Monday, March 27, 2017

Comments by oldhead

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  • There can be no such thing as a “revolution in psychiatry” without dissolving psychiatry as a profession, any more than Guantanamo is “a revolution in concentration camps” because waterboarding has been discontinued. Psychiatric oppression begins the moment one is labeled “mentally ill,” as it is embodied in the label itself.

    Does Norway intend to eliminate mental prisons and psychiatric labeling as well? Does it intend to eliminate all forced “treatment”? If not, the alleged elimination of drugging, while a significant reform, in no way constitutes a “revolution.”

    And I didn’t see it stated that there would be no further forced incarceration or “treatment” by other means. It seems that Norwegian psychiatry could be cutting its losses to save its professional skin.

  • This is insane. Who decided that posting this sort of propaganda is a good direction for MIA? And couldn’t they have included a link to Reefer Madness?

    How about some anti-abortion stuff while we’re at it?

  • On a related note — Phil, maybe you would be the one with the knowledge and experience to write a manual about how to “pass” a depression screening, i.e. the right way to answer trick questions designed to get you on the fast track to drug dependency.

  • We should consider the implications of the notion of “seeking alternatives.” While it seems innocuous and reasonable enough of a goal on the surface, what does psychiatry provide that anyone would want an “alternative” version of? Do people speak of needing an “alternative” to racism or homophobia?

    The claim that we need an “alternative” before we denounce and expose psychiatry is a guilt trip and a trap.

  • I like many of these suggestions and look forward to further dialogue.

    One caution I have is that those of us who truly want to abolish and not “improve” psychiatry shouldn’t waste our time, or at least much of it, trying to convince psychiatrists to change, or to put themselves out of business. But once we have a united analysis and strategy in place (which is in the works) a number of your suggested tactics could be very effective.

  • People have a right to be referred to by whatever pronoun they choose (within the limits of one’s memory); however the way she phrased it implied that people were being required to use gender-neutral pronouns as a matter of course. There’s a big difference & I’m still not sure what she meant, I was hoping for some clarification.

  • I’m afraid this is a little rich. You can’t criticize the medicalization of suffering and at the same time talk about your “patients.” We are not “patients.”

    Patients and providers have a common enemy and a common interest in defeating that enemy. We cannot let them divide us.

    We may have a common enemy in capitalism, but the notion of “professionalism” is an additional obstacle that those on the receiving end of “professional services” face. The goal should not be “better” professionals but a system in which human support is not a “specialty” and professionalism is obsolete. It’s not simply a matter of “them” dividing “us”; the divisions have been well entrenched for some time. Terminology such as “patient” perpetuates a medicalized mystification of suffering.

  • So, here goes:

    On “survivor” leadership — I don’t know if we need a specifically “survivor” organization in every town. But I think it would be great to have an anti-psychiatry group in every town which is led by those who have been psychiatrized. If people want to have “survivor” groups in addition that’s fine too; I would like to see people avoid identifying too much as something which, after all, was imposed (“survivor”-hood), not part of our genetic makeup. Psychiatry affects ALL people, which is what we need to emphasize, and I think that’s a big part of what Phil is saying here. But those whom it has affected most, and understand its dynamics most intimately are those who have been psychiatrized; as such, conscious survivors need to take leading roles in the struggle against psychiatry (which does NOT mean dictating everything by “playing the mental patient card”).

    On lawsuits — Whether a lawsuit is reformist at heart or potentially liberating depends on whether its aim is “better treatment” or breaking the legal power of psychiatry to impose extralegal and abusive practices on people in the first place. For example, commitment hearings should be treated as criminal proceedings — with the option of requesting a jury — if they involve coercive drugging or incarceration, and Miranda protections should apply to psychiatric interviews. Lawyers need to be trained in how to counter and expose psychiatric testimony as fraudulent at its core. Most important, we need lawyers who want to work for us in a non-paternalistic way that addresses our actual needs, not the system’s caricature of our needs (such as “fighting stigma”).

    Also, since we’re talking about law, I believe a critical difference between reformism and anti-psychiatry is that anti-psychiatry recognizes that psychiatry is part of the law enforcement/prison apparatus, and is not a branch of medicine or the health system, even in a “rogue” way. The confusion most people have in this regard is a major impediment in formulating solutions.

  • Phil — A number of people are becoming interested in forming a true anti-psychiatry network which would be able to represent the beliefs and analyses of those who have gone beyond “critical psychiatry” to a more abolitionist perspective. What you put forth here provides fertile material for discussion once such a format has been established to define, for example, what constitutes an abolitionist vs. a reform perspective. Because, face it — there is no organized or representative movement at the moment, at least in the U.S., just a collection of people with somewhat similar beliefs about psychiatry but no common thread as to what our priorities should be, or how to go about achieving them.

    I don’t know that your above suggestions actually constitute “new directions,” as I believe people can be found working on all the levels that you mention; the problem is that there’s no linkage between these efforts or common strategy. This needs to change. (Check your email btw.)

    I have thoughts on most of these subjects. As for the “non-psychiatric” professionals being part of an anti-psychiatry movement, it depends. You mention the problem — many are too afraid of losing their jobs to do anything but water down our efforts. Those who don’t publicly identify as anti-psychiatry should have some pretty good proof that their goal is to end psychiatry — not find an “alternative” way of making careers out of assuaging people’s misery.

    Will post more on this all later. Thanks for contributing to these ongoing discussions.

  • So as far as solutions are concerned, I think the way this particular conundrum plays out is that the victory of people over private profit IS inevitable, but the time line is completely unpredictable, and how long we must engage in trial and error is an open question. The longer we wait around for that “inevitability” to manifest the longer it will be, as power cedes nothing without a demand. If it takes too long the earth might already be environmentally doomed by the time we “win.”

    But here is where I might diverge from the author’s perspective:

    While understandable, it is a mistake to counterpose psychiatric survivors and workers in the ‘mental health industry.’

    Yes and no. A “mental health” worker who is actively working to abolish psychiatry as a practice might be considered an ally of the anti-psychiatry “survivor” movement. Keeping one’s job would be most challenging for such a person if they were sincere. But an active anti-psychiatry movement should be primarily led by conscious “survivors” who have experienced psychiatrization, especially involuntarily. (And if any “movement” on our behalf is NOT straight-up anti-psychiatry it is not legitimate.)

    most do not enter the industry to serve as agents of oppression, and when they realize they are, they can become magnificent fighters against it.

    “Can” is the key word here. It has not been our experience that many do. Usually when the choice between principle vs. getting paid comes up the latter wins out, and the revisions and rationalizations start.

  • Again, liberals are not leftists. Identity politics and the preoccupation with semantics (which are not unimportant btw) are components of the “academic left,” which it seems to me is to a good degree composed of wannabe 60’s activists, not actual organizers. The old saying “those who can’t do, teach” may apply here.

    Does the bill in question specifically apply to official state business or to people talking to each other in public?

  • Next noteworthy quote:

    Of particular note is the increased use of the terms ‘delusions of persecution’ or ‘paranoia,’ from 3 in DSM-4TR to 14 in DSM-5

    This is something which also seems as though it should get more attention. Who decides what is a delusion and what is an insight into the way the machine works? Who decides which fears are rational and which are irrational? These are political judgements, fully subjective. There were some old hippie buttons that said things like “Paranoia is heightened awareness” and “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not after you.” Obviously this is more than humor.

  • We need to recognize that all we can do pending the necessary political/economic transformation, which is the sine qua non, is collectively tend to our psychic wounds as best possible while struggling to eliminate the political conditions and social structures which inflict them. Such support needs to be ingrained in the ways we relate to each other, not regarded as a professional specialty.

  • Just like we all breathe the same polluted air, including the ruling class, people from all economic and social strata are negatively affected by the dehumanization of the system in its many variations. Economic classes are artificial categories imposed on humanity, and are composed of real people.

  • “Stigma” needs to be recognized as the bigotry of others towards the psychiatrized, and nothing more complicated. “Anti-stigma” is pro-psychiatry/pro-drug at its core, as it is meant to remove roadblocks to public approval of mass drugging and the medicalization of dissatisfaction. Stigma is inherent to a psychiatric “diagnosis.”

  • An article in itself, thanks for this. I was hoping this discussion section had only just begun.

    You ask, ‘Who will remove psychiatry’s compulsory powers?’ In fact, this is easily done from a technical standpoint by repealing legal provisions that authorize those powers.

    That was my thought as I read that — it’s not a mystery, technically, as to how to end compulsory “treatment.” Of course it is a huge dilemma as to how to garner the critical mass to demand such legal changes. A crucial hurdle is educating the “mainstream” to understand that “mental illness” is NOT “a disease like any other.”

    If there is one thing MIA doesn’t lack it’s enough women to speak for themselves regarding specifically women’s issues. So I won’t really dive into most of the questionss you bring up here. I will say that one of the most serious challenges that Marxist organizations and movements have faced has been to try to incorporate an understanding of systemic patriarchy into their analyses of capitalism and class struggle. Some have been better at this than others. It’s obvious to me that patriarchy and capitalism in the present day reinforce one another. The same can be said for capitalism and racism. Before these contradictions are resolved there will be no significant progress for humanity as a whole.

    Btw are you familiar with Selma James and Global Women’s Strike?
    (Not to be confused with the recent “Women’s Global Strike,” GWS is a radical working class women’s organization.)

  • As an addendum, the points made in the article regarding noncompliance among students parallel the previous ones made regarding the workplace. This follows, as the primary purpose of public schooling today is to create the work force for tomorrow’s corporate exploits.

    Bored and alienated schoolchildren have long been accused of “learning disabilities”; never have boring and alienating teachers been diagnosed with teaching disabilities.

  • Moving along…

    Cohen explains how psychiatry frames ‘under-performance’ at work as an individual ‘mental illness’ requiring ‘treatment.’

    Exactly!!! This underscores the value of our existence being measured in terms of how much profit can be squeezed out of us. We are allowed to expect just enough food, sleep, free time and emergency medical “care” to get our bodies through hours and years of meaningless work. If we aren’t down with the drill we are “underperforming” — but whose circus is this anyway?

    “It is no longer enough just to shift product, one must now do it with a smile, with ‘sincerity,’ with a friendly touch”

    Nope, we can’t simply succumb complacently to eating shit. We’re expected to like it, otherwise we’re “disgruntled.”

    Unfortunately this attitude is often promulgated on MIA in blogs and comments which equate successful “therapy” with holding a job, any job. Even if it’s personally or environmentally destructive.

  • Communism can refer to two things: a) The final stage of the transition of humanity from capitalism to a stateless society (with socialism as the intermediary phase); and/or 2) The political movement dedicated to achieving such a transition.

    Humanbeing is correct, there has never been a truly communist society or anything close. But there were never airplanes before people visualized them, made many retrospectively silly mistakes, and crashed and burned more than a few times. My point was mainly semantic — i.e., as communism means a stateless society, there cannot be a “communist state.” Generally what people mean by “communist” countries are countries which have attempted to institute socialism. Such efforts succeeded for awhile in the USSR and China; however these gains were swept away eventually and new forms of capitalism were established, which is the situation in both countries today (although I just read that China is experiencing a resurgence of revolutionary energy being labeled “neo-Maoism”).

    Anyway, I would compare what you correctly call idealism with that first vision of a flying machine decades or centuries before it materialized.

  • PS — Marxism is not an ideology, it is a scientific method of approaching an understanding of power and economics, and for developing strategies and programs via which to throw off the unnecessary parasitic classes which produce nothing, yet feed off the people’s labor and energy. Marxists argue with one another just like physicists and, while there are shared principles, how these are to be applied is a constant debate, and just because a “Marxist” does something in the same of Marxism it doesn’t necessarily represent a consensus.

  • There hasn’t been much here to think deeply about lately anyway, that might be one part of your problem.

    Anxiety is unidentified fear in many cases. If the fear can be identified it is less likely to be crippling, in theory. But I guess there are situations where this doesn’t apply and it’s a knd of survival strategy to put consciousness of the fear at arm’s length, and turn it into “anxiety.” In general though fear is a sign that you need to protect yourself, and it’s good to know what you’re protecting yourself from.

  • Save yourself some trouble, as nothing in Solzhenitsyn’s experience in the gulags has relevance to what is being discussed here. There was never such a thing as “soviet communism” and what is represented as such was at best a stunted version of socialism. Historically speaking though, socialist revolutionary struggles have not “failed” so much as they have been defeated — there is a difference. Check out and consider my response to your first comment.

  • Pretty much agree all around. Pharma may be second but it’s a very close second. Doesn’t really matter what the “most” important organ is, as without the second most important you’d still be dead. Psychiatry and pharma have developed a symbiotic relationship that I doubt could be undone even if they wanted to do so. “Psychotherapy” alone cannot keep the masses at bay. 🙂

  • I know you believe you’re being logical; however your logic is clouded with many misconceptions regarding what is meant by terms such as Marxism, communism, etc. For example, there has never been a “communist state,” nor did the USSR or China ever claim to be such. The term is a contradiction anyway, as “communism” refers to a condition where all states have gone out of existence. Moreover, even socialism — the precursor to such a time — had disappeared from the aforementioned states by the time of the USSR’s dissolution and Mao’s death, respectively; it was overthrown and carried on in name only.

    Socialism is where the 1% is replaced by the 99%, or as close as possible. It involves people being in control of the work they perform and able to enjoy it’s fruits, and a social consensus as to what work is considered valuable. It has nothing to do with Democrats, “progressives,” or whatnot; this false notion of what constitutes the “left” is a product of the corporate media effort to keep people fighting that which is in their own interest, and convincing them that they are doing the opposite.

    As for my reply to bcharris, it is obviously untrue that coercive psychiatry began with the USSR, which, for the record, is the statement I was refuting.

  • From the article:

    I am suggesting that every axis of privilege is legible in terms of anxiety. In a racist society, the ruling race will be less anxious. In a patriarchy, men will be less anxious. In a capitalist society, the rich will be less anxious.

    This sounds logical but is over-simplified. Anxiety also can affect those with more privilege due to a conscious or unconscious fear of that privilege being taken from them; the rich worry about the peasants with pitchforks. And sometimes people are more “balanced” in severely oppressive situations simply as a survival strategy.

    Any analysis of “privilege” which does not take into account the relationship of privilege to capitalism is incomplete.

  • Despite my immediate apprehension at seeing the term “mental illness” being used in the title without quotation marks (which I still consider to be a flaw), I am thrilled that this book has been published, and the review itself adds further fuel to the discussion. I suspect this will be a long comment section. My contributions will come in short bursts since there is too much dialectic going on here to summarize my thoughts in a few comments.

    Cohen’s book promotes an analysis of psychiatry as a system of social control and repression, rather than as a misguided field of medicine, something I have been trying to emphasize as well. To treat it as an aberrant field of medicine which needs to be “improved” is to set ourselves up for failure.

    Psychiatry supports capitalism by ‘diagnosing’ socially-created problems as individual cognitive or biological defects, providing pseudoscientific ‘evidence’ for blaming the victims of the system.

    In other words, it’s more conducive to maintaining social control to have a million unhappy people seeing their misery as “personal” problems to “work on” as individuals (and to be ashamed of), rather than recognizing their common oppression and joining forces to fight the system.

    The pharmaceutical industry plays an important but secondary role.

    Interesting assertion, probably correct, but more significantly something I’ve never seen discussed before. I would agree that while the billions of dollars raked in by pharma are a big motivation to keep psychiatric repression going full tilt, even without this particular profit motive capitalism would still require psychiatry to maintain control of the populace, for the same reason as above. The 1% cannot maintain control simply through cops and armies, they rely on “self-imposed” internal restraints on people’s aspirations which are the business of psychiatry to inculcate and reinforce.

  • of course, since there is no “mind” without a brain, all feelings and thoughts have biological mediators.

    Not so fast — while I think you are correct about the brain being a mediator, I see no evidence behind the assertion that feelings and thoughts (mind) are created by the brain. This is where neurology, metaphysics, philosophy and spirituality intersect.

  • Laing was not anti-psychiatry, he was a “hip” psychiatrist who capitalized on the premonitory vision of “anti-psychiatry.” His work was radical for the time, more as philosophy and poetry than anything else. Sanity Madness and the Family, written before Laing’s hippie period, was pretty interesting in a psychoanalytical sense if you can handle people being referred to as “schizophrenics.” But no way was he the father of any anti-psychiatry movement.

  • There are rumblings; give it a month or two and some of these questions might be easier to answer. (Sorry if that sounds cryptic.)

    The shock protest has been an individual-led effort. That’s just an observation, not a criticism of the individuals behind it who were trying to “jump-start” something, as there was no centralized organized force to look to for guidance or take the baton. Hopefully this can change soon. It would be good to know how many people are up for an explicitly anti-psychiatry organization or network.

  • He may be being slightly facetious here, as in there’s no valid or consistent philosophical basis.

    At any rate, your own description of psychiatry’s philosophical grounding is interesting — wonder how Frances & other psychiatric “intellectuals” would respond.

    And could you describe or define mechanical materialism?

  • If there were evidence connecting diabetes to violent acts (self-harming or harming others), that should be explored. However, there isn’t any.

    Without something to compare it to, in that case, such acts by psychiatrically labeled people cannot be ascribed to the label. You would need that data you say doesn’t exist to make such a judgement.

    I see your list of complaints about your “ex” you are now projecting onto Trump. You’d be embarrassed if you knew how many people are watching and rolling their eyes.

  • This should be paired with the article about calling Trump “mentally ill.” From the article cited I get the impression that Pound, despite his pro-fascist pronouncements, was in touch with aspects of culture that go deeper than surface ideology, and that this aggravated those who longed for clear lines between good and evil, and considered themselves to be on the side of good. (Sort of like present day liberals and Trump.) At any rate, there’s no denying that Pound was a political prisoner, even if his politics can’t be defended.

  • Suffering from cancer does not make one potentially dangerous.

    Neither does a fraudulent “diagnosis.”

    This does bring up an important question though — have studies ever been done to ascertain the percentage of cancer patients, heart patients, diabetes patients, etc. who engage in violent acts? Maybe we should mandate forced treatment for them, or take away their guns based on their diagnosis.

  • I’ve also wondered why the speed connection is almost never mentioned in stories of Hitler’s rise and fall. Speed makes many people incredibly and brilliantly productive and efficient at whatever they do, until there are no more inner resources to call forth, at which point the person “crashes” and the effect becomes the complete opposite. That has always explained to me how Hitler could go from military genius to total defeat in such a short time. I didn’t know about the other drugs he was using, or that the troops were also hopped up on amphetamines.

    Maybe an article like this could be included with the instructional literature people get — or should get — when being prescribed Adderall and Ritalin.

  • My identity is not political… Your fight with psychiatry as a medical specialty is not mine.

    Without challenging anything else, I do find this problematic. Everything about psychiatry and defending its existence is political; to say one is “apolitical” is really to say that one holds a political position supporting the status quo.

    The purpose of requiring an M.D. to practice psychiatry is to double down on the idea that an abstraction (mind) can have a literal disease. This fallacy is used to lead people in distress to internalize its causes and blame themselves, rather than recognizing (and especially confronting) the underlying socio-political contradictions which foster the material conditions for their unhappiness.

    Thus I think it is a bit disingenuous to dismiss Richard’s comments by simply saying “it isn’t my fight”; the question is, why not?

  • ANY “diagnosis” is an over diagnosis.

    This is bone chilling and represents another immediate and urgent challenge to our imaginary movement. People have the right to refuse any such “screenings” and to not be given “stealth” screenings where you believe your doctor is just being pleasant when they ask you how you’ve been feeling lately.

    People need to be warned about the consequences of cooperating with such practices and to resist pressure by insurance companies, Medicare, etc. to cooperate. And we need to have some allied shrinks who can help us write a manual explaining what the “depression screening” is looking for, and what the “correct” and “incorrect” answers are so people can avoid being targeted.

  • I think what’s being said is essentially “Bring It On” (?) I.e., by “doubling down” on it’s outrages, psychiatry will expose itself to the world and in so doing sow the seeds of its own defeat? Anything I’m missing?

  • [The following was previously posted then “moderated,” apparently because of a sentence which may have been construed as “personal”; however I consider the essential point being made to be of collective import so I am reposting an edited version.]

    OMG Matt actually said this & I missed it:

    Psychiatric involuntary commitment is a relatively minor issue when set against the backdrop of so little resources being available to help seriously distressed people in the USA outside of drugs.

    “A relatively minor issue?” I think we just discovered the line between anti-psychiatry and “consumerism.”

  • She also noted that it is not as “anti psychiatry” as some of the other articles on this site. Presumably this makes it safer for her.

    I’m guessing that she has been taught that some thoughts and opinions are not “safe,” such as being “anti-psychiatry.” This is understandable, particularly if she currently depends on a psychiatrist for her freedom and physical safety; she has likely been warned — either directly or by implication — that being anti-psychiatry is “extreme,” or “throwing the baby out with the bath water,” or unsafe in other ways. It’s important for her to understand that being anti-psychiatry does not mean having antipathy for every individual psychiatrist on a personal level, but rejecting the fraudulent basis on which psychiatry is based. I’m sure you’ll help her with this in due time. For now I’m glad to hear she’s out, which is worth celebrating.

  • I saw no “vitriol” or personal attacks of any sort, so I don’t think apologies should be necessary. I really don’t know what that was all about. To disagree with someone is to risk giving them brain damage? That sure came out of nowhere. I didn’t expect such from Mr. Pfaff and I don’t think you should accept the guilt trip. Very odd.

  • Uprising, interesting comments, esp. about the nature of social democracy. The equation of democracy with capitalism is what stands out about the term for me, i.e. the implication that it is a combination of socialism and “democracy.” True socialism is the most democratic system yet devised, though short-lived in most cases so far.

    I also have a problem with the word “we” as used here by R. Pfaff, as the interests of corporate profiteers are not “our” interests, nor should they be of concern to us.

  • I would love to see a political revolution and there is no other kind – but I have lost hope after this election.

    But revolutions don’t happen via elections, so that’s not a reason to lose hope; in fact until people abandon false hopes — such as that the system will provide the means to transform itself into one which meets people’s needs and eschews profit as a goal — no true change will occur.