Psychiatry Used as a Weapon

Posted: October 27, 2010 in Big Brother

The Perils of the Therapeutic State

 When government and psychiatry join forces, the result is mind-boggling opportunity for the wholesale abuse of power, as evidenced in the Holocaust, which had its roots in eugenics, elimination of those deemed unfit to live and procreate.

A eugenics agenda for exterminating the “weak-minded” originated in Germany during the 1920s and 1930s, cooked up initially by teams of government-approved psychiatrists and later incorporated into the policy of the Nazi regime, which came to power and extended the program to include Jews, Negroes and Mongols.

The agenda for racial purity was further enlarged into programs for “mercy killings,” the starving of children considered emotionally unfit to exist and those with physical defects.

By 1939, the systematic murder of mental patients, authorized by the state, got under way through the efforts of Max de Crinis, a psychiatry professor at the University of Berlin and other psychiatric authorities, including professors and departmental chairmen. This sinister group established six psychiatric killing centers with a psychiatrist, Werner Heyde, in charge of administration.

By 1941, the German state had murdered 270,000 psychiatric inmates in its “euthanasia program” when Hitler expanded the concept of racial purity to make them instruments of his national policy of extermination for dissidents, scapegoats, targeted minorities and other undesirables.

The nightmare wholesale persecutions and pogroms of Nazi Germany, characterized by the sociopolitical devaluation of targeted populations, ended only after 9 million persons had been exterminated. They were tortured, confined, subjected to barbaric experiments, gassed, raped and shipped like cattle to concentration camps for the politically vilified and portrayed as defectives, dangerous instigators or merely members of the Communist party.

Russian psychiatry has also been a tool of the state for silencing dissident opinions and removing agitators from the public domain. Russian psychiatry has a long history of interpreting mental illness as divergent opinion and ostracizing or exiling critics of the state.

In response to the confinement and false labeling of dissident Zhores Medvedev prompted Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the most famous of Soviet human rights activists and agitators, to release a letter he wrote attacking “servile psychiatrists who break their Hippocratic oath and are able to describe concern for social problems as mental illness, who can declare a man insane for being too passionate or for his being too calm, for the brightness of his talents or for his lack of them.” Solzhenitsyn warned: “This could happen tomorrow to any one of us. If only this were the first case. But is has become fashionable, this way of settling accounts. It is time to understand that the imprisonment of sane persons madhouses because they minds of their own is spiritual murder, a variation on the gas chambers and even more cruel.”

Other countries implicated in charging political dissidents with mental illness include Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Greece, Iran, Laos, Peru, Portugal, Romania, South Africa, Uganda and Uruguay.

But these atrocities and miscarriages of justice couldn’t happen in America, the land of ostensible democracy, could they?

When President Woodrow Wilson was asked to intervene in favor of sufragettes who were languishing in a Washington, D.C. mental ward following a hunger strike, he refused to act because, he said, females who behave militantly in public must be unstable. In 1962, when war hero General Edwin Walker showed up at Oxford, Miss. to protest the admission of a black student, James Meredith, he was arrested and charged with several criminal violations.

Reluctant to take heat over the criminal prosecution of a bonafide war hero, Attorney General Robert Kennedy enlisted Federal Bureau of Prisons psychiatric chief Charles Smith to diagnose Walker with a mental disease without benefit of even a personal interview.

Raising questions about Walker’s stability enabled the Justice Department to opt out of prosecuting the federal charges and get Walker transferred to the Springfield Military Hospital for 60- to 90-day mental examination. Then the government recruited Manfred Buttmacher, a prominent forensic psychiatrist, as its chief psychiatric expert. Guttmacher, who never personally examined Walker, testified to valid grounds for allegations of mental illness and incompetency to stand trial.

Walker was ultimately held competent to stand trial because he was able to afford excellent legal representation, an attorney who called the commitment order “fantastic” and raised questions of political motives in avoiding a public prosecution. The tide of white majority racist opinion was also a factor in Walker’s liberation from the Justice Department’s “crazy-making” scenario.

The case against Walker went to trial, but a Mississippi grand jury refused to indict him.

American psychiatrists have also been known to meddle gratuitously with people’s reputations and personalities with no encouragement at all from the state, as when 2,417 psychiatrists responded to a “Fact” magazine poll concerning candidate Barry Goldwater’s mental stability. The majority of respondents, who had never met Goldwater personally or encountered him in a clinical setting, opined that he was unstable and afflicted with a personality disorder.

The partnership between psychiatry and the Central Intelligence Agency has generated bizarre experiments, including the use of drugs without informed consent to discover ways of breaking war prisoners under pressure.

The abuses began in 1943, when the Office of Strategic Services, the CIA’s precursor, used marijuana extracts on uninformed subjects to find out if the drug would be useful in interrogations of enemy agents.

The Navy used “truth drug” experiments to discover substances that would prevent America agents from being brainwashed by captors.

As recently as 1977, the CIA was interested in testing unwitting subjects to determine whether cocaine, mescaline, scopolamine and LSD could enhance susceptibility to hypnosis.

Then there was MKULTRA, a major drug-testing project authorized in 1954, to induce age regression under drugs and hypnosis of two Russian defectors.

An investigation by the Rockefeller Commission generated a 1975 report revealing broader implications of the relationship between psychiatric experiments and government agencies. The report stated, “The drug program was a part of a much larger CIA program to study possible means for controlling human behavior. Other studies explored the effects of radiation, electric shock, psychology, psychiatry, sociology and harassment substances.”

Military personnel used as human guinea pigs in such experiments actually died…Harold Blauer, a former Army colonel who was surreptitiously given a dose of mescaline, and Frank Olson, an Army biochemist who jumped to his death from the 10th floor of a New York hotel after being secretly dosed with LSD.

Documents have also surfaced outlining CIA enlistment of psychiatric consultants and clinicians to design ways of drugging important government officials and programming them to assassinate their heads of state. The seven boxes of documents relating to MKULTRA and discovered in 1977 dealt with financial payments to eighty-six institutions and universities whose mental health personnel were recruited to design tortures, brainwashing techniques and devices of punishment for the CIA.

In “Operation Climax,” the CIA operated controlled bordellos to observe subjects who were drugged and lured by prostitutes into bugged rooms for observation by CIA agents. In another experiment, 15 male children were selected by the National Health Service to be circumcised and studied for signs of castration fear at various stages of development.

The CIA also enlisted psychiatric aid to discredit former (“blown”) undercover agents by erasing their memories with drugs, brainwashing them with drugs and brutal treatment or even fabricating for them psychiatric histories that would result in the loss of their credibility. Stuffing individuals into mental hospitals and alleging their instability, unreliability and dangerousness is the surest way short of murder to ensure silence, for nobody ever believes a word they utter again.

A CIA agency doctor working on the “debriefing” projects actually suggested the possible use of prefrontal lobotomy to guarantee the “neutralization” of “blown” undercover operatives. When Uri Nosenko defected from Russia in 1963, CIA memoranda circulated for three years while he was held incommunicado in a concrete vault. The memoranda contained suggestions for neutralizing him, including “liquidation,” using drugs to render him incoherent and, predictably, committing him to a mental institution to invalidate any information he might choose to publicize or “plant” if he were a spy rather than a genuine defector.

The CIA also created a psychiatric diagnosis of psychopathology for a foreign dissident and CIA operative, whose government needed to silence opposition to its corruption and human rights abuses. The CIA placed him in a mental hospital, where he refused to comply with the regime and created further trouble, whereupon the CIA issued a memorandum suggesting brainwashing “might persuade him to be loyal to the CIA, and if that fails, disposal is perfectly O.k.”

Anyone who thinks a pogrom on the scale of the Holocaust is improbable in the United States might take a closer look at the relationship between the National Institute of Mental Health and the Department of Justice in designing intervention programs to curb juvenile delinquency, drug abuse and other societal ills by using “violence reduction” experiments and other psychiatric assaults, including chemotherapy, aversion “therapy” and behavior modification techniques.

In 1973, the NIMH and the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration of the Justice Department agreed formally to enlist mental health professionals as consultants and clinicians in state and local criminal justice agencies.

When plans to use psychosurgery at Vacaville Prison in California became public, the California legislature decided not to fund further experimental programs involving aversion therapy, in which the respiration of prisoners had been impeded by drugs to obtain their cooperation.

When Daniel Ellsberg leaked secret Defense Department papers to The New York Times in an effort to expose the corruption and profiteering that were giving the Vietnam War its greatest impetus, President Richard Nixon recruited Chuck Colson to disseminate damaging information about Ellsberg. White House consultant Howard Hunt was hired to discredit Ellsberg, and he ordered the CIA to unearth a psychological profile to destroy Ellsberg’s reputation.

Repeated CIA attempts to obtain confidential psychiatric records from Ellsberg’s analyst failed because the therapist stubbornly resisted CIA pressure to extract personal records…and because the CIA agents who broke into the therapist’s office bungled the job and were unable to access the private files.

Nine months after breaking into the office of Ellsberg’s therapist, Hunt led the Watergate break-in of Democratic headquarters in an attempt to secure confidential files and information Nixon might use to smear Democratic opponents or become privy to Democratic campaign strategies.

Martha Mitchell, wife of then-attorney general John Mitchell, attempted to alert the press to the covert activities of the Committee to Re-Elect the President, her husband’s involvement in the illegal activities and the president’s knowledge of them. But Ms. Mitchell was disbelieved by all but one member of the press, her personal friend Helen Thomas, because she was known to be alcoholic and eccentric, with both a history of heavy drinking and psychiatric “attentions.”

People close to Nixon kept feeding the press allegations that Ms. Mitchell was crazy and hysterical, that her allegations of a massive cover-up were symptoms of hysteria and paranoia.

She did well to be paranoid, because when the plumber’s break-in occurred at the Watergate Hotel, Ms. Mitchell was, upon her husband’s order, kidnaped by CIA agents and held incommunicado for four days to prevent her leaking more insider information to the press. When she attempted to call Helen Thomas, a CIA agent wrestled her against a window, which cut her hand. At the emergency room, she said she was a political prisoner but was not believed as her keepers explained to the doctors that she was hysterical and drunk.

The mainstream press had a field day with her psychiatric history, publishing reports of her untrustworthiness based on a nervous breakdown in her history. When the story of her detention was published, it was simply a caricature of the unreliable mental patient and known alcoholic acting out her paranoia and hysteria.

The government publicly deplores discrimination and stigma surrounding mental patients. Privately, government officials know the destruction of reputation and personal credibility attached to alleged mental illness and use psychiatric histories as weapons to devalue and discredit individuals who dare to criticize or expose its corruptions and bunglings.

“The ultimate political power a psychiatrist can possess is to determine who is qualified to lead and to rule,” says Jonas Robitcscher, J.D., M.D., in “The Powers of Psychiatry,” his 1980 expose of the psychiatric welterworld.

Thomas Eagleton was a nominee for the office of vice-president in 1972 when detractors leaked word to the press of his psychiatric history. The press reports revealed he had taken two courses of electroshock therapy and been three times an inmate of psychiatric facilities. Instantly, his credibility and viability as a candidate evaporated. He lost the support of his party and his running mate and was forced to withdraw from the running.

Daniel Ellsberg, Thomas Eagleton and Martha Mitchell, the dead who were given drugs secretly and experimentally, the Soviet defectors who were branded mentally ill and held in isolation, the 15 young boys castrated and studied for signs of anxiety after being mutililated without explanation or due process, the “blown” agents whose memories were erased with drugs and torture, the prisoners who were terrorized with breath-stopping “therapy” – all these are testimony that what happened in Nazi Germany and the Communist Soviet Union can and does happen here in America, the purported land of the brave and home of the free, the idealized paragon of practical democracy and respect for human rights and liberties.

Historically, although the Justice Department has been willing to incorporate bizarre psychiatric control strategies in its policies and penal issues, it has refused to investigate conditions and abysmal standards of care in the public institutions it supports with taxpayers dollars. When Attorney General Robert Kennedy was asked if civil rights legislation could be used to improved the status of state hospital patients, he repudiated federal responsibility had jurisdiction in the process of civil commitment and treatments used.

The Justice Department has, in the past decade, remanded oversight of state mental institutions to its Civil Rights Division, which has been significantly sluggish and practically invisible in bringing any pressure to bear on the perpetrators of psychiatric mind control and the incarcerations of harmless persons.

Private psychiatry and the American Psychiatric Association have passed the buck, ascribing responsibility for improving the state hospitals they run to legislatures and administrators, to anyone but the psychiatrists and ancillary staff exerting hands-on power over the inmates.

In the mid-1960s, the Kennedy administration, so alacritous in denying the federal government had jurisdiction in matters of psychiatric oppression, was instrumental in planning an outlandish mental health care system that would make the federal government a primary provider of mental health services.

When a joint resolution of the House and Senate in 1955 called for appointment of a joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health to plan new ways of mental health service delivery, the costs of housing and treating approximately 750,000 inmates was $1 billion a year. The culprit, Congress found, was custodial care without regenerative and rehabilitative services.

So, on the advice of some consulting psychiatrists who envisioned a therapeutic state primarily practicing talk therapy and giving quality time and care to its subjects, a grandiose plan was hatched to shut down and empty institutions by creating a network of 4,400 community clinics.

The planners, including members of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Psychological Association, the Department of Defence and the ubiquitous National ASSOCIATION for Mental, plus the Justice Department, came up with a $1.5 million feasibility study that recommended broadening the definition of mental illness, enlarging outpatient services and putting development of this monster system under the federal government’s umbrella.

The commission proposed blanketing the nation with this huge network and socializing the system to allow payments from Medicare and Medicaid. The 1961 blueprint gave the federal government control of the delivery system, thus placing psychiatric initiatives to control behavior with drugs and intimidation tactics squarely on the coattails of the state. Anyone who believes the Therapeutic State is a myth fabricated by a few paranoid dissidents and dissatisfied customers might look at this arrangement, its vaguely defined parameters and the $26 billion taxpayer dollars now being spent annually on housing and treating the psychiatrically labeled.

The commission called for a move toward deprofessionalized, impersonal, nondynamic care…that is, the use of outpatient commitment to keep indigent people and paroled criminals controlled by the use of depot drugs, heavy neuroleptics like Haldol and Prolixin administered intramuscularly once a month at the friendly neighborhood clinic.

The commission also wanted to recruit non-medical mental health workers…sociologists, rehab counselors and psychologists…to do the bulk of the work while attaching psychiatrists on staff for purposes of qualifying the care for Medicare, Medicaid and other third-party payments requiring the oversight of licensed doctors.

The commission also pushed for extending “services” into the schools through installation of mental health workers, counselors, consulting psychiatrists and guidance counselors.

Hefty portions of the money infusion were plowed into research, too, for purposes of examining genes for inherited criminal tendencies or what the psychiatrists who designed Nazi Germany’s pogroms termed “weak-mindedness.”

The espoused purpose of all this government sponsorship was to provide care and services for people in their own communities…requiring one clinic for every 50,000 citizens, or 4,400 community center at a cost of $9 billion annually in the mid1960s.

Additional sums of money were to be made available for residence homes, hostel facilities and long-term and acute-care hospitals. The commission recommended doubling expenditures in five years, tripling them in 10. Eventually, because of cost prohibitions, the federal government settled for 1,500 community clinics, and 650 have actually manifested, so the situation could have been much messier.

Funds were to be hijacked from county, town, municipal, state and federal tax dollars. Instead of responding to citizen concerns by conducting some simple and relatively inexpensive surveys and investigations of the conditions in existing acute- and long-term facilities, the federal government embarked in the mid-1960s on a gargantuan spending spree for mental health care and began to include alcohol and drug use, the aberrant behavior or learning problems of school children and the misfortunes of the homeless and indigent in the categories of behavior perceived by psychiatrists as mental illness.

The Kennedy administration mental health program had…and has had and is having…far-reaching effects on society, its values, its perceptions, its behaviors and its use (or abrogation) of human potential. Establishment of the centers resulted in increased state power to control behavior and recruit young children early on into the ranks of psychiatry’s assembly line of permanent, chronic, career mental patients. Suddenly in the 1960s, children perceived as misbehavers by their teachers or parents or both, were stuffed en masse into sequestered classes, separated from the mainstream and labeled emotionally impaired or learning disabled. Others were sucked into the psychiatric system on the recommendations of teachers and school guidance personnel who perceived them as “hyperactive” or in need of behavioral control on locked wards or with Ritalin, a stunning drug that calms children but stifles their creativity.

Great quantities of drugs are dispensed through this ostensibly benign and helpful community network of mind and behavior control facilities, and many of the psychiatrists on staff are paid for full-time services even though they actually devote most of their attention and presence to their private, paying patients, who may be shelling out as much as $250 per one-hour session for psychotherapy while the community center users are forced to swallow radical drugs about whose effects the center clients are never informed.

Many of the psychiatrists don’t even speak intelligible English but work at the clinics and acute-care facilities because the government’s gravy-train makes place for them whether they are qualified or able to communicate or not. Some centers even draft medical students to conduct therapy, contrary to the rules of insurance companies being defrauded in this giant government boondoggle aimed at bringing help (i.e., mind and behavior control through drugs and primitive torture conditions) to so-called mental health clients, who are remanded to the centers in astounding numbers by court orders.

The major benefits of this state-created Leviathan accrue to the middle-class and upper-middle class workers who staff and supervise the community centers and not the the patients herded or legally coerced into the systemic care like so many cattle through a tic-dip canal.

A 1974 report by the Nader Study Group found fatal flaws in the giant government initiative to cure America of its emotional and life problems through mind and behavior control.

The programs, the report says were started in response to “the scandalous degeneration” of state hospitals but have slighted the small minority of people who actually could benefit from some decent medical attention by placing “an ever-greater number of categories of ‘sick’ people and ‘behavioral problems’ within the province of mental health care…The growing tendency to attach medical labels to a range of social problems enhances the possibility that mental health professionals will by used to legitimize subtle methods of control and retribution by making them appear to be instruments of treatment.”

The arrangement creates more and more patients dependent on mind-altering drugs and counted in the ranks of chronic, career mental patients, and the relatively low costs of the substandard and coercive services entice into the system many people who might otherwise have used their own initiative to solve their own problems in life. Since counselors have been trained to perceive all mental patients as incapable of anything but menial work, or as incompetent to do anything but collect disability and welfare payments from the state, establishment of the clinics has surely swelled the welfare rolls to an all-time high while bringing huge profits, scarcely balanced out by the taxpayers’ investments, to the doctors and staff members of these government-sponsored McClinics made possible by Thorazine, Haldol and Big Brother’s interventions in the private lives and personal problems of its gullible or unwilling victims.

Now the welfare program runs under the auspices of the Social Security Administration, and mental health counselors and social workers promiscuously and indiscriminately tend to assist anyone with a psychiatric label to sign up for Social Security Income and supported housing, creating further drains on the national economy by depriving society of taxpaying workers who pull their own weight in a free society amenable to equal opportunity and employment of qualified individuals regardless of race, religion, creed or disability. Bushwa.

The community centers extend tentacles in all aspects of the personal lives of clients, both unwilling and voluntary. Social workers may suggest that spouses divorce, that parents prosecute their children in delinquency hearings, that clients persist in cultivating toxic relationships, that children be removed from their parents’ care on the basis of hearsay or a mental illness diagnosis. Psychiatrists may force clients onto mental wards or coerce them by legal means and threats to take noxious drugs or submit to unwanted talk or somatic therapies or even ECT.

One sinister recommendation from the commission formed to establish the community centers is a proposal to administer psychological tests to all children through the public schools to allow further sequestration of children deemed, reliably or not, to be emotionally or behaviorally abnormal.

The commission report also recommends programs aimed at changing the public’s attitude toward psychiatrically labeled persons, although few have manifested. It is questionable whether a system that refuses to give its own “clients” representation on boards and commissions planning policy and providing oversight will voluntarily embark on media campaigns to reverse the devastating effects of stigma on the careers, opportunities and stability of the very people the system itself excludes, derides and ignores.

Fortunately, a mounting national debt and the takeover of Congress and many state legislatures by a conservative Republican regime has meant cutbacks in many of the commission’s grand designs and outrageously intrusive proposals, Even so, the initiatives already undertaken imply the government is responsible for the conformity of its citizens as well as their emotional well-being. Establishment of so much government intervention in the lives of citizens opens the possibilities of massive invasions of privacy and misuse of computerized information as more and patients are added to the rolls of the chronic, career recipients of mental health and SSI services.

On a materialistic level, the opportunity for expansion of mental health interventions and intrusions into the private lives of Americans provide avenues for profiteering, exploitation and mind control on a scale hitherto undreamed of even by proponents of unwanted, unsought and involuntary meddlings in the personal lives of human beings subjected to psychiatry’s arbitration of sanity for the general populace.

Dissident psychiatrists like Thomas Szasz, Peter Breggin and Jeffrey Schaler continue to warn against allowing psychiatric power further ingress into the domain of public policy and government influence. Again and again, these tireless crusaders for liberty and autonomy plead in tracts, in books, in radio broadcasts and public appearances for separation of psychiatry and the state; for placing psychiatry on an equal footing with any other service by making it private, contractual, a matter of personal choice; for removing from psychiatry the extraordinary power to predict dangerousness like gypsy fortunetellers and lock away its clients as though submitting papers to a judge who never meets the client were anything but a thin parody of due process and a mockery of justice.

Breggin, Szasz and Schaler have forfeited their authority to have individuals incarcerated and to force anyone into involuntary treatment. They publicly urge other psychiatrist to follow suit.

More psychiatrists have recently split from the mainstream ranks to criticize psychiatric abuses and misuses of power. Some, like Robert Fancher and Robitscher, cannot quite surrender their authority to lock people away but vociferously urge their colleagues to examine the socioeconomic consequences of labeling, drugging, shocking and sequestering harmless persons in the name of help. Some, like Seth Farber, author of Madness, Heresy and the Rumor of Angels: The Revolt Against the Mental Health System, have renounced their power to confine and define and are strenuously issuing public pleas for abrogation of extraordinary psychiatric powers and the separation of the state and psychiatry.

The dissidents have learned from history, perhaps, what atrocities and miscarriages of justice, what destruction and ruin can follow when interest groups with dogma and influence wield the powers of government in policy decisions, bureaucracy building, social intrusions and flagrant profiteering.

The Criteria of What Works and for Whom
 Part II


Current modes of care, including incarceration, forced drugging, the use of restraints and forced electroshock, are dehumanizing and stigmatizing, cutting off psychiatrically labeled person from community support by alleging they are dangerous and in need of control, rendering them quasi-criminals.

In “The Dinosaur Man:Tales of Madness and Enchantment from the Back Ward,” psychologist Susan Baur discovers a touching humanity in imprisoned old men confined to the obscurity of locked wards at the institution where she is employed. She befriends one of them who shows her his visions of dinosaur families browsing the green grass of a valley, inventing himself as the child of a brontosaurus mother and a member of a gentle brontosaurus society. Baur discovers a common thread of abuse, overcontrol and emotional abandonment in the early histories of these men labeled chronically psychotic and relegated to the status of society’s castaways, unheeded and unknown.

Baur believes delusions and hallucinatory thinking become defenses against processing the pain of early childhood emotional and physical abuse. The hospital setting, with its infantilizing rituals and restrictions on liberty, can only recreate the hostile early experiences and prevent breakthroughs. Baur quotes Emily Dickinson, who described the emotional defenses against abuse this way: “There is a pain so utter, it swallows distance up/Then covers abyss with a trance so memory can step/Around…across…upon it, as one within a swoon/Goes safely where an open eye/Would drop him bone by bone.”

Baur’s approach is the practice of presence and active listening to find “useable past memories” and gently guide the fragmented psyche toward full identity by linking positive past experience with “present useable memories.” She also advocates the therapists as assistive presence, not as imposer of reality or enforcer of conformity. Finding present useable memories in the confined chaos and mindless regimens of a loony bin, she suggests, is problematic.

The aim is not to squash imagination or capacity for fantasy but to aid people in recognizing their metaphors, like belonging to dinosaur families, as personal symbols of their unmet needs or most repressed wishes. While these metaphors may seem alarming to those unable or unwilling to communicate symbolically, they have their own raison d’etre in the minds of people whose personalities were early crushed and mangled by damaging family dynamics. Baur considered herself privileged when an obscure old man on a locked ward confided to her his deepest wishes to belong to a family and a society of peaceful, if alien, creatures with simple needs and desires.

Only when therapists believe admission to the private worlds of people in their care is a privilege, not a right, will psychiatry get it right at last. Only when therapists believe the imagination is a phenomenon to respect, nurture and MUTUALLY explore, an undiscovered country, a rich territory of personal meanings integral to the identity of their patients and not a disease symptom to be eliminated and controlled, will psychiatry get it right at last.

Only when the therapist and client share experiences and insights in the context of trust, mutual respect and an attitude of openness to learning from each other can psychiatry begin to offer true help by recognizing the value and humanity of every human being, no matter how odd his/her surface appearances may seem.

Hannah Green’s autobiographical novel “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” details the success of psychiatrist Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, who worked Green’s fantasy world and its characters into the therapy, affirming the fantasies as a product of Green’s own barely articulated pain and rich creativity, as well.

Fromm-Reichmann empowered her client by validating an awesomely rational, structured inner world of demons and angels, giving Green the freedom and choice to shape the contents of her own imagination, freeing her from subservience to her own imagination by taking seriously the voices, visions and events Green shared. Ultimately, by sharing her inner world with a trusted friend who also happened to be a therapist, Green was able to begin correlating her powerful fantasies with her actual experiences, learning to distinguish between the fantasy and the reality. Fromm-Reichmann exerted no force, pushed no drugs, felt no fear, imposed no alienness on Green. She gave credence, acceptance and listening presence, giving Green opportunities to separate the mythic defenses of her own mind from the life events and conditions her fantasies actually paralleled.

“We may take the rationalistic psychiatrist’s behavior as an allegory of our modern age,” says May. “When we in the 20th century are so concerned about proving that our technical reason is right and we wipe away in one fell swoop the ‘silliness’ of myths, we also rob our own souls and we threaten to destroy our society as part of the same deteriorization.”

Sir Peter Madawar, quoted in Hans Eysenck’s “Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire”, mourns the failure of psychoanalysis alone to shore up the ruins of a fragmented, impoverished and disintegrating culture, which is creating more fragmented, impoverished and disintegrating people…aided and abetted by the medical model of so-called mental illness.

“No better theory can be erected on its ruins, which will remain forever one of the saddest and strangest of all landmarks in the history of 20th century thought,” Medawar declares.

Medawar is both right and wrong. While no better theory can be manufactured, a paradigm of praxis by recognition of common humanity and the value of individuals and their inner lives contains the seeds of hope, regeneration and reconstruction. Compassionate and respectful care in the context of mutual trust is both the baby and the bathwater.

Going beyond the medical model means acknowledging there is no magic pill. To subdue imagination with heavy neuroleptics and apply coercion to force conformity can only exacerbate the brokenness and suffering of people who need the support of community acceptance, heedful presence, affirmation, wise guidance, compassionate response and open-ended choices to recover – or recognize for the first time – their innate worth as members of the human species.

Medicine may be an adjunct to that process, and the therapist’s first choice, in the interests of our common humanity, should be the mildest one possible. Harsh forced treatment with dreadful effects can abort or impede the task of building or discovering an integrated identity. Coercive tactics can only erode the trust and mutual communication necessary for rebuilding both shattered lives and viable communities.

Locked wards, restraints, punitive measures, threats, isolation rooms, ignorance of the patient as a personality with hopes and abilities, negation of the inner life…these can only cause misery, failure, frustration, fear and indignity.

The therapist’s task is not to doom individuals to lifetimes of failure and dysfunction but to nurture and guide the dawning light of consciousness, to help create a useable present that can be linked to a useable past. Loony bins can never accomplish the task.

The therapist’s task is not to snuff the imagination with harsh drugs but to validate its creative potentials and guide its efforts toward cogency. Restraints and electroshock cannot accomplish the task.

The therapist’s task is assisting the distressed individual to grow and develop, not to adjust, obey, comply and conform. Force and seclusion cannot accomplish the task.

The therapist’s task is helping the individual to build emotional bridges spanning the gap between imagination and society’s demands, not to punish or condemn brokenness. Ghettoization and absolute judgments cannot accomplish the task.

The therapist’s task is to be ancillary mind, not demigod. Coercion is destructive to human growth and development, which is an ongoing and lifelong process needing the support and encouragement of community, which psychiatry eliminates through fraud, force and brainwashing strategies.

Common humanity and basic decency cry out for alternatives to the oppression, destruction, broad social control and force currently masquerading as somatic and psycho-therapies. When hurt, confused people reaching for full identity are locked up, overdrugged, criminalized and stigmatized, the system is compounding emotional stress by undermining their very personhood. The human personality is dynamic, not static. Mainstream psychiatry with its labels, coercions and absolute judgments denies personal strength and abilities, devastates hopes for the future by systemically paralyzing and further fragmenting its alleged beneficiaries. To pretend that such barbarity is help is criminal fraud.

When the focus of treatment is entrenchment of a self-serving status quo rather than the care, nurture and guidance and development of broken people, the time for a new paradigm is long overdue.

Mainstream psychiatry, by its backwards fight to preserve economic investment in perpetual fragmentation, is aborting human growth and development. There is a black evil inherent in declaring harmlessly eccentric individuals diseased, irreparably damaged and unfit for social inclusion, dooming them to indigence and separation from life’s mainstream, pronouncing them unfit to participate in the vital processes of life itself.

The disease model divorced from human considerations of life situations and personality dynamics sustains the implication that individuals in treatment are inferior and ensures society’s perceptions of them as inferior.

“The cogs grind on, the wheels turn and the mental health machine races toward the abyss as if to its own salvation,” Farber says. “We are not dealing with an ontological entity but with an interpretation of behavior…that serves the interest of the psychiatric establishment and reassures those who worship at the altar of modern medicine that we can trust the doctors to save us from the problems engendered by a social order that is disintegrating.”

Primitive societies valued the “psychotic” experience and revered those who sought it as spiritually enlightened leaders whose experience contributed to the entire tribal ethos, passed down into the social fabric as legends and myths that shaped the moral sense and made bearable the unfathomable mystery contained in consciousness and existence itself.

Anthropologists have demonstrated that the consciousness crisis of the future shaman, or wise person, is phenomenologically and behaviorally indistinguishable from what psychiatry calls psychosis, as are the practices of glossolalia and agitated trance states of Pentecostals and other religious denominations.

In a condemnatory, materialistic, Puritan-Calvinist culture without referential guides for comprehending and shaping such experience, the inevitable result is intensification and prolongation of suffering.

The disease model, divorced from acknowledgment of common humanity and crisis as a growth opportunity, denies the individual’s quest for meaning, community-building and unfolding personal identity. If this model prevails, the human species is indeed decreeing its own extinction by extinguishing the life force itself.

“It (the medical model) interprets the suffering of individuals who seek psychiatric help as a manifestation of their alleged worthlessness and inferiority,” Farber says.

In “The Politics of Experience,” dissident psychiatrist R.D. Laing says madness need not be confined to existential death and breakdown but may be a signal of liberation, breakthrough and renewal.

Certainly madness in our day is a wake-up call for the destructiveness, bigotry, institutional persecutions and oppressions, mass xeonphobias and cultural insularities of a society undergoing its own biogenetic crisis.

“Our society may itself have become biologically dysfunctional,” Laing suggests, and psychosis may an expression of awareness, “of alienation from an impossible world.”

“In a society as destructive as our own, going mad may be an adaptive response. It may be that those who do not go mad are less aware,” Laing says, echoing Hannah Green and others who are calling for recognition of the both the mythic dimensions of imagination and for a sane respect for differences among human beings.

Who benefits from the institutional imposition of conformity on society? Who benefits from the extraordinary power to lock away persons who have committed no crimes and have no histories of violence? Who benefits from the pathologization of behavior? Who benefits by appropriating power to define what is and is not normal behavior? Who benefits by assigning psychiatric labels to millions of people and then shuffling them into the welfare system that pays billions of insurance tax dollars to psychiatric clinics?

What is working for psychiatry, the systemic persecution and devaluation of sensitive people, may not be, after all, in the best interests of its subjects or of society at large.


  1. […] Psychiatry Used as the Weapon « Battlefield America […]

  2. In the moment I found in a description of “passive aggressive” the finger pointed towards those jealous of the more wealthy and successful, I recognised the game.

    I found that always tragic that all those nouveaux “super riches” cant “afford” truly honest therapist’s helping them out of their self created dehumanised misery. But on the other side, psychopaths rarely consider therapy, beside those entertainments pretending to be cures they use to confirm their driven madness as Reality”.

    Looking at all those preachers of “you can do it bounty if you buy my book” it reminds me that headless chicken tends to run fast forwards too.But is THIS life?

  3. Michael says:

    yES! Support the separation of psychiatry and state. Eliminate forced treatment and commitments.

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