A Developmental Response to Trauma and Trauma Language


In the world of professions, I am a developmental psychologist. But I much prefer to be seen as a developmentalist, because I don’t study from a distance how people develop. Rather, the work I do is to directly support people to develop themselves and their communities. By develop, I mean create new responses to existing situations.

These new responses can be feelings, ways of thinking and understanding, ways of seeing and talking and doing your relationships. Ways of responding to the scariness of the world. Ways of responding to your and others suffering. Ways of navigating uncertainty and unknowability. Ways of living. Ways of creating new forms of life. Cultivating and practicing this kind of development is like creating escape routes from our culturally produced and socially isolating prisons of pain. Without developing, without creating new things, we remain trapped.

Developing (creating the new) isn’t easy. The great majority of the world’s people aren’t even aware that development is possible after childhood— much less that people actually create it together, rather than it being something that happens to us individually. And on top of that, the idea of doing something new can be pretty daunting. It’s so much easier to stay with what we know, even if it’s not working.

A teenage girl writingI’m convinced that most of the times we’re feeling stuck in our day to day lives, we’re actually deep in what I call a developmental dilemma. How we frame the situation and understand the moves we can make, how we talk about the problem to ourselves and with others are limited and limiting. We really need a way to make something new with what we’ve got, especially when what we’ve got isn’t so hot.

For me and many, many others, writing down what’s bothering us can be extremely helpful. Which is why I recently started a column called The Developmentalist, and invited people to articulate in the written word what’s going on and send me their letters.

Last week I received a letter from a woman who was in a lot of pain dealing with trauma. She felt confused about how to understand and deal with trauma and the language of trauma, given that it’s become a buzz word and, as she wrote, that “we are living in a culture obsessed with trauma.” She said she is “intrigued by the trauma/healing/grief language game” and asked “Is it developmental to use the same language to talk about healing from physical wounds (and Covid) and to heal from emotional wounds? Is there a developmental way to understand trauma?” She signed her letter, “Confused and Traumatized.”

In my response I tried to link her feeling of being traumatized with her confusion over “exactly” what trauma is. The two—our feelings and what we call them and how we understand them—are always inextricably linked.

Here is what I wrote to her.

I am so sorry that you’ve been having such a hard time with so much going one that’s both physically and emotionally painful. It sounds truly awful. It also sounds like you’ve gone through this painful period and are now reflecting on how we speak about and understand such experiences. I’m glad you’re “intrigued by the trauma/healing/grief language game”— exploring it can be a very emotionally developmental activity!

You mention that our culture has become obsessed with trauma, and I agree. Lots of people agree, and some are talking about it, like the writer at Vox. for whom it’s become the “word of the decade” or the NYTimes op-ed writer, who wonders, “If everything is trauma, is anything?” I, too, wonder.

When a culture becomes obsessed in this way, that is, by the expansion of particular words and concepts—which have been created in particular and relatively narrow contexts—into an ever-widening swath of everyday experiences, we lose so much. We lose ourselves in the swarm of buzz words. We lose what was our ordinary language. We lose our imagination to create our own new expressions. We lose our wholeness. We lose the political, social and cultural world.

But so many people are helped by the language of trauma that I would be remiss if I just left you with all this loss! People say that trauma gives them a new understanding of themselves, clarity, closure, healing, and much more. I certainly acknowledge that and I’m very glad for their relief.

The losses, it seems to me, stem from how today’s trauma has come to frame human experience. Trauma is used so broadly and widely—sometimes as an event, sometimes as its aftermath, sometimes as an explanation—that it can feel at times that trauma is all there is and all that we are. (In a park near my house there is a stone wall with these words from Gertrude Stein etched in it: “I am because my little dog loves me.” Taking great (non-poetic) license with Gertrude, our culture increasingly pressures us to say, “I am because I’ve been traumatized.”)

Can we be in pain without having been traumatized? Can we suffer without trauma? I have been known to ponder such questions. You seem ready, Confused and Traumatized, to join me. I hope so.

Another thing about today’s trauma is that it’s seen as living inside an individual person, physically and psychologically, which makes a lot of human atrocity hard to see and deal with socially, culturally and politically. Murder is an act of violence. Rape is an act of violence. Are they more or less so by virtue of being identified as traumatic? The poverty of the world is indefensible cruelty, whether or not anyone—or everyone—is traumatized by it. I don’t want the horrific things human beings do to one another to take a back seat to trauma. They are horrific enough.

As to your questions, here’s my thinking. “Is it developmental to use the same language to talk about healing from physical wounds (and Covid) as it is to heal from emotional wounds?” Developmental or not, people do do it—a lot! The developmental question is: What is that way of speaking doing with, to and for us? You then ask, “Is there a developmental way to understand trauma?” If it’s done exploratorily, like the conversation you and I are having here, then I think it just might be.

Psychiatry and psychology have so altered our experience of human emotions that it is exceedingly difficult to feel, understand or talk about nearly any aspect of human life outside of the medicalized and illness frameworks we have been socialized to. Understanding life events (and/or our responses to them) as trauma has transformed how we suffer and how we relate to pain—not unlike how addiction transformed how we relate to using/overusing and doing/overdoing so many of the things people do every day (not only taking drugs and drinking alcohol, but also eating, shopping, exercising, playing video games, and lots more).

I asked my letter writer if we can be in pain, if we can suffer, without having been traumatized. I wish I had also asked her if we can live our lives without diagnosing ourselves. These are important questions to pursue (with other people, if you can), because that kind of exploration can go a long way in chipping away at our individualized and medicalized subjectivity and creating a more social path to being whole. It’s time we give it a try.


Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


  1. We do need to get psychology out of our lives. It seems that going back to Freud it is based on the religious doctrine of Original Sin. Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis are based on the same fallacies that Psychiatry is.

    It seems to be the idea that someone has to submit to having their thinking audited regularly, and that there is likely something erroneous in it that the therapist can correct.

    Its like they are trying to cure you of your tendency to think that you are God. Any display or intelligence or of moral character will be seen this way.

    And then Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis are based on the the premise that it is morally superior to renounces public honor, and instead to live in the socio-linguistic space of the therapist’s office.

    Of course we have to look at a ourselves and recognize our tendency to use mental health concepts against other people when they don’t conduct themselves in a way which is to our liking.

    We have to check ourselves anytime we want to recommend that someone “needs therapy” or that we or others need Recovery or Healing.

    And of course a lot of private practice psychotherapists have carved out a market niche of those parents who are not so comfortable with their child having a DSM label and being drugged. While these therapists may seem like an improvement, they also fully understand that their business model requires that they never report any of this as suspected child abuse. That is what the money the parents pay gets them.

    The first step to getting psychology out of our lives is just a strict no prisoners taken policy towards protecting the privacy of our affairs.

    And I am writing this as now California has been made into a Psychiatric Police State.

    A thinker I am learning about, Kazimierz DÄ…browski.


    A community of people developed around him when he was in Canada. Though trained as a Psychiatrist, he seems to haver served as something of an Anti-Psychiatrist. He and his idea of Positive Disintegration are regarded very highly in the Gifted Education Movement.

    I have not been able to get my hands on this, but it looks very good.


    DÄ…browski’s ideas look to me to be the antithesis of the Mental Health Movement, and also of the Autism Asperger’s Hoax.


  2. “Can we be in pain without having been traumatized? Can we suffer without trauma? I have been known to ponder such questions. You seem ready, Confused and Traumatized, to join me. I hope so.”

    My experience implies that those who hear about others’ “pain without having been traumatized,” don’t want to suffer from the truth that trauma exists. At least that was my experience with dumbf-ck, systemic child rape covering up psychologists, psychiatrists, and their criminal religious “partners.”


    “Psychiatry and psychology have so altered our experience of human emotions that it is exceedingly difficult to feel, understand or talk about nearly any aspect of human life outside of the medicalized and illness frameworks we have been socialized to.”

    Yes, this is a societal problem … at least for the DSM deluded.

    “I wish I had also asked her if we can live our lives without diagnosing ourselves.”

    It’s not the majority of Americans who are “diagnosing ourselves.” It’s the minority of DSM deluded “mental health professionals” – whose entire DSM “bible” belief system has been debunked as “invalid” – who are doing the misdiagnosing.

    In as much as you may try to be helping others, Lois, which I do respect. I hope at some point, you are able to overcome the scientific fraud based “biases of psychology” that “permeate our everyday live[s].”

    And make no mistake, those of us who are psycho-pharmaceutical researchers, who were never brainwashed into believing into the “bias of psychology.” We do see the extreme errors of your ways.

    I hope and pray that some day both the psychologists and psychiatrists will repent, and change from their evil, primarily child abuse covering up, ways.

  3. I am newly traumatized, freshly traumatized, on a daily basis. Today it was the rejection from betterhelp. They told me I had been matched with a therapist, and just needed to “become a member” (give them my cc so they could immediately charge $320 to it) so that I could schedule my first appointment with her. I did as told, only to receive a message from her cancelling the first appointment because “I am not taking new individuals at the moment” (now I’m an individual. Is that better or worse than a patient. Well I guess I’m not a patient or client or customer or consumer, but a rejected individual.)
    What was I even doing? I don’t know what I was thinking. I wasn’t. I’m a brainwashed zombie doing whatever the internet prods me to do.
    Tomorrow I will make sure that charge gets canceled or I will go through my bank and tell them that I’ve been scammed by betterhelp. The one thing I’ve learned from all my experience with “helping people” is how to fight.
    It bothers me that this woman couldn’t even be honest that she was rejecting me. Obviously if she really weren’t accepting new individuals, she wouldn’t be “matching” with people. So many like her.

    • Dear KateL,

      I’m so sorry this happened to you. It must have felt awful to have gotten your hopes up, only to be dumped so coldly. Please don’t think you were brainwashed; you reached out in hope, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out in that instance.

      Isn’t it ironic how an industry devoted to helping people often turns out to be the exact opposite? But who knows? Maybe there’s another therapist just right for you at betterhelp after all. In any case, I hope you get your money back.

      Best wishes,

      • Thanks Birdsong. What I faced is rejection for years and years, including from project whatever wildflower alliance, on the so-called places in the system that are supposed to help people like me who are destroyed by psychiatry and unwanted by families and have no friends. The message is loud and clear. I just somehow got the strength to go to my mailbox and found a rent increase. I already can’t afford where I live. This society is a living nightmare that never ends. That’s all it is. People will say I’m mental ill to my dying day because they don’t want to admit what a nightmare this world is.

        • KateL,
          Rejection can be devastating, especially when looking for help. And the places that turned you away says more about them than you.

          Finding a competent therapist is a crapshoot for anybody. But living a good life doesn’t depend on finding one — despite what anyone tells you. The key is learning to be your own therapist, which for me has meant learning to be my own best friend, as corny as that may sound.

          But what you’ve been through is devastating, and downright appalling, especially in this day and age. And what’s more appalling is then being rejected from the very system that’s supposed to be helpful. So, maybe you should stay away from a system that focuses on “mental illness”, which to me makes it the ultimate nightmare. And after all, it sounds like you’ve got A LOT more on the ball than most of the people that work in it. And don’t forget, KateL, you found your way to MIA! Let THAT be your badge of honor.

          Take care,

        • KateL,
          There’s not much you can do about people who insist on calling you “mentally ill”, especially those who work in the “mental illness” system; it’s all they know, so trying to convince them otherwise is a waste of time. So don’t waste yours on people who aren’t worthy of you. But how you feel is completely understandable, as the term “mentally ill” is actually a slur, whether it’s intended or not. But after a while, it’s best to try and cut your losses whenever and however you can.

          • KateL,
            What do I mean by “cut your losses”? I mean don’t add to your frustrations by expecting the impossible. Which doesn’t mean not standing up for yourself when necessary; it means calmly disagreeing and calmly stating why, but not making an issue out of it if you’re not taken seriously or treated with disrespect, because getting upset just gives people more ammunition to discredit you. It’s a matter of learning to be in control of yourself and the situation. You probably know this already, but I’m just trying to help.
            I hope things get better for you soon.

          • Thanks, Birdsong. I don’t think I’m ever going to make it back from has happened. Not everyone does. I’m literally completely alone in the world, my rent just went up for the second time in 2 years, I already couldn’t afford it when I moved in, every door has been slammed in my face including so called survivor agencies. I have no family no friends and get attacked on a regular basis by my son who tells me that I ought to kill myself, that he’s about to kill himself and it’s because of me, that I’m a worthless waste of life. This is been going on for years and years. Whatever I did wrong, whatever mistakes I made there is no way back from them. I’ve been in it down the hill spiral for years and finding the reality of what they did to me like discovering this website a few years ago does absolutely nothing to improve my situation. It just makes it worse honestly because nobody’s going to do anything different, nobody is ever going to believe me. I’ll be glad when it’s all over.

          • “There’s not much you can do about people who insist on calling you “mentally ill”, especially those who work in the “mental illness” system; it’s all they know, so trying to convince them otherwise is a waste of time.”

            This made me smile given the way the Chief Psychiatrist considers the whole community to be “mentally ill”. They’re either people who are in the hospital for their ‘illness’ (Inpatients), or those who aren’t in the hospital for their ‘illness’ (Outpatients). This saves having to worry about the subtleties of the law which actually allows people to retain their human rights when NOT being treated by a psychiatrist. Sometimes called ‘citizens’ in places like North Korea or Iran.

            Being able to dispatch police to ‘bring in’ an “Outpatient” at your leisure a comfort enjoyed by our ‘mental health professionals’ (including nurses). And who said that the Chief Psychiatrist was leaving his service of the Royal College of Psychiatrists behind when he left as their President?

            I’m sure psychiatrists have gained more from his neglecting his new duties (that is protecting “consumers, carers and the community”) than they ever did from him as President of their guild. The removal of legal protections from the Mental Health Act (without Parliamentary approval, something one would expect in a ‘democracy’) instrumental in enabling arbitrary detentions and forced drugging with after the fact due process via document “editing”. Something not possible in his previous role.

            Unless he didn’t actually write that letter, which would mean……. someone forged it? Might explain why nothing gets done because ………they prefer the forged legal narrative and went with that, meaning their uttering would be exposed. And we simply can’t have that when it is easier to maintain the lies.

          • Actually, I think i’ve figured it out.

            Given that the Chief Psychiatrist has made everyone in the community into a “patient” (either an Inpatient or and Outpatient) this means that all of our Politicians are by definition “Outpatients” and therefore lack insight into their own conduct.

            Thus, the Chief Psychiatrist can rewrite the laws they have passed without their approval, remove any and all protections afforded by those laws, and has no need to inform them that he has done so. Should they complain they will be ‘treated’ for their ‘illness’.

            The situation was similar when I failed to recognise me not being an “Outpatient” of the hospital who arranged for police to snatch me out of my bed after I had been ‘spiked’ with my “Regular Medications”. Drugs I didn’t even know I had been prescribed, by a doctor which my lawyers can’t tell me the name of because of ‘confidentiality’ (so much for Erin Brockovich’s Law Firm)

            Whilst the laws create the appearance that I had a right to access the documentation relating to these events, and a right to effective legal representation, this is simply not the case, because the laws passed by our Outpatients in Parliament don’t really count.

            What matters are the “observed behaviours” of the ‘patients’ when they are being beaten by police, and then documented on the Forms which don’t really matter either, despite them being the equivalent of sworn court testimony. There is no need for ‘reasonable grounds’ because those grounds are whatever the Chief Psychiatrist says is reasonable. And that can be “tomato”.

            Hence there is no need for him to report suspected misconduct either (despite it being mandatory), because he simply never sees any ‘reason’ to actually report to the Outpatients at the Corruption watchdog. The bar now set so high he never has a need to report to those ‘patients’ who wouldn’t understand the law anyway because he has rewritten it without informing them.

            Who would have thought that the One Eyed man would be King huh? Our Chief Psychiatrist has usurped our government by making everyone “patients” due to their lack of insight.

            I note that the hospital FOI Officer plays little games (gaslights) with the “patients” by providing them with “edited” documents and conspiring with their ‘guardians’ to conceal criminal misconduct in much the same manner. The law simply of no consequence when you can deny access to effective legal representation, and force treat anyone who disagrees with your “edited” reality.

            Best they don’t allow the “Outpatients” in the Courts to examine the evidence/proof of their criminal misconduct, given their inability and lack of insight into the world of their unelected Emperor. How could they possibly be perverting the course of justice when it has been dismantled and replaced? “You can’t listen to them, they’re “Outpatients”.

  4. I’ve got a letter that caused me some extreme trauma. And this, I believe, was the intent of the author. Taking something I held to be a truth, and changing what was done to me from criminal to being lawful….. by rewriting the legal protections afforded my whole community, and enabling arbitrary detentions.

    Perhaps you, as a ‘letter writer’ can see a difference between;

    “suspect on reasonable grounds that the person should be made an involuntary patient” With the Criteria for what constitutes an “involuntary patient” set out in a section of the Mental Health Act (Must have an illness, must be a risk, illness must be treatable, and least coercive method used)


    “The Authorised Mental Health Practitioner need only ‘suspect’ on grounds they believe to be reasonable that the person requires an examination by a psychiatrist”

    This second misrepresentation of the law removes the protection afforded the community by removing the “reasonable grounds” and leaving only a suspicion (commonly called ‘suss laws’ which enable arbitrary detentions) AND changing the consequences of the referral from the belief that the person needs to be an involuntary patient (ie incarcerated and force drugged) to a nice little chat with a psychiatrist.

    This effectively makes the Criteria set out in the law which ARE the “reasonable grounds” totally moot.

    I’m obviously not very good at communicating in English because I have been told that this rewriting of the law which to me makes substantive changes to the protections afforded the community against human rights abuses is “not a misrepresentation” (to quote the Minister for Mental Health)

    Now whilst these matters may not be important to the Minister or the Chief Psychiatrist, they are important to me because if this is a misrepresentation , then criminal offenses have occurred and I have been subjected to human rights abuses. And their negligence in not dealing with the matters they received a complaint about, may mean others are being harmed.

    So I have spent some time looking at the statements and wondering why the people charged with protecting the community, don’t even recognise the laws that are designed to protect ‘us’. Seems a bit strange really…….

    So can you see what I am saying Ms Holzman?

    “When one is writing a letter, he should think that the recipient will make it into a hanging scroll.” Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure.

    I have made the letter of response from our Chief Psychiatrist into a ‘hanging scroll’, and live in the hope that someone will recognise how his misrepresentations and refusal to correct his ‘error’ is resulting in the enabling of arbitrary detentions and the concealment of acts of torture in facilities wrongly called ‘hospitals’.

    I mean, I simply had no idea that the Chief Psychiatrist could actually rewrite the law and remove the legal protections afforded the community, and then lay claim to providing ‘protection to consumers, carers and the community’ with his “expert legal advice to the Minister”.

    Looks more like criminal negligence enabling cover ups of crimes and human rights abuses to me. Don’t like the laws protecting the public? Rewrite them, and then deny access to effective legal representation and ‘suspect’ that the ‘complainant’ requires ‘treatments’.

    I can only begin to imagine how the Chief Psychiatrist would rewrite the Articles of the Convention against the use of Torture. Oh wait, given what he has already written, that document doesn’t even exist anymore. The “editing” of legal narratives he has enabled means that whatever ‘they’ want to be true, can be achieved with such “editing”.


    “The Operational Directive allows for release of the unredacted medical records to the legal practitioner upon signed confidentiality, but there is still a formal requirement for the service to identify those otherwise redacted areas first, to appropriately advise the lawyer”.

    This is the response by the C.P. to a complaint by the lawyers about receiving “edited” documents. That is, the documents showing I had been ‘spiked’ with date rape drugs (this is a criminal offence in my State), and that the Community Nurse has called Police and requested assistance with his “Outpatient” (this being a criminal offence in my State) who was in possession of a knife (this too a criminal offence, not having a knife that was planted on you, but creating a false belief for Police). All the documents showing these facts removed and other documents making me a long term ‘patient’ of this hospital inserted in their place….. you know “edited”.

    I find myself wondering what kind of ‘advice’ the hospital was going to give my ‘legal representatives’ regarding their offending? The provision of these documents unredacted upon provision of the confidentiality agreement is to protect human rights, but it clearly doesn’t work when they simply “edit” reality, and the lawyers ‘play along’.

    Pointing these facts out to the Chief Psychiatrist and Minister (who thought the documents I had showing the differences to legal narrative done by “editing” had been retrieved by police) means….. crickets. Not only do they “edit” reality, even when they fail to retrieve the documents I had and the facts are exposed, they maintain their uttering with the fraud and deny the reality they clearly knew they were denying despite being aware of the truth.

    Do you have any ‘developmental’ suggestions for our Chief Psychiatrist and the Minister? Perhaps they might get some training in basic law and at least come to understand how a burden of proof operates to protect the community? Perhaps they can find a ‘new way’ of not “editing” human rights abuses out of legal narratives to conceal acts of torture and arbitrary detentions? Because their hypocrisy when pointing fingers at China seems a little…. rich (which given the money they are being paid you would expect at least some semblance of reasonableness…. though once they have removed reason from the laws, it really does come crumbling down)

    If they knew the laws they were charged with enforcing, they might actually not get so many people they have to silence because they don’t like the truth and have to “edit” reality to ensure their preferred outcome is achieved every time.

    Not to mention the ‘unintended negative outcomes’ the Coroner is having to turn a blind eye to.

    Anyway, hope you can respond in some meaningful way other than some of the more bizarre gaslighting responses I have gotten from people who call themselves ‘lawyers’, though appear to be closer to what are called criminally negligent sycophant’s

      • Joshua says, “Someone could have been traumatized in ways that they do not yet know how to give voice to….the most common forms of abuse are those which our entire society declines to recognize.”

        Vey true, but no one should be forced, coerced, or in any way made to feel obligated to disclose what’s happened to them, conscious or not. But unfortunately, most therapists are stuck on the belief that talk therapy is the only way to overcome trauma. Doing this can retraumatize and puts the trauma ahead of the person.

        What’s happened with trauma language is what often happens with any idea that captures the public’s imagination; it gets stereotyped. But Dr. Holzman brings up a very good question: can we live our lives without diagnosing ourselves? Now THAT’S a question worth pursuing.

        • “Doing this can retraumatize”, meaning talking about trauma (or anything else) can be retraumatizing. And it doesn’t matter if someone says you’re not being “forced” to talk, because even just the expectation that talking is good causes feelings of obligation to talk, which can also be traumatizing, or just call it intrusive and invalidating.

          And the language of trauma in the wrong hands can be just as bad as the pseudo-medical gobbledegook psychiatry dishes out.

          • And this is only one of the reasons why I am strongly opposed to psychotherapy. We should not continue to allow our government to license it.

            And people should always have other options.


          • There’s a reason why people call horrible things “unspeakable”; it’s because they’re traumatic. But that’s something most therapists seem to have a hard time understanding. And it’s my experience that most therapists can’t accept the fact that talk therapy doesn’t work for everyone. And on top of that, most therapists believe there’s something wrong with people who don’t find talking helpful, and that it’s the client’s fault if they don’t! Now THAT’S a trauma, right there, courtesy your local therapist. And for some reason, most therapists’ egos seem to depend on people spilling their guts, as if they own YOUR trauma, which they then feed off like parasites. Trauma, anyone???

            And NO ONE needs the ultimate trauma of being handed a “psychiatric diagnoses” –

          • When trauma language becomes hackneyed, it then becomes perfunctory. And this is bad because so much of trauma is nuanced, meaning it can be hard to put into words, and even when words are used, the full impact of the trauma may not be conveyed, especially to (most) therapists, many of whom (imo) are overbearing, browbeating know-it-alls unable to pick up subtleties, even if they’re right in front of them. And since this is what passes for “therapy”, it’s no wonder there’s so many troubled people.

  5. Having a culture that is obsessed with trauma is probably the best ‘problem’ we could possible have. I wish it were the case, but it isn’t – only a small fraction of society is trauma-informed, even today. It has improved markedly over the last 10-15 years and it appears this will continue, but to say that we’re trauma-obsessed is, to me, hyperbolic – especially when such a belief is justified by pointing to what are clearly tongue-in-cheek remarks that people make; e.g. that sitting in traffic is traumatizing.

    Looking at where being trauma-uninformed has gotten us in this world – virtually every physical and mental illness skyrocketing – I conclude that the only possible escape from the downward spiral is by being the opposite. If the worst thing that comes from this is confusion over what ‘trauma’ means and people using the word in different ways, we’ll all be in wonderful shape.

  6. We do need to get psychology out of our lives. It seems that going back to Freud it is based on the religious doctrine of Original Sin. Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis are based on the same fallacies that Psychiatry is.

    It seems to be the idea that someone has to submit to having their thinking audited regularly, and that there is likely something erroneous in it that the therapist can correct.

    Its like they are trying to cure you of your tendency to think that you are God. Any display or intelligence or of moral character will be seen this way.

    They have to be prosecuted, and it is we who must do that.


  7. What we call “trauma” is certainly a reality for many people. After all, who has not experienced birth?

    And I agree that a better understanding of irrational human behaviors includes traumatic experiences.

    What would be one of the most traumatic experiences you could imagine? Dying? Being horribly murdered? “But…how could the trauma of death be relevant to emotional healing?” Indeed, how could it? You can get a hint of the answer by talking to people who have had NDEs.

    Then there is the trauma involved in inflicting trauma on someone else. Outflow instead of inflow. Still trauma.

    As many comments above state, psychology has ignored the obvious for so long that many people think it should be abolished as a subject.


    Someone who did not want psychology to succeed took it and ran it into a brick wall (trauma). And there it has remained stuck. Psychology just needs to be liberated from its own trauma so that it can begin to serve mankind, its higher purpose. Who is going to make that happen?

  8. Lois thank you for playing with trauma! I do think that as you say in your letter that people “can be in pain, if we can suffer, without having been traumatized.” I agree with you that sometimes it can be helpful to label it as trauma, when someone doesn’t want to talk about it or needs to get some distance from what happened. Usually though, I find trauma generalizes very specific painful moments in our lives and this generalization keeps those moments locked away, which I think keeps people’s lives locked away, too. A therapist may then end up treating the symptom rather than discovering together the cultural emotional responses we have and the suffering. As a practicing social therapeutic group coach I will encourage people to give their suffering to others. Giving to others (our friends, our group, our therapist) what we are feeling about that suffering can be so powerful (!) and can transform that pain. I’ve seen it in my sharing my own abuse with others, and encouraging my group members to as you say “chip away” at the very painful, secret and daunting feelings we have. I am ever appreciate of you taking off psychology’s label for our human suffering!

  9. Excellent article, Dr. Holzman.
    The language surrounding psychiatry & psychology has become an assimilation and marketing exercise that blurs & softens experiences into a large, more palatable blob.

    ‘Bipolar’ was transformed during aggressive marketing following the publication of the infamous DSM-IV from a diagnosis to a verb to a slur, used with specious ‘authority’ by medical folks and the rest of the culture, at will.

    ‘Amazing’, in a more minor sense, is a parallel; if everything is ‘amazing’, nothing is.

  10. Dr Holzman, thank you for saying this: “Psychiatry and psychology have so altered our experience of human emotions that it is exceedingly difficult to feel, understand or talk about nearly any aspect of human life outside of the medicalized and illness framework we have been socialized to.”

    This can’t be said often enough these days, and I wish it were the first paragraph in every psychology textbook.

  11. Dr. Holzman,

    I liked reading your article very much, because it sounds like you have a refreshing take on things.

    I like your term “developmentalist”; it takes the pathology out of psychology. And your approach to “…support people to develop themselves and their communities…(to) create new responses to existing situations” is what needs to happen, because it’s the only realistic and humane thing to do, not to mention reasonable and respectful. After all, what has pathologizing done for anyone except cause more trauma?

    And I’m glad you mentioned writing things down as I, too, found this helpful — a lot more helpful than talking to a therapist or taking “medication”. Writing removes the obstacle of having someone judge or misinterpret whatever I’m saying. Writing helps make sense of the impossible.

    Exploring new ways of looking at trauma is important, because, as you say, “—our feelings and what we call them and how we understand them—are always inextricably linked”, which to me means the difference between hope and despair. And new perspective means new life.

    Thank you again for sharing your new, positive approach. The world needs more good people like you.