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.
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
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
Dear humans of the year 2100,
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
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
I just made a new film, called PROTEST PSYCHIATRY, on the psychiatric survivor-lead protest of the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in New York City. And I’m thrilled by how it turned out. For starters, I filmed it on no budget whatsoever, created the entire film in three days, and have uploaded it straight to Youtube, so it’s freeeeeee!
This film, for me, was an experiment. Continue reading
[I wrote this poem four years ago today, on 12/27/2009. I just dug it up….and liked it.]
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Most people stay in relationships because they are frightened of being alone…
…yet never acknowledge this to their partners.
Most people have children because they don’t know what else to do with their lives…
…yet are terrified to conceive of what this “what else” might be. Continue reading
[I wrote this essay on June 25, 2013 — and probably didn’t publish it until now, six months later, because of the intensity of the ideas. I guess I wanted to make sure I agreed, over a decent period of time, with what I wrote. And I do.]
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1) You’ll traumatize them one way or another
That is, you’re not ready to have kids because you will screw up their lives. Chances are you are not healthy enough to avoid somehow depriving them of their emotional needs, and to deprive children of any of their emotional needs is to traumatize them. Continue reading
I was recently going through some old essays of mine and found this one from 2002, written two years before I had a website. I forgot that I even wrote it. I didn’t expect to like it much, but instead found the opposite: I really liked it. It expresses some concepts that I didn’t even realize I was thinking about at that time, and in some ways I find that they may even be more advanced than that which I think about now. Also, at the end of the essay I will discuss a couple of points this essay brought up for me. But for now I’ll leave the essay to you…
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I grew up in Upstate New York on what was once Cayuga Indian land. To me it is the most beautiful country in the world: rolling hills, crisp, cold streams, cascading waterfalls, Continue reading
[Originally posted 12/26/09.]
Lie #1: Romantic Relationships Help People Grow.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, romantic relationships help people become comfortable, and over the long haul comfort is contrary to growth. Most people get into relationships in an attempt to create the safe, womblike childhood they never had. In so doing, they never learn how to love themselves fully—from within. That is the real relationship.
Lie #2: We All Have Sexual Needs.
Sexuality is a misplaced lens through which we express of our desperate, anachronistic desire to have been loved fully as children. Continue reading
[Written in 2004.]
Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz, wrote at some length about his psychic turmoil over having been a key player in the murder of so many Jews. Shortly after sharing this, in 1947, he was hanged in Poland by a war crimes tribunal. His death was a loss to the world, and tells volumes about the troubling dynamics that led society to murder him. Continue reading
[Written in 2004.]
Americans experienced the trauma of the 9/11 attacks the same way all adults experience trauma: through the lens of unresolved childhood trauma. In a country packed with immature people parading as mature adults, we reacted to 9/11 in a far less mature way than we might have had we been more enlightened. Continue reading
[Written around 2005.]
Gay people who have come out of the closet have one main evolutionary advantage over straight people: they have experienced a basic pattern of breaking from the family system, and this creates in them a template for truth-telling that can apply to all other areas of life. At some level they know firsthand what it feels like to be rejected and pathologized by the worst of the family, and because they know how to define a part of their identity in spite of it, they take one step closer to enlightenment. Continue reading
[Written around 2005.]
It is ironic that many people, when I speak of celibacy as an ideal, argue that following my lead would drive our species to extinction. In our overpopulated world of nearly seven billion people – who are driving us to the edge! – can we really fear celibacy and the path to enlightenment so much? Continue reading
[Written around 2004.]
People who are not fully enlightened have sex because they are on a misplaced search for the nurturance that only deep emotional healing provides. They may dress their motives for sex with societally acceptable terms such as “pleasure” and “biological drive” and “experimentation” and “need for release” and “love of intimacy” and even “recreation” and “physical exercise,” but no one who ventures deeply below the emotional surface is fooled long by these façades. Healing is the deepest human hope, and in sex we cannot help but fantasize its possibility. Continue reading
[Written in 2011.]
The mental health system in all Western countries is failing, especially when you consider the intensely poor outcomes for people with the most serious issues, such as psychosis. Having been a psychotherapist in New York City, I have given much thought to the mental health system’s failure and have come up with a new theoretical model for the system, from top to bottom. I hereby present it.
1) Abandon Diagnosis and the DSM
My experience as a therapist has taught me that diagnosing people does not further their healing. The diagnostic categories we presently use are so often arbitrary, misleading, stigmatizing, or just downright wrong (and at times all of these) that they end up doing far more harm than good. In fact, I have rarely seen cases where they definitively help anyone.
[Written around 2007.]
It may seem that much of the message on this website is intended for non-parents, but this is not the case. In many regards, the information I present is ten times more relevant to parents, especially parents of young children, because you are the people who most directly mold and guide – and can squelch – the fate of others. Therapists are invested with some power; parents are invested with far more.
I address these suggestions to you.
1) Parent, heal thyself. It is easy to say “throw out your television” and “never buy soda” – both excellent pieces of advice, among the thousands I could give – but the most profoundly unhealthy variable in your child’s life is the unhealthy side of you. Continue reading