Thursday, June 24, 2021

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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.

    Quote:
    “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?

    Quote:
    “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.

    https://www.ericachenoweth.com/

    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?
    Definitely.

    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.

  • I know.
    I wish we had something like that round my way.
    But sometimes there can be blocks for some, to being able to do that effectively, even in ideal circumstances. If some people can find greater freedom and peace via a couple of psychedelic sessions, I think they should be free to do so.

  • I’ve known people who have been punitively diagnosed with these labels despite not meeting the diagnostic criteria.

    I’m feeling parts of this conversation are quite cruel and unfair to people who have been given these labels. Just for the record, I haven’t, yet I still feel some of the weight of predjudice and othering just reading this.

    I understand that close to one in five people in the general population would meet the criteria for such hideous labelling. Why should people who are in distress be singled out and effectively tarred and feathered with when most to whom these subjective descriptors could be applied are exempted from being so labelled? These “diagnoses” create a perception that a person being inherently abusive and untrustworthy, even if they have never abused anyone. Often the distress they are experiencing is related to having been subjected to abuse. How would you like to have your very nature “diagnosed” when you were suffering the greatest stress and misery of your life?

    Psychiatry shoud not be allowed to make these kinds of judgements and set them in stone.

  • That sounds great, Fiachra.

    Some people have found profound benefit from controlled, therapeutic use of psychedelics in safe settings, benefits they were unable to achieve despite their best efforts in other contexts. This is different from ongoing dosing with drugs. Many cultures have utilised psychedlics as a part of healing rituals for centuries.

    I believe this is a choice that people should be allowed to make for themselves, fully informed of potential risks.

  • Love this idea and the philosophy behind it, and I enjoyed the video.

    I’m very interested in psychedelic therapies, to get past blocks inside ourselves, but believe they should be used in conjunction with an established high-trust, empowering, and non-coercive relationship with a trained therapist, in a safe environment.

  • It’s not that simple.
    Psychiatrists can inflict unalterable, and legally unchallengeable labels which tell the world that a person is inherently untrustworthy, manipulative, dishonest and abusive. This description follows the patient wherever their medical records go. In my country, that is everywhere via a national health number. It is a conviction without trial. These labels cause serious harm to those designated,

    I know there are people who are all the above, and most never enter the psychiatric system. There would be at least as many people working in psychiatry who fit this description, as patients, and they are in the position of being able to punitively label patients in this way

  • One problem is the vast numbers of people in distress and at the end of their rope.

    As long as we have one system which is reaping virtually all the public and private funding for almost all distress we have a cartel and any cartel will behave as cartel’s do.

    Most people at the end of their rope effectively have no choice, and their numbers increase as capitalism becomes more vicious, and its ill-effects spread wider and cut deeper, catalysing every social and psychological distress and problem known to humanity.

    Just as people clamour to their doctors for antibiotics for onditions that aren’t bacterial, swear they were helped, and go back for more (and that’s just one example), psychiatry’s monopoly means it need not be beneficial (and I’m not suggesting no part of it is ever beneficial), it just needs to shut distresses people up and ensure the lion’s share of available resources are funneled to it.

  • Binra,
    I don’t know if this reply is welcome, but I want to say that I’m grateful to have a sense of you, as much as that is possible through words on a screen.

    From one human to another, probably across the world, I’m so sorry your heart was broken.

  • I felt a similar recoil when I read that sentence. I agree that it is unfair and insulting when someone compares a temporary unpleasnt experience from a position of privilege to feelings related to severe marginalisation and disenfranchisement.

    I’m not sure that this was what the writer meant here, even though there were a few things that set me to bristling in the piece. I think she has done a good job of describing the complexity of the bigger picture, the fact that there are a multitude of people and perspectives involved, including people who genuinely care and may feel responsible for protecting the person in distress, and may also be asked by that person to be responsible, and also conflicting feelings and persepectives within an individual when in crisis, and amongst different people in distress.

    I’d like to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she meant something like- it is human for most or all people to feel extreme distress and lost to themselves sometimes, and regardless of external status and circumstances, that pain is real and one of the things that connects all people (ideally – but such common humanity seems to be deliberately erased by psychiatry) and makes external or binary distinctions between people disappear.

  • In the so called autism wars, psychoanalysis was wrong and hurt people. The framework was unfalsifiable as is apparently the bio-medical model and the DSM.

    What you have written sounds more like a turf-war for market share and credibility. There is no serious challenge to the authoritarianism of psychiatry, just a dispute about which camp’s authority and interpretation of others’ experience should rule.

  • I don’t appreciate having my experiences, beliefs and understandings overwritten by you and consider such gaslighting to be abuse. i have had plenty of experience of this kind of behaviour from psychiatry and the effects on me are something that I am working to overcome.

    You are welcome to talk about your own experiences you are not welcome to lecture me about your beliefs about mine.

    Just as an aside, everything you have written is “thinking”.

  • I didn’t feel “singled out” your comment was addressed to me ‘out’ and contained assumptions adressed to “you”.

    In my original comment, I was neither assigning “sickness” to others nor adopting it as an identity. I was talking about a human condition and one that I experienced in the past, and talking about what it meant to me and the change i believe it was demanding of me.

    “We all have different facets of an entanglement in separation trauma. You are ‘reading me’ where I am not – in the terms you set”

    No, I asked you to clarify your meaning.

    .”Insofar as you took me as ‘reading you’ in terms of an ‘identification in sickness’ – as if that is a smear, I apologize, because my intent it to bring to awareness an active choice that can as actively be released to a better one.”

    Sorry, what do you mean by this exactly? What and whose “active choice” are you talking about? The context of this is that you are responding to my question of you?

  • “I do not expect anyone to ‘get this’ at the level of their thinking. Nor can changing ‘attitudes’ do anything but add MORE layers of masking what is.”

    If you don’t expect anyone to ‘get this’ what are you trying to communicate?

    You seem to believe you have deep understanding of ‘reality’, and equally, that readers have not attained a high enough level of understanding to appreciate your knowledge. My question is, why don’t you communicate at the level you see readers as being able to comprehend to enable discussion?

  • Fred77,
    I did spend some time in a medical hospital recently and the difference makes me feel like crying. I felt safe and respected. I was ‘seen’ and responded to as a fellow human. I was in a lot of pain and that humanity made it manageable.

    We were working together in the sense that my experience was always part of the knowledge, – the feedback loop in finding a solution.

    This was a severley underfunded and understaffed public hospital. Yet there were smiles, jokes, calling back so I didn’t think I’d been forgotten about. There was compassion and awareness of, and respect for my dignity and autonomy. I agreed to every action, with explanations and alternatives offered. There was even droppings by to say goodbye and wish me well because the person’s shift was over.

    It wasn’t about any kind of perfection, just common humanity. Yet the suffering and fear i was experiencing was so much less than during my time with psychiatry.
    I can only imagine how much worse my fear and pain could have been made if I hd been treated as I have been by psychiatry.

    Some people don’t believe fish are feeling pain as they thrash around when they’ve been caught. Sometimes it feels like psychiatric staff have the same attitude towards patients – we may look like we are suffering but they are too ‘smart’ to believe we are capable of it.

  • One aspect of psychiatry that you’ve mentioned in this comment Fred77, is something that I believe separates ‘survivors’ from others who who care and who seek change. It is the experience that is unique to being in a situation of powerlessness in which others in “caring” or policing roles can behave as they will and get away with almost anything in relation to the powerless person.

    ‘Survivors’ can have a unique perspective of humanity because of this situation. We have often have experienced degradation, cruelty, dishonesty, exploitation, humiliation, or just callous disregard from apparently ordinary or well-respected others who are not designated mad, that those who have never been in this situation could not imagine, and would mostly prefer to not believe.

    We have seen two faces of the ‘lovely and concerned carer’, the public kindness and the ugly private face of what they will do in situation in which they can get away with egregious abuse with no danger of being found out. Many of us have found ourselves in a dangerous and sadistic cat-and-mouse situation if we try and avoid that person, protect ourselves, or worse, tell the truth.

    Another, related aspect is not this kind of cruelty, but the everyday experience of a lack of normal human caring in response to suffering, and also ordinary and authentic human to human interaction between staff and patients. Those who enter a hospital as a medical patient where their identity as a mental patient is not known, could spend a day trying to describe the difference.

    I just wanted to say something about this because I believe it can be an important element of a divide between these two groups.

  • Binra,
    You have addressed this to me and you use the word ‘you’ throughout.

    It contains many assumptions so I’d like to clarify using just one example:

    “My living choice is not to support your identity in sickness”

    Are you saying you believe I have an identity in sickness? and if not me as the addressee who are you referring to?

    Thanks

  • Hi Larry,

    There is also a real world and experiences.

    Twenty-odd years spent in meditation might allow some people in some circumstances the ability to choose their attitudes and feelings regardless of external circumstances. (At least as long as those few people maintain a distance from the ordinary world and its messy relationships). Possibly.

    Most people are constantly interacting with circumstances, both internal and external, and will never reach the enightenment you are suggesting we shoud just ‘adopt’.

    I’m not sure why I’m responding to this. I guess I feel very ambivalent about this kind of approach being touted as an alternative to psychiatry in answering human misery. It seems to be happily endorsed by both psycihiatry and peer movements, (even if psychiatry doesn’t actually believe it will make much or any difference to ‘mental illnesses’. )

    It seems to me that it is no coincidence that both approaches maintain and do not challenge the status quo including existing power structures. Both locate the problem in the individual and endorse the idea that nothing outside the individual is particlarly relevant. Both also have a strong, faith-based, guru-supplicant element.

  • I just want to say, on my own behalf Brett, that you don’t understand, you cannot be “well aware”, and that’s not your fault.

    This is a respectable profession, a branch of medicine, prevalent and accepted throughout the developed world and rapidly making inroads into the developing world. None of us here were incarcerated a gulag or a prisoner of war camp. We didn’t sustain the damage we incurred in wartime – there was no enemy except, on the face of it, us. Yet the damage is profound and physically and psychologically extensive, and the losses are real.

    I’m not sure if there is any point is saying this, and I don’t mean you any harm in doing so. I’m glad you are here and prepared to listen.

  • Hi Richard,
    A couple of years ago, while involved in a political campaign, a fellow activist said he believed that anti-depressants were a political issue. He felt they were a tool of oppression.

    I was curious about why he believed this, but he was opposed by others who felt he was attacking people who chose to take them or who “needed” them, and it turned into an argument which brought more heat than light. I didn’t know then of a wider movement of people questioning the purported benefits of ADs. If I had I might have offered an opinion.

    This was not a left-wing group in which I felt safe to talk about my experience of either psychiatry or of anti-depressants. I suspect if his opinion was even partly based on personal experience, neither did he.

    At that time i didn’t know of anyone else whose experience of antidepressants was negative, and saw my feelings as personal and not a political matter. As far as I knew, most who used them found them helpful and harmless.

  • Beautifully expressed.

    But I also take issue with your understanding of what you are describing here as ‘depression’. Sadness is not depression. The drive to conflate these two distinct human conditions is part of psychiatry’s seemingly successful expansionist ambition to ‘treat’ and medicate even larger swathes of the population.

    In my opinion, depression is not an emotion. it is is one of the strongest internal demands to pay attention and take radical action to change our lives that we can experience. While we are living it we cannot continue on the same path in our lives (as we are quite capable of doing with sadness and other kinds of pain). It takes us off that path and allows us to think the unthinkable. As such it is a crisis – a dangerous opportunity.

    Sadness is a painful state of readjustment that we need to attend to with tenderness, but it is not even similar to the experience of depression.

  • Thank you for your story, Chaya.
    How indeed.

    How can communities provide support and reparative experiences, particularly to young people experiencing profound distress when that distress is so often a response to abuse and/or not enough of the caring and support they needed within their families (for whatever reason)? That is a very large gap in caring left wide open and needing to be filled

    I was one of those teenagers. I got out of the system and stayed out for many years. I was lucky. But leaving left me with a leagacy of trying to deal with the original reasons for my pain, hugely compounded by the experiences of being abused for being in such pain. It is easier for me to deal with the problems that led me into the system than with my feelings about ‘nice,’ ‘respectable’ people treating their fellow human beings that way, especially teenagers, still just children. With their being paid for it and going home at the end of their shifts, feeling good about themselves.

    The emphasis here at MIA and in peer communities is on drugging and that’s understandable, but the system’s harm goes a long way beyond the drugs. What worries me about the focus on drug harms, as real and severe as those are, is that it can not only obfuscate the part those drugs played in a bigger picture of abuse and destruction, but it can create an illusion that getting rid of the drugs and shocks is almost synonymous with solving the problem.

  • Sigh.
    Nancy99 you assumed a lot of things about me and about what I believe in the comment I responded to. One of the main assumptions was that my disagreement meant I hadn’t practised ‘true’ meditation, that i must have been doing it wrong, or I’d agree with you, and also that I wasn’t aware of the precepts you mentioned.

    The comparison with the religion of psychiatry in this is; if the patient doesn’t improve via its methods, and/or wholeheartedly endorse the ‘truth’ of the psychiatry’s beliefs about themselves, the patient is faulty and needs further correction until they do.

    Of course it is a belief system. Our little ape brains aren’t capable of comprehending ‘reality’, in my opinion, Also, there is, and always has been huge debate between and within the different Buddhist traditions, and the different points of view can’t all be objectively ‘true’.

  • Nancy99
    Can you see the parallels to psychiatry in the arrogance of the assumptions you are making here? In the patronising manner with which you assume the right to put your misguided perceptions of who I am, and of what I have experienced onto me?

    I practised Buddhism, including daily meditation practice under the guidance of a sensei and a Roshi for many years.

    Do you not understand that psychiatry can reference hundreds of thousands of studies to silence critical research?

  • ……And the back-up of assumptions about unrealistic patient expectations of instant nirvana……
    There is something disturbing about seeing the same tactics psychiatry uses, ie blame the patient, so glibly trotted out to silence any feedback that disconfirms cherished beliefs. Why can’t you just feel good that you benefited? Why does this have to be ‘enforced’ as a universal panacea?

  • It’s great if people find benefit in mindfulness, meditation or any form of psychotherapy. But suggesting that reports of harm or lack of benefit must be untrue and the result of big pharma intervening strikes me as the same knee jerk reaction as that which those who try to talk about harm from psychiatry – silencing.

    It strikes me that it would be odd if there was anything anywhere that was universally beneficial, outside of generalisations like food, fluids, etc.

    People find their way to freedom by many different paths. There is no one path.

  • This is brilliant and it gives me hope for the future. The analysis is superb. Particuarly like the part about the professionalisation of talking to distressed people via psychotherapy and the downside of that, for inviduals and communities.

    But I have to say this. I had experience with a peer support worker when I was in a crisis (who was being paid), and found her to be the psychological abuse super-highway. One thing that struck me in the final conversation was that all her years of lived experience may have provided a kind of finishing school for her abusive behaviour. She is well regarded in our local movement, high ranking and can produce all the right slogans. it doesn’t change the fact that she is interpersonally abusive and it frightens me that it potentially sets up the same dynamic as the person in distress is trying to escape from. A nightmare.

    It took me years to fully understand that there are no groups of “good guys”. Believing (as I drove myself to despair trying to, for years) that abuse, unethical behaviour, dishonesty, cruelty etc. is just a function of collective structures is naive imo and can put people in danger.

    So I’m wondering about the movement’s capacity for recognising and dealing with abuse within itself.

    None of this changes my respect for the movement itself and the importance of the work it is doing. It is heart-warming and inspiring to me.

  • I don’t know if this is going to help, but in response Oldhead:

    Last week I went to a movie with some friends. Afterwards we were talking about it, and someone said (of what had happened to the people in the documentary) “yeah but that couldn’t happen today because….”

    I had been strongly affected by the movie about things that had happened to me, but I was doing sort of okay in the conversation until that point. My response ended the conversation stone dead. I was factually correct in what I said, I was being true to myself but I regretted it.

    Up until I reacted the way I did, I think my friends were speaking openly themselves and open to hearing my point of view. it was a conversation. I didn’t yell or use foul language or anything like that and I certainly meant no harm, but I still killed any further discussion and any possiblity of being heard myself on the subject in just a few words.

    I think this sort of thing happens a lot in conversations where a speaker has strong feelings about a subject and especially where they have been deeply hurt and harmed and subject matter touches a raw nerve. Conversation killing is not what is intended.

    There are also times when people in conversations speak in a very similar way to assert their dominance. They are deliberately being aggressive and making it very hard for others to disagree without fear of escalating aggression and having it focussed on them.

    Two different intentions with very similar outcomes – shutting other speakers down.

  • Hi Rasselas.redux. I wanted to reply your comment above, but I keep getting bounced down to this one (11.13am).

    I pretty much agree with what you say in this one, except it would be a bit harsh and hard to police a limit of two comments per week, and it would prevent further discussion via replies to replies (as I’m going to do now about you comment above -6.13am):

    I was mainly talking about psychiatry’s current expansionism where they seem to be trying to label and “treat” the majority of people. Dissidents have always been a a part of psychiatry’s purview, but there has never been a state in which the majority has been labelled and treated as mentally ill. I guess it could work, but in relatively peaceful times I suspect it would backfire as the population became debilitated by the drugs and saw and heard psychiatry for themselves (and applied to themselves). It would be much harder for the profession to deny the immediate side effects and longer term brain and body damage.

    I’m also curious about how long it will take for the public to start kicking back against psychiatry pronouncing who is and isn’t fit for public and private office. Starting with the likes of Trump is shoooting fish in the proverbial barrel. Let’s see how far they can take it. Maybe the public will accept it for a while…..

  • I was thinking something as I was driving. I’m probably not the first this has occurred to. In the absense of an ‘open mike’ I hope no-one minds if I put it here.

    It is this: If psychiatry continues to extend its power it will cause its own downfall. Right now those of us who speak out are easily demolished by virtue of the fact of being or having been “treated” and the records they write and the labels they are allowed to impose on us.

    But wait until more than half of the population is drugged and made to wear discrediting and inaccurate labels, and wait again until the harm accumulates over time; from individuals to partners, families social groups, communties and economies. Wait until the profession starts interfere, claiming science, in telling us who we should and should not choose, not just as head of state, but to serve on any bodiy or in any organisation able to effect change. Wait until climate change and environmental degradtion starts to be felt by most people and psychiatry tries to weigh-in with its advice and treatment to “heal” the leaders and causalties of civil unrest.

    I don’t know if public tolerance would last very far into the process, but I believe that the current trajectory, if successful (and I need to be realisitic about a profession as spectularly unsuccessful as this one has shown itself to be), would guarantee its own implosion.

  • As one harmed and not a MH professional, FeelinDiscouraged I share your concerns about further marginalising our voices.

    But I once read an article here which purported to report about a drug study, and one I had already read because I have a particular interest in the subject drug, and I was shocked that it seriously, and I do mean seriously, misrepresented that study. It wasn’t just a different interpretation of the results. The writer linked, and I had to check it was the same study.

    Despite my not being a professional, it led me to feel sceptical about the accuracy of reporting here. Since then I have read a lot more, but that kind of biased reporting can lead even survivors to feel wary of the site.

  • The way I read the objections is about the potential for increasing different kinds of elitism in commenting. One kind is about the privilege of writing skills but another is about the risk of stepping outside of an accepted “party line” decided by the most dominant voices.

    I admit there are opinions I wouldn’t write because of the second kind. It’s not about being disagreed with but subjected to aggression and pressure, rather than being able to discuss different points of view.

    There is also another issue about sensitivity to how deeply people have suffered and been harmed. Sometimes it can seem that alternative views about the merits of particular aspects of psychiatry or treatments can feel like they negate that reality and be triggering as a result.

  • Its more than that.
    Psychiatry attracts people who struggle with their own demons, but it is a profession that dehumanises people who struggle. People working in it have a choice of cutting off from their vulnerability, or being ostracised.

  • One of the problems is the need for alternatives. This has never been an issue for my famiy, but caring for a family member experiencing acute, ongoing distress can easily be beyond that capability and resources of the family. Also, the family might be the last thing the distressed person needs. It’s easy to say that the family should just let go and trust that person will find a way through, but there are often good reasons that the family might fear for the safety and well-being of that member. Also, often the member becomes distressed while they are still young, often living at home, or before they have established full independence.

    One of the myths that psychiatry has successfully promulgated is that a person’s safety and well-being are being compassionately catered for within their systems of treatment, and that whatever the outcome of that treatment, it is the best that can be achieved or hoped for. Families very often cling to believing in psychiatry, partly because the results, no matter how negative for the individual, allow them to get on with their lives.

    I do feel that both the individual and the family often need help, and there needs to be trustworthy and genuinely beneficial help available. The main point I’m trying to make is that it is seldom just the “patient” who is deeply affected.

  • Ditto about MIA. it has been a lifeline for me.

    There are some things I wish I could be more open about, but can’t right now.

    I think there is nuanced debate here. It might be that like me, some might be hindered in commenting by either themselves or close others being still caught up in the system, or by the ramifications of having been in it.

    If there is a sense of imbalance of perpectives in the comments it might be partly about differences between those who feel able to speak freely and those who don’t.

  • Hi Red Squirrel.
    I’m a survivor not a professional. I don’t use the word survivor usually but I want to make the distinction.

    One thing I wanted to mention is that I often start but don’t finish,survivor stories. I get horribly triggered, they take me back to horrible places and feelings of utter powerlessness, terror, violence and rejection. I’m not saying it is the whole reason that readers might prefer to read professionals. I take your point and its a valid one.

    I also feel it is hard to not crave validation from a similar source to that from which we were so terribly harmed and invalidated I still live with the effects of the unfounded opinions you speak of. In the world, my word, my truth still means nothing compared to these people. My truth feels erased and replaced with self-serving bullshit from people of very low integrity. Ironically, some measure of public vindication can only come via the opinion of another professional. Even that can’t undo the damage, just mitigate it.

    Every day I work on validating myself, but it is hard. Being abused in this context is a double assault on my ife in many ways and also on my spirit.If I try to tell my own story I marginalise myself.

  • I realise this conversation is diverting from the subject of the post so I’ll keep this brief.

    Where reality is as far from the rhetoric of an organisation as it is in psychiatry, anyone telling the truth will be punished and discredited. Any example of dissent from the party line, however small, will attract anger and derision.

    It wouldn’t matter if the majority of staff privately agreed with a particular instance of truth, most would still respond to the group identity threat with at least tacit approval of any resultant punishment. Helping a truth-teller in these circumstances is advising them to keep their truth to themselves.

    It’s hard for me to get a handle on how any meaningful reform is possible in these circumstances because in most countries, the absence of any meaningful accountability (including the unchallengable legal status of the records they write), and extent of coercion legally allowed, is greater than that available to any person or organisation, including criminal law enforcement and the spy agencies that purportedly protect citizens from international terrorism.

  • I don’t think there is any propect of accountability for harmful practitioners, even if psychiatry was dismantled. The complete lack of any genuine accountability is a big part of the problem.

    I agree there are good people within the system, people who are trying to help and to minimise the harm the system causes from within that system. I don’t know how they can cope without being dragged under themelves.

    The thing is, I don’t know how the system can possibly be reformed. It was born as an alternate prison system for unwanted people. Mental hospitals incarcerated not just the ‘mad’, but those considered intellectually subnormal, children with disabilities (they seldom, if ever, survived into adulthood) errant teenagers, unwanted wives, those prone to epileptic fits, gay people etc., The purpose was part eugenics, part social control and enforcement of ‘normality” and hierarchy, and part concern to ‘unburden’ the respectable, and families.

    The legacy of managing the problem of people believed to be inherently defective and subhuman, people society didn’t want, has never left, imo. It is a culture that is passed down. Labels, language and fashions have changed, attitudes have been modified towards faux benevolence, drugs have replaced chains and reduced numbers inside, there is a greater pretence at the trappings of medicine, but at heart this is the system.

    How can we change this into something else?

  • I’m well aware of other kinds of exploittion and abuse. I’ve been an activist on a number of issues for many years. I resent being told what I should empahsise and the assumption that expressing one component means I haven’t considered other aspects of the subject at hand, or that talking about one aspect negates any other.

    MIA is not a campaign as far as I’m aware, and in any venue where people come together to express their experiences and feelings, telling them what they ‘should’ be saying, expecially to better persuade unaffected people outside that forum, seems pretty rude to me.

  • This is by no means confined to ex-patients, but I believe the issue is huge.

    There is an article in MIA’s newsfeed today talking about sexual abuse of very young psychiatric patients and disabled children.

    I believe that people can become split off and often viciously abuse those who are vulnerable and who have no voice. I believe they are in some way compelled to do so, and that in some way they are acting out thier own trauma from when they were vulnerable and had no voice and no defenders. This is not to excuse their behaviour. But there is something about being triggered by that very vulnerability and the fact that they ca act abusively with impunity.

    There are very dark places in the human psyche that we all to some extent prefer to be in denial about

    Bringing this back to the subject at hand, I have a fear about consumer-led alternatives to mental health care. It is that this dynamic will continue and will end up in some version of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”.

    I feel strongly that unless this problem is addressed head-on, unless we can be honest that one of the effects of trauma can be perpetuating abuse, in big ways and small, it won’t matter much who has the power in situations where it can be abused without consequence.

    The last thing I want to do is demonise those who have been dehumanised. People like me. Most of this harm is perpetrated by those who have never been labelled or insitiutionalised, those who have the cloak of ‘respectablility’ to hide behind. Some of those who are attracted to work with people who have no voice and no means to defend themselves, do so to be in the position to feel powerful in relation to the powerless. It is how they self-regulate.

  • I tend to agree with you to an extent.

    Certainly those of us who have been harmed by “evil” get to be stigmatsed and trashed by being put into a basket that societies like to call “sick” or “mentally ill” and it is the same basket that societies put abusers (where they are exposed) and abuse itself into, so that they don’t have to face up to the reality and pervasiveness of “evil”. At the same time, communities don’t have to face the fact that those who are most abusive are those who never wear that stigmatising label or live in that shitty basket, because they have successfully dumped their shit onto those they have harmed, along with all the responsibility for ham and abuse.

  • I don’t accept we are different.

    One of the biggest problems in psychiatry I believe, is that many are attacted to work in psychiatry becayse of their own woundedness. The “difference” where it exists, (because there is a minority of those who are very self-aware and compassionate), is of a committment to denial and of siding with oppressers. Rather than being willing to experience their commonality and their vulnerability they seek to feel powerful at the expense of those in a position of powerlessness.

    We are unable to “join” with these people to fight for a world free of coercion. Joining such people is the path to collaborating with our own oppression.

  • I found similar attitudes in psychiatry, – denial or minimisation. Psychiatry sides with power, they can sometimes accept abuse where people they consider social inferiors perpetrate it. That doesn’t rock the boat – it’s what the ‘lower orders’ do after all. Even in this case they aren’t interested and don’t usually consider it relevant. But psychiatry is the absolute defender of privilege and will gaslight the hell out of anyone who dares to speak truth to power.

    A patient’s relationship with psychiatry is a coercively controlling relationship, just as in domestic abuse. The same blindness, submissiveness and learned helplesness. But it is the potential for trauma bonding that firghtens me most.

  • My recent time of distress was characterised by polarised thinking, but I feel it is far too narrow to suggest that that is all it was. What is called depression, was for me an almost unbelivably narrow and painful place. But it was brought about by severe abuse and the aftermath and consequences of escaping. I was lucky that there was a kind of mental liberation as a result, and I suspect that is the adaptive purpose of the suffering of depression.

    Yet the circumstances that meant the result was greater freedom from mental impriosnment rather than greater imprisonment and pain, possibly leading to death, were special and being able to ‘respond’ rather than react was only a part of it. Mind mind was trapped in trauma. I had the best possible motivation to free myself, yet I needed the right circumstances to be able to do that.

    Abuse, (and I mean this in it’s broadest sense including socio-economic, envionmental, and geo-political), especially via the specialised mechanisms of narcissism etc. is instrumental and in skilled practitioners on a small and large scale, it is usually rewarded. The writer seems to put the perpertrators and the oppressed in the same basket. In the big picture I see that suffering and inability to experience humanity and connectedness at the core of both. The biggest difference is that the recipients of abuse are highly motivated to change the picture, while generally, the perpertrators are not.

    In a world stuck in the destructive paradigm of “winners and losers” the idea of facilitated dialogues, even between government officials and everyday people strikes me as naive. Since this is a forum about destructive psychiatry, a good analogy could be facilitated dialogues between survivors and psychiatrists. It implies that it is a matter of finding a suitable format so that those without power can be heard by those with power, and ignores the tremendous stake the holders of power have in the status quo. There seems to be an assumption that the problem is just a lack of knowedge, and ignores the fact that holding more resources (including power, status etc.) necessitates others having less and that having more is usually pretty damn important to those who have more.

    How does the writer propose we convince those who don’t believe they have a problem, and who societies have annointed as ‘winners” to authentically “broaden their perspectives and find points of commonality with others” where the “others” desperately need resources for their well-being or survival, that the “winners” would prefer to hoard, or where the “other” has their face under that person’s boot?

  • Interesting.

    I was prescribed this drug a few years ago for severe insomnia. I think I only took it three times because it made no difference to my inability to sleep. What I remember most is the bruises sustained getting from the living room to the bedroom. I couldn’t seem to get through a single door on the way without hitting the side and it’s not like there isn’t a lot of clearance on either side to get through a door. I couldn’t figure out afterwards how it was possible to cause so many bruises trying to walk to another room.

    Once I finally got in bed I was awake but in the strangest state of restless confusion all night.

    I’m very glad to have thrown the bottle away, and that I was never coerced to take them.

  • That’s part of what I found was true for me.

    I found Zen very rigid. I didn’t need another kind of guru to define me (or not-me in this particular case), but to be allowed to be myself and build trust in my self.

    There was little community or personal connection between members, it seemed a very individualistic practise. I feel that the faith could very very different in other contexts.

    But what I really needed was faith in myself, and through this, to be able to trust others, and to connect with them. Psychiatry had caused terrible harm to my ability to trust myself and to trust that others would accept me. It had piled trauma onto trauma and I couldn’t find a way out from under the harm that profound loss of faith in myself and that I could have a place with others as myself. For years I became a self-less, appeasing doormat. I became no-one. I took to Zen like a duck to water because it seemed natural to me. That very familiarity should have been a warning.

  • I’d lost my self. It was a problem. The concept and practice of no-self was a kind of escapism in my particular circumstances. What I needed was to re-connect, to live from the inside out, to believe in my self.

    Zen took me even further away from what I needed most. I became more dissociated and disconnected, more lost.

    I suspect that practising Zen in Japan where it is more collective, centred within a community of relationships and traditions common to the culture, would be a very different experience. There has been criticism of the more atomised, “psychologised” western version of it – that it has been stripped of its context.

    I’m not wanting to disrespect any person’s path. The reason I commented is that I’ve noticed a trend in my country of mindfulness/meditation being touted as the alternative to psychiatry, as the “solution”. For those who find their way out via this route, I’m happy, but I believe the benefits are overhyped, and that it is not for everyone. It is not a therapy, it is a faith (like psychiatry in that sense), and the benefits of discipline, stress reduction, community, belonging, and shedding a toxic identity and starting afresh can be found in a number of different paths.

  • I’m so glad you found what you needed and escaped the clutches of a toxic system that led you to doubt and pathologise everthing about yourself.

    However, I find it worrying that so many in this movement seem to advocate another, if more benign, total system of thought as the answer to the distress that leads many people to psychiatry.

    I threw myself into Zen for seven years. I saw it as the answer to my problems. It wasn’t, in many ways it exacerbated them.

  • I’m not sure my comment can fit within the business model this blog seems to use.

    I have a couple of thoughts about alternative consumer-led services for people experiencing distress. They are based on my own narrow experiences of local enterprises.

    First, I believe there is a need for training in understanding and eliminating all forms of abuse, and clear accountablilty where consumer or alternative support workers are found to be behaving abusively. I was shocked and hurt to find that my privacy was breached and my confidential information was used to serve the agenda of the worker I reached out to.

    When I phoned and politely asked this person to respect my privacy in future and to explain that her actions had undermined me in a very difficult situation, I was met with a wall of psychological abuse that outperformed individual instances of the psychological abuse I was being subjected to within the system. I wished I had a ‘psychological abuse bingo card’ as this person switched from gaslighting, to discrediting, to patronising, to overwriting my experiences, to stating false assumptions about me and the situation as facts, and insisting that her assumptions were more valid that my actual experience and knowledge, including my personal history, to false accusations, to playing therapist, and back and forth until my head was spinning.

    I suspect this person learned or honed her craft in this kind of domination and abuse within the system. I recognised the tactics as standard practise for psychiatric personnel in dominating, belittling and disempowering patients.

    I fear new services run by those whose primary training for working with oppressed consumers is their own experience of “treatment” abuse run the risk of repeating those experiences from a position of power and that resultant services could easily become a form of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

    Second, I worry that the drop-in centre model is too similar to the format of psych services. It seems to be a method of securing funding, but there is an inbuilt inquality. It felt to me that (often) the most privileged ex-consumers used the format as a stepping stone to become ‘better’ (than other survivors) via working their way up to leadership and then having the experience as a CV item on their way to bigger and brighter things.

    I also have a sense that the hierarchical structure (formal or informal) can easily lead to assumptions that the steps taken by those who have ‘succeeded’ know best about the lives of others and have the correct formula for all. If survivors want to sell their own formula as a therapeutic approach, I’d rather they did so explicitly rather than implicitly.

  • Hi Emily and everyone.

    After reading MIA for a while, it is this post that has encouraged me to be part of the collected voices of Mad in America. Like most here, I’m a psych-survivor who has experienced terrible harm through seeking help for distress, and likewise, further opression and abuse through trying to find a way out of the consequences of my experiences of oppression and abuse.

    I have been involved in different kinds of political activism over years and have come to feel cynical about pseudo-consensus processes that always felt essential to achieving goals. It seems to me that any gains achieved through such ‘pragmatic’ processes were insubstantial and primarily served the empire-building goals of cliques within movements rather than the ‘rank and file’.

    I don’t have any answers, I don’t know what to do to be part of stopping the terrible harms caused by the “mental health” systems, or what approach or strategy is best. But what I do feel I know is that I don’t want to be a part of inadvertantly recreating the very oppressions that the movement is trying to fight against, even if they are apparently more benign forms of them.

    I respect that MIA doesn’t seem to impose an illusion of consensus on those who speak here.