Friday, August 12, 2022

Comments by LisaO

Showing 10 of 10 comments.

  • PS: Schwartz teaches his OCD people that the patterns in their “before” fMRIs are the result of trauma and mis-learning. He also teaches them that the “true self” is not the same as the brain, and that, by identifying with the self, they can stop identifying with the OCD patterns–the slogan he teaches is, “It’s not me, it’s my brain.” For those of us who have been fighting biopsych, this may sound really harmful. But it isn’t: it empowers people to get involved in removing the effects of their own trauma.

    The brain model is only a problem when what is observed is labelled a disease process and there is no sense of a separate, more powerful self that can change the brain. As Schwartz uses it, it offers people, at least, an empowering metaphor.

  • You might find a little history interesting. Remember when the biopsychs were claiming that OCD had to be a brain disease, because you could see the differences in OCD brains via fMRI? Strangely enough, they were referencing the research of Jeffrey Schwartz. But Schwartz didn’t stop there, because that wasn’t the point he was trying to make: he went on to train those same people in mindfulness-based CBT, relieve their distress, rescan them, prove that those OCD patterns were no longer appearing, and demonstrate that the therapy had actually changed their brains. So that research, which initially seemed to support biopsych, is exactly the research responsible for the concept of self-directed neuroplasticity.

    So, to me, the fMRI-based research (much of it influenced by the Dalai Lama) is delivering one body blow after another to biopsych. The creeps just haven’t felt those blows yet.

  • Hi Michael,

    While I agree with much of what you have written here, I disagree with your statement that shame isn’t hardwired. It seems to me that shame is the “social pain” we feel when excluded, and that it is as natural as fear and grief. Guilt is much more “sophisticated” and socially constructed. For example, scholars have argued that the ancient Greeks didn’t experience guilt—for them, shame worked well enough as a means of social control.

    The question for me isn’t whether it’s natural, but whether it still has a necessary function. It’s like the stress response— “fight/flight/freeze/fold.” Over and over, I read stress researchers who say, “Of course, we need the stress response in some situations.” But the whole basis of aikido training is that we don’t ever “need” it—no matter how hardwired it is. If hardwired responses no longer serve us, we need to learn—and rewire our brains—so that we have replacement responses available.

    I believe shame is associated with attachment. Most attachment research these days emphasizes that adult attachment needs are hardwired and that, if they aren’t met, people “naturally” suffer. Tell that to Tibetan Buddhist practitioners who have just spent three years alone, meditating in a cave! They will probably laugh.

    What’s more, when you do fMRIs on them, you see that areas of their brains associated with compassion are huge, compared with normal controls. But they exhibit no attachment needs, and I doubt that they ever experience shame. They may remember feeling it, just as you do, but their training has “rewired” the hardwiring.

    That’s what I believe you have done—trained yourself, via “self-directed neuroplasticity,” in the same way an aikido student does. Whatever you want to call the alternative (and maybe we need a new word for it), the remarkable difference is that you figured it out for yourself. So, maybe you will be, regarding shame, what O Sensei was regarding the stress response.

    More power to you!

  • Dear Julie,

    Your story has catalyzed a feeling that has been incubating in me for a while. I am a “second wave” feminist and was active in Women’s Liberation, which I would give anything to revive. The way the mental health system treated women was seen as a feminist issue. And that was before the “epidemic” of depression in women, and the subsequent medication of so many. In those days, we were mostly fighting psychoanalytic orthodoxy.

    I want to make this a “women’s issue” again. I love the men who are fighting this fight, but I beleive that, if we organized as women, we could gain the support of a lot of women who don’t even know about the issue now. If, in the “old days,” you had written up this story for a feminist publication, there would be a picket line outside your church.

    I don’t even know how to begin, but I want to find a way to organize a Speak Out–of the kind New York Radical Feminists sponsored on abortion (when you could go to prison for it)–on “mental illness.” I want women’s stories to be heard by other women, and to be used to rebuild Women’s Liberation. If we could do this, the faultline between women therapists and the patriarchal Pharma-psych complex might start quaking.

    It’s too bad I’m in California, because the Arlington St. Church would be the obvious place to hold such an event. Do you know other women in Boston/Cambridge who might be galvanized by this idea?


  • I don’t know if every med student who chooses psychiatry as a profession these days intends to become a pill pusher. Maybe, given the state of the profession, they do. But it didn’t used to be like that, and there are still a bunch of “old dogs” who have never been pill pushers.

    Jungian psychiatrists practice Jungian analysis, not pill pushing. Psychoanalytic psychiatrists practice psychoanalysis, not pill pushing. All the alternative treatment programs in the Bay Area–including Diabasis and Soteria–and around the world, were started by radical psychiatrists. When I was 25, and ready to kill myself, an existential psychiatrist (a follower of Victor Frankl) saved my life. He didn’t try to push pills, either.

    Whenever I read something by a psychiatrist who seems to be awaking from the biopsychiatric dream, even if s/he seems barely awake, I try to encourage them. Many of them actually did go into the profession to help people. They too have been hoodwinked–especially the private practice docs who just know what they were taught, and what they’re told by the drug companies.

    They believe that crap! Nobody taught them critical thinking. I don’t think it’s a good idea to write them off. But teaching them critical thnking is harder. Passing out really good literature at conventions could be a start.

    Maybe we could form a front group and get a table at a convention! Or maybe we could treat them like politicians and meet with them at their offices, just like the Big Pharma sales crew does.


  • I haven’t read through all the comments, so I don’t know if someone else has pointed this out. If you go to an unlicensed therapist, you won’t get a diagnosis. If you go to a licensed therapist, like the author of this blog, and you don’t want a diagnosis, the therapist may agree–check them out before you tell them anything. Get a referral from someone you trust. We need a network of therapists who oppose this horror and agree not to participate. They are out there.

    I don’t know if it’s still possible, but there used to be “non-pathological” DSM categories that could still make you eligible for insurance. (Is this still true, Michael?) The real problem is if you feel that you need drugs–and too many of us do. We need to create an underground movement–like the “self-help” movement that performed abortions, when they were illegal–that can help people get the meds they need without a diagnosis. Dangerous–but not as dangerous as Brave New World.

    Thank you so much, Dr. Cornwall.


  • Dear Michael,

    I am so glad that you have managed to revive Esalen’s interest in extreme states. After Dick died, it seemed as if they were sliding away from anything really radical. But his spirit lives on in you and the others at your conference. I can just see all of you at the Big House—what a wonderful revival of the original thrust of Esalen.

    I wonder if there is some way to get the news of these conferences out into the psychotherapy community. I keep hoping that other people who worked in those Esalen-inspired programs will catch the spirit again, and offer to help (can you really be the last one still breathing?). But it also feels really important to make interns aware that alternatives did—and still can–exist. That’s where the future of alternative treatment lies.

    Given the current draconian laws regarding forced treatment—and the possible horrors to come—I think the “60s model” is even more needed now than it was then. If only for purely humanitarian reasons, we need to act powerfully to keep young people out of the system altogether. Once somebody has been hospitalized, once she or he has received a diagnosis and “treatment,” an entire life changes. How much of the rest of that life is spent succumbing to, or fighting against, the trauma?

    Those old programs—I Ward, Diabasis, Soteria—meant that many young people experiencing extreme states never entered the system at all. We need those kinds of programs more than ever now. It breaks my heart to know that sanctuaries like that are no longer available.

    Thank you so much for all you have done, and are doing, to keep this work alive.

    Bright blessings,

  • Thank you so much, Michael, for telling this story. It seems so obvious that compassionate, “harmless” attention would calm people down. Why isn’t it obvious to the other side?

    If anyone knows the answer to this question, it’s you. You sat at the same table with NAMI members for decades, and you know that they’re all terrified. You were able to calm them down, too, by being compassionate and “harmless”–although I still can’t imagine how you managed to do that.

    So this news story, and the way the NYT handled it, and your blog, and the comments, raise two questions for me:

    1. Does our movement (which I still don’t know how to name, when I describe it to outsiders) have a watchdog organization? Have we grown enough that a group could form that deals with the media–one that can command the respect of the NYT, the way you commanded the respect of a NAMI chapter? A group that would, eventually, be asked to comment in advance on stories like this?

    2. Can you imagine a group that specializes in communicating with parents like these—who must, themselves, be pretty “crazed”–with the kind of harmless and compassionate attention you brought to the table? And could that kind of listening change them, too?