I read some Psychiatric News. It is all “Rah, rah, psychiatry,” bragging about the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA’s) affiliations with universities, the government, and even the UN. Psychiatrists are “reaching out” to hitherto unidentified depressed women in Appalachia by using barely trained high school grads to help bring these women into treatment. Psychiatry (the APA) is congratulating itself for recognizing the link between poverty, lack of education, and other factors everyone recognizes—as well as stigma—to normalize mental illness by diagnosing everyone.
Meanwhile, I heard a snippet in the car, on NPR, in which they were questioning the belief that genius and insanity go hand in hand. Their conclusion was you don’t have to be crazy to be smart, but 47% of Americans have some kind of mental disorder at some point in their lives.
It occurs to me the definitions of mental disorders are so vague that no one—even and maybe especially psychiatrists—knows what they are talking about. For instance, President Trump has been diagnosed by the media and public opinion as a narcissist, but what is a narcissist? Is that a character definition or merely a trait, present in greater or lesser degree in all of us?
In modern parlance and for insurance purposes, the psychiatric diagnosis has come to define the person, assuming a significance far beyond its intrinsic validity. Psychiatric diagnosis is no better or worse than any label, but it has the sociological power of judgment pronounced by the priests of the “health care industry,” the scientific voo-doo masters of potions and incantations empowered to deliver—not relief—but diagnosis and treatment. This promises without promising and hints that failure to feel relief is the fault of the recipient, and by extension, the society that creates poverty and ignorance.
That psychiatry is aligning itself with other institutions, rather than questioning the institutional contributors to poverty and lack of education, seems misguided.
The wave of public consciousness seems to follow the institutional lead, while doubting its sincerity. Views from outside the mental health professions, on the mental health professions, seem cynical but grudgingly accepting that there may be special knowledge perceived only by a select few.
It appears Freud has been dismissed by the public and by the psychiatric establishment, yet I admire Freud’s insights and how he described tendencies of human nature, such as projection, transference, and their counter-balances, like projective identification and counter-transference. Transitional objects, which today has relevance with regard to medications. Freud’s stages of psychosexual development have utility, even now, even if they have not been formally incorporated in to the official DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). Masochism and sadism. Oral and anal fixations.
Psychiatry stands on Freud’s shoulders and kicks at his head. Where is the interest in dreams? Carl Jung claimed he split with Freud over the spiritual element in human nature, and more specifically, over psychic phenomena.
I believe that to recognize only material reality as valid is the claim and error of science as we know and understand it. Still, astrophysics is largely speculative and unprovable, except in indirect or limited sways. What do particle accelerators show about the nature of the universe? What relevance does that have to life?
If you want to read some really horrifying fiction, read the DSM-5 …
Excellent points in this post! Though I’m no expert I have noticed the “blame the victim” approach particularly where “treatments” fail to bring relief.
How can any one of us be sane in a world gone mad?
My point, too.
Couldn’t agree more! I believe psychiatry and psychology should be considered multidisciplinary fields rather than trying to fit into the confines of science and evidence-based medicine. Science needs the humanities and the humanities need science. Freud and Jung were operating from that humanities-science hybrid perspective and came up with some amazing insights and ideas, now psychology defines it’s self as strictly a social science almost forgetting it’s broader history. I might write a post about this on my blog. Thanks for the inspiration. I always enjoy reading your posts as it’s so refreshing when you come across people with similar points of view. 🙂
Thank you. I enjoy your posts, too and appreciate any corroboration from like-minded thinkers. I’m still trying to get my mind around what’s consdered “science” and whether it serves anyone to assign it such a god-like status. Reading a biography of Albert Einstein now. While he was an amazing man in some ways, he believed in absolutes and determinism, something I believe limits human potential.
Absolutes cannot exist in duality. Determinism is easily tested and will fail the test every time unless the proponents of determinism cheat, i.e., no matter the outcome they will claim it was predetermined. Unfortunately “faith” is not limited to religion; there’s a lot of it in science and philosophy. Sometimes it’s tradition, sometimes tenure.
You’ve said a mouthful, and I hope to elaborate on the idea of duality in a coming blog. It interests me that Einstein wanted absolutes and predictability, so could never accept quantum mechanics, with its “uncertainty principle.” Heisenberg and others insisted it’s impossible to predict an isolated event with certainty, only the probability that a certain event will occur.
At the risk of overshooting my smarts, I think that “Life” can only function and spread through uncertainty. Make it all predictable, make everything absolute and perfect and what have you got? Total entropy. Changelessness. Another word for that state is death. I’m a “change agent” by nature and conviction but when I’m accused of presenting a Utopia for Earth I say, ‘The last thing I want is perfection. I just want better.’ Once we accept the challenge to bettering ourselves, our minds, our environment, both natural and social, our humanity, we enter into an infinite process. We don’t want to end it, we want to make it infinite in scope. Any “perfection” can only be someone’s idea of perfection: absolute dictatorship, the prerogative of God, since no one could ever agree on what perfection must consist of. Perfection properly understood is an absolute and any absolute equals death. From my perspective being ex-religious, God can only be a God of death. No one should be surprised at the violence of organized religion; the struggle to establish one God as the Absolute. That can only happen when everything alive and living is destroyed, c.f., Revelation.
We’re in complete accord about the stagnation of perfection. Whose idea of perfection, anyway? Have you ever read any of the Seth series by Jane Roberts? Seth says the same thing about perfection. He also discusses “probable realities” and the spontaneity of the cosmos and all its parts.
Yes Katharine, I have read some of the Seth material, though that was in my New Age days, several decades ago. Part of the ‘fuel’ I used to get me this far on the path I’ve chosen. Thanks for reminding me, there are so many ideas, so many people I am thankful for encountering and would express my personal thanks to if it were possible. Maybe someday we’ll just have a huge surprise party!