Sunday, December 4, 2022

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  • And for those for whom yoga, support groups and a change of diet make little difference?

    This perspective is part of the problem in my opinion. Changing from one faulty paradigm to another might result in less harm, but what if there is no universal panacea for human suffering?

    It feels to me as though there is an element of winning a competition in this – your perspective is wrong and mine is right. Minds close.

    This seems to be mimicking the model of medicine of finding and applying the correct remedy. But medicine relies on theories about the body, what it is, how it works and what goes wrong. Where people have problems with their bodies that don’t fit existing understandings they are blamed and discarded. Will this be how providers of Yoga and dietary interventions respond to those whose suffering is not amenable to their treatments? Isn’t that one of the reasons we collectively choose to warehouse unwanted, and/or problematic people?

    Suffering and problems of living encompass every aspect of existence. While adherents and believers, particularly those providing services related to niche markets might be gratified if their understanding and solutions were validated and resourced, no theory or belief system has shown itself to fully understand the questions, let alone provide universally successful solutions.

  • There is huge damage in what that breaking down sets people up for if they can get out and away.

    It is conditioning in accepting inferior status and worth, in profoundly dysfunctional behaviours borne of self-distrust. It takes people further away from themselves.

    For people who have already been conditioned by abuse it is like a finishing school. it doesn’t just side with abusers it finishes the job for them.

  • That’s pretty much where I’m coming to Oldhead. Really interested to hear you say it and good to know I’m not entirely out on a limb.

    This isn’t an interesting abstraction for me, something to bat backwards and forwards in a philosophy class. (I say that because I remember doing just that a few years ago).
    But actually understanding and questioning everyday life differently. A big change.

  • I’m reading an autobiography of an activist, an amazing woman and it begins with the question: “Where did my ‘madness’ begin”.

    What I like in the vignettes of her life leading up to hospitalisation is that they aren’t of the stereotypic ‘trauma-breaks-mind’ narrative that has become a kind of archetype of the ‘nurture/environment’ pole but are more like snapshots a sensitive child trying to make sense of her experience, of life, of what is happening within and without. It reads as a narrative of not significantly shutting-down, unseeing, or buying-in, of allowing herself to be.

  • I have an undeveloped intuition about the nature vs nurture, biology vs environment, culture vs individual question which seems to be at the core of debates about all human problems, including those which are termed mental illness.

    I don’t believe these can or will be resolved by any alternative which tries to incorporate the other polarity. I have a feeling that a third problem will always keep everyone arguing for a position between these two poles, but with a strong preference for one side or the other.

    What I’m starting to wonder is if the unacknowledged elephant in the room is the nature of consciousness itself.

    What I am starting to suspect is that as long as this is left unaddressed we will always be doomed to be chasing our own ideological tails.

  • CBT, like many techniques can provide some useful tools, but I don’t like it. I don’t even see it as logical.

    Thoughts don’t cause human suffering, imo, although they often reflect or express it, so thought control isn’t any kind of ‘answer’ as far as I’m concerned. I find the whole idea abhorrent and oppressive.

  • With respect DBP, I found the article linked to be chillingy authoriatrian account of Marxism.

    It struck me as having a great deal in common with capitalism with its talk of controlling nature, of the ‘objectivity’ of science as an impartial arbiter of reality and as a kind of CEO defining and directing human ‘progress’.

    Like capitalism it conflated indviduality with individualism and conformity with collectivism, yet I can’t see how there could ever be any true connection, equality, respect and cooperation between people without a genuine freedom to explore and be a self through which to meet and be met by others and the rest of the external world.

    There also seemed to be no understanding of the flaws and limitations of humanity itself which doesn’t bode well for a blueprint for living well together.

    It seems ironic that on a site such as MIA, a version of socialism which disparages non-conformism would be promoted. I can certainly see psychiatry flourishing in this vision of a “brighter” future.

  • Quote:
    “OK are you ready for the part where violence is unleashed against you without provocation (other than being effective)? ”

    Expecting it and training for it, Oldhead.
    I haven’t had anything to do with organising these actions, but I’ve been impressed by what I’ve seen.

    “There are no true “small scale alternatives to capitalism” possible until capitalism is eliminated, only what capitalism permits. But I don’t want to spoil things for you, maybe you should be surprised. Not that I’m happy about the situation.”

    Maybe things are different now in that almost everyone knows we need to grow food locally, learn how to fix and make essential items, re-learn old skills, build communities, etc,…
    Because – global crisis. I’m never quite sure not living in the US – is climate change and its consequences not accepted as fact by most in the US?

    “But anarchism is a dead end from all I’ve ever seen. Unless you need some windows broken or buildings tagged”

    I would have agreed with you, but this does seem to be a different beast.

    edited to add the link above for the kinds of resistance tactics that are being used

  • Hi OH,

    The present is a super-humid day, cleaning up while listening to Wall of Voodoo as loud as the speakers will go and feeling pretty good. The present is taking care of itself. I hope you are feeling good in your part of the world.

    The movement I’m talking about is about the only thing around these parts which is led and organised by young people. I just turn up when and where.

    It’s different in the way they organise themselves and just getting started. I hope it continues and gets stronger. I think the nonviolent tag isn’t meant to imply that other things are or have been violent, just to emphasise a philosophy and to make sure that those words are always associated with actions since civil disobedience tactics are usually central.

    It seems to be growing out of a new kind of anarchism combined with a new kind of pacifism in response to climate change and everything that goes with it. It seems to me to be a much less-naïve version of anarchy/pacifism. Most are also working on finding small-scale alternatives to capitalism and building on them (sound familiar?) but this time with more self-awareness I hope.
    Time will tell.

    I hear what you say about material reality. That is what is being challenged.

    As for meet the new boss…. that would probably lead even further away from the post. Maybe another post?

  • Thank you.
    I found this summary really valuable.

    You mention the way that the pathologising approach actually prevents severe human distress being treated with the seriousness it deserves. I’d like to add that it also prevents the causes of severe distress from being taken seriously.

    This is another feature of psychiatry. If distress proves that the distressed are ‘defective’, it also proves that nothing much is psychologically distressing and damaging. It means that both cause and effect are located within ‘defective’ individuals. It is effectively a not guilty verdict for every form of oppression and abuse and sympathy and solidarity with harm doers, and with the harm itself. It enables the punishing approach to those who are most hurt from onlookers both inside and outside of psychiatry and encourages everyone to harden and turn away from suffering, inside and outside of themselves. No wonder the number of those showing ‘symptoms’ is growing exponentially.

    It is a marketers paradise.

  • I think I get your point, OH, but I also think you may be misunderstanding – either that, or I am.
    In another conversation I mentioned non-violent resistance but was then unable to access my computer to explain while the conversation was current. What I was talking about then is a new type of activism. It acknowledges the fact that we no longer live in anything even vaguely democratic, and also that the institutions that we oppose are authoritarian and therefore not amenable to reason.

    In our post-democracies even a sizable majority of the population cannot bring about change by dissent alone – civil disobedience and disrupting actions are needed. At the same time non-violent movements actively try to create amongst themselves the kind of supportive, non-coercive and horizontal relationships and communities that they envisage in a post-change world. None of this is easy. It requires challenging the foundations of the problems of the current interpersonal mess that we’ve all been encultured with – all of us!

    I’m old enough to have seen the phenomenon of ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss’ (usually slightly less odious at first), happen after change has been brought about, over and over again. They become more a changing of the guards than the fundamental change that was longed and fought for.

    I believe we should invest more effort in changing our own settings in creating the communities amongst ourselves that we wish for so that real change might actually follow from resistance.

    Of course the power and responsibility for current abusive and oppressive realities doesn’t rest equally between oppressor and the oppressed. Taking responsibility for challenging the oppressor within is about caring for each other now and creating something better for the future.

  • ‘Could the planet be going through a rebirth at present? ‘

    A dangerous idea.
    What sort of rebirth would involve mass intinctions of many diverse forms of life, (including potentially, humankind), catastrophic environmental destruction, out of control climate change, acidification of, and rising sea levels, and unprecedented geopolitical unrest?

    Rebirth of what exactly?

  • Thank you for this, Will.

    It is so encouraging to read that the movement in the US is reaching for something better. It’s too easy to become a replica of the very problems we criticise in others. Those of us who have been badly hurt by repeated experiences of being on the painful, receiving end of abuses of power seem to be little, and in some cases, no less tempted to abuse power ourselves when in a position to do so.

    We all need better than that, from those we trust, and from ourselves.

  • I’m feeling patronised, OH.

    I’m not guilt tripping myself. Anger can be channeled, rage just eats me alive. I’m not in a ‘constant state’ just easily provoked.

    I don’t believe resistance needs to be’ polite’. I do believe that effective resistance requires calm and self control. Usually I can be calm, but for me this issue brings out the worst in me, partly because of not being able to react at the time, but mainly because people I cared about died.

  • Mad?

    Thanks for the laugh with my morning coffee.

    As for credibility, I’m with you. But for a movement for change there needs to be equanimity, control and strategy on the side of the marginalised. Those stuffed shirts with their paper credentials can be as crazy and rage filled as they like without losing any ground. It has always been this way in movements for change.

  • yeah.

    That’s all very well OH, but rage is visceral anger, a biological preparedness to inflict severe hurt or death. It can only be sustained for short bursts without harming or killing the carrier. I’ve got to find a way to some calm and equilibrium about this to be anything more than a self destructive liability.

    As for credibility, what I’m saying is that to gain any traction, any successful movement will have to be a model of non violent resistance, imo. Spitting rage and hatred is counterproductive, but atm, I can’t be anything but hateful and rageful to the mildest provocation. You might think that’s useful, I know I’m useless like this.

  • I feel the same way, Rachel.
    You have great way with words.

    I. also agree with YIS above. Salvation is leaving it behind completely, which for me, isn’t compatible with being an activist. I don’t know how to get past this because in this kind of activism, being angry is hugely discrediting, more so than any other, and being discredited for feeling angry about this, the suggestion or accusation that it proves psychiatry right about protesters, turns my anger into an impotent rage.

  • Meaningfulness is related to integrating past, present and future and self expression. Adolescence is an important time for young people to be creating meaning by relating the past to the present, and dreaming of the future and expressing rather than subjugating their selves.

    I don’t have a problem with meditation being a choice amongst other quiet, relaxing periods for teens, but ime, the philosophy of mindfulness discourages dreaming and analytic or critical thinking. It focuses on uncritical present tense awareness, and promotes ‘no self’. This is one useful way of being among many.

    These interventions in all ‘captive’ groups need to be monitored to ensure that impressionable children and others who are unable to freely exercise their own will are genuinely free to choose otherwise and are protected from dogma and zealotry.

  • In this comment it is the quote about success. Sorry can’t and paste atm or even return to the text without losing this comment.

    I admit I overlooked the. word ‘most’ which shows that I may be over reacting, but still, I feel even the less extreme sentiment is equating ‘winning’ with morality according to a kind of ‘just world’ fallacy.

  • I appreciate that you are not promoting the myth of a universal panacea. I use mindfulness practices according to my experience of what I find beneficial. There is much in the ‘package’ that I don’t.

    Part of how I see the benefit is in authenticity, in accepting myself as I unfold without trying to be someone else. There is so much in society, especially within the beliefs of the mental Illness industry that can set us on a treadmill feeling that who we are is not okay and that we must find ways to become someone who is okay. It can be a radical departure to connect with, rather than reject who we actually are, and there is huge reassurance in finding that we are okay even at our ugliest.

    I’ve found it necessary to dispense with some of the oppressive ideas that were a part of the mindfulness package that was presented to me. I find the industry itself worrying in it’s dogma and grandiosity.

  • To extend this argument further, those in poverty, those living in the developing world, those disadvantaged or oppressed by hatred or discrimination of any kind, these people are failing to give and receive love, whereas the wealthy, the powerful, the capitalist ‘first’ world, by definition, are reaping the benefits of their lovingkindness.

    Donald Trump is a triumph of love.

  • Unfortunately, in the naïve form as written, it’s not true.
    The ‘achievements’ of the Nazi holocaust were not the result of love.

    Even worthwhile achievements can result from, or be side effects of ambition, revenge, hatred, the need to be better than others, greed, conformity, capitalism, pride……

    One simple answer to everything is always tempting. We all crave certainty and clarity, the one true path.

    There is truth in what Breggin is saying, but this rendition of it is not true, imho.

  • I don’t know that he is saying that, Rachel.

    I appreciate that Peter Breggin has been a staunch ally to us in his work, but I’m responding to the content of this article.

    His focus is on those who are labelled and his conclusion is that our struggles are caused by our ‘inability to give or receive love’. I think he is being clear in this. It is not about finding ourselves without love, this writing is categorical that the problem lies in our inability to give or receive it.

  • I’ve re read this post and I fid it deeply offensive.

    This sad old world, and humanity especially, could use much more genuine human love. But to suggest that those who are most on the receiving end of the opposite are the most deficient, and by implication, to blame for being so treated so derisively, is not just unfair, but seems to fly in the face of love itself.

  • Its sad if another religion is the only hope for inclusion and meaningful relationships. It seems to me that faith communities are often as superficial and excluding as the communities the members are drawn from. And then there is the other problem of needing to actually share the tenets of a faith. I know there are many within who don’t, but I don’t think it would help a person with meaningful relationships to be trying to fake it.

    I don’t know what the answer is. Social exclusion and loneliness can make for vicious circles that vulnerable people get trapped by. One of the saddest results is people getting trapped in psychiatry because of their normal unmet needs, and thereby perpetuating that cycle within the original vicious circle.

    Sadly, for most it seems that moving away and establishing a new identity is the best answer. But that is incredibly hard to do from a place of having been badly hurt finding it hard to trust and lacking both confidence and ‘social credentials’. It can easily lead to abusive relationships and worsening confidence and well being.

  • I agree but also feel wary.

    I have spent a lot of my life meeting the needs of people who were unable to reciprocate. Their loneliness may have been inevitable because the only way to be truly connected is through equal, reciprocal relationships.

    I understand that our communities ostracise those who are different and behave as though they are not worthy of relationships, and also punish normal human needs. This does mean people are left alone, without the means for getting their relational needs met. As you say, that is a failure of our communities.
    But I feel very wary of ever again being in the self destructive position of feeling guilted into meeting the needs of those who use others and do so by manipulating their empathy but are unwilling or unable to empathise with the feelings and needs of others. This too is a lonely and soul destroying place to be.

  • It horrifies me to think of how many unfortunate people have lost years of their lives to this phenomenon –

    The patient is given drugs that purport to ease their distress. But the drugs increase their suffering. This is assumed by an ignorant doctor to demonstrate that the patient’s condition is worse than he had anticipated. So the dose is increased, and predictably, the patient feels even worse. The process continues until the terrified patient stops saying anything and is severely disabled and looks like a classic “mental patient”, even to themselves. The pain is now unbearable. The patient is dependent on the system because they are now acutely “ill” and incapacitated.

    Disabling/pain inducing drugs are continued. New drugs are added due to patient failing to improve. Friends abandon the patient and family members treat them as a sub-human lunatic as do mental health staff.

    This was my story when I was a child. At this point I got out. How many in this situation either give up on themselves and accept their “fate” or kill themselves?

    This is an industry with absolutely no objective mechanism to inform them that they are wrong about anything. I was once diagnosed with a serious medical disease. Luckily, the diagnosis had to be confirmed by blood test because the treatment would have killed me if there had been no way the doctor could have learned that the diagnosis was wrong. Real medicine, for all it’s faults, relies on objective data.

  • There is a lot to what you’ve written, Chaya. so many different aspects that we could all respond to from our experience.

    It’s probably quite a little thing that first comes to my mind though, and that is what I see as the problem of people coming out of the system to start a new life from a very disadvantaged position as far as work, relationships and community are concerned. It can seem that our predominant wisdom, skills and talents are directly related to our experience of first withstanding, and then emerging and recovering our selves, our lives and maybe even a little joy and meaning from severe and often long-term abuse and oppression.

    There are many arenas in which these particular skills would be extremely valuable, yet the only one in which they can be acknowledged, let alone validated, is in the general area of professional psych survivordom. As said at the outset, I see this as being a real problem.

  • I seem to be failing to be clear lately.

    I meant that many sociologists in earlier times, (possibly more anti-authoritarian times), viewed the system, usually identified as the capitalist system, as damaging to pretty much everyone. There were sayings about those who were ‘adapted’ to such a sick society maybe being the craziest of all.

    It seems that more recently sociology has become much more pro-establishment. Rather than sick and damaging, the system seems to be seen as ‘tough’ by many modern sociologists – too tough for the “weak’ who ‘break’, These sorts seem to see psychiatry not as social control but as benevolent healers trying to help those who are not strong enough to cope.

    I hope this is clearer.

  • OH,
    I think you know the progressive psychiatrists are not going to intervene. But I like to imagine that Eric’s clarity and composure in reporting what happened on here might help.

    Years ago I had what was to be a series of conversations with a psychiatrist about abuse I had experienced in the system. He told me of horrendous abuse he had witnessed working in the system. I guess it would have been wise to accept the ‘support’, in his response, but instead I felt outraged and kept saying “why didn’t you do anything”?

    I guess I knew the answer, and that strategically, it was probably better for me to keep my outrage to myself, and that maybe it was better to have doctors like him within the system, hopefully doing little things to help patients behind the scenes, and continuing to pay attention, and be grateful for that.

    But I didn’t feel grateful, and part of me is glad that I expressed what I felt about his disclosing cruelty and human rights abuses and expecting one who had been on the receiving end to be grateful and admiring that he was prepared to admit he knew what I was saying about my experiences was true from what he had witnessed.

    I know a single doctor speaking up wouldn’t last long, but we have a situation in which the people with the power to make a difference feeling proud of the fact that they still have enough of a functioning soul to just notice while doing nothing to intervene – that’s not part of a solution, it’s part of the problem. it’s gutless and will always end in complete co-option anyway.

  • Thank you Vladimir,
    I liked a lot of this, but there are themes and parts I disagree with.

    First off, there is a problem with joining with other psychiatric patients in the format you describe, in order to see ourselves as something other than just psychiatric patients. We have such outlets where I live and though they are an improvement of institutions they do nothing to reduce distance from the wider community.

    Of course we need to join forces and organise, but its hard to see how this kind of ghettoization via daily interactions with each other mediated by volunteer or NGO organisations can solve the problem of seeing ourselves as ‘mental patients’.

    I have huge respect for people like Sera Davidow (sp?) and the kinds of organisations she describes here, but my own experience of survivors taking on the joint roles of activist and pseudo-therapists has been that it is far too close to ‘meet the new boss same as the old boss’. Some of those forging new identities via these organisations are doing so at the expense of their supposed peers by enacting much of the one-up one-down dynamics that it seems their bin-time taught them all too well. Experiencing abuse can teach abusive behaviours, it doesn’t necessarily teach wisdom and solidarity.

  • Men are in particular danger if they are bereft of female companionship because women (and girls) are no less supportive of, and empathetic towards men.

    Imo, one of the big problems is dominance. Expecting, seeking and enacting domination are inherently violent (whether physically, psychologically or systemically). The way history has played out to date, masculinity has been coupled with superiority and dominance. I believe if the reverse had been true, females would be the more violent of the genders, and also the more emotionally remote.

  • Thank you Greg. I appreciate your wisdom.

    It seems important to me that we are all able to define ourselves and our experiences and find ways to understand our humanity that accord with what we know and understand ourselves. Depriving another of this sovereignty and believing we have the right to impose out own experiences and understandings on another, and setting about doing so is more than disempowering – it is dehumanising.

    It seems to me anyway, that to interact and to take our place in the common humanity we need to be able to locate and express our selves as individual fragments of that whole. Arrogantly taking away the right to do so, feels to me to be synonymous with taking away our ability to be able to part of humanity and the physical world as ourselves, and that is bigger than any other theft we can inflict.

  • There is something else about trigger/content warnings. Consideration for the sensitivities of people of status, or those common in a community are called being respectful. It is not considered to be indicative of a defect, but of the value of the individual who may be affected.

    I don’t think trigger warnings have helped, they seem to have served as yet another indicator of negative difference. We have to live with having our most painful experiences discussed, often derisively or with denial ignorance or victim-blaming, or just without any sensitivity at all, bu people who know nothing about it. That’s life.

    But if you want an example of the hypocrisy of the issue of sensitivity, just make a comment in public that might cause some discomfort to ‘someone who matters’ and watch how quickly they and everyone like them, even those who are not affected, will feel no self-consciousness in expressing ostentatious aggrievement, and behave in ways that would be diagnosed as demonstrating a victim-mentality in marginalised people in relation to much more serious matters.

    Sensitivity to feelings has always been political.

  • I’m sure I’m not the first to relate this kind of argument to Nietzche’s (and Malcom X’s) master-slave morality. It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

    The problem is that power will always respond with ferocity to their vassals standing up and telling their truth, so the “subversive” or soft approach, (which could be seen as part of the problem), is always going to seem to make sense. On the other hand, without popular support it is doomed to fail.

    With large numbers of patients being meek and “grateful” in response to oppression,(and that is completely understandable given the amount of power, and countless instances of the danger of even polite resistance) and the widespread public contempt for people seen as mentally ill, it seems to me that psychiatry’s expansionism is the only thing that can bring the truth to light. We don’t have the numbers, and anything we try to say is pre-discredited.

  • Thank you Sera.
    So well said!

    This is what psychiatry gave me:
    “… some of us have been so institutionalized or traumatized that we’ve lost any sense that we have the right to say ‘no’ or ‘not right now’ or get up and walk out…….. it also leaves us feeling glued to the floor until someone tells us we can go.”

    Which put a bullseye on my head for any abuser in the vicinity of any place I was. I’m sure psychiatry could come up with a pejorative label for their gift, along with denialism of the resultant abuse. So, I have the experience of the truth of what happened to me in their clutches and many aspects of the decades following that I can’t speak of – my own life makes others uncomfortable if I try to mention the truth of much of what makes me what I am.

    This morning I woke feeling so bitter and angry. It burns me – but only me. I need to let it go, but to find a way that doesn’t involve forgetting. Trying to forget turned me into a self-defeating denialist devoid of self-respect, and consequently unable to recognise dangerous people and dangerous situations. I lost so much more than the time in their clutches through the indoctrination. Psychiatry became a parasite inside myself sucking the life and strength out of me long after I got away. It was the proverbial gift that kept on giving.

    I agree with content warnings (where that content isn’t screamingly obvious) so that we can know when we will up to our necks in it – most especially in other people’s denial. But I’ve changed my mind about trigger warnings. I don’t need to forget, I need to recognise and make peace with my truth. Forgetting serves those who harm, not those who have been harmed.

  • Completely agree.

    Language has been infected across the developed world. When someone’s actions are found offensive the person, or their actions are described in psychiatric labels. Cruelty, violence, heinous crimes – no longer is moral language used. This extends to Hitler and other perpetrators of what used to be called “evil”. (not wild about that term but at least they weren’t formerly routinely understood as “mentaly ill”).

    So tarring a person by diagnosis is becoming ever more dangerous to that person. They/we are now also tainted with the “science” of evil.

  • I don’t believe psychiatry can be reformed into something non-abusive. I don’t believe the way things are is accidental – this is social control – a gulag for “patients” and a dire warning to everyone else. One of the most telling facts is that the same profoundly abusive cultures are found between regions and between countries. This is independent of the drugs and other “treatments”.

    Fact is though, there are people in there. God knows how many world-wide, so it still matters to me what happens to those people. those people aren’t just grist to some revolution mill.

    I don’t want there to be more kindness. Adding random bits of faux- kindness to abuse leads to trauma-bonding, a specially pernicious form of compulsive attachment to a source of abuse. I want those who are pushing for trauma-informed approaches to concentrate on removing harms, so that those who get out are less damaged by their time in.

  • I feel that this kind of research errs on the side of being too kind to psychiatry. That may be strategic, a kind of “soft reply turneth away wrath” People who are too defensive wont listen etc., so I don’t know if these researchers have really not grasped how damaging psychiatry is.

    I was a traumatised child in tremendous pain. The “branch of medicine” that supposedly helps people in my situation was not just insensitive but more abusive than the situation that caused me to be suffering. The only appropriate kind of analogy would be something like going to a hospital with a broken leg and having the staff jump on it – some of them smiling and enjoying the opportunity to inflict more pain on someone who could not fight back, others oblivious to the humanity of the patient, and thinking that such sub-humans are incapable of feeling pain and that it is important to not be fooled into thinking that anything this object says has any validity.

    So you get worse, which means that leg hasn’t been jumped on enough. Once you are unable to walk, you have proven the pre-existing hypothesis that the leg was inherently useless and you will need crutches for life. (If only psych treatments were as benign as crutches) In addition you have learned to fawn in response to abuse. To say thankyou and otherwise shut up about suffering forever, and to never expect compassion. This was my experience. An alternative route is to learn to play the system, which is adaptive but even more disastrous. It means that rather than crawling away, the individual is more likely to keep going back. There is no blame here, people manage such abuse however they can. It is the nature of being abused and powerless that no response can ever ‘work’ for the person on the receiving end.

    It is traditional to see the original abuse as the only substantial injury and I think this is where many subsequent non-psychiatric helpers get stuck. It is too challenging to confront the fact that a person in distress being punished with abuse is the primary harm, and they’d rather hear about almost anything else. How can anyone be helpful if they are too personally confronted by the fact of psychiatric abuse to be able to hear about it and respond appropriately?

  • I’m starting to wonder if psychiatry is likely to be a boon to revolutionary movements. (i’m not sure if that’s what you were implying but it has been on my mind).

    With a third of college/university students deemed to have a diagnosable mental illness, with rising numbers of school children and even pre-schoolers being labelled and treated, with differences in ‘MI’ rates between countries, and even parts of countries and parts of populations increasing, with psychiatry overtly interfering in matters of governance, and other individual and collective choices and beliefs….. –
    I can’t help thinking that people will become less likely to locate causes within “faulty’ individuals and less tolerant of the authoritarianism of psychiatry as it becomes ‘us’ rather than ‘them’ who suffer the consequences.

    I agree with you and the writer about connection, interdependence and collectivism, but I feel the reduced suffering would not and does not resemble a psychological/psychiatric model of “reaching out” to seek ‘relief’, but is a natural outcome of a realistic (ie not naive), equal and reciprocal interconnectedness between people, – in and of itself.

  • There is a part of this that is more relevant to more ordinary people who speak truth to power.

    It can be more powerful to suppress with psychiatry than with claims of one who resists as being a liar, being malicious, cruel, destructive, dangerous etc. Psychiatrising dissent says all that and says it is a part of an intrinsic defect which the person can’t help. It invites pity and brings in permission
    for “respectable”, “repsonsible” others to ignore any annoying facty things. The supposed scientific truth of the defective individual allows for a chillingly polite ostracism, decorated with sympathetic sentiments for the poor vicitm of mental illness.

    “Outllaws” and “troublemakers” have a better chance, outright hostility and aggression can be easier to accept and overcome.

    It has become natural and ordinary for the words “evil” and “sick” to be used interchangeably. In some arenas “sick” or “crazy” are used instead of any synonym or desriptors of “bad”. Soon they will probably be the only kinds of words that are acceptable to use. But the added,artificial sweetener of pity is very dangerous to individuals, to communities and to societies indeed.

  • By the last part I mean that the ‘survivor’ identity seems to assume that anyone who has been in the bin is in a permanent state of crisis and in need of a hug.

    If I meet someone who identifies as ‘survivor’ for the first time and who sees me in that role, there is this earnestness and often hugging that I find weird. Like I was desperate or needy somehow. It hardly ever happens because its not how I identify and I don’t have many connections with that world. it doesn’t happen in any other context when meeting someone new.

    Outmate sounds good, I’m going to use it here from now on.

    Of couurse I’m a “survivor” – I’m not dead, but surely that label doesn’t apply for a lifetime. It makes no sense. It feels like a shaky attempt at seeming strong and heroic, but has the opposite effect. Why would I apply a able to myself associated with psychiatry at all?

  • I’m at a loss to know how to describe myself in MIA, where identification is sometimes necessary. I hate the term ‘survivor’ and never use it in any context IRL, but feel stuck with it here. Otherwise I’d be trying to come up with an identfying sentence instead.

    Some identities are more like scripted roles. There may be a few variations of a labelled role, but they are all narrow, and turn whole people into cardboard cut-outs of expectations.

    If I meet a female who identfies with any of the patient roles, I expect to be hugged, even if we have just met. As if it was in a job description somewhere.

  • Richard,
    Maybe it is because we know it all too well.
    Being pretty political, in other settings I’ve been involved in long, long, long debates. They never seem to go anywhere.

    I feel slightly annoyed when the term is used dismissively. I feel it is erasing and silencing. But having spent more of my llfe than I’d prefer trying to explain and getting nowhere, I’m leery of doing more of the same at MIA, especially since I’m here due to my membership of such an identity group, so such an explanation seems like it should be redundant here of all places.

  • I shouldn’t have quickly read this and replied even more quickly in a rush or being late for where i was going.

    Yet i feel there are different ideas in this which don’t necessarily fit together. I feel as though there are somehow different articles in one and the connection between them is obscured somehow. That’s just an impression and I will read this again.

    One impression I have is that there is an implicit acceptance of a concept of mental illness hidden within these words. That there is a “special’ kind of distress that requires particular responses. Of course we have our crises and pains and we rely on our connections with others in our times of need. We need others to ‘see’ us when we most need to be ‘seen’.

    But my experience is that this need not be perfect. ‘Sometimes’ is the best most of us are capable of and the attempt is more important than anything: Imperfect people juggling a whole lot of external and internal stuff but caring and trying, communicating and understanding more, getting to know each other over time and a whole lot of situations.

    You seem to be comparing something with cancer but you haven’t described exactly what. I think there are a few things in this that I’d prefer to be clearer about.

  • My experience is that keeping “toxic” people away has been one of the most important steps I have taken for my well-being.
    I agree that the term is misused and easily becomes a horrible kind of superficial selfishness. there is nothing new about finding excuses to be selfish.
    My defintion of “toxic” has nothing to do with distress. It is about an orientation of exploitativeness and a raft of behaviours that create a kind of stockhom syndfome, particularly in “preconditioned” people who can easily be trained into being minions and slaves in someone elses grandiose entitlement. it is about manipulative, aggressive and destructive behaviours that are designed to destroy self-esteen and facilitate interpersonal oppresssion and a pattern of escalating abuse and de-selfing another person in order to use them.

    No-one I have removed or avoided has a mental health label.

  • One of the reasons I respect the comments on MIA is that most of those who talk abut extreme states have actually lived them. There is so much wisdom expressed here that is not usually accorded the respect it deserves.

    The exception can sometimes be when people talk about extremes of anxiety and depression. I’m using the medical jargon terms to save time. I’m not suggesting that diseases called anxiety disorders or Major Depressive Disorder actually exist. But what I know from my own life is that experiences of extreme states often called “anxiety” and “depression” exist and the extremes are not akin to ordinary states that everyone experiences. Unfortunately, because the same words are used, words can get in the way in such conversations.

    Sometimes when people talk about, or even just mention these extreme states, others who have experienced lesser or ordinary forms seem to assume that the extremes are the same or maybe a little more severe than the ordinary and can unknowingly belittle how extreme and disabling these states can be and the suffering they cause. What worried me about this conversation about pain was that there seemed to be a degree of assumption that the pain discussed was of the managable sort – not quite day to day pain, but not much worse. And that severe pain would always lessen over time if nature was allowed to take its course.

    I’m not an expert, but some of the assumptions worried me, because I believe those who have talked about severe pain that doesn’t just reduce naturally as the writer has suggested. In my country, opiods are not prescribed as the writer has described happens in the US. From what he has described, it sounds like he would approve of how they are usually prescribed here. Yet we still have large numbers suffering severe and chronic pain. And it is terrible.

    I agree with you, Melothrein. It is dangerous to make assumptions and take knee-jerk actions as a result. it could easily cost ives. People and experiences are not the same.

  • This medium is pure words. Nothing else.

    I accept that there are other ways of knowing. I don’t accept that words are automatically inferior. Using words to convince of the wisdom of not-words kind of demonstrates that.

    For all their shortcomings, words allow us to communicate with each other in ways that other (also imperfect) ways of experiencing and knowing can’t.

  • Thank you for this.

    I just took an antihistamine because the huge amounts of pollen thrown aound by the spring equinox winds is aggravating me with hayfever and hives. It is probably the 3rd I’ve taken this year, yet for decades I took antihistamines ever day, year round and my allergies were still never under control.

    It took a change of diet to finally rid me of severe excema and hayfever, yet I am allergic to pollen. My diet turned my allergies from what should have been a minor and temporary annoyance into a decades long tithing to pharmaceutical manufacturers. My sister still takes her twice daily doses.

    It led to raft of changes in the way I live. I hate to think how much glysophate I’ve been responsible for polluting the environment with over the years. I always used to buy the really big containers to save money. I believed it was so safe you could drink it if you didn’t mind the taste, and I always thought myself an environmentalist.

    But it hasn’t just been my physical environment, (internal and external) that I found I needed to change to feel good, I had to change the way I interacted with other people and with myself and also who I was spending my time with. Instead of passively going along I had to find what mattered, what I needed, what helped me thrive, and what was killing me by degrees.

    We can have different kinds of crises and often they are screaming at us to get our attention, the way pain always does.

  • It’s ironic how psychiatry has never gotten its head around how much of what they are “diagnosing” is down to these people, the predators, hurting people. We are the ones who wear their shame in the form of stigmatisation and discrediting labels, but it never belonged to us.

    I know it took me decades to pull my head out of denial about them, yet I had no excuse, living what Michael has called the “non-sheltered life” (love that phrase). I saw it a lot. I just couldn’t ‘see’ it, and now I really don’t know why – I think it may be partly what is called “betrayal blindness”.

    For me, pulling my head out of the sand was what it took to be able to be compassionate towards myself, the two just went together – recognising predators, getting it, and finally forgiving myself, knowing that i had always been okay. That’s a big part of the damage they inflict – offloading poison into our minds.

    There are too many of those people working inside that system. They are part of why it has never been able to improve across the years psychiatry has been going. Not the only reason, but one of them. Usually they come across, superficially at least as especially ‘nice’, and they do so much damage to people who are desperate to see a little kindness in a desert of cruelty. They are usually as thick as a plank but they always set up little cult followings inside. Its really sad to see the people who get pulled in.
    Those with any brains can do much better out in the real world, but the picture is the same, illogical followings, ordinary people very often turned into weapons in their nasty campaigns.

  • Of all the important and salient issues here, why on earth would basket-weaving strike anyone as especially offensive and belittling?

    I used to attend the seminars of our local philosophical luminaries (I’m not going to pin it down more than that description.)
    They would often debate what they saw as ‘the’ issues in psychiatry. It always took my breath away that they could pick out minor matters in relation to the big picture, and in doing so, deftly skirt the elephants in the room, and proceed to argue those minutiae to death. Talk about trivial pursuits.

  • I don’t think you understand, Katherine.

    The history, the documents, who wrote them? whose accounts are available to history? Did you cosider the capacity for for patients to complain or assert any thoughts, feelings aor decions about themselves, their experiences or their lives in this situation, or to make choices about much of anything

    What about the decisions about which records should remain, and the context of what could happen should anyone complain? In regard to decisions about what and who was photographed, who made them and who held the camera?

    Any comments and reports from patients and their famlies – in what context were they made? Who chose what was heard and kept on record? Did even the voluntary patients have any real voice?

    And what about the beliefs and expecations in the wider community, how did these filter the understandings of everyone concerned?

    Mad people were marginalised in, and rejected by communities, and often their families. These were institutions. There was even less accountability than now for those who worked in these places. I feel that creating fairy tales from the self-serving records of those with almost unlimited power and little or no scrutiny, about their own benevolence is to make myths. This was the context into which the drugs, lobotomies, shocks etc., were birthed. They did not corrupt a previous garden of eden. Things could well have gotten worse with their arrival, but I don’t think it is wise to understand the oppression and cruelty of psychiatry as being caused by them. To do so is to minimise, deny and misconstrue oppression.

  • I find this article breathtakingly naive.

    There are no ‘good old days’. Manicured gardens, gothic architecture, some unlocked wards, social workers and occupational therapy have provided the backdrop to untold torture and abuse.
    It is not just the modernish drugs and bio-medical model that have caused psychiatric abuse.

  • Nancy,
    You say you were told by someone who didn’t know what a Gaba receptor was, that Julia has some ties to the company that swindled you with false claims and caused you harm. I’m asking if you have any evidence of this.

    “A woman who is given the diagnosis of whatever (Schizophrenia/Bipolar etc) after years of abuse does not recover because she is given a vitamin cocktail…”

    When has Julia said anything like this?

  • Hi Nancy,
    Are you saying that Julia Rucklidge has ties to a company called TrueHope, that this company makes false claims, that it markets a formula, and that this formual and company caused you and your family harm?

    In the TED talk, Julia talked about her research. It’s not clear what unsupportable causal claim you are talking about.

    Given the serious allegations involved, it would be good if you could be more clear.

  • Big Pharma is a big problem, and I agree with you about magnesium being something that can bring a lot of benefits. it’s already widely used in anaesthesia, btw.

    Part of the problem is the cost of research – it needs public money to prevent some of the giant moral hazards it has fallen into.

    I’d like to see more research into NMDA antagonists (including magnesium). Pain can be both severe and disabling. We could use more information to inform how to best help people. Having only recently been lucky to be successfully treated for a condition that had for a few months caused me to be in constant, grinding pain and caused disability that restricted my life down to a small number of steps per day and not much else, I’m hugely, bloody grateful for science, and to be living in a place that gave me my life back via US $80,000 worth of treatment, and people who were really kind to me in the process.

  • Hi Nancy 99.
    Kabatt Zinn lives the buddhist faith, he just eshews the label and instead calls it ‘science’.

    To give you a bit of context that might help you understand where I’m coming from – I used to be a member of a Buddhist faith community. as far as I’m aware, ony the Roshi called himself a Buddhist. Faithful pracitioners who followed the Dharma and every aspect of the faith had a strange insistence on saying that they were not Buddhist. This included health professionals, including some who were deriving income from utilising aspects of that faith as ‘medicine’ – effectively selling it as medicine or ‘science’.

    I found this, as with Kabatt-Zinn, uncomortably dishonest. I don’t have a problem with anyone practising a faith, but there are aspects of the ‘movement’ which I find disingenous and troubling.

  • Hi Nancy99,

    Where I’m sitting right now I have Kabatt-Zinn’s “Full catastrophe Living” on my bookshelf a couple of feet away from me.

    I feel very weary of this debate. Kabatt-Zinn, doesn’t describe himself as Buddhist, but his reasoning comes down to semanatics and I find it disingenuous. This is a powerful worldwide movement and i have a lot of reservations about it.

    As to the “science”, yes there is evidence of benefit, but the claims go way beyond the evidence, and the data coming in, especially from those with no ‘horse in the race’ is more mixed.

    I’m glad you find benefit. I do too.

  • From what you say, it sounds like the approach to pain management in my country might be more in line with what you believe to be safer practice. I didn’t leave hospital with a script for opiates (as for other meds) but with a little bottle of ten for emergencies. (Haven’t used them, I’ve put them aside for some potential future disaster or emergency when I might not have access to medical attention – hope they don’t lose their potency over time :))

  • Hi Lawerence,
    Having recently been in hospital for what is thought to be one of the most painful kinds of surgery, I have to say that I’m feeling pretty grateful for modern analgesia. It’s been a couple of weeks and I’m now down to anti-inflams and paracetemol.

    I understand that this is a polemic, but one reason for clamping down on pain after surgery is to prevent chronic pain conditions developing, because they do exist, and they make life miserable for sufferers. I had pretty open access to opiates for a few days. I was lucky to not have much need of them, but one of the things that alleviates suffering is compassion and not feeling afraid of pain becoming unmanageable. Ironically, if I had been subjected to a judgemental, punishing attitude to being in pain, as I’ve experienced in psychiatry, my fear and pain would have been greater, and I probably would have asked for a lot more.

    Pain was managed with a wide variety of drugs including anaesthetic agents, steroids, anti-cholinergics, anti-inflammatories, and paracetemol with an eye to potential dependency and opiate-induced hyper-algesia. (not sure how that is spelled). -Being pretty bored in hospital, I was asking a lot of questions of the staff about the drugs.

    What you have written makes important points but I don’t think it is a particularly fair account, certainly compared to my most recent experience.

  • Shaun, this is controversial. It is being debated around the world.
    Science is founded on critical thinking. Mindfulness is a faith-based doctrine. Research has shown some benefits (and also some problems) for those practising it, but I’m sure that would be equally true of almost any religious practice. The point is, this is not comparable with teaching maths and science.

    I was surprised when you asked why I would not want something I choose to practice imposed on schoolchildren, on employees, on psychiatric patients…..

  • I’m just going to throw this in here.
    I’m guilty of causing tangles with this, but is there a way we could sort out the threading problem in the comment threads? It can be really hard to follow discusssions. Is there a solution I’m not seeing?

    It seems to be easier to follow conversations via the email feed because even though it’s not clear what comment someone is responding to, threading by time alone seems more coherent when conversations get complicated.

  • I started writing a long reply and lost it, but realise I can’t be bothered. It’s good to discuss things but mind-sapping to have someone not listen but argue against straw-men.

    For the record, oldhead immediately picked out a problem with the imposition of this kind of doctrine, simple logic really. This is not as simple as you imgine, Shaun.

  • Why on earth would I practice it if I concluded it was BS, Shaun?

    I wasn’t talking about my own experience (and for the record, I find it wonderful), I was talking about the mindfulness movement, about how it is being taught, for what reasons, and by whom, and it being applied in particular settings with people not freely choosing to do it because they like it, about the philosophy and ethics involved.

  • Sigh.
    I practice these regularly, yet I feel extremely uncomfortable about the mindfulness movement, and especially about any environment in which there is the slightest hint of coercion attached to them, (including peer pressure or brownie points), whether it be schools, workplaces or inmate situations. It makes me cringe.

  • Thank you for this, Megan.
    I’m sure ‘suicidality’ serves various functions in different people.

    For me, it was freedom. It enabled me to get to a place that was otherwise inaccessible to me.

    Psychiatry would say that the time that I only answered any communications with anyone to keep people away from me, when I couldn’t stand to even listen to the radio because sound caused such pain, when I had every detail planned and ready, when I couldn’t sleep, but for short periods passed out every few days, when the only lessening of searing pain was being alone in nature, even though I couldn’t connect to it, when I couldn’t remember wanting anything but an end to pain, all these things were clear evidence of mental illness.

    To me it was about being able to think the unthinkable, to get my consciousness out of an intolerable straitjacket. To have nothing left to lose and the dangerous freedom to finally be.

    I feel alive now. I can connect, not perfectly, by any means. I couldn’t have got to here, except through there.

  • There seems to be an angry subtext in this comment but it’s not explicit. Something like “aren’t you a special little snowflake”?

    What exactly are you saying RR?

    I don’t see anything exceptionalist about believing that every experience of existence is unique, including whatever ants frogs and tuna experience, or that people (and maybe other beings, for all I know) are more fluid than we ever imagined, in being able to change what and how we experience. That maybe those tracks our minds slip into so effortlessly are habits that can move, and that even small digressions can show that we were kidding ourselves that we thought we knew much of anything.

    It seems that what you seem to feel quite defensive about is more of a consensus than a reality. We need consensus, but I don’t quite understand why you feel so protective of any particular one. They are not exactly endangered species.

  • Damn, this is getting confusing. I have no idea where this is going to end up. I’m also not sure who is responding to who.

    To Oldhead 1.10am
    I agree that any political psych-survivor movement needs to see a bigger picture, demonstrate where psychiatry fits into that picture, and join the wider struggle. This would also have the advantage of building alliances sharing resources etc.

    Aint happening much round my way.

    I think the left (to be clear the political anti-capitalism movement)needs to be more inclusive and supportive. I don’t mean turn into some kind of self-indulgent self-help, tissue-passing blub fest (if I’m reading you correctly in your criticism).

    Where I am, it has mainly evolved from a background of “union hard-man” politics. Most of those original men had wives who looked out for what they needed without being asked, and who provided a good deal of emotional work/ support without appearing to, and kept the home fires burning. Which allowed them to be tough, and to not acknowledge that they were vulnerble and needed care.

    I’m pretty familiar with the territory of this kind of politics but believe it needs to evolve and that being supportive is not synonymous with being pathetic.

  • I was talking about the movement opposing capitalism. I’ve been involved on different fronts – we have a number of different groups where I live.
    I’m not involved in the “psych survivor” movement here. I like some of those who are also involved in the wider movement, but most aren’t. I don’t like the gossipy, power-tripping, treachery that goes on within it. There is no bigger picture. There isn’t even anything remotely coherent by way of vision. Most seem to want more psych services, or to get resources to compete with the current one, but with very similar power dynamics to that which they wish to supplant, just with themselves in control – meet the new boss same as the old boss….

    edit to say that this was supposed to reply to oldhead 8.27 not the comment it ended up under

  • I agree Oldhead, but we are not there yet. We have to learn how to “counsel” each other, that is how to listen, empower, support, understand, untangle, accept, befriend, liberate etc. That also entails understanding the different ways we are affected by oppression, and how to effectively dig ourselves out.

    That takes a lot more than intuition It requires understanding that we are different and that there is not just “my way” but a whole smorgasboard of options and that what is helpful for one person may not be for another.

  • I agree with both of you.

    I’ve been part of that “mass movement” for quite a few years now – as (we all are) – the walking wounded. I could have really used the support I’ve finally found for myself recently, as a wounded individual, 25 years ago. I could have been a hell of a lot more use to the movement and to myself.

    There is good help out there in some quarters for people who are severely wounded and in terrible pain, though only very rarely anywhere near the mental health system. Pain to a point is motivating, after that point it is simply debilitating.

    The movement itself needs a lot more awareness and compassion, and strategies for mutual support and living together in the present, the future we want to create. It also needs to wake up to the fact that where there is the potential for power there will be people who join-in to take it, not to further the cause. It also needs to understand that it is not weak to need help.