Bradley Lewis works at the intersections of medicine, psychiatry, philosophy, the psychological humanities, mad studies, and disability studies, balancing roles as both a humanities professor and a practicing psychiatrist.

Lewis earned degrees in psychiatry (MD) and Interdisciplinary Humanities (PhD) from George Washington University, and he currently holds an associate professorship at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. He also has affiliations with NYU’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, the Department of Psychiatry, and the Disability Studies Minor. Additionally, he serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Medical Humanities.

His books include Moving Beyond Prozac, DSM, and the New Psychiatry: The Birth of Postpsychiatry, Narrative Psychiatry: How Stories Shape Clinical Practice, and Depression: Integrating Science, Culture, and Humanities. He has two books forthcoming: Experiencing Epiphanies in Literature and Cinema and a co-edited Mad Studies Reader. His writing offers unique insights into the hegemonic foundations of mental health and champions the role of narrative in therapy.

His work also actively bridges the gap between academia and on-the-ground initiatives. A founding member of the Institute for the Development of Human Arts (IDHA), Lewis champions a paradigm shift in mental health by facilitating collaboration between advocates, service users, and clinicians.

His profound appreciation for the humanities guides his exploration of mental health, often through the lens of art and literature. By analyzing the lives of figures like Vincent Van Gogh or dissecting Chekhov’s narratives, Lewis encourages us to rethink and expand our understanding of psychological experiences.

Join us as we explore the philosophical foundations, practical implications, and transformative potential of his work.


The transcript below has been edited for length and clarity. Listen to the audio of the interview here.

Justin Karter: You live at a pretty unique intersection with medicine and psychiatry on the one hand and the humanities, philosophy, and disability studies on the other. How did you find yourself walking these two roads simultaneously?

Bradley Lewis: Well, I guess it goes back to — I originally trained in medicine and psychiatry. I did my residency in psychiatry in the 1980s. It was a time when psychiatry was toggling back and forth between the biomedical model and the psychoanalytic model. I was at George Washington University, and our department had the last standing psychoanalytic chair.

I was very impressed with how the two worlds of bio-psychiatry and psychoanalysis created wholly different ways of understanding. In one, you look for causal, mechanical understandings and then apply biological interventions. The other is much more about humans, more meaning-oriented, and it’s through talking.

I found this dichotomy so fascinating, and it seemed nobody in psychiatry was really discussing it. So, I ventured across the campus and began taking classes in philosophy, literature, the arts, and anthropology. I wanted to grasp what it meant that these two distinct ways of making sense existed in psychiatry. I believed that by turning to the arts and humanities, we could expand our understanding of this range of possibilities. As a result, I pursued a PhD in Interdisciplinary Arts and Humanities.

I felt a problem with psychiatry was that it was over-disciplined. Even psychoanalysis, it seemed, was narrow. People mainly referenced other psychoanalysts. It was a world where there were clear foundational figures, and most of the readings in psychoanalytic classes were from other psychoanalysts. I wanted to step outside those confines. Hence, I pursued this Interdisciplinary PhD, and I’ve been bridging these domains ever since.

Interestingly, there are a few interdisciplinary academic programs out there. New York University has one called the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. It’s for people who feel that while depth of discipline is crucial, we have many specialists and not enough individuals connecting the dots across fields. Gallatin is a place that values this. I joined their faculty, and on one day of the week, I practice psychiatry.


Karter: It seems that one of the clear benefits of your interdisciplinary training, as evident in your work, is the ability to view psychiatry through the lens of other disciplines. This approach situates the diverse ways of thinking in psychiatry within broader ideological and political movements. I’m particularly drawn to your work on post-psychiatry. Could you expand on how you’ve come to conceptualize what post-psychiatry is? Furthermore, how does this interdisciplinary and philosophical approach allow us to perceive psychiatry and the mental health fields from a unique perspective?

Lewis: During my PhD in Interdisciplinary Arts and Humanities, post-structural theory and postmodern philosophy were very much the common languages. Interdisciplinary thinkers like Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, and Julia Kristeva were seen as having insights relevant to many disciplines. I felt that their perspectives were incredibly pertinent to psychiatry.

Rather than viewing psychiatry as a modernist discourse, striving continuously towards an objective truth, postmodern theory encourages us to perceive psychiatry as a means of formulating useful meanings to navigate the world. This perspective emphasizes not just the meanings themselves, but also the individuals involved in creating them. It raises questions about power dynamics: Who gets to participate in this meaning-making process?

This is evident at the point of service, when a patient might be asked if they prefer electroshock therapy, psychoanalysis, or family therapy. Moreover, it probes deeper, asking who has a voice in shaping the foundational knowledge of psychiatry. I believed that postmodern theory could broaden psychiatry’s vision, allowing it to transition from a singular viewpoint to a multi-lensed perspective. Thus, post-psychiatry aims to establish the foundation for such an interdisciplinary approach.


Karter: From this perspective, psychiatry is not just seeking the truth about the cause of mental illness; it’s actively engaged in the process of interpreting mental distress and determining who gets a say in that interpretation. Post-psychiatry introduces these questions to the field. So, when we view psychiatry through this lens, what answers emerge? What do we discern about psychiatry and the mental health fields when we question the nature of the meanings they produce and for whose benefit?

Lewis: Well, I think the first thing that becomes apparent is the tremendous diversity of perspectives and how the modernist logic – that one view is correct while all others are mistaken, or one holds the truth while others are myths – doesn’t quite stand up. Once you acknowledge that no single perspective is inherently superior, you’re forced to consider how decisions are made.

Currently, these decisions often rest with those in positions of power. This insight fundamentally challenges the established structure of psychiatry, arguing for the inclusion of a broader range of voices. However, post-psychiatry doesn’t necessarily dictate where psychiatry should head or its final form. It doesn’t claim the mainstream is the wrong path, but rather that it isn’t the only valid one. It doesn’t denounce checkers as a game but argues it’s not the ultimate game. The emphasis shifts to inclusivity and ensuring fairness within this diversity.


Karter: One challenge I’ve encountered in my work is balancing a critical, overarching viewpoint of the role mental health fields play with the tangible impact on individual client interactions. Your work on narrative psychiatry intrigued me, particularly how you’ve bridged post-psychiatry and critical psychiatry with your actual practice of psychotherapy. Could you elaborate on this? How does narrative psychiatry shape your clinical practice? And how might your approach differ from someone not influenced by narrative theory or a post-psychiatry perspective?

Lewis: Indeed, I find narrative theory immensely helpful. It distills complex philosophical issues like language and power, grounding them in the tangible realm of available language options we use to narrate our stories.

When confronted with a mental difference or distress, we lean on narrative tools to articulate our experiences. Key among these tools are metaphor, plot, character, and point of view.

Metaphors, in particular, are intriguing. Many models describing mental differences hinge on foundational metaphors. Terms like “broken brain,” “childhood trauma,” “unresolved grief,” and “family dysfunction” come to mind. Then there are also the more celebratory metaphors, likening someone to an artist with heightened sensitivity, attuned to nuances others might miss. These metaphors help us frame our past, interpret our present, and envision our future.

In mainstream settings, there’s often an unconscious reliance on these metaphors to guide understanding. For instance, the prevalent “chemical imbalance” narrative might lead to recommendations like medication. It becomes a default narrative, often adopted without deeper reflection.

By incorporating narrative theory, the therapeutic process becomes markedly collaborative. The individual, whose life and story are central, assumes a pivotal role in shaping their narrative. This approach delves into the specifics of an individual’s life, juxtaposed against broader philosophical frameworks of post-psychiatry. It’s about discerning how best to structure one’s life journey.


Karter: I’m curious. When you’re working with a client who has latched onto a metaphor, like the “broken brain” metaphor — which holds considerable cultural sway and is often endorsed by the psychiatric establishment and even pharmaceutical companies — how do you approach it? If you believe their adherence to this metaphor is hindering their progress, how do you introduce alternative metaphors or suggest a more nuanced understanding, especially when such a metaphor has become integral to their self-conception? How do you handle this in practice?

It really comes down to a dialogue, a conversation. Often, the key decision is choosing between a pathological metaphor and a more celebratory one. Mainstream perspectives, whether they’re biological, psychoanalytic, or cognitive-behavioral, usually imply something is ‘wrong’ or ‘broken’ that requires fixing. But a celebratory or affirmative model views these deviations from the norm more as gifts than dysfunctions. These ‘gifts’ often revolve around heightened sensitivity or profound yearning.

Such sensitive individuals frequently clash with societal norms, leading to advice like “see a therapist” or “take medication.” However, we don’t advise figures like Martin Luther King to be less sensitive to injustice, nor would we tell spiritual leaders to suppress their profound insights. Artists, too, are celebrated for their heightened sensitivity.

The fundamental question then becomes: Are we overly pathologizing this trait? Or is it a form of sensitivity that, though not always comfortable, offers a depth of understanding and perception that many might overlook? Recognizing this sensitivity or yearning doesn’t invalidate the challenges they bring, but it reframes them, moving from seeing them as purely negative to potentially insightful and transformative.


Karter: From this viewpoint, it seems that the biomedical metaphor in psychiatry could marginalize or even pathologize political dissent. Your work in madness studies suggests it holds political implications, challenging psychiatry to be more receptive to critiques from service users, peer specialists, social activists, and journalists, like those of us at Mad In America. Could you elaborate on the role of madness studies and how it might pave the way for more democratic practices within psychiatry?

Lewis: Absolutely. Mainstream psychiatry, as illustrated by platforms like Mad In America, has often been a point of contention. Many individuals have felt harmed by traditional psychiatric practices and have organized as activists to challenge or modify its influence. If you attend an American Psychiatric Association event, you’d often witness a protest movement outside. If these protests are only interpreted through a pathological lens, we risk missing the deeper insights these activists offer on how psychiatry could evolve.

This shift can be better understood when aligned with other societal difference issues like racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and sanism. While sanism might not yet be as widely recognized, it mirrors the same insidious othering and subordination based on prejudice.

Mad studies, much like gender or disability studies, aims to improve conditions for those marginalized because of their differences. Rather than focusing on changing the individual, the emphasis is on transforming society to be more inclusive and appreciative of diverse perspectives. This also fosters a coalition between activists seeking psychiatric reform and academics, who, through intersectionality, have been considering issues of race, sex, gender, and ability. Incorporating sanism into this intersectional understanding is a logical progression.

Given the rise of disability studies, which now encompasses mental and cognitive differences, the momentum for mad studies continues to grow. It’s about channeling already established understandings of ‘difference’ in academia towards areas that have yet to receive as much attention.


Karter: You’ve alluded to the protests outside the American Psychiatric Association meetings. This leads me to wonder, instead of a divide between protestors and psychiatrists, is there a way for dissenting voices to have an influential seat at the table and help shape the future of psychiatry? What might an American Psychiatric Association meeting look like under a more democratic framework in psychiatry?

Lewis: As it stands now, psychiatry hasn’t been particularly open to that idea. Ideally, there’d be more organized democracy, inviting different stakeholders. The individuals impacted by the knowledge base of psychiatry span much wider than just psychiatrists.

Taking from the disability studies mantra, “nothing about us without us,” those who are affected by the knowledge – be it service users, family members, or even community members – should have a say in how that knowledge is created. But, traditionally, psychiatry hasn’t been open to this democratic approach. Philosophically, psychiatry holds the view that good knowledge is tested through empirical methods, not necessarily shaped by democratic consensus.

So, democratizing knowledge might come through alternative means. Maybe through grassroots organizing, platforms like Mad In America, or even the arts, which provides a vast and rich exploration of the human experience. While there currently isn’t a structure in place to invite such diverse stakeholders into the process, it’s a vision worth pursuing.


Karter: That’s an excellent segue. I wanted to ask you about the Institute for the Development of Human Arts (IDHA). It’s an alternative outside of the medical model, addressing mental health and distress by aiming to bring a new discourse through democratic collaboration among advocates, service users, and clinicians. As a co-founder, could you tell us how this organization began? What’s the vision there?

Lewis: Certainly. IDHA represents a shift in the activist community from just critique to reimagining in many ways. Critique has its place and remains a significant part of various protests. However, as time has passed, many critics began to ponder the potential—what services might they prefer? How might Mutual Aid tactics be applied more broadly?

Even SAMSA began to realize the value of incorporating those with lived experience into hospitals and clinics. The idea is that without these firsthand perspectives, there’s a risk of alienating certain individuals.

IDHA’s aim is to curate curriculums that address what’s been overlooked or what stakeholders believe should be discussed more. And it’s not just about including those with lived experiences. The goal is to make them well-informed. If we train peer workers only in the mainstream, then their perspectives won’t differ from it. So, the question becomes: what kind of foundational education would benefit both the mainstream and peer workers?

IDHA’s inception involved activists. Jazmine Russell, with her educational background at NYU and her personal experiences in community mental health, teamed up with Peter Stastny, a long-time reform-minded psychiatrist. The Icarus Project, which was evolving to be more proactive in building knowledge bases, had many members get involved.

So now, it’s more than just protests. It’s about presenting new ideas and methods, promoting democratic procedures, and understanding the essence of Mutual Aid.

They employ a mix of strategies to stay operational. Some content might come with fees, others are offered free, and some are backed by grants. They’re not aiming for exclusive knowledge or profit. The goal is to disseminate information as widely as possible.


Karter: At the Institute for Development of the Human Arts, there’s an emphasis on how the arts and humanities can reshape the mental health field. Similarly, you’ve recently discussed the mental health humanities or the psychological humanities as potential ways forward. I’ve also noticed you referencing Vincent van Gogh as an illustration of how art and history might challenge our perceptions of mental difference and disability. Can you share more about that case and what insights Van Gogh provides regarding mental health?

Lewis: Indeed, the arts, broadly speaking, represent an interdisciplinary space that encapsulates the vast range of the human experience. It contrasts with my training where, even though I was exposed to varied perspectives like psychoanalysis and bio-psychiatry, the narratives often fell short of capturing the holistic nature of individuals’ lives. When people share their struggles, they don’t confine their stories to a single discipline. Their stories blend biology with spirituality, childhood memories with current political events, and so much more. The arts have always provided a platform for such multifaceted narratives, outside of academic silos.

From the arts, we can both learn and find therapeutic avenues for ourselves and our communities. Taking Van Gogh as an example: no matter how you interpret his life, his profound sensitivity stands out.

If you visit the library and research books on Van Gogh, roughly half might pathologize him, offering various potential pathologies. The remaining books often celebrate him, suggesting we can learn from Van Gogh, seeing him as a beacon in our lives. He isn’t necessarily broken, but rather, someone who can heal. Many aspects he was sensitive about resonate with topics we discuss today.

Early in his life, Van Gogh was drawn to religion, influenced by his father’s religious vocation. He harbored deep sympathy for the poor and suffering, aspiring to elevate their spiritual consciousness. Over time, his focus shifted more toward a spiritual and natural connection than a strictly theological one. Still, his art emanates an indescribable spiritual connection.

I attended a Van Gogh retrospective at MASS MoCA a few years ago. The atmosphere was electric. Attendees were captivated by his work, especially those iconic swirls. Moreover, Van Gogh was acutely sensitive to issues of inequality and oppression. His artwork often features the downtrodden or marginalized. He belonged to a post-French Revolution era where artists believed that to instill dignity in every individual, change needed to be channeled through the arts as well as politics.

For us to truly value and dignify every individual, our perception must change. Van Gogh’s work aids in recognizing the intrinsic worth of all, regardless of social status.

Of course, another aspect he was deeply sensitive to was the transformative power of art. Art has the potential to reach and profoundly touch people, serving as a medium to convey deep understanding. While his sensitivity was undoubtedly a gift, Van Gogh also faced considerable suffering and challenges. So, how do we interpret Van Gogh? Do we pathologize him or celebrate him? Which lens do we choose? His life presents a myriad of interpretative possibilities.

We can’t truly know how Van Gogh would want his life to be understood. If we consider the Van Gogh within each of us, how would we wish our stories to be told? Different individuals will have varying perspectives. It’s not about pinpointing a singular “truth” of Van Gogh as a celebration or pathology. There are numerous interpretations, and the ones we embrace influence how we view life. These aren’t merely philosophical considerations but also decisions about our personal identities and how we choose to navigate our lives.


Karter: It seems like the depth and complexity of Van Gogh’s work sort of confounds our ability to impose a readymade model on him to understand who he was as a person. We can examine his biography, viewing it through various lenses, but then we also have to wrestle with his art, which encourages us to perceive the world differently—perhaps even as he did for a time. The way of seeing and being that his work invites us to makes plain the utter futility of simply applying a diagnostic label or some sort of shallow metaphor to make sense of his life. It pushes us to think beyond the immediate frameworks we typically use to interpret the world.

Lewis: Yes, and I think that’s right. I believe it’s largely because Van Gogh had a distinct voice. I mean, as Foucault said, the history of psychiatry is framed as the “monologue of reason.” And Foucault highlighted that once experts begin to give their verdicts, other voices are muted. But with Van Gogh, you hear him through his art. It’s not just the expert’s voice that prevails; with his art, there’s a powerful dialogue. His work has such weight that you simply can’t dismiss it.


Karter: In addition to Van Gogh, you’ve offered analyses of several of Chekhov’s short stories to call for a deeper appreciation of the complexities of the lived realities of depression and melancholia. Is there a particular story you can present for us to illustrate your point?

Well, when considering medicine and psychiatry, Chekhov emerges as a profoundly useful model. In him, there’s a rich interdisciplinarity. On one side, he’s a medical physician, trained, practiced, and deeply rooted in the medical realm. Conversely, he’s an acclaimed short story writer and playwright, revered nearly to the level of Shakespeare in terms of his influence on theatre arts and short stories. This duality allowed him to perceive the world through the lens of medicine while simultaneously viewing it through the language of art.

Indeed, Chekhov’s work features many doctors, each with their own unique perspective. They don’t represent a monolithic voice. In Chekhov, we find someone deeply invested in medicine, yet he understands that it represents just one viewpoint among many. A doctor’s narrative isn’t necessarily an unfiltered reflection of reality.

Moreover, Chekhov himself faced significant hardships. He grappled with personal despair and sadness and succumbed to tuberculosis at a young age. His writings hint at a spiritual depth that’s rare in a secular world. He was keenly aware of societal injustices, and his stories often highlight humans striving amidst overwhelming challenges.

In a recent paper that Jussi Valtonen and I wrote, we analyzed Chekhov’s story “A Nervous Breakdown.” The story centers around a young law student who is acutely sensitive to oppression. More so than his peers, which include a medical student and an art student. As they spend an evening at a brothel, he becomes deeply disturbed by the blatant oppression in the sex worker trade. This heightened awareness leads him to a breakdown. But should we view this heightened sensitivity as a negative trait? As we’ve discussed, while such sensitivity can be admirable, it can also be overwhelming.

And when he consults a clinician, the approach is solely scientific. This overlooks the depth of his despair and offers him a rather superficial treatment, neglecting the complexity of his experience. This is highly relevant to today’s context.


Karter: And specifically, in your recent book, you explore depression and melancholia through the lens of the humanities. How does the depiction of depression differ from the clinical perspective when you delve into the works of Chekhov for insights on melancholia, or study Van Gogh’s pieces to understand suffering? How would you define or describe depression? I’m hesitant to even use that term, but what alternative understanding of that experience do you present?

Well, when we ask, “What is depression?” we must remember that it’s essentially a term. History offers a lens to challenge our current understanding. Examining the historical record reveals diverse interpretations of what we now refer to as melancholia or depression. Notably, it’s not always the same concept, even though the name changes. Each label slightly shifts its definition. For example, the term “melancholia” originates from the idea of black bile, rooted in the ancient humoral system. Today, the notion of bile seems foreign and nonsensical to us. It was thought to make people sluggish and heavy. But did we label people as sluggish because we believed they had an excess of black bile? Or did the theory of humors lead us to categorize individuals based on observable traits, such as that which matched our concept of black bile? It appears that we often categorized people based on these theories as much as the theories were based on observed behaviors.

We all have unique belly buttons and ears, but we don’t use these differences to segregate spaces like bathrooms. There are myriad ways we could categorize ourselves. Terms like “melancholia” appear to originate and then evolve, shifting over time.

Considering history, cultural diversity, subcultural nuances, and the arts provide diverse lenses to challenge a monolithic interpretation. The question then arises: How can both our mental health system and individuals striving to understand themselves do justice to these varied perspectives?


Karter: I’m intrigued by your perspective on the future trajectory of psychiatry and mental health fields. With the rise of social media and organized movements, we’re seeing a diversification of narratives. These range from neurodiversity and psychoanalytic concepts to biomedical terminology. People are shaping their self-perceptions and forming communities around these narratives. Do you think these emerging perspectives challenge traditional psychiatry? Is there potential for a more democratic inclusion of these diverse voices? How optimistic are you that the field will genuinely welcome these perspectives?

Lewis: I’m genuinely optimistic. The dominance of the biomedical model seems to be waning. Entities like Mad in America, academic contributions, and protest movements have all played roles in this shift. The lived experiences of many underscore its limitations. Additionally, the financial incentives behind this model are changing, especially as fewer products remain under patent. It feels like we’re entering a phase where the conversation is broadening. There’s a renewed interest in psychotherapy. Moreover, with the emergence of fields like Disability Studies and now, Mad Studies, more individuals are becoming aware of the diverse perspectives available.

I’m drawn to the concept of mental health humanities. Similarly, psychology is exploring areas like psychological humanities. Throughout my career, I’ve engaged in interdisciplinary areas such as medical and health humanities. These fields question how medicine and broader healthcare can harness the arts and humanities to enhance clinical empathy, understanding, and narrative competency. The appealing aspect is that this integration doesn’t necessitate a complete overhaul. You don’t need to entirely replace the biomedical model. In medicine, it might be a matter of supplementing the existing model with fresh perspectives and offering additional certifications, courses, and programs. Essentially, it’s about infusing an appreciation for the arts and humanities within the healthcare community. Moreover, considering the prevalent burnout and emotional fatigue among healthcare professionals, the arts and humanities could play a role in rejuvenating their sense of purpose and meaning.

I appreciate the concept of integrating the arts and humanities into the realm of mental health. It would be beneficial for psychology, social work, and psychiatry departments to incorporate aspects of the arts and humanities. Some faculty members should have ties with these disciplines and specific classes should be dedicated to them. This would foster a more diverse and less monological perspective.


Karter: Thank you. Before we conclude today, are there any final thoughts or anything else you’d like to share with our readers or listeners?

Lewis: Actually, I believe we’ve covered a lot. Justin, I’d be interested in interviewing you someday. I genuinely admire what Mad in America is accomplishing, and I appreciate your initiative in amplifying diverse voices. This, in my eyes, is truly a form of democracy—making sure multiple perspectives are heard. Overall, I feel more celebratory than anything.





MIA Reports are supported, in part, by a grant from The Thomas Jobe Fund.


  1. “Narrative Psychiatrist”? LOL!, LOL!,LOL!,….
    I’m surprised that “Comedic Psychiatrist” hasn’t been neologismized yet….
    ….or “Parody Psychiatrist”, or “Satire Psychiatrist”, …..

    May I assume that “Narrative Psychiatry” is NOT biologically based?
    It would be “literature based”, or “literally based”, or “poetically based”, or “prose based”,
    or something. Or “drama based”?

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  2. It seems that when psychiatry still allows people to be sectioned, violently drugged and persecuted all these intellectual ideas are not helpful. Most professionals in this area have a top-down attitude and believe that the more qualifications they have the better.
    In the real world, we are all people who live and die. Psychiatry has a bad past and an even more dismal future.
    Very sadly, recently, some MindFreedom Ireland members have been sectioned.
    I dedicate this short section of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata to all the many people who have endured iatrogenic harm, persecution and torture by white-coated medics.
    To be sectioned and drugged against your will is not only very degrading, it is a legal form of abuse blessed by the state. It causes severe trauma created by a delusional system that dares to call its captured consumers delusional. It is completely lacking any human empathy. It treats vulnerable human beings as objects to be controlled. Irish tribunals rarely are on the side of psychiatric prisoners. Today, it is heartbreaking to hear one of my very good friends describe what she had to go through and then be injected with a drug that is capable of causing so many serious adverse effects, even lobotomy. Shortly before she had been in the same institution and was just getting on her feet again.
    In order to be calm and peaceful human beings’ violence cannot work. Of course, it creates more trouble in body, mind and spirit and more customers for those who profit!
    Let us BE!

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  3. You know give the guy a break. He is trying and likes MIA. You can be as angry as you want for past experience but use that anger constructively if possible and throwing wrenches into a possible cohort machine not the best idea.if you look at all those in history who resisted institutional systems of all types and tropes sometimes they had to with invisible clothespins on their noses work with those they not only disagreed with it caused harm.Really easy to be uncivil and sometimes fun but the true work comes from being civil and kind to those who do not warrant it in your eyes. See The Madwoman of Chaillott in the scene with Josephine.

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    • Well, I do not agree with wanton violence, even if it is of the verbal kind.

      That being said, debating, arguing, understanding, agreeing and collaborating sometimes involve acidic, even offensive statements. What I read, sounds satirical or sarcastic.

      The history, law and jurisprudence of free speech, proves as much.

      And, for the MIA crowd and beyond, arguing for stuff that is clearly undefensible, sometimes patently ridiculous makes in the long run more harm than good. Seen as trying to at the very least, at a minimun, making psychiatry less harmfull. At the very least, possibly agreed objective.

      At least because, if not questioned within the community in time, it turns opponents to the HARM of current psychiatrical approaches sound like cranks, ingnorant, ill-willed or deluded.

      Which, to my mind, Bradley Lewis, arguably, does not sound like, on the contrary, his approach is to me understandable, defendible, and even if around the edges to me disagreable.

      So, yeah, sometimes trying to push the current state of affairs into a commonly, at the minimun, agreed direction involves some verbal rough handling around the edges, sometimes directly. But, as a comforting even justifying, humbling, thought:

      Who would you prefer to point the caveats of your position? Mr. Aftab?, Mr. Lieberman?. CNN?, MSNBC? Truth Social?

      or the crowd at MIA?.

      I bet at the minimum, most if not all MIAsers want to minimize the harm. And that requires a defensible position, the other crowd, admitedly, for the most part, seem nasty, and are going to be ruled by less civility…

      Implicitly agreed, some folks at MIA are looking for a refuge, at least a narrative one. And that’s a balance for all MIAsers to ponder, the consideration of the other’s positions, and saddly, where they come from. Which should not be the case: we should not gather anywhere because where we come from.

      Like refugees…

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  4. So, following the argument post-psychiatry either lacks truth, AN objective truth or is some sort of relativism?. The last despised in current ethical approaches, AFIK.

    And finding meaning is not in line with finding reasons, causes or explanations in the post-modern world, i.e. after the 70s.

    And funny, that for training during the critical, awfull last transition of psychiatry, the fields of interest do not mention ethology, particularly of the non-human primate. Our brother-cousins, as Fouts wrote.

    Specially telling because around the 70s, the Naked Ape by Desmond Morris, and in the 80s and 90s the work of Helen Fisher, more ethological than anthropolical to me, were prominent in the discourse.

    The animal nature of humans was at least in vogue, as opposed to a limited humanist, rationalist or superiority, power based approaches. Although competition, being part of evolution might intersect with power dynamics. But chimps do that too!. Even the females in multiples become aggressive against abussive dominant males, talk about power imbalance of a natural kind.

    I guess searching for meaning instead of reason is probably involved. Like irrationality after the 60s: UFOs, paranormal, etc.

    Interpretation is something that derived and developed from hermeneutics, the human mind, and mental illnessess if real, are not writings.

    The methods and knowledge of interpretation hardly could apply to them. Ditto for suffering, that was interpreted from belief: philosophical and/or religious.

    That sounds red-herringly: work on interpretations instead of causes, reasons and explanations.

    “Once you acknowledge that no single perspective is inherently superior…” that’s exactly the conclusion one gets from hermeneutics of religious text, i.e. classical hermeneutics. More accurate, in periodization terms: medieval hermeneutics.

    In a retrospective fashion of course, then there were not many interpretations to the divine scripture, even if there were strong, even acrimonious debates about it. And tellingly that did not went very well.

    So, the narrative psychiatry approach to me sounds like a biographical approach based on interpreation, not understanding. Like my constructed life, my constructed truth, not like what happend for me, to me, and the like. Relativism, myth, religion, belief. Uuuuggh, maybe even dogma.

    “Are we overly pathologizing this trait?” Yes, we definitively are.

    “Or is it a form of sensitivity that, though not always comfortable, offers a depth of understanding and perception that many might overlook?” No, being different, talented or special involves NO obligation to OFFER anything. Since, at least, we all are obligated to the same things, which, admiteddly it’s the minimum. To me, society has to earn it, not expect it.

    sanism=”Erehown” by Samuel Butler.

    “… once experts begin to give their verdicts, other voices are muted.” not if all, other voices are allowed in the conversation. Even Feynman, apparently, could illuminate the interpretation of mental illness.

    See the comments in:

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  5. Several things I just thought about involving philosophy in medicine, and particularly in psychiatry, given philosophical approaches are either intersectional or contained within religious, moral, political and ideological belief:

    What happens when the beliefs, ideological, religious, gender, political, etc., are not only disagreable, but abhorrent for the practitioner?. The interpretation of the patient’s life will be done how?. Based on the beliefs of the practitioner?.

    Is there a right to refuse treatment?. Refuse to intepret someone else’s actions the practitioner considers abhorrent?. Specially if done as a “team”?.

    Will the reaction and care/treatment of the practitioner lead to discrimination or other forms of violence?.

    Will the patient be labeled as “narcicistic” or “pyschopatic”. or “deviant”, for believing and/or execercising said beliefs in the real world?.

    Will there be attempts to align this believer into a “normative” framework of beliefs more acceptable for the pracitioner?. Despite it is protected belief?.

    Or said patients are de facto unapproachable with philosophical, sociological focus?. They are unable to benefit from such approaches?.

    I guess that’s why many old physicians were hesitant to involve philosophy in medicine:

    It creates at least a conflict of interest unnecesary for facts, truth based medicine. And that can and will be damaging not only to medicine, but more importantly for patients.

    It also introduces judgement, the judgemental, even if just implicit, of the patients’ beliefs, and in Medicine that has always being wrong, even if widespreadly done.

    So, by extension: what happens if the patient does not believe or finds repugnant power ideology?. Gender ideology?. Integration ideology?, etc.?. Will those patients have to go somewhere else to look for treatment?. Based on disagreed ideology?.

    So, I guess, there is a more fundamental problem of discrimination and other forms of violence in some “diversity”, inclusive or intersectional, philosophical, sociological approaches because they are based in belief: they can lead to at least alienation, and in medicine, and perhaps psychology, that has not been Ok.

    Given beliefs are loaded things, to make a sarcastic pun, not trying to be offensive but incompentently brief: What if a patient abhors anti-sanism? or anti-disableism?.

    Integration attempts in mental issues that can lead to alienation, because they are, perhaps, based in belief, not on fact. Particularly relevant in todays polarized World.

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    • I fail to see how there can ever be any meaningful discussion among those who pledge fealty to psychiatry’s biological nihilism, and the creative, life-expanding and life-enhancing contributions of writers, poets, philosophers and artists. And by the same token, I see no value in collaborating with people who have no problem misinterpreting the problems (and silencing the voices) of others for a living.

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    • God Bless you, Sharon, for your protests. My protests are mostly writing back against the pseudoscience lies of the drug racket and social control mechanism known as “psychiatry”.
      Eventually, everybody will know the truth, and we will all be free. Or dead. With it’s neurotoxin “meds”, psychiatry obviously prefers us to be dead. Or a living, over-drugged zombie hell of an existance. But you know that, Sharon, which is why you do what you do. THANK-YOU, Sharon.

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    • YES!, thanks, Mary! Good thoughts such as yours are always good things, and look, here’s some MORE words your thoughts helped to create! Your words create thoughts, and your thoughts create words. Let’s enjoy them, shall we? Ahhh, this is the good life! Right, Mary? Thank-you.

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  6. James’s editing of this week’s podcast served to highlight the fact that Bradley actually pointed out that Vincent van Gogh could (still) serve us as “a healer,” rather than that he might “heal.”

    I believe that both meanings (of Vincent’s healing) are possible, likely, even inevitable.

    In about 2014 or 2015, when I was telling her my ghost story about Henri Matisse, a lady artist, then 69, as I recall, told me that when she was 25, and had a young son to care for, and was drinking heavily, she attended a class in self-hypnosis, which she said was very, very hard work, indeed. During that class, she said,

    “Vincent came to me. He told me, ‘Don’t let them take away your colors. They took away mine.’ I stopped drinking after that, and haven’t since.”

    Ilona Radelow became a successful professional artist. When I asked her if I might share her story, she told me I could.

    I liked that she told me that her Vincent had referred to paints as colors.

    I like, also, to think that Vincent may now very well be “a healer,” and be healing himself in the usual way – by helping others to heal themselves. I suspect that, like Matisse and almost all of the rest of us, he has not the slightest suspicion that he is “dead” in any world/s, or is still an embodied ghost in one or more others. I can’t yet imagine just how this might work!

    On Page 106, in their “postscript” to their marvelous book, “Vincent van Gogh Portrait of an Artist,” Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan write:

    ‘A hundred years after his death, “Still Life with Sunflowers,” painted in Arles, sold at auction for $29.9 million. The poster of Vincent’s sunflowers is one of the most popular reproductions in the world, thus making Vincent’s wish come true that it might “brighten the rooms of working people.’

    “What we do in life, echoes in eternity,” and who knows if we may not, too…and if all our dreams may not come true, eventually, because of and in spite of all we do?

    I suspect that the brevity and intensity and much of the agony of the lives of both Vincent and his brother Theo had much to do with their religious upbringing. That same book of Jan Greenberg’s and Sandra Jordan’s, “Vincent van Gogh Portrait of an Artist,” opens as follows:

    “A Brabant Boy
    1853 – 75

    I have nature and art and poetry. If that is not enough what is?
    – LETTER TO THEO, January 1874

    ON MARCH 30, 1853, the handsome, soberly dressed Reverend Theodorus van Gogh entered the ancient town hall of Groot-Zundert in the Brabant a province of the Netherlands.He opened the birth register to number twenty-nine, where exactly one year earlier he sadly had written, “Vincent Willem van Gogh, stillborn.” Beside the inscription he wrote again “Vincent Willem van Gogh,” the name of his new, healthy son, who was sleeping soundly next to his mother in the tiny parsonage across the square. The baby’s arrival was an answered prayer for the still-grieving family.
    The first Vincent lay buried in a tiny grave by the door of the church where Pastor van Gogh preached. The Vincent who lived grew to be a steady redheaded boy. Every Sunday on his way to church, young Vincent would pass the headstone carved with the name he shared. Did he feel as if his dead brother were the rightful Vincent, the one who would remain perfect in his parents’ hearts, and that he was merely an unsatisfactory replacement? That might have been one of the reasons he’s been so much of his life feeling like a lonely outsider, as if he didn’t fit anywhere in the world.”

    End of excerpt.

    “Among all my patients in the second half of life—that is to say, over thirty-five—there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life. It is safe to say that every one of them fell ill because he had lost what the living religions of every age have given their followers, and none of them has been really healed who did not regain his religious outlook.” – Carl Jung, reportedly.

    Had Vincent and Theo been able to avail of (that other Christian pastor’s son’s) Carl Jung’s therapy, perhaps, like others, they might have been relieved of an enormous burden of guilt, of feelings of unworthiness…during those, their apparent lifetimes, rather than now, and this world might have gone short of one starry, starry night, and also of countless blooming sunflowers.

    Thank you very, very, very much, indeed, Bradley, Justin, James, Vincent, Anton and all concerned for a most enthralling podcast, even while it addressed neither the coerciveness still underlying, empowering and corrupting contemporary psychiatry nor, apart from Justin’s hesisattion to use the term “depression,” the misnomers which make up the DSMs’ “mental disorders” and “personality disorders.”


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    • Tom, I wonder if Van Gogh’s love of color would have made him appreciate a song by Donovan called “Wear Your Love like Heaven”….so deeply evocative and original…. just like his paintings….and the pleasure of experiencing both their creations has never failed to convince me that an artist’s creativity surpasses (by far) anyone’s intellect or so-called “biological” expertise.

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  7. Error:

    Apologies: in transcribing a passage from Jan Greenberg’s and Sandra Jordan’s, “Vincent van Gogh Portrait of an Artist,” above, it seems I accidentally typed/produced “steady” rather than the correct “sturdy” in the sentence

    “The Vincent who lived grew to be a steady redheaded boy.”

    And, however sturdy his original constitution, if it’s true that, certainly while in Arles, Vincent often worked fueled more by coffee and alcohol than by any solid food, it’s hardly surprising that he experienced extreme, strung-out states of consciousness which many of us would be glad to avoid.

    Perhaps in order to emphasize this fact, for all I know, some ghost of Vincent, of Theo or of a friendly Pissarro may have nudged my voice (for I was voice-typing) into delivering “steady” for “sturdy?” As I said, I don’t understand how it all works – yet, even if Don McLean did.

    “Morning field of amber grain
    Weathered faces lined in pain
    Are soothed beneath the artist’s loving hand.” – “Vincent,” Don McLean.


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  8. And without setting foot in any university lecture hall, I bet Van Gogh would have more than appreciated (and deeply understood) the lyrics of this famous song:

    Imagine there’s no Heaven, it’s easy if you try.
    No Hell below us, above us only sky.
    Imagine all the people living for today…

    Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do.
    Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion, too.
    Imagine all the people living life in peace…
    You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
    I hope someday you’ll join us,
    And the world will be as one.

    Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can.
    No need for greed or hunger, or brotherhood of man.
    Imagine all the people sharing all the world…
    You may I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.
    I hope someday you’ll join us,
    And the world will live as one. – John Lennon

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  9. Art and the humanities reflect the intimately personal process of being authentically engaged with life — however painful and infuriating, joyous and blissful, or even insufferably dull — NOT some academic’s sterile dissection of it.

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  10. There was a film based on Van High’s life and then much more recently a book of biography and discussion that he was bullied and that created more issues for him- as an hurt it’s and human being.
    My best experience beside with his Srt was the episode about him from Dr Who. And speculation on folks a little goes along way.?Read, look, and listen and experience fully and then discuss if you want. The ingestion is the experience and by doing so how is one changed? Much easier to speculate then fully experience artistic works.

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  11. Birdsong, do you think we humans may all suffer equally, ultimately, over the course of our however many lifetimes, not one of us less than any other, perhaps?

    And do you reckon there is one of us who is not actually run by our conditioned mind until we have evolved to a point where we can choose our thoughts, our reactions and our responses, rather than have them happen to or through us – if that point ever comes to any of us, please?

    With no offense to any John Lennon, if he is out there or in here or anywhere and everywhere, and still aware and still capable of taking offense,

    (Here There and Everywhere lyrics: ),

    Birdsong,, but.from my very limited knowledge of all three of you, I would unhesitatingly choose to spend an hour in your company or in Bradley’s, but preferably in both, rather than in John’s, given the invitations: I see you and Bradley both working very, very hard and doing your utmost to contribute whatever you think you possibly can to the relief of human suffering.

    Much love, and many thanks, as ever.


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    • Tom, thank you for asking such interesting questions, but I’m afraid my answers aren’t nearly as interesting.

      So, do I believe that we humans suffer equally over many lifetimes? I don’t have a yes or no answer except to say that I find pondering such an idea most intriguing, and somewhat relieving, in that it helps to make some sense of the unfairness of life.

      And I think everyone is influenced by their upbringing, and tragically a lot of people never have the opportunity to learn how to think for themselves. But I also think a lot of people do find themselves waking up, though it happens sooner to some than others.

      And thank you for the links. Years ago, I remember seeing the footage of Mr. Lennon engaging empathically with the man who was obviously very confused, and I remember hoping against hope that people would learn from his courageous and loving example.

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    • And I’m reasonably sure he’d have at the ready the typically vague answer one has to expect from such self-proclaimed “intellectual” luminaries; after which I’d find a reason to politely remove myself in order to recover from any resulting sense of cognitive dissonance by watching this mind-blowing video: “It’s All Too Much”, courtesy hippy.

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    • And I’m reasonably sure he’d have at the ready the typically vague answer typical of any self-proclaimed “intellectual” luminary; after which I’d have to think of a reasonably polite way to excuse myself in order to ward off the nagging sense of cognitive dissonance by watching this mind-blowing video: “It’s All Too Much”, courtesy hippy.

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  12. Birdsong, because I may express a vision of course does not mean I can even have it, let alone hold it and live it.

    I must acknowledge that I, too, must harbor anger and bitterness towards all those that a part of me still feels did me grievous wrong, still feel they MUST have been 100% wrong, otherwise I could not possibly be 100% right.

    From 1982, for 25 years I lived in Donegal, a county in the NW of Ireland which bordered with Northern Ireland where “The Troubles” we’re going on, and where in November, 1987, a bombing occurred in Enniskillen.

    The following graciously includes a short clip of a BBC interview with Gordon:

    By his response, Gordon Wilson, in my view, may have done more than any other individual to end the bitterness, hatred and violence in Northern Ireland, at least – not to say that none remains there as elsewhere.

    If Bradley (still) practices as a psychologist one day each week, for all I know, he may spend is time listening to troubled people, perhaps even so deeply and empathetically and unconditionally lovingly listening to them that they transform themselves, or are so transformed as to no longer feel any bitterness towards themselves or towards all those who have wronged them, and so are healed, and go on to help others heal.

    Carl Jung is quoted:

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

    My opinion is that, by convincing us that we are not already good enough, many religions, and the must-always-try-harder cultures they have engendered, sicken us, but that by understanding that we already can and already DO only truly accept and love and forgive others as we accept and love and forgive ourselves.

    It’s said that “what we fight, we strengthen; what we resist persists.”

    Jung is also quoted:

    “We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.”

    If physical pain = sensation + fear,

    and if emotional/psychic pain = fear,

    and if fear/negativity is internal resistance to what (already) is,

    and if we can only proceed most wisely and powerfully and joyfully and enthusiastically when we are no longer in resistance mode,

    we may see that what Gordon Wilson managed to do was to “resist not ‘evil.'” and perhaps even to see that resistance, in a sense, IS ‘evil!?”

    And that any action taken from a place of total acceptance may be totally inspired?

    Thank you, Birdsong, for helping me see this right now like never before, and for so much more.

    Have a wonderful weekend!


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  13. Yes, Birdsong, let’s try to recognize, and so to expose and so to transmute darkness to light.

    But must we do that forever – or only until we can all stop contributing to the fear and darkness?

    I believe (even) Jesus of Nazareth was angry at times, and believe he foresaw and foretold that we can all do better than that, than him – but only when we recognize our anger as just more weakness and fear and want of courage, of awareness – or of “recognition.”

    I can think of nowhere that fear or anger or hostility serves where love cannot better serve – can you, please?

    Right now on this planet. I think it still serves to show any who need it just how stupid and destructive and poisonous and contagious it is, and how much angst and misery it causes.

    I believe there are many stories of folks who have talked down would-be shooters, murderers and suicides, for instance, when fear/anger might have aggravated and escalated the situation.

    Had Gandhi only had a chance to smile at his assassin, as it is told that Paramahansa Yogananda did at his would-be assassin, the result might have been similar?

    And how often when brute force, coercion or intimidation have appeared to “work,” do you think a more loving approach might not have proven even more effective, more powerful, and of much more lasting benefit?

    “But if you never try, you’ll never know
    Just what your worth…” – Coldplay.

    Perhaps there is always, in every situation, a possible win-win-win-win-win-win-win outcome – if only we can imagine one?

    Thank you very much indeed for this discussion, Birdsong.


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    • Tom, what on earth are you talking about? You sound as though you think I’m some kind of advocate of violence. And if you do, please let me assure you that I am not.

      Furthermore, anger is not weakness, or fear, or want of courage. It’s just an emotion that curiously (or not) can be the very thing that leads oppressed people to an awareness or “recognition” of how they are being or have been mistreated, which curiously (or not) also can be the very thing that lets people learn how to truly love others.

      And lastly, it’s important to never lose sight of the fact that in Matthew 10:16 NIV Jesus himself is believed to have told his disciples to be as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves.

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  14. Tom, what on earth are you talking about? You sound like you think I’m a proponent violence. And if you do, please let me assure you that I am not.

    Furthermore, anger is not weakness, or fear, or want of courage. It’s just an emotion that curiously (or not) can be the very thing that leads oppressed people to an awareness or “recognition” of how they are being or have been mistreated, which curiously (or not) is the very thing that leads to the ability to truly love others.

    And I think it’s of the utmost importance to never lose sight of the fact that there are some people who possess an uncanny ability to manipulate good people into unwittingly playing the fool.

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  15. Thank you, Birdsong, for all this.

    My apologies. I certainly did not mean to suggest that you were a proponent of physical violence.

    If I could choose my thoughts, I believe they would all be joyful and loving ones. Why not? But I can’t. Not yet. So they are not.

    Some are self-pitying, sad; some bitter, angry. Isn’t that weak and stupid of me, when the only thing preventing me from being in my (or Adam Sandler’s) Happy Place at any waking moment is surely…me?!

    Oh, sure, I can blame it on anything I choose to blame it on – hunger, dehydration, exhaustion, the most recent perceived slight or insult, even those nasty, wicked, evil, poisonous, psychotropic, consciousness-lowering, neurotoxins for so long (previously) forced upon me in the name of “medications,” or anything else, but that implies that I don’t have the ability to rise above such ugly and sickening thinking.

    It’s been suggested and may be true that a true Zen mistress/master could drink enough alcohol to become physically unconscious without having allowed her/himself to show mental signs of inebriation. Who knows?

    If I do not always choose pleasant thoughts, surely that is because I am as yet too weak or too foolish to do so, for who would willingly, knowingly, sanely, deliberately choose wretched thoughts if they had a real choice?

    Gandhi is quoting as pointing out:

    “Nobody can hurt me without my permission.”

    I guess he meant emotionally rather than physically?

    While I doubt Joan of Arc was yet enough of a Zen master/mistress to have burned to death (at the stake, 30 May, 1431) without pain, whatever about screaming, any more than Gordon Wilson forgave his daughter’s killers without great pain, I suspect some of those monks who self-immolated in protest at the war in Vietnam may have done so, such was their mind- and therefore their fear-control.

    If to “re- cognize” is to KNOW again, I suggest that knowing again, remembering who we all truly are and why we all are here, all together – presumably to play our unique part in trying to make this world a better place (even if this is only a game with some deeper purposes and more)) always leads to more love and to less bitterness.

    Desmond Tutu has another slant on remembering, though I hope he might share mine, too:

    “Forgiving is not forgetting; it’s actually remembering–remembering and not using your right to hit back. It’s a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don’t want to repeat what happened.”

    Anger, for me, includes a desire to force an issue. Force, coercion, coupled with the deceitfulness which power makes possible, is what makes psycho pharmacology as “evil” as it is, in my view.

    More anger cannot and will not cure that.

    I find that anger, like any other form of fearful thinking, clouds my reasoning; humor clears it: When I am angry I have fallen into survival mode; as long as any last vestige of a sense of humor has not deserted me, there is still some hope for my reasoning, I find – and for my vision of some win-win-win-win-win-win-win resolution.

    Survival mode may have been marvelous for outrunning predators millennia ago. It is not so effective, I have painfully discovered, for outwitting persecutors nowadays.

    Thank you for not deserting me, Birdsong, but for instead staying on to teach me things I always need to be taught, as, somehow, you always, always manage to!

    We have the same goal, no doubt. We can make the effort to achieve it together.



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