Showing 35 of 35 comments.
Beautiful! You can note me as a relative in and through the rain.
Thanks for a great blog! Communities like Ashland County, Ohio are possible anywhere where there are respectful, open hearts and minds. It was home to Pat Risser, survivor and advocate, whose relational imprint continues there. In Ashland County “mental health professionals” and other humans collaborate for communal thriving. Steve Stone and David Ross have partnered with their community to enrich opportunities for all members to build opportunities for collective wellbeing. It’s time to grow more communities that honor their differences and forge more just cultures.
Thank you for this interview!
Finding different questions begins in not knowing. Asking oneself, asking the other, and reflecting. The worldviews and frameworks, the language where we begin reflects what we’ve been taught, experienced, received and absorbed from dominant culture. It’s hard to open ourselves to the language and meaning of other without assuming that our starting place is superior/valid/real.
Experience and knowing are not contradictory; they contain tension and conflict. Moving towards what appears contradictory requires courage. Those with access to structural power attempt to define the answers without seeing or hearing real embodied experience and knowledge, without inquiry. They guard what’s familiar to their hierarchy. In order to achieve in the US educational system, students are taught to not think, to not question. Mechanical, binary, linear, measurable, predictable answers that maintain hierarchy reward compliance, stabilization, and assimilation.
What are the presuppositions underlying this education? By the time students reach “higher education,” they’ve been trained to overcome their natural curiosity and openness to “not knowing.” They will produce, consume, maintain until an existential crisis rocks them. Natural and built environments and social systems rooted in superiority, violence, and oppression can’t be managed by what western capitalist education has taught.
Before we can ask questions that don’t assume an answer or outcome, we must recognize the toxic dominance that has shaped our learning. Survival depends on learning to think, to question, to find language and frame meanings that are not based on familiar hierarchies. This interview is a brave beginning in a context that is fraught. Holding our knowledge tightly makes it harder to breathe, see, feel, think, and grow. I’m grateful for your mutually respectful tone. You’ve opened space for ongoing questions and learning.
Thank you. The James Hillman quotes are beautiful.
Thanks, Will. I agree that this is a moment for solidarity. Human rights, includes re-imagining resourcing communities, not the current structured inequality and violence. We must listen to activists in BLM without assuming that white psych survivor vision for de-funding police and investing in communities matches the visions of black survivors of systemic racism. Abuse of power and corruption are the space we all occupy, and it takes a toll differently according to where we’re located, what we look like, what we’ve experienced and learned.
The 1% are skilled in marketing and spinning messages that infiltrate legislation and “non-profit” organizations to easily co-opt vigilant movements. Redistributing power and opportunities requires listening without assuming we know what’s “best.” Noel Hunter’s blog also resonates with me and speaks clearly to our current opportunity for moving towards justice and away from the violence of a carceral state.
Current alternatives to incarceration, whether probation, parole, or involuntary “treatment” maintain violent systems that perpetuate harm. Investing in non-police coercive workers can easily look like non-uniformed drug delivery agents of control, much as ACT teams, behavioral health and drug courts maintain institutional control outside walls yet still segregated from full participation in the community and informed choices.
The language of “wellness checks” originates in messages from folks who hold concern for checking and controlling, not those of us who might be “checked.” What choices look like will emerge if we listen, reflect, and amplify without assuming we know. It is time to participate in co-constructing.
I’m grateful for Sera’s blog and Richard’s replies.
Beautiful, important interview that resonates with my experience and hopes. Thank you!
Thank you! This was a beautiful exposition of our situations.
I find this theorizing incongruent with Soteria as it was developed by Loren Mosher. I believe that the cited location of the first Soteria is also inaccurate. (I understood it was in San Jose.) The importance of the relationships with workers who were chosen for personal and social qualities of flexibility, curiosity, and non-conformance among other characteristics. The authors of the study as represented in this report, seem to have imposed their own pathologizing theories, which would clearly influence the milieu and values of a current Soteria. Mosher designed and researched the project and Alma Menn, a social worker, was key in putting it into practice. The people chosen to work there, while practicing being-with, did not do so to fit the theory espoused by these researchers. They accepted roles as guides accompanying people through meaningful experiences. It saddens me that something simple and human has been reduced to theories divorced from the experiences of people. Mosher was very influenced by R.D. Laing, who also wrote about relationships between self and other; however both Laing’s writing and Mosher’s respected human experience and its complexity without such reductions.
Thank you, Bob, for these practical recommendations for opposing involuntary out-patient laws. I believe they are also relevant for involuntary in-patient commitment as well and also for out-patient behavioral health court practices. In addition, your recommendations are very relevant for “voluntary” services where the absence of accurate informed consent is typical. In the state where I live, Pennsylvania, the state legislature passed an “AOC” legislation which was optional for counties to institute. After strong advocacy from multiple sources, every county (67) opted out of “AOC.” I think this shows that clear messaging about how the legislation would work locally, especially given the absence of additional funding for community supports, was effective locally where groups which might have disagreed about many public policies, could still unite about this “AOC” legislation. It was my experience that writing to my state legislator did not change his vote or increase his understanding. Unfortunately on the federal level Pennsylvania enabled the Murphy Bill, which later merged into the “CURES” bill which President Obama signed. After public exposure of his personal behavior, Murphy has since resurfaced as a professional lobbyist. Corruption, obfuscation, and coercion support business as usual. Perhaps organizing locally can bring results with fewer barriers than state and federal organizing. It’s important to continue bringing Whitaker’s reporting, non-corporate backed research, and individual and family stories to the attention of those who legislate policy on all levels; to educate systems providers; users; and our communities to work for human rights. Yours and Saul’s recommendation to use their laws and regulations to accomplish this sounds strategic.
Thank you, Michael. Meeting by the riverside in the ways you describe resonates with my experience and desires. I want to lift up the connections possible for creating culture change that exist throughout extreme states and beyond. Recognizing how you use your deepest, most curious self to meet someone where they are, can become a shared energy to express and co-create riversides. It will become less necessary that your practices in private counter “the mainstream” as we “margins” voice and co-create necessary mainstream change. It’s recognizing the continual flow of inner and outer that enables co-constructing differently. I find personal peace impossible without addressing related external oppression, adversity and abuse of power. When I recognize the constant flow, then I can relish time by the riverside and let it move my choices and energy for addressing systemic harms, joining with others in co-constructing more just and sustainable communities and cultures. I need others to meet by the river and in the river. Thank you for your writing and work.
Will, I am grateful for your blog. I think it’s very hard to recognize our own blind spots and even harder to take responsibility for them, openly voice them, and try to change. We’ve all been so shaped by inequality that it’s easy to fall into our own versions of how we’ve been treated. Restoring justice seems more distant as we turn on ourselves. Changing our relationships to power is very hard, and your blog attempts to offer another mirror to reflect and clarify. We must all bear the heat. The voices of those who have not been heard or validated burn with deep intensity. We can all open to our power to contribute to justice. Absorbing shame from our earlier powerlessness, ignorance, or vulnerabilities perpetuates and fossilizes the damage. We all can take individual and communal responsibility for moving towards demystifying power and growing greater justice. I appreciate your demonstrating how this can look, showing the consequences of speaking and not speaking. Witnessing in silence destroys us and erodes possibilities for building a better future.
Thank you, Noel. I think you’ve clearly described situations common in our society, and pointed out the damage we’ve exported around the world. Your excellent book also demonstrated your awareness of research and its limitations. I hope that readers of MIA and beyond will attend to your clear integrity and willingness to face hostility from all sides. Cultural humility and openness to learning are ways of being and interacting that we all need, and unfortunately not often practiced.
Jeannie, thanks for describing your experiences and what they mean to you, as well as the freedoms that you’ve discovered and shared. It’s an honor and a pleasure to get to know you and to share your values. I look forward to hearing more from you.
Thank you, Sandy.
You have courage to continue trying to reach your colleagues. I think that the quality of a therapeutic relationship has proved the most significant variable regardless of particular approaches used, except perhaps for psychiatrists who so seldom engage relationally. Shared decision making is a lofty goal which is virtually impossible given power differentials that usually are not acknowledged nor addressed. When I entered treatment, I didn’t benefit from a placebo effect. My trust in my psychiatrist and his authentic compassion for my experience contributed to my adherence to a negative narrative and destructive drugs for far too long.
If we could meet as equals, perhaps we might co-design ways to learn together without assigning meaning or judgment to another’s experience. In our culture a “therapeutic alliance” too often enables social control and maintaining systems that oppress in the name of helping. Rather than encouraging psychiatrists to practice Open Dialogue, I think we should be changing our social relationships and culture, so that mutual listening, hearing, questioning, reflecting, learning, and holding are a shared way of life rather than another treatment modality. Of course there would be no payment structure to cover such human sharing, and we would need to grow and sustain ourselves differently. My dream of non-hierarchical relationships and approaches to solving conflicts may induce others to label me unrealistic and ignorant, both of which are true given the current authoritarian, morally bankrupt systems that harm people and the environment. I choose not to accept the current systems as given, and I invite others to practice a different way of engaging to connect and create different ways of living together.
With warm respect,
Thank you! This is very exciting. I look forward to reading and interacting with this material and the collaborations that flow from it.
Gratefully resonates with my own experience. Thank you for sharing your process. I especially value your openness to understanding that violence towards fear and dominance does not free us. Healing wholeness emerges from listening and moving towards our fears, discovering and re-orienting. I look forward to hearing more about the unfolding joys that you co-create in your liberation. Thank you.
Paris offers a perspective that fits with my own experience. We need to provide opportunities to explore our relationships with experiences whose roots are pre-verbal and overwhelming. We also need to promote prevention by enabling access to adequate food, shelter, education, healthcare, empathetic compassion-focused learning and relationships. Alternatives to violence and human rights preservation may allow us to grow evolving communities, but we will need to unite in direct action despite powerful frightened and frightening opposition.
Noel, Thank you for your questions and voice. During this time of oppression, pain and fear-mongering, you show courage. I do believe that communal hope and determination to work together for change in the face of uncertainty, hatred and fear is essential. “Sane or insane” are not words that make sense to me. Centering on the reality of love and justice as attainable, even incrementally, does make sense to me. If armed people are afraid of us, our lives are endangered, so I stay vigilant, yet not ready to retreat in silence or behind walls. I have found it hard to transcend my own internalized oppression and identity as less-than human, and yet in the presence of others like you, I am finding my way. I believe we can change ourselves and co-create a more just, loving and peaceful world. I expect to participate in the process, even while not expecting to experience the fullness of its impact. I do not go gentle towards my death. I often hurt others when I lose connection with the origins of my own. Yet I strive to stay open and active in releasing compassionate transformation in community. For Noel and those younger than I, please know that your shared courage will bring us closer co-creating a just, loving and sustainable world, not without shared pain.
I appreciate your continuing to shine light on the huge task of social change when those in “power” don’t see their stake in it. Those of us who see the connection of all liberation movements and human and planet sustainability continually face the absence of “partners.” Audre Lorde spoke from long experience trying, as did Judi Chamberlin, and as Mary O’Hagan does. People who depend on their “powerful” positions find it nearly impossible to recognize the harm they personally experience from depending on that “power” as well as the impact on all of us “others.” Paulo Freire taught important lessons about the dangers in generating connectedness/community from diverse voices, only to blend them into a false harmony of “normal.” We need space for listening with focused attention and slow the production of cosmetically altered systems. Those who fear change welcome us to the table if we squeeze into a “reformed” subordinate chair, and it is so easy to miscalculate the sizes and shapes that are needed. We can point out how strangled those in the “powerful” chairs are experiencing their own lives and appeal to everyone’s need to breathe unfettered, and lift up sustainability for future generations. Reading about this conversation and movement in the UK helps me feel less alone.
I unite with you, your experience and your message. Your blog clearly described my own current condition. I too, feel tremendous hope and despair, and underlying that lies my deepest awareness that we are all in this process together and can connect in diversity to co-create change.
Excellent exposition of truth telling! My legislators know my views well, and I don’t see many minds opening. Purse string tighten neuro-space available for intake of knowledge–diagnostic code for that?
Otto Douglas’s description of the behaviors and beliefs of the dominant psychiatry treatment in hospitals in Canada are sadly familiar and similar to many institutions in the U.S. The additional threat that I see here is embedded in the current US activism to divert people with “mental illnesses” from jails that are over-crowded with people who lack economic, social, and political capital and represent a non-dominant perspective, so are deemed “mentally ill.” While in jail or prison, they are subjected to involuntary and or uninformed or coerced psychiatric treatment/ drugging, and the current activists, many with the “best of intentions,” are lobbying to save them from these time-limited, though too long sentences in order to re-institutionalize them in”reformed” asylums where they can receive the treatment that is presumed to help since they lack insight into their disorders. These advocates would support poor houses and outpatient commitment to resolve their fears for and of those who have worldviews different from those in the “majority.” The dominant culture of psychiatry and social control via politicians and “advocates” seems incapable of acknowledging equal worth and entitlement to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. They would have people acquire shelter, food, water and “healthcare” only if those who represent diverse experiences adopt the worldview and insight that those in authority deem rational, i.e. consistent with the dominant culture’s views.
I empathize with Otto Douglas and I cringe to consider what lies ahead in the US. First, Murphy, then Trump…
Thank you for sharing your story and the importance of love. This excerpt resonates with me. I also recognize areas of presupposition about “mental illness,” and “normalization” that ring less true for me. I applaud your courage and your beautiful articulation of your experience and your process of growth and learning. I think that your voice will be instrumental in opening wider the conversation with those in our society who conceive human experience in either/or, reductionist Cartesian equations. Your story brings fresh air and an important lens and voice to promote respectful conversation.
I am grateful and hope to read the full book.
Thank you, Sera.
You have again cogently written an important blog. Unfortunately many in our communities will miss it as so many people receive only the dominant message delivered from our media which is managed by the 1 – 2% with economic and political reasons for maintaining the status quo. I believe that many of those privileged firmly believe in their own message. My guess is that the reporters at the Globe are sincere in their efforts. Their intentions are “honorable,” and they discount and devalue the perspectives of those of us with lived experience because they are afraid of our difference and dissonance, so to them it must indicate pathology.
The Globe’s research presupposes the weightier validity of those carrying the dominant message which was “validated” by experts who look and sound and use language familiar to the reporters’ worldviews. I wish that the blogs, articles and Continuing Education opportunities offered on MIA could more readily reach more people.
It is excruciating to me that this week as we witness violence and counter violence, the Murphy Bill has fl0wn past the vast majority of the House to await Senate consideration, and the deadline has passed for commenting on the new policy to require the Social Security Administration to release the identities of those SSI/SSDI beneficiaries whose funds are controlled by Representative Payees in an effort to prevent their purchase of guns.
I feel like I’ve entered a magician’s tent where the skilled power-brokers are playing a shell game and I am left stunned.
Sera, I am grateful for your excellent posts and wonder if we could find ways to introduce pink bunnies to those who don’t frequent MIA website.
Thank you, Sandra. I admire your courage and ethical curiosity to continue seeking multi-level, multi-directional orientations to making sense of our growth and healing towards wholeness. You help lift us from the mire of either/or, absolute assumptions, fear-based rush to control and thereby promote our moving toward accepting complexity and contradictory truths.
Thank you for this clear statement about listening and valuing each other. I resonate with your perspective that people and our responses and relationship to overwhelm applies to far more than the appearance of specific “behaviors.” Sometimes I miss important messages out of a reflexive reaction to words referencing “hoarding” and media and medicine’s designed formulas for “defining” and controlling people’s experiences. I’m very grateful for you and your message.
Encouraging alternatives to violence is necessary in our cultures. I’m guessing that we know only the tip of the iceberg about the US military’s use of prescribed drugs to enable soldiers to engage in and sustain warfare. Looking at non-drug alternatives for PTSD is imperative, and looking at what drugs have been used during fighting is also needed. We need a more full and honest picture of the impact on fighters as well as families of fighters and citizens funding war and the effects on observers and those we call enemies.
We all need to practice alternatives to violence, alternatives to violent means–drugging, unemployment/underemployment, meager opportunities that lead people to incarceration or military duty. Drugging children in daycare and elementary school for developmentally and contextually understandable behavior begins the pipeline.
I agree about the intersectionality of liberation movements that include all of us humans, animals, and planet. It is the values and philosophy underlying Open Dialogue that is most significant. When the “othering” and the “us/them” identifications are structured in, then we lose sight of the basic values underpinning liberation for us all, regardless of roles. We need to identify as humans and create compassionate communities where there is greater justice, equality, learning, growing, and celebration of difference. Rai Waddingham is a great example as are others working towards restoring values of mutuality and love. These can’t be patented, mass produced and marketed, regardless of how hard western countries led by the USA attempt. The values and principles of the Hearing Voices Network, Open Dialogue, Intentional Peer Support, Black Lives Matter, and learning from Paulo Freire, Bell Hooks, and other liberation leaders are congruent with a movement I rejoice to count myself among.
Thank you for beautifully verbalizing the connecting/leaning into connection that grows more compassionate, loving and lovable people, regardless or possibly because of the pain and suffering we’ve experienced. Berta Britz
Thank you, Sera.
You write so clearly and with humor and empathy. Seems like “certainty” is in such demand in our culture that we often close ourselves to discovery. The quickest, cheapest answers get the buzz, and we fail to even consider the underlying presuppositions of our questions. Coming to accept “not knowing” is a process of growing and learning that has led me to a more loving, joyful experience.
In reading your blogs, I often think about the opportunities you give your children and others to grow and learn with acceptance and love. It’s a warm and pleasant gift to read your thoughts. Thanks.
I found the camping community exhilarating and inspiring. Wonderful people in a beautiful setting! I am so grateful to have been included and heartily thank Ron and Karen, as well as the rest of the participants who made it all possible. We are community and we create ourselves, the present and future. We all belong– present now, and for the next times!
I had the pleasure and honor to talk with you there, and your summary of your experience at the conference matches mine as well. I found that my firm beliefs were validated and that also allowed me to flex some and loosen my grasp on my “certainty.” I have changed my relationship to the “unknown” and grown since participating in this full event. Participants like you, were gifts far beyond any one presenter. Thank you, Sandy, and also many thanks to the organizers and to all the diverse people who contributed to the stimulating event.
Thank you for these postings. I have found the Hearing Voices Network approach empowering.
Despite the commitment to “helping” those of us with diagnosed “psychosis,” often mainstream helpers like Dr. Karon, operate from assumptions that have not furthered my healing. While psychotherapy may not be exactly mainstream, it usually operates from an assumption that my difference is individually pathological without examining its societal context.
My experience with what has been considered “symptoms” has challenged me far less than the experience of “receiving help from mental health professionals.” Good intentions can still cause negative consequences. The Hearing Voices Network approach has validated my experience and supported me in taking back my own power to define myself and my experience. I am very grateful to courageous leaders of this movement like Ron Coleman, Karen Taylor, and Rai Waddingham. I am also grateful for the courage and wisdom of Sandra Steingard.