Why Go by Pearl Jam

This week’s Song of the Week was recommended by MIA Reader Todd Atkins:

“Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam’s bassist) is credited for writing this song. The frustration I have felt (and continue to feel) both experiencing and researching institutionalization comes through Eddie Vedder’s (absolutely perfect) voice.

Themes touched on: Isolation in a place of ‘treatment’ (“She scratches a letter into a wall made of stone / Maybe someday another child won’t feel as alone as she does”), Long-term / custodial institutionalization (“It’s been two years and countin’ since they put her in this place”), Professional authority and the complicity of parents taking a medical professional’s word as law  (“She’s been diagnosed by some stupid fuck and mommy agrees”), the ‘modes of adaptation’ and “conversion” that occurs to institutionalized people, per Erving Goffman, in his 1961 book Asylums (“She seems to be stronger but what they want her to be is weak / She could play pretend, she could join the game”), and childhood trauma and its ramifications (“What you taught me / Put me here / Don’t come visit”).

Pearl Jam’s “Deep” is where I was for many a moon. Despite the ‘efforts’ of psy folks, Pearl Jam’s “Present Tense” is where I am today.

Love to you all.”

-Todd Atkins


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


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