We’re Obsessed with Labelling Suffering, But Our Power to Think about it Matters More


Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published on our affiliate site, Mad in the UK.

The philosopher Ian Hacking described a looping effect, whereby people adjust themselves to become more like the labels foisted upon them. “Sometimes, our sciences create kinds of people that in a certain sense did not exist before,” he wrote in “Making Up People” (2006). By constructing types of being, with clusters of traits that correspond to a psychiatric classification, medical authorities “make up” embodiments of their invented category. One’s subjectivity is captured by those elements delineated in the classification. To be recognised, one learns to express oneself by those parameters. Not to conform is to be unable to be helped.

Subjectivity is tricky for psychiatry. The discipline pretends to an objective classification of people, borrowing language (“diagnosis”) from physical medicine, which assigns the label of disease following the identification of a pathology, which, one hopes, can be targeted and cured. But the analogy fails in psychiatry. There are few known biological pathologies. And who is to say what cure is?

Photo of a sculpture of a woman on a bench looking wistfully out to seaIn Towards Deep Subjectivity, The philosopher Roger Poole wrote about the power play integral to assumptions of objectivity:

“Objectivity…takes as a premise that facts can be deployed in an objective, context-free way, even when the facts are about human beings. This insistence upon objectivity in facts concerning human life is what gives rise to the impersonal jargon of military strategy, where the tragic is buried under the official phrase. The facts of the situation have to be accepted for what they are: all subjective, ethical inquiry about the status of the facts under discussion is down-graded as sub-rational. An inquiry into facts which begins…by questioning the status of the facts themselves, when re-integrated into their human context, is simply disregarded as dangerous to objectivity.”

A psychiatrist once told me my depression was partly due to low blood sugar. In retrospect, I needed Kierkegaard and Freud; she prescribed cereal bars. My despair, to her, was an imbalance to be corrected, rather than a relationship with the world—a relationship explored in a rich and serious literature, from philosophy to novels, and a relationship which meant I was alive, excruciatingly so.

“Objectivity selects what it intends to consider very carefully,” continues Poole. “It selects those parts of a problem which are either quantifiable or empirically governable or both. There is a continuous retreat from the general to the particular, from the whole to the parts, from the difficult to the simple, from the complex to the naïve, from the adequate to the banal.” Certain sections of psychiatry are obsessed by “symptoms.” The parts—the type and regularity of your symptoms—come to define the whole. The line between receiving the label of “disorder” or not is risibly arbitrary. Worse, you are your parts. The criteria which led you to earn the label then become the substance of the label, providing a pseudoexplanation.

The quest of much psychiatric intervention becomes to remove the symptom. If the symptom is removed, the label can be withdrawn. And without a label, one exits the parameters of psychiatry. (At this point, consider briefly the contrasting aim of psychoanalysis, which does not make it its first task to remove the symptom. “The analyst asks neither that the subject get better nor that he become normal,” wrote Anny Cordié. “The analyst requires nothing, imposes nothing.”)

The motivation to remove the symptom has resulted in what Poole calls an “ever-increasing proliferation of context-less achievements…local scientific successes which precede even the remotest notion of how to deal with them ethically or how to integrate them into the needs of the totality.”

Leaders of psychiatry have admitted their discipline is rife with context-less achievements.

“Whatever we’ve been doing for five decades, it ain’t working,” said Thomas Insel, former director of the world’s largest funder of psychiatric research, the US National Institute of Mental Health. “And when I look at the numbers—the number of suicides, number of disabilities, mortality data—it’s abysmal, and it’s not getting any better.” In a later interview, Insel conceded that, “while I think I succeeded at getting lots of really cool papers published by cool scientists at fairly large costs—I think $20 billion—I don’t think we moved the needle in reducing suicide, reducing hospitalizations, improving recovery for the tens of millions of people who have mental illness.”

We tend to think that “the important problems, the ones that need solving, are the ones that are handed down to us as significant,” wrote Poole. Psychiatry’s problem has become finding a solution to suffering, a solution which apparently rests on identifying, classifying, and alleviating what are taken to be symptoms of as yet undiscovered underlying pathologies, reified “disorders” inside the sufferer. But this approach may have turned the problem upside down. The “symptom” is the crux of our engagement with the world. The conflict therein is the hinge of our contact with the real. If to have an ethical stance is to respect the other as an embodied subjectivity, then to take a screwdriver to that hinge—to dismantle the parts of another’s subjectivity in the name of remedy—is to disrupt very seriously the notion of ethical intervention.

Recently, I have travelled through Twitter observing debates on the philosophy of psychiatry, and the merits and demerits of various approaches. The stakes feel high, which is enlivening. But there seems little appetite to engage with others who question the “facts” upon which one’s own position is staked, little appetite to abandon, that is, the objectivity which appears critical to proceed in argument. To do that requires stepping outside the guard rails of accepted thought, and it is questionable how genuinely alive any inquiry can be which refuses to do that.

“Anyone who does not see the ‘obvious’ as the obvious will be taken…to be suffering anyway from an impaired sense of objectivity,” wrote Roger Poole. “But as a sufferer from ‘mere subjectivity’ he can be safely ignored.” Or, as Luisa Muraro asked in “The Symbolic Independence from Power”: “What happens to thought when it encounters the unthought?”

Moreover, there seems little engagement in these debates with what should be the central question of psychiatry: who has the authority to do what to whom? People ask for help because they want to stop suffering. To be not able to bear oneself is a laceration sometimes deeper than language. But one is never in greater jeopardy than in that moment of submitting to another, of ceding the terms of one’s existence to an “expert,” who has had conferred upon them—indeed has sought out for themselves—the authority to receive it. If one is unlucky, in that moment, one unwittingly gives oneself up to a power game, in which one’s task is then to conform to, or resist, diagnosis, treatment, and the normative definitions of what it is to be a patient, and perhaps, eventually, not a patient.

“For our purposes, the most important form of despair is ‘the despair which is ignorant of being despair, or the despairing ignorance of having a self and an eternal self,’” wrote the philosopher and therapist John Heaton, quoting Kierkegaard. “This applies roughly to the person who considers him- or herself to be successful, who knows what’s what, has most things sussed out, can put people who obviously are in despair and distress in neat categories that he or she thinks defines them and distances them from his or her own state of successful mediocrity. It is a state of spiritual mediocrity…”

To be caught there is to meet a dead end, perhaps too literally; despair, once categorised, is transmuted from a cry for life into evidence of proximity to death.

“The psychiatrist or psychotherapist often sees himself or herself as in the position of the master, the one who knows, who is to free the Patient from his slavery; of course, the Patient often sees himself or herself as a victim, depending on the psychiatrist to free him,” Heaton continues. “The result is the Patient becomes a slave to psychiatry or psychoanalysis.”

So let us turn from psychiatry to psychoanalysis. Freud wrote that analysis should be conducted under conditions of maximal frustration. The analyst should resist the analysand’s demands for collusion in the latter’s phantasies, one of the most common of which is that the analyst has the “answer” to the analysand’s problems—their despair, depressions, obsessions. The analyst does not; there is no answer to be had. Instead, the terms of the problem must be redefined; the analysand must learn to realise their autonomy, and to grasp that the problem is not that there is no answer, but that one continues to need an answer from another.

In the light of this, much psychiatric assessment and provision implies a potential of relief that is undermined by the very conditions of its administration. Furthermore, the position from which diagnoses and treatments are administered goes unexamined. People become patients who have “good” done to them by “experts.” The question of what is “good” has already been decided, Heaton wrote, by those who assume the power and knowledge to do so.

(Of course, power and knowledge underlie much conflict within psychiatry. The NHS says a third of young women have a “probable mental disorder,” while the chair of the DSM-IV task force, Allen Frances, says: “There is no definition of a mental disorder. It’s bullshit. I mean, you just can’t define it.” Some psychiatrists claim that information about the effects of antidepressants is being withheld from patients; others deny this.)

But following Poole’s observation about inherited problems, the question may not be what works to relieve symptoms, and what doesn’t. After all, how does one measure relief? How long must a cure against despair last, to be said to work—six weeks, six months, or six years? A better question may be: what enables someone to assume their own authority? And therefore to refuse subjugation to the dominant objectivity? It is this acceptance and deepening of subjectivity which, Poole argues, enables the possibility of thought, and of ethical space.

“The thinker shapes himself as he thinks…In deciding what he wants to become, he decides indirectly what he wants his world to become. All thinking is legislative.” Someone who does this cannot be shaped by the looping effect that Hacking describes, cannot be “made up” by someone else’s categories, will not be sanded into smoother states of thinner being.

Consequently, those in positions of authority—both in the clinic and in debate—might assume less knowledge about how to remove symptoms, and instead promote “our power to ‘suffer and think,’” as Muraro put it, “to remain in the state of impotent desire, to pierce the horizon in which the real is inscribed and takes on this or that name.” One can suffer and think; indeed, the power to do so deserves far more attention than projects to reduce the pain of thought.


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


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  1. Dear Charlotte,

    I dunno though. I AM suffering BECAUSE I am oppressed into having to be a thinker. An analyst. A logic conjuror. I have to use great long words and quote from great men of letters from a bygone age and sound excruciatingly clever intellectually just to get my Feelings tolerated. Perhaps this is what you try to say, however, if you dont mind me being straightforward here I feel that you seem to say it in convoluted men of letters ways that to be honest I find hard to keep abreast of. I am not sure if you are saying “suffering is no bar to thinking, therefore we downtrodden can think for ourselves”…or…”psychiatrists reduce the subjective condition down to thinkerly brute facts and this is not the real experience of real life”. I believe I am with you on both, yes, but…I notice that, in my opinion, and others are free to differ, you wrote your piece in such an exclusively academic style that has me bamboozled BECAUSE it is so thinkerly.

    If you can imagine that academic language is like the Gaelic language or Hittite language or Manx language, you do not need to speak those languages to found your own more earthy and emotive and subjective language. You can just refute those fact liking languages and go ahead and create your own far simpler one. This process has always repeatedly needed to happen or we would all be speaking thee and thou and ye and nae and damsel and knight and so much knotty verbiage. Languages build up complexity and hair splitting logical factuality to ape expertise and specialism and exclude the common stock and then the people hurl mud at such obtuse languages until they break away and jubilantly form their own far easier tongue. So what is holding us all back from ditching rational factual discourse and becoming singers of our own songs?

    Yes, I know. Some like to sing the rational song and nought else. And that is a perfectly valid free choice. It is just that ALL choices of songs are to be welcomed. We are all so different…which is good.

    I wrote in a previous comment, yet to be moderated, that I write drivel in the comments section. Drivel is fantastic! Here I am suffering hugely from brain fog, from withdrawing from brain regulating antipsychotics, and I am sure someone will chastise me for not being erudite. My brain is an amorphous mush due to quitting ghastly meds. I CANNOT “think logically”. And even on or off pills my schizophrenia makes me think odd. This comments section is not exclusively for academics but for a fool like me and an idiot like me and dreamers and visionaries and heroes and timid whisperers. That is all to the good. A well rounded and accepting community where ALL ARE EQUAL.

    Charlotte, I like your article. I like the luminous pebble that you are gazing at. It is refreshing to see. I myself would maybe have written it in a more deliberately and insolently, badly written, unacademic and dilinquently off hand way. Rather than quote an enigmatic dry dusty corpus of a dead man of letters I would have quoted my neighbour Bill. As with languages not needing learned to dismantle the language from the inside out, when you can just invent your own, you do not need to appeal to the outpourings of experts to refute dodgey experts. You can become your own sage.

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  2. Despair may have its suffering, its beauty and its learning.

    I find Psychiatrists are often less distress tolerant than I am. Suffering should not automatically be regarded as having no worth. But I fear the utility or beauty of suffering is one of those topics that is not selected for “objective” study.

    “‘Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty.” Keats. My inner eye beholds my subjective truth. Will psychiatry make room for this?

    A beautiful piece Charlotte. I very much enjoyed your article.

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  3. Thank you for a beautifully crafted and most stimulating essay of the beacon-lighting, hope-kindling, Lord-of-the-Rings, kind.

    Lower levels of human consciousness, of thinking, have produced inquisitions, witch-hunts, frontal lobotomies and indiscriminate use of neurotoxins, as Robert Whitaker has so painstakingly and clearly revealed.

    This essay helps lift us all to higher levels, levels at which we can transcend not only our intolerance but even our cultures and our thinking itself – subjective or objective.

    For me, this article supports the opinion that contemporary, coercive, Western-style psychiatry (or state-sanctioned “psycho pharmacology”) may be said to be scientific in one sense, at least: Consistent with a prevailing Judeo-Pauline-Scientistic view of the world, it would have us believe that humankind is both unnatural and inherently hopelessly flawed – that we are miscreants rather than creatures, and so never, ever starting from precisely where we ought to be right now.

    I think this mad assumption is so blatantly obvious that it is easily and often missed, and that, certainly in “the First World,” we have all been victims of it.

    ‘Carl Jung tells in one of his books of a conversation he had with a Native American chief who pointed out to him that in his perception most white people have tense faces, staring eyes, and a cruel demeanor. He said: “They are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something. They are always uneasy and restless. We don’t know what they want. We think they are mad.’ – Eckhart Tolle.

    Even Kierkegaard and Szasz seem not to have been able to fully escape this kind of thinking.

    But, thanks to them and MIA and others, I believe we can.

    (Actually, I believe Yogi Berra did, too, with his “If this world was perfect, it wouldn’t be,” and “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”)

    If human suffering is finite and we are all now nearing the end of it and of ego as we become enlightened, then we must overtake even the likes of Kierkegaard and Szasz in their insights into human despair. I think this essay, like so many others offered us by MIA, helps us do so.

    “The most common form of despair is not being who you are.” ― Søren Kierkegaard. And, in his duck parable, does not the duck pastor waddle off home, too?

    “Classifying thoughts, feelings and behaviors as diseases is a logical and semantic error, like classifying whale as fish.” – Thomas Szasz, who told us that clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence, much as Einstein’s insistence that he, himself, was not smarter than those others who simply did not stay with the problem as long.

    Wherever I look, I see evidence that maybe we have all stayed with the problem, suffering, long enough, and perceive what I consider hints that our species is now readying itself to move beyond our oldest enemy, Fear, by finally fully recognizing it for what it is, and so no longer resisting but embracing, accepting, and thereby transmuting it.

    “Attention is the key to transformation – and full attention also implies acceptance.” – Eckhart Tolle, “The Power of Now,” Page 120.

    I believe Tolle illuminates for us the entire vision, parts of which so many others are beginning to describe, to point towards – namely, that Fear (mostly born of Shame) – rejection of or resistance to what already is, ourselves as we are included – lies at the root of all our miseries, anxieties and despair, but that we have the wherewithal to help one another overcome this.

    In the following, for instance, from about Min 2, Dan speaks of “the volume control setting in the brain.”

    https://youtu.be/B0EhNajqkdU .

    I regard this as merely another way of speaking of one’s levels of fear/anxiety/resistance.

    Similarly, in the following – as in all his talks on chronic pain that I have seen, I think – Howard speaks of ” the danger response,” which surely is also just another term for fear. Howard also points towards how deeply compassionate, empathetic, understanding, loving listening may be “all” it takes to encourage fellow creatures to heal, to transcend their pain/anxiety/despair, once they are truly, truly ready to do so, and they come into the presence of a person like, say, Howard, or Carl Jung or another therapist who, millennia ago, reportedly predicted something like that others, too, would “do such works as I have been doing, and greater, too…”


    I believe contemporary Western medicine is waking up to the facts that

    1. we do not have peripheral pain-receptors or nociceptors: We only have sensory nerve endings;
    2. what once was called “demons/the Devil,” etc, we may now see simply as Fear (or as “psychological fear” or as “the emotion of fear,” resistance, non-acceptance or non-surrender;
    3. “Nothing is either good nor bad but thinking makes it so;”
    4. we are all rapidly evolving to a new way of thinking and of being;
    5. “To be or not to be” need no longer be the question when to suffer or to suffer no more can become our choice;
    6. we need no longer obsessive parsing/labelling/labeling of our human condition, of human suffering as “mental disorder” anymore than we as “sinfulness” when we can now transcend it;
    7. as we have all been wounded so can we all be wounded healers, none less than any other who has ever lived, and all those who have suffered as recipients/patients/victims and/or as practitioners of contemporary psychiatry most definitely included.

    Heartfelt thanks, again, to Charlotte Beale and to MIA for an absolutely excellent and hugely heartening essay!

    “God” rest ye merry, all.


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    • Dear Tom,

      Would it be alright by you if I respond to some evocations in your comment?

      So good to have an Eckhart Tolle fan in MIA. I too am a devotee of much of what ET says and does. I suppose the point of Lions of Visionary Views is not to parrot their every quote but instead to use the raw materials they gift for you to create your own sensed appreciation of such essences.

      But you say, from ET, that attention is how to reach transformation and full attention also implies acceptance.

      I have noticed a thrust amongst many in these troublous times to strive for the promise of perfection, liberally hinted at in the notion of “transformation”. We are to become “enlightened” by “getting rid of” our “ego”.

      I believe that the human is an animal.

      I know of no animal who busies itself with wanting to be “transformed” “enlightened” “perfected” or “get rid of” bits of its interior.

      If attention is key to transformation and full attention also implies acceptance then it perhaps can mean that what is transformative is the animally realizition that we are “perfect” as we already are and so do not need to be or do or think or feel or know or vocalize any differently from who we are. Our “full attention” implying “acceptance” accepts we have already “achieved” being animal. A deer. A fox. A squirrel. A monkey. A human. An animal. Animals are sublime because they are not perfect and have no stress about trying to become so “enlightened”.

      Much of the current New Age philosophies seem to want to “advance” human consciousness. To my way of seeing humanity will “advance” when it returns to the blissful consciousness of the garden earth worm. A divine being who need be no different that what it is. An earth worm is vital for the interconnected ecosystems of the planet, as are humans, if only they would return to being serene animals and not fight with each other all day over who is more “perfected” or “enlightened”. That “fight” sometimes arrives at the comments section even.

      I am less inclined as I used to be to go to war on the “ego”. That war has mushroomed into a grotesque nitpicking anti-ego industry. Fuelled by the tsunami of anti-narcissist hysteria, that social media witch hunt hype that points a finger of narcissist accusation at anyone with whom one does not share an opinion with. We are all being bullied into “getting rid of” our dirty smutty greedy little ego as if to show any ego at all is akin to sinful indecent exposure. I do not believe our interior selves are so easy to dissect or compartmentalize when we allow ourselves to simply “be”, in garden earth worm mode. Compartmentalizing is what modern life inflicts upon us. It is not natural. Our natural interiors are delightfully messy and blended and perpetually in a state of visceral fluctuation. I am a bit suspiscious of the vogue of “getting rid of”, since so often it can turn into “getting rid of whole people” who cannot “get rid of” condemned parts of themselves. The poor little ego has taken a knock in recent times. I doubt there is an animal who ponders whether it has an ego or not. Mostly I believe that animals do not need to have a super inflated complex intellectual ego, but whatever little ego they may have I feel sure they do not castigate themselves for it or attend classes to purify themselves of it.

      On a separate note, you speak of people “transcending” their pain. Again I would showcase how the animals deal with pain. They allow the pain to take them over and they have a little beautiful breakdown and then they recover. The reason why humans have such long drawn out godforsaken breakdowns is because they keep trying to avoidantly fight the breakdown happening, and they keep trying to keep mindfully and intellectually be “transcending” pain rather than accepting the pain as a bear or racoon would.

      You say fear is borne of shame. I say fear is fear of “loss”, and underlying all anger is fear of loss. Shame can worry a person into fearing “loss”, loss of standing in the community, but there are many other things that threaten “loss” without it being only specifically shame.

      Lastly, you speak of how disappointing it is that we get given “classifications”. Perhaps you think we should have none. But I myself have a freedom of choice to “classify” myself if I feel I really want to. Or rather I am free to classify my own suffering in any way I deem desireable to me. If I have a fever and aching joints I may myself want to classify my own suffering as influenza, or the evil eye, or a village curse, or a spell, or a wrathful deity, or a masochistic blessing. I can classify my suffering in any way I damn well please. Ditto for anyone else. Classifications are not just “done to us” or “foisted” upon us, some people prefer to “name” what ailment they themselves believe their suffering is. You might say that they are foolishly indoctrinated perhaps, and maybe you would be quite right, but here is the point, it is not for anyone else to revile someone who freely chooses this or that indoctination. The world is chocablock with ideologies and indoctrinated fans of millions of them. This is all part of “free choice”. There are many ideologies that scare the nelly out of me and I fear those indoctrinated with those various bibles, they certainly “threaten” my “fear of loss”, as I am sure my views would do to them. But until “actual loss” is being meted out to any person by an indoctrination or religious belief, person to person, then as the Declaration of Human Rights has it, we are all free to hold our own opinion. If my opinion is that I have a “classification” for “my” suffering that another person does not like then bully for them, as the saying goes. It is bullying for any person to tell another person what they “must” or “must not” call their “own private hell”. Another person cannot step inside my interior psyche and “know all about” my depth of my own suffering. And so I name that suffering in any way that pleases me. I name it one classification one day and another classification another day, for even repeatedly changing my mind is “my” free choice. I may call myself mad today and not tomorrow but mad again next week. People rarely house themselves in “one” indoctrination or belief or ideology but often have in the background a picknmix, relaxed selection to choose from. But opponents like to think of a “choice making” enemy as only capable of adhering strictly to a damned belief in order to caricaturize them out of having a heart and mind and soul of their own. Its a way of regarding an animal as a lump of meat.

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      • Hi, Dai.

        If one sees “ego” as the unobserved mind (thank you, Eckhart) then we may say that “the power to suffer,” and “to suffer AND to think,” are phrases pointing towards the observation of that mind, and so the end of ego and of egoic suffering.

        Many thanks for your response!


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        • Dear Tom,

          Kindly refrain from giving me a nick name or I may view that as provocative. Community Rules please!

          I must confess to being just a bit confused by your reply. In my own understanding “to suffer” need not be one type of suffering but many, such as poverty or labor pains or cancer, none of which involve the ego. But I get what you mean about the ego causing additional suffering in the mind of the person who is ruled by it. And yes living in a world of petty oneupmanship egos brings about competitivity with winners and losers, victors and victims. The ego in humans is indeed behind many extended forms of suffering. I knew this already. Which is why upon reading ET I took pains to tell all my friends to “get rid of” their egos. This busy body telling people what they must and must not be like, to “save them and the world”, eventually struck me as evangelizing. My new view is that it is okay that “you be you and I be me”. Curiously this view lacks egotism. In other words taking a pop at other people’s ego “can” come “from” an egoic need to “control” other people’s free choice to be the messy individuals they desire to be. My new policy is that so long as a person is not overtly “bullying” me then they can believe and be anything they like. It is okay to have an ego provided that it is not outwardly becoming a big problem by leading to bullying. Rock stars and movie stars have enormous egos and mostly humans celebrate such exuberant puffery. Its bullying not egotism that is the problem. Just like having a leg is not a problem until you use to kick shins. In these anti-narcissist times, or anti-ego times, many are witch hunting innocent people just for metaphorically having a nice leg.

          But Tom, you may be amused to learn that soon after I gave you my previous reply I bitterly regretted my own possible pummelling of your fine free choice to believe exactly as you prefer to believe. You have the free right to hold your own opinion. This is enshrined on the Declaration of Human Rights.

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          • Dear Daiphanous,

            My very, very sincere apologies for my insensitive presumption. Please know that, far from being disrespectful, abbreviating your name so was an attempt at warmth.

            I love to believe – when I can – that “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness,” or of Consciousness, and I’m constantly intrigued by our names. Though I believe I was born in Ireland, this time, I have a huge affinity for all things Welsh and love the name Dai. Were your first name spelt Diaphanous, instead, then the first three letters would spell the Irish/Gaelic word for God.

            And, yes, I believe that all of Nature is alive and that, while “God” is surely more than Life or Being or Nature, Evolution or of this and any other cosmoses, and more than the Manifested and the Unmanifested and more than Source, itself, all things, including all subatomic particles/waves, I must believe that all creatures have Life/are Life, and are fully and equally divine, earthworms most definitely, included.

            I see (my) Fear as Resistance to What Is. “The Devil,” if you will, and no doubt a divine gift, too – as long as we need it.

            As for the Declaration, I believe it fell to previous ages to preach Liberty, Equality, Fraternity…”that all men are created equal,” and that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” but, nowadays, and even right here on these pages, we may offer humanity some explanation of how we humans may all be equal, for I am convinced that it is far, far from being “self-evident,” anymore than it ever has been. That explanation may involve attempting to explain our divinity?

            I think Carl Jung himself might agree with every word of Eckhart Tolle’s books and celebrate their ushering in of a new era when we can all understand and appreciate our equality, so that no laws are needed to uphold it.

            MANY thanks for your very thoughtful responses.

            Very best wishes.


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  4. “’The analyst asks neither that the subject get better nor that he become normal,’ wrote Anny Cordié. ‘The analyst requires nothing, imposes nothing.’”

    Gosh, I wish that was the case with the psychologists who attacked me.

    “The analyst does not [have the answer]; there is no answer to be had. Instead, the terms of the problem must be redefined;”

    So they defame the person with an “invalid” DSM disorder and force neurotoxins on the person.

    “A better question may be: what enables someone to assume their own authority?”

    Getting weaned off the neurotoxins is what helped me.

    “One can suffer and think; indeed, the power to do so deserves far more attention than projects to reduce the pain of thought.”

    I agree, and in as much as it was heartbreaking to have medical evidence of the sexual assault of my very young child handed over, it is the truth that shall set you free. My childhood religion is “partnered” with the DSM “bible” thumpers, and my initial psychologist – and a second one that later attacked me – wanted to cover up the abuse of my child, and the abuse of all the bipolar misdiagnosed children.

    Hey, a good new documentary from one of our psych survivor friends.


    Thank you for speaking the truth, Charlotte.

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  5. Psychiatry is entirely subjective. Indeed, how objective can it be when it’s based entirely on labeling WHATEVER IT ALONE deems “abnormal” or “unhealthy”?

    But the real tragedy is that it fails to see how much it’s shaped by its own biased thinking.

    But psychiatry isn’t about thinking; it’s about its practitioners NEEDING to think they’re ALWAYS right: hence they thunk up a COLOSSALLY STUPID DSM.

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  6. Charlotte says, “The discipline [psychiatry] pretends to be an objective classification of people, borrowing language (“diagnosis”) from physical medicine, which assigns the label of disease following the identification of a pathology, which one hopes can be targeted and cured. But the analogy fails in psychiatry. There are few known biological pathologies. And who is to say what cure is?”

    Not only that—who’s to say what pathology is? And THAT’S the problem with psychiatry: it uses medicalized name-calling (“diagnoses”) to sell its designer drugs. And there’s a label for that: FRAUD —

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  7. “The motivation to remove the symptom has resulted in what Poole calls a “ever-increasing proliferation of context-less achievements…local scientific successes which precede even the remotest notion of how to deal with them ethically or how to integrate them into the needs of the totality.”

    That explains psychiatry’s main flaw: its refusal to see experience in context.

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  8. As i read along i got more and more confused. i get confused easily. Nothing to do with the author. one line that resonated was : “
    A psychiatrist once told me my depression was partly due to low blood sugar. In retrospect, I needed Kierkegaard and Freud; she prescribed cereal bars. My despair, to her, was an imbalance to be corrected, rather than a relationship with the world—a relationship explored in a rich and serious literature, from philosophy to novels, and a relationship which meant I was alive, excruciatingly so.“ That was a goodie.

    the part about “ serious literature”. that’s good…..I think it was Charles Bukowski ( been thinking about his poem “ sunbeam” lately) that said he would keep a stack of great books by his bed stand. Whenever he had a hard time falling asleep he’d read one of the great authors ( which people sent him) and fall asleep in about 15 minutes.

    Ive been influenced by everyone from James Hillman to

    ” The mind that does not understand
    is the Buddha, there is no other”…
    Ma Tsu

    I just keep plugging along. Writing, suffering, acknowledging how little i know. Beauty is so important to me. Beauty and might, as wallace stevens said. Mercy and love. Like Wordsworth i keep skating, walking and riding my bicycle. Keep moving. And somebody said, “ keep putting it down” ( maybe Mark Strand ?). It’s very important for me as a sensation type person to keep walking, painting, writing, moving etc. And to feel. i wrote this poem many years ago but i think it expresses my main purpose. Thank you for your writing Ms. Charlotte.
    Cinderella Man

    stand your ground or run for the hills
    bills pile up as high as Everest
    they never give us
    no rest

    but a horse inside pulls me
    up a steep embankment
    along the Rio Grande
    this land is your land

    twisters in my dreams
    the lord deems me a little fellow
    in the scheme of things

    yet my heart’s got the guts of a mountain goat
    the brute force of Boston Bruin’s

    Johnny Bucyk* or a brawler
    like Jimmy Braddock*
    I’ve had it with my fear

    It’s so clear, clearer
    than ever before
    one door is love

    the other doesn’t matter
    one man builds castles
    and waterworks

    another buckin broncos
    bodies made of steel

    Jeff Rahn


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    • Exquisite poem, Jeff.

      I love the mountain goat guts and landscape imagery. All so profound. Powerfully moving. Thank you. Poetry is not celebrated enough. Poetry is the least demanding way of using any language because poetry does not tell others they “have to” agree with the opinions aired. Poetry is not a bully. That is some of poetry’s beauty.

      And I love the Buddhist quote.

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  9. I think it’s unrealistic to expect an MD to discuss philosophy with you. Low blood sugar isn’t an optimal condition and I think most people would prefer a suggestion of cereal bars and healthy diet over the latest anti-depressant cocktail. There was actually a book called “Plato not Prozac” by Lou Marinoff talking about the philosophical counseling movement that might interest you. If blood sugar is a concern “Potatoes not Prozac” by Kathleen DesMaisons may be of interest to others.

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  10. “A psychiatrist once told me my depression was partly due to low blood sugar. In retrospect, I needed Kierkegaard and Freud; she prescribed cereal bars. My despair, to her, was an imbalance to be corrected, rather than a relationship with the world—a relationship explored in a rich and serious literature, from philosophy to novels, and a relationship which meant I was alive, excruciatingly so.”

    Just to note: While modern psychiatry equates “despair” with “clinical depression,” this cannot have been what Søren Kierkegaard thought of when he wrote of despair, whether in “The Sickness Unto Death” or in “The Concept of Dread.”

    It is indicative of how thoroughly dumbed down is our contemporary thinking, that we allow the current status –as, current-in-this-moment-of-time– of a particular field of endeavor (as, biological psychiatry, whose task is to objectify all of subjective life) to define how we conceptualize our experience.

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  11. Great article

    As Buckmaster Fuller said the answer to the question is the question. In other words if you don’t ask the correct question you will not get the correct answer.

    The central question should be “why do patients recover”. There is much research in this area including longtitudonal studies of patients discharged from the asylums.

    The answer I found was that the first step was always that another formed a positive relationship with the patient based on the patients reality. Telling the patients that they are wrong, or what is wrong with them does not help. The first step is a willingness to be there with the patient and understand what they are saying.

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    • ericwsetz says, “The first step is a willingness to be there with the patient and understand what they are saying.”

      Which just happens to be the basis of ANY healthy relationship, and most importantly needs to starts with the first: with one’s parents/caregivers in childhood

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  12. Dear Tom Kelly,

    In my schizophrenic ardour I once pressed a letter upon the great Eckhart Tolle himself. It was in London. I also gave him a DVD of the television program “The Clangers”. In my psychotic fervour I decided that the knitted cuddly toys on their lunar base were the very essence of Divine egolessness.

    I am much taken with your generosity of soul. I shall remember you.

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  13. “The motivation to remove the symptom has resulted in what Poole calls an “ever-increasing proliferation of context-less achievements…local scientific successes which precede even the remotest notion of how to deal with them ethically or how to integrate them into the needs of the totality.”

    Unlawful simplifications. They do not even have a right to to this. This is fundamenstalism of mental health fixation, and mental health does not exist in nature of the psyche. Because the nature of the psyche is to create pathology. Mental health assumed that someone has theology in the place of the pathology, which is heresy of monotheistic materialism. We are pathological, not theological. Monistic (post Enlightenment) simplifications are simply not true. Mental health fixation is preservation of false empiricism with pretensions to medicine. It is preservation of monotheistic materialism, which is the only religion. People who are using psychiatry to evaluate others, are followers of the religion of scientism. They are not christians with proper understanding of the psyche, they are monotheistic followers of materialism. There is no God in psychiatric evaluation and there is no psyche in this ritual of dehumanization. This is empty materialism/marxism.
    James Hillman “Re-visioning psychology”

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  14. Glad to see @Daiphanous Weeping is back. I missed your commentary!

    I had an encounter recently where a psychiatrist noted something along the lines of asking what is the threshold that an anxiety becomes pathology? I was feeling clever that day so I took a shot at this and asked the steemed doctor how do they stop themselves from getting to the pathology level of anxiety? Mic drop!
    If looks could kill, I would not be here!

    This is the basic issue in psychiatry. If a doctor does not know enough why or how they stop being pathology…same as how or why they are cancer free…why is it OK to have a person to say because you talk to yourself, you are insane? and tomorrow that may be de-pathologize since let us be honest – everybody is talking to themselves online! think about that for a second…as I type now I am alone and everybody who is typing online is mostly alone – yet if you speak up alone you are crazy! does that make a sense?

    The whole culture outsourced any body pain of feelings and thoughts to others. It is fantastically tragic to see an adult who cannot confidently say what is wrong with them without being scolded that they cannot self diagnose but yet no one ever has a doubt when they may be in pain any other part of their bodies.
    It is fascinating to say the least.

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    • You hit him where he lives, dogworld! There is no way to tell who is and is not “ill” or “disordered,” so the whole thing breaks down, and on some level, they all know this. You pointed out the emptiness of their philosophy, and of course, were attacked for doing so!

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  15. ‘But when the “scarab” came flying in through the window in actual fact, her natural being could burst through the armor of her animus possession and the process of transformation could at last begin to move.’ – Carl Jung, as quoted under “Examples” in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchronicity.

    This, like his life’s work, I think, suggests that Carl Jung, like most other psychoanalysts, I believe, was all about trying to help suffering humanity, and, certainly in the case of Carl Jung, preferably by bringing about a “transformation of consciousness,” or to Consciousness, “a spiritual awakening” in anyone seeking help from him.

    Jung also reportedly observed that “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”

    And: “I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those in the second half of life – that is to say, over 35 – there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost that which the living religions of every age have given their followers, and none of them has really been healed who did not regain his religious outlook.”

    I suspect he might have accepted “spiritual” as substitute for that last “religious,” don’t you?

    Charlotte wrote: ‘(At this point, consider briefly the contrasting aim of psychoanalysis, which does not make it its first task to remove the symptom. “The analyst asks neither that the subject get better nor that he become normal,” wrote Anny Cordié. “The analyst requires nothing, imposes nothing.”)’

    Anny’s quote, it seems is from her book “LES CANCRES N’EXISTENT PAS” (“There are no dunces.”)

    This is debatable, given the French definition of a cancre as a bad/lazy pupil/student.

    An extraordinary Irish teacher was interviewed on Irish radio decades ago (in an Ireland where we say, “There are no bad students, only bad teachers; the worst students make the best teachers and ).

    Asked how on Earth she had managed to consistently get the most dazzling high school graduating (School Leaving Certificate Examination) results for her classes made up, as they were, entirely of “school rejects, dropouts, delinquents and problem kids” – what was her magic formula, her secret sauce. Her answer, as I recall, went very like this:

    “I have no magic formula. There is no secret sauce. All human beings are curious by nature. Everyone wants to learn. And, and, you know this “DO YOUR BEST!’? Well, sometimes, it can be really hard to do your best. And, and, I mean, say when a girl comes home from school, she doesn’t say to her mom, ”Whatever is for dinner, I HOPE YOU DID YOUR BEST!’ Does she?”

    I think she was simply saying that (1) she simply loved all the kids, and (2) she simply loved all the kids.

    My own mom had a way of saying “Just do you best, Lovey,” meaning, “Just give it a go, it’ll be fine!” Coming from others, of course, “DO YOUR BEST!” can mean something very different.

    My own belief is that what makes us human beings absolutely equal is that, actually, we are all always doing our best, at the time, under the circumstances, given our means, our motivations, and our levels of awareness or of “consciousness.”

    Put another way, given enough loving understanding and encouragement, there could perhaps be no “dunces.”

    Ironically (, Anny), any analyst who does not wish to help bring about a transformation in their analysand might be said to be acting the dunce, in the sense of one who has been so stupefied as to have forgotten that we come here to learn help one another, and to find our joy in knowing we do so.

    Or so I believe.

    Heartfelt thanks, once more. Comfort and joy.


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