Comments by Susannah Senerchia

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  • Up is down, black is white. “Normal” is crazy; “crazy” is often sane.

    “Society highly values its normal man. It educates children to lose themselves and to become absurd, and thus to be normal. Normal men have killed perhaps 100,000,000 of their fellow normal men in the last fifty years.” RD Laing

    It is no measure of health…

    “The supporters of the idea of healing through forgetting obviously are not aware of the price society pays for this ‘health.’ It is a known fact that the men and women who helped Hitler commit mass murder did not need psychiatric help. They adapted excellently to conditions under the Third Reich and later effortlessly made the transition to postwar life. They could easily forget. They held down jobs, started families, mistreated their own children–all without the slightest twinge of guilt. These people didn’t dream. And they never for a moment thought they had done something terrible by carrying out their ‘duty.’ Hitler and those like him were, indeed, proud of their ability to forget their traumas. But surely we don’t want to again pay the price for forgetfulness . . .

    It is not true that post-traumatic illness can be healed by forgetting, despite the fact that many people try to heal it in just this way. They do so at the expense of their own bodies or of other people–their children, patients, students, or the soldiers who have to die in the ‘holy wars’ perpetrated because those who initiate them refuse to remember. Such destructiveness, however, can only function so long as children, patients, students, and soldiers permit it to function–that is, so long as they do not have the courage to look their mothers and fathers in the eye, question their views, and voice their doubts at the dangerous opinions passed down from generation to generation.” Alice Miller

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  • Who exactly are you addressing when you say “you probably will not” believe it?

    Are you familiar with Mad in America? If so, you would know that we often feature psychiatrists who take a different, healthier, saner, and more ethical approach than the mainstream.

    If you’re not familiar with Mad in America, then aren’t you making a big assumption — i.e., aren’t you projecting?

    Psychiatrist, heal thyself.

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  • It’s not meaningless at all. It explains to us why the world is the way it is, why people are the way they are, why we are the way we are. It explains what happened to us, and provides a road map for fixing our problems. It’s incredibly meaningful, actually. It provides so many answers that humanity has been vexed with and puzzled by for generations upon generations.

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  • Indeed… “Because that would make us have to think about our own childhood maltreatment which we are repressing, and we are really scared of that and don’t want to do that, so we will deny child abuse anywhere and everywhere out in the world too, just like we deny our own.” (not a conscious thought process) C.f. Alice Miller “The Psychiatrists’ Campaign Against the Act of Remembering”

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  • Further, Steve: everyone’s brain is different because brains develop in response to the environment. Our brains are not fully formed when we are born; in the first few years of our lives our brains develop rapidly, particularly the limbic or emotional part of the brain, and after that the cognitive part. How it wires is highly dependent on the inputs it receives. So this is what I find massively missing from this conversation about different brains: an awareness of how they got that way.

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  • Oh yes, I will always mention Alice Miller, because like you I think her theories (explanations) are complete and were almost everything I needed to be able to heal the longstanding issues/trauma that I couldn’t find proper therapeutic help for, or couldn’t afford. Reading her books was the best-quality therapy I’ve ever received, and certainly the cheapest. If everyone could read and understand her books we’d have a much different world. She’s apparently “world-renowned” in some circles but not nearly as well-known as she should be. I’m with you on the reading requirement for all young adults, it’d be more important than all the other required reading students are made to do put together!

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  • Indeed. And that lack of authenticity in the field is a reflection of the repressed childhood trauma of those practitioners and academics who keep up the charade. This points to how widespread and serious of a problem childhood trauma is in our society, how far-reaching its effects. It’s not just the “patients” who are suffering from it; it’s the “authorities” and “helpers” who are avoiding dealing with their own pain by passing it off (inflicting it) onto their patients and others. Alice Miller wrote a fantastic chapter in her book Breaking Down the Wall of Silence that goes into this, explaining how psychiatrists et al. are avoiding dealing with their own trauma by traumatizing their patients and living in denial. It’s chapter 3, “The Psychiatrists’ Campaign Against the Act of Remembering,” and I believe the following chapter “Blindman’s Buff and the Flight from Facts in Psychoanalysis” continues the same theme

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  • Birdsong,

    In civilization we tend to have a poor view of human nature, because there is so much unchecked narcissism and unresolved trauma running rampant. But when Jean Liedloff, author of The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost, went to live amongst an indigenous tribe in Venezuela, she found something completely different: they had a very positive view of human nature and as a result were able to raise very peaceful, pro-social children as a rule:

    And Dr. Peter Gray talks about how hunter-gatherer societies tend to practice “a system of ‘reverse dominance’ that prevented anyone from assuming power over others,” thus maintaining a very egalitarian climate for which they’re famous:

    “The writings of anthropologists make it clear that hunter-gatherers were not passively egalitarian; they were actively so. Indeed, in the words of anthropologist Richard Lee, they were fiercely egalitarian.[2] They would not tolerate anyone’s boasting, or putting on airs, or trying to lord it over others. Their first line of defense was ridicule. If anyone—especially some young man—attempted to act better than others or failed to show proper humility in daily life, the rest of the group, especially the elders, would make fun of that person until proper humility was shown.

    One regular practice of the group that Lee studied was that of ‘insulting the meat.’ Whenever a hunter brought back a fat antelope or other prized game item to be shared with the band, the hunter had to express proper humility by talking about how skinny and worthless it was. If he failed to do that (which happened rarely), others would do it for him and make fun of him in the process. When Lee asked one of the elders of the group about this practice, the response he received was the following: ‘When a young man kills much meat, he comes to think of himself as a big man, and he thinks of the rest of us as his inferiors. We can’t accept this. We refuse one who boasts, for someday his pride will make him kill somebody. So we always speak of his meat as worthless. In this way, we cool his heart and make him gentle.’

    On the basis of such observations, Christopher Boehm proposed the theory that hunter-gatherers maintained equality through a practice that he labeled reverse dominance. In a standard dominance hierarchy—as can be seen in all of our ape relatives (yes, even in bonobos)—-a few individuals dominate the many. In a system of reverse dominance, however, the many act in unison to deflate the ego of anyone who tries, even in an incipient way, to dominate them.

    According to Boehm, hunter-gatherers are continuously vigilant to transgressions against the egalitarian ethos. Someone who boasts, or fails to share, or in any way seems to think that he (or she, but usually it’s a he) is better than others is put in his place through teasing, which stops once the person stops the offensive behavior. If teasing doesn’t work, the next step is shunning. The band acts as if the offending person doesn’t exist. That almost always works. Imagine what it is like to be completely ignored by the very people on whom your life depends. No human being can live for long alone. The person either comes around, or he moves away and joins another band, where he’d better shape up or the same thing will happen again. In his 1999 book, Hierarchy in the Forest, Boehm presents very compelling evidence for his reverse dominance theory.”

    This makes me think that narcissism going unchecked is closely tied to our move away from small, peaceful, egalitarian, nature-based tribes to large, hierarchical, unjust, violent civilizations. I’m just not sure what causes the initial failure of those checks on narcissism; or, why so many people in the tribe become traumatized and are unable to heal.

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  • It is indeed very hazardous. After disappointments & retraumatizations with many therapists of different kinds, I eventually found Alice Miller to be my best and only trusted therapist. After reading her ~11 books and nearly everything else she’s written, I’ve been hard-pressed to find even once sentence of hers that hasn’t rung true or has rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t think I’ve found even one sentence. The woman could see things clear as day. She has given me the safety, understanding, validation and advocacy that has allowed my healing to unfurl like no one else had. Some somatic therapies I pursued prior to landing on her books probably helped open me up to be ready for them.

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  • This is exactly it Birdsong. It is too threatening, but in the best, healthiest way.

    “Narcissism often wears the badge of authority.” Spot on! And the more our parents were narcissistic and abused their authority, the less we will be able to recognize that narcissistic abuse in others, the less able we will be to confront authority, the more we will comply.

    I wouldn’t say the problem of unchecked narcissism is the story of humanity, but it is definitely the story of civilization(s). Civilization has only existed for 10,000 years at most and only in certain parts of the world; humanity has existed for much longer. I believe narcissism going unchecked is what causes civilizations to develop and metastasize.

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  • I haven’t watched the film yet, but I do know that Alice Miller started going through her own healing and came to many of her insights — and started writing — later in life, around age 60. That was obviously long after she had raised her children as, presumably, a still-unconscious, unhealed person. I don’t think this takes away from the validity and importance of her later work.

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  • I would think, at least hundreds, or thousands of years. Agriculture (the primary slavery-based system, upon which all the rest of it is built) is only 10,000 years old in certain parts of the world; in other parts, much younger. So, it may feel like millions of years, but really our wrong turn is a lot more recent.


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  • How does explaining how intergenerational trauma works guarantee it will continue and get worse? To me it seems the opposite – it will help us finally make sense of it all.

    A caveat should have been added that those “conditions” described are themselves caused by C-PTSD, which is a cycle that repeats if it doesn’t get repaired. That, I agree with.

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  • Our ancestors had much better lives than we do, what’s not to want to go back to? They had everything we want, except all the “stuff” we produce that’s clogging up & destroying the Earth & not making us happy anyway. I recommend reading John Zerzan’s anti-civilization writings (e.g. Running on Emptiness: The Pathology of Civilization) or, for an easier start, In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations by Jerry Mander. That hunter-gatherers had worse lives and we have better ones now is one of the main myths/bits of brainwashing that keeps the pathology of our society churning away.

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  • Hi Sam et al.,

    The Earth actually naturally provides for all our needs, if only we stop abusing and destroying her. The cult of work and addiction to money – which is a fake substance that in reality, in nature, can’t satisfy any real needs – are ironically destroying the very things we depend on for survival. The choice is not between industrialized capitalism and industrialized socialism but between continuing on our path to complete ecological and social collapse or choosing to go in the opposite direction – contracting rather than expanding (materially, “economically,” in numbers, in ambitions) – and yet expanding rather than contracting, too (emotionally and spiritually). Returning to our roots and to the original, natural, sustainable way of living that allowed our species to thrive for most of its history, before we took a wrong turn with agriculture, civilization, ruling classes, slave/”working” classes, institutionalized abuses and generational traumas, empires and ever-worsening extraction, exploitation and ecocide.

    We don’t even need to “produce” much to survive and thrive, in reality – if we got in touch with our original way of living, we could simply make use of what the Earth freely provides. By taking only what we need and giving back as much as we get, we ensure balance and sustainability, respect and equitability. There are so many ideas and habits of thinking that have been programmed into us over centuries of civilization that it’s necessary to deprogram ourselves out of in order to truly get back in touch with our lost health and integrity, both as individuals and collectively.

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  • That last paragraph – “We are so used to these empty rituals that it’s easy to stop questioning them, because it seems like if we did, that’s all we would ever do. But of course, the reverse is closer to the truth– if none of us put up with this crap, it probably wouldn’t continue.” So true and well said. It will take more and more of us examining our lives and everything around us, and having the courage to go against the flow.

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  • That’s just pure insanity and I can’t believe that actually happens. If someone is taken against their will to a so-called “hospital,” didn’t want the “service” and didn’t ask for it, how can you possibly charge them for that??? I just can’t understand what’s going on, like is everyone completely out of their minds? How do we allow such insanity to become institutionalized in our country? Things that make zero sense in any way shape or form, that are basically unthinkable, are just our de facto policies here, everyday affairs. And not enough people bat an eye!!! It boggles the mind. This is an insane society. The people that get called insane or “mentally ill” are not the crazy ones. The so-called normal ones are. That’s been said many times in these anti-psych circles but it’s so true.

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  • Not sure what you’re getting at, Alex? Did you look into their bios?

    “He completed a Master’s Degree in Public Health at the University of New Mexico, and has worked for decades in the mental health sector with a strong interest in cultural aspects and social determinants of health…His main areas of interest are: mental health problems as part of the ‘recovery’ model, research on historical trauma, integration of culturally effective approaches, social determinants of health, coordination and integration of mental and physical health assistance, teaching and supervision of Native American students at the ‘Center for Native American Health’ (University of New Mexico, Albuquerque).”

    “She edited the Italian edition of Peter Breggin’s book ‘Psychiatric drug withdrawal – a manual for prescribers, therapists, patients and their families.'”

    “She carried out an internship at the ASL of Grosseto following a joint project to support victims of violence…She has lectured extensively on issues relating to violence from a psychosocial, family and legal perspective.”

    (from above) “We will emphasize the role of ‘lived experience’ and the testimony of people who live and face daily the reality of emotional distress as a valid and reliable form of practice-based knowledge.”

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  • Unconditional love trumps fear because as humans/mammals, belonging to a group is one of our most profound biological/psychological needs. The kind of creatures we are are not designed to survive and live on our own. Mammal brains – the “limbic” or second lobe of our three-part brains to develop evolutionarily – function by “resonating” – connecting or interlocking – with other mammal brains. Without that, particularly in the first few years of life when the most brain growth, development and wiring are taking place, things go very wrong. This is why solitary confinement is classified as torture and is known to cause insanity (no doubt, particularly in people who were deprived of secure attachment as children).

    Unconditional, attentive love is a unique relationship that each and every one of us needs to develop healthily. Attachment, which describes a stable, secure and nurturing relationship – particularly of an infant with its primary caregiver(s), which creates lifelong resilience due to the aforementioned brain wiring phase – is one of the key fundamental building blocks of each human life, besides such things as oxygen, nourishment, freedom from physical harm, etc.

    This current technologized culture is largely blind to the mechanism and importance of attachment/love. That is why we see the ravages and injustices that we do – because too many people are being forced to develop without the most essential nourishment for their social-emotional brains. This causes, in addition to all “mental illness” and much physical illness, character issues, lack of empathy, anti-social behavior, etc.

    Also, contrary to current popular ideas, love is not something we can self-generate. Love and attachment refer literally to the connections *between* human beings, and the basis for that is a healthy period of *being on the receiving end* of ample nurturance as a child, which fortifies us with reserves of love that we are then able to give out to others.

    If we were an aware and intelligent society, we would pay much more attention to attachment and solidarity, and support parents in creating a time- and love-rich relationship with their young children to create healthy and pro-social future adults.

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  • Hi Steve, good points (and I hadn’t heard of opioid-induced hyperalgesia, but it makes sense – another frustrating angle in this whole topic), but just one thing – when you mention “addicted to,” do you mean “dependent on”? My understanding is that addiction is the more psychological phenomenon whereas dependence is the physical aspect where the body becomes accustomed to the drug, and that the two terms are often confused & used interchangeably when really they’re two separate issues.

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  • I can think of one mitigating factor where women are concerned, off the bat. As women we are permitted to be more emotional and more supportive of one another. People don’t bat an eye at women empathizing with each other, supporting, hugging and kissing each other, talking for hours, talking about feelings and experiences – how accepted is this for males? Males learn to bottle up their emotions much more and generally receive less empathy and emotional support in our society than females do. All of this is dangerous for their eventual boiling over/exploding. They often face more violent/dire life circumstances as well – they work more dangerous jobs, get sent to die in war, are more often faced with physical fights, etc. – and I feel our society’s decreasing empathy for what they face and deal with is perhaps aggravating the situation.

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  • Not all trauma is created equal, though – different types, severity/frequency, and the ages at which they happened will all play a role in the outcome. One of my favorite psychologists who explains this all so well, Dr. Faye Snyder – you can see a breakdown of how different trauma ingredients produce different outcomes in her book “The Predictor Scale: Predicting and Understanding Behavior According to Critical Childhood Experiences” – has a simple saying that sums up the mechanics well: “What goes in must come out. What doesn’t go in can’t come out” – for better or worse. There are many mitigating/compounding factors, but the bottom line is, well-nurtured/loved people generally do not hatch plans for mass murder. There is a rhyme and reason to all of this, and it behooves us to untangle what it all is.

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  • From Jeff Brown, from his upcoming book “Grounded Spirituality”:

    “It’s been my experience that the one that families call the ‘crazy one’ is often the sane one. This is particularly true in very dysfunctional families where ideas of healthy functioning are turned upside down. In these families, members often repress their authentic expression and turn against anyone who reminds them of their unresolved issues and patterns. As a result, the truth-speakers, the ones who refuse to contain their feelings, those who challenge the toxic status quo, are often scapegoated and vilified, made to feel crazy by those who lack the courage and insight to see beyond the family’s madness. If you have been labeled the ‘crazy one’, take heart. You are truly not alone. Most great creators and paradigm-shifters were met with fiery resistance by those afraid to grow. Whatever you do, do not allow your voice to be drowned out in the face of their judgments. Your voice, your vision, your ways of being, live at the heart of your unique soul’s journey and are the key to collective transformation. No one has the right to bury them under a bushel of shame. No one! And remember- what is crazy to an unconscious person is often brilliantly sane to one who is awakening. Without people like you, the world is lost. Blessed be the ‘crazy’ ones’!”

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  • Similarly, psychologist Dr. Bertram Karon puts forth: “Schizophrenia is a chronic terror syndrome. All of the symptoms of schizophrenia are either manifestations of the terror or defenses against it. Chronic terror blanches out most other emotions, which led Eugen Bleuler to the erroneous conclusion that schizophrenics have no affect. Many patients are helped by being told in the first or second session that you will not let anyone kill them.

    Schizophrenia is not genetic, 85% of patients do not have a first-order relative who has the diagnosis. Schizophrenia is not primarily a physiological disorder, the disordered physiology is the result of the chronic terror. The physiological changes are the same that everyone experiences when we are terrified. Of course there are also physiological changes which are the effect, usually destructive, of the psychiatric medications.

    It is now known that schizophrenics typically have suffered multiple traumas, as well as lesser bad experiences. Most of the traumatic experiences do not get in to the hospital record, but if you listen to the patients you will eventually learn about them. I have never treated a schizophrenic patient whose life as experienced by the patient would not have driven me, or anyone I could conceive of, crazy. People do not get sick because life has been good to them.”

    So, the causes of “schizophrenia” are known, by some, but as of now their voices are rarely listened to or heard in the mainstream, and there is a strong current of blindness to or avoidance of looking at and naming disordered parenting as causative

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  • A psychologist I greatly respect puts forth the following list of causes:

    “As children, schizophrenics suffer four injuries: 1) insufficient bonding that includes sensory deprivation and a profound lack of touch. They feel invisible, transparent and porous, as if they don’t have a container in which to exist; 2) intrusive parents who presume to read the child’s mind with invasive messages like, “I know what you are really thinking,” “I know you don’t mean what you said,” “No one would believe you;” 3) a major mind-blowing, terror-producing experience where no one says, “Wow, that was terrible!” or, “Wow, that was wrong!”‘ and 4) the child is not allowed his own point of view or perspective and cannot safely tell anyone how his life is going.”

    “It must be specifically said that the way psychiatrists historically treated their patients was schizogenic. In other words, if a parent treated her child the way psychiatrists treated their patients, the child would have become psychotic. As you will later read, the way to induce schizophrenia is to acutely or chronically injure a child, to then negatively and intrusively redefine that injury and his resulting feelings and thoughts so that the suffering was not suffering after all and the treatment was said to be humane. The child will never be allowed to recall the truth of what actually happened or express his authentic feelings. Feelings and memories are forever forbidden in order to protect the identity and interests of the abuser.”

    “Due to sensory deprivation from lack of touch, a bombardment of parental projections and a lack of quality personal interaction and communication around the child’s feelings and truth, the subconscious becomes more vivid and hallucinations begin to superimpose over reality when there is no real, material support. Traumatic experiences are definitive.”

    “lack of touch + intrusive parenting + extreme mental abuse + repression”

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  • Ditto. I often have a hyper focus and can be very analytical, but I would rather die than do STEM. I am much more interested in psychology, in a way that combines left brain and right brain in what I feel are the proper amounts. I am interested in the role of attachment in autism-like states (ever since discovering how attachment is – imo – the biggest & most tragically kept secret in human life/psychology/development). Ive recently been made aware of a few works on this autism-attachment connection, which I hope to look into at some pt, including “Arctic spring,” “The Protective shell in children & Adults,” & “Working the Organizing Experience – Transforming psychotic, schizoid, & Autistic states.” (Thanks, Matt S.!)

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  • I haven’t been able to read this through, but is there any mention of the role of early attachment in creating resiliency? If not, then there is no real understanding of psychology or mental health.

    Our culture has been obsessed with genetics both where psychology and physical health are concerned. In both areas, the role and power of genetics has been vastly overstated and over bought-into, in psychology probably more so. We utterly neglect and are ignorant of the many key environmental ingredients that go into creating personality and mental health or ill-health, and the (esp. early) psychological environment’s impact on physical health down the line.

    Genetics is a holy grail in today’s psychological and medical fields, but after decades and decades and millions of dollars worth of research, it has been leading us (esp. re: psychology and also but less so in medicine) mostly nowhere.

    c.f. –John Horgan’s “gene whiz” articles in Scientific American
    –Publications by Jay Joseph, PsyD
    –“When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection” by Gabor Mate, MD (“The war on cancer, for all its triumphs, has generally been a failure because it looks for the causes of malignancy in minute cellular mechanisms. As an astute observer has pointed out, attempting to find the cause of cancer on the cellular level is like trying to understand a traffic jam by examining the internal combustion engine.”)
    –“The Manual: The Definitive Book on Parenting and The Causal Theory” by Faye Snyder, PsyD –> Explains the exact environmental mechanisms (children’s social and emotional needs which are either met or not by their parents) which go into creating mental health vs. ill-health, healthy personalities vs. all the personality disorders.

    Our society needs to become educated in *real* psychology and stop *assuming* genetic causation for which there is generally no real evidence anyway. Come on, people. The causes are right before our eyes. We just have to have the eyes and the knowledge to see them.

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  • I agree, Monica – Again, anything “biological” is seized upon in the hopes that ‘mental illness’ will be able to be attributed to purely organic, non-social phenomena (i.e. no one’s – except perhaps the sufferer’s – fault), and chronic stress & trauma are ignored. Are they asking the question, “From whence commeth all this inflammation & immune activity? Could it be that the psychological stress that is already known to be implicated in, well, psychological distress (otherwise known as m.i.) is also behind much of this inflammation & immune activity in the first place?” It’s almost as if many researchers and others have an agenda to avoid looking at chronic stress & trauma at all costs, to avoid looking at parenting and other social forces which shape growing bodies & minds & to implicate anything but.

    Have you read Dr. Mate’s book “When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection”? It is eye-opening. He explains thoroughly the exact ways in which psychological/emotional stress affects the immune and all the other systems of the body – since they are all connected – and can lead to all sorts of physical illness over time (autoimmune diseases [incl. ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, “and many other diseases that are not always recognized to be autoimmune in origin, such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease”], cancers, ALS, cardiovascular disease, allergies, asthma, etc.). He describes a sort of medical “bermuda triangle” which has been swallowing up this type of research over the past decades resulting in the medical field’s neglect of and even bias against this very important cause & effect mechanism, but that a new field called “psychoneuroimmunology” is emerging which “studies the ways that the psyche–the mind and its content of emotions–profoundly interacts with the body’s nervous system and how both of them, in turn, form an essential link with our immune defenses… We are discovering the scientific basis of what we have known before and have forgotten, to our great loss.”

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  • “Feel upset about anything at all, you immediatley have a life long brain disease.”

    Love that.

    “…a continuing pulling down of communities and society, and an increasing reliance on the medical model to cure everything.”

    Indeed. Ignorant, harmful, and doesn’t work!

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  • Guess what also causes gut problems – chronic/acute stress (fear, worry, anger, etc. – emotional upset). You must also know that stress compromises the immune system. I believe that may people who see a connection between digestive/nutrition problems and “mental illness” of various kinds infer a causative relationship but it’s the wrong one. At least in the vast majority of cases, probably, the long-term emotional stress comes first, causing damage to the gut and the poor absorption is a result of that – not the other way around. Again, stress and trauma (including and maybe especially attachment trauma, which is very little understood & acknowledged in our society) are passed over and their extensive effects on the human body and spirit are not recognized.

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  • I absolutely agree. Thank you. Childhood and social/stress issues are I believe still the big underrecognized causes of distress (both physical and emotional/mental) in our society. I see this with physical illness too – the corrosive effects of emotional stress – which includes things like attachment trauma and isolation & loneliness which are on the rise – are not given the recognition they deserve in terms of the ravages they exact on the human body. Our society is fundamentally ignorant about key human interpersonal and emotional needs – as fluffybunny said, if you have not experienced something like attachment trauma and have had no reason to really learn much about it, you will not be able to imagine what it feels like and the devastation it wreaks on a human mind/body/life. None at all. It is vastly underrecognized and passed-over as a cause of illness both physical and mental.

    I find the last paragraph of this piece oddly telling –

    “Every one of us wants to solve the terrible problem of the epidemic of mental problems. With no new psychiatric drugs on the horizon, and growing concerns about the value of currently-available medications, the time is ripe to invest in assessing the extent to which micronutrient treatment may improve mental health in our society. And that’s all we are trying to do.”

    It sounds as if you are switching out one magic bullet for another (as if psychiatric drugs are the only real way we have of approaching these problems currently?), and continuing to focus on where the real problem (at least the vast majority of it) does not lie. I agree with fluffybunny. My prediction is that this focus on nutrition is exaggerated and that if anything, it might account for only a very small proportion of what gets called mental illness. The most important and widespread causes are still going neglected and simply not known or understood, or purposefully avoided, as usual.

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  • Yeeeeeeesssss….. This is what I’ve been going on about trying to get people to see. *Collective* and *social* problems are being misconstrued as *individual* and *internal,* and thus people are being asked to solve them on their own, which is absolutely nonsensical – the very opposite of what should be done. This in and of itself is just about enough to drive me mad. For such a technologically advanced society, we are extremely socially ignorant/backwards.

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  • Steve,
    But *why* was he a misogynistic abusive creep? Why do some people turn out that way, while others turn out with healthier and happier tendencies? Please see for a discussion of Elliot’s upbringing and the factors which more than likely led to his ending up in the position and with the feelings and drives that he did. These things happen for distinct reasons, and we need to be much better at understanding the causes and effects…

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  • Responding to B’s comment which begins: “A few points there.”

    Re: “I don’t think anyone is disputing that genes…contribute to how you react to trauma or stress (that includes how much trauma you can take and what the reaction is going to be). That is called personality.”

    Well, I for one have reason to doubt that genes are responsible for individual personality differences and resiliency. The alleged science backing up that assertion seems to be about as strong as that which claims that “mental illnesses” are genetically determined, biological brain diseases. For a full discussion on the creation of personality and a refutation of the idea that it is caused by individual genetic instruction, see “The Manual: The Definitive Book on Parenting and The Causal Theory” by Faye Snyder, PsyD.

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  • All depends on what is meant by “psychiatry” and its “evidence-based treatments” here. Psychiatry is currently made up of two basically distinct, often opposing paradigms – the biomedical and the psychosocial – so I have to look for context clues to try to figure out which is being talked about. Psychiatry as a field needs to address this split personality and decide what it is and what it believes.

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  • Steve, you so often express what are my thoughts exactly . We have so much control over “environment,” and yet that is not what is being focused on primarily. All of this searching for a genetic holy grail is taking resources away from what we can and direly need to be changing in the real world, right now. I cannot understand how searching for genes is viewed as more important than addressing the environmental factors which are admitted to be necessary for developing these problems. First of all, if they ever do find genes which are truly associated, it will not be a single gene, that much is clear – tt will involve many genes. Secondly, what are they going to do with that knowledge? Are they going to genetically manipulate all of those genes out of our human DNA? That can’t possibly be wise, can it? Or are they searching for genetic causality merely to defend what has been their stance and practice – their scientific credibility – for decades or more? I’m just wondering what the thought process and plan is in terms of what to do about these “conditions” if genetic predisposal is found. It just seems like so much blindess and eugenics-tinged fool-hardiness on the part of the scientific establishment.

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  • 100,000%.

    The impact of stress, especially intra-familial stress, not only on the growing brain but on the body as well as the personality and mind. We just do not see and do not want to see what’s right in front of us. I really like psychologist/author Dr. Faye Snyder on this topic – the reasons why we have a tendency as a culture to “shut the eyes” – to protect those in power (incl./partic. parents) and go on continuing the cycle of injury, scapegoating others, those we see as weaker – often our own children, or other vulnerable/less powerful groups in society – and avoid really looking at and dealing with these tough interpersonal and power dynamics, and rectifying/healing them.

    There are harmful things which many parents do inadvertently to their own children, because similar things were done to them, they haven’t realized, healed and transformed from their own experience yet, and thus they can’t see their own children and their children’s needs clearly, or cannot seem to come up with adequate nurturing or overcome their destructive drives. Then, instead of identifying and sticking up for children’s true needs, we choose to protect what we see as the parents’ egos instead, not “blame” (hold them accountable), and simply “don’t go there.” Many defensive parents refuse to have it any other way, as well, and we as a society give in to their demands.

    Of course this is not the only reason. There’s also the money to be made, and the prestige of a deluded profession to continue propping up. But the parent~child dynamic – and the bias in favor of parents and the powerful at the expense of children and the less powerful – is a central element in play in all of this. This is one of the things that riles me up most about the mental health paradigm, the denial that it’s in, the lack of justice, the way it chooses to collude with the powerful and “shut the eyes” to what by this time should be obvious. That is why this ‘movement’ is very much a social justice movement. Not only is it about flawed science, it is very much about power – a dysfunctional power struggle – and repression/suppression/oppression (?) at its core.

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  • johndoe,
    Thank you so much for saying this. I agree 100%.

    “If we are unlikely to ever have a complete picture of the etiology of “extreme” mental states it is because we stubbornly keep looking in the wrong places and avoiding the obvious questions about the impact of stress on the developing brain and the many shapes which stress can take, particularly in intra-familial relationships. But many of these questions are uncomfortable, not just to researchers but also to sons and daughters and fathers and mothers.”

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  • This is a fantastic article.

    Well, I could quibble with the statement in the first paragraph: “the problem with mental illness is not that people have it but it’s that they BELIEVE they do.”

    In a sense, you are right, because perhaps if most people did not believe in “mental illness” as such, they would be more open/understanding/supportive of people going through crises, not treat them as alien “other,” and this would go a long way towards the person’s so-called mental health. However, this is still an “if.” It’s still possible to not believe in “mental illness” as such yet be completely unsupportive if not abusive to those going through emotional/psychological/life crises.

    My main thought about that line was that: what gets called “mental illness” is still a major problem in and of itself, even if it is divorced from the biopsychiatric b******* (not sure if we can curse on here!).. So to dismantle the biopsychiatric paradigm is a major part of the solution, but the other part is effective prevention and/or “healing” (an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure) of these problems (where they exist) in the first place.. which itself is a tall order but must be done! Proper understanding of what the problems are about is of course the crucial first step.

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  • Me! Me! I agree with oldhead and anothervoice. If there is any real mechanism of karma or justice in the world, human beings are setting ourselves up for an incredible fall, all deserved, for thinking we have the right to do the things we do to other feeling species. C.f.

    Let’s take care of our own da*n problems, especially the problems we should totally understand by now, like human psychology, and leave these creatures to their own lives, they have nothing to do with it. The arrogance, blindness, hypocrisy, and brutality of our species at times are shocking.

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  • oldhead,
    Exactly. Very well said. Like “anger.” Some anger is absolutely appropriate and life-affirming/defending. To pathologize it across the board and/or in the abstract is to negate important parts of our humanity.

    Also, (general comment on the article) there are reasons some folks seem more “pre-disposed” to forgiveness (and all other manner of behaviors/temperament/tendencies) that have to do with quality of attachment (primarily) and/or discipline in their critical early years, and their resulting degree of resilience. See Dr. Faye Snyder, esp. “The Manual: The Definitive Book on Parenting and the Causal Theory” and “The Predictor Scale: Predicting and Understanding Behaviors According to Critical Childhood Experiences.”

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  • Vegwellian, “However, my grandmother had no serious trauma and had depression so severe in her later life that she had shock treatments. So it is fairly reasonable to conclude that something runs through my family that creates a vulnerability to persistent and disabling brain symptoms.”

    Ok. Let’s look at that. First of all, as I mentioned in another comment, it is not only the outwardly “serious” and recognizable (to most people) traumas that create vulnerability to depression and other kinds of mental/emotional distress (what you call “brain symptoms”). Again, please refer to Dr. Faye Snyder, she is brilliant on this. Secondly, “something” could be “running through your family,” indeed, that is causing these sorts of psychological issues to develop, but you (as well as the field of psychiatric genetics and, now, almost our whole society) jump to the conclusion that this “something” is genetic rather than environmental/interpersonal (mainly the result of parenting) and passed down through generations and between family members the same way other family quirks and styles are shared/transmitted. The genetic assumption is just that – an *assumption.* It is not proven via any consistent, replicable research, while on the other hand the evidence in favor of the social/parenting/human development argument is *replicable* and *consistent.* It is simply not very visible or audible in the mainstream as of yet – can you guess why? Because it goes against gigantic and very vested interests (not only financial).

    Two excerpts from the sections, “Misrepresentation by the So-Called Experts” and “The War of the Researchers,” from Dr. Faye’s book, “The Manual: The Definitive Book on Parenting and the Causal Theory”:


    There is an ongoing debate as to whether personality stems from ‘nature vs. nurture.’ We have good reason to believe there are no genes for personality, both from experience and scientific research. Alan Zametkin asked whether there is a gene linked to ADHD in his 1995 JAMA article, ‘Attention Deficit Disorder: Born to be Hyperactive?’ In his article in 2000, Jonathan Leo answered, “to even seriously consider that ADHD is due to a single gene goes against everything that science knows about genes and behavior.” Leo pointed out that Cal Tech geneticist Seymour Benzer has shown that even in fruit flies, a behavior as simple as moving toward a light involves hundreds of genes.

    Any genetic predisposition for temperament is just as unlikely. I cannot assume it like many of my colleagues. Temperament appears to be the result of an unconscious process between parent and child. Temperament is simply an extended and unmitigated mood that ultimately creates a parent’s projected expectation of that mood. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and finally some harder wiring results as the child experiences the same treatment again and again…

    …This section on Misrepresentation of the Experts has been included because so many of our students, the general public and even honest scientists have been led to believe that their genetic makeup has a determining role in their mental health, their pathology or their ability to heal. This section briefly shows you reasons to question what you have been hearing regarding the validity of genetic influence on personality traits.

    For my entire career as a psychotherapist, clients who come to heal want to know how much of their problems are genetic, asking, “How can you argue the research?” Here is my response: There are two opposing camps of research and only the one with the funds reaches you. Follow their motives. Question the research you hear about and find the other research that’s not publicized.

    The research that promotes the notion that pathology originates in our genes is predominately generated by the pharmaceutical industry, which uses its false results to convince the public that psychological symptoms of all degrees are genetic and thereby treatable with drugs rather than healable with guided work. Some give lip service to parenting, but in the final analysis, we are led to believe that the symptoms we treat are genetic.”


    “I have been observing a war of the researchers over the causes of pathology. Anyone who looks closely into the issue of nature vs. nurture will see this battle. Some of the contenders are misinformed yet sincere. Others are very proper yet dishonest. Others are so angry they sling mud as if they are defending their own parents to the end. All of them appear to represent the voice of authority. It is our job to identify researchers’ agendas as they oppose one another and to identify which research is credible, not which research gets the most press.

    The clinical field is represented by multiple theories designed to either protect the parent at the expense of the child (pro-parent) or protect the child at the possible cost of the parent’s ego (pro-child). While a pro-parent theory may explain behavior in terms of the child’s responsibility by blaming his genes, another pro-child theory will explain the very same behavior in terms of the parenting.

    Researchers may approach this primary issue using the terms “nature vs. nurture.” Ultimately, the compromise of the open-minded seems to be a combination of both. However, in practice, the nature-and-nurture-together theory ends up simply being pro-nature. I say this because it seems that under this model we assume whatever we don’t’ understand in behavior must be inborn, and we choose to understand so little. In effect, espousing nature *and* nurture is essentially espousing nature. If it leads us to assume the parents were not essentially the cause, the assumption in nature. I assume nurture because parents must be ultimately responsible for whatever happened. [? poorly-written sentence]. I have clients who reveal a trauma they have been keeping secret for their entire lives in order to protect their parents. Even in this case, I hold the parents responsible for not teaching their children that they can handle the truth and to always bring their problems to them.

    Behind every theory there are motives and ramifications. This field, as I have said, has been divided between pro-parent thinking and pro-child thinking since Freud. Research has been produced to prove that genes cause traits, and research has been produced to prove that parenting causes traits. Both findings cannot be true. It cannot be true that genes create personality and pathology if parenting creates it. It’s as if one child is saying “She did it,” and the other child is saying, “He did it.” Who’s telling the truth? How do you figure out which one is lying?

    My field, from the bottom to the very top, has accepted that both sides are telling the truth and it is not the job of our leadership to get to the bottom of the conflicting information, even though deception is unethical, something a clinician would lose her license for, and so much is at stake. Inaccuracy leads to unnecessary suffering. The scientists and their sponsors are expected to be self-regulating but they aren’t.

    One side has been consistently more truthful and more rigorous in their research. The other side has a history of rigging results. My field sees no evil, hears no evil and speaks no evil. They don’t look at the two children blaming one another with any parental responsibility for getting to the truth. This, in my opinion, is malpractice at the top.

    Pro-parent research has to falsify the truth in order to contend. It is my intention to clarify what tricks geneticists usually use. I want my students to know what questions to ask of studies to see if the ‘evidence’ they’ve been presented measures up. Unfortunately, more and more recently the studies are written in such code that even other scientists cannot follow a study well enough to question it. I would like my field to call for transparency in research. I would like us to insist that any study that cannot be scrutinized should be discarded and that our field will take no study seriously until it has been replicated.

    Even pro-child researchers get timid under the pressure to ‘believe in genes.’ They sneak their theories and observations past the pro-parent gatekeepers by agreeing with the premise that human personalities are made of nature and nurture. Then when you read what constitutes nature and what constitutes nurture, they actually represent that personality adaptations come from experience. The genes provide for the body-self and experiences provide the personality adaptations. By nurture they do mean experience and only experience. By nature, they mean the genetic instructions given to all humans across the board and not uniquely variable from person to person, so as to constitute personality or temperament.

    None of us are born speaking Chinese. Only those of us exposed to Chinese speak Chinese. Yet all of us are designed to learn to understand and ultimately speak to one another in shared verbal symbols that convey information regarding the interactions of matter and energy. A linguist would say that Chinese is learned, but could say that speaking Chinese by a Chinese-born person is genetic and environmental. We must assume that the actual specific Chinese version of language rather than any other language is the environmental part.

    However, when it comes to personality, a great leap is regularly taken in assuming that the personality of any given person could possibly be genetic. In the most serous cases, we assume that the Psychopath, Sociopath or Antisocial personality is the result of bad genes, at least in large part. If we assumed all the behaviors of serial killers were created by their parents, then we would be seeking interviews with these parents and we would want to hear the hard questions and the hard answers. Brutal parents might begin to fear the repercussions of their parenting and get help if enough of these parents were interviewed.

    Even one of my all-time favorite skeptics, neurobiologist Sam Harris, makes the tragic assumption that, “The men and women on death row have some combination of bad genes, bad parents, bad ideas, and bad luck–which of these qualities, exactly were they responsible for (p. 109)?” In another reveal of the genetic orthodoxy of this thinking, he writes, “While it may be difficult to accept, the research strongly suggests that some people cannot learn to care about others (p. 99).” It’s hard to imagine someone as skeptical as Harris being so blind, or perhaps sheltered, to evidence to the contrary. I wish he would become as skeptical of the myth of genes as the origin of personality as he is of religion. The truth is, if an infant is not protected and shown empathy, he cannot give it later on. Good science would rule out the acute neglect during infancy and/or the terrible abuse that happens to all violent predators during their youngest years before assuming any of their traits are due to their genes. Just find one predator who wasn’t violently abused or severely unattached or both, and then we can discuss genes as the origin of personality (Lewis, 1998).

    The problem is that where Harris works and studies, everyone assumes the source is genes. He may even be a bit of a renegade for factoring in parenting as much as he does. The rigorous studies that account for all pathological behavior by environment or parenting are strategically ignored in his environment ,just as evolution is ignored by the very religious. Children will continue to turn out violent as long as they are treated in the cruelest of ways. As long as we make allowances that these symptoms may be the result of bad genes, suffering children will continue to slip through the widely woven net of science and we will be pawns of deception on the moral landscape.

    If pro-child scientists were braver or more suspicious of the pro-parent research results, they would report unequivocally that genes provide the blueprint for the body while experience creates the individual personality. They could clearly educate us that there is not yet any scientific evidence that nature designs personality or even temperament. None. Those who believe otherwise are operating on faith and mutually reinforced assumptions (Ross & Pam, 1995); Valenstein, 1998; Leo, 2000; Lewontin, 2000; Whitaker, 2002; Galves, 2002; Joseph, 2004; Scott, 2006; Wilbur, 2008).”

    If you are confused by the pro-child/pro-parent language, here is a quick snapshot of what she’s talking about ~

    She then goes on to discuss the “Business of Science” and lists out the various forms of “Research Fraud” used, under the following categories: Standard Practices; Adoption Studies; Identical Twins Separated at Birth; All in the Family; Statistical Problems; Chemistry and DNA; Interpretation of the Data; Chemical Imbalance and Brain Abnormalities; and Politics.

    I’m not sure if those two quoted passages were the absolute most fitting/apropos for the discussion, but you get the idea.

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  • CannotSay, “particularly people who have experienced things like happiness, love, betrayal, deep sadness as a result of a loved one, etc -which is most of us (with the probable exception of the APA quacks who write the DSM),” heh, good one. No joke, it’s as if they don’t understand human feelings and have never experienced real, colorful, human life, judging by how blind they are to what’s in front of their eyes. It’s as if they are a set of androids with a very underdeveloped social sense and capacity for empathy.

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