Tag Archives: Freud

If You’re Crazy, You’re Normal

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?

 

Emotional Honesty

My father insisted that men were rational, women emotional, and therefore, women were irrational and inferior to men.  He liked to prove his point by provoking his wife and daughters into a rage, at which time he would sit back and smirk. I learned from his example that emotional expression showed weakness and inferiority, so hid or denied my emotions until I finally realized he was wrong.  Over time, I discovered that much of the maturation process involves un-learning beliefs and attitudes picked up almost by osmosis from early conditioning.

My father was not a bad guy, and he was probably rather typical of his generation.  Untold generations of men and women throughout history have believed and perpetrated the idea that intellect is superior to and at odds with emotion, yet this is fallacy.  The way the brain is wired, all sensory input travels through the pain (thalamus) and emotional (limbic) centers before reaching the frontal cortex, where intellectuality resides.  This implies that even the most intellectual and rational thinking is influenced by emotion.  What we choose to focus on, our interests, our skills, are all based on intent or desire, and their emotional significance to us.

Emotion gets a bad rap because it is associated with lack of control, as in the emotions of anger or fear.  But denial of emotion makes a person particularly susceptible to being manipulated by it, a major tactic used by advertisers and propagandists.  Targeting people’s insecurities, such as feelings of inadequacy or vulnerability, makes them more suggestible and more likely to buy the product or agenda being promoted.

The artificial split between emotion and reason is culturally created at an early age, when children are told what they “should” or “shouldn’t” feel.  The words “should” and “feel” do not go together.  Feelings are.  While it may be improper to act on certain feelings, to deny their existence only leads to repression, distortion, and dishonesty.   If allowed to run their course, emotions generally evolve into something else.

The greatest value of psychotherapy is that it helps people find words for their feelings.  A diary or journal can serve the same purpose.  The words help bridge the gap between emotions and intellect, by making the feelings conscious and less threatening.

Ideally, emotion and intellect work together to guide thinking and behavior, but for this to happen, emotional honesty is crucial.  Some experts claim addiction is a disease of lying.  A more fundamental explanation is based on the Freudian model describing the stages of psychosexual development.  In the anal stage, which occurs around two years old, the child begins to learn self-control, symbolized by potty training.  Here power-struggles with the parent can begin, as the child learns boundaries and the meaning of the word “no.”  This phase is thus termed the “terrible twos” because of the child’s resistance to new structure and boundaries.  Successful mastery of this phase allows the child to develop healthy attitudes towards authority.  If this phase is not successfully negotiated, the child may develop life-long issues with authority.  In an alcoholic or addict, this shows in the see-saw between overly controlled versus out-of-control behavior, as internalized authority struggles with the inner child in a contest for power over the will.

This is why one of the maxims of addiction recovery emphasizes changing the concept of “power over” to “power to,” in which the individual harmonizes the opposing forces to achieve balance.

There’s a mistaken belief that emotional honesty must be rude, crude, or uncivil.  I’ve had people insist that people want you to lie to them.  Some believe in telling people what they think  the other person wants to hear.  I disagree and claim that tactful honesty is actually a sign of respect.

This is another benefit of psychotherapy or of journaling.  Having the words for feelings provides a broader range of tools for communication, and allows for reasonable expression of emotion in a rational manner.

 

 

Symbols and Psychiatry

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Corn snake, kco051316

Ten years ago this month, I had just retired my medical and DEA licenses, in search of better ways to inspire people regarding the mind and its potential.  A long-time student of symbolism, I write daily in my journal and regularly include references to astrology, mythology, religion, dreams, and other symbolic languages.  These universal concepts fall loosely into Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s idea of a “collective unconscious” and of “archetypes.”  As most people probably know, Jung was a protege of Sigmund Freud, father of modern psychiatry, whose The Interpretation of Dreams, published in 1900, rocked the scientific world and initiated the field of psychiatry and psychoanalysis.

The following excerpts from my November, 2007 diary show how I play around with symbolism to help develop a deeper appreciation for everyday life.

ON PREDICTIONS AND FREE WILL

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 – I believe if the student fails, the teacher fails more, because the teacher is paid to teach.  The student (ideally), pays to learn.  This is why I’ve never believed in tenure and probably why I don’t believe in marriage or other chains on the future.  As an astrologer, I don’t believe in predictions either, but astrologers as a group would disown me for saying this.  They thrive on making predictions, and people expect them to do it, but no one can say that predictions are consistent with free will.

You have to be a free thinker to understand how limiting predictions are.

This moment, as I sit in my recliner on this beautiful sunny day, overlooking vast expanses of marsh and blue sky, I have access to all time, depending on my focus.  It can come as dream, memory, fantasy, association, feeling, impression, dimly or readily perceived.  A book once read is forever a part of my experience, because I have invested the personal effort to make it so.  A book once written is part of everyone’s experience, whether direct or indirect, as knowledge brought through on the verbal place is “thicker” and more physical than the more ethereal realm of imagination.  How can I know before I read a book how it will change my life?

PENELOPE AND UNDOING

Thursday, November 22, 2007 – I’m approaching my multiple goals in piecemeal fashion.  When everything seems to be at beginning stages, as now, or beyond my capabilities, I feel frustrated and at odds with myself.  Re-doing things makes me feel like Penelope, Odysseus’ wife in The Odyssey of Homer, who undid her father-in-law’s shroud every evening to avoid having to marry any of the moochers who invaded her home as soon as Odysseus stayed gone too long.

I used to think Penelope was a sap, but undoing is a matter of perception, and if you enjoy the weaving and undoing for its own sake, it is no longer a waste of time.  Here we have the clash of the results-oriented and the process-oriented approach.  Also apparent is the stated vs. actual purpose.  Penelope stated she wanted a shroud.  She actually wanted to stall for time, so the actual purpose was met.

She lived in a time when women were possessions, and we have that subversive belief still, although no one admits it.  Marriage is a testament to the people-ownership concept.  While presumably it’s a mutual ownership, no one expects men to be as faithful as women, although this is a generalization and less true than in the past.  In the great sexual shuffling of today, men and women seem equally unfaithful.

Probably few perceive the ownership attitude as clearly as I, the target of so many who want to own by any means available.  Insurance companies, government, bankers, stockbrokers, businessmen, acquaintances, friends, family, partners–all want an advantage and will look for or create excuses to cross the line of equality, move in and take over.

Am I bitter and cynical?  Yes.  I don’t like feeling this way, knowing it only hurts me to have this attitude.  Like it or not, I am a herald, of sorts, meaning I search restlessly for higher and more comfortable ground, especially mentally.  Those who would control will seek first to control the mind.

I can’t control my own mind, nor do I want to.  I like its free ranging ability and thrive on the little lessons obtained from every facet of my life.

How would I know about undoing if I did not live it, feel the emotions associated, know the practice from mythology and the term from psychiatry?

Unraveling a sweater – which I’ve already done once with this one because I didn’t like the stitch – brings many facets into play.

How would someone else handle it?  Who knows?  Most people would not attempt to knit a sweater at all, I suspect, and this is my contention with “most people.”

Nor will “most people” appreciate the value of the process as a means of showing how to solve problems, because this is my real purpose.  Rather than start over, I can adapt mid-sweater and potentially turn a mistake into a success.

SNAKES IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN

Monday, November 26, 2007 – I’ve retired my medical license to become a New Age Profit . . . er . . . Prophet, for the Spirit of Capitalism.

I cut my fangs on Telluride politics and other stories from the Serpents of the Modern Caduceus.  What if there were two serpents in the Garden of Eden, and they ran the interlopers out, better to rest in peace without getting trampled?  Then they can bask in the sun of the Garden, eating of their favorite fruit, the apples from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Now that Adam and Even have departed in search of something better, the wise snakes may rest assured the tree won’t be cut down to build a house, to hold squealing brats who like to torture snakes for fun.  Minimal risk of getting eaten for supper or skinned for belts and purses.  Why, now that God has expelled these demons from Heaven, the snakes are ecstatic.

Unfortunately, the Garden of Eden isn’t quite as lively as when the humans were around.  They provided entertainment, if only by making God mad.  We snakes can make God mad without even trying.  All we had to do was show him how dumb his latest invention was, and he threw them out and has been moping around ever since, feeling guilty about over-reacting.  Now, look at the mess man has made of his lives.

All we said was “Wise up.”  We didn’t say do it the hard way.  No.  That was Adam’s choice, to do it the hard way.

We snakes wise up the easy way.  When our skins get too small, we shed them and slither on out to greater dimensions of girth and wisdom.

Yes, snakes are hated and feared, because we are so smart.  We see life from the ground up, and we know where our support and strength lie.  Our raw intelligence knows its own turf and doesn’t seek to intrude on that of others.  Snakes don’t go looking for trouble, unless it’s entertaining trouble that enhances our wisdom and gets a potential threat redirected into other dimensions, like hell on earth.