Tuesday, 14 July 2009

More thoughts about The Doctor Who Hears Voices - a reply to WillSpirit

In reply to WillSpirit's post on The Doctor Who Hears Voices, and his comment on my previous post:

First of all I want to make clear that I'd never ever judge someone for their decision to take psych drugs, or to identify - partly or entirely - with a psych label. Who I at times can't altogether resist to judge, are definitely not the people, who resort to psychiatry/the mh system for help, but psychiatry/the mh system itself. That's a huge difference, although experience has shown me, that a lot of people aren't aware of it, and feel, I'm criticizing them, when in fact I'm critizing psychiatry/the mh system (oh , and our civilization in general... ).

Of course I can't know this for sure, since I don't know "Ruth" other than from what the documentary reveals about her, from her comment on my blog, and, indirectly, from what I understand Rufus May stands for, but my impression is, that she herself doesn't necessarily identify as "psychiatrically disordered". I suspect, that if she'd done so, she'd either never asked Rufus for help in the first place, or she'd abandoned therapy with him rather sooner than later, to return regretfully to the mh system's Trevor Turners - and their drugs.

Now you'll probably argue, that she hears a voice, and that hearing voices is a "symptom" of "mental illness", so she must be "psychiatrically disordered". Well, yes indeed, she hears a voice. But so do we all, psychiatrically labelled or not. All our thinking is conditioned. Thoughts are always without exception a reaction to the world we live in. You might say, they're echoing this world's noise. That's why meditation seeks the stillness beyond any thought, beyond the noise of this world, that is. In our thoughts we find the world, its noise, its voice, in the stillness we find ourselves.

If you look at it from that perspective, hearing voices actually becomes a sign of awakening to the truth rather than a symptom of a disorder. And indeed, in certain cultures it is regarded a gift, not a burden. A gift it is, if the person who hears voices happens to live in a society, that isn't afraid to hear the echo of its own voice, that isn't afraid to face not only its own greatness, but also its own flaws, which is what the voices of a person who hears voices usually echo. The flaws. The bullying, the abusiveness, the exploitativeness, the violence, the inhumanity.

Hearing voices then is a gift, because it asks for changes to be made. Changes for the benefit of all members of the society.

Meanwhile, our modern, western civilization is stuck with the delusion, that all there is to it is greatness. No flaws. Nothing needs to be changed. We are the crown of creation. Well, our modern, western civilization is. Take a look around. What do you see? Self-satisfaction, arrogance, self-righteousness... And underneath fear. Of change. So, how then can we explain (away) phenomena, that question and undermine our delusion of grandeur? Of course! As being flaws themselves. Individual flaws. Disorders. The "disorder" is no longer society's, but the individual's. And to perform this task of silencing the echo, our civilization created the myth of "mental illness", and the institution of psychiatry.

I must admit, that I sometimes can be a bit tough, and say: "All right, be my guest, buy into it if you think so. But then you'll have to live with the consequences." Which usually are, that you'll be society's scapegoat, that you will be discriminated against, more or less. But I also know, that it often isn't a conscious choice, that leads to people buying into it. And unless it is a conscious choice, I can't really be that tough without becoming guilty of the same "crime" I accuse society of.

Well, the question of course is, why some people react to the extent, "Ruth" does, or I myself for that sake, and others not. Isn't that proof, that these people must be biologically different,somehow really disordered? I think the answer is, that some people are exposed to the flaws of the society they live in to a greater extent, earlier in life, and for longer periods of time than others. Which can make them biologically different, more sensitive towards society's flaws, than others, as recent research indicates. Still, that doesn't make genetic anomalies the cause of the phenomena.

And what about all the other "symptoms"? What about "paranoia", or "mania", or "depression", or "ADHD", or you name it? Different kinds of echoes, reflections. How someone reacts in detail depends on what they learned how to react. Non-genetic, familiar heredity. For even if recent research also indicates, that trauma causes changes in a person's genes, changes that may be passed on to this person's children, genes do not act independent from their environment, but they react to it. Otherwise, it wouldn't be likely for people who were labelled with "schizophrenia", or "bipolar disorder", or whatever, and who made a recovery like "Ruth" did, by making unconscious content conscious, to have and raise children, who don't get labelled. I don't know of any of these people, who have children, that their children would qualify for any psych label. But, unfortunately, I know of a number of people, who still are stuck in unconsciousness, whose children do have problems, they too. It's a law of nature, that trauma, that isn't made conscious, is passed on to the next generation.

As for drugs: There are different ways to deal with crisis. Mind-altering drugs suppress "symptoms". What they target is a person's consciousness reducing it. There is no drug, that could target the unconscious. So, the voices are still there, echoing the world. The person just doesn't realize anymore. In fact, many people eventually tell their psychiatrist, that they don't hear voices anymore, even though they do. Because they're fed up with side effects, and know from experience that, if they say they still hear voices, all their shrink will do is up their dose... But well, let's say, it works for someone. What is the result? Stabilization. Not balance, but stabilization. That is, the absence of any possibility for development, personal growth, transformation... Indeed, exactly what our civilization in general aims at: maintaining the status quo, keeping it stable.

While death is a symbol for transformation, and thus not the opposite but part of life, stability is a synonym for the absence of change and of the possibility for transformation. It's a synonym for deadness, which indeed is the opposite of life.

On the other end of the (sliding) scale you have the change, the personal growth, the becoming (more) conscious through experiencing crisis with your eyes wide open, that Ann-Louise Silver talks about in the clip from Take These Broken Wings.

Now, our society expects a certain, actually growing, amount of deadness, of stable functioning, and it conditions everybody to regard stability the ultimate bliss. So, I can't blame anyone, who takes drugs, which they are told, will provide them with stability, our civilization's ultimate bliss.

However, life is constant transformation, it's constantly seeking for perfection: through self-transcendence and enlightenment, seeking to achieve a state of pure consciousness. It's a human need. But it is also unproductive in regard to our consumer-society. And while existential suffering in itself is a precondition for change to take place, and thus part of the human experience, not an illness, our civilization adds another dimension of suffering to the initial, existential suffering in that it stigmatizes and discriminates against everybody who experiences life, who experience being (human), trying to force these people back into blissful unconsciousness, that only is endurable on mind-numbing drugs, that alienate the person from her (suffering and rebelling) true self.

So, if someone is offered the chance to be supported in following their true self's call, why wouldn't they choose to do so? Why would or should they choose the dead end in preference to The Way? And I'm not even talking about the physically disabling side effects of psych drugs...

In short, I don't think there is any such thing as "mental illness". In my opinion "mental illness" is a cultural construct, created in order to pathologize the lesser productive, and society's delusion of grandeur disturbing, aspects of the human experience. To me, the concept is an assault on (human) nature. And I think, as long as there is no scientific evidence to prove it correct, no one should be labelled.

Last but not least, I don't think, "Ruth" has any higher risk of experiencing crisis again, than anybody else has. I think, she's very aware of herself, her limits included, and probably somewhat better prepared than people, who've never experienced extreme states of mind, if ever anything should happen in her life, that has the potential to trigger crisis. So, I don't think, anyone needs to be more concerned about her emotional well-being than about that of others.


WillSpirit said...

Not too radical at all. But I do have some thoughts and, once again, they took up a lot of space. So I posted them back on my blog. Thank you for the discussion.

Caoimhín said...

I found your writing wonderful. such clarity.

Thank you for sharing!