Hi Everyone. And greetings after a rather long absence. It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post, and I wanted to say hello and share a bit of what I’ve been up to. Mostly in terms of creative output I’ve been making new videos — I’ve caught the video bug again. It’s been an intense and largely rewarding venture. And most surprisingly, one of these new videos became more popular than anything else I ever put up. It’s my video on “Six reasons I quit being a therapist” (embedded below) and as of the date of this writing it’s been viewed more than a quarter million times. This is totally unexpected. And the strange thing is, I really don’t know why it’s happened, because when I recorded it and put it up on Youtube I didn’t think it was particularly better than anything else I was sharing. But somehow it seems to have struck a nerve with a lot of people — and somehow that translated into Youtube promoting it with their mysterious algorithms. What I have learned from the comments, though — more than 3,000 of them at the time of this writing — is that there are quite a lot of people out there who have had very bad, painful, even harmful and traumatic therapy experiences, and really are trying to make sense of them. Most of the feedback on the video, probably more than 95%, has been positive, but some has been negative. There have been a few therapists and psychiatrists who have felt I’ve spoken incorrectly or in an overly negative way about the mental health field, though frankly, I think just reading the far majority of viewers’ comments contradict that, which I admit pleases me. (It also pleases me that quite a lot of therapists have found value in the video too — so not all mental health professionals dislike it.) Meanwhile, I’ve been making more and more videos. And I find a real pleasure in it — a pleasure, though, laced with anxiety and the inevitable self-doubt of creativity. But the pleasure of it drives me forward — the pleasure of creating, of speaking my mind, of sharing my life experience, and hopefully of offering some help and support to people out there in the world. It is very gratifying! So again, a warm hello to you all! Daniel
Crazy is not being in touch with reality.
Being in touch with reality means seeing things clearly, without the veils or filters known as defenses.
We employ defenses (e.g., denial, projection, dissociation) when reality is too painful to see.
Reality is too painful to see because we have unresolved historical traumas due to the actual horror of the realities we have experienced.
Our defenses make life more palatable to us, yet they’re all manifestations of our craziness.
To that end, we’re all crazy to some degree, to the degree that we have defenses.
However, part of the craziness of society is to only label as crazy a certain tip of the iceberg of the defenses.
The easiest people to label crazy are not necessarily any crazier than the rest of us, but only have defenses different from the norm, especially defenses that are difficult for the norm to understand or relate to.
On a macro scale, this is why it’s easier for people to label other cultures as crazy while failing too see the craziness in their own.
All of this, individually and societally, is a defense in and of itself, known as splitting (i.e., idealizing one’s own group or self and devaluing the “Other”).
By labeling some people as crazy and labeling “us” as sane or normal we don’t have to face our defenses, and thus our defenses can stay unconscious, comfortable, and intact.
Also, many people labeled crazy can’t function as well in society.
This doesn’t mean they’re necessarily any crazier than anyone else, and sometimes they may even be objectively less crazy, that is, better able to see reality.
To that end, a hypothetically completely sane person who pointed out others’ conventional defenses could infuriate them and cause them to project their craziness onto him or her and label him or her crazy.
Essentially, if a person stocked full of psychological defenses is just able to fit in and function, others like him or her will not consider him or her crazy.
This allows all sorts of objectively crazy behavior and attitudes and ways of thinking to fly under the radar of conventional consciousness.
Also, part of healing psychological wounds and the defenses holding them in place means slowly facing reality more.
This can be extremely painful, and for a time, sometimes a long time, this can make it more difficult for a person to function in society.
So even though a person is healing their wounds, that is, becoming healthier, they can be considered more crazy.
Also, many supposedly sane people are actually just one step away from being labeled crazy.
A few shifts in defenses, a slightly lessened ability to hide their defensive patterns, or a shift to an environment where different defenses are considered acceptable can lead others to look at them as crazy.
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.
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……
Here’s a link to the piece:
Meanwhile, greetings all — and I plan to be posting a lot more here soon!!
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
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
For the past seven years I have been making films on recovery without medication from extreme mental states called psychosis or schizophrenia. For the past four years, since I ended my therapy practice, this has been my full-time work—and my passion. I have made four films and have mailed DVDs of them to all corners of the English-speaking world, and I have felt honored to watch their message spread: to mental health consumers, psychiatric survivors, mental health professionals, teachers, family members, journalists, libraries, and universities.
In 2013, thanks to a grant from The Foundation for Excellence in Mental Health Care, I came out with new DVD versions of my first three films—each translated into more than 16 languages. My business quickly became far more international, yet I noticed a trend: Continue reading
[Written in 2008.]
NOTE: THIS IS A TONGUE-IN-CHEEK ESSAY…
“The schizophrenogenic mother” – a mother who creates schizophrenia in her child – is presently a hated, taboo topic in psychology because it blames mothers. The only modern articles that refer to the concept anymore label it as incorrect and disproven. But they invariably fail to say WHY it is incorrect. So I have taken the liberty of doing it for them. [Note, with humor aside: I actually strongly dislike the term “schizophrenogenic mother” because it lets fathers, who bear half the responsibility for child-rearing, off the hook. Please keep this in mind as you’re reading this list!! Continue reading
[Written around 2008.]
Despite being dramatically over-prescribed, children have long been the most popular antidepressant on the market. As a natural-born skeptic, I have undertaken a thorough study of the pros and cons of their antidepressant qualities, as follows, though I will leave the final analysis to you:
1. Children are easy to procure, long-lasting, and you don’t need a prescription to get one
2. If you’re willing to raise them generically, they can be relatively inexpensive
3. They often work well in (sibling) combinations of two, three, four or more (though be careful of toxic interactions) Continue reading
[Written in 2008.]
(Note: Although I am aware that this does not apply to all psychoanalysts, it sure does apply to a lot!)
Patient asks: What’s the difference between a psychoanalyst and an average therapist?
Psychoanalyst replies: I have studied the most modern, sophisticated theories of human dynamics, and thus have the tools to understand and unravel the motivating roots of human endeavor…
Translation: Don’t you know that I spent seventy thousand dollars going to psychoanalytic training after I got my Ph.D.? Do you deign to suggest that I wasted the money I struggled to earn spending thousands of hours not listening to mere mortals like you?! 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 in 2005. Feel free to read my 2013 commentary on this essay — for context and/or follow-up.]
[Unless otherwise noted all bracketed page numbers refer to Gail Hornstein’s book]
It is characteristic of biographers that they have difficulty identifying with the child and quite unconsciously minimize mistreatment by the parents.
-Alice Miller, from FOR YOUR OWN GOOD
Gail Hornstein’s gift to the reader in To Redeem One Person Is To Redeem The World is that she provided the raw materials to understand the fascinating character and revolutionary work of Frieda Fromm-Reichmann. The book’s weakness is that Hornstein did not sufficiently connect the dots of her own careful research to create a psychologically satisfying, three-dimensional portrait of her subject. Continue reading
[Written around 2004.]
Psychotropic medications block the path to enlightenment. They are prescribed by doctors as quick fixes for people who have emotional problems requiring solutions deeper and more complex than anything out of a bottle. Pills may get you out of the house, but they won’t lead you to your soul. Continue reading
[Written around 2004.]
Charging fees is a backbone of what keeps the therapy process professional. Not only does it allows the therapist to survive in the world, but it affirms his self-respect. He gives the best of himself to his patients, and they return the gift with something of value. Patients who pay a fee make a sacrifice – and thus buy a service. This is invaluable for them, because when the going gets ugly in therapy, as it invariably does if the process goes well, they must feel comfortable expressing their negative feelings – which are often toward the therapist – as freely as they need to. This step is made all the more difficult if patients are not clear that they – and no one else – have bought the therapist’s service. Continue reading
[Written around 2007.]
By and large I do not believe genetics to be behind such psychological “disorders” known as schizophrenia, depression, autism, and bipolar. I believe that psychological trauma and other environment horrors lie at their root far more than most are willing to concede – or even imagine. And yet the psychological field so often promotes – however scientifically flimsily – genetic origins. Genetic arguments serve to protect the parents – and basically let them off the hook for their pathological, traumatizing behavior. This is convenient. Or is it? Continue reading