By Patricia Lefave, Monophrenic
For example, claiming you have been “harmed by others”, could be defined as a “symptom” of “mental illness” as an abstract concept, in absolute terms, ONLY if that statement was never true. If it is ever true, then it cannot be pathologized as an abstraction. And yet, that is exactly what bio-psych does. Many people are labelled like the “soup of the day” within ten to fifteen, cost effect minutes after the very first meeting with one of these folks who have unquestioned power and control handed to them, no questions asked, or tolerated, from you, and its perfectly legal. There is no other doctor (or profession for that matter,) that has this kind of legal power which exists outside of laws and constitutions, and is, in large part, far beyond the reach of lawyers, or police investigations, or complaints of human rights violations. The system is constructed in a way that protects itself. If this does not set off any alarm bells for you, it should. If the reason it does not is because, like one of the psych students in my city put it, “I know I could never get a psychiatric label because I am not sick...”
perhaps you should rethink your assumptions and look at what you just said in psychiatric terms. “Claiming” that you are “not sick” is one of the symptoms of BEING “sick.” When you say that to your friend on the bus who nods in agreement with you, it means one thing. But what if someone in your family thought you were acting a bit “weird” lately and you were saying that to a psychiatrist? Can you be sure that s/he would accept that from you at face value, even though s/he has been taught NEVER to accept anything you say at face value?
Can you sense “the circle” beginning to form around you in a snare-like manner? Well if not, by the time you do and start talking about “circles” or being “trapped” or the “Matrix” (and all the similar concepts in that) it will be too late, and not only that, your analogies and metaphors have also all been pathologized and defined as meaningless in any terms other than that of “mental illness”... a real physical illness “just like diabetes.” So even the meaning of the experience with your psychiatrist is about to take a nasty turn for the worse. If you suggest that your psychiatrist does not understand, or has it wrong, you may well become defined as suffering from “grandiosity” as you can be sure the term will not be applied to him or her.
Before any of us ever walk in the door of the “help,” the help has a preconceived notion of who we are, and why we are there, and they tend to make us “fit” into their belief system. That is not so different of course to what all human beings do. We see, hear and understand things based on beliefs and personal experience but what makes this situation so different is POWER and a lack of genuine two way communication between the psychiatrist and the psychiatrized. In this “dyad” (relationship between two people) one of the sides holds all the unquestioned power over the other and that in itself changes the power dynamic behind the attempt at genuine communication and the possible outcome(s). This is about the imposition of belief and wills, and for many of us that IS the problem and may have been our problem with someone else, before we ever walked in the door.
An example of what I mean is this:
The “identified” patient tells the psychiatrist, “I have been set up to appear to be something I am not and I am being attacked by others for it.”
Since psychiatrists are trained not to take anything the “patient” says “at face value,” s/he then looks for the hidden meaning behind the words and looking for it finds exactly what s/he has been taught s/he SHOULD find.
(there is a certain level of absurd humour in this of course since the same people tell us that “if you find yourself looking for “hidden meaning” it is a sign that you need an anti-psychotic.” (stifled laugh)
The fact remains though that when someone has a preconceived idea of who you are and what you MEAN, when that is not who you are or what you mean, power becomes a big part of the predictable outcome. This is not like a 'disagreement' you have with an equal. This can be a power struggle of a kind you could experience nowhere else, with no one else. There is an assumption which is part of the relationship that often mirrors a relationship the I.P. has had before with someone. That assumption is that the psychiatrist is always “right” and the patient is always wrong whenever s/he does not AGREE with the psychiatrist. After all, could someone defined as “mentally ill” possibly understand anything better than a psychiatrist? Of course not!
There is a reason the opinions of those in agreement with bio-psych are the people bio psych promotes and the ones the public gets to see in the T.V. ads. It is much easier to be right all the time if those who disagree with you need only have their disagreement “diagnosed” out of the picture. This is also about a common group phenomenon...keeping up appearances. It is all too often how everything looks and sounds that matters, and not how it IS. Many of us want you to know how it IS and we want that to matter the most because how it is, is how the world really runs and that determines the ultimate outcome that affects each and every human being on this planet one way or another.
Many of us have serious problems in communication with our psychiatrists. Words are inadequate at the best of times when real communication comes from mutual repespect and honest attempts to convey meaning. Language and meaning becomes a serious problem in situations where there is an imbalance of power and PERCEIVED worth.
I came to recognize that what I often meant was not what psychiatrists were hearing. What they heard was very often what they expected to hear in just the way they expected to hear it.
We may BOTH have agreed that I was “sick” for example, but I was saying I was sick from an interaction with others and an external problem while my psychiatrist was viewing me as a self contained “illness” without relationship to other people involved, circumstances or external reality. Beliefs change MEANING and can create utter chaos and confusion, where there is no REAl communication taking place.
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