcast support your work?
Sera: Certainly we take donations. That’s always great. We dream of finding wealthy funders who can support us to really expand without having to do the endless grant dance. So many funding sources don’t offer annualized funding, they offer seed funding.
We just recently raised our rates across the board of what we’re paying people, because we just couldn’t continue to justify paying so little. So we’re actually operating at a deficit at the moment.
But I think just being someone who is really invested in the integrity of these lines . . . often when people get ready to fund things more, they only have a surface understanding of it. So, these are moments when things become co-opted or are really at risk of losing their integrity and becoming something else, of becoming the Peer Support Line that does have a button that they press that just transfers you right over to Crisis.
I think what I would ask of listeners is: Be someone who helps us hold that integrity. When you hear that a project is going off course and becoming something else, be someone who speaks up. Be someone who helps us hold what the vision is . . . if a peer support line is using that name and they are doing things that are not consistent with peer support values, then people will experience trauma from that. So it’s important that we band together across this country and beyond in pushing back on co-optation and just making sure that these offerings are what they’re supposed to be.
Karin: I think that’s a really important thing to be aware of. The one thing that I thought about a lot when I was doing this project was the idea of the 9-8-8 number. It is coming out [soon] and there is a move towards lines being funded if they do have that button and not being funded if they don’t. That being the new norm for peer support lines coming online in the world today. And if lines are struggling, and they are trying to stick to their integrity around the trauma and the violence that can occur when police are called and these sorts of things, they may decide that in order to keep on going they need to accept these standards and get the funding rather than being able to stick with their integrity. And then there’s this idea that if a line is in a vulnerable place, you need to find ways that we can support lines like yours and in a financial way that doesn’t come with this caveat.
Sera: Right. That caveat is devastating. It only takes one time. One time that you step over that line and other people hear about it. And why should they trust if we’re willing to cross that line? I think that so much of that roots back to the reality that we as a society need to develop some tolerance of loss and facing the reality that we don’t control everything.
I think the mental health system is poised all the time to figure out when they need to take control, even though the research tells us that when they’re taking control the outcomes are worse down the line.
I’ve said to many people, there are two paths here. One where we accept we can’t control other people but we try to create as much space for them to be with us so we can figure things out together. Sometimes some people will be lost on that path. Or we can follow this other path where we just watch for any sign that someone is about to do something we don’t want them to do, and we try to take that control and prevent them from doing [it] as long as possible. I really think we lose people down that path far more than we lose them down the other.
Karin: I agree with that and have found that to be such an important shift in perspective when you’re facing the suffering of others and yourself. It seems that if you’re going for this temporary control of the moment, like you’re saying, you’re going down a path that does them more harm and causes more suffering. But if you have this – I guess it’s not like a peace or a tolerance, but the understanding and awareness — that suffering is a part of life and loss is a part of life, and that you are just in this together with others, that’s just a fact and you can only do as much as you can.
Sera: I think that’s a really important point. What is a part of life? Because I think that part of what happens is people are projecting their fears of death and their discomfort with death onto everything and everyone around them. If we could get to a place where we accept that pain and death are both a part of life, then we may be able to sit a little easier with people who are in some of those spaces and not just desperately try to control them.
Karin: I wonder if you could expand a little bit upon how you see lines like yours that approach things so differently and so carefully around empowerment are interrupting this cycle of abusive care. And interrupting the cycle of entrenching and reinforcing oppression as it exists in our lives.
Sera: Sure, well oppression is such a rich and multi-layered topic, and I think there are so many different forms of it. I was just having a conversation earlier with someone today about how even the most critical – the people most invested in anti-oppression work– still don’t get psychiatric oppression. They still, somehow think that “Oh, but for that particular group of people we need to figure out how to control them because we want them to be safe.” They’ve been fed these lines that not only will controlling that group of people keep you safe, but also then if you want to be a good person – and everybody wants to be a good person – then you need to make sure that they get the care that they need, and anything less is just not okay.
People have bought into that line, even people who are on the front lines of anti-racism and other anti-oppression work. And so, there’s that challenge. But then there’s also the reality that the psychiatric system has been used as a tool of oppression to reinforce all these other forms of oppression.
Karin: Yes. It’s you. You’re the problem. You’re broken.
Sera: Right. I’ve experienced that myself when I’ve gotten up and shared this story of being a childhood survivor of sexual and physical abuse, of being a rape survivor and still had people say like, “All right, well we hear the trauma, but we’re still going to refer to you as mentally ill.”
When I hear that, I hear them giving a pass to all these people who have hurt me and are still saying, “Regardless of that, there’s still something going on in your head.”
It’s a real bind. And I’ll say it’s a bind because I’m experiencing it very up close and personal right now because one of my kids is having a really, really hard time both in school with some bullying and I’m going through a divorce and there’s a lot of complexity in that situation. It’s really clear that those are the two things that our child is struggling with.
But we’re powerless to fix the school system that’s awful, and we’ve been pretty powerless to fix some of the conditions in the divorce that we’re dealing with, so even I am like “Should I be considering medication, psychiatric drugs, for my child who is struggling so much because I can’t fix these societal conditions?” I need [my kid] to somehow have some protection to move through that.
It’s really painful to see that happen. So many people get stuck in that place of “Things are so terrible, and I can’t control them.” All I can control is maybe I can numb myself out a little, and maybe I can make myself forget these things.
Karin: I have been in this situation myself feeling that way. If the world is just so messed up at the moment and the support is just not there, what if the right choice is to go back on an antipsychotic just because I have no other choice? I know if I were in a different situation in a different world, a different culture, I could possibly live and thrive.
Sera: As far as the Peer Support Line goes, we don’t have any more power than anybody else to fix some of those societal conditions that people are experiencing when they call us, but we can validate that they’re real. We can be one of the places people can call. One of the very few places where we’re not saying, “Oh no, no it’s really about you,” and I think that can be really important.
We also really support people to challenge some of the societal norms. That’s integrated into all of our core trainings that it’s okay to challenge gender norms or expectations of what you should be doing or producing in the world. Who you’re supposed to be. How you are supposed to define your problems. We create that space, and it still doesn’t fix the societal conditions, but it can similarly, in some weird way similar to a psychiatric drug, create a little bit of a buffer or a little bit more protection against dealing with those societal conditions if you have some people, someone who gets it and who hears you, who has your back in that way.
Karin: I have to say I’ve interacted with Wildflower supports — the Peer Support Line and the Peer Support Groups that you all offer there. I have experienced it personally as a psychiatric survivor, and in my journey coming out of a bipolar label and the harm that was done to me. I came to you and your organization. And it has in no small part given me exactly what you’ve just described.
Sera: Thank you for sharing that. It’s helpful to hear.
Karin: Your organization helped walk me back into the world. Walked my art back into the world. Walked my dignity and my empowerment and my love of self. Your organization was a really big part of how that all happened. I think you and others deserve so much gratitude for what you do and in no small part because you’re facing all these challenges, too. Not only just financial and funding [challenges]. Even the most woke people can’t wrap their minds around psychiatric abuse and oppression.
Sera: I was going to say – I actually am experiencing some pretty direct consequences from it at the moment. Again, with my divorce, we just had our pre-trial and in the pre-trial the way it works is you have to say what exhibits you’re going to use and what witnesses you’re going to call, and my ex has listed some of my articles and presentations as an exhibit to try and demonstrate that I have wild ideas about psychiatry and mental health and all this. And therefore questions my ability to parent my kids. So, it’s – it’s pretty intense.
Karin: I’m so sorry you’re experiencing that and also hope that you have support.
Sera: I actually talked to Bob Whitaker when this all first started. I’m like, maybe I should take my articles down. And then I decided no, I’m going to live with my truth regardless of what it brings, but I’m just trying to ride that out at this point.
One thing I haven’t said is that I’m not super fond of, although I’ve used it today, this whole mental health language, because I think it’s the sort of opposite side of the coin to mental illness, both of which come from this medicalized place. If I could push us out of that box and into more of a harm reduction approach, I think that’s really important.
That is a philosophy that we do hold to in all of our work including the Peer Support Line, but I don’t think people really understand what harm reduction means. Sure, it can mean how do we reduce the harm and the impact of the terrible things happening around us. That’s a piece of it, but I think at its core, what it means is we accept that people are making choices and struggling with the things that they’re struggling with and living the life they’re living, and [we] do not seek to change them or to identify what’s bad and need to be gotten rid of. Even in the instance of something like suicidal thoughts. And it’s really foreign to people to think actually the goal might not be to get rid of the suicidal thoughts. It might be really valid reasons someone is having those thoughts. There might be ways in which people value the suicidal thoughts.
I remember at a training a young man said, “If all my suicidal thoughts, if all that pain went away, I think I’d lose my art and my music, and I don’t want that.” So, instead of coming at it from that place, in a harm reduction approach, we might say okay, these suicidal thoughts are a part of this person’s life. How do we support them to change the relationship with those thoughts in a way that works better for them? How do we support them to recognize those thoughts as having a message or having less power than they do?
Karin: Last question. In a few words or a few sentences, what is the driving point of your work, and what do you want listeners to know about providing support for your Peer Support Line?
Sera: I think so much of what we are struggling with is a loss of power and control in our lives. I think that so much of what we’re trying to do is recognize the profound loss of power that comes along with someone saying, “Hey, this is your diagnosis.” That says what is wrong with you and this is what you need to do about it instead of making space to say, “What has happened to you?” What is happening in your life, and what does that mean to you? And let’s talk about this so we can support you to make that meaning and have that ownership and take that power back. If people don’t have even that much power to explore their own experiences and figure out what they mean to them, then it’s really challenging to move forward to a different place.
MIA Reports are supported, in part, by a grant from the Open Society Foundations
“Sure, well oppression is such a rich and multi-layered topic, and I think there are so many different forms of it. I was just having a conversation earlier with someone today about how even the most critical – the people most invested in anti-oppression work– still don’t get psychiatric oppression. They still, somehow think that “Oh, but for that particular group of people we need to figure out how to control them because we want them to be safe.” They’ve been fed these lines that not only will controlling that group of people keep you safe, but also then if you want to be a good person – and everybody wants to be a good person – then you need to make sure that they get the care that they need, and anything less is just not okay.
People have bought into that line, even people who are on the front lines of anti-racism and other anti-oppression work. And so, there’s that challenge. But then there’s also the reality that the psychiatric system has been used as a tool of oppression to reinforce all these other forms of oppression.”
Critical point. Still looking for solutions. Your contribution as example is good therapy.
I came to Western Mass from CT (where I’d been abused in the local hospital so many times and had had interactions with the police and neighbors that made me feel unsafe on a daily basis) because of the recovery learning Center/wildfloweralliance. It didn’t work out for me. I felt like a cautionary tale and maybe a nuisance/burden but not a peer. I don’t know how much of that was in my head (I don’t think all of it was) but it was devastating.
People need to develop their own emotional resources, and talking to whom ever they wish is fine.
But telling people who have survived abuses and the mental health system that they need “Recovery” is just more abuse. Its like saying, “Since you are not a happy camper you must still be suffering from something like mental illness, so keep your mouth shut”.
What people need is restorative justice.
Its just like how in the early 1930’s, WWI veterans marched on Washington, known as the Bonus Army, to get a pay adjustment to make what they got serving in WWI equal to civilian pay.
They needed just to be made whole again, rather than some kind of “Recovery” from being distressed.
People should not be allowed to abuse children with legal and financial impunity, and the mental health and salvation and recovery industries should not be able to profit from this.
First, let me say how truly sorry I am for Sera, that her ex is stooping this low. Anger makes us capable of such ugly things. My heart goes out to her and her entire family.
As someone who has struggled with suicidal thoughts for 3 decades, after a lot of journaling, I’ve come to see them as a coping mechanism; just one tool in my toolbox that I can say, ‘If things get too bad, I’ve always got an out.’ However, it’s only one tool, and there are other tools I use to keep me from using that one. But I also realized if my agency had ever been removed, I probably would have become even more suicidal.
But I am concerned about the focus on autonomy. “No man(person) is an island.” None of are autonomous. None of us acts in a vacuum. None of us develops and grows as children or adults in a vacuum, and I think to make this a focus plays into the hyper-individualism of our western societies and why too often we don’t care enough about those in our communities. I think a better goal is collaboration realizing that I have personal weaknesses, blindspots and am limited in my experience, knowledge and wisdom and I can benefit from relationships with others. I don’t always, intrinsically know what is best for me, but I can benefit from a safe community of fellow travelers who are willing to share without coercion.
So, I think it’s agency we should focus on, not personal expertise because all of us are limited in our experiences and sometimes we all could do with a little more humility as we accept help from others, but it ought to be our choice to accept that help, not something forced upon us because others are uncomfortable with the ugliness that life can bring to each of us.
Me-Hi Im phoning about the new arrow project.
Girl-Oh yes, I just need to ask you for a few details. What is your name…address…date of birth…great…are you feeling suicidal right now?
Girl-Have you felt suicidal recently?
Me-No but yes but no but not sure.
Girl-How suicidal were you?
Me-Im ok, I just called to ask about the arrow project, I heard its new and they offer one to one support.
Girl-Yes, but I need to assess you first by asking more questions to see if you are at risk of suicide…have you ever attempted suicide if so when and how often.
Me-Hmm Im not sure I want to recall that…maybe it was fifteen years ago…but really I just want you to tell me what the arrow project is.
Girl-We will get to that if you just tell me have you ever had a mental health diagnosis, if so can you tell me what diagnosis?
Girl-Oh…who diagnosed you was it a hospital?
Me-Look I really don’t want to go into detail about that since I do not know you. I just want to speak to someone on the arrow project if you don’t mind, I mean I hardly know what it is and you are asking me all these intimate questions and not telling me about it.
Girl-I know, it is a bit distressing for you but if you answer a few more questions I will process your application for the team to decide if a referral is appropriate.
Me-Can I not say if it is appropriate?
Girl-Do you have hallucinations?
Girl-Oh good, tell me all about your hallucinations.
Me-I..I.to be honest…I do not know who you are and I do not see why I have to answer that.
Girl-Well I cannot process you if you do not tell me the answers…because we need to assess whether you are in danger of harming yourself.
Me-I only called to find out what the arrow project is and has to offer me…look can I please talk to someone else…a manager?
Girl-Why do you want to?
Me-I would prefer not to say.
Girl-Unfortunately if you cannot answer the questions I cannot pass you up to the manager.
Me-I do not think that is ok, I think everyone has a right to talk to another service provider or manager.
Girl-I can hear you are distressed. Unfortunately I think it would not be appropriate for you to continue this call.
Me-Are you ending the call because I asked to speak to someone else…and are you able to read my mind and know if Im distressed and why….and
who gives you the right to tell me I am appropriate or inappropriate…you have never met me before this five minute call…now please let me speak to the
Girl-I will put you on hold.
(ten minutes later)
Girl-Hi there unfortunately you cannot speak to the manager because we feel that this is going round in circles and is getting nowhere and you are only getting yourself worked up and more distressed.
Me-I am calm…my voice is calm and I want to calmly speak to the manager.
Girl-That is not possible. Maybe calm down and phone us again tomorrow and we will be happy to go through the assessment procedure questions in full.
(I hang up then phone a help centre who after metaphorically stirring my coffee tell me to just call the Girl back and let her process me. Just answer all the indepth questions. Even the grubby details of my hallucinations.
Me-Hi I spoke to your colleague a Girl earlier but maybe I was a bit grumpy but she asked so many questions. I just want to learn about the arrow project.
Mature Person-Unfortunately it is just the process but we can take it slow. Yup the arrow project is a volunteer led venture that takes the mentally ill on forest hikes. Now let me just ask you have you ever had thoughts of suicide?
Mature Person-Today…Today…did you say Today!!!!
Me- yes but it passed.
Mature Person-What did you do?
Me-Had nilistic thoughts and jotted them down, dont worry its normal for me.
Mature Person-A plan…did you say you made a plan…can you tell me what you planned…was this to end your life?
Me-I would rather not talk about it..or maybe just talk it through with the arrow project when I get to talk to them.
Mature Person-Sure…I understand.
Mature Person-But we need to know you are not in danger…have you ever self harmed?
Me-Long time ago, decade.
Mature Person-How did you harm yourself?
Me-A decade ago..
a razor…if I recall…I don’t want to speak of it.
Mature Person-So you harmed yourself with a razor?
Me-Just where are all my answers going?
Mature Person- Oh they just need to be filed on our computer system so we can process you and see if you meet the criteria for referral…are you bathing…eating…working…cash…do you have any friends…?
Me-How long does the arrow project support people?
Mature Person- A week.
Me- A week to do trails and that’s all…can it be longer?
Mature Person- There is an endless waiting list.
Me- I don’t think it is going to be any help. Ive had this condition for over a decade.
(Hang up phone).
I experienced that call five years ago and wrote it on my journal. I really wanted to yell at them…
“If you are asking all these questions how can you be listening?”.
A flower unfolds. You do not rip and rip and rip its petals off because YOU want to see what it is made of.
“A flower unfolds. You do not rip and rip and rip its petals off because YOU want to see what it is made of.”
Thank you for those words. Beautiful and so true.
This deserves a flower. And music of my fav composer.
A helpline caller does not unfold by words but in the opening silences between the words. The unspeakable and the sacred are both beyond words.
So beautiful, thank you. I have been enjoying this composer a lot lately. A flower in return for you 🙂
And a bit funny too because in lockdown I did a video of me dancing to entertain and amuse my friends and for the first time I saw this is how I dance. All a bit wispy hand faffery. Can’t help it.
And Sera, I salute your many endeavours. There needs to be many more experienced helpline call providers like you. I was only outlining how one duff occurrance went. It is easy to answer a call. It is not easy to hold someone while they answer themselves.
Thank you Sera Davidow, i am right with you So well said…. You’ve reminded yet again to continue to insist upon my own self. And so much more. I hope to speak at some point- I once reached out to Robert whitaker abs we set a date to talk after his trip to Europe but we never ended up speaking after our initial conversation….. anyway. Truly, I hope I can begin to share my thoughts and experiences and ideas as they are so very much inline with yours , as well as others like George E. Atwood , and many more. You have given me a great deal of peace in knowing there is another human who thinks and feels as I do. Thank you Sera. [email protected]
Karin Jervert, you are correct in recognizing that the regular Mental Health Crisis Lines are dangerous. The way they treat people and trivialize their affairs is horrid. And you might as well just go down to the Police Station and tell it to the desk sergeant, because that is where it is likely to end up.
Okay, so Sera has this Warm Line now. But there are still going to be issues. People are going to call up and talk about hurting themselves or others. And no matter what you might think about that actually happening, you still can’t allow yourself to be an audience for that. So you have to cut them off, refer them to 911 or something.
And then, abuse survivors need justice. Getting justice can be very hard, it can become a life’s work. But you can’t ever let this Warm Line be portrayed as Recovery, Therapy, or Salvation, because these are not justice at all. An attorney does not talk about his or her cases. A survivor fighting for justice will not usually be able to talk about their affairs either.
Sara, I wonder what kind of “wild” ideas you have about psychiatry, as put forth by your ex husband.
For example that science is science, and one should report the truth rather than supporting ideology?
That anyone would ever have to take part in such game theory manipulations as to whether there’s loss in supporting the truth: as if there’s loss when science is science rather than ideology.
I feel that eventually people realize that they should not talk in Support Groups, Recovery Groups, Hot Lines, and Warm Lines.
Survivors need justice, and these things are not paths to justice. They are just disclosing personal stuff.
Now sure, a Warm Line could be very important for someone who feels that they need it. But eventually I would hope that they see that disclosure only gets in the way of justice and proves to be a liability.
With disclosure one always become vulnerable to having their affairs trivialized. This amounts to second rape.
And so it will always be cast as needing Recovery, Therapy, and Jesus. So they learn that just like an attorney representing a client, they have to keep quite.
But when someone does not yet know that and feels that they need the warm line, then sure.
I love what you say, Joshua.
I would only want to say that at times I have needed a kind of mystical hospital ward made of yellow sunlight with gossamer curtains around comfortable beds, a place so open plan to nature it has no walls, a place with quiet healer people of few words. People with deep understanding. And beautiful herbal elixirs. And trustworthy parent figures who will look after me in every good sense of that while I am dying of brokenness. I do not see why that is such a big complicated thing to have as a “choice”. As you say, it may be all kinds of injustice that causes the breaking of peoples spirit, and so injustice needs looked at but more needs done to mend the harms of injustice than only replacing what should have been in situ decades before. For the wounded who need some kind of emotional response I feel there does need to be people to call in the middle of the night. But I totally agree with your loving sensitivity that stripping a caller of every tattered shred of their dignity in grasping from them the desperate details of why they want help is despicable. If they are phoning at four in the morning the “answerer” picking up that call should only need to know that this desperate calling at that hour is the “WHY”.
People in the care sector and society have been indoctrinated into believing that “logic” fixes everyone and so you only have to hunt out the “reason” for “why” they are wounded for the wound to “logically” heal. But then this reverence for “logic” becomes a bickering about whether the caller’s “reason” for feeling wounded is “reasonable” to the “answerer”. An answerer who thinks we have to all believe in “reason” as a deterent against contageous insanity. That then becomes how a person’s wound is seen as “unreasonable”, and we all know how the “unreasonable” are treated in a phonecall…and life.
The two “answerers” who took my calls were very “logical”.
Despair is not “logical”.
Despair is not a dispute.
Despair is an “isness” form of inconsolable mutism.
(It is not rocket science to do something other than mete out a hundred phone questions such as date of birth, address, and other things of “logic”. This video link of a distraught koala and an unseen passerby woman who would make the ideal compassionate call “answerer”)
Forgot to add the koala link.
Yes, sometimes people need a safe place to talk. Hotlines are not such a place, and the therapist’s office is not such a place.
We can have warm lines, but you still can’t say just anything there and expect it to be unconditionally safe either.
There is not any place where you can safely say some kinds of things.
I still think that eventually survivors realize that just like an attorney handling a case, they need to keep quite and stay away from hot lines, warm lines, recovery and support groups, and therapists. Making disclosures only causes problems.
And they will always cast what you are saying as some kind of a rehabilitation, recovery, or salvation seeking project. These are not justice.
Someone can give a person measles and that may be “injustice”, and that new measles struck person may want “justice” so it never occurs again. But the “justice” alone will not “heal” all of the measles. For that “healing” you may need suppprt, from someone, anyone, to buy you soup or change your bedding or comfort you that you will get better.
I understand that when “support” has in the past been the source of perceived or actual “injustice” there may be a personal mistrust of “any” supportive initiatives anywhere. But that may lead to the eradication of any grassroots inovations of new forms of supports for people who are ill from the injustice of someone giving them such “measles” as they cannot even change their soiled bedding.
“The ill have a right to feel ill”.
And in their feeling ill from an injustice that maybe made them ill, the ill have a right to something BEYOND that, in that they ALSO have the right to the “choice” of good healing.
Getting rid of injustice may seem like “love” enough to one person, like getting rid of a toddler’s strict parent, but then “who” is going to feed and clothe the toddler?
I am not averse to anyone not wanting systems that they believe are unjust. It is like getting rid of invaders. But then what? Who heals the wounded? Not all of the ills from injustice are identical. Some are more ill and wounded from injustice than others. Take iatrogenic brain damage for instance. Someone who does not have that repercussion may be able to heal with nothing but the scrapping of the injust system. But iatrogenic damage can cause severe despair on a daily basis, from bodily disability. Those “ill” people have a right to find more healing for their plight than just the mothballing of a system. The scrapping of a system might heal one person via redress of injustice but that by itself is not the extra care needed by the “ill”.
But I get that this convo will go nowhere because for some the sense of injustice is linked to the way they were forced to think they were “ill”, when all that was wrong with them was legitimate grievances of a socio economic sort. For them, the very word “ill” is deemed to be the “injustice”, and so they do not like to hear that word “ill” on the lips of anyone, even people who are made “ill” from iatrogenic harm. This means that some people do the work of the system by hushing anyone who just quite rightly feels “ill” and who quite rightly wants support.
I do not think there should be a total communication blackout on those who do want some kind of new vision for support. But in order to ponder what better support may be like, there ought to be more tolerance for discussing why old forms of support were rubbish without that instantly being an assumption that everyone never needs any support. The destruction of “support” may seem like “justice” to one person. The destruction of “support” may seem like a “injustice” to someone with iatrogenic brain problems so bad that they are unable to sleep and have the misery of dementia to look forward to.
Telling abuse survivors that they need healing, recovery, therapy, or salvation is just more abuse. It is what is called Second Rape.
And it continues until people learn that you don’t talk about your stuff except with committed comrades, people who are in the trenches and fighting shoulder to shoulder.
There is no innocent abuse, it is caused by denial.
Some will seek communications and so they should have it. But even on a warm line you are not going to be able to say just anything.
And eventually they will realized that telling people your stuff does not help you obtain justice.
Some will feel that they need a safe place to talk. Whether they really need this or not is open to debate. But as they think they need it, that still amounts to the same thing as needing it.
So, better to have it for people and to make a Warm Line as good as we can.
So it is out there, for those who want it.
But if on the other hand, if it is being aggressively promoted, presented as the solution to people’s problems, no that is not good. That is the pushing of an opiate.
The reason that Middle-Class Styled Child Abuse, Child Exploitation, continues is because of the existence of Recovery, Healing, Therapy, and Salvation Programs.
They convince people that, rather than dealing with the historic abuses and abusers and restoring their social and civil standing, it is morally superior to live in the Purple Beyond, the Recovery Circle, the Therapists Office, the Support Line, and never to try to restore the social standing which was usurped.
I could not agree more.
“Telling” anyone, whether they are an abuse survivor or genocide survivor or war survivor or just anyone ANYTHING that they have made known they do not want to hear is not alright. That said, it is difficult for the other to know that before saying any words at all. A person may not know what words or attitude might upset a stranger until they say them. But on balance I like what you say.
I understand what you are meaning.
Well for a supportive line, the best is just to listen.
But what I am saying is that while people may originally turn to support lines, I for one would hope that they quickly come to realize that discussion their affairs is an impediment to obtaining justice.
Justice has to be obtained in the legal and political processes, or through a revolution.
In any such case, a Warm Line means a security breach.
So if people are making a Warn Line, that is great because some will want to use it.
But if it is a aggressively promoted, like it is the remedy to people’s problems, then that is not good, as it is opiate pushing.
I admire your honesty.
If in promoting the Warm Line you are saying that people need this, then that supports the idea that survivors need Psychotherapy, Recovery Groups, Motivational Programs, and Salvation Churches. And this is all Second Rape.
Having the Warm Line is good, as some people will use it if they just know of it. It is better than the government’s Crisis Lines, and these are horrid. But there doesn’t need to be any positivistic promotion.
I hope that eventually people will learn how to organize and to obtain justice.
Sickened: The True Story of a Lost Childhood
Julie Gregor had a mother who spent her time finding all the doctors she could who would go along with this idea that Julie “had something wrong with her”. At the age of 12 Julie was within 20 min of open heart surgery.
Julie pulled the rug out on her parents as they were living off of money for taking care of Foster Children and abusing them. So to get money to divorce the parents burned down the house, and Julie’s dog, and pulled an insurance scam.
Julie explains that when you report your parents for Foster Care abuse, you become a foster child yourself.
As an adult Julie had very little contact with Psychotherapists, but she learned about Munchausen’s By Proxy Syndrome in a college class.
She then found her mother with a new husband in another state, and with another Foster Care child, and seemingly trying to set up the same thing. The big pile of popular medical books, the under feeding, over working and dehydration, to cause an irregular heart rhythm, and the girl being prohibited from touching the stove to lay out the explanation for a fire.
The book ends with Julie back in California, and she is dialing the telephone, but it is not to her Support Line, it is the number to Montana CPS.
Daiphanous Weeping, I am seeing an issue here, you and your Warm Line group are not trying to eradicate the mental health system. You are trying to reform it, and to mitigate it.
Now I know that your Warm Line is not a government crisis hot line, and that what you and your people do is not psychotherapy or psychiatry. But you are still set up so that you will be inducing people into disclosing their personal affairs to you. And it is this which I take exception to.
People will feel that they need to talk. But whether or not they really need this is open to debate. But since they think that they need it, they do need it. They need to have access to a safe person to talk to, until they realize that they don’t need this and that such disclosures accomplish absolutely nothing.
So I want to say that it is better that your warm line is there than that it were not there.
But in having it, a deception is still being propagated. And it might be a good deal worse in how the Warm Line is being promoted, and maybe in how funds are raised.
The deception is that those who are disgruntled or ill at ease, need to disclose their thoughts to counselors, therapists, or ministers, and submit to their direction.
Where as if you are going to follow the example of say Julie Gregory, you don’t do this. You might talk about things only after you have made some political gains, explaining why you did what you did. But you never look to getting agreement or support from anyone who is not already fighting in the trenches. And even then you are not looking for agreement or support, you are offering support to those who are already scoring wins against the adversaries.
People believe that they need to talk with Therapists, Recovery Groups, and Support Lines. But what are they really looking for, and what do they actually get?
Well, they are looking for approval.
What they actually get are commiseration and pity.
Hopefully they eventually realize that they do not want to talk to Therapists, Recovery Groups or Support Lines.
You say interesting things. I like what you seem to be wanting for your world.
I myself have no part in the warm Line or any line. I see that as neither a credit to me or a deficiency in me.
I see life as like a village craft market with hundreds of marquees and stalls. A warm line is on offer in one stall, meditation in another, revolution in another, tribal ways of being in another, holistic ways of being in another, spirituality in another, Soteria house in another, the Power, Threat, Meaning, framework in another, and more progressive reformed aspects of traditional psychiatry in another. Every market booth will attract diverse people. That is all to the good since not everyone can be “the same”.
When is a market not a market? When one booth dominates as “the only choice” anyone should buy. At the moment it is psychiatry but it has been religion or spirituality, and always, always, one booth will dominate, because humans like to lord it over other humans via “consensus opinion”. It is not “the booths” that are ever such a problem, it is just the dominance that uses “any” booth. That is the problem.
A hot line or warm line or tepid line or ice cold line are never a problem. They are all lovely choices in the wider village craft market. It is when dominance sidles in to any of those and becomes despotic that is the problem.
I like your thinking here. Options without domination seems to be the best way to help people. Domination is often what created “mental illnesses” in the first place, so it’s not likely to make us better!
How cheered I feel to get this. Thank you, Steve.
I would add that dominance is “caused” by mental illness, a mental illness meted out by a previous dominator, who had it meted out to them, and back and back.
In other words whoever oppresses you and dominates you is “ill”.
That is why they cannot “love”.
Those who cannot love are also unable to absorb love. For all their dominance their own lives are as piteously ill and loveless for them as the lovelessness they cause to others.
Dominance is a sign of abjeft miserable desperation.
One must never accept the outward bad behaviour of being dominated by someone, but one can accept their intrinsic abject misery at being driven to be so ill.
Dominance is fear based.
In the village market of life….fear is everywhere.
You sound a lot like Alice Miller’s work!
I think Alice started out good but became a victim of her own hagiography. Having a gazillon grateful adults write letters of gratitude to a “saviour” for book one inevitably impacts the need for “doubt” by the time of making book two, with the result that the “saviour” sounds possessed of inhuman quantites of “certainty”.
A therapist whom I once atended was at pains to repeatedly tell me drop communicating with my mother. The therapist had a deep dislike of her own mother and had ceased all contact with that doddery demented octogenarian.
Consequently whenever I spoke of my mother to my therapist, that armchair “saviour” would come out with “Millerisms” mid session to push me over that familial edge. I would say to the therapist that my mother had bought me pyjamas. This was interpreted as a sign of coercion. I would say my mother bought me a birthday card. This was interpreted as a sign of my mother’s manipulative control. I would say my mother hugged me. This would be interpreted as a sign of my mother clinging to me. I would say my mother cooked a nice casserole for me. This would be interpreted as a sign of my parent gas lighting and even sprinkling that with guilt tripping.
It was all so easy for me be lured by my therapist to learn to love myself by hating someone else. Like she had.
But what is love if it requires hatred to be love?
I am greedy for real love. The love that loves everybody, as well as me.
Domination and lethal force are how we are able to prohibit murder and rape.
Problem though is that these things still go on, its just in other ways.
Right now someone is driving their child to the doctor to get a diagnosis. And right now someone is going into a diatribe against their good for nothing son or daughter.
And right now someone is looking in the yellow pages to find a support line or a therapist where they will talk about these troubles, even though that does absolutely nothing to help publicly vindicate them. But they will be taught that it is morally superior if they disclose their affairs and learn to live in the Purple Beyond.
Maybe this sounds bleak, but it would be a whole lot worse if we hadn’t of executed the Nazi doctors.
Rather than looking to the Evangelists of the Purple Beyond, why don’t we look to people like Jeff Andersson?
Attorney Jeff Anderson on the California Child Victims Act (AB 218)
Further to my com about Alice Miller…
This clip shows how easy it is to get people to drop their existence, never mind drop being in contact with their mothers and fathers.
I feel Alice is a luminary and I have respect for her bravery and insights. She is a genius.
She is a door unlocker.
But I think her work is fueling the rise of the abusive parent in the disguise of the therapist who specializes in saving people from abusive parents who are not that.
A lot of parents are iatrogenically damaged. For decades diazepam and prozac were part of the baby’s maternity layette box. A lot of parents were dealing with roller coaster withdrawals without knowing it.
Why is it ok to excuse your own iatrogenic hiccoughs but not those of your parents? A greater healing and forgiveness needs to happen.
It is important not to misinterpret Miller. She’s not saying that our parents are abusive assholes, she’s saying they are suffering from THEIR parents’ shortcomings, who were suffering from THEIR parents’ shortcomings, etc., and that unless the parents are able to face and feel the pain of their own childhoods, they will repeat what happened to them and pass it on to another generation. Blaming parents is NOT what she’s about – the idea is to learn where your parents went off the tracks and EXPERIENCE the pain you were avoiding, so that you have a chance NOT to pass this pain on to others. But if the therapist him/herself has not does their own work, they pass on THEIR parents’ pain and shortcomings (and maybe their therapists’) on to their clients.
So in the end, it is kind of dangerous to go see any therapist, as they may be working out their shit on you. You’d have to carefully screen for self-awareness, humility, and ability NOT to put their shit onto others before you ever consider a therapy relationship. That’s what I see, anyway.
A news clip of a man delighted by discovering that his wife was bearing triplets.
The mom laughed and said two years on that all the babies are completely different in personality DESPITE being reared by the same parents in exactly the same way.
Seems to suggest that our personalities derive from more than simple genetics!
Monseuir McRea has flipped my Dutch cutlass out of my fencing grip…
But I see I have a penknife in my sock.
Sigh…genetics. A personality cannot get very far without the physical manifestation of genetics to plump its cushions, by creating things like hair to fluff, bone to do dancing, teeth to smile radiently, timbre of voice to talk sweet nothings. Without genetics the personality won’t get very far in THIS dimension. I say THIS because I believe there are other dimensions that the personality can move to as a ball of consciousness without needing meaty genetics.
But then someone with palsy may find that the experience of a life of jerking limbs from genetics has a formative effect on their personality. So I think things like character, experience, physical atoms, all bleed into eachother. Which is WHY we need to LOVE our physical atoms and not give them BAD TREATMENT.
In the rush to rid the world of bad treatment, a worthy campaign, there can be a rush to negate the importance of physical atoms.
Our physical atoms are important and can go wonky or ill from time to time.
Telling someone they are ill when they are not ill but are merely being their own personality is bad treatment. That has to end.
And I do not wish to see the actually ill ever badly treated. So that has to end.
But it is also bad treatment to say that the ill cannot be feeling ill.
I wanted to ask everyone at MIA today what they wish for.
Then I wondered what I wish for.
I thougt I wish to no longer have my schizophrenia. But then I realized that was a low sort of wish. I realized I wish for all the starving people in Somalia to have plenty of food.
Further to my com about Alice Miller…
This clip shows how easy it is to get people to drop their existence, never mind drop being in contact with their mothers and fathers.
I feel Alice is a luminary and I have respect for her bravery and insights. She is a genius.
She is a door unlocker.
But I think her work is fueling the rise of the abusive parent in the disguise of the therapist who specializes in saving people from abusive parents who are not that.
A lot of parents are iatrogenically damaged. For decades diazepam and prozac were part of the baby’s maternity layette box. A lot of parents were dealing with roller coaster withdrawals without knowing it.
Why is it ok to excuse your own iatrogenic hiccoughs but not those of your parents? A greater healing and forgiveness needs to happen.
Hello Diaphonous Weeping,
I almost missed your beautiful commentary and analysis of things through your various comments because I kind of zoned out on the comments section until Steve made a comment about how we inherit so much dysfunction thru our parents, and they thru their parents, etc. You have some incredible insights and articulate them so well. So much of what you speak are things I have tried to do for my wife on our healing journey. For us there is no railing against the system or seeking justice from her abuser because the exact knowledge of him is lost to her in the mists of 5 decades ago when she was a toddler. And so we deal with the trauma and dissociation today and how it affects her and us until we can undo it.
I did want to speak to Steve’s comment about our heritage of dysfunction. I remember when my wife and I first started this journey that I made a vow to break that dysfunction so our son didn’t continue in the mold. Unfortunately, he spent so many of his formative years touched by our struggling marriage until I began to deal with my own issues so that I could be a good healing companion for my wife. I wish I could have been a better father for him…but I am getting a 2nd chance this year since he had to move back in with us while he is trying to finish his PhD.
Anyway, DW, you really are beautifully articulate. It’s too bad more people haven’t read and understood some of the critical things you have stated. I do agree with so much of it and our journey has mirrored much of what you have said, but my writing is always more of one who writes those dry instruction manuals for our devices which none of us read unless we absolutely must: it’s probably why there’s been so little interest no matter how I’ve tried to share our amazing journey of love, healing and discovery (blog, booklets, comments across the internet) because I seem unable to write in such a way that draws people in.
Sam, If you wonder where your comment went I ran off with it like fox trailing a tattered banquet of carion. Devoured now. Your compliments were delicious! Thank you.
You are a the heart and soul of kindness.
Life is hard. Bitter people fight. I believe you have no bitterness. I do not know where on Earth you squirrel it away. Sprinkle some on my carion to season it or I may have to call you the living personifcation of a peaceful guru.
All said with affection and deep appreciation. You seem to me to be one of life’s egoless givers.
Alice Miller is interesting. She definitely has lifted millions out of a mire where they thought everything was…
“all my fault”.
She helped to mend people of that woundedness.
That miraculous healing was in part due to allowing adults to regress back to being liberated. To a time of ideal childhood. The way the child should have been loved.
But actually just being a child again is such a massive joy to anyone regardless of whether they had a rough childhood or not. So that invite to engage with life in a more playful and feeling focused way is always going to be helpful.
Soon everyone said how much this mended them.
But a regime, any regime, in any epoch, will utilize the props in any culture that have healing appeal in them. Thus certain past regimes utilized local folklore and repackaged it as part of “the answer” that the regime began espousing.
The myth of the “fixed” person has always been used by regimes as part of its offer. Join us and be transformed from broken to “fixed”. When a person is getting nowhere with being themselves and is fed up feeling broken the mere illusion of being “fixed” seems powerfully lifesavingly attractive. And so the regime seems attractive. And when it draws on props that also reveal transformations, as in folklore, from boring life to enhanced life, it all seems irresistable.
Psychotherapy is that folklore prop that is going to be used by all manner of new regimes to promote the myth of the perpetually “fixed” person.
But to be a “fixed” person may imply that someone damaged or broke what now needs “fixed”. Regimes like to point a finger of blame at who caused that.
Enter the myth of the perpetually “fixed” mother, or father.
And enter the myth of the perpetually “wrecking” mother, or father.
An unreal ideal of “fixed” parent is being promoted as villains who are to blame for each individual not being a perpetually “fixed” regime puppet on a string.
Any healthy “community” is a “realistic” not “idealistic” community. For a start it has a natural blend of all age groups, with a tolerance in all age groups for how each age brings with it dramatically different perspectives as blessings. You are not the same person you are as a nine year old, or fifteen year old, or fifty year old, or ninety year old. You bring different blessings to a community from your different ages. A parent is not meant to be a nine year old, or a fifteen year old. But a regime will promote the notion that the world will only be a better place when all Earth’s inhabitants ONLY think like a fifteen year old, or ONLY think like a fifty year old. Whatever consitutes the latest model of the myth of the perpetually “fixed” person that they are hellbent on selling.
Allied to that myth of “fixedness” comes the myth of perfect love.
We do not talk about perfect sadness. We do not talk about perfect anger.
Perfecting a “feeling” is the fastest way to kill it. Perfecting turns the “feeling” into a thought.
Feelings are not meant to be thoughts.
Love is not meant to be perfect. Indeed its very imperfection is what makes love so well…loveable.
Yet here we find ourselves, tugged on a leash to be obedient to a demand to be perperually “fixed” love bestowers…to create impossibly perpetually “fixed” people.
A person cannot demand love without crushing the delicate nuanced phenomenon that love is.
I am concerned at the way psychotherapy is getting its props stolen by regimes who are only in the business of blame. In whose interest is it that there grows a gulf between ninety year olds and nine year olds in our communities?
Boy soldiers phone their mother’s and father’s from warzones begging to…
the ancient wisdom says, “See to it…that no root of bitterness, springing up, causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.”
When my wife and I first started this healing journey 15 years ago, I had my fair share of anger and bitterness. This isn’t what anyone signs up for when he says his wedding vows…but I love my wife, and if we were going to make it, and make it well, then I had to let go of the anger and bitterness. I had to learn to ‘breathe’ the disappointment, pain and heartache that would be part of this journey. At first it was like learning to breathe underwater: my being convulsed and fought against the pain and heartache, but my love for my wife and my desperation to find a win/win for us held me until the process was completed.
So, I still hurt, but I know it’s the price to walk with the woman I love, and it doesn’t have the power over me that it used to.
As for ‘fixing.’ Sigh, yes. My older brother’s 2nd wife was a trauma survivor, and about the same time my wife’s trauma exploded into our marriage, his wife’s did, too. But he wanted to ‘fix’ her and drug her all over the country trying to do so…and not long after that, she filed to divorce him. I had tried to invite him to ‘walk’ with his wife, like I was learning to do with mine, but he had no interest…and my family rallied around him when he was ‘free’ of her, sigh. And then my mom tried to give a defense of him to me since she knew I was going thru similar things with my own wife, sigh. I think the rest of my family wishes I had done the same thing to my wife.
…it was their loss. Our healing journey really has been a fantastic (though difficult) voyage…like seeing a star born…as each girl (‘alter’) joined us on the outside…and I got the privilege of helping her heal as I offered her the safety and security of a loving relationship with me: something she had never known before. And once she accepted that safety with me, then she was free to let me hold her pain and trauma…so that she could heal and move on to become the beautiful person she was always intended to be…
My family and my wife’s missed the beautiful journey we have been on. It was their loss, and yet, we lost too by not having their support…but they are all broken people who have fought to pretend that they aren’t, while they shun my wife’s brokenness and think they are better than her, sigh.
I hope you have written a book about this. Sam, it sounds enthralling.
I had a boyfriend who upon showing me around his house told me not to look in a filing cabinet. I could go everywhere else.
One day the inevitable happened. I looked.
In the cabinet were sections. In each section were love letters from various assorted women.
I was shocked but after it all simmered down I joked that he was like Bluebeard. With a woman behind every door.
I grew used to seeing him as having a bit of a hareem. That he devotedly loved all of his women was authentic. He want it all. The whole collection. The whole cake. There is a toff in England who is a baron or lord of a stately home and he has what he calls “wifelets”. Lord Bath? He paints dedicated portraits to each of his “wifelets” and amasses the paintings as a gallery of votive loyalty to the Divine Feminine. All the “wifelets” want for nothing and seem perfectly happy with the hareem. He is like a peacock strutting across the lawn to his coterie of peahens.
You are married to many. I like that about you. You say “wife” but you mean “many” in that. I think your beautiful acceptance of the “many-ness” that can emerge from one person is the way we ought to all be to EACH OTHER.
We all are made of broken selves and powerful selves. No one person is complete and “fixed”.
I love the quote you gave.
I am to bow out of the comments sections. But I am with you in spirit, my friend.
Steve, Mass murderers are not abusive assholes either. They are suffering from their parents. But we still incarcerate them just the same.
Alice Miller is showing that the premises of the family, really The Middle-Class Family, are abuse. It is often abuse with a velvet glove, but it is still abuse. And she is showing that people have children in order to put themselves into that kind of a position.
Miller herself was unable to go beyond this, to say what should be done about it. But at her best she was rejecting all forms of psychotherapy because it interferes with awareness and it is just the denial systems of the therapist.
And to get to what she really believed, consider that as a young woman she was interned in the Warsaw Ghetto and she learned to to sneak in and out, and to smuggle in food.
Joshua I like that you want your world to be different from mine. So I am not arguing that your idea is not a winner. It may well be. But to me I prefer having parents. I know it is not for everyone but for me it is a value I seem to need for my wellbeing.
Here is a link to a video that shows how “metal” elders are and how when we lose their lore we progress but we also may lose all the romance in life.
These elders are away with the fairies. They are guardians of psychotically creative ways of viewing the world. They are a counter point to Big Pharma.
A brain shrinking blister pack of SSRIs can be replaced by butter on a door handle.
To me the family is a quasi tribe.
The tribe, or group huddle, has been in situ since humans took shelter in caves to rear their young. The tribe is natural and healthy as far as I can make out. Ditto the extended community that springs from gatherings of tribes. Elders have always been respected in indigenous tribes. As are children. A good blend of ages is holistic for any family/tribe.
In psychotherapy it is rare that a therapists asks you what your parents gave you that was good.
For instance my mother gave me a love of art and poetry. My father gave me a love of music and both of them gave me a love of nature. My mother gave me the superstitious. My father gave me the supernatural. My mother taught me to sew. My father taught me to fish. The list is endless of the treasures that both my parent generously gave me. Were those “damaging”?
Why does everyone want to locate “the damaging” in parents? I believe it is because people have been taught to mistrust simple love. It is a mass social contageon of paranoia about the authentic goodness of ordinary love. The paranoia in society is so unnerving that there is an automatic reflex to find the deceit in love before that deceit finds you. It is a habit that is schooled into society ironically by the success story of psychotherapy’s digging and rootling around in people’s good enough childhoods, it is a reflex attitude in response to older people of…
“you don’t fool me”.
We now live in an era where a child who is not looked after by a family/tribe runs the traumatizing risk of getting swallowed up in narcotic addiction or sexually abused by other older children or marshalled into gangs or prepped for any kind of soldierhood and so on.
You can say bad parents make lost children. But you can also say good parents find lost children.
I read Alice Miller only because my parents gave me their flare for reading. As far as I recall I slid out of the womb unable to utter the alphabet. My parents gave me the intelligence to read such a parent thumping book. Like a boxing coach gives his trainee a proper set of boxing gloves to knock him into next week. Alice Millar’s book was to me a door I could noisily slam in the face of my parents’ failure to make the cruel world love me.
It was never that my parents traumatized me. It was that they stood idly by while the world did that.
But “because” it was the world doing that and not them is the very reason I adore them.
My therapist wanted me to go no contact with the mother who made me. Had I done so I would not have had two decades of precious and funny and wonderful memories with my aged Hippie of a mother. My father once asked her to go up town in the city and buy him some breakfast. She was away for hours. When she came home she had spent all the money but brought back no food. Instead she had emerged bearing two African spears.
Joshua, the video link of elders is here…https://youtu.be/LrLLJRoPLxA
I forgot to say that I feel I need to part company from MIA.
I have a lot to do in my life at present. But I thank you for being so welcoming.
At her most radical Alice Miller opposed all forms of psychotherapy.
If only she had followed her own advice and held to this and not been seduced by a Regression Therapy Cult Leader.
Her greatest legacy is that she opposed All Pedagogy. Its not just the Violent Pedagogy, it’s also the Liberal Pedagogy. Today the chain book stores have a special section for Liberal Pedagogy. Big color picture books, almost a form of K*dd*e P*rn.
And Miller made fun of the hospital maternity wards with pictures of baby animals painted on the walls.
I think her main thrust was for adults to realize they are dangerous to young people and to stay the hell out of their way!
And those adults who don’t, such as pedophiles and narcotic dealers and other manipulators can have enhanced access to the children who have no contact with their adult parents.
A million boysoldiers are desperate for brave adults to come and love them enough to save them from recuiters. The adult parents are too scared to do so.
Alice Miller lived in a gilded cage called Europe. A temporary state that is already crumbling into rack and ruin. What is coming next is going to see everyone long for everyone to behave like grown ups.
A little over a decade ago a woman had her throat cut by a boysoldier whilst she was breastfeeding a baby. Was that adult woman harming anyone? Was she?
A community is formed of ALL AGES.
Even a zoo knows that.
To prefer one age group over another is like preferring kernels over glorious mature trees.
It is unnatural to hate any age group.
Who are going to be babysitting the unwanted offspring of the young if not the grandmothers and grandfathers?
Strict communism was never AGEIST.
It would promote the vision that…
ALL ARE EQUAL.
But in this era there is a rush to slam a door on evil. But if one does not open a door to LOVE of ALL BEINGS then one merely opens a door to a recalibration of the same evil.
The trouble is that those wounded by evil mistrust LOVE as if IT is the evil to which a door needs slammed.
This is the Dark Path humanity is hurrying down. Those who have the wisdom to question why LOVE is needing rejected have the light of love within them.
None shall listen to them.
With this I wish you all best of luck and I sadly bid adieu.
And it is also to get adults to realize that the entire world is structured around denial of what parents are doing to their children. The doctrine of “forgiveness” is what makes this so and what makes the abuse continue.
In For Your Own Good she showed how ALL Pedagogy promoted this. And there has today been a huge boom in Pedgagogy manuals.
The new Pedagogy manuals tell how to use concepts like Empathy, Nurturing, Attachment, and Communications Skills to exploit children.
Pedagogy manuals are written anew every decade.
Empathy and nurturing and so on. Sounds like vintage Alice Miller advice to me. Maybe she has somehow become pedagogical in your estimation.
A six month old baby is SUPPOSED TO BE NURTURED.
Pedagogy supports the needs of the parents. It is written a new every decade because people come to see that it is just child exploitation, the manipulation of children to give identity to the adults.
Pedagogy is a business. And it is how some people like Mayim Bialik give themselves an identity.
Today the pedagogy manuals revolve around the themes of Attachment, Empathy, Nurturing, and Communications Skills, as they market the use of children. This is why Miller opposed all pedagogy.
People who have only a superficial understanding of Miller will think that she supported Liberal Pedagogy. This is not true. She never sought to use liberal pedagogy to replace the conservative and overtly violent pedagogy.
Actually as this is coming out of the 19th Century, the middle-class ideal was never violent or abusive families. But pedagogy serves the needs of the parents and encourages the exploitation of children.
A classic book, now well worth reading which goes into this:
The first pedagogy manual was Rousseau’s. This would be even today considered a Liberal Pedagogy Manual. Miller opposed it because it is just child manipulation. Today we would call this Gaslighting. Rousseau is writing it to give himself identity and to serve the needs of the parents by letting them espouse the doctrine.
Miller is not talking about Child Abuse, she is talking about what is considered necessary and good.
And Psychotherapy is generally just a guy in an arm chair across from you telling you that you have to forgive your parents because they had the old edition of the pedagogy manual whereas your therapist has written the new edition, Empathy, Attachment, Nurturing, and Communications Skills.
She is talking about the assumption that children exist to meet the needs of adults. Pedagogy is simply a way of codifying the expectation that children will do as they are told “for their own good” (another title of one of her books). Putting adults in the role of helping kids (or other adults, for that matter) figure out what THEIR needs are is a radical action, and people who do so are generally attacked by the society at large.
Well they are not really attacked. The yellow pages still has all sorts of therapists. And there ares still all sorts of Motivationalists and Self-Help Teachers.
And baby making is an industry. It has been for as long as there has been an industrial middle-class. That children exist to meet the needs of the parents is one of the central tenants.
Pedagogy is the doctrine that the parents cite to give themselves authority and social status. And so this does need to be re-written every decade.
Miller exposed this, but she was unable to go any further with it.
I want my mom. I don’t want politics.
Diaphanous, the idea that someone is mentally ill usually starts in the family. And then coercive mental health procedures is always done with law that enables it. If we don’t keep up with it and act to stop it, then it just gets worse.
Alice Miller did a huge amount in showing us in no uncertainty how the doctrine of pedagogy underlies so much of this, of what is done to children and to adults.
And people are still building careers by propagating pedagogy.
California’s mental health ‘Warm Line’ faces uncertain future