Thursday, April 09, 2009

Are We Mad?

Canadian Conference- March 2009

Are We Mad?
By Patricia Lefave, presumed to be ''mad''

This excerpt below is part of the announcement of a conference which took place in Canada in March, 2009. That was the theme: ''Are We Mad'?
( Being one who is engaged in a search for ''hidden’ meaning , I wondered who the 'we' is meant to identify...)

March 27 & 28, 2009
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta
Telus Center (87 Ave. & 111 St.)

The treatment of the mentally ill in Canada is a complex social phenomenon with ramifications in the fields of medicine, law, sociology and others. This conference will bring together academics, practitioners and consumers of mental health services to contemplate and criticize the forces at work in the field of mental health and the effects they have on individuals in the system. In particular the conference will examine the medical model of mental illness, the interactions between law and psychiatry, the growing public interest in mental health issues, the stigma that continues to surround mental illness, and the power structures that underlie mental health.

This year’s conference promises to be a very special event featuring a keynote address by Dr. Gordon Warme, a psychiatrist and long-time critic of his own profession.

End of Website Copy

This is the when and where of the Alberta conference. It was already too late to submit any abstracts but perhaps those who are planning to attend will be convinced to watch for certain elements in the proceedings that may not have occurred to them except that they hear them beforehand. Forewarned is forearmed as the saying goes.

At first reading it sounds like some positive change may take place there but I have some serious concerns about what is going on there also and where it is all going to be heading. I have read two of Gordon Warme's Books, (The Cure of Folly: A Psychiatrist's Cautionary Tale and Daggers of the Mind: The Myth of Mental Disease ) and although I hear many points in them with which I feel some considerable agreement, there are also some statements in them which set off my alarm bells just as much as that which is going on in mainstream psychiatry, even though it is a bit ''different.''

So I am going to bring up a few points here before this conference and perhaps those who may be attending will think to pay particular attention to ideas being expressed by those professionals who are all too determined to save us from ourselves and who rarely, or so it seems to me, want much input from those who are routinely perceived as ''less than'' and therefore not capable of the ''insights'' into our own ''defective'' minds. This lack of insight, presumed to be absent, would be needed in order to relate to our, frequently unwanted, self appointed ''saviours.''
The words used here in the conference announcement, as with words used anywhere to convey meaning, say things to me which may not be heard by those using them, or even by those outside the ''psychiatrization experience'' who are listening to them. My going into detail on these things is part of my recent change in tactics for dealing with this system. It certainly is a ''complex social phenomenon'' as I have stated myself for many years and one of the things that makes it so ''complex'' is the extraordinary imbalance of power which is built right into the system itself and defended mightily by those on the POWER side of the equation. Objections to this ''imbalance '' (irony anyone?) are generally invalidated by further psychiatrizing the objectors. How handy.
Those with power don't like those without it making ''fusses,'' especially if those objections challenge their own thinking processes or suggest, (God forbid!) that the irrationality lies within the system and within those who control it, just as much, or sometimes even more, than it does within those being controlled BY it.
The word ''consumers'' also jumped off the page at me as within our own groups we tend to notice that the difference between a 'consumer' and a ''psychiatric survivour'' or ''ex mental patient'' is often that the first, though perhaps not fully satisfied with the product, generally approves of it, over all, and tends to 'compliance.' This user tends to believe basically that the profession does more good than harm. These are generally the people chosen by the profession to ''represent'' the end user and are very carefully selected for their co-operation. The psychiatric survivour, or ex mental patient, on the other hand may well be the one who is openly resistant, oppositional to the system and it's beliefs or downright hostile about his or her experience with it. These ones are also MORE likely to tell you openly and directly about what they perceive as just plain wrong. These are also the people who tend to be those defined as in need of MORE 'treatment' for feeling the way they do, and who are often slapped down with a nice platitude like the ever popular, "there is no reality only perception.'' (the psychiatrist's perception that is...tee hee) ''Resistance'' after all, is a well known ''symptom'' of mental illness...or is it?
Many of us believe that defining the refusal of service delivery as a 'symptom' located in the one refusing it, is a pretty neat little trick and one of the many tautological abstractions used as arguments by psychiatry to prove itself ''right.''
We also feel a certain amount of trepidation about the law's eagerness to jump right in to back up psychiatry's inventions, however contradictory they might be, by making it legal for them to do whatever they want.
Next comes the ever popular 'stigma' which ''continues to surround mental illness."
Well frankly, the ''stigma'' exists in my opinion because virtually no one really believes this is the result of a real ''bona fide disease'' like diabetes, most of the time, including those who claim they DO believe it, as well as many of the patients being told they 'have' one. It came to be compared with that perhaps because the profession wanted one of the 'treatments' (insulin) to appear to make some sort of sense.
Still, one does not see many diabetics being wrestled to the ground and placed under arrest for refusing to take their meds does one?Perhaps it is the A.C.T. team, the police involvement and the profession's public display of histrionics, backed up by the media that makes it seem a little ''different'' for the psychiatrized. If a diabetic commits murder for example, it is not generally used as an example of the reason for anyone diagnosed ''diabetic'' to be arrested and forced to take enough insulin to produce shock. That would seem ludicrous to most people. So I don't think the 'just like diabetes' thing is really working.

However, when we try to tell these doctors just what the problem IS, and lots of us do in those ''confidential'' settings, most of us are not heard no matter what we say, or to whom, since we are talking to people who are all quite sure they understand our lives and experience BETTER than we do even if they never laid eyes on us before that moment. It doesn't seem to matter whether we have the gung ho bio-medical enthusiast for a doctor or the one like Dr. Warme, who is the gung ho psychoanalytical enthusiast. In either case, we are being defined by others who tend to get more than just a little put out if we do'' not accept their ''expertise'' in doing all this defining FOR us. Frankly, enough is enough!

To make a point I am going to say a few things here to the conference attendees, or to anyone who knows one of them, hopefully just enough to induce some new thought patterns and get a new dialogue going. I will include here at least one of Dr. Warme's stated opinions and point out the view from the other 'side' of the same experience; the side the majority of those assigning themselves the roles of our observers and assessors don't consider to be valid and in fact, often would not even think of for consideration. This system has blinded itself to reality; both it's own, and it's reluctant, resistant and sometimes frankly horrified ''users.''

My Own Cautionary Tale
I personally think that a lot of the problems in the treatment of the ''mentally ill'' are a lot less complicated than most people want to believe. I also think that much of this has been MADE complex by the attempt to get away, and stay away, from some unpleasant truths about society in general and human beings in ''authoritarian '' roles in particular. For this reason I am intending to spend a whole lot more time pointing out the unstated and often unseen views of those of us who did not get asked for ours and who, indeed, more often, tend to get told we need to keep our mouths shut in public.
This gets passed off as the voice of ''authority'' correcting the naughty child with the bad manners, as often as not, but it is usually a little more intimidating than that and is quite often intended to be. There is real and unquestioned power in this system which sidesteps courtrooms and laws and most people don't even notice this until, or unless, it affects them personally. I want you to pay closer attention. IN words that will ring in your ears, I am '' seeking your attention.'' So give it to me and stop resisting.
I want the university student here who stated naively on a bus one day that she knew she could ''not be given a psychiatric label'' as she ''was not sick'' to understand how sadly amusing that is to those of us who also ''claimed'' we were ''not sick'' when we got ours. I want her to fully understand the meaning of the word ''claimed'' in the usual psychiatric context.
First though I want to include here just a couple of statements from the keynote speaker (Warme) and my brief responses to them.
This is from my post some time back:

Debating Psychiatric Beliefs: One
Quotes from:
The Cure of Folly: a Psychiatrist’s Cautionary Tale
By Gordon Warme M.D.

“It was a historical inevitability, one of countless holocausts that afflict mankind forever; a Jewish victim stance called it down on their own heads...
...My struggle for an explanation was no different for the struggles for understanding I faced when I listened to my patients.”
“The stories of patients who portray themselves as victims are taken at face value…” “Psychiatrists, when they are thinking like psychiatrists, never take words at face value.”

After sitting talking to psychiatrists for a short while we actually usually twig onto that as we realize that what we are saying to them in a straight forward way is not being HEARD at all. It then becomes the ''game'' of trying to ''get through'' to them because if we can't manage to do that, they have total control over us and the right to define us to society at large as ''genetic defectives'' and perpetual lunatics. This is when we begin our new ''careers'' as the madwoman/man.
I would like to help Gordon understand this better by sharing what I think and feel about what he has to say here. Of course, this is something I would never get to say to a psychiatrist if I was speaking to one of them (with extremely rare exceptions) from my assigned role as the ‘patient’ but I can do it here since this is my own space. Still, I am taking a risk by doing this since I have been told several times that doing so is considered to be ''unacceptable behaviour'' by those who hold this power over me.
Nevertheless, here I will treat THEM like equals, even though at times, I also agree they are not, though I don’t necessarily mean that the same way one of them might mean it. First, I want to offer you something word for word, which is written by an on line friend of mine. The following explanation in the form of a metaphorical tale, is from a psychiatrized person.
As stated word for word:

“I thought of this: The Holocaust happened, it’s true. A rabbi is sitting in a train car with a whole bunch of white boys, secret neo-Nazis. He hears them denying the Holocaust happened. This one, lone Rabbi speaks up and says it did happen, it is real. The white boys all say no. Next train station the Rabbi is hauled off to the local loony bin for treatment for his obvious delusional disorder. The initial interview, the psych asks the white boys what’s the problem and the white boys all say the Rabbi is wrong, thinks something happened which all the white boys says never happened. The psych may have read about the Holocaust but since he wasn’t there believes the white boys. Psychiatrists are group followers; believe what the group says about someone, especially if that someone is alone and just one against the group. So the psych since he never saw any of the concentration camps, only read about them in books and listened and watched TV shows about the camps believes what the white boys say ‘cause as a group how can a group be wrong?”
by Kartik

I consider this to be an excellent analogy of what happens with dysfunctional groups, reality being determined by groupthink sessions, and the experience and the reactions of the individual being ‘assessed’ and treated as irrelevant nonsense, or the results of something he or she caused to happen, or that is said to have not ‘really’ happened at all.I want to remind you again that this is the evaluation of how groups think, including groups of psychiatrists, as given by an ‘intractable’ psychiatrized person. Do you think this person’s understanding is pretty amazing for someone defined as ‘mad?’ Or are you still in denial about group behaviours?

It is in your own literature, I've read some of it, yet you seem unable to see it when it is acted out in real life right under your noses. If you do, think this ''intractable'' person's understanding is ''amazing'' perhaps you should examine your OWN assumptions instead of trying to make that person fit into YOUR beliefs.I also want to add here some analysis of Gordon’s remarks and thought processes and offer it as my own brief ‘cautionary tale.’First, I don’t think ‘holocausts’ are ‘historical inevitabilities’ that need afflict us ‘forever.’ However, I think that could be the case if we don’t get some change of attitude here including (or perhaps especially) from people like YOU, Gordon. We become aware of psychiatric reality, (most of us) in pretty short order. We are also aware that because of the way you hear, the more we try to tell you the truth, the more likely you will hear the truth re-framed as the symptoms you believe you should be hearing as a result of your training, so this is a pretty scary experience for most of us, more especially so because of the concrete and unquestioned POWER you hold over us if we dare to say the ‘wrong’ thing or show some emotion you decide is not valid.

The experience of conversation with most of you is nothing short of surreal which of course has also been invalidated as a legitimate response by those who cannot hear anything but their own beliefs. So, most of us know this. I won’t go into it at length here. For this post, I will just respond to these few quotes of yours.What really scares the hell out of me is that people who think like you, and you are considered to be ''radical'' by many of your peer group, are in charge of determining for others, not only what is ‘reality’ but also who should be pulled out of his or her life. You have the unquestioned power to have people locked up and forcibly ‘treated’ for having an understanding of his/her own reality, which you played no part in but with which you DISAGREE.

You are a man who is stating in print, that your ideas about the Holocaust are running parallel to your ideas about the people assigned the role of ‘patient’ which you control and ‘treat’ according to your own beliefs. THIS is why patients are frightened, angry, resentful, frustrated and sometimes suicidal or homicidal. Because you have such unquestioned power over me, and anyone else like me, when I sit before you, I have to humour you and allow you to believe that you are ‘helping’ me so that I don’t get even worse ‘treatment’ for standing up to your nonsense. I can't call it nonsense either, as that too will have to be defined as MY flaw since it cannot be one in you, can it?
Dealing with psychiatrists is NOT a democratic process. It is like being held as a political hostage. Stockholm Syndrome rules the relationship.

You stated:

A “Jewish victim stance called it down on their own heads” (?)

Let me explain this mystery to you Gordon. A Nazi power, control, and hidden agenda of domination stance, created by people who disguised themselves as ‘saviours,’ or messiahs, and proclaimed their murderous impulses to be ‘good,’ is what actually brought it all down.
It was aided and abetted of course by all the followers of unquestioned authority who are just regular people and not especially evil at all. It is not that the German population was unusually ''evil'' that makes this all so terrifying. It was the fact that they were so ''normal'' and even so intellectually sophisticated, that made it so terrifying, just as the sophisticated intellectuals following their leaders with such blind certainty and righteousness makes it so terrifying NOW. The DSM is like reading a cult handbook for domination.

It is of course, very convenient to blame the victims for a couple or reasons. It allows the group members who supported this hidden agenda, and all those like it, to sidestep responsibility for their own actions, and it allows those to whom this did not happen to console themselves, quite falsely of course, that it cannot happen to THEM because they would never ‘bring it down on their own heads.” This seems pretty obvious to me and I wonder why it doesn’t to you and to all those who think like you, and who continue to promote this twisted belief?

I am glad though that you ‘admitted’ you view it the same way as you do your patients because I think your admission of that will help the patients of psychiatrists really understand where YOU are coming from and if they do, a whole lot of that ‘confusion’ from which we all suffer when being assessed by you, and those like you, will begin to clear up pretty quickly. I find your use of language quite interesting too. When you say things like patients who ‘portray themselves’ as victims, (Like those Jews right Gordon?) you of course are letting us know (and letting others who don’t understand us ‘nuts’ know too) that we are not ‘really victims’ of anyone, (or any group) who might be an aggressor(s) with a hidden agenda, just like those Jews, weren’t ''really'' victims right? Do I have it right there or am I just ‘confused’?

I think that most patients would have to disagree that our ‘stories’ ''portraying ourselves as victims'' are taken at ‘face value', even when offered evidence of that which is routinely ignored. I was told by the first psychiatrist I tried to talk to that it was ''not (his) job to be an investigator.'' Covertly ''investigating'' me, with no direct input FROM me though apparently was his job. The difference seemed to be in WHO was being ''investigated'' and not the fact that he WAS investigating, or why. I have learned there is a whole lot of tricky doublethink required when trying to decipher psychiatry's duplicitous code.

That fact is one of our major problems when trying to communicate the nature of our reality to you people. It is simply not HEARD or taken at ‘face value’ though it is often being given that way. Psychiatrists are in fact, almost always looking for ‘hidden’ meaning where there is none, and just as often failing to see it where it is barely 'hidden' at all. So please be clear on this; that up until the time we get where YOU are coming from, we are all as much, if not MORE, confused by what you are thinking, as you ever could be about what WE are thinking. At least most of us try to communicate directly and genuinely which is certainly not the case from the other direction.

Your last line above there though I do agree with; ''when psychiatrists are thinking like psychiatrists,'' they never take our words at face value and that Gordon is a huge problem we have with you. Many of us want you to STOP thinking like psychiatrists and start thinking like human beings again. For once we tell you the truth you refuse to accept at face value, what can we possibly say AFTER that which will cause you to hear what you are determined ‘never’ to hear.

I think if you think about it for just a few minutes Gordon, you will be able to see the patients’ paradoxical dilemma. Then again, perhaps not. If not, then maybe you could ask one of your Jewish psychiatrist friends to explain it to you using your own parallel analogy. Who knows, maybe THIS is the way to get through the psychiatric resistance to understanding. Nothing works quite as well as personal experience does it?

So you see Gordon, your comparison here is actually the same one we ‘nuts’ often use ourselves, as you of course, must already know. I know I really don’t have to tell you that. Your way is known to us as victim-blaming and I think it happens a lot because most of the victims the aggressors choose as targets, (and yes, we are ‘chosen’ Gordon) are either pacifists who tend to relate as equals or else helpless to stop our protagonists for some reason, often an authoritarian one . (Such as in the case of domineering parents for example who can never be blamed for anything) It is only the point of view on the same relationship that makes it seem to be a ‘different’ reality, when in fact, it is the same one.

We get to hear a these a whole lot:

I am only trying to ‘help’ you. Or sometimes it is some version of,

“I wouldn’t be doing this if you weren’t making me do it.”

Psychiatrists ''wonder'' why we compare most of our relationships with them to that of those with Nazis or fascists...even while they obviously make the same comparisons themselves. Of course it is only madness when it is ''our'' comparison and never when it is yours. Think about it. When we do it we are labeled as genetic defectives. When YOU do it you see yourselves as our ''solution.'' Is that your final solution? We don't have any valid thoughts or 'real' feelings like you do, do we?
Well, I would like to finish off this piece with a short comment and a little common psychiatric humour.
Recently, I attended a public lecture given by an associate professor of philosophy on Medicine and Conformity. The topic as it turned out was on the ''scary '' contents of the DSM which this professor had just recently read and the implications for a society that is being controlled by these doctors and their nearly unquestioned power.
During this lecture she repeated a common type of ''joke'' shared by psychiatrists and I am going to share it here with you.

A (psychiatrized) patient shows up for an appointment. She is a few minutes late.
The doctor diagnoses her as passive aggressive.
The next appointment she comes a bit early.
The doctor diagnoses her as presenting with anxiety.
The third appointment she decides to be sure to be right on the dot of her appointment time.
The doctor diagnoses her as obsessive.

Har har har …

This is a joke psychiatrists tell amongst themselves. Do you get the joke?
Well, we who are on the receiving end of their power and diagnostics get it.
The ''joke'' is that no matter WHAT we do (or think, say and feel) it can be pathologized by those with the power to do so. This is why most of us sense ''the circle'' or being trapped inside a loop from which there is no escape possible.

The next time any of you read something like that in ''case '' histories of the presumably 'mad' going back hundreds of years, think about that. Then think about this :

If you were the one being diagnosed like the object of the joke in the case above, which is NOT just an absurd joke, how hilariously funny do you think you would find psychiatry to be?
Maybe you should think about it now and also at this conference so you don't get to find out about it firsthand. There is a very good possibility of that you know, looming in your own future, if you don't stop laughing so much now when it is being done to someone else who you believe ''must'' be mentally ill or they could not be labelled that way...

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