Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Parents and psychiatrists

I have sligthly revised the syntax of the chapter (in Spanish) “Perpetrators and Psychiatrists: An Obscene Alliance,” a translation from my book chapter How to Murder Your Child’s Soul which I wrote in 1999-2000. The manuscript was accepted for publication in 2002. However, I committed the blunder of telling the editor in Mexico City that I was awaiting the answer from a major publisher in Spain and, like the fable “The Dog and the Bone,” I lost both opportunities.

While today I don’t reject what I wrote as wrong or inaccurate, correcting the Spanish syntax made me see that the chapter is a good marker about why people rebel against their parents’ culture and become liberals or even extreme leftists (originally, antipsychiatry was a leftist movement). It is true that, by analyzing Teresa in a long essay, a far-leftist Iberian woman who hates the West, I had already started to ponder into the subject. But I believe that to understand suicidal liberalism it is much better, and far more painful, to follow the commandment inscribed at the Delphi oracle: to know oneself.

The spiritual odyssey of knowing myself drove me to write the five-volume Hojas susurrantes (Whispering Leaves), of which How to Murder Your Child’s Soul is the second book.

It is impossible to introduce the subject of my book in a single blog entry (my recent posts on “More on Western self-hatred” gives a clue). The purpose of this entry is rather to show how I used to write a decade ago, long before I discovered that the white people are an endangered species and that, to boot, many whites—like Teresa—are even celebrating their dispossession. Like all of them, a decade ago I held standard liberal views about the slavery in the United States, the liberation of women, and even the hippie movement of the 1960s.

Here there is my Spanish-English translation of the chapter:

Perpetrators and Psychiatrists: An Obscene Alliance (edited)

Since the terrible happenings in my family [in the late 1970s] I was left under the impression that Amara [the crazy shrink that recommended the medicalization of family problems] was simply incompetent in his profession. More than twenty years had to pass before I read Thomas Szasz and Jeffrey Masson, the critics of psychiatry and psychoanalysis.

The biggest surprise I ran across by reading these authors was the discovery that, since its beginnings, psychiatry has sided parents during conflicts with their children; and it has sided them independently of the moral or sanity of the parents. This means that Amara was not incompetent in his profession. He behaved as psychiatrists have been behaving centuries ago.

In the 17th century the admission regulations to two French insane asylums for minors stipulated that:

Children of artisans and other poor inhabitants of Paris up to the age of twenty-five, who used their parents badly or who refused to work through laziness, or, in the case of girls, who were debauched or in evident danger of being debauched, should be shut up, the boys in the Bicêtre, the girls in the Salpêtrière. This action was to be taken on the complaint of the parents.[1]
In the same way, in the 18th century parents could appeal to the king with the purpose of, by means of a lettre de cachet, confine a rebel child in the Bastille.[2] In the nineteenth century the same situation appears in America. In 1865 the Boston Times Messenger described the McLean Hospital as a “Bastille for the incarceration of some persons obnoxious to their relatives.”[3]

This bizarre history could be comprehended if we see psychiatry from an unfamiliar viewpoint: not as psychiatry presents itself, an objective science, but as an extralegal system of penalties which, since its origins, has allied itself with the status quo. I do not refer only to the alliance of psychiatrists with parents, but with husbands in a sexist society. In America’s 1850s, for instance, Illinois’ commitment statutes indicated:
Married women... may be entered or detained in the hospital (the state asylum of Jacksonville) at the request of the husband of the woman... without evidence of insanity required in other cases [my italics].[4]
In the 20th century psychiatry has gained even more power and influence in Western civilization. Furthermore, it has become a gigantic psycho-pharmaceutical industry, which acts within the tough arena of market and the laws of supply and demand. The key word is demand. When family problems arise the parents, and only the parents, have the economic means to hire professionals. Thus, from its origins it has been very convenient for these professionals to indulge in self-deception and see family problems as biomedical problems. Pediatrician Robert Mendelssohn observed: “teens are Big Business for psychiatrists.” [5] Psychiatry is not oriented to defend teenagers during family problems. That would place psychiatrists in conflict with the parents, their income source. Paul Fink, president of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), put it bluntly: “It is the task of APA to protect the earning power of psychiatrists.” [6]

That psychiatrists have played the role of lawyers of the parents and the status quo can be seen with extraordinary transparency with the psychiatric labels of the 18th and 19th centuries. A few examples will illustrate this point.

When slavery was legal in the United States, Dr. Samuel Cartwright discovered that slaves who ran away from their masters suffered from drapetomania, a disease that only afflicted blacks who had “an insane desire to run away from their owners.” [7] Other blacks suffered from dyasthesia Aethiopica, whose pathological symptom was “paying no attention to property.” Benjamin Rush, another consummated racist and the father of American psychiatry also discovered various nervous diseases. He called one of them anarchia, and defined it as “the excess passion for liberty.” Rush’s portrait is still seen in the official seal of the American Psychiatric Association.

In 19th century Europe the situation was no better. It was a sexist society where women had no right to vote. Women who didn’t comply with the role assigned to them were labeled folie lucide in France and moral insanity in England and its equivalent labels in Switzerland and Germany. Many were confined in insane asylums at the request of their husbands, fathers or brothers. Indeed, in the 19th century women were the main target of organized psychiatry (just as in the 20th and the dawn of the 21st centuries children are). Jeffrey Masson unearthed some testimonies from the victims of these mercenary inquisitors: women that managed to escape the asylums and exposed both their families and the psychiatrists. One of them, Hersilie Rouy, confined for a dispute with her brother, testifies in a book published in 1883 in Paris that:
For fourteen years I have lived under incarceration that cut me off from the real world, took away my civil rights, deprived me of my name, took away everything I owned, destroyed my entire existence without even being able to say why.[8]
Another piece of information that caught my attention in the books by Masson and Szasz was that since those times there has not only been an alliance between the parents and husbands with psychiatrists, but another alliance between psychiatrists and the state. For instance, after escaping and publishing her book Rouy appealed the French Ministry of Justice. But the ministry sided the psychiatrists:
Our doctor who knows more about it than we do has the conviction that she is mad and we bow before his infallible science.[9]
The case of Hersilie Rouy was not the only one that Masson unearthed in his investigations, but the pattern is very similar: perfectly sane young women diagnosed as suffering from “moral insanity” in spite of the fact that the doctors acknowledged (as it was the conflict in my family) that there wasn’t anything wrong with their intellects. This is why it was named “folie lucide” in France (literally, lucid madness).

Another curious psychiatric label for unmarried maids in the high society with fiancés from lower social status—and here I cannot help reminding the film Titanic—was nymphomania.[10] In some cases these maids were confined in their bloom of youth to be liberated to old to homes for the aged. Following next I quote an excerpt from a letter of Dr. Massini to Dr. Binswanger to confine Julie La Roche to an insane asylum in Switzerland:
In mid-January she ran off from there, supposedly with her brother, but in fact with the adventurer von Smirnoff, and suddenly appeared in Basel, presenting him as her fiancé. Here of course the relationship was not approved [...].

All this leads me to conclude that Miss La Roche, who is otherwise a thoroughly lovable girl, is heading toward “moral insanity,” which makes medical supervision advisable [...]. She will surely attempt to escape, perhaps at the least pretend to commit suicide. It will therefore be necessary to put her in charge of incorruptible guards who will watch over her very closely [...].

I do not believe that Mr. La Roche ever mistreated his daughter.[11]
It might be thought that these are relics of a barbaric psychiatric past already surpassed that have nothing to do with our civilized age. But Binswanger’s last line reminds me Amara’s posture: to proclaim with all of his authority my parents’ innocence despite our most anguished testimonies. This was La Roche’s testimony:
My father abused me in a terrible manner [...] after he had thrown a sharp object at my head with such force that my face was covered with blood, to which a deep wound testified. There are witnesses to all these events [...].

One day in Saarburg, where we returned after our marriage [with von Smirnoff], and where I had to remain in bed, we were surprised by the police and then by my father [...]. Though sick, I was dragged off through storm and rain by Mr. La Roche [her father]. My marriage certificate, everything was in vain. With court transportation, I was taken to Kreuzlingen, which is a private insane asylum (as can be ascertained by looking it up in any directory). There, on the first day, I was diagnosed as melancholic and insane.[12]
Like Hersilie Rouy, La Roche managed to escape, thus inheriting us her testimony, originally published in the Swiss newspaper Thurgauer Tagblatt. And just as the Rouy case, the united psychiatrists dismissed her. Julie La Roche never was vindicated. The newspaper where her testimony appeared had to publish a shameful recantation stating that La Roche suffered, in effect, from moral insanity.[13]

Masson comments that if there existed such moral insanity it came from Julie’s father and the psychiatrists; not from Julie. I would add that before such psychiatric outrages the extraordinary passivity of the Swiss citizenship, or French citizenship in the case Rouy, should be considered insane as well: the society was biased in favor of the family institution represented in those times by the father, the medical institution and the state.

The labels of the 19th century were not always invented to cause stigma on second-class citizens, sometimes they were invented to avoid stigma in the favored classes. For instance, when a daughter of a rich family stole something and was arrested, a psychiatrist was asked to diagnose that the poor girl suffered from kleptomania, an illness which symptom was an uncontrollable compulsion to steal. [14] But like the stigmatizing labels, it is notorious how authorities went into overt complicity with psychiatrists to avoid or cause social stigma.

These diagnoses—“drapetomania,” “dyasthesia Aethiopica” and “anarchia” for blacks (anarchia, the disease invented by the father of American psychiatry was applied on whites as well), and “folie lucide,” “nymphomania” and “kleptomania” for women—seem ludicrous today. Social values have changed so much that the essentially political character of the labels and the role of psychiatrists as agents of the system and the affluent classes is altogether visible.

However, despite the obscure technicalities of present-day labels, the situation at present is basically the same. To label “hyperactive” a boy and “schizoid” an adolescent only mystifies realities that can be said in plain English: mischievous boy, very shy teen. Moreover, just as the societies where blacks and women were discriminated, each one of these pseudo-medical diagnoses also hides the political actions to be taken. I say “pseudo diagnoses” because never has a psychiatrist seen in the microscope the sick nerve tissue of an “ADHD” child or a “schizoid” teen (I will deal with the claims of biological psychiatry in the appendix). Psychiatrists have not seen it for the simple reason that these diseases are as chimerical as the old ones: they exist only in the minds of ideologues that people call psychiatrists but that, in reality, are agents of those parents who want to undertake some punitive action with their children.

It’s true that there are children that withdraw from the unpleasant milieu or youngsters that temporarily lose their minds, but there is no such a thing as biomedical entities for “Attention Deficit Disorder” or “schizoidism,” just as “dyasthesia Aethiopica” or “nymphomania” never were biomedical entities. The concealed objective of psychiatry, both past and present has been to control the potentially rebellious members of society: escapee blacks or liberated women of a previous century or rebellious boys and teenagers in our time. That this policy persisted in the 20th century can be gathered from the statements of Francis Braceland, a president of the American Psychiatric Association during the hippie movement in the 1960s:
It is a feature of some illnesses that people do not have insight into the fact that they are sick. In short, sometimes it is necessary to protect them for a while from themselves... If a man brings his daughter to me from California because she is in manifest danger of falling into vice or in some way disgracing herself, he doesn’t expect me to let her loose in my home town for that same thing to happen.[15]
I could not have said it more clearly. Notice how psychiatrists have not changed since the 17th century when they sent these daughters “who were debauched or in evident danger of being debauched” to the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris. Let us see psychiatry in more recent times. Following next is a quotation from the brochure Schizophrenia published in 1998 by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the National Schizophrenia Fellowship of England:
How do families react if a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister develops schizophrenia and becomes odd and unpredictable? They may regard the change in behaviour as rebellious, perverse and unacceptable without at first realising that it is due to mental illness.[16]
This brochure, destined to the masses, expresses more clearly the commitment criterion for a “schizophrenic” than the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM, the “Bible” of psychiatrists.[17] The brochure does not ask how the adolescent perceives his parents. It does not ask, for instance, “Is your mother so reluctant to her ‘psychological childbirth’ that treats you like a little boy?” “Is she possessive, tyrannical and harass you quite often?” Or “Is your old man a codependent husband that consigns all judging to your mom?”

Psychiatrists would never do a brochure for youngsters who cannot remunerate them. The professionals who wrote it only have ears for what the parents say, who are euphemistically called “the family.” It doesn’t even occur to them that the youngster’s version of the family problem exists, or that his rebelliousness might be justified. The equation: rebellious / perverse / unacceptable = schizophrenic reminds me that during the rule of Brezhnev the political dissident’s rebelliousness, an unacceptable perversity for Russian authorities, was officially considered symptom of schizophrenia.[18]

The brochure states that the parents “may regard the change in behavior as rebellious [...] without at first realizing that it is due to mental illness.” In other words, adolescent rebellion might be considered, by definition of the most reputable associations of psychiatry in England, an illness: schizophrenia or schizoidism; the feminist liberation of the nineteenth century was an illness, moral insanity; the anxiety of the black slave to escape was an illness, drapetomania. All of these illnesses require medical intervention, which frequently ends up in incarceration without legal trial. The same brochure states:
People with schizophrenia do not always realise they are ill and may refuse treatment when they badly need it. In these circumstances, the Mental Health Act (in England and Wales) [enacted in 1983] and similar legal arrangements in other countries, permit compulsory admission to hospital.[19]
Take notice that this is a brochure published in 1998, and that they gave it to me in 1999 when I studied a mental health course in Manchester’s Open University. As I said above, psychiatric barbarities have not changed since American slavery or European sexism, only the social values have changed. Psychiatrists have behaved, and continue to behave, as agents of the current status quo: be it landlords at the south of the United States, bourgeois parents that abhor the plebeian affairs of their liberated daughters, or harassing mothers that cannot tolerate any rebelliousness in their children.

More direct evidence that an alliance exists between parents and psychiatrists, an alliance not declared to the public, comes from a man who defrocked himself from the lucrative profession of psychoanalysis and that I have already quoted, Jeffrey Masson. In Final Analysis, a book I treasure because it helped me to understand Amara [the Italian-Mexican shrink], Masson writes:
“When a child manifests gross pathology...” these words startled me into consciousness. They were enunciated, for emphasis, very slowly, and in a booming voice. There could be no doubt about it, the department chairman was a fine orator. He had acted on the stage. His voice, his urban wit, his friendliness, his poise, his great knowledge of literature were all admirable. He laughed a great deal. He liked to make jokes. You had to like him. But you did not have to like what he said. And I did not. What was it to “manifest gross pathology”? In this case, an eight-year-old boy was the “identified” patient. The word “identified” was a popular and venerable psychiatric term. He had been “identified” as the patient by his mother and father, simply because he was not doing well at school, he had few friends, and he was a “problem” at home. How was this, I wondered at the time, “gross pathology”? Where was I? I was at grand rounds.[20]
The grand rounds were the visits to psychiatric hospitals in the city of Toronto during Masson’s training for analyst. The hospital staff met and a senior psychiatrist presented a case of one of the hospitalized patients. As Masson observed, this was humiliating for the patient:
It soon became apparent that every presentation of therapy was only good as the intellect and heart of the presenter. You did not, you could not, learn about the patient, but you learned plenty about the presenter [...].

So here was a department chairman talking about still another “patient,” Jill, nineteen, “who was admitted to the hospital with a schizophrenic psychotic decompensation.”
The department’s chairman who presented these cases was a respected psychiatrist who advocated electroshock. Masson continues:
How did we know, for example, that somebody was “sick”? It was simple: they were brought to the hospital. The chairman made it clear that a person who had been “identified” as a patient by the family, was, in fact, disturbed in a psychiatric way. People apparently did not err when it came to making these kinds of home diagnoses. Thus, he told us, speaking of the “maladjusted” (a medical term?) child, that we should accept
that the “identified” patient is “sicker” than the others. A study by S. Wolff (in the British Journal of Psychiatry) lends support to the family’s identification of its most disturbed member as the “sick one.”
To me, this was suspiciously convenient for the psychiatrist. What gave the psychiatric community this power? [21]
Who gives psychiatry these inquisitorial powers against children and teenagers? Society and its laws, of course; the state, our very culture! Masson is the only former analyst of the world that I know who has exposed how is the “indoctrination process” of this “semisecret society” as he calls the formation of Freudian psychoanalysts.

Another piece of evidence of the alliance of parents and psychiatrists is suggested by the fact that American psychiatry, represented by the American Psychiatric Association, has entered collaboration with one of the most reactionary organizations in the country, NAMI, about which I will talk later. NAMI is formed by parents that, like Julie La Roche’s father, want to undertake psychiatric action against their offspring. NAMI’s position has been so extreme that it advocates lobotomy and has harassed the few psychiatrists who are not practitioners of the bioreductionist faith.[22]



[1] Quoted in Thomas Szasz, The manufacture of madness: a comparative study of the Inquisition and the mental health movement (Syracuse University Press, 1997), p. 14.

[2] Ibid., pp. 48f.

[3] Ibid., 308.

[4] Ibid., p. 307.

[5] Toxic psychiatry (op. cit.), p. 298.

[6] Ibid., p. 360.

[7] This, and the following diagnoses, appear in Mind games (op. cit.), p. 105.

[8] Quoted in Jeffrey Masson, Against therapy: emotional tyranny and the myth of psychological healing (HarperCollins, 1997), p. 57. The alliance between parents and psychiatrists is exposed in chapters 1, 5 y 6.

[9] Ibid., p. 60.

[10] Roger Gomm, “Reversing deviance” in Tom Heller (ed.) Mental health matters (The Open University, 1996), p. 80.

[11] Against therapy, pp. 70f.

[12] Ibid., pp. 72f.

[13] Ibid., p. 76.

[14] Mental health matters, p. 80.

[15] Quoted in The manufacture of madness, pp. 46f.

[16] Schizophrenia (National Schizophrenia Fellowship & Royal College of Psychiatrists, 1998), p. 12.

[17] Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition, DSM-IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).

[18] Thomas Szasz, The therapeutic state (Prometheus Books, 1984), p. 223.

[19] Schizophrenia, p. 9.

[20] Jeffrey Masson, Final analysis: the making and unmaking of a psychoanalyst (HarperCollins, 1991), pp. 48f.

[21] Ibid., p. 51.

[22] Toxic psychiatry, pp. 425f.


Anonymous said...

I have heard depression is nature's way of telling us something is wrong in our life and can actually be healthy, like a fever killing the virus or infection.

What do you think?

Chechar said...

Absolutely true. It’s precisely when I feel sad and don’t want to write or read when my best insights of what is going on reach my mind.