Books that I recommend (psychology, novels, and more)

I have often been asked to recommend books –psychology and novels and others — which I like or have found helpful on my life journey.  So I compiled a list, albeit an incomplete one, and a little explanation of why I found value in these books.  Also, I just want to add that I don’t necessarily agree with the entire philosophy or attitude expressed in all of these books.  Sometimes I strongly disagree with some of the things expressed — but still find the books valuable for various reasons.  Meanwhile, if you feel so inspired, feel free to post your own book recommendations in the comment section below!

The Drama of the Gifted Child (by Alice Miller):  Alice Miller, arguably one of the best published psychology writer to date, opens “The Drama of the Gifted Child” with this classic, timeless pearl:  “Experience has taught us that we have only one enduring weapon in our struggle against mental illness:  the emotional discovery of the truth about the unique history of our childhood.”  An awesome book — its main flaw being that Alice Miller herself was deeply unconscious in so many ways, right to the end.  But still a key psychology book — and a classic. Continue reading

The Dividing Line Between Crazy and Not Crazy

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.

Seven Mental Techniques to Let Our Abusive Parents Off the Hook

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

“The Education of Little Tree”: A Psychological Exploration of How a Racist Wrote a Great Anti-Racist Novel

education of little treeThe 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

Two Categories of Crying

When people cry for emotional reasons, I have observed that it generally falls into one of two categories. The first is grief-crying, and here are my observations about it:

  1. Although often painful, it brings a sense of relief and hopefulness afterward.
  2. It makes people’s faces look younger, healthier, and more free—and sometimes unrecognizably different from their regular faces.
  3. It brings out inner beauty, and has lasting effects.
  4. Its intensity can wreak temporary havoc on the immune system, though ultimately it is good for the health. Continue reading

A new essay on Finnish Open 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!!


Deconstructing Psychiatric Diagnoses

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

My Films Are Now Free on Youtube

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

Why don’t traumatized people take good care of themselves?

(written on May 1, 2013, Zagreb, Croatia, finally published almost 8 months later!)

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Why don’t traumatized people take good care of themselves?

Although this may seem like a huge and complicated topic, the crux of the answer to this question is simple.  I will break it down into a few parts.

But before jumping in, there are two preliminary things to know:

1) No one is created traumatized.  We begin life perfectly unscathed.  Continue reading

Is This Website a Cult?

[Written in 2009. Of note, as of 4/1/13:  I wrote this essay while I was still a therapist; I ended my therapy practice in March, 2010.  Also, when I wrote this essay I didn’t have a paypal “donations” button on my website.  I just put that up a few days ago — so hopefully I can invest more time and energy into this website.]

I have been accused several times over the years of running a cult through this website, or at least of being cultish.  So I decided to put this cult question to the test—according to the Cult Information Centre’s “5 Characteristics of a Cult” and “26 Mind Control Techniques.”

Of course, this is me “subjectively” putting my own website and point of view to the test, but at least it’s a try!

Continue reading

How To Use 15 Different Defense Mechanisms To Avoid Reading This Website

[Written around 2008.]

  1. Denial:  This is all completely irrelevant and has nothing to do with me.
  2. Projection:  Daniel Mackler is crazy, and I do not want to indulge in his sick point of view.
  3. Sublimation:  Why would I want to waste my time reading this junk; in fact, I just feel like going out, getting drunk, and having sex! Continue reading

Ten Ways To Be A Vague (Psychology) Writer

[Written in 2006.]

  1. Use big, complex, technical words. Making sure everyone knows just how smart you are is a great way to hide just how insecure you feel. And who knows, if you use ten or more huge and indecipherable words per page you might just be able to convince yourself!
  2. Beat around the bush. When an octopus is under attack he squirts black ink to throw off his predators, and when writers take forever to get to the point they’re doing the same. Camouflaged writing doesn’t get torn to shreds – but on the other hand no one important reads it. Continue reading

Relationships: What Lies Underneath Them

[Written around 2004.]

People who are not fully enlightened use romantic relationships to hide from the truth. They want to bypass the painful healing process and disappear into false pleasure and false security. They desire either to find the perfect parent they never had or the perfect object onto whom they can project their unconscious rage at their parents – or both. They want someone to finally love them fully, understand them, take them under their wing, protect them, guide them, and be selfless with them. But this is impossible. Continue reading

The Value of Dream Analysis

[Written around 2007.]

Dream analysis is a wonderful and challenging discipline – and is often a key component of deep psychotherapy and deep self-therapy. It is best to catch and write down dreams right when you wake up to them, so then the little details that tell so much about them are not lost to the unconscious. I have compiled a list of the benefits of dream analysis, from the personal to the interpersonal to the therapeutic.

  1. Dream analysis is humbling. Life makes it so easy for us to become arrogant and grandiose, to feel we’re on a higher plane than others.  By studying our dreams in depth, we cannot avoid seeing ourselves in the more humble light of our own vulnerabilities and ancient unmet childhood needs. Continue reading

The Baby’s Manifesto

[Written around 2007.]

Translated into adult English from the look in the baby’s eyes…

I need parents who love me fully. I need parents who understand me fully. I need parents who can adequately translate the needs behind my cries…and my coughs…and my silences.

I need parents who are open to learn all they can learn from me. Continue reading

The Good-Enough Mother: NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

[Written around 2006.]

“The good-enough mother…starts off with an almost complete adaptation to her infant’s needs, and as time proceeds she adapts less and less completely, gradually, according to the infant’s growing ability to deal with her failure…” [D. W. Winnicott, from “Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena,” 1951]

There are few psychology concepts that repulse me more than Winnicott’s ever-popular “good-enough mother.” This concept bothers me so much because it looks so good, sounds so sweet and gentle and humane, and yet is so false – and only rationalizes abuse. Mothers do not have to reject their child to help him break away. On the contrary, children naturally and progressively break away when they get all their needs met, just as the umbilical cord dries up and falls off on its own in the days or weeks after birth. Independence is a consequence of nurturing. Continue reading

Why Are Gay People Gay?

[Written around 2006.]

I could just as easily start by asking why straight people are straight.  Few ask this, because they consider the answer so obvious – “it’s human nature.”  But what isn’t human nature for a human to do?  Are chimpanzees suddenly not chimps or penguins not penguins when they engage in homosexual behavior (which they sometimes do)? Continue reading

Three Differences Between Therapists & Parents

[Written around 2008.]

There are endless similarities between therapists and parents – including the nurturing and guiding role, the depth and intimacy in the relationship, and the existence of a power differential between the therapist and patient and the parent and child – but three key differences stand out most strikingly.

1) The initiation of the relationship

Child/Parent:  A child enters the lives of his parents after the parents have sex.  He enters the parental world as a completely perfect being – and as close to being a blank slate as he will ever be again.

Patient/Therapist:  Patients enter the lives of therapists through a referral (or self-referral) – and already damaged. Continue reading

Three Differences Between Therapy & Friendship

[Written around 2007.]

1) Purpose of the Relationship

Therapist: The therapist’s purpose is to help the patient face his buried traumas, uncover his blocked feelings around them, resolve them through grieving, ascribe appropriate blame, discontinue his repetitive acting out, and integrate – and thus grow toward enlightenment. This is what the patient pays him to do, and the payment is what balances the scale of the relationship. Where the therapist desires any more from the patient he fails as a therapist and instead acts as a regressive force in the patient’s evolution.

Patient: The patient’s purpose is to grow at all costs. Continue reading