The Hidden Injuries of Oppression


With each passing day, we witness how so many individuals are subjected to unexpected upheaval, irreversible damage, devastating loss, injury, and death. The uprooting of peoples’ lives caused by these events and their substantial adverse impacts give rise to a range of trauma-related physical and psychological consequences for direct victims as well as for those related to them. In many instances, even those witnessing these tragedies experience physical, psychological, social, and spiritual distress.

As a rule, mainstream psychiatry and psychology situate the causes of these problems within the individuals impacted. Then subsequent “treatment” focuses solely on this level. However, there is a far more powerful force at work behind these harmful events. Omission of the role played by this cause is not due to ignorance or simple misunderstanding. Rather, its impact is intentionally obfuscated and denied by psychiatrists and psychologists who perpetuate a restrictive view of the nature of human suffering in which those afflicted are abstracted from the larger contexts they are inextricably embedded in. In doing so, they not only benefit from this neglect, but actually contribute even further to suffering they profess to seek to alleviate. That missing cause is systemic oppression.

Black and white photo of a man looking sad with his fingers clinging to a chain-link fenceIn my book, Embracing Disillusionment: Promoting Liberation through the Demystification of Suffering, I detail a rationale for the argument that oppression is the single greatest factor contributing to human suffering. To understand the impact of oppression, consider how the prolonged dependency of human infants results in their exceptional vulnerability to inadequacies and adverse influences in the social environment into which they are born and raised. Research conducted on the persistent negative consequences of adverse childhood experiences strongly supports this. For example, studies have revealed that the damage poverty has on brain development correlates with higher likelihood of externalizing and internalizing problems in adolescence.

In his book, Why Social Justice Matters, Brian Barry describes this process as cumulative disadvantage. Cumulative disadvantage is how the lack of resources and opportunities to satisfy their essential needs significantly hampers the development of children born into poverty. Barry observes, “Children start with, and grow up with, an enormous variety of different resources. On the basis of just a few facts about a child, such as its social class and its race or ethnicity, we can make a good prediction of where it will finish in the distribution of earnings, the likelihood that it will spend time in jail, and many other outcomes, good and bad.”

The impact of poverty is multiplied when paired with adverse childhood experiences associated with racism and social class. John Rawls, a contemporary philosopher regarding the nature of justice, explains why. He writes in Justice as Fairness that each person possesses an inherent inviolability that even the general welfare of society cannot override. Wantonly depriving children of the conditions needed to ensure their wellbeing demonstrates a failure to recognize their inherent worth and dignity.

Rawls further asserts that the basic structure of society is the primary subject of justice because it influences the different starting positions into which individuals are born. Very different expectations of life are associated with these starting positions based on extant political, economic, and social circumstances. Rawls makes clear that when there are deep inequalities that favor certain social positions substantially more than others, the subsequent inequitable effects present from the start are so profound that the conditions of justice cannot be satisfied.

Clearly, children do not choose the circumstances into which they are born. Nonetheless, they can suffer damaging consequences by virtue of the mere accident of birth. They are clearly victims of oppression who bear absolutely no responsibility for the disadvantages they suffer. In other words, to treat the harmful consequences they experience as an “individual” problem is morally indefensible and amounts to blaming the victim.

Human beings could not possibly have evolved into what we are today without the ability to work cooperatively with others, and to organize themselves into social networks to deal with shared problems. Even after childhood, humans continue to live under material conditions shaped by larger sociohistorical, economic, and political factors which exert an ongoing impact on their development.

Research on the social determinants of health (physical environment, access to food, health care, education, and inequality) finds that they are associated with risk of morbidity and mortality, as well as the frequency of adverse behavioral and emotional problems. The causes involved are structural and systemic in nature. Oppression affects all members of society, but impacts most those individuals who are victims of disadvantage, discrimination, and other forms of injustice.

Simply looking at the problem as oppression, however, does not provide a complete understanding of why it is responsible for much suffering. In her book, Analyzing Oppression, philosopher Ann Cudd lists four conditions which define oppression:

  • The harm it causes is due to institutional practices.
  • The social group condition: the harm is directed at individuals, based on their group membership, by members of a different social group.
  • The privilege condition: Members of the oppressing group benefit from the institutional practices.
  • Harm is caused through the exercise of coercion, either overt or covert.

What remains to be explained is this: What dictates the social practices and arrangements that enable the privileged to exercise their advantage through social control, and results in material and psychological harms to the oppressed?

What underlies oppression is a dominant ideology. Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist philosopher, calls this hegemony. An ideology is an all-embracing worldview held by members of society at a given point in history. This ideology functions to provide those who subscribe to it with a way of understanding themselves, others, and the world around them. Because it gives individuals a sense of control, security, or order, it is passionately held to and very resistant to change. It also provides them with a sense of belonging with those who share that worldview.

However, there is also a political dimension to ideology, as it serves as means of enforcing the status quo. The ruling class uses it to maintain its power and privilege and to keep the subordinate class under foot.

Erich Fromm, a critical theorist, believed that an unhealthy society based on a death-affirming ideology was responsible for the majority of human ills. Fromm put forth the concept of social character. Social character is the product of life-long socialization by major institutions. This results in a sense of personal identity sanctioned and enforced by the status quo and shaped to serve the interests of the ruling class. Social character consists of deep and often unconscious beliefs and motivations and can be thought of as internalized hegemony.

An ideology is not a statement of facts or a veridical representation of reality. Thus, it is capable of being unveiled and opposed. Because of this, measures are taken not only to thwart attempts to expose the illusions and half-truths that compose hegemony, but also to get individuals to freely consent to it.

To ensure that hegemony is uncritically accepted and made resistant to challenges, it is portrayed as “common sense” or “popular wisdom.” It is posed as natural, universal, inevitable and, therefore, incapable of change. Given how hegemony saturates every aspect of our lives and is so pervasive, it is rendered invisible. It shapes popular consciousness by means of language, stories, symbols, myths, and moral precepts. This illustrates once more the error of trying to understand on an individual level the power of hegemony and the oppression it perpetrates. Part of human beings’ resistance to questioning hegemony is based on their capacity for self-deception and intrapsychic defenses. However, this fails to take into account the political, social, and economic uses of ideology.

When psychiatry and psychology characterize the harms caused by oppression solely as forms of individual pathology, they are upholding the hegemonic status quo and engaging in oppression themselves. By enforcing an extreme form of individualism, they render the role of larger systemic forces irrelevant or non-existent. This pattern is illustrated in the social model of disability, which critiques how the medical model individualizes the impact of disability. The medical model fails to recognize how disability is due to the ways in which society is structured, and how disability is framed by social values and norms. In the social model, psychological and emotional impacts of disability are not attributed to a mental illness. Rather, they are understandable responses to past or present traumas, grief, and societal pressures often attributable to oppression.

The psychiatrist R. D. Laing provides an explanation of how social forces function to distort and disguise the power of hegemony in his concept of mystification. Mystification is a transpersonal (as opposed intrapersonal) defense because it entails the action of one person taken on the experience of another.

Our sense of being real, alive, and whole (ontologically secure) depends on the self-validating data of experience. However, our interdependence means that we look to others for mutual understanding or validation of our experience. Because of this, human beings are impacted by the ways others respond to their experiences. They can do so by either confirming and validating it or by denying and undermining it. Mystification occurs when powerful others, often behind the mask of benevolence, negate the experience of individuals. This gives rise to feelings of uncertainty, confusion, and alienation.

This invalidation and the questioning of one’s experience provokes intense fear. Oppressors abate this fear using ideologically based illusions, fictions, and fabrications to explain, and even justify, the reactions of the oppressed to mystification. It is the victims of oppression who are confused, uninformed, or to blame. While force is sometimes used to impose hegemony on the oppressed, fear provides a potent means of disguising the use of power. It immobilizes the capacity for self-reflection needed for the oppressed to critically examine what is happening to them, and instead leads them to blindly accept their treatment.

The most deleterious target of mystification is the suffering caused by oppression. This is because suffering that arises when one becomes dis-illusioned, when it is accepted without judgement, has the potential to lead to transformative change. Thus, the powerful use a variety of strategies to undermine the transformative potential of suffering. This begins with simply rendering suffering invisible to whatever extent possible. This is facilitated by human being’s natural proclivity to meet suffering with resistance.

Another strategy is to portray suffering caused by human actions as due to larger natural forces, such as so called “acts of God” or the workings of market forces. Suffering inflicted on the oppressed attributed to blind and impersonal causes is rendered inconsequential and not subject to moral condemnation. When people are convinced that their suffering is something they have no control over, they experience a sense of helplessness, passivity, and apathy. This then paralyzes any attempt to remove what are actually avoidable causes.

Another strategy is to make those who are suffering believe they deserve it and have brought it on themselves. This is sometimes called internalized oppression.

The hegemonic ideology discussed in my book responsible for suffering due to oppression is neoliberalism. As asserted by the community psychologist Isaac Prilleltensky, neoliberalism promotes a “ME Culture.” It advocates extreme individualism, competition, conspicuous consumption, and the positive value of greed. Together these values undermine fairness, create inequality, and lead to multiple adverse consequences for mental health.

The neoliberal value that hard work will ensure success, paired with the valorizing of unrestricted competition and a culture of winners and losers, has been found connected to increased stigma and suicide ideation. The critical psychologist Thomas Teo associates neoliberalism with fascism.

Neoliberalism is based on exploitation, theft, and accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few, paired with the assertion that there is not enough to go around. This creates an us-versus-them mentality that fosters a politics of hate, violence, fear, bigotry, and intolerance. To justify disparity in power and wealth, the oppressed are characterized as subhuman (treated with contempt and violence) and “dieable” (disposable, not worthy of life). These attributions create a mindset and evoke emotions that define those who are fit to live, fit to die, and fit to be oppressed.

Continuing to understand and provide care for suffering caused by oppression, based on the same ideology responsible for that oppression, is not merely wrong-headed but immoral. Individualizing the impact of oppression in diagnoses, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder, circumscribes the toll of oppression in a label. Such labels act as barriers between people seeking compassion for the socially caused injuries they have suffered, and those seeking to help them. Individuals end up being equated with some condition, while being abstracted from the adverse conditions that have substantially led to their problems.

This is not to deny human agency and responsibility. However, we need to guard against the extreme individualism of neoliberalism which exaggerates personal responsibility. It is also not to diminish the value of compassion in striving to alleviate their suffering. But unless adverse conditions afflicting them are removed, their problems will continue.

It is essential that those working with individuals impacted by oppression understand that compassion must be linked with a commitment to justice in order to be meaningful. As the theologian Matthew Fox insists, justice gives direction to love. It creates a space for anger and moral outrage in response to the abuses of power. He describes this as the prophetic reply to injustice. A prophet in this sense is not a sooth-sayer, but a truth-sayer.

In other words, in our work with the oppressed, we must be committed, at some point in their care, to speak out the truth about the ways in which their suffering is the result of systemic injustice. This can be thought of as a form of consciousness raising, described in the work of the radical educator Paolo Friere as critical consciousness. The goal is to raise individuals’ awareness of how systems of oppression have adversely impacted them, and how they can take social action to oppose these systems.

Instead of focusing solely on internal causes for their suffering, we must cast a wider net. We might reflect with these individuals on the question, “Is this the kind of society in which you wish to live or that you want for those you love?” And then follow this with, “How do you imagine we might be able to create a better one?” For as social beings, we are not in this situation alone. We are all afflicted in some way by oppression. We also in some ways contribute to it. And together we all are able to bring about a more just world.


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. Frank, I do like the way your mind works. So clear.
    I tend to call oppression just bullying. People do not warm to the word “bullying” because it sounds so infantile and petulant. But that indicates that we are bullied if we are embarrassed to call bullying by its real simple name. Instead “logic”, that mass bully of our “emotions”, is ever wont to tell us all that we must be “specific” about naming our bruises and cuts and call the causes of such wounds by elaborate academic terms…or we will not be listened to and taken seriously…if we cannot acquire the university credentials needed to “name” our bullies as something longwinded or incomprehensibe or dictionary hyperbole fancy. To hell with all that! It is like when a victim in a death camp is told not to utter the word “murderer” because it is not very “logically accurate”.

    I wrote some comments on this theme in the article “Chronic Stress and Mental Illness” by Rebecca Belschner. Perhaps click on my name to see those.

    Frank, you say that what underlies oppression (what I call bullying) is a dominant ideology. I can see why it looks like that but in my opinion no ideology, or belief, or paradigm, or religion is that much of a problem. People believe all sorts of bizarre stuff without incident. It is only when “bullying” infiltrates these ideologies or beliefs and uses these that “bullying” itself can become dominant, by using ideologies, beliefs, religions and so on, as “vehicles” to spread control over others. To say that someone cannot have their ideology or belief or religion is like saying “those who are just different cannot be allowed to be different”. That statement then becomes a form of “bullying”. On and on it goes, the regime against “the freedom to choose to be harmlessly different”. It manifests as the oppression of particular choices that change over time, the oppression of the choice to be a witch. The oppression of the choice to be decadent. The oppression of the choice to be Christain. The oppression of the choice to be Muslim. The oppression is always apparently coming “from” an opposing choice, like the choice to be Puritan, or the choice to be Jewish, or the choice to be a doctor. The oppression is not within harmless choices. It is within what is later enacted upon others with using those choices as an excuse to control, and that “enacting on others” is when “bullying” uses any choice as if that choice is THE ONLY RIGHT CHOICE to which all must sublimate their “different choices” to.

    You mention something else that intriguing to me. There are many articles extolling the virtues of “better healing” to be found in rural communities in far flung countries that do not have access to privaledged health care like in the West. The message is that poor rural communities know better how to mend the driven mad. I believe this. And yet there is also this very real statistic, that I also believe, that poverty affects the brain development of children. I think there needs to be better clarity on these points. We are told to revere the way traditional rural communities do health and yet we are to regard poverty as a complete bar to any health.

    I can definitely tell you about poverty since I was homeless for five years. So I am experienced in how frightening and degrading and gruelling poverty can be.

    Yet when I studied Divinity at university I had a lecturer who was born in Columbia who told me that when comparing the experience of the poverty in South America to the wealth of the West, that the South American communities were more enriched with their communal support.

    Many millions of people are travelling to the West to get out of relentless back breaking poverty in their own countries. They see the West as a solution. And yet the West, in their millions, sees the romantic rural community as the solution.

    It is all very interesting. Thankyou Frank for bringing these issues up.

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  2. A further point…

    Here is what is funny. In my opinion your article is full of a very beautiful belief. In my opinion you then “add” to that free choice to have a “different” beautiful belief “by” concretizing it with stiff academic “logic”. Proof that your choice of beautiful belief is “right”. What “logic” does is make us all strive to prove that all of our separate beliefs are “the” right belief. We turn to “logical science” to boost our proof. But this means that we have to oust any competing beautiful beliefs that are very “different” from our “right” belief. Before “logic” came along we did not “have to” prove it, prove it, prove it, by providing lots of data and analysis, we just knew our choice of belief was blissful for us and we did not need to “change” the minds of opponents. Opponents were besides the point. The tendency to want to use “logic” as a bright shiny sheild comes from our other prevailing view that “logic” is “right”. And so if someone “logical” is going to be reading our article on our beautiful belief, they might attack the belief with lots of nitpicking “logic” that will find ways to call the belief “wrong”.
    What you end up with in these times is a mishmash between a nice belief and its grabbing use of fierce “logic” that tries to be “right” or even “righteous” in the face of perceived competition from other beliefs that also grab “logic” to further “rightness” or “righteousness”.

    Actually a belief by itself is far more powerful if it scraps the cowtowing to “logic” (as a response to the demand for proof of “rightness”) and just says instead….

    “Yeah, this is what I belief and if you don’t think it makes any rational sense then I do not have to prove why it feels like sense to me”.

    Beliefs are a bit like the wonderfully liberating choice to be mad. The mad no longer have to “make a whole lot of academic or logical sense”. Their choice to eschew being the servants of “logic” means they get to enjoy the child’s freedom to see the world entirely as they do see it.

    But because we live in a time where “logic” has become our deity, it becomes a horrible quasi-belief in its own right, that says that unless you can “rationally” prove why you see the world in your preferred way of seeing the world then you are “wrong, wrong, wrong”.

    Your way of seeing the world may be wonderfully freely child-like and mad but unless you “change” your belief to sound more “academically grown up and reasonable and responsible for the planet and all eight billion people on it then your belief is absurd.

    But all beliefs are delightfully absurd. The act of piously taking seriously any belief is how “logic”, which is always super serious, gets its horrible analytical foot in the door and demands a belief to write loads of indigestible serious books about what it believes, and how all of that is “right, right, right”. The belief then hides its lovely exuberant liberated madness and tries to squeeze itself into “scientific papers” dripping with “logical” research. Until the once sweet belief, that was more empowered by remaining a free child-like belief, morphs into a puppet of “logic” that goes on to demand that all other beliefs must now also sound “analytical”.

    What “logic”, as a deity, does is it grooms all other absurd free beliefs by telling them they “must” sound “grown up” or they will be punished by haughty mockery. And the mad childish wonderful beliefs fall prey to that “abuse”.
    The many “different” fall prey to the “abuse” meted out by “logic” that they need to “explain” every nuance of why they feel “differently”. If they comply with the demand of “logic” they will be “rewarded” for making “rational sense” of why they chose such a “free choice”, they will be rewarded by “logic’s deity” like any groomer always rewards complience. If the “different” do not accept such “bullying” by “logic”, and do not make any sense but just continue to sound absurd or baseless or mad or silly, then those choosing to be so “different” will be punished.

    This is not me saying have a mad belief and impinge it on others and if they fail to understand or like or respect that belief then they are bullies. The “impinging” or “forcing” of any belief, whether it sounds rational or mad, goes against other people’s “freedom of choice” to choose their own way of seeing the world.

    I hasten to add that living a very “logical” life is also a “free choice”. All “free choices” are wonderfully healing. Bossily imposing choices that you think are “right, right, right” for everyone, is where bullying begins.

    I said something funny had taken place…what I mean is that your belief that houses academic “logic” became a “logic” that I nitpicked with “logic”. Rather than my saying to myself…

    “Oh yeah, Frank believes this or that”, and leave it at that.

    What the allegience to “logical understanding” gives the veneer of is the illusion of “accepting differences”. That acceptance is “conditional” upon providing “proof” or “rightness”, and as such is not really “unconditional acceptance”.

    What humans crave is “unconditonal acceptance”. They have been “abused” by masterful puppet master “logic” to feel they cannot have it unless they show “rational worthiness”, by producing more and more and more “logical papers”. Like children thumped into sounding “sane”.

    Love is not rational.

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  3. Thank you for this wonderfully insightful blog, Frank. Please take my in depth reply as a compliment, despite the fact I don’t stand 100 percent of the psychologists.

    “Mystification occurs when powerful others, often behind the mask of benevolence, negate the experience of individuals. This gives rise to feelings of uncertainty, confusion, and alienation.”

    This is the primary function of psychology and psychiatry, at least according to my personal experience.

    “Thus, the powerful use a variety of strategies to undermine the transformative potential of suffering.”

    Despite the fact that there is a “transformative potential of suffering.” At least according to my experience.

    “This begins with simply rendering suffering invisible to whatever extent possible.”

    And isn’t “rendering suffering invisible” the primary function of the so called “mental health industries?”

    Those industries are largely only in “crisis” now, since the internet has been exposing their sins / crimes, in public.

    “Suffering inflicted on the oppressed attributed to blind and impersonal causes is rendered inconsequential and not subject to moral condemnation.”

    The DSM is a book of “invalid” and impersonal “disorders,” with no claimed “causes” (well, except the “chemical imbalance” lie). And we also now have an issue with the Covid medical fear mongers, too.

    “Another strategy is to portray suffering caused by human actions as due to larger natural forces, such as so called ‘acts of God’ or the workings of market forces.”

    I’m pretty certain my former economics teacher logically pointed out the flaw in the Keynesian economic system, by pointing out the lack of a variable for power (which does have extreme value to those who claim to be the ‘powerful’) in the microeconomic mathematical formulas, in this book.

    “Another strategy is to make those who are suffering believe they deserve it and have brought it on themselves. This is sometimes called internalized oppression.”

    “Depression caused by self” – this is exactly what my former psychologist did. She eventually tried to claim legitimate distress caused by the 9/11/2001 event was “distress caused by a chemical imbalance” in my brain alone. How insane can the psychologic and psychiatric industries get?

    “neoliberalism promotes a ‘ME Culture.’ It advocates extreme individualism, competition, conspicuous consumption, and the positive value of greed. Together these values undermine fairness, create inequality, and lead to multiple adverse consequences for mental health.”

    I agree, and believe neoliberalism is largely the “religion” of the baby boomer generation of America, who seemingly never grew up. And at least one psychologist fairly recently acted like a three year old towards me, because my work was “too truthful” for him.

    I agree, “neoliberalism” should be equated “with fascism.”

    “Neoliberalism is based on exploitation, theft, and accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few, paired with the assertion that there is not enough to go around. This creates an us-versus-them mentality that fosters a politics of hate, violence, fear, bigotry, and intolerance.”

    And neoliberalism is the belief system of too many DSM “bible” billers, at least according to my experience. The DSM is all about “blaming the victim,” covering up child abuse, by DSM design, and covering up easily recognized malpractice.

    “Continuing to understand and provide care for suffering caused by oppression, based on the same ideology responsible for that oppression, is not merely wrong-headed but immoral.”

    “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

    I agree, and this is why I believe both the psychological and psychiatric industries must be reevaluated.

    “It is essential that those working with individuals impacted by oppression understand that compassion must be linked with a commitment to justice in order to be meaningful.”

    Yet the unjust psychologic industry has been systemic child abuse and rape cover uppers for over a century.

    And their systemic, neurotoxic poisoning, psychiatric “partners” / co-“conspirators” are equally as guilty of these systemic crimes.

    “To justify disparity in power and wealth, the oppressed are characterized as subhuman (treated with contempt and violence) and ‘dieable’ (disposable, not worthy of life). These attributions create a mindset and evoke emotions that define those who are fit to live, fit to die, and fit to be oppressed.”

    And psychiatry and psychology believe they are the judges of all of humanity, for the “neoliberal.” A psychologist actually told me it was “acceptable” for a non-medically trained school social worker to attempt to drug and murder the best and brightest American children.

    How is maintaining the current psychological and psychiatric industries’ “pedophile empire” / “statice quo” a good idea? It is not!

    The DSM “labels act as barriers between people seeking compassion for the socially caused injuries they have suffered, and those seeking to help them. Individuals end up being equated with some condition, while being abstracted from the adverse conditions that have substantially led to their problems.”

    Which is part of why the DSM should be thrown away.

    But I do agree, “As the theologian Matthew Fox insists, justice gives direction to love. It creates a space for anger and moral outrage in response to the abuses of power. He describes this as the prophetic reply to injustice. A prophet in this sense is not a sooth-sayer, but a truth-sayer.”

    And I am merely one truth teller speaking out against the hegemony and systemic crimes of the DSM deluded psychological and psychiatric industries. And their abuses of their undeserved power. Like creating “psychosis” in people, for profit, via anticholinergic toxidrome poisonings.

    “The goal is to raise individuals’ awareness of how systems of oppression have adversely impacted them, and how they can take social action to oppose these systems.”

    Thus I have been trying to raise “individuals’ awareness of how systems of oppression,” like the psychological and psychiatric industries, have been destroying America, for decades.

    “Is this the kind of society in which you wish to live or that you want for those you love?” No, no interest in handing over hell on earth to my children.

    “And then follow this with, ‘How do you imagine we might be able to create a better one?’ For as social beings, we are not in this situation alone. We are all afflicted in some way by oppression. We also in some ways contribute to it. And together we all are able to bring about a more just world.”

    I do agree, collectively, and within a mutually respectful, non-oppressive society, people can bring about a better world, and save humanity. Let’s pray for the day!

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    • Thank you for your positive and appreciative words regarding my discussion of the role of oppression. I hope you see that there are some psychologists who understand the inadequacies and errors with the current theories and practices of dealing with a host of physical and psychological problems by neglecting the significant role of systemic injustices. I do indeed find your detailed discussion of a number of points I make as compliments and as affirmations of the important issues that I raise. I also appreciate that based on your own experiences you are a truth sayer against the wrongs of neoliberal hegemony. Like you I pray for the day when we can achieve a more just and thus more life-affirming society.

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    • Thank you for your positive feedback about my blog. I have not written about how domestic violence/coercive control fits in with the role of oppression. However, the argument can clearly be made that another manifestation of how oppression causes suffering is in the case of domestic abuse/coercive control. Additionally, an awareness of the role which oppression plays necessitates once again that an individualist focus on the adverse consequences for victims of domestic abuse/coercive control that locates problems “within” them is too narrow and risks blaming the victim. This is because such a focus neglects the substantial role played by larger social, cultural, economic, and political factors on who is most at risk for domestic abuse, how victims of abuse understand and respond to their experience of abuse, what resources are available to help them, how individuals in power respond to their abuse, and whether medical and psychiatric/psychological systems provide sensitive and responsive care. Research has been done in these various areas which substantiates the role of oppression. One form of oppression that has historically been responsible for violence toward women is patriarchy. However, as a number of studies on domestic abuse have also pointed out, other groups that historically experienced oppression are also more likely to experience domestic abuse, to have a lack of access to necessary resources to assist them, and to experience discrimination by the criminal justice system and by health care providers. These include race, indigenous peoples, immigrants, persons with disabilities, and the LGBTQ population. Based on intersectionality, victims of domestic abuse may have a number of these identities. In light of this, my argument that systemic oppression must be serious addressed in order to ensure well-being is clearly relevant to the problem of domestic abuse. I hope you find this information helpful. One article that I found to be very informative on this topic is entitled “The impact of culture and minority status on women’s experience of domestic abuse” which I found using Google Scholar.

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  4. “Clearly, children do not choose the circumstances into which they are born.”

    Reading over your elegant essay again and again (and realizing that it might take many books to address any paragraph with the diligence it deserves, but not wishing any such fate on the long-suffering moderator – Steve McCrae, right?), that is the line which keeps coming back to me.

    It is an assumption, but one so vast and so all pervasive at least until now in Western societies, I think, that it may not even be seen as one, at all.

    It happens to be an assumption I, for one, do not accept, at all.

    “Do you think we choose the times into which we are born? Or do we fit the times we are born into?”

    This two-part question is spoken, as I recall, by Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln addressing a black or Black soldier, although there may be no historical record of his uttering any such words, but, from the three or four Lincoln biographies I’ve read, I agree (with Spielberg?) that it is just the kind of question Abe might have asked – anyone!

    “Nothing happens to anyone that he is not fitted by nature to bear.” So says Russell Crowe as Maximus in “The Gladiator,” quoting Marcus Aurelius, seemingly.

    “God fits the back for the burthen,” my old pal, Sam Scott, than whom I knew none saintlier, told me repeatedly.

    “Hold the line! Stay with me! If you find yourself alone, riding in the green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled. For you are in Elysium [Heaven], and you’re already dead! Brothers, what we do in life… echoes in eternity.”

    Maximus/Russell speaks these lines, also, in “The Gladiator,” but if this life is continuous with Eternity – as how ever could it possibly not be? – surely we are all already dead, as I think many ancient Romans, like Marcus Aurelius, and Greeks fully realized?

    This here is the after-life! If only we can soon learn to live accordingly!

    In “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” Josey tells Ten Bears:

    “Dyin’ ain’t so hard for men like you and me: It’s livin’ that’s hard.”

    It’s hard for any human to live when they have lost those they loved most, or when they feel unable to do all they feel they ought to alleviate the suffering of others. And it seems there may always be others suffering…Unless? Unless we can all become enlightened?

    Apart from maybe Emperors Ashoka and Aurelius, few (male) political leaders known to history seem to have come to recognize, and come to terms with their own egos enough to leave lasting, loving legacies of enlightenment?

    Mind you, if I look up “Groupthink” in Wikipedia, I find a ref. to JFK and perhaps an implicit suggestion that the vain egotism/machismo of the Bay of Pigs disaster MAY have served humanity well enough….by saving at least one parallel universe from nuclear holocaust:

    “After the Bay of Pigs invasion fiasco, President John F. Kennedy sought to avoid groupthink during the Cuban Missile Crisis using “vigilant appraisal”.[12]: 148–153  During meetings, he invited outside experts to share their viewpoints, and allowed group members to question them carefully. He also encouraged group members to discuss possible solutions with trusted members within their separate departments, and he even divided the group up into various sub-groups, to partially break the group cohesion. Kennedy was deliberately absent from the meetings, so as to avoid pressing his own opinion.”

    I think that, in Life even more so than in the movies, nothing is gratuitous, and the troubles and sufferings brought on us by egos and egoic organizations cannot fail to bring about our transformation – a transformation surely upon us all right now?

    “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.” ― Eckhart Tolle
    Increasingly, perhaps at an exponential rate, I believe the experience we each need is to find our expanding joy in helping end one another’s suffering – much as you seem to be doing, Frank.

    Erich Fromm, as you know much better than I do, suggested that we have a great human tendency to try and give away our power to others, even to the extent of allowing our “consciences” to be informed, if not formed, by religious and other authorities: Autonomy scares us.

    Marianne Williamson echoes and I think expands but does not fully explain this with her famous

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

    “Ego,’ when defined as the unobserved mind, sums up all this, of course.

    Throughout recorded human history, even having started out with “the best, highest, noblest and most altruistic” motives and intentions, when push came to shove, and often before it did, our organizations have almost invariably buckled and become increasing egoic and self-serving to the point of corruption and cover-up in the name of necessary self-preservation…as we have forgotten that this IS Eternity.

    Those rare heroines and heroes such as Joan of Arc who refused to buckle, or who did, and then bravely recanted, stand out as beacons or torch bearers, testifying to what lies within every last one of us, for, even if not one of The Founding Fathers understood how, we ARE all equal!

    In no small measure thanks to inspired writing such as your own, Frank, all that seems to me to be rapidly changing now in very many areas of human endeavor as we wake up to the realization that, rather than dog-eat-dog, there can ALWAYS be a win-win-win-win-win-win-win outcome, instead. Individually and collectively, our egoic suffering is bringing about the end of our ego.

    And maybe every one of us did only agree to be born into such turbulent times in order to be around to help usher in this dawn, each in their own unique and essential way?

    Thank you for your own mighty labors and magnificent writings, clearly all born of enormous compassion.

    Wishing you great and ever-increasing health and joy in your retirement,


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    • “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at the moment.” – Eckhart Tolle

      That’s the long version of this bullshit bromide: “God never gives you more than you can handle”. Apparently God hasn’t met psychiatry.

      And people such as Marianne Williamson need to know that psychiatry has the power to lock people up for saying things like “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”

      Comments like these remind me that even gurus have their moments of complacency and egotistical rationalization. But isn’t that what drives all religious movements?

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      • Dear Birdsong,

        For saying things like that I got myself locked up and drugged for 82 days and nights, and deprived off my every supposed human right, and then turned out a demented wreck of a man…which is why I go on believing and often quoting just such sentiments, opinions and…BS.

        Sincere thanks for your own sincere sentiments, and sorry for not having seen them and responded sooner.

        All the very, very, VERY best.

        And thank you very sincerely, again.


        PS: Perhaps you might explain just why you regard such notions as BS. and I may try and explain what I regard as BS, too, please?

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        • You’re most welcome, Tom. But I’m not quite sure what you’re thanking me for.

          I’m very sorry you were forced to endure so much cruelty from psychiatry for so long. It’s absolutely despicable that psychiatry has free rein to wantonly abuse people who’ve committed no crime.

          And you don’t sound like a demented wreck of a man to me, as I find your vast knowledge genuinely inspiring.

          And I regard such notions as BS because they are BS as far as psychiatry is concerned. And because gurus often skate by on simplistic notions and are also unconnected to difficult issues that psychiatry makes worse.

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          • I am sincerely grateful to you for having reminded me just how and why it can be desperately annoying to hear pious platitudes perpetually plied upon us, Birdsong, without any offer of explanation to back them up, and to have one’s silence in response taken as assent.

            “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you,” odds are you are a woman and NOT a man, perhaps?

            And that there is such a thing as remaining infuriatingly calm under pressure, too…

            I manfully struggled through the Ken Weber presentation because Frank offered it, and my poor head’s been swirling since:

            Having referred to the (last) big bang, how can even a guy of Ken’s extraordinary brilliance and genius speaks of “randomness,” “chaos” and “accidents” in a cosmic sense when that big bang, by default, is presumed to have happened in or as or to create a completely closed system?

            If we are that Awareness into which the bang is expanding, a.k.a “God,” or Life, then we are giving ourselves/self each and every tiniest and greatest experience.

            If not, then it is only rational to “try and accept each moment as though you had chosen it,and, failing that, to “try to accept one’s non-acceptance.”

            When one does, I reckon, it soon seems as though one were choosing those moments, all – choosing to experience each unfolding lesson

            Seneca, Heraclitus, Socrates, Jesus Marcus Aurelius and many other ancients seem to me to have grasped and lived this, with varying success.

            And now we have the likes of you, Birdsong, Bob Whitaker, Steve McCrae, Bruce Levine, Simon et Al….all offering us the therapy we need ss we need it to evolve just when and as we need to – or so I believe.

            It’s 14 years since I staggered out of that psych ward. I hope, pray and believe I may be in ongoing recovery and that terminal lucidity may strike ANY day now.

            I can’t tell you how glad I am to read all your many comments. For Steve’s sake, at least, I pray to learn to emulate your brevity, “the soul of wit!”

            Thank you most of all for making me laugh, the surest sign of impending or returning sanity.

            Keep in a-rockin’ in The Free World.


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  5. Tom, Thank you first for your kind wishes and for your counting me among those who are trying to the best of my ability to bring about a more just and compassionate world. From what you have written, I can see that you join me in this work and commitment. And I know that there are many others as well. There are indeed those who, despite their difficult life conditions and many challenges and losses still find a way to transform their suffering in a way that expands beyond the narrow boundaries of their ego. For some suffering can indeed by transformative. The problem of suffering, including seeking to understand why bad things happen to good people and why so many people experience unmerited suffering, are subject which I have made a particular subject of study for many years. I have written considerably on the subject. In my book, Embracing Disillusionment, I devote an entire subject to suffering. I have been very influenced in my thinking about this daunting issue by Buddhist thinking, mystical literature, and the Iranaean theodicy advanced by the historian of religion, John Hick. What I have found through this study is the problem of suffering–accompanied by the problem of good and evil–have been the most daunting and challenging issues to thinkers throughout the ages. Among the proposals put forth is karma which is the Sanskrit word for “deed”. It is based on an impersonal moral order of the universe that the consequences of one’s actions naturally flow from them. The notion is that we can exert a certain degree of influence over our karma based on how we conduct our lives. When paired with reincarnation, some believe–as you observe–that individuals choose the life circumstances into which they are born in order to deal with their karmic debt and in the belief that the circumstances will enable the to learn certain important lessons that will advance their spiritual evolution.

    There is a certain logic to this understanding of why some people are born into adverse consequences. However, I feel a certain caution when it comes to karma. One reason for this is based on what the transpersonal psychologist, Ken Wilber, whose work I found very scholarly and compelling notes as different aspects of spirituality that all need to be taken into consideration. An excellent YouTube video on this is:

    Of particular importance is that spirituality as “waking up” or having a trans-egoic or mystical experience, has to be situated within spirituality under stood as a series of progressive stages.The meaning and understanding of what is disclosed in the experience depends on the stage at which one is at. Many of the great mystics had their experiences in the pre-modern stage. The truths put forth by these spiritual leaders are then understood and put into action by followers who are at the pre-modern stage which is characterized by magical and mythical thought. For example, slavery was practiced and even condoned by the major religions. It was not until the modern era that flowered during the Enlightenment, that the idea that every human being has inherent worth and dignity was set forth. This paved the way for democracy, anti-authoritarian adherence to religious dogma, and the end of slavery.

    I think that limitations of karma have to be understood in the same light. Karma has been used, for example, in India to justify the caste system. It has been used to essentially blame individuals for their poor lot in life or to see their suffering as deserving. In light of this, I feel a degree of caution about the idea that people choose the circumstances into which they are born. For example, when it comes to children being born–as my blog laid out–into such deleterious and damaging conditions that their life chances are extremely limited and that they experience neurological, biological, emotional, and psychological damage that is so profound that it cannot be remediated or removed, I fail to see how there are any realistic options for them to somehow find a means of using these circumstances as a means of breaking free of the attachments of the ego. The notion of justice did not exist among most people living in the pre-modern era. Yes, the great sages and prophets understood and proclaimed the cause of justice, but as we have seen the arc of justice is indeed very long and has taken the collective actions of countless people working with one mind and heart to move that arc. The truest characterization of an individual who willing accepts becoming reborn is what the Buddhists call the Bodhisattva or the Hindus call the Avatar. This is one who has freed himself or herself from the ego and has experienced the profound compassion that accompanies this. Although they no longer need to continue the ceaseless round of life and death (samsara) it is their profound compassion that leads them to return because they believe that they should not enter into nirvana or the state of bliss until all creatures do. There can be no more moving an exemplar of compassion that this.

    Best wishes to you as well.


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      A notion that there is such a thing as karma buys into a notion that there is such a thing as CORRECT CHOICE or WORTHY CHOICE.

      IF ALL ARE EQUAL then WHO gets to impose THEIR CHOICE about what is another person’s CORRECT CHOICE?
      IF ALL ARE EQUAL then WHY does one person’s perspective on someone else’s FREE CHOICE have more power or authority? Karma is in part about receiving LESSONS or LECTURES or PREACHINGS for making UNWORTHY CHOICES. As if there is a blueprint standard of angelic or spiritual excellence to which every man, woman and child and just everyone MUST aspire to.
      In this era having an ego has become synonymous with sin, and INCORRECT CHOICES.
      But IF ALL ARE EQUAL then it is a FREE CHOICE to have an ego, and it is a FREE CHOICE to not make choices that meet with anyone’s spiritual approval.

      ALL THE CREATURES in CREATION are not told how to “be” about their suffering. They are not told to get over it, or rise above it, or transmute it into wisdom or choral angelic singing, or realize that in their last life they must have eaten a gazelle and so DESERVE their suffering as a LESSON or as an incentive to ADVANCE spiritually, or to “get rid of” their filthy ego. ALL CREATURES, of which humans being mammals are also belonging to, ARE EQUAL and are FREE to make their CHOICES without nitpicking judgement from others. What this means is that a decadent libertine with a triumphant rock star ego is as free to choose who they prefer to be as is an atheist who does not believe in a lesson given God, and is as free as a Buddhist who believes they have all the answers in Buddhism. All of these FREE CHOICES are superb optional choices and allowing these upholds the knowledge ultimate that ALL ARE EQUAL.

      ALL FREE CHOICES are VALID if no one is above anyone else.

      The destruction of harmless FREEDOM OF CHOICE is VIOLENCE. No one should be in support of VIOLENCE.

      What often causes VIOLENCE is the imbalance within that comes through being deprived of your harmless FREEDOM OF CHOICE. That deprivaton of your FREE CHOICE can be imposed by those who think your choices are INCORRECT.

      If I CHOOSE to interpret MY SUFFERING in MY way then this is MY FREE CHOICE.

      The ego is NOT responsible for the demise of civilization. EVERYONE HAS AN EGO. If the ego were so very problematic humanity would have died our in the dawn of time, when the pleasantly show offy egotistical cave paintings were boldly drying on cave walls.

      It is time to look beyond the poor little ego that supports most frightened little humans on their journey through life and instead look at BULLYING. A person with a mega ego may be a philanthropist climate scientist or an artist or a brain surgeon working in a dug out in a warzone. Many what you might call GOOD people have an ego. Many what you might call BAD people have no ego but just meekly follow instructions to spiritually execute an innocent old man in a stadium or obediently follow rules to press the nuclear button.

      Humans need to discern the difference between innocuous FREE CHOICES and BULLYING. To stop BULLYING from becoming rampant humans need to let people have MORE of their harmless FREE CHOICES because this brings CALM and as CALM it IS A MEDICINAL antidote to BULLYING. A CALM person has no interest in bullying anyone else’s FREE CHOICE, to enjoy their ego or their atheism or their own interpretation of their suffering or indeed their own choice to believe that karma and reincarnation and lessons are really real.

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      • Over in another article titled “She Redefined Trauma Then Trauma Redefined Her” I found a bit that says….
        “…lays out a theory of justice designed to help them heal, centering on collective acknowledgement of what they have suffered…”

        This month an innocent eleven year old girl was enticed to a park where a gang of a dozen youths were waiting to beat her up. Elsewhere an innocent six year old girl was flung over a road and beaten up by a gang of youths. And in another area an innocent whole village united in fear of going out to do their shopping due to threats of violence from gangs of youths. In a city centre an innocent man was kicked unconscious by a gang of youths who left him for dead then went about their day as if nothing had happened.
        Something is wrong with the children who band together in such gangs. This will get worse.

        Well over a decade ago I was given prophecies about the future having a pandemic coming out of China. I was given prophecies about a five small meteors impacting the planet. I was given prophecies of a massive global flood arriving. I was given prophecies of a Hitler style global leader coming who would cause a regime. I was given prophecies of the global calander changing. I was given prophecies of the mass oppression of women. I was given prophecies of the rise in drug use and depression. I was given prophecies of dirty bombs being set off in cities. I was given prophecies of nuclear weapons being used. I was given prophecies of climate change being worse than humans are facing. I was given prophecies of climate scientists being ridiculed and disbelieved. I was given prophecies of the mercury rising and the ice caps melting. I was given prophecies of the ocean amoc streams that warm the weather shutting down and consequently plunging the northern hemisphere into an Ice Age, whilst the southern hemisphere will continue to warm. I was given prophecies of the northern hemisphere having famine and the southern hemisphere having drought. I was given prophecies of the massive increase in child sexual abuse. I was given prophecies of how children will attack other children.
        I was given prophecies of cities having few street lights and being over run by gangs of feral youths.
        I have to say here that these disasters are ones humanity will be visited upon for only a short while mostly, and that humans will move forward into an eventual future that will know better changes. A good enough future. But in the near future it will be challenging. On the subject of gangs of feral youths I have this to say…

        There can be NO justice without EQUALITY of POWER.
        I dare say that the gangs of youths who attempted to murder the eleven year old girl “….centered their collective acknowledgement of what THEY have suffered…”

        And what POWER does a six year old have while being filmed flung over a road?

        Are humans to never more draw a line that says murder, child sexual abuse, rape, assault are inexcusable because there now has to be a centering of collective knowledge about how the most brutal have suffered? The six year old…the eleven year old….NEEDS that line to be drawn, not erased by theories, or all forgiven away by dim notions of spiritual acceptance. There should be NO acceptance of sexual abuse, bullying, cruelty. When I say bullying I mean direct bullying that puts bruises on another.

        Having a dearth of FREEDOM OF CHOICE does indeed cause imbalance that further can lead to outward bullying behaviour but that does not mean we should excuse the bullying behaviour.

        Many people drink to excess and manage to wander home without getting run down on a busy street and they manage to fristle in their pocket and find their finicky front door key and minutely and dextrously zone it in on the lock and turn the key the right way and let themselves into their home and close the door. This implies that even in an inhebriated state of loss of control they still manage to manage their outward behaviour. If a drunk husband can manage to let himself into his home and yet then claims he cannot recall how he broke his wife’s ribs, we need to look at just how out of control “suffering” causes a person to be. Billions of people are suffering on our planet and yet they refrain from being outwardly bullying or violent.
        I say ALL ARE EQUAL but this does not mean therefore that if a youthful person has not experienced being equal that this suffering ENTITLES that youthful person to hurl a six year old over a road.
        I say FREEDOM OF CHOICE is essential to wellbeing but this does not give a youthful person a right to make choices that brutalize other people.

        If humans think that all bullying can be explained and excused by understanding that suffering may have led to such outbursts then humanity is en route to explaining and excusing the dropping of a nuclear bomb on a city, as once occured in history to places such as Nagasaki.
        Humans may say that violent gangs of youths prolifferate because of the way systemic injustice causes suffering. But in many countries on our globe there is excruciating suffering on a scale that dwarfs Western discomforts and yet there is often less disdain for communal values in those countries. A community or village cannot thrive if it permits or excuses direct bullying towards vulnerable children or other people.

        And yet this phenomenon of feral gangs is set to get much worse and be more widespread. Until younger children are so afraid for their lives that they dare not set foot outside during their entire childhood. Is their having such a locked in childhood any kind of justice? Does their bloody suffering not matter?

        The seeking of better justice in the world will not work without BALANCE. But humans are entering an era of widescale imbalance, so that humans can later appreciate what gets lost by being imbalanced or gets lost when humans are given to extreme views on any topic.

        Luckily last week what got lost was not a six year old. That wee girl is recovering physically. Emotionally she may never.

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  6. Theories are great, but in matters that are hidden, I’ve found calling a spade a spade far more useful:

    As I talk with learned people,
    I have heard a strange remark,
    Quite beyond my comprehension,
    And I’m stumbling in the dark.

    They advise: Don’t be too modest,
    Whatsoever things are said,
    Give to everything its color,
    Always call a spade a spade.

    Now I am not versed in Logic,
    Nor these high-flown classic things,
    And am not adept in solving
    Flighty aphoristic flings;

    So this proverb seems to baffle
    All the efforts I have made-
    Now what else is there to call it,
    When a spade is just a spade?????

    “A Spade Is Just A Spade”, by Walter Everette Hawkins, from

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  7. Frank, thank you very much for this.

    I see every single human being as a Bodhisattva, although clearly at various points in our journey of awakening to the realization that, certainly so long as human, and regardless of however enlightened, it appears (and presumably is meant to appear) that we have no absolutely free will, at all, very much as Eckhart Tolle suggests here:

    I disagree with Russell Crowe’s Maximus that if we find ourselves alone we can possibly be in Paradise, but I understand that humanity’s notions of Elysian afterlives may be derived from numerous varying and variable interpreted accounts of “near-death-experiences” down through the ages.

    In Hamish’s account,, he speaks amusingly of why he “came back.”

    I wonder if your ancestors stood where Hadrian’s Wall now lies and mooned or roared at the Romans, as some say the druids did, causing the Romans to have pause for thought…?

    “God” rest you merry, Frank and all!


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  8. Here’s one of the biggest toxic illusions of the 21st century: that answers to society’s problems are found in ivory towers.

    Definition for Ivory Towers: a metaphorical place—or an atmosphere—where people are happily cut off from the rest of the world in favor of their own pursuits, usually mental and esoteric ones; a place of intellectual isolation and privileged seclusion, protected from the problems of ordinary life

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  9. Dearest Tom,

    Thank you for your generous compliments, Tom. But I seriously doubt I’m in the same league as Bob Whitaker, Steve McCrea, Bruce Levine, or Simon et Al. However, I do enjoy reading quotes from the greats of antiquity. It seems to me they had the gift of common sense, something all too rare in today’s world. And thank you for thanking me for making you laugh, as helping people in any way I can is what matters most to me.

    Take care,

    P.S. What I’ve found helpful is letting feelings run their course, and remembering that this can lead to something better.

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    • That is one helluva profound PS, if ever there was one, Birdsong.

      ALWAYS better…

      You have revealed to me that to agree to be human to agree to be Sisyphus, one more time.

      In your own case, perhaps the nightingale of The Nightingale and the Rose is more apt.

      And that we each must do that for one another – only for Love and Love alone, to be found only when we have resigned ourselves to remaining lost, to finally crest the ridge once we have agreed to roll the rock forever, for Love?

      And you have revealed to me that there must be absolutely nothing that human listening cannot heal, and that every single last one of us can do that for one another – that we can extend that very same listening to one another by reading their words in the same spirit, wanting and willing and finally fully understanding.

      I see now that writers such as John Steinbeck and James Herriot can only have achieved all they did through the power of the loving listening bestowed on them by appreciative readers.

      I fully agree with you that contemporary Western psychiatry (psyche-iatry: soul-healing) is a religion. Like other religions, it contains some truth, some insight, some science, of course.

      Unlike other religions, however, it continues to have conferred on it state-sanctioned coercion, and therein, as Tom Szasz took such trouble to point out, lies its harm.

      You wrote that

      “We currently live in The Age of Psychiatric Hegemony.

      Or you could just call it the The Age of Diagnostic Oblivion.

      Definition for Oblivion: the state of being unaware or unconscious of what is really happening….” and I agree with this, all, too.

      But I reckon that, however haplessly, or obliviously, we are all perpetrators of the obliviousness. Those involved in coercive psychiatry and Big Pharma are no more “evil” than I am – no more oblivious of how they might serve more and harm less than I am right now: if only we all KNEW better, we’d all DO better, for that’s how sisyphuses all ARE.

      Thanks in great measure to Bob Whitaker et al at MIA, and to every single one of the contributors here, however, so much light is being shone into Oblivion that the black hole is being transmuted to purest pure light – or so I believe.

      From Min. 15:45 (or especially Min. 16:45) to Min. 17:27 of this

      we are offered some insight how to deep compassionate, “peer-support” listening can heal both or all parties, don’t you thing?

      I see Bob and MIA and you and other contributors as all making such transformations routine in these blogs, don’t you?

      And I can assure you that it is more than abundantly clear from your abundant comments that your deepest desire is to simply serve, and to help everyone to, and I have not words to express how heartening and inspiring I find this.

      Maybe one room of Heaven is us all sitting around agreeing,

      “Yeah, man, I HATE it when that happens,” and knowing it, and meaning it, and laughing at it – all over again?

      Thank you for listening, and for healing, Birdsong, and for the laughter.


      “The measure of Love is to love without measure…and the sooner we fall behind, the longer we have to catch up.”

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      • Tom,
        I definitely agree that compassionate listening can help people in physical and emotional pain. And I think it helps because it lets them know they’re not alone and someone truly cares, and this can do wonders for relieving tension in the mind and body, which is the first step in relieving pain—instead being handed prescriptions for this, that, and the other thing.

        I remember that right before I was put out for surgery, the doctor looked into my eyes, squeezed my hand tightly, and told me I’d be okay, which helped me more than anything.

        And while religious faith can do good things, psychiatry has no hard facts to back up its claims—which it should have, since it claims to be a biological science. And the crazy part is that it demands a religious obedience from “patients”.

        And I truly believe that places like MIA are slowly but surely changing things for the better.

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        • Thank you, Birdsong.

          Apart from knowing, as you say, “that someone truly cares” – enough to listen – do you believe there may be more to listening and to feeling listened to than that, please?

          I ask this because I think this is most tremendously important, by the way.

          And I think it no coincidence that the letters of “silent” and “listen”…

          Thank you, again.


          “There ARE no coincidences…only things which MUST be, taking us by surprise.”

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  10. Very well said, Birdsong and Steve.

    You’ve both made me smile, once again, thank you very much indeed.

    I actually consider myself a pretty lousy listener, poorly practicing what I preach. Very, very occasionally, though, when I actually get or actually allow an actual interlocutur to actually get going a bit, it is as though I can hear a silent voice screaming in my right ear, “Now, shut the **** up and listen!”….to which my unvarying silent response is, “Oh, my GOD: Ya mean all those other times – when I didn’t – that I actually wasn’t meant to, either, after all?!” But, of course, God never replies to this.

    As far as I know, there is as yet no widely accepted or publicized science to suggest that it makes any difference for a person to be listened to as against merely believing that they are being listened to.Maybe there is, though? I may be mistaken?

    I believe this is because mainstream science does not yet want to believe or to know that there is.

    Perhaps it rightly senses that this would change everything radically, and forever?

    Perhaps the very possibility of “spooky action at a distance,” still spooks scientists?

    Perhaps science is not yet ready for the answer to the hard problem of Consciousness?

    But perhaps we are, here?

    Do you know what happened when Michele Besso (“the best sounding board in Europe,” and born 150 years ago this month) listened intently to Albert Einstein 118 years ago this month?

    I believe there are numerous grounds for believing that sentient beings can sense attention, including the quality and intensity of one’s listening to them.

    A bird (yeah: n = 1) came and perched on the very top of an orange tree near me this afternoon. I directed my gaze and all – or as nearly all as I could manage – of my attention towards her/him, willing her/him to approach me and/or otherwise respond to my attention.

    S/he gazed right back at me. Naturally enough.

    Then, s/he began to sing. Naturally enough.

    Just a few short lines whose words I did not understand.

    Of Birdsong.

    When she turned and swooped away, I was disappointed…until I saw that she had joined one of her own kind in another tree nearby.

    Obviously, when we are sitting close to someone, the quality and intensity of our listening may be judged from our facial expressions and body language, and by our eyes, themselves, too (which opens up more, similar questions….), but down a phone “line,” say, does either of you, please, Birdsong or Steve, or anyone, believe we can truly sense whether and how we are being listened to?

    Do you believe there may be any evidence whatsoever to suggest that we can, please?

    Thank you both very much indeed, again.


    “‘Live Music Is Better’ bumper stickers
    Should be issued.” – Neil Young.

    “Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart.”

    “Listening is often the only thing needed to help someone.”

    – Thich Nhat Hanh.

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  11. I would agree with Thich Nhat Hahn.

    But I don’t know of any failsafe way of discerning if someone’s really listening to me or not; it’s usually just a feeling I get from mostly impromptu situations. But lord knows there’s plenty of good actors out there, and a lot of them happen to be “therapists”.

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  12. Thank you, Birdsong, very much.

    If only therapists all knew what “just” listening with all one’s attention, with one’s heart, with all one’s presence, with all that one has ever experienced, or with all one’s being, and with no intention of passing any judgement or even comment, whatsoever…if only they knew what this can achieve, no doubt they would do it. No doubt we all would do it. And no doubt there would be no more mass shootings, either by folks who believe the “mental disorder” labels affixed to them or by others. I mean, I have no doubt about this, anyway.

    Before telling what I understand of that fateful meeting between Albert Einstein and Michele Besso (which occurred perhaps 118 years ago today), may I ask if you have a cat in the house, please?

    If so, as you may already know, you may have at your disposal the most reliable listening device known to us.

    If you sit quietly and peacefully, relaxed but alert, perhaps thinking of or visualizing that cat, or perhaps not, a cat may quickly find you and make her way over to you from another part of the room.

    If this happens consistently enough, one may become convinced that a phenomenon is at work.

    Perhaps that cat senses your brain waves?

    If, however, she finds you equally promptly and consistently from another room, it may seem unlikely that she can have detected your brain waves.

    Also, if you can consistently promptly produce purring from your cat simply by becoming very focused on her, while relaxed and alert, this, too, may reinforce your suspicions that your state of mind or field of consciousness has physical effects which may soon be measurable by other, human-made devices.

    Perhaps it was not “the best sounding board in Europe” but “der beste Resonanzboden in Europa,” that Albert called Michele, and perhaps “resonance” hints at what happens better than sounding?

    “Then she gets you in her wavelength
    And she lets the river answer…” – L. Cohen.

    Or see from approx. Min. 21:55 of this, please:

    I believe Einstein had been driven almost to exhaustion and despair by his perhaps six years of frustrations in finding the solution to his problems in expressing his Special Theory of Relativity…when he decided to call over to Besso’s house that (maiutic) May evening.

    Story goes that he poured out his heart to Michele…who “merely” listened.

    Next day, Albert called to thank Michele, informing him that he had gone back home the evening before and FINALLY solved the whole thing.

    I believe he did not mention either Michele or, indeed, his wife, Mileva Marić either in his Nobel lecture or in his Nobel acceptance speech…any more than he acknowledged that, had whoever towed our moon into position not seen to it that, viewed from Earth, it was as close in diameter to the sun as to make the 1919 confirmation of his theory possible during a solar eclipse (when clouds parted just long enough?) he might not have lived to receive that prize.

    I believe he spent the latter part of his career in search of some theory of Everything.

    I believe that, right in front of him that May evening in 1905, he may have witnessed his Theory of Everything, Consciousness, and Spooky Action at a Distance all occuring, affirming and being confirmed, had he only thought about it…long enough.

    I believe he said or wrote:

    “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”


    “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.”

    “The inclination to exchange thoughts with one another is probably an original impulse of our nature. If I be in pain I wish to let you know it, and to ask your sympathy and assistance; and my pleasurable emotions also, I wish to communicate to, and share with you.” – Abraham Lincoln.

    “I have lived with several Zen masters – all of them cats.” – Eckhart Tolle.

    Birdsong, thank you very, very, VERY much indeed for listening. I know I could not have found these words without your listening, and I feel immensely grateful.

    I can offer other evidence which I believe supports the notion that our listening matters much more than we imagine, or our science suggests, but I’d really love to hear more from you first, please.

    Heartfelt thanks.


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  13. Tom,
    Sadly I no longer have a cat, but I have no trouble believing that cats (and other animals), can sense our emotions (or brain waves) in ways humans cannot. And as humans we all need to be heard from time to time, and sometimes the pets we love seem to know this on an instinctual level. And I agree with you that good listening can’t be overestimated, but I also believe it’s compromised by people who listen with one ear and “diagnose” with the other.

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