It is hell to hold our parents responsible for harming us. When we were little children, holding them responsible would have gotten us rejected, which for a child is tantamount to a death sentence. Yet if we don’t hold them responsible, and don’t ultimately heal the emotional wounds they caused us, then we remain emotional children forever—and still retain the terror of being rejected by them. This can be a fear worse than death. As such, many people use unconscious mental techniques to avoid holding their abusive parents responsible. Here are seven of these techniques:
1) Blame intergenerational trauma
Although there is no doubt that traumatic patterns get passed on through the generations, the mechanism for the transmission of intergenerational trauma is child abuse, that is, parents replicating their own childhood traumas on their children. Continue reading →
While recently reading a book about living a more healthy, green, organically-oriented lifestyle, I found myself struck by the idea that I was reading an instruction guide on how to live more snugly in a bubble separated from nature: separated from the natural world and all the toxins and garbage that we’ve dumped into it. Ironically, this book also extolled the virtues of spending time in nature, though its supposedly nature-loving author failed to acknowledge how he (and most of us) lived under completely different rules from the wildlife of nature. The animals of nature, after all, live outside the bubble. Continue reading →
“The Education of Little Tree” is one of my favorite novels. Published in 1976, it is a poignant and tender tale of an orphaned part-Cherokee boy named Little Tree who is raised by his half-Cherokee grandfather and full-Cherokee grandmother in the mountains of North Carolina during Prohibition. It is also one of the most anti-racist books I have read. Yet its author, Asa Earl Carter, who published it under the pen name of Forrest Carter to hide his identity, had about as racist a history as anyone in 20th century American history. He was a violent Ku Klux Klan leader, an outspoken segregationist and anti-Semite, and a speechwriter and politician who ran (and lost) in his last election, for governor of Alabama in 1970, on a racist platform. This is, to say the least, a major curiosity.
The New York Times, which outed Carter for his real identity, denounced him and labeled his book a sham that exploits Native Americans. Continue reading →
Hi everyone! I haven’t written a blog post in forever — over a year-and-a-half. My apologies! So, in the last couple of years I’ve been playing a lot more music, and some months ago I got around to recording a whole bunch of original songs, some new and some old. Some I recorded on more professional equipment, and others spontaneously with the camera on my computer. Some are a little long, some shorter. One is completely in Polish. Another is sung by my friend Rebecca Stabile (I sing harmony on it). Most are gentle and direct, though at least one that I’ve shared publicly so far (“Stupid People Have Children”) seems to annoy a significant percentage of people who have watched it. Please skip it if you think it’ll only put you in a bad mood! Meanwhile, here they are. (P.S. I included a video here called the “Godfather Video Game.” I didn’t write that music but I did all the rest, and oh it was fun. P.P.S. I will be putting out more songs soon.)
For those interested, I just put up a new essay on the blog “Mad in America”, titled “Is My Therapist Good or Not?“. It was a risk for me to place this essay there, because some of the essay’s ideas, such as a good therapist wouldn’t have children and wouldn’t preach forgiveness of parents, are not in synch with conventional thinking. I assumed these ideas would meet with backlash from more conventional readers, and from the comments of the first few hours, this has proven to be the case. I am finding responding to be an interesting experience. It gets me thinking – and offers me a chance to engage in dialogue.
I am full of fear about my new life. I am planning, with my friend Fred Timm, to start a not-for-profit organization called Conscious Community — a hub, online and also in-person, for people interested in and dedicated to becoming more conscious. This is the first time I have spoken publicly about this group. We have been working hard on formulating its principles for some time and it’s almost ready to go. I don’t want to say much more about it right now, beyond that its ideas are in synch with the values I have been espousing for the last ten or so years.
In framing this essay, I’d like to ask myself some questions about my fear. Sometimes I find interviewing myself to be quite helpful. So here goes.Continue reading →
Child mortality has been dropping around the word for decades, but what about the mortality rate of the inner child? From what I have observed, the inner child of most people, even in developed countries, gets stuck in a state of suspended animation forever, such that most people die inwardly before they even become adults. Their emotional traumas overcome them and snuff out their spirit. Their family systems convert their minds into deadness. They lose their creativity and wildness, they block out the emotional reality of their childhoods, and they become automatons. They survive in order to live for comfort, happiness, and emotional camouflage. They become the norm. Continue reading →
For all interested in Open Dialogue (the subject of my third film): A few days ago I posted an essay on the well-read blog Mad In America, all about my thoughts over the last five years on the Finnish Program “Open Dialogue.” The comments after the essay are worth reading too — some really good ones. Meanwhile, in the essay I am fairly critical of the people who are helping to spread Open Dialogue around the world, mostly because they’re not taking a strong enough stand on some of the basic issues that made Finnish Open Dialogue an evidence-based success, namely, focusing work on people in a first-episode psychosis and working with minimal or no meds. Perhaps not surprisingly, none of those folks commented on the essay — though, considering the prominence of the blog Mad In America, it’s pretty likely that most of them (or all of them?) read my piece. But that, sadly, is the nature of the mental health field: discussion and dialogue are great in theory, but questionable in practical reality……
I wrote this little essay half my life ago, back in 1993 when I was 21 years old. I was then on the very beginning of my adult path, which I was manifesting by hitchhiking around the perimeter of Australia, starting and ending in Melbourne, where I’d been living as an exchange student in biology. I wrote this essay one early morning in my tent in Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, having hitched there from Western Australia. I’d already made it more than halfway around the continent. Meanwhile, my parents had just split up not a few weeks before, and I found this out via telephone. I knew that when I returned home to New York nothing in my life would ever be the same, myself included. I knew that if I were to survive and thrive that I would have to look deep inside myself and know who I was, what I stood for, and where I was going. And so I wrote, channeling the truth that was pouring out of me. This gem, as I see it in hindsight, was one of my first clear expressions of that.Continue reading →
By the time you read this I will be long dead, probably forty or fifty years already. The things about which I write are obvious to you. To you it is obvious that we, your progenitors, failed. We failed to make the changes necessary to allow our species to live sustainably on this planet. We failed to use the technology at our disposal to live cleanly on Earth. We failed to use farming and waste disposal methods that did not poison the land and water and air. In our quest for lives of comfort we used our planet, and psychologically our children, as a sewer. Continue reading →
Based on my past experience both as a therapist and client in the mental health field, I have learned that when therapists or psychiatrists give you the following diagnoses all too often here is what they really mean:
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Your obsessive nature is thwarting my compulsion to reorganize your life.
Paranoid Personality Disorder: The way I perceive you staring at me when I ask you extremely personal questions about the most painful experiences in your life really makes me uncomfortable. Continue reading →
Twenty years ago this month I graduated from Swarthmore College with a liberal arts degree in biology. I’d been well-trained to do everything and nothing: everything because four years of Swarthmore convinced me that I could learn most anything successfully, and nothing because past that I really hadn’t learned much of practical value. After leaving Swarthmore I entered the world with high confidence and major insecurity. I had some wonderful and very rough years ahead. Had Swarthmore prepared me for a balanced life as it so roundly promised or had it failed me? Reflecting on those formative years of two decades back, I wish to study my college experience, in good Swarthmore fashion, logically. Continue reading →
When I was a child, there was a pond I loved. It lay a fifteen minute hike from the apartment complex where my family lived, over a hill and through some woods. It was in the middle of a meadow, fed by a natural stream. In it were tadpoles, a few species of frogs, crayfish, eastern painted turtles and snapping turtles, sunfish and catfish, perch and minnows, dragonfly larvae and salamanders, clams and snails, watercress, algae of several different varieties, and waterlilies. Butterflies of multiple species flitted around its shores, drinking water from the mud and nectar from the flowers nearby. Continue reading →
I have recently been enjoying good conversation with some friends who describe themselves as “anarchists” and “voluntaryists.” Although I am new to exploring the meaning of these labels, my friends have explained them to me by returning to certain philosophical cornerstones: the non-aggression principle, respect for boundaries, and the avoidance of the use of force. From what I have gathered, a summation of their point of view, be it political or economic or simply interpersonal, is that all human interchange and interaction should be voluntary: that is, that no one should be forced to do anything by anyone or should practice force on others. Perhaps one could restate it by saying that no one should be aggressive toward others or cross others’ boundaries. This, they explain—assuming I have understood it correctly—is the basis of morality. Continue reading →
I’ve been thinking for a while about branching out with my filmmaking and making films not just on recovery from psychosis or changing the mental health system. So, I finally did it! I made my first new film, a short film, called TRUTHTELLER. The subject is my friend and colleague Fred Timm, a visionary in New York City who has very clear ideas on what’s going wrong with our species, what the consequences of this will be, and what we need to do to fix it. Continue reading →