Owen Whooley is an associate professor of sociology at the University of New Mexico. His book On the Heels of Ignorance: Psychiatry and the Politics of Not Knowing deals with the tumultuous history of psychiatry and its equally unstable present. In his book, he documents psychiatry’s ignorance, insecurity, hubris, and hype. Owen Whooley is an expert in the field of the sociology of mental health, sociology of knowledge, and sociology of science.
In this interview, we will cover his histography of psychiatry, engage with his writings on the DSM, and talk about what gives psychiatry its almost supernatural powers to rise from near death over and over and over.
The transcript below has been edited for length and clarity. Listen to the audio of the interview here.
Ayurdhi Dhar: How did you end up studying psychiatry, its ignorance, fault lines, and tumultuous history?
Owen Whooley: My research is linked to my personal biography. Growing up, my father had mental health challenges—major depression, comorbid substance abuse, and multiple suicide attempts.
I was a kid, but two things were deeply ingrained from that experience. One is the uncertainty that permeates living with a loved one who is going through mental health crisis. The other was seeing the failures of my father to get adequate help. Whether that was a failing of his, of his providers, or some combination of both, the problem never got solved.
I realized that not only do I not understand what’s going on with my dad, but he also doesn’t seem to understand it, and his providers don’t seem to understand either. Flash-forward 30 years, and I’m writing a book on psychiatric ignorance.
The other moment was in graduate school, where someone flippantly said, “Everyone knows that the chemical imbalance theory is a myth, or it’s not supported.” I was like, “What? I’ve been told this for decades! Everyone knows that it’s not true?” I realized it was not quite that the emperor has no clothes, but the emperor is scantily clad.
Dhar: In your book, you write that since its inception, psychiatry has been in trouble and that psychiatrists know it. You write that unlike other medical professions, psychiatry has amassed a frustrating record of failures, false starts, and dead ends—but here is the interesting thing—it continues to persist and is resilient. My question is, why? What has made this profession which is in continuous crisis, survive, and in many ways, thrive?
Whooley: The history of American psychiatry is a history of ignorance. Psychiatry lacks the basic understanding of the mechanisms underlying mental distress, mental disorder, and mental suffering—whatever terminology we’re using. Is it genetic, neurochemical, social, psychological, or family dynamics?
What struck me was the extent to which psychiatrists themselves talk about this ignorance. Given this ignorance and psychiatrists’ own acknowledgement, how has it been able to persist? I have two broad causes.
One reason is what psychiatrists themselves have done—the collective management of ignorance. When we look over American history, psychiatry looks vastly different in each era. Psychiatry has gone through a series of reinventions. These are moments when faced with a crisis pertaining to its ignorance, elite psychiatric professionals reinvent the profession, which allows psychiatry to restart the clock, to say, “Yes, we were in this crisis of ignorance, but that’s a problem of the past. We now have hit on this new way of thinking about mental illness, of studying and treating it”.
Over the course of 150 years, there has been this constant cycle of reinvention. Starting with the asylum period, you get a reinvention with the psycho-biological period, and then a reinvention into psychoanalysis, a brief attempt at community psychiatry, and then we’re here at the current moment. This reinvention allows psychiatry to make an important claim vis-à-vis its ignorance, namely that mental illness, although not known yet, is knowable.
Now, I don’t want to excuse Psychiatry’s numerous legions of abuses, but I think the tumultuous history of psychiatry and its persistence is also related to our collective social failure. We get the psychiatry that we deserve by not forcefully questioning it, and by stigmatizing and marginalizing individuals living with mental illness. It’s a combination.
Psychiatry persists because of the profession’s strategies to manage its ignorance and because of our collective indifference to the clientele that psychiatry purports to serve.
Dhar: If it was any other medical profession reinventing itself continuously, somebody would’ve said, “You really don’t have your shit together. How many times are you going to say we are right there, so close.” Does psychiatry serve some purpose to benefit the status quo that it’s able to reinvent itself over and over?
Whooley: In sociology, we talk about jurisdictions—what profession controls what area of work. For psychiatry’s jurisdiction, we have tasked it to deal with the highly marginalized communities around whom there is a ton of ignorance. This is the collective failure. As a society, we are willing to hand over the responsibility for this community—individuals living with severe and chronic mental illness—to psychiatry because other medical professionals don’t want to deal with this population.
We’ve farmed it out to psychiatry and said we’ll let you handle it. We won’t intervene or look into it, and in doing so, we wash our hands. This is social control; take this problem and control it, so we don’t have to deal with it.
Dhar: You write that psychiatry is an insecure profession, and different historians often make the same mistake by assuming that the profession is coherent and that psychiatrists know what they are doing. You say that’s giving too much credit to the profession, which is basically, in your words, ‘muddling through.’ Can you talk more about this and whether the profession’s hubris is connected to their insecurity?
Whooley: In historian Barbara Tuchman’s wonderful book called The March of Folly, she writes that when historians look back on important events and try to make sense of them, they impose on them a reason or rationality. They want to make sense of ‘why did so and so make this decision?’ They can impute more coherence than there actually was. Sometimes people just make bad decisions, and then there is happenstance and mere chance. When you impose coherence retrospectively, you distort the understanding of what actually happened. That’s how I think about psychiatry.
We, as social scientists, want to make sense of the world, but if we look at my historiography of psychiatry, there is no coherent program here. There is no overarching narrative of progress here. What you see is the cyclical replaying of the same problems over and over. We see this with treatments and with theories around mental distress.
The history around the reinvention of psychiatry goes something like this. Psychiatry has this underlying ignorance. Eventually, it erupts. There is a crisis, and the response of reformers is to reinvent the profession—that is, a very dramatic transformation of the profession. We get new ideas, theories, treatments, organizations, and institutions. They actually redefine what mental distress is—there are fundamental, epistemological, and ontological changes.
In order to make those changes and to promote those reinventions, psychiatrists engage in hype. Sociologists of technology talk about what’s called the hype-disappointment cycle. In Silicon Valley, we get a new idea, and we’re going to really hype it up. We get investors, create a buzz, and secure resources. That’s what psychiatry does.
Now the flipside to hype is hubris. Psychiatrists believe the hype and then undertake these transformations in an incredibly aggressive way. That’s where hubris is tagged along with the reinvention. We’re seeing it play out today with psychopharmaceutical medications—eventually, the sheen begins to wear off, the initial claims of efficacy are shown to be problematic, and ignorance once again rears its head. Then psychiatry moves on to the next thing.
Dhar: Let’s talk about specific types of reinventions. You write about psychoanalysis and how it was one of the reinventions that used the strategy of mystification to reinvent psychiatry. Your quote was, “Mystification is the process of making expertise inaccessible to external judgment”—if you haven’t been through analysis, you can’t critique analysis. Can you tell us about how psychoanalysis managed this and how it eventually failed?
Whooley: Let’s say you have an insecure knowledge base. What do you do? One strategy is to essentially remove that problematic knowledge from public scrutiny, to hide it, but in hiding it, imbue it with a kind of prestige or mystique.
How do psychoanalysts do this? In its more traditional forms, psychoanalysis is a form of knowledge production based on the interpretation of a patient’s subconscious. So, you already have a level of removal. It’s an interpretation that is an emergent property of the interaction between the analyst and the patient. One can just say, “if you’re not in that room, you don’t understand the dynamics that are happening that are leading to these interpretations.” If you were to challenge the claims made by psychoanalysts, you really have little grounds to do so. The rhetoric is: you’re not there; you don’t understand.
Also, psychoanalytic knowledge is couched in a particular jargon and a set of concepts that only those who are trained in that tradition can make sense of. This mystification allowed American psychiatry to embrace psychoanalysis to an extreme degree. Eventually, people begin to ask for evidence. At the beginning of the 1970s, insurance companies got involved in paying for therapy. They wanted oversight and some account of the efficacy—your patient has been in psychoanalysis for two decades. What’s the outcome? The FDA begins to commit to randomized controlled trials. Very hard to fit a psychoanalytic paradigm within a randomized controlled trial.
In the 1970s, American psychiatrists/psychoanalysts were presented with this challenge. There were feeble attempts to bend psychoanalytic thinking to meet these new evidentiary regimes, but they couldn’t do so. Then there was a crisis, and it wasn’t just about evidence. This was also the emergence of the antipsychiatry movement in the US. This crisis led to the DSM and the diagnostic psychiatry that that followed.
Dhar: Then comes the biomedical model, the most recent reinvention. You write that these were people following Emil Kraepelin’s work, and in the emerging DSM, the biomedical model was implicitly present with this idea of psychological distress as a disease. What was the promise of this reinvention? How did professionals popularize this vision of psychiatry, that it’s a medical branch dealing with real diseases? How do you see it failing?
Whooley: Back in the 1970s, antipsychiatry emerged. One major critique focused on diagnosis. Can psychiatrists actually identify people who have a mental illness versus people who don’t? The famous but now debunked Rosenhan study takes place. What you have then is this crisis and the need for the next thing. A pretty small group of psychiatrists who self-identified as neo-Kraepelinians, led by Robert Spitzer, wanted to reinvent psychiatry along more medical lines. They decided to radically revise the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders in a particular way, the revisions to DSM III.
The previous DSMs were very psychodynamic in nature. Psychoanalysts themselves are not that interested in diagnoses because their treatment is based on the specificities of the patient. In fact, one of the reasons that neo-Kraepelinians took over was that no one else wanted to do it. It was seen as an unglamorous bureaucratic thing, but Robert Spitzer had a vision, and he wanted to harness the DSM III revision to reinvent the profession. The explicit aim of the DSM revision was to improve reliability by addressing this issue of diagnosis. So, if I’m doing research on major depressive disorder and you’re doing it in your lab, then we are looking at the same thing.
They revised the very conceptualization of what a mental disorder was, which to this day, is a list of various symptom criteria that patients need to meet in order to qualify for a diagnosis. The idea was that these are agnostic towards any kind of causal argument. But the broader vision was to build a biomedical knowledge base. The idea was that reliability would lead to a robust biomedical research program, which would finally solve the puzzle of mental illness and legitimize psychiatry as a medical science.
Now that hasn’t happened. Fast-forward to DSM V—in the lead-up to DSM V, once again, psychiatrists begin to recognize their ignorance. 30 years into the DSM III’s research program, we still don’t have an understanding of the underlying biological mechanisms of mental distress. We put a lot of hype into genetic science, which ends up being a mess. Neuroscience is still a little bit too premature, but even that’s showing that maybe we got off the wrong track with DSM III, because, at the end of the day, reliable diagnoses do not equal valid diagnoses. Validity means it reflects an actual real thing in reality.
There were concerns among the folks leading DSM V that “we’ve gotten off the wrong track with DSM III. Let’s use DSM V to introduce a new paradigm shift in psychiatry.”
Dhar: That was an important phrase, “paradigm shift,” and they said that early on. Yes.
Whooley: It was always unclear what the paradigm shift would be. Initially, they wanted to redefine mental health diagnoses based on the best science of the day, biomedical science. That was way too premature. Eventually, they decided they were going to redefine mental disorders from discreet categories to dimensional things.
DSM III carved out the universe of mental disorders into very discrete categories. We no longer talk about anxiety generally; we talk about specific kinds of anxiety, OCD, social anxiety, etc. The DSM V research shows these things tend to work along a spectrum.
Dimensionality became the means by which the paradigm shift was to happen. This didn’t happen because you get a lot of pushback within the profession about the state of its ignorance. Was the DSM III’s model inherently flawed, or have we just not given it enough time? Many elites in the profession fell into that latter group.
What you have is a professional disaster or, at the very least, an embarrassment, where you have previous chairs of the DSM arguing with the new DSM V. I interviewed 30 individuals involved with the DSM V. It was a very disorganized process. They felt like they didn’t have much guidance beyond, “Do something dramatic with the categories you’re assigned to.” So, at the end of the day, a paradigm shift doesn’t happen. DSM V looks pretty similar to DSM III.
Then, even more embarrassingly for the profession, the National Institute of Mental Health announced, literally a couple of weeks before the publication of DSM V, that they were no longer going to be using the DSM and were moving to a new diagnostic system, which they called the Research Domain Criteria (RDoc).
The DSM dominated psychiatry because it was seen as useable for both researchers and clinicians. Now you have the most important mental health research funder saying no, the DSM is not good enough; we’re going to require anyone who wants funding to use this other diagnostic system.
Dhar: In your book, you mention that in the 1950s or ’60s, the NIMH refused to fund studies of neo-Kraepelinians, the biomedical people, and then it flipped, and in the early 2000s, they decided to only focus on funding biomedical research.
Whooley: That is a recurring story. This kind of massive investment in particular ideas and programs that, after decades, don’t bear fruit. It raises really deep philosophical questions. Is mental distress knowable? Or is it knowable in one way? Psychiatry is compelled by the desire to find the explanation. What is the one explanation?
As a sociologist, I would say, stop looking for one explanation. You get the hype of the new thing, and you invest all your resources into it, neglecting all the other possible venues.
Dhar: For people on ground, what is the cost of these reinventions?
Whooley: I think the major cost is the perniciousness of the hype that leads to wanton experimenting upon mental health patients, especially in this current moment around psychopharmaceutical drugs.
I also have taken psychopharmaceutical drugs under the premise of chemical imbalance theories, explicitly told to me on various occasions. We’ve conducted a mass medicating of people under flimsy theoretical scientific premises.
To be fair, many people benefited from it, and now we might say that’s a placebo effect, but for some people, these drugs are perceived by some as life savers. Given this current discussion around tapering and questions of efficacy of these medications, what’s the social effect of the growing perception that there was this mass deception? What’s the effect culturally, of the ways in which we made sense of mental distress for the last three decades and the ways in which we’ve invested resources based on that understanding?
The sociologist in me will say, we’ve spent so much time medicalizing these things that we disinvested in the social factors and determinants that lead to mental distress. We’ve undermined the treatment infrastructure by focusing solely on pills.
Dhar: For me, one of the biggest costs is how it has changed people’s experience of themselves and how they understand and story their distress.
You have described the role of psychopharmaceuticals in the success of DSM III, the development of Prozac, and direct advertising of drugs to consumers, and you write, “DSM III locked psychiatry in a symbiotic relationship with pharmaceutical companies.” Could you elaborate?
Whooley: DSM III carved out the universe of mental distress into smaller and smaller bits, and produced—to put it crudely—more ways of being mentally ill. That is a gold mine for pharmaceutical companies because it defines more markets for their wares. Not just more markets for them to test and develop drugs, but more markets to reframe existing drugs.
Paxil is an antidepressant that does pretty much what Prozac does. Prozac had already captured the market on depression. So, they reframed Paxil as a treatment for social anxiety. The DSM doesn’t have the same kind of packed punch without pharmaceutical companies.
Happening concurrently with the development of these drugs is emergence of direct-to-consumer advertisements. Pharmaceutical companies, through advertisements directly to the public through television, become the voice disseminating DSM categories.
Psychiatrists are really sensitive when you bring out this kind of relationship with pharmaceutical companies. You have folks like Ronald Pies saying, “We’ve never supported the chemical imbalance theory,” which is a cynical argument that’s too cute by half. Yes, maybe the APA didn’t come out and say, “Yes, the cause of mental illness is chemical imbalance,” but the entire profession was premised on that idea.
What’s interesting is what’s happening now with pharmaceutical companies that are getting out of the business of psychopharmaceutical medications and not seeing it as a particularly fruitful endeavor. As existing drugs are being increasingly challenged for their efficacy, pharmaceutical companies are backing off, which begs the question, where does psychiatry head because, essentially, psychiatrists have really narrowed their practice to medication management.
Dhar: You write that psychiatrists moved away from doing clinical work to medication management, but that the latter is now primarily done by general practitioners. So, where does that leave psychiatrists?
Whooley: If I were a psychiatrist, I’d be concerned because, as you mentioned, they ceded psychotherapy to psychologists and other counselors, and most psychopharmaceutical prescriptions come from general practitioners. The new hope for psychiatry is neuroscience, but that begs the question, why wouldn’t it just be neurology rather than psychiatry, if neuroscience pans out? There is a long history where once we medically can explain a condition, we take it away from psychiatry and give it to another medical specialty. I think the next 20 years are going to be really interesting for psychiatry, and I don’t pretend to know where it’s headed.
MIA Reports are supported, in part, by a grant from The Thomas Jobe Fund.
Professor Whooley says:
“Psychiatry persists because of the profession’s strategies to manage its ignorance…”
“In order to make those changes and to promote those reinventions, psychiatrists engage in hype.”
“Now the flipside to hype is hubris. Psychiatrists believe the hype and then undertake these transformations in an incredibly aggressive way.”
Excellent interview, but imho it’s just a long way of saying psychiatry is quackery.
And the definition for quackery is: dishonest practices and claims to have special knowledge and skill in some field, typically medicine.
Sounds like psychiatry to me.
This is “Circular Thinking” which will never win an argument for or against anything including psychiatry. Stronger arguments are needed to win against psychiatry. In my opinion, those may only be found in the context of Biblical Thinking. Thank you.
Bruce Levine says by the pharmaceutic industry numbers alone a certain percentage of the population will go crazy from psychiatry drugs-medicine effects on the brain.
So from day to day we will have dramatic episodes on the news of people losing their minds.
On the slow news we have people who do not have the will or discipline to keep their homes clean (called hoarders), and in both cases the general public calls for MORE psychiatry and their magical medicine to make “bad” people “good”.
IMO the (real) doctors have to tell the psychiatric medicine are just drugs, and people need a fully working brain to think and act correctly. (There is no magic pill.)
Act correctly with discipline, patience, sobriety, kindness, and other good things that an un-drugged brain might chose to do. A drugged brain will have difficulty acting disciplined (cleaning / personal hygiene), being patient, and being kind.
If you want to go to Evil, some evil people want those down and out, to stay down and out (on drugs called medicine) so not to challenge their authority. Those with the gold rule, so maybe without corporal punishment all they have is magical psychiatric medicines to control the (unruly) poor.
without corporal punishment all they have is magical psychiatric medicines to control the elderly who are not obeying orders.
See “over-medicating of seniors in long-term care facilities”.
or “Thousands of patients with dementia in nursing facilities are being overmedicated with psychotropic drugs,”
Brilliant interview. He has truly exposed the “scantily clad” Emperor as, essentially, a shape-shifter who knows how to market himself.
“…a shape-shifter who knows how to market himself.”
THAT says it all.
Here’s another word for shape-shifter: VAMPIRE.
A good interview. No question in my mind that psychology operates on bad theories, assumptions and harmful practices. Why does it stick around? Because psychological distress can be very serious. I don’t know how anyone can say it’s not serious or doesn’t matter. Therefore, people will continue to look for answers. People will become desperate and look for help and when the answer is unknown, psychiatry experiments. Of course psychiatry should be honest that that is what they’re doing.
Actually I do believe psychological distress and how people respond is knowable. Someone can correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think distress has ever been study from the perspective that people don’t choose to retain emotion from the difficult experiences in their life. A perspective of the mind simply does retain the emotion when the distressing experience can’t be understood by the person experiencing it. That the emotion can’t be process and released minus the knowledge of why the experience occur. Psychoanalyst see burying emotion as a defense mechanism but I think it’s simply what the mind does and it’s true of everyone. All the therapies seem to expect people to process the emotion without closure or be unaffected by it and act like its not there. I think the impossible is asked of people in distress and then they’re criticized for not being able to do the impossible; naturally that make their distress worse.
Psychiatry has to say it’s genetic or biological for people not to believe it’s a choice that the individual must take responsibility for and correct. To me that’s a fundamental flaw that results in harmful therapies.
What you describe has actually been studied by trauma researchers. It is well known that during trauma verbal processing shuts down and the trauma becomes a ‘wordless horror’, which is one of the main differences between an experience that is merely unpleasant or stressful and one that is traumatic. If the experience cannot be thought about or verbalized, the emotion cannot be processed properly and gets stuck in the body.
You may be interested in Peter Levine’s book, ‘Waking the Tiger’ in which he asks the simple question, even though animals regularly encounter potentially traumatic situations such as being attacked by a predator or narrowly escaping death, why do animals never get PTSD? Basically he explains how animals always fully move through the emotions triggered by the situation whereas in humans that process gets interrupted. The book ‘The Body Bears the Burden’ by Robert Scaer goes into the same topic in much more depth and explains how this process leads to dysfunctional programming of the nervous system which requires external intervention to be corrected.
Like you say, claiming that it’s either biological or it’s the person’s own fault and they need to sort it out themselves is a false dichotomy because most capacities of the human mind depend on learning. It’s like saying you’re either stupid or you can teach yourself calculus on your own, without a teacher or a textbook. You can’t fix a traumatic experience by an act of will, it requires time and therapeutic practices built on an understanding of how trauma works.
I have to challenge the assumption that animals don’t suffer from post traumatic stress. Arguably it’s quite common, i.e. in abused dogs.
We heal that by providing a loving and nurturing environment instead of telling the dogs that they are genetically flawed and locking them up, tho.
I agree 100%. I had a dog who was neglected in her early life – she was constantly anxious and needed to be petted all the time to keep from freaking out. She also used to compulsively run away, much like abused/neglected teens in foster care often do. My friend also had a parrot who behaved quite “normally” most of the time, but whenever a wooden stick or rod was brought near him, he totally freaked out, going back and forth between attacking the stick and trying to hide from it. Sounds a lot like “PTSD” to me! (I mean the parrot, not my friend!)
You’re both right of course, and this point is addressed in the book as well. There’s an exception to the rule concerning animals who live with humans, who can develop PTSD (and various forms of neuroticism), much like humans living with humans. The wild animals are used as a foil to investigate the processes in the nervous system that take place in organisms that are traumatized by stressful situations versus those that aren’t.
Removed for moderation.
And I’ve often thought there’s way more to learn from watching “Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan” than listening to so-called “trauma-informed” therapists or so-called “human” psychiatrists.
I have to disagree with your saying that “fixing trauma” requires “therapeutic practices” when it’s been clearly demonstrated time and again that children, animals and adults heal best in loving, non-judgmental environments, which often means staying as far away as possible from the so-called “trauma experts”.
And what’s the BIGGEST source of neuroticism be it animal or human? The “mental health” industry, imho; it’s one big neuroticism factory
Removed for moderation.
Nice interview. I find the new sponsorship trend distressing.
This was a near-perfect assessment of the history, moving parts, motivations, & repeated failures of psychiatry…underscored by their untroubled eagerness to sacrifice real people with no acknowledgement of…& no legal accountability regarding, the massive scope of damages as a result of their behaviors.
The lack of apparent insight by the self-appointed ‘experts’ in human behavior is perfect, bitter irony.
The development of a solid, perpetual business model and ‘standing’ as a medical entity remains the primary driver & goal. Put simply, money and respect from the medical community….
I’ve never felt so re-assured….that this view, this concise, valid view (as a targeted, exploited, damaged former ‘client’) is relentlessly moving towards the front of the line…
I remain fearful of the authority/hall pass that our social culture, medical community, & most importantly, the judiciary give them to continue to fail….knowing changes that prioritize safety & compassion are not on the table.
I carry my documents vacating the ‘life-long’ diagnosis dropped on me by the DSM-IV, in my phone, should the unthinkable occur….like a Jew in occupied Poland, trying to safely go about my business…and terrified of a situational, subjective judgement….sharply going left, into a ‘life-long’ ditch.
I want them to know I’m (with Sun Tzu’s support) prepared to effectively counter, protecting myself from what I know they will bring…
What a world.
Krista says, “The lack of apparent insight by the self-appointed ‘experts’ in human behavior is perfect bitter irony.”
Not only perfect bitter irony, but an uniquely cruel one that places misery upon misery, imho.
I felt stigmatized by psychiatry, infantilized by psychotherapy, and demoralized by both—and diagnoses and power imbalance—the foundation of both—are the reasons why, imo.
No one seeking help needs to feel worse than they already do.
There’s a world of difference between trying to help people and trying to “fix” them. And imo, psychiatry doesn’t see the difference.
Thank you, Owen, Dhar and MIA, for reminding me that it may all be funny one day very soon, and that
comedy = tragedy + time, “God” being that “comedian playing to an audience [as yet] too afraid to laugh.”
On reading and re-reading, and listening and re-listening to this wonderful interview, Carl Jung, Robert Whitaker, Erich Fromm, Viktor Frankl and Eckhart Tolle kept coming to mind.
Jung reportedly observed: “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: If there is any reaction, both are transformed.”
I thought the interview itself was an example of how we can all bring out the best in one another, and birth new insights, by the quality and intensity of interactions, and of our listening to one another.
Suffering from Paxil-deficiency or from Prozac-deficiency? Or from humanity – simply suffering from and for being or to be a human being? It can be really, really, really hard being human: Thank you for your sacrifice, your service, and most especially in these times!
What is “mental illness” or “personality disorder” but human suffering, aka “sinfulness?”
Did any of us ever get the wrong personality or personalities, some “sins/sinfulness” which were not “fore-given?”
Or could it be that, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, “The universe is unfolding as it should” [“Desiderata,” Max Ehrmann] – and into our awareness?
What pain or suffering is not mental? What pain or suffering can there be without fear? And what fear is not internal, mental resistance – “the Devil” or “demons,” within?
“Life IS pain, Highness” – at least until we all learn to embrace and then transcend it?
Speaking in Cork, Ireland, I believe, Robert Whitaker memorably observed that when one is having a bad day it can be hard to say if one is (?more) “?anxious?” or “?depressed?”!
Erich Fromm has written wonderfully well, I believe, about our universal human urge to wish to give away our power – be it to external or to internal authorities – and even if “only” to the dictates of a socially-programmed “conscience,” perhaps the greatest enslaver of all.
Historically, Christian societies have empowered church authorities to visit such horrors as the Inquisition, in its various forms, with its varying whims, on women and men.
“Those who can make us believe absurdities can make us commit atrocities.”
Need one add what Thomas Szasz made so clear – that Western democracies nowadays have handed similar power over [to that unseen, unrecognized religion which operates as] state-sanctioned coercive psychiatry?
Instead of preaching or promoting the pursuit of happiness without, our societies may one day facilitate the finding of the Joy within.
Thus far, did we get the (egoic, hubris-laden) systems “we deserved?”
(I see that the Latin verb, deservire meant “to serve well; to serve zealously!”)
From a cosmic point of view, at least, perhaps we can trust that we always get what we need most – not least when we mature enough to see through what no longer serves us best?!
“What we fight, we strengthen; what we resist, persists; and what we cannot and do not transmute, we transmit.”
Owen Whooley, it seems to me, has taken the suffering of his father, his own suffering, and, I believe, the suffering of many generations and offered us something of a glorious, golden transmutation.
Like Viktor Frank who, in his “Man’s Search for Meaning” offered us not a hint of any feeling of bitterness, it seems Owen Whooley and Ayurdhi Dhar have sought to shine light into darkness rather than curse any (victim-perpetrators) who might seem responsible for it. In doing so, they have done us a great service, for we are all responsible for it who can now transform it.
“The human condition: lost in thought.” – Eckhart Tolle in “Stillness Speaks.”
Our human condition is a mental condition: We, who have all been victims of our own (unruly, unobserved, unconscious) minds (in the sense of thoughts and emotions) have for millennia or millions of years lived in states of fear/anxiety/angst/vigilance and, not trusting ourselves, handed over our authority to others when, in the words of Marianne Williamson (used in a speech by by Nelson Mandela,
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”
If the Emperor has any clothes, at all, I, like a child, cannot see them.
But I can see countless children, women and men suffering acutely from the persisting powers of state-sanctioned coercive psychiatry, including hapless, well meaning women and men, my equals, who have devoted their lives to it.
Thank you most sincerely to Ayurdhi Dhar, Owen Whooley and MIA for so very powerful a reminder that we can now, as never before, learn from history and endlessly evolve to solve human problems from new levels of consciousness beyond bitterness, hubris and ego, and higher than those levels at which we (and “our consciences!”) created them.
Comfort and Joy – and still more heartfelt thanks!
I think a lot of problems come from people unconsciously needing to feel more powerful than the next person so they can get away with bossing people around; power means more than truth to them.
And this most likely comes from not having their emotional needs met in childhood, so having power-driven jobs like psychiatry or psychotherapy fills their unmet need to feel powerful.
So life for them becomes one big long “I know more than you” kind of game that they never outgrow, but instead of flexing their muscles, they’re flexing their egos, imho.
Alice Miller would agree with you!
Psychiatry is just another way for egotistical people to deny reality in any way possible at other’s expense in more ways than one.
Alice Miller places blame where it belongs.
I don’t think ‘experts’ like thinking too much (i.e. “mentalization”, or “reflective functioning”), because questioning their assumptions means questioning their power. So conversations with them too often pointless, I’ve found.
So what’s my answer? Hauling out the old “caveat emptor” approach. After all, doing your own research never hurt, and it just might save your life. Or just trust your own instincts and move on.
Imo, psychiatry keeps going around in circles because it’s main goal is power, not truth.
At least Freud had curiosity and imagination. But even these got out of control, not to mention his unhealthy need to always be right, a fixation no doubt shared by none other than the great Emil Kraepelin, the founder of psychiatric eugenics. (Opps! I think I meant ‘genetics’….)
The biggest problem with Freud is that he chickened out. He had it right at first, that many young women were being sexually abused by their relatives or others, and that their “Mental health issues” were largely caused by this. But his colleagues attacked him and he backed down, deciding that these recollections were “fantasies” in order to protect the men of the day from scrutiny. It took another hundred years before we finally came back to the point, and there is still a TON of resistance to the idea to this day. A large part of the effort to blame “mental illness” on the victim’s brain is that it deflects attention from the real causes, which are generally abuse/neglect, poverty and social dysfunction.
Freud chickened out alright. He turned out to be an egotistical coward more anything.
And thank you for pointing out the true reason behind blaming people’s brains: the refusal to face reality, both personally and collectively.
Looking at it historically, though, deflection has always been used by the ruling class, one way or another. Just look at the Middle Ages—but instead of blaming the brain, they blamed the devil.
Psychiatric drugs and demon dispossession have some common roots back there historically. Both identify a vague and unidentifiable “something” that has “taken over” the victim and needs to be “driven out” by physical and or psychological means, even when the ‘exorcists’ have no actual comprehension of what the entity that has “taken over” actually might be. On the whole, I’d be more in favor of demon dispossession, though – fewer ill effects on the body in general!
Me too. After all, most religions are based on sacred texts that believe in salvation, whereas psychiatry, (a secular religion based on its DSM/bible) says you’re eternally damned —
This is about particle physics, but the similarities are eerie:
Has any psychiatric research of the past century added anything of value to the standard model of psychopathology, which is: (chronic) stress and trauma is bad for the psyche and makes people react in neurotic or psychotic ways?
In a word? Emphatically NO. But it might be a step in the right direction if psychiatry realized that stress and trauma are the true culprit, not its idiotic assumptions of biological/genetic whatnot.
Is there a difference between genetics and eugenics in psychiatry? Not much, imho.
And the same goes for psychology, too.
Professor Whooley says:
“Psychiatry persists because of the profession’s strategies to manage its ignorance…”
Translation: psychiatry persists because it believes its own lies.
“In order to make those changes and to promote those reinventions, psychiatrists engage in hype.”
Translation: psychiatry is more public relations than science.
“Now the flipside to hype is hubris. Psychiatrists believe the hype and then undertake these transformations in an incredibly aggressive way.”
Translation: psychiatry’s become big business by teaming up with the pharmaceutical industry and its advertising flunkies while sending its latest edition of the DSM to every doctor in town.
All of which leads to one conclusion: psychiatry is what happens when quackery meets propaganda.
And just WHAT did psychiatry’s carnival of catastrophe do for me besides create havoc with its debilitating drugs?
1. It made me doubt my reality
2. It hijacked my healthy sense of self
3. It convinced me I couldn’t function without its patronizing “interventions”
ALL of which proved untrue once I FINALLY got off its merry-go-round of so-called “mental illness” and smorgasbord of so-called “medications”.
Correction: “doubt my reality” means doubt my intuition
Psychiatry isn’t medicine; it’s a medicalized Hall of Mirrors.
Psychiatry taught me to hate myself.
Psychiatry’s “cycle of ignorance” is a revolving door that creates “illness” to maintain its ignorance.
Psychiatry creates “illness” to DEFEND its ignorance —
Psychiatry INVENTS “illness” to defend its ignorance.
Decades ago, I became interested in hallucinogenic mushrooms that grew wild in the northern US, where I live. Since I had to keep myself relatively sane, as well as others interested in eating such fungi, I studied early megavitamin therapy, to keep myself and my potential volunteers out of hospital (and jail, as well, for myself). Thus, I accidentally became the best “psychiatrist” in the area without being an MD or even a psychotherapist (I also had acquired a Hoffer/Osmond Diagnostic Test to screen my volunteers- it was used to screen alcoholics for LSD therapy in Saskatchewan in the ’60s). I even successfully treated some professionals’ treatment failures and successfully withdrew an alcoholic using megavitamin B3. (This may help the peculiar nature of some of my correspondence)
Alas, psychiatry now seems to be as sad now as it was then
That’s for damn sure. But it’s gotten even sicker since hitching its wagon to the pharmaceutical industry as anything that’s profitable financially inevitably controls the narrative. But megavitamin therapy sounds interesting though, as it probably helps restore people’s messed up physiology from either psychiatric drugs or other psychoactive substances like alcohol, etc.
And anything’s better than psychiatry’s sanitized drug hustling or psychology’s mindless minds fucks.
Definition for Mind Fuck: the process of raping someone’s intelligence and/or beliefs with lies and manipulation
Definition for Psychiatry and Psychology: the raping of someone’s intelligence and/or beliefs with lies and manipulation
And I don’t think anyone can successfully argue that psychiatry is anything more than a glorified drug racket and medicalized con game.
The main problem with psychiatry is that all you need to do is say “boo” to have the fools reach for their stupid DSM. And most psychologists are no different.