Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Comments by nchurch

Showing 15 of 15 comments.

  • This gets near the heart of the problem that so many of us have to work with. I hope you will keep writing on this topic.

    There is a glib bumper-sticker that says: no justice, no peace. I have found that seeking justice without a measure of peace in my own mind is not successful; on the other hand, this leaves injustices to pile up, and many lessons unlearned. How do we balance the need to heal ourselves and find peace, and the need to stand up and defend ourselves?

  • Sera, Caroline—-

    This is such a beautiful post: philosophically rigorous, and comprehensive. I wish everyone involved in the mental health system could read this. Heck, I wish everyone in the country could read it. It dances through the false dichotomies and distortions as if they were paper-thin.

    I don’t know how you do it. Struggling through this conceptual territory feels to me like drowning in molasses. I know it is populated by straw men, but those straw men are backed by immense sums of money and mass prejudice. I am never able to forget for a moment that anyone who wishes to can call the authorities and attempt to have me committed. They can speak five minutes of boilerplate, and put me in a trap that my best eloquence cannot get me out of: all I can do is shut my mouth and rely on the kindness of strangers with guns. Indeed, momentary eloquence is part of the diagnosis! My only recourse for preventing this seems to be clipping my own wings, pretending to be stupid, and flying below the radar. And keeping an eye on all the tinpot bullies in my life, because I know it only takes a few words for them to have the full power of the state on their side.

    We realize we have grown in wisdom when we obtain a balanced perspective. It is so hard to find a balanced perspective when you live in fear of power. I feel like I’ve grown personally through reading this. It also gives me a little more hope that we can turn things around and become free human beings, some day.

    God, I am so sick of not being a free human being. I may have begged a judge for my physical freedom, and gotten it, but the virtual asylum seems indestructable. Too much of my waking time, and too much of my dreamtime, is ensnared in figuring out how to protect myself. When I read something like what you both have written, I know it is possible to free your mind even when you lack civil rights. I just don’t know how.

  • This is the best summary of the evidence and arguments against biopsychiatry I’ve ever seen. Give a psychiatrist Whitaker’s books, and they can claim they have no time to read books. With this article, there is no excuse.

    If defenders of psychiatry are unable or unwilling to write a rebuttal with evidence and unfallacious arguments to this article, that in itself should be enough to discredit them.

  • As soon as I saw: “Worry and concern are my least favorite words”, I realized you \know. I am grateful (and very impressed, if I may use an ego-stroking word) that you have been able to comprehend this. So few people who have never been through psychiatric imprisonment get this.

    Expressions of ”’worry”’, and, still worse, ””’concern””’ (which adds a cold, bureaucratic tinge to panic) can be the tipping points into crisis. Why can people not understand this? Panicking is a deadly and contagious thing to do on the decks of the Titanic; it is still worse in times of internal distress. The incipient patient who knows in his solar plexus how much the legal deck is stacked against him, and how easily the psychopaths in his life can deal him a mortal blow while feigning ””’concern””’, instantly realizes his life is about to be dismantled, and becomes from that moment a hunted animal. The panic of others is internalized, so that the prophecy becomes self-fulfilling. In such cases—-it is very hard to sleep than while you are on the run, metaphorically or physically: I have read of ordinary people becoming ‘ ‘psychotic’ ‘ while in hiding or in flight—-suicide can seem like the only way out, especially in our era of “”Assisted Outpatient Treatment””, which threatens a lifetime of something possibly worse than physical imprisonment.

    One thing I would like to know is: what words \do work? What can we tell our surrounding ego-bound hand-wringers to say? All I can think of is: “I love you, and you are free to do as you wish.” And if they want to express their difficulties with your behavior to simply say: “This is too much for me, right now.” But somebody must know something better….

    One thing Dr. Brogan omits because possibly she has never experienced it for herself is the need for compassionate \looking. Eyes can destroy you, and eyes can also heal. The conventional psychiatric gaze is especially punishing, only a few notches down from the infamous sociopath stare.

    (I am unable to find an alternative for the word ‘sociopath’, even though I try to avoid any term from psychiatry whatsoever; the concept it refers to is for all its medicalismo simply too useful. When you are in a hospital that will not turn off the lights in your bedroom, and also forbids sleeping masks but allows pens and toothbrushes, you realize there are sociopaths somewhere in management. I feel like sociopathy and narcissism are the authorized mental “disorders” of our time. They call the shots, and they are especially hateful of what they call depression, mania, and schizophrenia. And they can be found everywhere power concentrates, and will emerge from the woodwork as soon as the smell of awakening is in the air.

    I have sympathy for sociopaths and narcissists: they need healing as much as anyone else. But for their own sake and for ours they need to be kept away from power. It is time for our society to realize that leadership, and credentials like the MD, are not lifetime entitlements. The history of sociopathy in psychiatry would make for an interesting read; Hannibal Lecter is a cultural touchstone for a good reason, alas.

    Dr. Brogan, writing like yours is almost enough to redeem that discipline.)

  • I’m going to step back and let you have the last word, but let me point out I have never expressed *dislike* of you. We haven’t met, and from your writing I personally find you quite likeable! And I welcome any efforts to persuade me to change \my mind. I’ve written at length, though, because persuading requires detail.

    If you have considered all possible angles, that is a wonderful thing, and forgive me for appearing to presume otherwise. But again, part of this discussion is for bystanders. The reasons I have enumerated against suicide were not already present in the discussion. That is enough to make them worth mentioning: and of course I had no way of knowing that you \had considered them already.

    One thing I want to highlight as a valuable contribution to this discussion: your point that one doesn’t have to be in any emotional distress to consider suicide: i.e. wishing to kill yourself cannot be taken to \imply that you are in any emotional distress. That, of course, is how peremptory psychiatric coercion is justified. You were right to attack it at the very root. And my consideration of the (possibly abstruse) question of what happens when you actually approach death and eventually die, is not to be taken as a negation of that point. It’s another department altogether.

    One way you can strengthen the case that you are not being emotional is not to react in any emotional way to comments here. I shall leave it to yourself to determine whether you have done so. I’ll add that you have every right to get angry at people who do not know you raising niggling and possibly stupid objections; but you have no control, unfortunately, over how someone who is not inclined to be persuaded by your case might react to such anger. And surely you wish to persuade, and not merely preach to the choir?

    And on that matter I am a half-cheerleader: I am, as I said, passionately convinced that suicide \is a civil right, but wholly \unconvinced that it is nearly so much of a good idea as those who wish to do it are inclined to think. If I were politically, and not philosophically minded, I would swallow my objection to the second part of your case to strengthen my support for the first part: because I think the \civil right to suicide is a lynchpin of human freedom and a fundamental blow against meddlesome tyranny, which always in all guises claims to be for the benefit of its victims.

    (If there were a right to suicide, for instance, could there ever be such a thing as slavery? The first members of a population that had been marked for enslavement would find their way off this mortal coil, and the next wave of slavers would get the message not to bother.)

    Therefore, my final sentiment is one of thanks to you, for having the courage to raise this topic here (and let us not deny that it \does take courage), and to put down some good arguments.

  • To return to where we started: this being a public forum, it is not simply a matter of me convincing you, or vice versa—-but communicating with anyone who reads this. I think it’s a useful discussion to have. And I don’t believe that offering reasons to back up one’s thinking to someone who is firmly convinced otherwise is a personal attack. That is campus radicalism, not reason.

    Many people—-with conventional opinions—-will argue that the pitfalls of deciding to kill oneself are enough to militate for coercion. I am arguing, passionately, that there \are pitfalls, and \also that coercion is reprehensible. That distinction needs to be made.

    Persuasion is a better thing than coercion every time, and there is nothing wrong with trying it.

    I also want to make very clear that I do *not* believe you are making the wrong decision. It would be presumptuous of me to say this; it would even be presumptuous of your best friend to say such a thing! Nobody knows the half of it other than you. *All* I am doing is enumerating reasons you *might* be wrong. If *I* were in the process of making an irreversible decision, I would want to know and directly consider every reason I might be wrong. Such reasons can be given to a certain extent independent of direct knowledge of an individual’s situation, because some (not all) of these reasons are universals.

  • Not trying to force or scare you into anything. As I should reiterate again I think you have an absolute right to do as you wish. I am only putting out food for thought. When faced with an irreversible decision, keeping an open mind would seem to be even more important than it usually is. I don’t care about *changing* people’s minds, but for many more reasons than I can enumerate I care about \open minds. Psychiatry—-now there’s the opposite of an open mind. The best way I can fight closed-mindedness like psychiatry is to keep an open mind myself.

    I didn’t want to believe in all this spiritual stuff either—-especially not anything that could be branded as “New Age”. But in the end I was faced with the choice between admitting to myself there might be “something to it”, and keeping a closed mind. And a closed mind isn’t worth it.

    How can you tell whether you have a closed mind? One never wants to admit it. One way around it might be to ask, “how do I know?” For instance, how do you know there is no “rest of us” in your case? What have you done to give the “rest of us” a chance to speak? How can you prove the negative? I don’t ask you to answer these questions for \me, but for \yourself.

    And if you could spend a few days, or a week, or even a month, trying something you have never tried before, that large numbers of people have historically believed to be helpful—-to give that “rest of us” a chance to speak—-my question is: why \not? What’s the rush? What’s the harm in trying?

  • The reason I would consider “dealing with” that stuff is that it can give people a completely new type of experience, which often results in insights about self or the nature of reality. Is it just “the drugs”? That’s the big question: if it is just a random drug effect, maybe it can be ignored. But the way I understand it is that psychedelics dissolve how we “put together” experience in the ordinary manner, and force us to reach deeper into our psyche and survival instinct. Sidestepping issues of consciousness surviving death, and using my prior example, a bullet tearing through the brain coupled with the certain knowledge of impending death, might do something (very) roughly similar. So a psychedelic in that surface analysis is a rough way to “rehearse” death in a way that is (mostly) reversible. I say *mostly* because it could leave you with a changed mind!

    The number of people who have changed their minds during suicide attempts gives me pause. Clearly they are faced with a type of experience they did not anticipate. I can only speculate, and not know, what that might be. I’ll mention some stories that come to mind. Ken Kesey spoke of a friend who tried to kill herself using a rag soaked with carbon tetrachloride. At the last moment she heard an overwhelming clamor: “What about the *rest* of us?” Her ego had decided to kill herself, but there were whole parts of her personality that she simply wasn’t aware of, and that wanted to live.

    (When I had suicidal thoughts myself, I eventually realized that what I was trying to eliminate was *the life I currently have*, not the possibility of life itself. I needed a plane ticket *out*, not a gun.)

    It was lucky for her that she still had the strength to snatch the rag off her face. Other people will not be so lucky. I read about a girl who burned herself to death (it can be found in “Confessions of an Rx drug pusher”), and only when her body was completely on fire decided to call 911—-surely with the knowledge that she would have to live with full-body burns and profound pain, if she survived (which she did not).

    Still others relate jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, seeing their hands leave the railing…..and realizing they made a horrible mistake. They fall into the water, break multiple bones, and crawl out to begin life anew profoundly crippled.

    The bottom line is that suicide is an extreme experience: and extreme experiences often completely change one’s perspective on life. Suddenly whole new reasons for living appear out of the blue, but there is often no way to act on this insight without having tremendous injuries, if it is possible to act at all. I am not advocating that anyone do psychedelics *in particular*, but I am advocating a no-stone-left-unturned “due diligence” before making a final decision to die—-and that would involve, necessarily, seeking extreme experiences that are reversible. There are plenty of ways to do this that don’t involve drugs (I’d mention Holotropic Breathwork; also more obvious things like adventure travel, sky diving….).

    I wonder if you have also considered death by fasting. Ancient spiritual traditions have advocated this as a way to die (it is a spiritual technique in itself); after the first couple of days people are said to lose the desire for food altogether. It is a process that not only may grant insights, but presents plenty of opportunities to reverse course.

    BTW, Phineas Gage is certainly a challenge to the naive conception of a personality surviving death. But consciousness surviving death does not imply that our consciousness cannot be affected by our brains and even our bodies. If you cut off my hands, and branded my tongue, and put out my eyes, I might be left with a profoundly changed personality, but I could not argue that you did anything to my brain (and surely you are not going to argue that consciousness resides in the hands and the tongue, or even the eyes!). The case of Phineas Gage requires us to regard any post-death consciousness as something that was at a minimum symbiotic with the brain during life. But that is far from a knock-down argument against there being any chance of independent survival. What people find on continued spiritual practice is a kind of essence that is quite different from an ordinary personality.

    Putting together my own direct experience with readings about NDE’s and other unusual experiences, I personally do not have any doubts.

  • I don’t read his comments as hateful; I just see him expressing strong disagreement, which is far from the same thing.

    Have you read any of the near death experiences literature, e.g. Raymond Moody’s Life after Life? I’m not trying to “convert” you or anyone else; I’m just curious about your take on it. Also curious if you have any feelings about psychedelic experience (which in some cases can give people a profound experience of “dying before death”.)

  • Notice how I phrased it: *I*. But I am pointing out a logical-philosophical problem that could apply to *anyone*.

    Once we post public comments like this one or your article, it becomes about much more than you. Or me. I support (and salute) your personal right to do as you wish, but I do not want to pass up the opportunity to mention a difficulty that people reading this may not all have thought through.

  • This is such a discussion-clarifying comment. In my own comment I risked making the unspoken assumption that non-materialistic beliefs would inevitably argue against suicide; clearly that is not true.

    There’s another interesting point you bring up: using suicide as a means to escape involuntary medicine. I’ve seen this alluded to in other discussion forums: the respondents say they will make sure they succeed at their suicide attempts next time, so they can avoid being hospitalized again. What you help us realize is that involuntary medical care is not just a psychiatric issue: in fact it applies to nearly everyone at the end of life. That might help raise majoritarian interest in this problem.

    I have a good friend who spent his whole career in the medical system, as a specialist, and now approaching ninety fears “medical kidnapping”: with the result that he stays in his own home most of the time: he is afraid if he travels some “good samaritan” might call 911 on him if he happens to fall ill away from home.

    All of us psychiatric survivors know exactly what he means by “medical kidnapping”. I’ve seen it in other contexts too: I met someone who was kidnapped when she injured her back, and was held against her will by a rural trauma department that was trying to force her into back surgery. She ended up reaching her own doctor on the phone, and escaping the hospital by evading guards, hobbling out the front door, and calling a taxi. All she needed was a back brace, and the hospital lost its juicy bill for surgery.

    What we have is a larger issue than psychiatric hospitalization. We are all in the grips of a rapacious, profit-driven system that forces care on us with inadequate or nonexistent consent. And large fractions of this abusive care are at the end of life and do not provide any substantial benefit in length or quality of life. I’m glad that you have a “Do Not Resucitate” order, but notice what you have never been given the chance to sign: a “Do Not Hospitalize” order.

    Unless it is for a broken limb or an immediate injury that I can recover from, or a highly successful elective surgery, I hope never to see the inside of a hospital again. It is a profound indictment of our system that about the only way I could guarantee this is by watching out for my “canaries in the coal mine” and killing myself before I get picked up.

    Let’s push for a civi right to suicide by all means, but let’s not forget the right to opt-out of medical care we don’t want. (And have already paid for, through insurance! But that’s another story.) If more people realized that they will likely die under the power of strangers, away from home and in a stressful and ugly environment, they might be less sanguine about our medical system, and more inclined to listen to psychiatric survivors.

  • I, too, have come to believe that suicide is a fundamental human right. I do not say doctor-assisted suicide; I mean suicide for any reason whatsoever, without owing any judge among men an explanation. The focus of public discussion on physician-assisted suicide is yet another example, as if we needed any more, of a power-grab from the medical-industrial complex. (As any psychiatric survivor knows, they already have unbrookable authority over life; now they are demanding death for their purview as well.)

    People have a right to kill themselves, however they like, and by whatever means they choose: including drugs. Period. This has nothing to do with whether suicide is a good thing. It is only that, if one actually wished to enforce a non-right to suicide—-and the temptation will always be there—-the regime would be beyond totalitarian. Even in our supposedly free society, we grant any self-appointed guardian the right to pre-emptively coerce against suicide (professional guardians have that as an obligation). In an ideal world, I suppose this might be survivable. In our world, where coercion and abuse are dished out for the flimsiest and most self-serving reasons, from intimate family circumstances all the way to impersonal corporate offices; where narcissists and high-functioning sociopaths zoom up gold-paved highways to power—–it is a moral monstrosity.

    I do not, however, think we should ever glibly dismiss the question of whether suicide is a good idea. The finality of the decision requires careful thought. The usual argument against it is that it hurts those around us. There is something to that, though I would take it more seriously if friends and family did not, under the tutelage of psychiatry, feel entitled to act as jailers. But in the final analysis, you do not owe your life to other people, even to those that gave you life: to assert otherwise is foundational to a kind of slavery.

    Where I question suicide is in what the author leaves unquestioned: that it is an escape. I would want to be very sure of that before reaching for the off-switch; and unfortunately, even for a strict materialist and atheist, there are no guarantees. Atheism may guarantee that your life is finite, but it does not guarantee that your experience of it effectively is. Intensity of experience, and subjective sense of time, are tremendously malleable. There is, for instance, the commonplace description of what people experience during a car crash and other deadly situations: time stretching out.

    In other words, the subjective time between pulling the trigger, and the final dissolution of consciousness as the bullet tears through the brain, may be much longer than you think: under a materialist presumption, it cannot be infinite, but it is entirely possible that it will be so long that it will dwarf your entire prior experience of life. (If this does not seem plausible, a psychedelic session may make it so.)

    If that is so, how you feel during that abnormally long time-span will determine whether it really is an effective escape. The ancient wisdom that the way we live our lives and the way we die determine whatever comes next, then, is beginning to seem quite reasonable—-even for an atheist.

    But as a psychiatric survivor, I also do not want to leave atheism unquestioned. I am sure there are plenty of people here who have been hospitalized after intense spiritual experiences, and to whom the thought has occurred that atheism and materialism are, in our day, maintained by the oldest fallacy in the book: shoot the messenger. The only reason that broader society is unaware of the prophetic and the miraculous, is that the prophets have all been summarily imprisoned….

    I object to atheism, then, as a presumed reality with an enforcement wing (all ideologies eventually become militant, do they not?). Anyone who presumes atheism on themselves should be fully aware of what they are signing up for. Now, as a purely intellectual presumption, it is delightful. The best kind of play requires a playground: science, engineering, and industry have blossomed in the duck-pond of materialism. But it should not escape our notice that the Inquisition, and the subsequent emergence of madhouses, immediately preceded the scientific revolution. If madmen had to be locked up so that mankind could eventually learn to fly—–so be it? But surely, this has gone on long enough!

    I would never, never volunteer for death before undertaking a thorough investigation of spirituality. Though materialism has served science well, it has not done well for either the planet or for mankind. All civilizations and cultures other than our own have taken the larger, mostly invisible world very seriously.

    After my own experience, I have disallowed suicide for myself—-except, perhaps, in the case of imminent and permanent enslavement (which psychiatry, quite conveniently, is more than willing to provide). So I would urge anyone facing the choice to look into spirituality. What does this practically mean?

    The conventional Western wisdom would be to study sacred texts (preferably from the Western tradition only). When I was an undergraduate in physics, I used to spend all my time reading the textbooks; I never got around to doing the exercises. This is a poor way to learn physics; it is also a poor way to learn about God. I wouldn’t throw away the “textbooks” just yet, but they must be backed up by one’s own exercises: which may be as arduous and lifelong as a meditation practice, or as arduous and short-term as a psychedelic session.