Are “Trauma/Addiction Experts” and Psychiatrists Misleading Us?

55
4287

It is my contention that “trauma/addiction experts” and psychiatrists cause unnecessary harm to people who are suffering and feeling emotional pain by categorizing them, generalizing about their unique behaviours and by labeling certain types of behaviours as “addictions” and “mental illnesses”.

Also, the validity and relevance of describing people’s behaviours in terms of their “mental health” is questionable as I believe that people suffer when they are mistreated and not loved, and it is a normal response, not because there is a problem within or something wrong with them.

I will also attempt to demonstrate that “trauma experts” do not correctly define what trauma is, and that the language they use for describing and explaining “trauma” is not accurate. In my view, people’s unique traumatic experiences should not be generalized, and the focus on the generalized healing of people’s traumas is mistaken and irrelevant.

Man with hands against glass, out of focus, looking distressed

Nowadays, it is just as common for people to talk about emotional health and well-being as they would talk about physical health.

Two of the most popular concepts these days are “mental health” and “trauma”. We tend to believe that our “mental health” can be controlled and managed as long as we practice a healthy lifestyle.

Seldom do we talk about “who does what to whom” when someone behaves out of the norm. Rather, we mystify our experiences by not paying close attention to what’s going on between us. We readily accept that psychiatrists and other experts can observe with an objectifying gaze, diagnose and classify people and note their behaviours to determine if they are behaving normally or not, and this way of examining people has filtered into the mainstream so that we often find ourselves fluently discussing with one another the states of our “mental health” as if there is such a thing.

Yet, if people didn’t treat one another in unloving and cruel ways at times, there would be no need to believe that there are “normal” and “abnormal” mental health states which can change if we suddenly “lose it” and plunge further along a continuum between normal “mental health” and “mental illness”.

Hungarian-American psychiatrist Thomas Szasz wrote a book in 1961, The Myth of Mental Illness. He believed that people’s strange behaviours were not mental illnesses. They represented “problems in living”. Unfortunately, not many “experts” and other psychiatrists took him seriously.

Prior to the days of pharmaceutical companies, there was no such thing as “depression”. People were deeply saddened, melancholic, heartbroken, all caused by terribly disappointing life circumstances. However, when the drug companies produced a new drug, they wanted to market it and so they brilliantly reinvented melancholy under a new name, and called it a “disease”. From then on, “depression” has become one of the most widely known “mental illnesses” worldwide.

Health experts advise us to pay special attention to and prioritize our “mental health” and avoid “mental illness” at all costs, as if we have a choice in these matters.
Yet, no one wants to acknowledge that all sorts of strange behaviours cannot be avoided by someone who has been sexually assaulted, abused by a stranger or betrayed by someone whom they had put their trust in. These unique and incomparable responses and behaviours of vulnerable individuals who get hurt in a cruel manner by others is the main reason why people’s unique traumatic experiences cannot be compartmentalized, categorized, labeled or generalized.

How can I or anyone else know or comprehend someone else’s infinitely other personal experiences?

How does labelling, objectifying and shaming people who are suffering by saying they have “addictions” and “mental illnesses” benefit them in any way? Yet, labelling and categorizing people’s unique suffering has become so widespread over the years that hardly anyone stops to think about how absurd it is.

Well-known “trauma/addictions expert” Gabor Mate tells us that “addiction is the most human thing there is.”

Not love, not devotion, not desire, not spontaneity, not authenticity, not fear, not attraction, not alienation, not compassion, not excitement, not sadness, not respect, not wanting connection, not frustration, not jealousy, not anger, not admiration, not caring, not curiosity… Addiction is more human than anything else!

Dr. Mate defines addictions and tells us how we can “heal” from them. He describes the cause of our problem, our disorder, our addiction, and he explains that we can all heal, and how to do so. He explains that addictions are something we do which provide pleasure in the short term, but cause harm in the long term, and we can’t stop. Addictions are caused by trauma (when we become disconnected from our authentic selves).

Although this explanation has some validity (that trauma causes all so-called “addictions and mental illnesses”) it is not entirely accurate and it serves little benefit to people who are suffering and feeling emotional pain.

Psychiatrists, psychologists and “addiction experts” categorize and label every possible human behaviour under the sun which results in people comparing themselves to “normal people” and feeling ashamed about themselves.

A person doesn’t just eat, shop or drink a lot. He or she is told and believes that they have an “addiction” or “a mental health problem/disease”. Yet, many people who drink too much alcohol, eat compulsively or gamble can make a decision to stop doing so. They can decide to change their habits.

Also, if I am told that I have an “addiction”, and I believe that I have an “addiction”, how can I not feel more shame than I already feel about myself?

I am not suggesting that people who are in pain would not benefit from having loving support from others. Rather, they simply don’t need “experts” labelling them as having an addiction, a mental health problem or that they need to heal their “traumas”.

Dr. Mate explains that to have an addiction is not a moral deficiency, yet to say that I have a drug or alcohol addiction automatically labels and objectifies me as someone with a “problem”, a disease, a disorder, a “mental health problem”. Who could feel good about that?

Also, you can’t see a person clearly if you label them as a schizophrenic, an alcoholic, a drug addict. You are one of “those”! Where is the individual, the person who has this so called “addiction”?

The only people it serves are the “experts” who know best and apply these labels.

Trauma has also become a misused word. In my opinion, “trauma experts” do not define it correctly and they over-generalize trauma as a uniform experience for everyone, when in reality people’s experiences are incomparable. When a person becomes traumatized, it is devastating, and deeply personal. It’s a very sensitive, painful and fragmented territory to delve into. That is why it is paramount to have a safe, private and trusting supportive environment to be in, not to be influenced by online “trauma experts/healers” who are selling their therapy techniques, giving lectures about trauma, and offering promises about healing the world.

When I get hurt, my “trauma”/experience is not the same as anyone else’s “trauma”, and there is no “wisdom of trauma” or glamourized fantasy of universal healing. Someone who has been traumatized does not need to be taught anything by a “trauma expert”. What he or she might want is a witness.

According to Vancouver therapist Andrew Feldmar (who has been practicing for 50 years) “the word ‘trauma’ has become a mass-produced, hackneyed, meaningless word. It’s worthwhile to search for a language that’s more accurate, precise, idiosyncratic, personal in describing and depicting the lived minute particulars, the exact vicissitudes and sequelae of a person’s continuous encounter with the environment, human and otherwise”.

He also says that a person does not heal from trauma like one can heal a broken arm. You don’t get over it. At best, you can struggle through it with the support of others, and you don’t do it by going inward to find yourself as Gabor Mate’s “compassionate inquiry” would imply.

Trauma is a disaster and if one is able to get back on his or her feet again (and has a strong enough desire) at best one can struggle through it by finding solidarity with others and finding community. You find people who treat you well and stay away from people who treat you badly.

It is true that “addictions” are behaviours that people engage in to cope with their suffering (as humans we have this suffering in common) but there are countless other ways in which people cope with their suffering caused by disasters, betrayals and cruelty.

Their experiences are unique and the behaviours can manifest so differently in each individual.
So, there is no need to focus attention on behaviours, nor to apply labels to the behaviours.

In addition, this suffering (that most often originates in childhood) is not simply caused by “stressed out”, busy parents or by needs for attachment conflicting with one’s need for authenticity.

All so called “mental illnesses”, “addictions” and strange behaviours are the result of people being treated badly.

Scottish psychiatrist R. D. Laing described such actions done for one’s own good as “violence masquerading as love”. If I am hurting you, I do not love you. One of Andrew Feldmar’s definitions of love is that “I could hurt you, but I won’t”.

Before the disaster, we have innocence. Our hearts are open and we trust others. We expect people to support our best interests so when we are betrayed by people who hurt us, we are devastated.

The cruelty and mistreatment includes betrayals, verbal, physical, sexual abuse, exploitation, coercion, being dismissed and invalidated, being neglected, teasing, shaming, being compared to others, and many other disrespectful and other harmful behaviours. This type of disaster and cruelty is the “trauma” that people carry with them.

The coping/learning mechanisms that people use to distract themselves from the pain are referred to as one-time learning. They get burned by touching the stove and immediately learn never to touch it again. They go into survival mode. For some people, over time, there may be other options. Some people seek out the support and company of others.

In therapy (in the safe company of a good therapist) one can inquire into what to do after loss of innocence, after the disaster.

Each person decides on their own if it is possible to trust again, and to live in a world without justice. Can we find solidarity and belonging again?

If not, when people remain in survival mode, there are so many different ways to cope with their pain and to carry on. They may drink alcohol excessively, overeat, take drugs, gamble, hear voices, isolate themselves, become “depressed”, become delusional or display an endless array of “strange” types of behaviour (listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition, published in 2022) that disconnect and distract them from the pain they are suffering.

However, what purpose does it serve them to be diagnosed, categorized, defined, and objectified as one of them? Psychiatrists and “trauma experts” further alienate the people they intend to help.

Although Gabor Mate says that people’s emotional suffering is caused by “trauma”, he has also glorified and sensationalized “trauma” as a phenomenon that has inherent wisdom and he implies that the entire world can heal from trauma. He starred in a movie titled The Wisdom of Trauma.

Dr. Mate also critiques our capitalist society for causing people to adapt to false needs that also cause trauma. In my opinion, people’s traumas are much more catastrophic than the stress, the competition and the inequities that capitalism can produce. Traumas are horrific, and the worst type of trauma is caused by people treating other people very badly. Betrayal, cruelty and evil acts are often closely associated with people’s traumas.

In my opinion, Dr. Mate’s teachings (in regards to healing from trauma) are mistaken. A pioneer in the study of trauma (psychiatrist Judith Herman) wrote in her book Trauma and Recovery that the first and necessary requirement for recovery of someone who has been traumatized is for him or her to re-establish safety, security and trust, and if this occurs, it takes as long as it takes. With this in mind, it is the power of relationships that make recovery possible, not looking inward to reconnect with one’s authentic self.

If one feels safe in another’s company and trusts someone completely, traumatic memories will most likely become available, and can be dealt with at that time. Otherwise, you don’t need to try to heal from trauma. More importantly, people who have been traumatized don’t need to “heal” from past trauma in order to love oneself and life. They only require connection, support, solidarity and relationships with loving people who treat them well.

Also, if people believe what trauma experts tell them about healing (but are unable to heal because they are haunted by horrific memories, nightmares, unable to sleep and cope with life) won’t they feel more inadequate and ashamed of themselves?

In my opinion, to suggest that people can and should heal from trauma will end up doing more harm than good.

I think each individual needs to be somewhat tentative by contemplating what one can do after a disaster, and to carefully choose who they seek out for help if they decide that they want to have support from others.

***

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.

***

Mad in America has made some changes to the commenting process. You no longer need to login or create an account on our site to comment. The only information needed is your name, email and comment text. Comments made with an account prior to this change will remain visible on the site.

55 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for your engaging and insightful article. I wholeheartedly agree with your points and would like to delve into a few aspects further. One significant issue I’ve repeatedly emphasized is the obfuscation of language in mental well being. We think having words such “trauma” or “demand avoidance” etc mean we are advanced society but it only shows we are advance at manipulation by the professionals.
    I have to disagree with the idea of witness to trauma. The concept that trauma requires external validation for its release is central to the therapy industry and I think it is probably to discredit women, historically or religiously motivated (confessional in Christianity and in islam requirement for witnesses to a rape case). It is like do you have a witness to your rape case? No one needs validation of trauma that one cannot even recall, articulate or even knows explicitly. Again dissecting the language here. This idea illustrates how the world experiences trauma and recovery, often without a witness, highlighting that witnessing is a metaphor for embodiment. Our body dissociates from the brain during an acute or chronic trauma. The witness is the person’s present mind to their bodies which one can learn how to identify. It is not the external eyes…it is the person to become painfully conscious of their own pain and find their animal level of soothing and striving for homeostasis (focusing on adults without developmental conditions here).
    Our society seems to have developed an aversion to acknowledging the body’s fundamental role in our emotions and cognition. It’s the body that requires the mind’s acknowledgment for healing and reclamation!
    As a talented writer, I appreciate your work, but I’d like to point out an example that particularly frustrates me – the term “people pleaser.” While it’s a normal human trait, medicalizing and pathologizing it as a condition is misleading. The real issue isn’t the act of pleasing others (my god no writer will ever write if such a case), but rather what one endures or how one changes when pleasing someone who is causing harm or hurt to them. This example demonstrates how language often reflects the abuser’s perspective (for example, it is an insult from the abuser – I did not abuse you; you are people pleaser!). It suggests that the psychiatric industry, in a way, perpetrates this abuse language by avoiding questions that might reveal their complicity in these dynamics. For instance, might a patient question, “Doctor, are you medicating me daily while I strive for your approval because of your knowledge and status in the society?” Such an inquiry would be profoundly insightful, yet perhaps too challenging for the status quo.

    PS. I never agreed with Dr. Mate even though I feel he means well. If we are honest, a true recovery of trauma is often radicalism in such one wakes up to a whole new world that they were embodying without their consciousness. I think this is why mental health is under psychiatry, to keep a lid on society based on bureaucratic capitalism production!

    Report comment

    • I had similar issues with “people pleaser”.

      The questions you hypothetical made are similar, but way more apt of what I would ask a practitioner.

      On the witnessing, perhaps the concept of concealed crime might help?.

      I found more info in spanish for “delitos de realizacion oculta”

      There are two newspaper articles of cases of abuse, one from France and one against the church. Sex crimes. They use the “concealed crime” moniker.

      But I could not find a definition in english. But from the spanish context those crimes are prosecuted based on testimony alone, most of the time. And I guess familial violence or psychological violence is one of them, in Mexico, paired with evidence of psychological impact by the abuse.

      So, testimony + evidence of psychological harm is enough to prove such crime was comited. Outside, I imagine other sex crimes. Although I am not a lawyer, in those crimes and related violence, testimony is pretty much what is there, and that does not deny it’s value as evidence.

      Report comment

  2. The therapy industry can be very harmful – take Talking Therapies in the UK – it gives around 10-12 sessions with a harried, stressed out therapist usually offering EMDR or CBT. There is simply no way to adequately contextualise distress and or help someone to cope with what comes up in therapy.

    Talking Therapies is more about reducing a score on one of a series of tick box questionnaires and if the scores come down they are deemed ‘recovered’, utterly vacuous and dangerous.

    These scores can also be manipulated either by direct fraud or coaching the person to reduce the scores. The drop out rate is massive and there is zero follow up. If you carefully and sensitively explore people’s past experience of therapy you hear a wide range of harms like ‘it was like having my trauma dug up and just left by the road’

    Services seems more about sustaining funding for themselves rather than helping people. It is astonishing but perhaps not surprising how many thousands of therapists simply play along with these empty notions of recovery often without question. Self interest is quite out of control.

    Report comment

    • It seems you are discussing this topic at some philosophical and conceptual level, and at the same time, at a very superficial practical level. I am a therapist (with my own experience of “serious” “mental health” issues and trauma). I’ve been trained in multiple trauma modalities as well as many others. I don’t use any of them specifically, but all of them inform my work. People are more complex than any single theory or therapeutic modality. It is not my brilliant ideas that help people, but the sharing of the learning and experience so that people work with their life experiences in concrete ways. Again, I am no genius and these modalities were none of my creation, but in exploring them with care for people and helping them discover more about their experiences, their desires, and who they want to be, I have seen hundreds of people free themselves from past traumas and go on to re-engage with creating their lives. It is inspiring to watch them go. They never forget, but I have no idea what the concept of “healing” means if not this. I am not the key ingredient, but a catalyst for their own process. Something magical happens when two people collaborate. I don’t need to know all the theoretical reasons about how it happens, though I could probably bore anyone for hours with my own ideas. If we all had the “wisdom” inside readily available to us, no one would ever get stuck. We may not need whatever you are calling a generic, dictatorial “expert,” but we need collaboration, learning, company, and another human to reflect with. Most of your social relationships cannot do this function with a focus on your personal benefit with any degree of efficiency. From what I’ve seen, I doubt most therapists serve this function, but I’ve also seen some fantastic ones that made me believe this was important professional work. The practical fact is that “healing,” “recovery,” “growth,” “self-realization,” whatever you choose to call it, maybe just plain “permanent improvement” – CAN and DOES happen in real life and I wish it for everyone seeking it.

      Report comment

      • I think the key is the magic you describe when people’s growth is spontaneous and they can go on to have a fuller more rewarding life. Nobody needs to have labels attached to them. Labels are destructive and harmful. The DSM serves the psychiatrist who can only be paid if he/she classifies the person they are working with. What an alarming and sad state of affairs. This creates another trauma for the person seeking help. i believe that trauma is at the heart of what is defined as mental illness. Traumatized people are not mentally ill.

        Report comment

      • Hi
        Thanks for your comment. I am not suggesting that peoples’ lives cannot improve significantly with good therapy.
        My point is that “trauma experts “ such as Gabor Mate promoting the promise of healing people from past trauma is not relevant and it is misleading. Gabor Mate is a doctor. He is not even a therapist. Yet he teaches therapists his compassionate inquiry therapeutic technique.
        As Andrew Feldmar said, you don’t heal from trauma. At best , you struggle through it.
        In my opinion, therapeutic theories, techniques and trauma modalities used by therapists is just “theatre”. Therapy is not about role playing .You play role of therapist and I play the role of patient and you use your theories and knowledge to teach me in order for me to heal. The worst has happened to all of us , so therapists are in the same boat as the patient. Therapists simply have more experience in being in this type of environment than patients do. A good therapist has no desires for the patient and does not know what is best for the patient . His or her job is to learn about the patient and get to know him or her. As RD Laing wrote so eloquently
        “psychotherapy must remain an obstinate attempt of two people to recover the wholeness of being human through the relationship between them.”
        It is not the knowledge of the therapist that is important. Patient and therapist are on the same level.
        Trauma “experts” teach and they think they know what’s best for the patient, but they do nothing to enhance relationships. All they do is promote transference , which is not helpful.

        Report comment

  3. Thank you for this wonderful article. I agree with so much of what Alan Moster has to say, especially not labeling people with constructs that could never begin to define an individual’s suffering. I also agree with the author when he challenges the change in language to describe appropriate reactions to being treated poorly by others, e.g., sadness to depression especially how that leads to the idea that we can “cure” people with pharmaceuticals.
    That said, as a therapist, I think it is exactly finding a safe place and safe people to be in relationship with, including one’s therapist, that leads to the ability to look inward to, hopefully, return to the open-hearted innocence that Moster refers to.
    I have read Dr. Gabor Mate’s work and find it incredibly helpful personally and professionally. “Healing” is an incredibly loaded word these days. I believe the way to understand healing is to allow the person who is suffering to decide what healing means to them. As a therapist, I do not put that expectation on my clients rather, I listen and follow their lead. I have found that the idea of healing, per se, never even comes up. Instead, most people just want to be happy and have meaningful work and be in relationship with other human beings and their environment.
    Finally, I like the word “and”. I have been privileged to hear Judith Herman speak and I have read Gabor Mate and I have read this article by Alan Moster. Each of these individuals have important ideas to share.

    Report comment

      • Hi
        Thanks for your comment. I know what Gabor Mate teaches. My main point is that people don’t need to be catagorized and stigmatized for their behaviours, regardless if the addiction is all about their pain. They are human beings who are hurt and scared and they can benefit from intimate support and loving relationships. They don’t need an all knowing teacher explaining to them why they are suffering.
        Anyone who has had any therapy knows that we are all in pain and in manifests in countless ways . Gabor Mate is an “expert” and people who are suffering do not need teachers or gurus . This only reinforces transference in which the all knowing father tells us what is best for us. In my opinion, we get hurt in relationships and we can seek out loving relationships to possibly recover. Gabor Mate is not a therapist and yet he describes himself as a world healer. I don’t know of any therapist who would publicly have a therapy session with Prince Harry and be in a movie “ The Wisdom of Trauma” and be acting as a therapist to the women who were raped by Bill Cosby .
        Seems to me that someone who would like to be a therapist, but isn’t one , has an extremely enlarged ego “disorder”.

        Report comment

      • Please explain to me how categorizing unwanted behaviours is relevant or helpful.
        Gabor Mate has described his own
        “ addictions “ and named so many other ones.
        Why put the focus on what people do to numb their pain ? If people could find loving people to be around and be connected to what path they are interested in , there would be no problems. A good therapist keeps company, follows the patient and is a good student in order to learn from his or her patient.
        It’s not the job of the therapist to teach anything. A good therapist has a lot of time and no desires and does not know what is best for the patient . It is not helpful to know what is the case or what is best for someone else. In therapy or in a friendship, the person will discover that for herself/ himself while the other is a supportive witness.

        Report comment

    • Agree with your statements about the word “and”…

      In a society that increasingly wants to make everything black and white, I think it’s important to remember that multiple things can be true at the same time… I think so many answers and solutions are held in this truth.

      Report comment

    • Thank you for your comment.
      I agree that Gabor Mate’s work has insight, especially about trauma being the root cause of people’s suffering. But, this is nothing new.
      What is new is how “trauma” and healing trauma is being marketed , sensationalized , exploited and overused, and Gabor Mate seems to be the main person who has become famous from it with “The Wisdom of Trauma” movie, the public therapy session with Prince Harry, and the documentary movie with Gabor providing therapy to the women raped by Bill Cosby.
      What is fascinating to me is that Gabor Mate is not a therapist , yet this is what he says :
      “For me to stand up publicly to injustice is more important than my role as healer in the world.”~Dr. Gabor Mate
      Hallelujah!! Our saviour has finally arrived.

      Report comment

  4. “In my opinion, to suggest that people can and should heal from trauma will end up doing more harm than good.”

    It already has, imo.

    The word “trauma” is now used to tell people how to live. It’s become a way to condemn people who don’t live up to your expectations.

    Bad feelings need not be pathologized. It makes me feel bad about feeling bad.

    Report comment

  5. “If one feels safe in another’s company and trusts someone completely, traumatic memories will most likely become available, and can be dealt with at that time. Otherwise, you don’t need to try to heal from trauma. More importantly, people who have been traumatized don’t need to “heal” from trauma in order to love oneself and life. They only require connection, support, solidarity and relationships with loving people who treat them well.”

    YES!!! Medicalized relationships are a needless pain in the ass.

    Report comment

  6. Thank your for this important article. I love what Dogworld said, about obfuscating language and it’s dangers, and:

    “I think this is why mental health is under psychiatry, to keep a lid on society based on bureaucratic capitalism production!”

    I liked when you said:

    “Seldom do we talk about “who does what to whom” when someone behaves out of the norm. Rather, we mystify our experiences by not paying close attention to what’s going on between us.”

    This is so important, now more than ever, for us to look at how the therapy/online trauma therapist industrial complex is just another mystifying, isolating pacifier like TikTok or Netflix.

    I also liked when Virginia Bradley Hines said:

    “I have found that the idea of healing, per se, never even comes up. Instead, most people just want to be happy and have meaningful work and be in relationship with other human beings and their environment.”

    Report comment

  7. I like the article. It puts, “trauma” in everyday language and points out what was always known, frightened people who have been treated badly need to be treated well. This is not a medical matter and turning it into a business brings huge risks and confuses so many of us in terms of what causes extreme distress, what helps and how best to talk about it.

    Report comment

    • Thank you !
      It seems like common sense to me, but people tend to get freaked out when others are upset and act “strangely “.
      We need to control whatever we are afraid of, and by calling these types of behaviours mental illnesses , we can relax and avoid looking at what has been done to these people who are afraid of others.
      Most psychiatrists have “ psychophobia “.
      They are afraid of their own minds!

      Report comment

      • More and more I hear people saying the distressed peoole they know need psychiatric help because they are frightened of people in distress but their faith in psychiatric serviced seems naive and misplaced to my mind. Not a lot of help is provided and a whole lot of harm.

        Report comment

  8. Alan, thanks, this is a great article! It really resonates. Psychiatrists are so devoid of critical thinking skills and common sense. Also incapable of understanding or compassion for when people have been dealt cruel treatment or endured difficult adversities. If you see a psychiatrist you are immediately subjected to hasty judgements and biased, subjective ‘opinions’ that do not include context or history.

    Report comment

    • Hi Rosalee,
      Thanks for your comment!
      I am glad my article resonates for you.
      As you mention, psychiatrists nowadays generally are completely out of touch. Unfortunately, they are doctors trained by the medical model. They are dogmatic in their beliefs about genetics and brain diseases which have no validity. In the past , psychiatrists at least had psychoanalytic training and had some therapy. But nowadays , all they know about is drugs.
      People who have been hurt need a supportive witness to keep them company, attend to them and learn about them.
      Psychotherapy has nothing to do with medicine, psychiatry and psychology. In my opinion, psychiatrists only cause patients more harm. They have “psychophobia” . They are afraid of their own minds so they are unable connect with others.

      Report comment

  9. i disagree with most of this. i am bipolar2 and at one point had substance abuse problems. i was self medicating bc i was getting wrong diagnoses or wrong meds. some mental health diseases are permanent and incurable. you need a label to get the right meds. i once had a dr tell me ‘dont worry about the diagnosis, let’s just treat the symptoms’. like what? if you have say schizophrenia, which is not going away…a death sentence if you will, you should be labeled and grouped. not understanding what you are suffering from, not getting the right diagnosis or appropriate meds can be extremely confusing and emotionally traumatic. i have never had any of the experiences you talk about happen to me. and i have been getting treatment since my early 20s. i am now 40. sure ive had docs or therapists i did not click with, so you move on. you find the ones that are best for you. this isnt easy, but it is possible. i have done it. i have medicaid which limits my treatment options and meds. but there is always a way if you put some effort into it.

    Report comment

  10. Hi
    Thanks for your comment. That is what makes life interesting. We are never sure about anything, and we all have our stories and different beliefs.
    All the current research indicates that the “brain disease” theory for “schizophrenia” has no validity.
    I suggest you look closer at who is supporting psychiatry . The drug companies are highly invested in the medical model that doctors promote. The top paid psychiatrists get huge payouts from pharmaceutical companies.
    In my opinion , only attempting to treat symptoms is a waste of time. It is not a solution.
    Inquiring about family history and trauma is the way to get closer to the root causes of people’s suffering. Genetics, medicine and talking about “mental illness” as a disease just keeps people in the dark.

    Report comment

  11. Alan, I agree with much of what you have written and appreciate your sensitivity. I have been professionally traumatized and in a marriage. People who traumatize then trigger/provoke those they traumatize don’t like the reaction they created and tend to gaslight or label rarely taking responsibility. A huge problem I’m reading among therapists/psychologists is telling women that they’re trauma is in the past and they’re not helping you to determine if it is still going on which would impede the healing they can have. The brain/behavior studies have hurt many women and thus needs to be addressed as women are being told they are the problem and not the one victimized which is a villianized word.

    Report comment

    • Hi
      Gabor Mate believes that “ addictions and mental illness “ are a result of childhood trauma.
      So do I. But , I disagree about labeling the behaviours as “ addictions and mental illness “.
      In my view, it serves no purpose to do so and causes unnecessary anxiety and shame .
      Of course people who have been treated badly will display all sorts of behaviours in order to cope that may not be beneficial to them. So what ?
      Why label them or focus attention on the behaviours ?
      Also , I don’t agree with his definition of trauma and I don’t believe that healing trauma should be a focus or that he can heal the world, or that there is any wisdom in trauma. In my view, trauma is a disaster, a betrayal , someone exploiting another person with cruelty. When someone gets hurt , they can possibly learn to feel safe and trust again by being with loving people. When someone is traumatized they don’t get over it . He or she can get through it with the support of others in relationships. The key is relationship. Gabor Mate’s “ therapeutic” technique is called compassionate inquiry. It is about inquiry inward to connect with one’s authentic self. This may help one to see more clearly, but it is not healing. I think the emphasis should not be on healing or offering empty promises of healing, but rather trying to find support from people in relationships such as in therapy. Gabor Mate is a doctor. He is not a therapist. A person who has been traumatized doesn’t need a teacher explaining to them why they have an addiction or what they should do in order to heal. A good, loving therapist follows the patient, attends , keeps them company and provides safety. This is what is beneficial. They do not want to be experts and have no idea what is best for the patient. One doesn’t need to try to heal past trauma . Rather, they can focus on their current life situation and seek out support. If traumatic memories come up in therapy then it can be dealt with. You don’t try to heal someone’s past !
      What I mostly don’t like about Gabor Mate’s viewpoints is that it is dogma. He is sure about everything. His teachings only reinforce transference in which the child looks to the all knowing parent for the answers about why they suffer and how to live one’s life. This is not helpful. It is the other way around. The therapist is the student who is curious to learn all about the patient. Finding people who treat you well is the key, because then you realize ( that unlike in the past when someone hurt you because they could ) that these other people could hurt you, but they don’t. If anything, that is the healing moment.

      Report comment

      • Alan, I looked up Gabor Mate’s definition for trauma and this is what I found: “an inner injury, a lasting rupture or split with the self due to difficult or hurtful events”. I think this encompasses being hurt relationally, past or present.

        I agree with you that medicalizing emotional distress is not a good thing. But unfortunately, most therapists are taught that emotional distress is a “disorder”, a “disease”, and that therapy is the only way to deal with it, which imo is limited view that harms those who don’t benefit from therapy.

        But what you say is bit confusing to me because on one hand you seem to be saying all someone needs is supportive people, (which I agree with) while on the other hand you seem to be recommending therapy, which imo doesn’t make much sense since most therapists use the DSM and believe psychodynamics are critical, which is something I firmly disagree with.

        But I agree that finding supportive people can be extremely helpful. However, I also think that relational problems are destined to repeat unless people get to know their own emotional history and triggers. Otherwise, people can find themselves in the same dysfunctional relationships.

        It’s really important to learn to be your own best friend, and therapy isn’t necessary for that.

        Report comment

      • CLARIFICATION: Alan, what you say is a bit confusing to me because on one hand you seem to be saying that all someone needs are supportive relationships. This is true to a certain extent, but totally relying on others, friends or therapists, has the potential of leaving people in a precarious position if they don’t like therapy, can’t afford therapy, or have no close family or friends. Good relationships are important, but being your own best friend is more important, and in my experience, relying too much on others, therapeutically or otherwise can prevent that from happening.

        Report comment

      • All I am saying is that at some point in most people’s lives they were hurt in relationships so often they withdraw . That is fine if it suits them, but if not, finding people who support you as you are is the best remedy for alienation. People can see if they can feel safe and trust others again in solidarity with some type of community.

        Report comment

  12. ***TO: Alan Moster,
    Thank you for caring and for your article. Yes, mental “illnesses” are the brain trying to make mental corrections – typically from trauma and/or abuse. Yes, a safe, loving and supportive environment is important for retrieving and working through the memories and feelings of trauma, so that we control them, instead of just reacting, (or abreacting).
    And here are other aspects of healing:
    1) Advise yourself as a loving parent, with what you’d tell your best friend in your shoes.
    2) Decide how to make up the losses of trauma to yourself, then work to give yourself the goal/s. Hope this helps!
    From your friend, P. Leia Lucas,
    PL Lucas® Foundations, California

    Report comment

  13. Thank you so much for this!

    Have you ever thought of how the story of Bishop Myriel showing mercy to Jean Valjean in Les Misérables relates to your thoughts on so-called “trauma” and how humans should help others in emotional distress? It is the bishop’s compassion that inspired Jean Valjean to change.

    Report comment

    • Thanks for your insightful comment.
      I think loving relationships are at the heart of recovery. Perhaps the “healing” moment is when one realizes that the person they are trying to connect with could hurt him or her ( like someone did in the past ) , but they don’t !

      Report comment

LEAVE A REPLY