11 Mai 2014


Writing thirty years ago, Illich observed that "in some industrial societies social labeling has been medicalized to the point where all deviance has to have a medical label." As children we were horrified at the Soviet practice of locking up dissidents in mental hospitals under the assumption that anyone who could object to the socialist Utopia must be crazy. Today we are witnessing an analogous phenomenon on a vastly wider scale. The tens of millions of people who find themselves unhappy in our modern technological paradise, this world under control, are diagnosed with some psychiatic disorder and medicated with mind-altering drugs. The same thing happens to children who resist the breaking of their spirit: they are diagnosed with "oppositional defiant disorder" or "attention deficit disorder." I look upon these "disorders" as signs of health, not illness. A sane, strong-willed child will resist the mindless routine, the busywork, and the hours cooped up inside a classroom; she will steal moments of play at any opportunity. I also think adult depression can be a sign of health. When we have been frightened away from our creative purpose into a life not really worth living, the soul rebels by withdrawing from that life. This is the paralysis of depression. "I would rather not participate in life at all," says the soul, enforcing its resolve by shutting down the mind, body, and spirit. We no longer feel motivated to live. For a while, sheer willpower and the habit of routine keep us going, but eventually the soul's call to withdraw becomes undeniable and we sink into the throes of clinical depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and the like. 
The medicalization of these psychiatric conditions is predicated on the assumption that life and the world as we know it are just fine. Like the dissidents in socialist Utopia, if living this good life renders you depressed, anxious, or unable to concentrate then, well, you've got an illness my friend. The problem isn't the world, and it isn't the life you have chosen; it is the chemistry of your brain. And that can be adjusted.
The reason that conventional psychiatry - whether pharmaceutical or psychoanalytic - is powerless to substantially help the vast majority of patients is that it does not, and cannot, recognize the wrongness of the world we live in. The psychiatrists have bought in along with the rest of us. Psychiatry operates on the assumption that we should be happy with it. The same assumption of the rightness, or at least the unalterability, of the world given to us underlies the quest to "cope with stress." That life is inherently stressful is not questioned. Psychiatric treatment is infamously impotent to address serious mental conditions because the psychiatrists, as fully enculturated elite members of society, are constitutionally unable to call into question the cultural assumptions in which they are so deeply invested. Their investment blinds them to the underlying rightness and fundamental sanity of a patient's reaction to a world gone wrong. Conventional treatment (particularly pharmaceutical treatment) actually exacerbates the illness by affirming, "Yes, the life society proffers is fine; the problem is with you." I have witnessed dramatic healing simply by affirming to someone, "You are right, this isn't how life is supposed to be" - a realization that empowers change. Not that psychiatry ignores the need for change altogether; it is just usually unable to carry the change deeply enough. In essence, it tells us that we need to adjust to the world and seeks to make us normal again, functioning members of society.
No. We are meant for more. Remember Zerzan: "Everyone can feel the nothingness, the void, just beneath the surface of everyday routines and securities." Any psychiatrist that seeks to adjust us to such a society is itself insane.  
Charles Eisenstein, The Ascent of Humanity  

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