Checking out AVfM again (on psychiatry and owning one’s semen)

Perusing AVfM tonight for the first time in a while. Came across this post in their Introduction forum by a man sharing a whole lot of details about what he claims to have been put through as a child. (My spidey sense went off on it too, for the record.)

Not gonna make light of what that man Thomas wrote. If he was in foster care, he has my sympathies. And sexual abuse as a child can screw up a person’s mind in severe ways and perhaps permanently in some cases. Not all are constituted equally nor all capable of coping to the same degrees. That’s just life — not a judgment.

That aside, I’d just like to respond to the conclusion of that thread after “professional” guidance had been suggested. My thoughts on the matter here just as in any case I read about where someone seems traumatized by their pasts are that the mental health field is seriously fucked up and I so wish there was another way available. There’s something jacked-up with too many of the people involved in that field of employment, plus there’s a lot wrong with the theories they tend to operate with, PLUS there’s a lot wrong with how they’re driven to medicate people and how poorly those drugs actually appear to perform. Are the “side” effects even worth it?

It is not uncommon for suicidal ideations to be exacerbated by piling on psychotropic drugs.

The possible therapeutic benefit of psychiatric drugs remains highly debatable all across the board.

Beyond that, those entrusted with the title of “mental health professional” really do tend to too often be the last damn people worth talking to. My own direct experiences are limited, but I garner this from that, plus what I’ve heard from so many others as well as what I’ve read on the subject. The psychiatry profession as a whole is a serious concern all unto itself (for readings that go into it outside of the mainstream focus, there’s Dr. Peter Breggin, having personally so far read his book Toxic Psychiatry, and Dr. Thomas Szasz), and on various levels. To direct people toward it, while well-intentioned, can wind up doing more harm than good. Sadly enough.

But what can we do about this if the situation truly is already as is claimed? I don’t know. But this bugs me. I realize we have little choice but to direct people that way in hope of them finding a worthwhile therapist who can aid them, especially considering we laypeople often cannot. Where would we even start? And online? That’s not going to be what he likely needs.

This brings up two thoughts for me. While psychiatry (and much of the Psychology field too overall) deserves to be lavished with critical scrutiny, we lack any other real alternative for people at present (beyond already being bonded in and/or establishing supportive friendships and kin connections). Do we not really need public alternatives to Psychiatry? But what could that be? Secondly, though already mentioned, I’ve found that the people who help me cope the most have been my close friends and loved ones. Without a constructive bond existing or being established, it can often be a pipe dream to expect someone to really and truly receive help. We’re social beings who greatly value our connections, and it’s this lack of (or damage to) connections to begin with that tends to screw us up so bad.

Easier to provide quality care upfront than to try to repair the broken pieces later, or so it’s been said. But life is turbulent, especially in modern times despite all the material comforts now available. Cultures are in flux and being overran by brand-new ways of looking at life. Technologies have been rapidly ramping up over the last century in particular, and we’re all impacted by that whether we want to be, or are even fully cognizant of it, or not.

That’s what I’ve come to believe anyway.

Though, I also think that some of what winds up broken can’t always be fixed. No guarantees there. Hard to say when exactly that applies since it doesn’t seem to be simply a measure of violent exposure alone that determines this. This isn’t something Science alone can tell us a lot about. Personal will can and does factor in a lot as well, degrees varying, plus social influences and how they stack up over time. One’s own personality matters a great bit in terms of how one views the world and can cope. Not all can cope, and not in the same ways. And I don’t know what, if anything, can be done about that.

It’s just an observation. Not a criticism of anybody on that thread. Just thinking aloud.

Then I began watching an AVfM podcast and now at around the 26-minute mark they bring up a man’s semen being his own property. Well yes, BUT if one donates it, then there it goes. While I can understand that taking reasonable precautions can show intent for not wishing to share the actual seeds with another, there’s always the risk of the precautions failing. Same goes for birth control (and Plan B) pills for women. I don’t know what to tell people on that either. Been thinking on it for many months though (and believe I’ve blogged about it elsewhere on here). If I were a man I’d view the situation very differently, but as a woman who doesn’t want kids it’s another matter. I do have the power at present to choose to not undergo an unwanted pregnancy. Different tools in a woman’s toolbox there (speaking as an American).

Vasalgel can’t get released to the public soon enough. That would be wonderful. Wouldn’t fix everything entirely, but it could go a long way in giving men the ability to choose as well.


Update the next day: Spoke to someone about this post and am wanting to clarify that this isn’t so much about AVfM or the “manosphere” or anything like that — that thread just got me thinking about the field of psychiatry and the harm it can do. Plus, a lot of counselors out there turn out to not prove too useful. And this sort of issue can effect anyone and everyone, not just males in particular. My beef here is only with the field of Psychiatry specifically, though I understand members on that site aren’t in a position to recommend anything else to a person than to seek out local professional help. It’s really beyond the scope of what they’re equipped to handle on a site like that — I totally get it. But that doesn’t stop me from grumbling about the psychiatric field and wishing better alternatives existed and were as easily accessible to people who are struggling.

It boils down to another pipe dream on my part, that’s also understood. This goes back to our social setups and support networks and how those ties and ways of life are actively being eroded as we move into most-modern times. Not sure what, if anything, can be done about it though.

“Robin Williams: Why Funny People Kill Themselves”

This is the best video I’ve watched thus far having anything to do with Robin Williams’ suicide and depression. His insight into the role of comedy in the lives of severely depressed people appears so right on.

Repressing emotions in the age of consumption and “science” (an excerpt from “Escape From Freedom”)

Feeling like transcribing this afternoon since I have the rest of the day off and it’s pleasant enough out to sit with the window open and just the fan on. Picking up again today in Erich Fromm’s book Escape From Freedom (1941; 1969 edition), beginning this time on page 270:

In our society emotions in general are discouraged. While there can be no doubt that any creative thinking—as well as any other creative activity—is inseparably linked with emotion, it has become an ideal to think and to live without emotions. To be “emotional” has become synonymous with being unsound or unbalanced. By the acceptance of this standard the individual has become greatly weakened; his thinking is impoverished and flattened. On the other hand, since emotions cannot be completely killed, they must have their existence totally apart from the intellectual side of the personality; the result is the cheap and insincere sentimentality with which movies and popular songs feed millions of emotion-starved customers.

There is one tabooed emotion that I want to mention in particular, because its suppression touches deeply on the roots of personality: the sense of tragedy. As we saw in an earlier chapter, the awareness of death and of the tragic aspect of life, whether dim or clear, is one of the basic characteristics of man. Each culture has its own way of coping with the problem of death. For those societies in which the process of individuation has progressed but little, the end of individual existence is less of a problem since the experience of individual existence itself is less developed. Death is not yet conceived as being basically different from life. Cultures in which we find a higher development of individuation have treated death according to their social and psychological structure. The Greeks put all emphasis on life and pictured death as nothing but a shadowy and dreary continuation of life. The Egyptians based their hopes on a belief in the indestructibility of the human body, at least of those whose power during life was indestructible. The Jews admitted the fact of death realistically and were able to reconcile themselves with the idea of the destruction of individual life by the vision of a state of happiness and justice ultimately to be reached by mankind in this world. Christianity has made death unreal and tried to comfort the unhappy individual by promises of a life after death. Our own era simply denies death and with it one fundamental aspect of life. Instead of allowing the awareness of death and suffering to become one of the strongest incentives for life, the basis for human solidarity, and an experience without which joy and enthusiasm lack intensity and depth, the individual is forced to repress it. But, as is always the case with repression, by being removed from sight the repressed elements do not cease to exist. Thus the fear of death lives an illegitimate existence among us. It remains alive in spite of the attempt to deny it, but being repressed it remains sterile. It is one source of the flatness of other experiences, of the restlessness pervading life, and it explains, I would venture to say, the exorbitant amount of money this nation pays for its funerals.

In the process of tabooing emotions modern psychiatry plays an ambiguous role. On the one hand its greatest representative, Freud, has broken through the fiction of the rational, purposeful character of the human mind and opened a path which allows a view into the abyss of human passions. On the other hand psychiatry, enriched by these very achievements of Freud, has made itself an instrument of the general trends in the manipulation of personality. Many psychiatrists, including psychoanalysts, have painted the picture of a “normal” personality which is never too sad, too angry, or too excited. They use words like “infantile” or “neurotic” to denounce traits or types of personalities that do not conform with the conventional pattern of a “normal” individual. This kind of influence is in a way more dangerous than the older and franker forms of name-calling. Then the individual knew at least that there was some person or some doctrine which criticized him and he could fight back. But who can fight back at “science”?

The same distortion happens to original thinking as happens to feelings and emotions. From the very start of education original thinking is discouraged and ready-made thoughts are put into people’s heads. How this is done with young children is easy enough to see. They are filled with curiosity about the world, they want to grasp it physically as well as intellectually. They want to know the truth, since that is the safest way to orient themselves in a strange and powerful world. Instead, they are not taken seriously, and it does not matter whether this attitude takes the form of open disrespect or of the subtle condescension which is usual towards all who have no power (such as children, aged or sick people). Although this treatment by itself offers strong discouragement to independent thinking, there is a worse handicap: the insincerity—often unintentional—which is typical of the average adult’s behavior toward a child. This insincerity consists partly in the fictitious picture of the world which the child is given. It is about as useful as instructions concerning life in the Arctic would be to someone who has asked how to prepare for an expedition to the Sahara Desert. Besides this general misrepresentation of the world there are the many specific lies that tend to conceal facts which, for various personal reasons, adults to not want children to know. From a bad temper, which is rationalized as justified dissatisfaction with the child’s behavior, to concealment of the parents’ sexual activities and their quarrels, the child is “not supposed to know” and his inquiries meet with hostile or polite discouragement.

The child thus prepared enters school and perhaps college. I want to mention briefly some of the educational methods used today which in effect further discourage original thinking. One is the emphasis on knowledge of facts, or I should rather say on information. The pathetic superstition prevails that by knowing more and more facts one arrives at knowledge of reality. Hundreds of scattered and unrelated facts are dumped into the heads of students; their time and energy are taken up by learning more and more facts, so that there is little left for thinking. To be sure, thinking without a knowledge of facts remains empty and fictitious; but “information” alone can be just as much of an obstacle to thinking as the lack of it.

Another closely related way of discouraging original thinking is to regard all truth as relative. Truth is made out to be a metaphysical concept, and if anyone speaks about wanting to discover the truth he is thought backward by the “progressive” thinkers of our age. Truth is declared to be an entirely subjective matter, almost a matter of taste. Scientific endeavor must be detached from subjective factors, and its aim is to look at the world without passion and interest. The scientist has to approach facts with sterilized hands as a surgeon approaches his patient. The result of this relativism, which often presents itself by the name of empiricism or positivism or which recommends itself by its concern for the correct usage of words, is that thinking loses its essential stimulus—the wishes and interests of the person who thinks; instead it becomes a machine to register “facts.” Actually, just as thinking in general has developed out of the need for mastery of material life, so the quest for truth is rooted in the interests and needs of individuals and social groups. Without such interest the stimulus for seeking the truth would be lacking. There are always groups whose interest is furthered by truth, and their representatives have been the pioneers of human thought; there are other groups whose interests are furthered by concealing truth. Only in the latter case does interest prove harmful to the cause of truth. The problem, therefore, is not that there is an interest at stake, but which kind of interest is at stake. I might say that inasmuch as there is some longing for the truth in every human being, it is because every human being has some need for it.

This holds true in the first place with regard to a person’s orientation in the outer world, and it holds especially true for the child. As a child, every human being passes through a state of powerlessness, and truth is one of the strongest weapons of those who have no power. But the truth is in the individual’s interest not only with regard to his orientation in the outer world; his own strength depends to a great extent on his knowing the truth about himself. Illusions about oneself can become crutches useful to those who are not able to walk alone; but they increase a person’s weakness. The individual’s greatest strength is based on the maximum of integration of his personality, and that means also on the maximum of transparence to himself. “Know thyself” is one of the fundamental commands that aim at human strength and happiness.

In addition to the factors just mentioned there are others which actively tend to confuse whatever is left of the capacity for original thinking in the average adult. With regard to all basic questions of individual and social life, with regard to psychological, economic, political, and moral problems, a great sector of our culture has just one function—to befog the issues. One kind of smokescreen is the assertion that the problems are too complicated for the average individual to grasp. On the contrary it would seem that many of the basic issues of individual and social life are very simply, so simple, in fact, that everyone should be expected to understand them. To let them appear to be so enormously complicated that only a “specialist” can understand them, and he only in his own limited field, actually—and often intentionally—tends to discourage people from trusting their own capacity to think about those problems that really matter. The individual feels helplessly caught in a chaotic mass of data and with pathetic patience waits until the specialists have found out what to do and where to go.

The result of this kind of influence is a two-fold one: one is a scepticism and cynicism towards everything which is said or printed, while the other is a childish belief in anything that a person is told with authority. This combination of cynicism and naiveté is very typical of the modern individual. Its essential result is to discourage him from doing his own thinking and deciding.

Another way of paralyzing the ability to think critically is the destruction of any kind of structuralized picture of the world. Facts lose the specific quality which they can have only as parts of a structuralized whole and retain merely an abstract, quantitative meaning; each fact is just another fact and all that matters is whether we know more or less. Radio, moving pictures, and newspapers have a devastating effect on this score. The announcement of the bombing of a city and the death of hundreds of people is shamelessly followed or interrupted by an advertisement for soap or wine. The same speaker with the same suggestive, ingratiating, and authoritative voice, which he has just used to impress you with the seriousness of the political situation, impresses now upon his audience the merits of the particular brand of soap which pays for the news broadcast. Newsreels let pictures of torpedoed ships be followed by those of a fashion show. Newspapers tell us the trite thoughts or breakfast habits of a debutante with the same space and seriousness they use for reporting events of scientific or artistic importance. Because of all this we cease to be genuinely related to what we hear. We cease to be excited, our emotions and our critical judgment become hampered, and eventually our attitude to what is going on in the world assumes a quality of flatness and indifference. In the name of “freedom” life loses all structure; it is composed of many little pieces, each separate from the other and lacking any sense as a whole. The individual is left alone with these pieces like a child with a puzzle; the difference, however, is that the child knows what a house is and therefore can recognize the parts of the house in the little pieces he is playing with, whereas the adult does not see the meaning of the “whole,” the pieces of which come into his hands. He is bewildered and afraid and just goes on gazing at his little meaningless pieces.

What has been said about the lack of “originality” in feeling and thinking holds true also of the act of willing. To recognize this is particularly difficult; modern man seems, if anything, to have too many wishes and his only problem seems to be that, although he knows what he wants, he cannot have it all. All our energy is spent for the purpose of getting what we want, and most people never question the premise of this activity: that they know their true wants. They do not stop to think whether the aims they are pursuing are something they themselves want. In school they want to have good marks, as adults they want to be more and more successful, to make more money, to have more prestige, to buy a better car, to go places, and so on. Yet when they do stop to think in the midst of all this frantic activity, this question may come to their minds: “If I do get this new job, if I get this better car, if I can take this trip—what then? What is the use of it all? Is it really I who wants all this? Am I not running after some goal which is supposed to make me happy and which eludes me as soon as I have reached it?” These questions, when they arise, are frightening, for they question the very basis on which man’s whole activity is built, his knowledge of what he wants. People tend, therefore, to get rid as soon as possible of these disturbing thoughts. They feel that they have been bothered by these questions because they were tired or depressed—and they go on in the pursuit of the aims which they believe are their own.

[Italicized emphases his; bold mine.]

Stopping there on page 278. Excellent book. So thought-provoking to where I never tire of rereading and copying these portions for sharing with others. Erich Fromm’s works remain lamentably underrated, IMO.

On witch-hunts, hysteria, and modern psychiatry (an excerpt from the book “The Manufacture of Madness”)

Decided a few weeks ago to look through my books for information contained therein about “hysteria” or “histrionics” after recognizing the latter as an updated term loosely referencing the former which does indeed span back several centuries. Helps to keep in mind that one reason among many for why feminism originally sprang into existence had to do with combating that very label (hysteria) and the interventions used to “cure” witches (in this case, primarily women) of it.

Looking to Dr. Thomas Szasz’ book The Manufacture of Madness: A Comparative Study of the Inquisition and the Mental Health Movement (1970), beginning on page 69:

Perhaps unintentionally and unwittingly, the new vocabulary of psychoanalysis was thus combined with the traditional vocabulary of psychiatry, generating a rhetoric of rejection of hitherto unparalleled popularity and power. The result was that everyone’s conduct—living or dead, primitive or modern, famous or infamous—became a fit subject for the psychopathologist’s scrutiny, explanation, and stigmatization.

To be sure, by adopting this approach, psychoanalysts threw fresh light on certain important similarities between dreams and mental symptoms, the behavior of primitive man and his civilized descendant, myth and madness. In these ways, the psychopathological perspective enriched and extended our understanding of human nature and personal conduct. There was, however, a serious danger in this approach, which soon manifested itself. Because the observers and interpreters were psychiatrists, and because there were impressed by a need to make psychopathological diagnoses, all kinds of human behavior tended to be perceived and described as manifestations of mental illness; and various personalities, historical and living, tended to be seen and diagnosed as mentally sick individuals. The view that witches were mentally ill persons is an integral part of this psychiatric perspective.

The possibility that some persons accused of witchcraft were “mentally ill” was entertained already during the witch-hunts, notably by Johann Weyer. In his dedication of De Praestigiis to Duke William of Cleves, Weyer writes: “To you, Prince, I dedicate the fruit of my thought . . . none so agrees with my own [view on witchcraft] as does yours, that witches can harm no one through the most malicious will or the ugliest exorcism, that rather their imagination—inflamed by demons in a way not understandable to us—and the torture of melancholy makes them only fancy that they have caused all sorts of evil.”

Is it a coincidence that the suggestion that witches are mentally deranged comes from a physician opposed to their persecution? Or is this hypothesis itself a weapon in the struggle against the witch-hunts? The evidence strongly suggests that it is the latter: that, in other words, madness is an excuse for wrongdoing (witchcraft), put forth by an authority (Weyer) on behalf of oppressors (inquisitors) deaf to all pleas but this one (insanity). Many contemporary psychiatrists openly profess this aim. Instead of protesting against the death penalty itself, they promote the concept of insanity as a “humanitarian” protection for defendants who, without the insanity defense, might be put to death.

This ostensibly lofty aspiration of saving the defendant from execution was the motive behind the important M’Naghten decision, in 1843. Known as the M’Naghten rule, this decision has ever since provided the medicolegal basis for the insanity plea, the insanity defense, and the insanity verdict. In modern psychiatric texts the insanity defense is thus invariably attributed to the “discoveries” of “scientific” psychiatry; and its recent burgeoning popularity, in this and other Western countries, to the long-overdue legislative and judicial appreciation of the supposed “contributions” of psychiatry to the administration of the criminal law. This view is completely at odds with the facts. More than three hundred years before M’Naghten, when there was no such thing as “modern medicine,” much less anything that could even remotely be called “psychiatry,” the insanity defense was an accepted plea in witch trials before the Spanish Inquisition.

“The insane were recognized as irresponsible,” writes Lea, “and were sent to hospitals. . . . In the enlightened view taken by the Inquisition regarding witchcraft, instructions of 1537 indicate a disposition to regard reputed witches as insane . . . Barcelona at the time had on hand a witch named Juanita Rosquells, whom the physicians and consultors considered to be out of her mind; not knowing what to do they referred to the Suprema, which ordered her discharge . . .” This outcome, however, was unusual. As a rule, persons declared insane were incarcerated in a monastery or hospital.

The physicians most responsible for classifying witches as mental patients were the celebrated French psychiatrists Pinel, Esquirol, and Charcot. They were the founders not only of the French school of psychiatry but of all of modern psychiatry as a positivistic-medical discipline. Their views dominated nineteenth-century medicine.

Philippe Pinel (1745-1826) believed that witches were mentally sick individuals, but he did not dwell on this subject. In his Treatise on Insanity (1801), he asserts, without discussion or demonstration, that “In a word, demoniacs of all description are to be classed either with maniacs or melancholics.” And he dismisses Weyer as a victim of the belief in witchcraft: “The credit attached to the impostures of demoniacal possessions in the writings of Wierus [Weyer] are not to be wondered at, when we consider that his works were published towards the middle of the seventeenth century, and bear as much reference to theology as to medicine. This author . . . appears to have been a great adept in the mysteries of exorcism.”

Jean Etienne-Dominique Esquirol (1772-1840), Pinel’s student and intellectual heir, did more than any other man to establish the view that witches were mentally deranged persons. The most influential psychiatrist of his age, Esquirol believed not only that witches and sorcerers were mentally ill but also that (all or most) criminals were similarly afflicted; and he advocated that lawbreakers be treated by incarceration in mental hospitals rather than prisons. Modern psychiatric historians and forensic psychiatrists have borrowed these ideas from him. “These conclusions,” writes Esquirol in 1838, “may appear strange today; some day, we hope, they will become popular truth. Where is the judge today who would condemn to the bonfire a deranged man or gypsy accused of magic sorcery? It has been a long time now that the magistrates have sent the sorcerer to an insane asylum; they no longer cause them to be punished as swindlers.”

Esquirol’s views on witches were widely accepted by nineteenth-century scholars. Thus, Lecky, his his classic History of European Morals, repeats Esquirol’s diagnoses as if they were self-evident truths. He characterizes witches as “decrepit in body and distracted in mind,” and attributes their frequent suicide to “fear and madness [which] combined in urging the victims to the deed.” Describing a victim of the Spanish Inquisition in 1359, Lecky writes: “The poor lunatic fell into the hands of the Archbishop of Toledo and was burnt alive.” Commenting on the witch mania and on “epidemics of purely insane suicide,” such as occurred sporadically in Europe between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, even Lecky blandly asserts that these problems “belong rather to the history of medicine than to that of morals.” Nothing, in my opinion, could be further from the truth.

In the hands of Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-1893), witchcraft became a problem of “neuropathology.” In his obituary of his great teacher, Freud writes: “Charcot . . . drew copiously upon the surviving reports of witch trials and of possession, in order to show that the manifestations of the neurosis [hysteria] were the same in those days as they are now. He treated hysteria as just another topic in neuropathology . . .” Like Esquirol, Charcot took the witches as he found them defined by their tormentors, and proceeded to study their “neuropathology.” And so did Freud. In his hands, however, witchcraft becomes a problem of “psychopathology.”

In his obituary of Charcot, Freud proposes “the theory of a splitting of consciousness as a solution to the riddle of hysteria,” then reminds his readers that “by pronouncing possession by a demon to be the cause of hysterical phenomena, the Middle Ages in fact chose this solution; it would only have been a matter of exchanging the religious terminology of that dark and superstitious age for the scientific language of today.” This is an astonishing admission: Freud acknowledges that the psychoanalytic description of hysteria is but a semantic revision of the demonological one. He thus tries to legitimize his metaphors by claiming that they form a part of the language of science when, in fact, they do not.

The demonological conception of hysteria, and Charcot’s quasi-medical reinterpretation of it, made a profound impression on Freud. He returned repeatedly to this theme. “What would you say,” he asks Fliess, in a letter dated January 17, 1897, “. . . if I told you that the whole of my brand-new primal theory of hysteria was well-known and had been published a hundred times over—several centuries ago? Do you remember how I always said that the medieval theory of possession, held by the ecclesiastical courts, was identical with our theory of a foreign body and a splitting of consciousness? . . . incidentally, the cruelties make it possible to understand some symptoms of hysteria which have hitherto been obscure.”

We see Freud here taking the decisive leap into psychopathology: he accepts the officially identified patient as a patient and proceeds to examine her for symptoms. First, he lays proprietary claims on the psychopathological interpretation of possession developed by the French school of psychiatry; then, he proceeds to disregard the cruelties inflicted on the witches as indications of the human character of the persecutors, and of the social nature of the times, and interprets them instead as part of the symptoms exhibited by the “patients.”

Thirty years after publishing his obituary of Charcot, Freud returns to the similarities between the demonological theory of possession and the psychoanalytic theory of hysteria. “We need not be surprised,” he writes in his essay on “A Seventeenth-Century Demonological Neurosis,” “to find that that, wheras the neuroses of our own unpsychological modern days take on a hypochondrical aspect and appear disguised as organic illnesses, the neuroses of those early times emerge in demonological trappings. Several authors, foremost among them Charcot, have, as we know, identified the manifestations of hysteria in the portrayals of possession and ecstasy that have been preserved for us in the productions of art. . . . The demonological theory of those dark times has won in the end against all the somatic views of the period of ‘exact’ science. The states of possession correspond to our neuroses . . . In our eyes, our demons are bad and reprehensible wishes, derivatives of instinctual impulses that have been repudiated and repressed.”

Here Freud asserts that the cultural climate in which people live determines the overt symbolic form of the “neuroses” they develop; but he stops short of entertaining the possibility that they also determine which persons assume dominant roles as persecutors, and which are cast into submissive roles as victims. He thus shuts the door on a broader, cultural-historical perspective, not only on “mental illness,” but on psychiatry itself; and on the view that society not only shapes the symbolic forms of the madness it creates, but determines the very existence, direction, force, and output of this manufacturing process itself.

[Italicized emphases his; bold mine. Footnotes omitted.]

Stopping there on page 75 today.

A look at the label “histrionic”

When Paul Elam, in the first sentence of the first comment he’s ever made to me, referred to me as “histrionic” I had to go look it up. Not a label I’m familiar with. Looked to wikipedia initially, but tonight I have some time to delve into the label in a little more detail, out of curiosity.

Conducted a search on youtube and came up with a video from Davis M. J. Aurini (Feb. 2012) claiming to know a thing or two on the subject. Personally, I don’t take that guy as an expert on this or any other subject, but I realize plenty of others do, so I listened to his opinions on this:

Okay. My first impression is that “histrionic” or “hysterical” behavior as it is outlined here is so completely broad that it could be loosely applied to probably a quarter of the population or more. So I’ll just respond for myself on the claims he makes since this is such a hodge-podge of behaviors all smashed together to where I very much doubt but a very few people fit the description to a tee and those who do would also satisfy the label of “narcissist.”

Aurini described this kind of person as someone who’s empty inside and lacking an internal compass to where they find trolling other people the only thing worth doing to give excitement to their lives. Ookay. Well, that right there isn’t my ambition. He said it’d be someone who exaggerates what others tell them, but that made me wonder if perhaps that could be due to lackings when it comes to accurate comprehension or even a faulty memory versus stemming from malevolent intent in all cases.  *shrugs* He said it’s someone who talks about how screwed up everyone else around them is but who considers him/herself as better than the rest.  LOL  Quite the contrary, I’m critical about all of us. He said this is basically a bored woman who isn’t about shit who fucks with people for entertainment and deliberately sows seeds of discontent between others. Hmmm…  (Justicar flashed through my mind there.)  While I do agree that boredom can and often enough does foster trifling behavior in both females and males, that is clearly not my intention when interacting online if anyone were to take an overall look at the videos I “like” and add to playlists as well as those I respond on. Most of it is pretty fucking far from getting up involved in some he said/she said-type of interactions, and as for sex/gender relations, I’m one of those out here urging people not to go to extremes in hating on one another categorically.

See, and that’s what’s so goofy there: Paul Elam, a man whose identity revolves around leading a men’s rights organization, yet who spends more time complaining about female nature and encouraging men to be extremely cautious in their relations with women in general (not only feminists, mind you), who in various videos assigns an assortment of psychiatric labels to women in an effort to drum up fear of women in men (who apparently aren’t also in need of psychological evaluation by Paul Elam’s estimate, that is, unless they qualify as “manginas”), and who also receives donations for such important service to the community—that guy is calling me out as using emotionality in a manipulative manner? lol  For what? For saying I don’t recommend a man sign some stupid petition?  For critiquing what Dean Esmay was publicly advocating? For in the past stating I’m not a fan of Paul Elam and wouldn’t follow him anywhere? That was and remains my honest assessment of Paul Elam after reading and watching plenty of his output.

Is it somehow not okay to disagree with someone or to take issue with their political tactics and social messages? People say we should focus on the issues we have a problem with, and I did. Is that divisive behavior? Well, what about when we publicly take issue with bullshit a preacher or priest says or that a popular feminist organization states—could that be construed as any less divisive in nature in so far as we’re making an appeal to those who are following folks we personally see as misguided? In short, would he feel the need to call someone like me out as “histrionic” if my message had flowed in the other direction and against someone or something he considers an “enemy”? Somehow I doubt it.

Just so weird how people jump to labeling one another all willy-nilly. Do I have big ambitions for my life right now? No, not so much. But I go to work everyday and handle my business, so what’s it to anyone? Do I place myself on some higher pedestal than all others in my life? No. In fact, a big reason I’ve been spending so much time alone in my apartment, reflecting and also listening to others online, is precisely because I am working on myself, because I recognize I have all sorts of problems and conflicts and things needing to change. Welcome to human life — what’s so wrong with admitting it?

BUT, just because I’m doing my thing doesn’t mean I can’t pipe up to let it be known that I, for one, think it’s stupid to sign any document on a U.S. government website for any reason (most especially if the petition in question is retarded) that in any way links myself or the group(s) I’m affiliated with with “terrorism” (that being a big, bad word these days). Most folks don’t want to be associated with that dangerous label, so just from a marketing angle it seems like a very stupid strategy. But, like I said in the video, people will do what they want. Figure some might like to hear varied perspectives on such matters though, and if not, then just click off. No worries. Do what you want. Grown adults have to decide for themselves. Just good, IMO, for folks to hear opinions from those outside of their echo chambers every once in a while. And what’s the harm in that?

For good measure, let’s take a gander at Wikipedia’s entry on “Histrionic Personality Disorder“:

[…] defined by the American Psychiatric Association as a personality disorder characterized by a pattern of excessive emotions and attention-seeking, including inappropriately seductive behavior and an excessive need for approval, usually beginning in early adulthood. People affected by HPD are lively, dramatic, vivacious, enthusiastic, and flirtatious. HPD affects four times as many women as men.[1] It has a prevalence of 2–3% in the general population and 10–15% in inpatient and outpatient mental health institutions.[2]

HPD lies in the dramatic cluster of personality disorders.[3] People with HPD have a high need for attention, make loud and inappropriate appearances, exaggerate their behaviors and emotions, and crave stimulation.[3] They may exhibit sexually provocative behavior, express strong emotions with an impressionistic style, and can be easily influenced by others. Associated features include egocentrism, self-indulgence, continuous longing for appreciation, and persistent manipulative behavior to achieve their own needs.

Further down the page it lists these common characteristics:

  • Exhibitionist behavior
  • Constant seeking of reassurance or approval
  • Excessive sensitivity to criticism or disapproval
  • Pride of own personality and unwillingness to change, viewing any change as a threat
  • Inappropriately seductive appearance or behavior of a sexual nature
  • Using somatic symptoms (of physical illness) to garner attention
  • A need to be the center of attention
  • Low tolerance for frustration or delayed gratification
  • Rapidly shifting emotional states that may appear superficial or exaggerated to others
  • Tendency to believe that relationships are more intimate than they actually are
  • Making rash decisions[4]
  • Blaming personal failures or disappointments on others
  • Being easily influenced by others, especially those who treat them approvingly
  • Being overly dramatic and emotional[6]

When have I shown myself as a seductive exhibitionist through all of my time on youtube?

Lots of people are sensitive to criticism, the extent depending on the source, but I don’t believe my behaviors online have demonstrated my willingness to submit to others who simply show approval toward me. Rather, I’m more often generally described as a contrarian who can quibble over details on all sides in any debate.

A need to be the center of attention?  Ha!  If that were the case I’d work a lot harder at making attention-grabbing video content, show some cleavage, and get my face and hair all dolled up for the camera. Not as if I don’t own a shit-ton of makeup and hair-styling accessories.

I stay low-level frustrated much of the time, so yeah, my tolerance is tested routinely. Whatever meltdowns I do experience are the result of real-life events and thus are handled in my offline real life. Might blog about my thoughts and feelings from time to time and share stories (keeping offline individuals anonymous), some of which I later make private since the words are mostly for myself, and also sometimes I later realize my venting was being a bit unfair or one-sided. But I am able to admit that, so what’s the problem? Probably plenty of folks out there whom I’ve known in the past include me in their bitching sessions as well. Pretty common behavior among people. (Why does Stefan Molyneux immediately spring to mind when considering this point?)

Blaming personal failures or disappointments on others… hmmm. Some of our disappointments do directly relate to others. But I blame plenty on myself. Not a saint, wouldn’t ever pretend to be one. I’ve hurt people too. Such is life. No human is an island, and we are social creatures who can’t help but depend on and impact one another, plus we are living in crazy times, so…   It is what it is. We live and learn through honest introspection and reflection.

Unwillingness to change…  That one is particularly inaccurate since I change all the time in light of compelling information and ideas. Changed quite a lot over the last decade and don’t regret doing so at all. Was and is totally necessary. Just as I expect to change a great deal over the next decade. Comes with trying to keep an open mind to what’s out there in the world, including other people’s perspectives. Not all perspectives are created equal though, as we know.

Tendency to believe relationships are more intimate than they are…  No clue how that one relates to me. Pretty big on sticking with my closest people where long-term bonds are already established. Don’t feel intimately connected with anyone known to me only online.

Haven’t pretended to be physically unwell to garner attention.

Who doesn’t make rash decisions? I can be impulsive in some situations.

Overly dramatic and emotional…  Who determines what is excessive there? A bunch of stuffed suits with vested financial interest sitting around voting on the matter?  Gimme a break. I am a sensitive, emotional person, and that’s just the way it goes. Nothing necessarily wrong or unnatural about that, though it can make life a bit harder since we humans can be so damned calloused to one another. Depression happens. All too common these days. Makes people want to reach out and interact from the comfort and convenience of our own homes where communications can be exchanged from a physical and emotional distance.

Okay, so that’s the basic rundown. Looks like a piss-poor attempt at playing armchair psychoanalyst, from where I sit, but ah well. Some folks can’t handle criticism, so it’s been said.

An intro into Erich Fromm’s book “Psychoanalysis and Religion”

Transcribing today from Erich Fromm’s book Psychoanalysis and Religion (1950), beginning on page 1:


Never before has man come so close to the fulfillment of his most cherished hopes as today. Our scientific discoveries and technical achievements enable us to visualize the day when the table will be set for all who want to eat, a day when the human race will form a unified community and no longer live as separate entities. Thousands of years were needed for this unfolding of man’s intellectual capacities, of his growing ability to organize society and to concentrate his energies purposefully. Man has created a new world with its own laws and destiny. Looking at his creation, he can say, truly, it is good.

But looking at himself what can he say? Has he come closer to the realization of another dream of mankind, that of the perfection of man? Of man loving his neighbor, doing justice, speaking truth, and realizing that which he potentially is, an image of God?

Raising the question is embarrassing since the answer is so painfully clear. While we have created wonderful things we have failed to make of ourselves beings for whom this tremendous effort would seem worthwhile. Ours is a life not of brotherliness, happiness, contentment but of spiritual chaos and bewilderment dangerously close to a state of madness—not the hysterical kind of madness which existed in the Middle Ages but a madness akin to schizophrenia in which the contact with inner reality is lost and thought is split from affect.

Let us consider only some of the news items which we read every morning and evening. As a reaction to the water shortage in New York prayers for rain are suggested in churches and simultaneously rainmakers attempt to produce rain by chemical means. For over a year flying saucers have been reported; some say they do not exist, others that they are real and a new part of our own or a foreign power’s military equipment, while others quite seriously claim that they are machines sent from the inhabitants of another planet. We are told that never has America had such a bright future as in the mid portion of the twentieth century, while on the same page the probability of a war is discussed and scientists argue whether the atomic weapons will or will not lead to the destruction of the globe.

People go to churches and listen to sermons in which the principles of love and charity are preached, and the very same people would consider themselves fools or worse if they hesitated to sell a commodity which they knew the customer could not afford. Children in Sunday school learn that honesty and integrity and concern for the soul should be the guiding principles of life, while “life” teaches us that to follow these principles makes us at best unrealistic dreamers. We have the most extraordinary possibilities for communication in print, radio, and television, and we are fed daily with nonsense which would be offensive to the intelligence of children were they not suckled on it. It is proclaimed by many voices that our way of life makes us happy. But how many people of these times are happy? It is interesting to remember a casual shot in Life magazine some time ago of a group of people waiting on a street corner for the green light. What was so remarkable and so shocking about this picture was that these people who all looked stunned and frightened had not witnessed a dreadful accident but, as the text had to explain, were merely average citizens going about their business.

We cling to the belief that we are happy; we teach our children that we are more advanced than any generation before us, that eventually no wish will remain unfulfilled and nothing will be out of our reach. The appearances support this belief, which is drummed into us endlessly.

But will our children hear a voice telling them where to go and what to live for? Somehow they feel, as all human beings do, that life must have a meaning—but what is it? Do they find it in the contradictions, double talk, and cynical resignation they encounter at every turn? They long for happiness, for truths, for justice, for love, for an object of devotion; are we able to satisfy their longing?

We are as helpless as they are. We do not know the answer because we even have forgotten to ask the question. We pretend that our life is based upon a solid foundation and ignore the shadows of uneasiness, anxiety, and confusion which never leave us.

To some people return to religion is the answer, not as an act of faith but in order to escape an intolerable doubt; they make this decision not out of devotion but in search of security. The student of the contemporary scene who is not concerned with the church but with man’s soul considers this step another symptom of the failure of nerve.

Those who try to find a solution by returning to traditional religion are influenced by a view which is often proposed by religionists, that we have to choose between religion and a way of life which is concerned only with the satisfaction of our instinctual needs and material comfort; that if we do not believe in God we have no reason—and no right—to believe in the soul and its demands. Priests and ministers appear to be the only professional groups concerned with the soul, the only spokesmen for the ideals of love, truth, and justice.

Historically this was not always so. While in some cultures like that of Egypt the priests were the “physicians of the soul,” in others such as Greece this function was at least partly assumed by philosophers. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle did not claim to speak in the name of any revelation but with the authority of reason and of their concern with man’s happiness and the unfolding of his soul. They were concerned with man as an end in himself as the most significant subject matter of inquiry. Their treatises on philosophy and ethics were at the same time works on psychology. This tradition of antiquity was continued in the Renaissance and it is very characteristic that the first book which uses the word “Psychologia” in its title has the subtitle Hoc est de Perfectione Hominis (This is of the Perfection of Man). It was during the Enlightenment that this tradition reached its highest point. Out of their belief in man’s reason the philosophers of the Enlightenment, who were at the same time students of man’s soul, affirmed man’s independence from political shackles as well as from those of superstition and ignorance. They taught him to abolish those conditions of existence which required the maintenance of illusions. Their psychological inquiry was rooted in the attempt to discover the conditions for human happiness. Happiness, they said, can be achieved only when man has achieved inner freedom; only then can he be mentally healthy. But in the last few generations the rationalism of the Enlightenment has undergone drastic change. Drunk with a new material prosperity and success in mastering nature, man no longer has considered himself the primary concern of life and of theoretical inquiry. Reason as the means for discovering the truth and penetrating the surface to the essence of phenomena has been relinquished for intellect as a mere instrument to manipulate things and men. Man has ceased to believe that the power of reason can establish the validity of norms and ideas for human conduct.

This change in the intellectual and emotional climate has had a profound impact on the development of psychology as a science. Notwithstanding exceptional figures like Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, the tradition in which psychology was a study if the soul concerned with man’s virtue and happiness was abandoned. Academic psychology, trying to imitate the natural sciences and laboratory methods of weighting and counting, dealt with everything except the soul. It tried to understand those aspects of man which can be examined in the laboratory and claimed that conscience, value judgments, the knowledge of good and evil are metaphysical concepts, outside the problems of psychology; it was more often concerned with insignificant problems which fitted an alleged scientific method than with devising new methods to study the significant problems of man. Psychology thus became a science lacking its main subject matter, the soul; it was concerned with mechanisms, reaction formations, instincts, but not with the most specifically human phenomena: love, reason, conscience, values. Because the word soul has associations which include these higher human powers I use it here and throughout these chapters rather than the words “psyche” or “mind.”

[Bold emphases mine.]

Stopping there on page 6.

On the topic of “complex PTSD” and gaining traction in moving on in life

Currently watching this video from Spartan Life Coach:

I think Richie’s hitting on a lot of important points there. I’m extremely tired today and so don’t feel up to getting into some of what this makes me think of, but eventually I’ll return here to sort out some of what’s been on my mind.

“Cracking Depression: It is NOT a ‘Biological Disease'”

SpartanLifeCoach put out a video on depression a few months back:

I’m very much in agreement with his position expressed there. What we’re dealing with in modern times is expanded forms of slavery that have us caged in a sick way of life. This creates life out balance, which should come as no surprise as proving psychologically unhealthy. What’s healthy about it? We’re over-stressed and repressed, with all support networks humans historically relied upon now being actively disrupted and our ways of life being overhauled by new technologies — so is it really that shocking that our existence increasingly feels meaningless? Welcome to the Age of Nihilism.

It’s a question of how to now get out of this maze humans have constructed. Or how to cope if escape isn’t a possibility. For me it boils back down to what power we do possess to make needed changes and how to restore and maintain bonds with select others so that we can make the best of this tough situation we’re all faced with.

Problems with psychiatry discussed by Dr. Peter Breggin

An internet peep passed along the following videos of Dr. Peter R. Breggin.

“Beyond Belief – Behind the Scenes w/ Peter Breggin”:

“Dr. Peter Breggin, MD, Brief Intro to Empathic Therapy (2013)”:

“Dr. Peter Breggin’s Keynote address at the 31st Conference of the South Carolina Society of Adlerian Psychology, Oct 2013”:

And following are some videos by him I’ve watched previously.

“Peter Breggin, MD: Do You Have a Biochemical Imbalance? Simple Truths About Psychiatry”:

“How to Help the Suicidally Depressed Person–Dr. Peter Breggin’s 5th ‘SimpleTruths About Psychiatry'”:

That last one was a very good video that deserves to be watched by anybody and everybody. Glad to have found it.

In the next video Dr. Breggin talks about “how to help deeply disturbed persons”:

He went into much more detail about his experience volunteering at the state mental hospital in the book I’m currently reading titled Toxic Psychiatry, which I’m thoroughly appreciating. In that video he also mentions a non-psychiatry-related book by Martin Buber titled I and Thou, which I’ve also read and appreciated (recommended by prof. Anton).

There are also two other titles I’d care to mention here that complement the notions expressed by Dr. Breggin, and they are: The Manufacture of Madness by Dr. Thomas Szasz and The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. And for those interested in delving deeper into the psychospiritual rabbit hole, the writings and talks by Joseph Campbell add an interesting historical dimension.

When Dr. Breggin talks about how he realized the psychiatric profession was headed one way and he was headed another in terms of him placing more emphasis on social connections and addressing our human life concerns, I totally get where he’s coming from and felt the same way about the field of sociology (albeit for different reasons). While I share his psychosocial approach and attitude from what I’ve learned of the man thus far, my own division with the field of Soc. had a lot to do with it becoming aligned with the field of Social Work which ties into the State and thereby winds up tying back into the field of psychiatry. And not enough people within the sociology field seem terribly concerned about that, even as they superficially draw distinctions between their field and that of psychology and its theories applied through psychiatry. Too much lip service without enough bite. Very often sociology is left out of the mainstream conversation altogether, largely because it’s only taken seriously where it conforms and/or where it draws attention to itself. But sociology is the study of human life because we are core, first and foremost, social beings. Everything we do and everything we are is determined by this fact of life — no getting around it. And yet these field’s devolved into obscure academic squabbling over matters that most people out in society don’t know or care about (like what’s also happened to academic philosophy by-and-large). And it’s viewed as a field belonging to the political Left when it’s totally above and beyond being tied down by that nonsense. The political Left is within the realm of sociological examination, not the other way around. But academe now gives a different impression.

So there again I went my own way. ha  A pattern can be detected. Because why not? It’s about time people start opening up these inquiries out in greater society and investigating them where we stand. We all care about social dynamics on some level and can’t help but do so since we’re damn sure all impacted whether we like it or not in countless ways. Neither “I” nor “we” can exist on its own. We define who we are in relation to others, and we all interact and have a hand in molding one another, consciously or otherwise. It’s elementary, and yet plenty insist on treating the word “sociology” like it’s a bad thing, like it serves no useful purpose and its content is totally unimportant. That’s so odd when one really stops and thinks about it. lol  And that’s another one of those issues I take with academia dominating as it does, despite it supplying us with an abundance of interesting social theories that really work the imagination and get the juices flowing for those who are curious. The best stuff is farther back in history before it became suffused with and largely directed by special interest stances. But that’s a topic in itself to be further unpacked another day.

On depression: psychosocial vs. psychiatric viewpoints (an excerpt from a book by Dr. Breggin)

Today I’d like to transcribe an excerpt from Dr. Peter Breggin’s book Toxic Psychiatry (1991), beginning on page 130 in chapter 6:

Depression in Two African Communities

Sometimes, if we look at communities that seem somewhat unfamiliar or alien to our own, we are more readily able to see common human principles at work. Outside the usual psychiatric literature, I did locate two books about “primitive” jungle cultures in which the authors approach depression as a psychosocial and even spiritual phenomenon pertaining to loss of companionship and love.

The famous doctor who authored the first book describes the roles of “friendship,” “love,” and “altruism” in the community, citing, for example, how relatives and friends risked their lives for each other against frightening attacks from wild animals. Males cooperate in the hunt and females share in the raising of any orphaned offspring.

Little Flint, the subject of a touching vignette, was eight and a half years old at the time of the death of his mother, Flo. Flo was the matriarch of the family, but little Flint was born when Flo was seemingly too old to bear children. She was becoming ill as well, and in her infirm state she had “insufficient strength to enforce the independence” of little Flint. For example, “she continued to give in to his demands to sleep with her at night” and, despite her infirmity, she also acceded to carrying him about on her back “like an infant” when he was old enough to walk by himself.

The study includes photographs of Flint and his family. They show a surprisingly aged-looking mother with a heavily lined face, a sagging countenance lacking in animation, and a body that has lost its strength of carriage. The older siblings are full of sparkle in these pictures, and so is the small child Flint, who looks bright eyed, endearing, and eager for attention.

The unexpected death of a sibling when Flint was only five frightened and disturbed him and, combined with his mother being increasingly “unable to cope,” made Flint more excessively dependent on her. He indulged in “very little play” and became especially “nervous” around bigger, older boys. Meanwhile, Flint’s father paid little or no attention to him; but this was a routine phenomenon in their culture, and perhaps not that different from ours.

The doctor—whose name I will withhold for the moment—said of Flint, “He was unusually dependent upon his very old mother” and “when she died in 1972, Flint was unable to cope with his state of depression.” Flint “showed gradually increasing signs of lethargy.” He suffered a “loss of appetite” and had “sunken eyes.” Finally he died of an inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. His doctor concluded, “It seems likely that the psychological and physical disturbances associated with loss made him more vulnerable to disease.”

Other members of the community had recognized Flint’s need and reached out to him, but because of his immaturity and history of losses, he had been unable to respond to their love.

By any standard, Flint died of a major depression. Indeed, he perfectly fits the official criteria of the APA’s DSM-III-R. Major depression is frequently considered genetic and biochemical, and the usual treatment is drugs. In Flint’s depressed state he might have been given shock treatment, even as a child.

But the doctor who told the story of Flint did not see him as having a genetic or biological vulnerability to depression; he had a family vulnerability based on the death of a sibling, his ailing mother’s incapacity to raise him properly, and her premature death.

The great irony about this analysis of Flint’s all-too-human response to a difficult childhood is that he’s not a human being. The doctor was not a physician or psychiatrist. Not even a psychologist. She was the world-renowned ethologist Jane Goodall. Her marvelous 1983 book is The Chimpanzees of the Gombe. Yes, Flo and Flint were chimps. And it’s true that, unlike any modern psychiatric textbook, Goodall’s book has subchapters on themes like “Helping and Altruism” and “Love and Compassion.”

While Goodall acknowledges the role of genetics in influencing broad behavior patterns, such as aggressivity in males, even in his arena she points out the importance of environment. But with no psychiatric ax to grind, she recognized that obvious psychosocial experiences, such as depression, are not genetically based.

Ethologists studying primates have discovered their many fundamentally psychospiritual qualities, including the capacity for altruism and love, and their corresponding darker side of “depression” and even madness. At the same moment, psychiatrists studying human beings are discarding psychospiritual concepts as outmoded. In short, the ethologists see their animals in human terms, while psychiatrists see their patients in what we used to think of as animal terms.

Jane Goodall’s loving approach to primates, including her psychospiritual understanding of depression, is echoed among other ethologists. In Gorillas in the Mist (1983) Dian Fossey tells a very similar story about a depressed young ape, Simba, who was abandoned by her mother. An uncle did his best to help Simba recover, but after her mother finally died, she lapsed into a lifetime of withdrawal and depression. Fossey and her biographer Farley Mowat (Woman in the Mists, 1987) described how Fossey herself nursed an orphaned ape out of depression and near death through love, physical intimacy, and constant attention. Again, these animals met the technical criteria for major depression.

Before she became involved with gorillas, Fossey worked in human rehabilitation, and she apparently learned some of her more gentle and cautious approaches to the animals from helping autistic children. But human kids rarely are given this kind of attention by professionals in the field of autism. Increasingly there is little place for loving approaches in conventional psychiatric practice because they are being ruled out by biopsychiatric dogma.

Flint and Simba Meet the Psychiatrist

In addition to their meeting the diagnostic criteria for major depression, modern psychiatry would find other compelling reasons for treating Flint and Simba with drugs and even electroshock. First, they had many physical signs associated with their depressions, including loss of appetite and cosmetic and physical deterioration. Often these are assumed to indicate a physical origin. More important, they had recurrent depressions. Flint’s problems seemed to start or to worsen with the death of a sibling, and then to worsen again with the death of his mother. Similarly, Simba had two distinct depressive episodes, one on the disappearance of her mother and another on her death. In modern psychiatry, as Ronald Fieve argues in Moodswing (1989), the fact that Flint and Simba suffered recurrent depression would be taken as further proof that each suffered from a physical illness. That Flint died and Simba never recovered would be used as additional evidence that these were not “normal” or “natural” responses but rather the product of disease, thus strengthening the psychiatric argument that individuals like them need drastic physical interventions.

Imagine the outcry is a captive Flint or Simba became depressed after the loss of a parent and was scheduled for shock treatment at the local city zoo? There would be picket lines. Outraged citizens would offer to adopt the animals to give them proper foster care. Animal protection advocates would chain themselves to the cages. There are many local “zoos” filled with human children and adults being subjected to precisely that sort of abuse, and very few people are protesting.

Every time I have gotten to know someone suffering from so-called major depression I have found a story similar to that of the primates and human beings described in this chapter. There has been no need to resort to genetic or biological theories. Without elaborate explanations, their life stories tend to explain their desperate feelings. The deepest depressions, if anything, are often the most easy to understand. People who suffer severely from emotional problems usually have been exposed to very destructive life experiences, often starting early in childhood.

That depression is typically precipitated by losses and other stresses was confirmed by all three psychiatric experts at the April 6, 1991, “U.S. Depressive Disorders Update” conference in New York City sponsored by Eli Lilly. Nonetheless, all three promoted the use of drugs along with psychotherapy. That all three included psychotherapy in the treatment program may signal changing policy within psychiatry as the profession loses increasing numbers of patients to psychologists, social workers, counselors, and other nonmedical talking therapists. The continued insistence that drugs are important serves the purpose of convincing people to go to medically trained psychiatrists for both talk and drugs (see chapter 15 for a further discussion on psychiatric economics).

Meanwhile, a whole new body of research based on direct observation is confirming the negative effects on children of poor maternal nurturing. Not surprisingly, depressed parents produce depressed or withdrawn children. Recent studies are presented in D. Cicchetti and V. Carlson, eds., The Effects of Maltreatment on the Development of Young Children (1989).

Let’s stop there for now on page 133.