Wow. Stuff about the anti-political nature of therapy.

Standard

I’ve been trying to post this for awhile. I’m never going to finish going “Yeah!  That point is really important!” and detailing all sorts of examples of why, so I’m just going to post it as-is:
Been a long time since I’ve found anything on this. I was going around the net and found the following articles about the problems of “feminist therapy” as applied to actual practiced feminism or lesbian-feminism. I don’t agree with a couple of the articles on the nature of consciousness-raising groups (I share the skepticism of the third article), but there’s a lot of useful information about how therapy warps things to be individual rather than political. Even if you disagree totally with the other political stances in these articles, they contain a lot of useful information about the intrusion of “therapy culture” on activism.

Therapism and the Taming of the Lesbian Community

This I feel language encourages us to judge everything by how it makes us feel. If we go to a lecture or read an article on some political topic, therapism encourages responses such as, “The author seemed very hostile to me,” or “She made me feel very frightened.” Rather than encouraging us to evaluate the substance, therapism encourages us to examine how her words made us feel. This promotes a microscopic view. It encourages us to look at most events in terms of how one person’s behavior affects another person’s emotions.

I’m sure everyone’s seen one or more of my rants on “I-statements” and “feeling” being used to separate out who expresses their opinions “properly” and who doesn’t. Rather than allowing any looking at the situation as it is, this sort of thing makes feelings synonymous with reality and goodness and all kinds of things they’re not.

Therapism teaches us quite a different way to be friends. In the first place, one must take one’s problems to a therapist so as not to overburden one’s friends.

What the article doesn’t quite get into, is the idea that relationships are not always exactly equal in terms of who is giving and taking which things. Therapism makes it so that friends don’t actually have to do things for each other, there are professionals for that. It makes it so that if one person is assisting another person more at any given particular amount of time, this can be considered “co-dependent” rather than a part of the natural ebb and flow of a relationship. Aside from encouraging selfishness, therapy seems to encourage an incredibly superficial kind of friendship wherein if any major problems arise for your friends, you aren’t expected to help any in dealing with them, you’re expected to tell them to go to a professional. It also, as the article points out, discourages anyone but professionals from giving advice about how to deal with life so that some of these problems might not be ongoing.

And let us not forget about “safe space.” A major problem with these therapistic means of communicating is that they can be so damn manipulative. “Safe space” is perhaps the biggest manipulator. At one time safe space for lesbians meant space where we could show affection for each other without fear of heckling or verbal abuse. It meant space where we could dare to look like Dykes without fear of physical assault. This kind of safe space was particularly important to working class Lesbians and Lesbians of Color who did not enjoy the relative safety that academic communities offered white Lesbians. However, today the term “safe space” indicates something entirely different. It means safety from each other. As far as I can tell, “safe space” is now an environment where a woman can express her emotions or feelings without fear of criticism. Safe space is a good example of how therapism has taken away our ability to discern the appropriate application of political ideas—sometimes popularizing these ideas past the point of significant meaning.

I remember a “support group” I went to (more on support groups later) for people who were or had been in the psychiatric system. I was first off the only psychiatric survivor/ex-patient in the room, everyone else identified as a consumer. As time wore on, it became apparent that this group could and did involuntarily commit people from that room, and did in fact support involuntary commitment for some unspecified “Those People” in which I was included at the time.

Now note, involuntary commitment is genuinely unsafe. It doesn’t just “feel unsafe” to think about, it’s the sort of thing that could literally kill me, and faster than it would kill the average person. I react to confinement in certain predictable ways. Those reactions are reacted to by institutional staff in certain predictable ways that involve the administration of drugs that can easily kill me. The local institution in that area disregards drug allergies on a regular basis. Further, it, like most places of its kind, engages in torture, degradation, and all the other fun stuff that is not “safety” in any way shape or form. It separates inmates from the rest of society but sure does not help anyone in any way at all.

Nearly all of the women in the room at that point were people who stood no chance of being involuntarily committed, themselves, I should add. They were seemingly unaware of the genuine dangers their viewpoints posed to people. By dangers, I don’t mean dangers to feelings, but dangers to life, health, liberty, and safety. I was aware of every last one of those dangers.

And I reacted by screaming and running into a corner, knocking over something on my way to doing so. As I did so, I could tell the floor was dropping out from under me and I was now being regarded and dehumanized into the category of definitely low-functioning. As I hid behind a television rack, in actual genuine danger from those kinds of pronouncements, everyone else went around in a circle and discussed calmly how my “illness” made me behave this way (WTF?) and how “unsafe” I made each one of them feel. Only one woman said, “You know what, when I get pissed off, I do the same thing she does.” She was definitely in the minority. To everyone else, talking about something genuinely dangerous was “safe,” but my reaction to that was “making them feel unsafe,” and their feelings, calmly expressed of course, ruled.

This is also why I’m reluctant to sit around and pathologize human responses to dangerous situations. Nearly every person in that room reacted to me not as a person reacting understandably to a genuine potential threat, but rather a person whose reactions were part of a sickness called post-traumatic stress disorder that is somehow separate from who I am as a person.

As if, rather than being a human being who’d experienced a whole lot of nasty situations and reacted to them in the only ways available to me at the time, the experiences, and my reactions to them, were separate. Easy to categorize away. Boxed. Forgotten.

The actual meaning of sitting there in a room listening to people discuss something dangerous, while sensations flew through my head at lightning speed about the real-life consequences of the topic of the discussion, becomes lost in medical terminology. Flashbacks. Startle response. Paranoia. Anxiety. Hypervigilance. Mental disease. These experiences become, not part of me, but separate, not part of my opinions about the world, but embarrassing bodily functions like farts that are better off ignored.

Emotions, too, become pathologized and at the same time elevated in importance as if they create reality itself. Everything becomes about “how people feel” rather than about how things are.

When a lesbian judges everything in terms of how it makes her feel, she becomes very emotionally vulnerable. She cannot take a bold stand on anything for fear of being criticized. Or she cannot criticize for fear that the community will disown her. Although support and safety have always been important to us, our community used to be based on movement. Now, we are so “safe” we cannot move.

This is as good a description as any of the fact that criticizing people’s viewpoints or actions is now seen as a horrible act of “emotional violence” against that person.

Therapy and How it Undermines the Practice of Radical Feminism

In fact, the whole of life can be seen as one great psychological exercise. Back in 1998, Judi Chamberlain pointed out that mental hospitals tend to use the term “therapy” to describe absolutely everything that goes on inside them:

…making the beds and sweeping the floor can be called “industrial therapy,” going to a dance or movie “recreational therapy,” stupefying patients with drugs “chemotherapy,” and so forth. Custodial mental hospitals, which offer very little treatment, frequently make reference to “milieu therapy,” as if the very hospital air were somehow curative (1977, p. 131).

A decade or so later, with psychology’s major clientele not in mental hospitals but in the community, everything in our lives is translated into “therapy.” Reading books becomes “bibliotherapy;” writing (Wenz: 198), journal keeping (Hagan: 1988), and art are all ascribed therapeutic functions. Even taking photographs is now a psychological technique. Feminist “phototherapist” Jo Spence drew on the psychoanalytic theories of Alice Miller (1987) and advocates healing (among other “wounds”) “the wound of class shame” through photography. And although reading, writing, and taking photographs are ordinary activities, in their therapeutic manifestation they require expert guidance: “I don’t think people can do this with friends or by themselves…they’ll never have the safety working alone that they’ll get working with a therapist because they will encounter their own blockages and be unable to get past them” (Spence: 1990, p. 39). While not wishing to deny that reading, writing, art, photography, and so on might make some people feel better about themselves, it is disturbing to find such activities assessed in purely psychological terms.

For anyone who’s ever seen me rant about the use of “therapeutic” to refer to emotional or political situations, the above is a good description of why. Basically, this “therapism” has taken over mainstream American culture to the point where everyday situations are becoming more and more medicalized over time, and solutions of course, are more and more individual and less and less political.

I have often seen an honest conversation turn into a therapeutic interaction before my eyes. For instance, I mention something that has bothered, hurt, or been difficult for me in some way. Something shifts. I see the woman I am with take on The Role of the Supportive Friend. It is as if a tape clicks into her brain, her voice changes, I can see her begin to see me differently, as a victim. She begins to recite the lines, “That must have been very difficult for you,” or “That must have felt so invalidating,” or “What do you think you need to feel better about that?” I know very well the corresponding tape that is supposed to click into my own brain: “I think I just needed to let you know what was going on for me,” or “It helps to hear you say that, it feels very validating,” or “I guess I just need to go off alone and nurture myself a little” (1987, p. 47).

That’s a quote within the article from something by Bonnie Mann. It’s meant to illustrate how even our interpersonal relationships are viewed as “therapy” right now.

Another real-life story:

I went to a meeting that was going to determine some pretty significant things in my life, including where I lived, who controlled my services, and whether or not I would be forced to accept services from people who had repeatedly endangered me in a physical life-and-death sense. Again, something where nearly the entire agenda was either life-and-death or otherwise major, not minor or trivial, certainly not about my feelings.

Anyway, one of the things that kept happening, was the woman running the meeting (and the company that the meeting was about) kept trying to “validate” my emotions. I can’t remember the exact words she used, but they were comments like Bonnie Mann describes above. Ones that focused entirely on my emotions and not at all on the situation I was trying to fix. She seemed to think if she could just calm me down everything would be fine. And, of course, “I hope you feel heard by us.”

Needless to say this did not work, and I stated over and over that my problem was not my feelings, but the actual situation. And the situation did, to a point, get resolved, although I note that it only got resolved for me, not for any other clients who might be affected. And it is not fully resolved for me, I still have ongoing, preventable health problems as a consequence of that organization’s policies. But it sounded to begin with as if it mattered more to her that I reacted emotionally in the correct way than whether I survived or not, got to retain my apartment or not, quit being threatened or not. An exact quote from me during that meeting was, “If I wanted someone to take care of my emotions, I’d stay home and pet my dog.”

Psychology suggests that only after healing yourself can you begin to heal the world. I disagree. People do not have to be perfectly functioning, self-actualised human beings in order to create social change. Think of the feminists you know who have been influential in the world, and who have worked hard and effectively for social justice: Have they all loved and accepted themselves? The vast majority of those admired for their political work go on struggling for change not because they have achieved self-fulfilment (nor in order to attain it), but because of their ethical and political commitments, and often in spite of their own fears, self-doubts, personal angst, and self-hatreds. Those who work for “revolution without” are often no more “in touch with their real selves” than those fixated on inner change: this observation should not be used (as it sometimes is) to discredit their activism, but rather to demonstrate that political action is an option for all of us, whatever our state of psychological well-being.

Indeed. If I had waited until I liked myself to write about the ideas I write about, I would have had to wait until this past year or two. If I had waited until I was some pure description of emotional stability (whatever that might be considered), I’d have to wait even longer, maybe forever. I’ve written things about the value of all people’s lives while wanting to kill myself, and seriously contemplating doing so. I’ve seen that Sue Rubin has spoken out about torture at the Judge Rotenberg Center while utterly loathing large parts of her brain and body. This does not make self-hatred and despair good things, it just means that even in those circumstances people can do important things, and that waiting around to not experience those things might mean leaving important things left undone.

The Lesbian Revolution and the 50-Minute Hour: A Working-Class Look at Therapy and the Movement

But since the middle class rules, working-class lesbians are continually reprimanded for our “excitability” in meetings, while also being reproached for our failure to “open up” personally. This we generally prefer to do privately, or with good friends, or in meetings designed to handle personal reactions.

In that article, the author’s describing ways of shutting people out that can be on the basis of things other than class (she mentions race, she doesn’t mention disability), but she points out that she’s describing it in terms of class for the article since that’s what she’s most experienced with. So, a lot of the problems she’s describing are things I’ve encountered for reasons other than class, although class sometimes comes into it for me in different ways.

This discrepancy she’s describing is something I’ve been encountering for a long time: I act in emotional ways, but I do not sit around discussing emotions in the way people consider “opening up”. I don’t know if this is because of my cultural background, because of the fact that I’m autistic, or what, but it’s a definite difference between me and a lot of the sorts of people that get bothered about things like that.

I’ve never seen anyone pull those two things apart in quite that way before. I’d always wondered why it was that I could react in visibly passionate ways (and, yes, get chastised for it), yet always get told I was not opening up enough emotionally. Get told “We know what you’re about, but we don’t know you.”

Whenever I found out they were looking for very specific kinds of expressions of my feelings, my reaction was something like, “Why are you demanding something so personal out of me? That’s for my friends, not strangers.” But I could never articulate the difference between the emotions they got to see (integrated into the way I express things about certain ideas) and the emotions they wanted to see (neatly cordoned off into “I feel…” statements, I guess, and connected to things they could view as relevant to personhood).

So that explains being chastised simultaneously for being “too emotional” and being “not emotionally open enough”.

I can recall attending a meeting of a newly formed group at which volunteers were asked to facilitate. There was a short silence; then, a lesbian I knew slightly said (I am paraphrasing), “Well, although I don’t consider myself any more qualified than anyone else, if no one has any objection, I will volunteer to facilitate. If I offend anyone by my choice of methods, please let me know. I could be wrong about how I think this should be done. When the meeting is over, I will offer my criticism of myself as a facilitator, and I will welcome criticism from the rest of you.” She went on in this vein for some time, wielding the power which therapy bestows: for several minutes she kept all attention focused on herself, yet she used words which sounded a note of humility, self-disparagement. She was, in fact, rather authoritarian in her manner of facilitation. I later found out she was a therapist.

This lesbian also inadvertently made evident to me what makes this distinctly courteous-sounding mode of behavior so desirable to some womyn. She was the first in my experience to forbid direct confrontation between any two lesbians at a meeting. At first, I thought it was only more of the fear often evinced by middle-class womyn at any sign of anger. (They sometimes act as though we’re all about to pull knives.) When I saw that she also stopped all humor, I realized that it was simply emotion of all kinds that made her uncomfortable, out of control of the meeting.

Both of those paragraphs, again, sound a lot like things I’ve seen happening within assorted groups as well. And this really describes well how under all kinds of “I am nice” signals, people can be controlling, manipulative, authoritarian, and self-centered, while of course directing most of that to people who aren’t sending the same signals.

Also, a lot of this falls under the same category I’ve been noticing, whereby people who manage to pull off a certain variety of “courteous” get treated better than people who don’t. I’m usually in the “don’t” category. I recently ended up in the category of being considered “courteous” (which people didn’t realize was simply because I was too indifferent to a lot of their nastiness to get worked up about it) while someone else with an almost identical viewpoint to mine was not, and that was just as much a problem. It’s just one more way to split us into Good Auties and Bad Auties.

The “acting like we’re all about to pull knives” comment is familiar as well. People often react as if I’m dangerous or “out of control” (I suppose in therapy-speak, the phrase I loathe, “danger to self or others”) because of my opinions, emotions, or even perceived emotions that aren’t really there.

Hence, we now have thousands of lesbians who will sit down, in all earnestness, and say, “I am very angry,” in a perfectly serene tone of voice. (As the years go by, they grow more and more distant in their phrasing, as, “I feel some anger around this,” or even, “I have some anger here.”) The same womyn, while righteously defending the necessity of putting out their feelings, will level charges of aggression, divisiveness, and male-identification at lesbians who don’t need to announce that they are angry, because it is clear, from their every word and gesture.

…and where have I seen that before?

This is one reason I don’t fit in in support group atmospheres. I have zero interest in sitting around serenely saying “I have a great deal of anger issues over what I perceive to sort of be a return to previous ideas about something that looks a bit like eugenics” or something. And I can’t even begin to count the amount of times that someone has completely disregarded what I or someone else has to say, only to focus on the fact that we sound too “angry” — an accusation which can be brought on not only by being angry, but by talking about things that make them angry.

In the autistic community, this often takes the form of autistic people lecturing each other about social skills and the proper ways to do things. Because we’re already presumed deficient in “social skills” (which tend to mean, in these contexts, adhering to white middle-class therapy-culture social norms) it becomes easy to lecture us on the fact that nobody will ever listen to us until we communicate in a way that’s not only thoroughly unnatural to us (more so than language is already to many of us, while those who cannot use language at any particular moment are seen as even more vile in their/our means of communication), but based on an arbitrary set of social norms.

It’s not just non-autistic people who do this. Plenty of autistic people buy into it and have written all about a sanitized, “good”-manners-ridden, frictionless version of self-advocacy that is impossible for the vast majority of autistic people. Some have even gone so far as to say that if it’s not done like this, it’s not proper self-advocacy to begin with. Everything becomes about what is proper, rather than what will get things done, and even what is possible.

The author of the article has a great section, too long to quote, in which she points out that a friend is being classist, and the friend goes to her therapist, treats this as an “attack” on her, and decides to “take back her own power” by saying she had no right to “judge” her this way. Threw in a few genuine personal insults and one cruel but underhanded comment that deliberately hit a weak spot. She writes:

So my friends would approach our next confrontation having gained from therapy no knowledge of how to express anger (and certainly no experience). They would fall back on what skill they had acquired through their class experience and in therapy, for therapy and the middle class are the two places where expression of anger is presumed to mask some other emotion. They would do the familiar: state something cruel, actually make a deliberate attempt of meanness, thereby depleting my power in their eyes, so that I needn’t be taken seriously. They would feel less pain because now I was the one hurt. Because they feel bad when I yell, and I feel bad when they are cruel, they delude themselves that we are doing the same thing.

This seems to be a common reaction to bringing up ableism, as well. I at one point recently, trying more than I really had to in fact to be polite but firm, bowed out of a conversation in which I was being expected to do and say certain things specifically because I was disabled. I gave the reasons and put it in a broader context. I then watched as people stood around and comforted each other about what a horrible attack they were enduring from me, periodically throwing thinly-veiled insults (to the effect of “Bad Autie, not like the Good Obedient Auties, must be a mean-spirited person in general who just wants to cause trouble and isn’t particularly generous of heart”, etc) in my direction.

Since consensus requires that every person be satisfied (the American Dream), that no one be declared the loser of the vote (a horror to privileged folks), the pressure brought to bear on the dissenter is formidable. In the past, if the middle-class lesbians dominated all decision-making, winning simply by outnumbering, we could protest or leave. Now, any objection to losing a vote is childish, because everyone theoretically has the chance to stop any vote from going through. The fact that dissenters must carry the onus of having selfishly stopped the entire group’s process is not officially acknowledged.

I’m familiar with consensus mainly through Quakerism (which has its own class-related problems that can make attending Meeting nearly unbearable for me at times, but that’s a different story). In which there’s a specific shared cultural understanding around the use of consensus, that can be quite valuable in some situations. But I’m very familiar, even in that situation, with the pressure on people who block consensus, particularly if, like me, they’re fairly low-status or even assumed not to understand what’s going on.

And consensus isn’t right for every single situation. It works when you’ve got a particular relationship to each other and to a shared set of assumptions about the world, but it doesn’t work so well in the situations being described in the article

Hand in hand with the disapproval of direct interactions between lesbians at meetings, crit/self-crit serves to allow abusive or manipulative lesbians to say anything they wish in the course of meetings, knowing that it will not be tolerated for them to be directly confronted. The same womyn reign during the crit sessions. Another working-class dyke friend has recounted to me her abuse during these sessions, as her audacity in offering real criticism of middle-class lesbians’ exercise of privilege was consistently punished by a responding criticism of her offensive style. She was castigated in vague therapy terminology about how attacking or unconstructive she had been. This was supposed to silence her protests against oppression. If she couldn’t learn to do it right, she simply had no credibility. Yet, what middle-class dykes said about her never had to do with realities like privilege and oppression (or even with the content of her criticism); only that some delicate spirit experienced her honesty as being hurtful.

Again. Run. Into. This. All. The. Time. I don’t know how to say any of this better than she’s saying it right there. Raising particular important points becomes “attacking,” and the entire focus of everything becomes protecting the feelings of the person who “feels attacked”.

And… there’s way too much in that article that I could quote and go “Yeah she’s saying something really important here!” in a zillion different way. Overall the points had me going “Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. I’ve seen this (or even, been brainwashed to engage in the wrong end of this) and I’ve never known how to say it.”  (Also some stuff that had me going “Yeah but I wish she’d also discussed the difference between what she’s talking about and [insert-thing-here].”  Like, the difference between “I’m okay as I am and I don’t need to grow and change and have a total right to be selfish,” and the sort of “I’m okay as I am” that auties tend to mean that is quite different in meaning.)  So I’m ending here and hoping people will go read and think about it themselves.

About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods. Crochet or otherwise create constantly and compulsively. Write poetry and paint when I can. Physically and cognitively disabled. Anything you hear in the media or gossip is likely to be oversimplified at best and wildly inaccurate at worst, the only way to get to know me is to actually know me. I'm not really part of any online faction or another, even ones that claim me as a member. The thing in the world most important to me is having love and compassion for other people, although I don't always measure up to my own standards there by a longshot. And individual specific actions and situations and contexts matter a lot more to me than broadly-spoken abstract words and ideas about a topic. My father died a couple years ago and that has changed my life a lot in ways that are still evolving, but I wear a lot of his clothes and hats every day since he died and have shown no sign of stopping soon.

42 responses »

  1. A classically American way of trying to neutralize a social-change movement is to subtly turn it into a personal-transformation or self-help movement; its members don’t realize they’re under attack because they’re busy spinning their wheels even though they think they’re accomplishing something. 12-step ideology is particuluarly “helpful” here because it says you have to put your weaknesses on at least an equal basis with your strengths. Therapy culture in general seems to regard vulnerability as the ultimate good, with the “healthiest” possible behavior being a display of vulnerability in front of a mass audience, i.e. crying for the cameras. The concept that one could actually improve one’s situation through one’s own actions, alone or in conjunction with others, seems quite alien to therapy culture; rather, you’re just supposed to endlessly ponder (“process”) your present situation. Coming out of a difficult situation (say, having been abused as a kid) without ending up a basket case is seen as tremendously pathological and an indication for intensive intervention in which you have to get worse before you get better (the good old “healing crisis” or “detox” or “Herxheimer reaction” so beloved to purveyors of snake oil). Ultimately it’s a celebration of passivity.

  2. Yeah. A couple of people molested me as a kid, and it was obviously not good, but I was not nearly as affected by that as I was by a lot of other things that happened to me. Many professionals have focused on the molestation as the True Horror because “everyone knows” that sexual abuse is the worst kind (no matter what the specific details of the situation). When strong emotional reactions from me were not forthcoming, there were attempts to manufacture such reactions, or to tie unrelated reactions back to those events rather than to the events they were related to. Similarly, people pay more attention to the fact that an inmate wiggled his toes in my butt for ten minutes at one institution than any of the ongoing hell from staff there and other places, because sexual abuse is apparently the measure of how bad a place is. Not only the attempts to manufacture a response, but the constant emphasis on sex, are relics of the therapy culture.

    One time, a staff person (not even in a psychiatric setting) went so far as to manipulate me and pound my head with imagery until I started crying, and then hugged me and “comforted” me. She regarded it as an amazing breakthrough that she had made me cry, and she also regarded herself as having special knowledge of me because she, too, was autistic, and she could work out how to control my actions and thought that meant understanding me. I regarded her as controlling and… well I’d had enough one day when she restrained me (against all prior agreements, and in a situation where she was in no danger), and she went to the office and quit a few minutes before I could call them to say I was firing her.

    By the way, I’ve talked to someone who says that 12-step culture was itself infiltrated by therapy culture at one point. Prior to that, they saw psychiatry and therapy as a negative thing that wouldn’t help you quit drinking at all and was best avoided. Not that things were perfect at that point, but that it wasn’t about group therapy initially and gradually became that way during the rise of therapy culture itself (and that’s when there became 12-step groups for everything).

    Something I forgot to mention (among many others) in the post, was that I’ve met (online and off) a small but memorable number of people who deftly used therapy culture (including, some of them, modern 12-step) as a way to construct a bubble around themselves.

    They never had to see the consequences of their actions because everything was about them and their feelings, and if you pointed out what was going on, they’d elaborately construct a scenario where you were attacking them and hurting their feelings by merely pointing out that they could be doing damaging things (beyond hurt feelings) to others. They could do all of this while remaining firmly within the “When you… I feel” school of thought, and would construct elaborate psychological reasons why people who disagreed with them were just awful people in one way or another.

    I don’t mean just garden-variety therapy culture, though, but people who took it to the level of an art form. A destructive and selfish art form, where everything in the world became about them, everyone was expected to focus on them, and anyone who didn’t was interfering with their fragile feelings. And there was literally no way any external part of reality could reach them because their minds were tied into neat little loops that excluded anything that could not immediately (in their head) be tied back to their emotional state. It’s been awhile since I’ve talked to anyone like that, but it’s always memorable.

    I seem to be solidly in the category of Evil People for people like that, and have any of a number of sick, twisted, nasty, reasons, ultimately based in a combination of refusal to go to therapy and trauma in my childhood (they have told me this), for utterly refusing to play along. They, after all, are improving themselves (that’s called improvement?) which is the only worthwhile act a human being can undergo (and the only possible one, because humans have no influence on each other, only on ourselves, apparently), and I’m worried about silly little things like the effect of people’s actions on other people, and political concerns that affect whole groups of people. People like me obviously have a lot of misplaced anger, to actually want to do something beyond sit there and discuss our feelings and our “process”. But it’s imperative to show just how sick, twisted, and messed up we are, lest anyone listen to us.

    And then, if any of us call them on it, of course: “Why are you letting me affect you?” (serene smile, while redirecting everyone back to the Wise Notion that nobody has any effect on anyone else that that other person does not allow to happen…)
    And so on.

  3. Thought: What bothers me about the “therapy culture” thing is: the message I’ve always taken from it is that only certain people’s feelings are important. Everyone else’s feelings have to be subordinated for the sake of those people’s feelings, or their feelings or their expressing them is characterized as being harmful to those people’s feelings.

    Most of the time in our life, we’ve ended up on the side where our feelings are supposedly invalidating other people’s feelings and causing them immense grief and harm. (we even, perhaps amusingly, got this “But my feelings take priority over your feelings!” routine from
    someone who ranted about “whiny therapy junkies” and cast anyone who had ever been to a therapist as same.) The message kind of seems to be “everybody’s feelings are valid, but some people’s are more valid than others.” And if you aren’t the type of person whose feelings are valid, sit down and shut up and let the people who deserve it be validated.

    There’s also the problem of conflating *being offensive* with *hurt feelings.* Encouraging everyone to describe their own reactions in therapized language tends to make serious issues sound very… not serious. If someone tells you that basically you or people like you deserve to die, casting it in terms of hurt feelings and invalidation makes it seem rather silly, unimportant and fluffy. Whether or not it hurts someone’s feelings is, imo, incidental compared to the fact that it’s *offensive* dammit. Some things are offensive, they don’t merely cause hurt feelings; talking about them in terms of such obscures the moral issues that are at stake, if you make it sound like there’s no right or wrong, just feelings.

    I mean, honestly, if someone has just told me I don’t deserve to exist, I’m not going to be that concerned about making sure their feelings are validated if I try to argue otherwise. To “validate their feelings” in such a case would basically be to agree with them, as far as I can see, or at least say that their view of me is legitimate, and I’m not going to do that. If someone says something really offensive, I don’t want to have to preface it with “this is just my feelings, but…” in order to tell them so. And I can’t accept the premise that you have to always use “I feel” statements because it’s always bad to suggest that someone else has made you feel a certain way. It seems like, on the one hand, everyone has to take *too* much responsibility for what they say because someone’s feelings might get hurt, but at the same time, everyone is being let off the hook for ever having to take responsibility for their words, because you can’t ever say that anyone else made you feel anything or that their feelings are wrong. You can say anything and then the other person has to just sit back meekly and go “When you say that, I feel threatened,” rather than “I’m not going to take this crap from you any longer.” (Or anything that might imply that the offensive/threatening person doesn’t have an equal right to their opinion and their feelings.)

    I’m all for civil dialogue over childish insult-slinging, but that is *not* civil in my book. (And actually makes it more difficult, as excessive discussion of the issues in terms of feelings and validation will often lead the offensive people to sneer at any criticism of their position as being merely the work of a bunch of whiners with hurt feelings, even when serious issues are involved.)

    There’s also a surprising amount of people out there who just see stating *facts* as hurtful, regardless of how you do it. You know, someone talks about “x kind of people need y kind of help” and you say “Um, excuse me, I’m an x kind of person and y didn’t help me, or I didn’t need y,” and they respond (if not by accusing you of not really being an x kind of person) extremely defensively, accuse you of attacking them, run all around going “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry”
    (at which point *you* are the one who is supposed to apologize for making them feel bad by stating facts), launch into the whole “How dare you accuse me of not caring about my friend/child/relative who is an x kind of person”… well, the whole deal. Even though most of us
    think of ourselves as emotionally sensitive people, just plain stating facts doesn’t enter into that, for us. There’s a difference between wishing that certain things didn’t affect us as much as they do, and finding facts offensive because they confound your image of yourself as a good and enlightened person.

  4. On the situation of certain kinds of abuse being considered universally worse than others– we were talking tonight with a friend about times in both our lives when we’ve had to manufacture “bad things” that didn’t really happen, or highly exaggerated versions of things that did happen, because the people we were talking to had their own ideas of what kinds of things resulted in lasting harm and what didn’t. Telling them what really happened seemed to slide off them and caused them to try to identify other things in our lives as the *real* source of all the problems. Sometimes we played into those ideas of the “real source of the problem” just to get them to leave us alone and/or acknowledge that there was a real problem at all.

    Regrettably, we are still vulnerable to it even today. There have been times when, trying to emphasize that certain situations we were in were bad, we mentioned things like being hit before mentioning things like emotional twistings disguised as help and people telling you that you aren’t who you really are and are a different person and that you like things you hate and have renounced things you really love, and those were generally the things that did the *real* long-term damage. But apparently it’s also hard to convey those experiences to a lot of people who haven’t had them, and explain exactly why they are so bad, while it seems to be easier to make people understand why being hit or molested is bad.

    They never had to see the consequences of their actions because everything was about them and their feelings, and if you pointed out what was going on, they’d elaborately construct a scenario where you were attacking them and hurting their feelings by merely pointing out that they could be doing damaging things (beyond hurt feelings) to others. They could do all of this while remaining firmly within the “When you… I feel” school of thought, and would construct elaborate psychological reasons why people who disagreed with them were just awful people in one way or another.

    Yeah, “unhealthy,” “unbalanced,” “violating boundaries,” etc… We knew someone like that fairly well once. She definitely had it as an art form; it was almost like a kind of cult brainwashing– in that when we looked back on all the things this friend had said and justified with therapeutic language, and how completely outrageous, unfair, paranoid and even vicious she had been, and how we (and other friends) had been made to accept that and see it as part of her never-ending “healing” and “balancing” and so forth (and it never did end, even though she was always making out like things would get better from here on out, but they never did), it was pretty amazing how much she was able to subvert our and others’ common sense, just by convincing us that everything she was doing was good for her, and that everything was always someone else’s fault, never hers. (At least we weren’t the ones who were drained the worst by her: we were “only” out about a thousand dollars at the end of it all. The people who had gotten emotionally attached to her when she screwed them over in order to “heal” weren’t so lucky.) Nobody wanted to be the bad guy by interfering with her “healing,” “balancing,” “setting boundaries,” “grounding,” “balancing,” etc. It sounds like such a laudable goal, but the problem was that she never actually did do any of those things, so far as I could see; she merely talked everyone into circles and provided impressive justifications for why everything she was doing was going to help her.

  5. “…relationships are not always exactly equal in terms of who is giving and taking which things. Therapism makes it so that friends don’t actually have to do things for each other, there are professionals for that. It makes it so that if one person is assisting another person more at any given particular amount of time, this can be considered “co-dependent” rather than a part of the natural ebb and flow of a relationship. Aside from encouraging selfishness, therapy seems to encourage an incredibly superficial kind of friendship wherein if any major problems arise for your friends, you aren’t expected to help any in dealing with them, you’re expected to tell them to go to a professional. It also, as the article points out, discourages anyone but professionals from giving advice about how to deal with life so that some of these problems might not be ongoing.”

    LIGHTBULB LIGHTBULB
    [as opposed to eyeballs eyeballs] (^_~)

    Again you explained something that had been bothering me for years (in real life interactions with people I used to think were my friends), and I had never known how to make sense of why it seemed wrong!

  6. There is so much here I want to respond to, but my hands are killing me so I’ll only respond to this: (too wiped to do italics and things, sorry!) “I at one point recently, trying more than I really had to in fact to be polite but firm, bowed out of a conversation in which I was being expected to do and say certain things specifically because I was disabled. I gave the reasons and put it in a broader context. I then watched as people stood around and comforted each other about what a horrible attack they were enduring from me, periodically throwing thinly-veiled insults (to the effect of “Bad Autie, not like the Good Obedient Auties, must be a mean-spirited person in general who just wants to cause trouble and isn’t particularly generous of heart”, etc) in my direction.”

    I coordinate a group for women with disabilities in my city, everyone else refers to it as a `support’ or `self help’ group – I don’t, cannot *bear* those sorts of groups, for all the reasons you’ve detailed. When I started it, I saw it as more of a conciousness-raising that would result in activism sort of thing. But, it’s full of `nice’ people of the type you’ve so well described, I don’t know how that happened, but they are the ones that keep turning up, and they drive me nuts. They are apologists for ablist and prejudiced behaviour. This is what happened at our meeting on Sunday (copied from my LJ): A woman who is paticularly `nice’ and sugary to the point I nearly slip into a diabetic coma when talking to her, tells me she’s working on a project with a couple of local area coordinators (staff funded by state disability org to assist PWD in accessing the community), and she wants my opinion. My guard goes up, I know from teeth-grinding experience that she thinks along the medical/charity models of disability, ie. people don’t *mean* to discriminate, they don’t *understand* (gag! You don’t need to *understand* someone to treat them with respect), and we should be grateful for whatever crumbs we get. (Warning, my fellow Bitter And Twisteds – you *will* need a sick bag for the next bit of this!) This project is a sticker that will have the disability symbol on it, with the wheelchair bit replaced by a smiley face, they are for PWD to give to able-bodied people in the community when the able-bodied person does something `nice’ for a PWD (opens a door for them, that sort of thing). As a `thank you’ (because the usual currency of a brief `thanks’, nod and/or smile – you know, what most people do and accept in this situation isn’t enough, it’s such a faaaaaaaaaaaaaabulous, extraordinary thing for a AB to treat a PWD with respect that they must be gushed over and fussed over and Given A Special Sticker To Encourage Them).

    Of course, I think it’s an *awful* idea, patronising and paternalistic to both AB’s and PWD. I said that, very quietly and tactfully, without swearing or yelling (and I think I ruptured something in the process), and my fucking god, you would have thought I’d just stomped on the head of a wittle baby puppy or something, from most people’s reactions. “But, it’s a nice thing to do for people, to thank them, and people need to be encouraged”… etc. You get the picture.

    I get routinely told that I’m `negative’ because I don’t believe in coddling ABs. Demanding respect from others isn’t `nice’ according these women.

    So, this is the sort of thing that most PWD I’m around in real life believe and go along with. I’m planning on getting out of the group as soon as I can pass on what I do to someone else. This kind of crap will give me an ulcer otherwise.

    Reading your writing is one of the things that keeps me going – I feel less isolated.

  7. Berke: I’ve been told that life-and-death issues for so-called “high functioning” autistic people are not actually life-and-death issues, but rather a matter of “hurt feelings,” and that I was just not seeing that nothing we were working for was really about reality. Or something.

    You write:

    It seems like, on the one hand, everyone has to take *too* much responsibility for what they say because someone’s feelings might get hurt, but at the same time, everyone is being let off the hook for ever having to take responsibility for their words, because you can’t ever say that anyone else made you feel anything or that their feelings are wrong. You can say anything and then the other person has to just sit back meekly and go “When you say that, I feel threatened,” rather than “I’m not going to take this crap from you any longer.” (Or anything that might imply that the offensive/threatening person doesn’t have an equal right to their opinion and their feelings.)

    Yeah. That’s a paradox I have trouble putting words to.

    Also, in relation to that, the whole idea that “feelings can’t be wrong” is part of what is behind the defense of the Autism Speaks video. That video can’t be bad, because it’s their “genuine feelings”. And genuine feelings don’t have a source in prejudice or anything icky like that, they’re pure and pristine things that materialize out of thin air for no reason other than to be expressed anywhere and everywhere possible. At which point people can be congratulated for their bravery for expressing them, even if the feelings amount to murderous impulses towards a kind of person whose life is already strongly devalued. There’s no responsibility there for what kind of message this is sending people, either.

    It’s like everyone exists in walled-off isolated soundproof cubicles or something where all communication is neat and orderly and nobody has any real influence on each other because nothing can penetrate the cubicle walls. Except it’s an illusion and totally untrue. If I sneak behind someone and yell “Boo!” I’d imagine that “You scared the crap out of me” would be a reasonable response, not “When you do that, I feel scared, but that’s my responsibility, I’m just owning my feelings.”

    Hmm, an autistic person ranting about people thinking they live in cut-off bubble worlds that have nothing to do with reality. Another stereotype shattered.

  8. Agree with ebohlman, who put it in far better words than I could.

    I also think you’re right, Amanda, when you note that it’s American culture that’s being taken over by this sort of drivel. There is a story that the British actor/writer Stephen Fry tells, in which he and an Australian actor friend were both in rehearsals in Hollywood for an American film, with a largely American cast. One of the American actresses, in the middle of a row about some detail said: “I’m not feeling nourished by this moment”. Fry and the Australian both looked at each and *winced* in embarrassment.

    For all the flaws we Brits may have elsewhere, we are at least as a rule far too cynical to believe in all this stuff. In short, Amanda, you need to get yourself a passport and move to Britain

    :-)

  9. What I’ve noticed about this sort of thing is that, although it’s supposedly a good thing, it actually gives all the power to other people. It doesn’t seem like it should, but it does. Because this whole phenomenon is about “blaming” other people for our feelings.

    “I feel… when you…” is basically saying “You shouldn’t do that thing because it makes me feel bad,” which is completely denying the fact that feelings exist and should be experienced as they are.

    That’s the big part of it all. I don’t like the way this “therapizing” negates feelings. I went to a 12-session “Women & Self-Esteem” group last year (2005) and while part of the message was good (you choose your reactions to things, you can control how you feel), there was far too much emphasis put on “negative feelings” (disguised as “negative thoughts”). The group didn’t really help my self-esteem any; I still feel pretty crappy about myself, just for different reasons (I was dx’d ADHD while the group was going on).

    Earlier this week, I saw the episode of Star Trek:The Next Generation wherein Data (the android) experiences anger for the first time, during a fight with some Borg (his “brother”, Lore, was controlling his emotions with a chip he’d found). After the incident (and before we learn that it is Lore behind things), he attempts to create other emotions. In a discussion with the ship’s counsellor, Data explains that he’s been focusing on making himself feel happiness, pleasure, etc. because they are positive emotions, and he doesn’t want to feel angry because it is a negative emotion. Deanna responds that emotions are neither positive nor negative, they just are, and that it is how a person responds to their emotions that is positive or negative.

    Gene Roddenberry was a bit of a whacko, but many of his philosophies (as demonstrated in the shows he actually was able to work on) were pretty decent.

  10. Psychology suggests that only after healing yourself can you begin to heal the world. I disagree. People do not have to be perfectly functioning, self-actualised human beings in order to create social change

    More than that, you don’t become ‘self-actualised’ (let alone perfectly functioning, which is just not a human characteristic), except by interacting with other people* – meaningfully interacting, not just exchanging therapy-speak ‘strokes’ -, and thereby creating social change; whether on the minutest scale of helping a friend or hindering a friend, or on the wider scale of subjecting thousands or helping thousands to become free.

    And this perpetual focus on the inner, the insistence that only the personal is important (and everything else should be “adjusted to”) only encourages the great disease of radicalism; that groups splinter across lines of perceived likeness (not working class enough, not black enough, not female enough, not…), instead of uniting along lines of common interest.

    (On the interacting with other people thing, it does not mean that “group of choice are less human because they don’t interact/ don’t interact properly”: it does mean that some people are not allowed to be as fully themselves as they might, because their own modes of interaction are disallowed, or because they are denied full opportunity to interact safely/ at all.)

  11. Another bite: this is one of those themes I’ve been trying to get to grips with, in between having minor wobblies because the psych system did so much kind, well-intentioned damage.

    This project is a sticker that will have the disability symbol on it, with the wheelchair bit replaced by a smiley face, they are for PWD to give to able-bodied people in the community when the able-bodied person does something `nice’ for a PWD (opens a door for them, that sort of thing)

    Opening a door for someone is more than unremarkable courtesy? People without disabilities (who are they, then?) don’t open doors for each other? Or is it somehow special (oh, that word again) when it’s done for a poor, not-quite-human disabled person?

    Re. “feelings are never wrong”: well, one can say, as a first approximation, that feelings themselves are never *morally wrong. However, they can be factually misleading – and what one *does* with feelings can *certainly* be morally wrong.

    rocobley: I’m afraid this stuff is spreading in the UK, too.

  12. After the incident (and before we learn that it is Lore behind things), he attempts to create other emotions. In a discussion with the ship’s counsellor, Data explains that he’s been focusing on making himself feel happiness, pleasure, etc. because they are positive emotions, and he doesn’t want to feel angry because it is a negative emotion.

    The labeling of anger, outrage, etc, as “negative feelings” which should be suppressed in favor of “positive feelings” like happiness is something of a sore spot with us, also. Additionally, we’ve been around too many people who seemed to have this idea that “negative emotions are an indication of unresolved trauma.” In other words, the only reason anyone would ever have “negative emotions” is because of something bad in their past that they’re not admitting to, or haven’t “worked through yet” (where “worked through” is often defined as “sharing your feelings with everyone”), and a “healthy” person will only ever respond to even the worst situations with “positive” feelings.

    Obviously, I don’t buy that. The things people are calling “negative emotions” are things that come with the whole package of being human. It doesn’t mean you have unresolved trauma or issues or aren’t truly comfortable with yourself, and it’s also possible to have trauma or problems you aren’t admitting to and experience “negative emotions” which have absolutely nothing to do with those things.

    That, and anger (especially over things like injustice) can ultimately be productive of doing things to challenge or defy an existing social order. In fact, challenges to the social order would probably never happen if everyone sat around trying to suppress their “negative feelings” because they mean you’re not healthy.

  13. This is amazing, and brilliant. The articles are brilliant, and your synthesis is brilliant. Perhaps we could start a campaign to print off copies and leave them in stacks outside every support group meeting we find. You think they’d read them, or just skim and start complaining about how they feel attacked?

    (Just to clarify, that’s a joke.)

    The bit about conversations turning to therapeutic interactions really struck me. I always thought the reason people feel better when someone hears and understands their problems is that it’s the first step in helping. Perhaps something big, perhaps something as small as friendly advice, encouragment, or comfort. This also has to do with what you said about friendship, how if one person’s giving a lot, and the other person’s getting a lot, it’s considered automatically co-dependent.

    But the trick, which I think was discovered by therapists, is that most people (who aren’t used to being let down through therapeutic language) start to feel better the moment they’re heard. Not because it’s a solution, but because it’s a step towards getting things fixed. So (provided you don’t recognise the formula they’re using as a formula) having someone go, “That sounds terrible. You must be really upset. It makes sense that you feel that way.” sparks the immediate relief. And then they don’t help you plan, they don’t give advice, they don’t hand you a useful phone number, they don’t stop anything they might be doing to cause the problem, and they don’t even encourage you to do anything about the situation, or check your plan for common sense or any of the million little simple human acts that people expect. So the effect wears off, and you’re just as bad off as before.

    Oh, and Book Girl? Thank you so much for opposing the sticker project. I walk with crutches, and I can’t tell you how much useless and sometimes even detrimental “help” I get from people who decide to be nice. People who see me halfway up a staircase, and think 1) that I can’t climb stairs by myself (apparently under the illusion that gangs of roving hoodlums like to leave the disabled stranded in the middle of staircases), and 2) that it’s really helpful to grab my arms, shoulders, or crutches to ‘steady’ me without any warning. And anyone reading this who’s confused? That’s a really bad idea. So the last thing the world needs is more encouragment to treat ‘being nice’ to the disabled as something seperate from common courtesy, and worthy of the Niceness Merit Badge.

  14. Two points, I think, that I’ve been meaning to articulate for a while – this is a good jumping-off point, I suppose . . .

    One: in discussion forums of a political nature, there seems to be as much energy poured into making a point of not taking things personally, of folks reiterating throughout that they are not arguing because they have a beef with the person they’re arguing with but because their argument has validity. I’ve noticed quite a lot of “I disagree with that – but we’re cool, right? Right?” (and “I am nice” signals for weeks afterward).

    I will always remember a conversation with a certain individual with whom I had a very simple argument over something relatively impersonal; he repeatedly said “I’m trying to make a point and you keep insulting me” – when I in fact was doing nothing of the sort; I couldn’t get him to understand that I was merely *disagreeing* with him, and that was in no way the same as insulting. But intellectuals of sorts have learned to make attempts to cover their personal convictions and their “feelings” (some do it better than others) for the sake of the argument itself. Sometimes that’s very effective; other times it can distill one’s argument down to near-pointless, like that “Shiny Ideas” post that so maddened me circa a week ago. And then still other times the over-insistence that there’s nothing personal involved can reveal that the opposite is true – “methinks the lady doth protest too much.” One thing I highly respect about you, Amanda, is that you have never once, as far as I can remember since I’ve been reading your posts, found it necessary to go back and make sure somebody still “likes” you.

    Two: the “therapizing” method creates pigeonholes that grossly oversimplify individuals and make them out to be symbolic characters of whatever “story” their patrons want attached – the abuse thing is an excellent example; while one or two experiences may seem like the most momentous in a person’s life and the thing to latch onto when groping for definition of personality (and sob story), they do not by any means represent the mélange of experiences and perceptions that shape a person as a whole.

    Some people use this kind of poster child mentality mixed with “look at me, I’ve got issues” tendencies that cause people to one-dimensionalize their personalities for the sake of being “about” a particular “cause” because it’s the simplest way to get attention; it’s a format that the mainstream understands.

    (Somebody tell me if Two makes sense or not; I’m writing a rant of sorts along those lines and it’d be nice to know if specifics are necessary. I tend to be vague when I’m too lazy to cite specifics – and I get reeeeal wordy with specifics, so I’m sparing all of you until otherwise petitioned.)

    Book Girl, don’t know if I’m getting too racy here, but I like your sticker idea, and want to share that I’m very proud of my “logo” of sorts for a forthcoming book (I think something similar has been done since the conception of the book; ah well, nothing’s new) – I had a friend design a symbol that includes the “guy in wheelchair” symbol merged with the “woman” symbol; she’s on her knees and giving him head. Also faaaaaaaabulous. ; )

  15. “I’ve written things about the value of all people’s lives while wanting to kill myself, and seriously contemplating doing so. I’ve seen that Sue Rubin has spoken out about torture at the Judge Rotenberg Center while utterly loathing large parts of her brain and body. This does not make self-hatred and despair good things, it just means that even in those circumstances people can do important things, and that waiting around to not experience those things might mean leaving important things left undone.”

    Fabulous. I’m completely speechless, and that is not typical for me.

  16. I am really bothered when a person says “I feel so bad for Charlie that I want to do this” or “I feel so sorry for you” (to be the mother of a kid like Charlie). These statements always strike me as presumptuous beyond belief—the speaker never thought to ask Charlie how he feels or if he wants X—-Charlie does not need people feeling “bad” for him. (If they want to feel bad for themselves, that is another matter.)

    Empathy and sympathy can be condescending—passive-agressively. I’ve worked hard on not saying “I’m sorry” (I try rather to take responsibility for whatever I regret having done—take responsibility for the regret).

  17. Actually I do make posts on the order of, “I’m not attacking you. No. Really. Seriously. I’m not. I just disagree with you. There’s a difference.”

    The worst times are when I really don’t like the person, though. Because then, if I say anything negative about what they’re doing, it must be because I don’t like them.

    I remember once talking (offline) about a viewpoint I really didn’t agree with, and the people with me listened dubiously and said, “…but that’s because you already have a history with that person, right?”

    Well, no, it was because I didn’t agree with what that person was doing. Much of my “history with the person” in fact consisted of me trying to point out some things about what the person was doing and the person (a psychological professional) taking their “hurt feelings” about it to such an incredible degree that conversation about it was impossible. I had started out, actually, getting along with the person, and getting progressively annoyed the longer that any non-positive responses to them were seen as vicious attacks.

    But then it turned into, “You can’t say anything negative about this person because clearly you don’t like them very much.”

    And, of course, during the thing about Who gets to call themselves autistic? awhile back, Tom pretty much distilled the whole thing to “Amanda and Laura don’t like me very much,” and tried to convince everyone he was being victimized. (Of course he also claimed we’d been attacking him for years when neither of us even think about him that often, and didn’t seem to realize that one of the people who co-wrote the document actually really liked a lot of what he writes, and that I don’t hate what he writes as much as he thinks I do through the lens of “this compliment must be an insult because we don’t get along”, etc…)

    And in those circumstances, yeah, I will make a point of saying “No, seriously, this isn’t an attack on a person, it’s a disagreement with their views or values.” And I do that relatively frequently because it seems like every other day or something that I try to discuss issues or points of view with someone and it turns into “I can’t believe you can be so hurtful as to attack me like that…” (I think one of the last was because an autie had made a typical “high-functioning auties don’t need a cure, low-functioning auties do” statement, and I actually contradicted it instead of agreeing, which apparently meant I had it in for this person I don’t even know well enough to like or dislike).

    But while I do put disclaimers on things and attempt to let people know that this isn’t an attack, it’s an opinion… I don’t tend to then soften or retract my views to make them themselves more palatable.

  18. Right. I know you spend a lot of time assuring folks that you’re not attacking them, for all those reasons. You’re one of the “folks” I was talking about. ; ) But what I meant by not going back and making sure people still like you (geez – I’m trying to give you a compliment here) is that you “don’t tend to then soften or retract (my) views to make them themselves more palatable.” It’s the difference between asserting impartiality and ass-kissing. So yeah. Right.

    It is entertaining, though – and actually even validating at times – to have dynamics within a community that create conflict and “personal” facets among politics. The autie community does it, the disability activist community and factions therein do it. Political groups of all kinds do it. Poets do it too. We form cliques, and we bicker about individual politics, and it becomes “personal” politics. It helps to give us a sense of personality and identity within a political structure; frankly, it makes us feel “cool”. In the dorkiest sense, we enjoy having enough impact to create arch-nemeses. Some of us convince ourselves that we’re important enough to hate.

  19. “Again. Run. Into. This. All. The. Time. I don’t know how to say any of this better than she’s saying it right there. Raising particular important points becomes “attacking,” and the entire focus of everything becomes protecting the feelings of the person who “feels attacked”.”

    I know- I’ve seen this happen to you countless times on a certain forum, and it also happens to me quite frequently. I get so sick of people who claim that I am attacking them when I am, in fact, defending myself or my opinions from one of their attacks. When someone says, for example, “autism aceeptance=resignation”, I view this as an attack and choose to defend or not defend myself depending upon my energy level at the moment or my ability to maintain my composure. If I do respond, somehow it is I who is being negative and accusatory. I never could figure that one out. If I made a statement such as “wanting to cure autism= delusion” you better believe the replies would be swift and fierce. I guess I’m not sure why some people believe that they are the only ones who have the right to express and defend an opinion, and the second that anyone challenges this notion they play the “feelings” card. Like you said, they seem to think feelings are somehow pristine and free from criticism- as long as it’s THEIR feelings. I’m sorry but if you “feel” like killing your child, I’m not going to validate that “feeling”- I’m going to challenge it. If that’s being insensitive- too bad.

    Anyway, Amanda, great post as always, and I hope you enjoy your upcoming trip!

  20. This is a topic I’m really ambivalent about. On the one hand I don’t think that talk therapy is to blame for everything it’s accused of, but on the other, most of my encounters with talk therapists have been useless at best and total mind-f***s at worst.

    RE the standard of total optimism and only good feelings: that one is actually not therapy at all. It’s a product of American culture. Motivational speakers like Tony Robbins and Deepak Chopra get to charge a lot of money to give pep talks to salespeople and business people to keep them constantly focussed on the positive. When you’re in sales, this is the attitude you need to take. Salespeople get lots of rejection, and since they are usually people-oriented people, this is very hard on them. So they keep motivational tapes in their cars that they listen to on their commutes so they can keep their spirits up for the next assault. There’s nothing natural or normal about this that could make this behaviour a universal standard.

    RE “I sense some anger here,” this is something a therapist might say to overcome the client’s focus on the positive to help her acknowlege that she is, in fact, angry. Because she is assumed to be trying to be Tony Robbins and see all bad things as learning opportunities and not bad at all. The therapist is giving her permission to be pissed as all hell. The point is *not* that the client should use this language to express herself in the real world.

    There are self-absorbed, manupulative jerks all over. Because therapy language is well-known, these jerks will use it to their advantage. When Bush was challenged on his stance in favour of capital punishment, he said something like “Facts and research don’t matter to me because I believe that capital punishment is effective.” I-statements! Total nonsense!

    I see the real problem in most people not being educated in how to call people on faulty reasoning or manipulative techniques. In the Bush statement above, he made an I-statement that can’t be challenged: “I believe that capital punishment is effective.” If he believes that, he believes it. I can’t tell him he doesn’t. He owns that fact. Fine. But we weren’t discussing his personal beliefs, we were discussing verifiable fact. He has changed the subject from the facts of capital punishment (something open to discussion) to the fact of his personal belief (not open to discussion).

    Now, therapy does teach people to do exactly that. If someone says “this is the right thing to do” and does something injurious to you, you are supposed to say, “I don’t like it when you do that to me and I am going to leave.” Don’t get trapped into arguing about whether it’s the right thing to do: just say you don’t want it. And then leave.

    But when you are talking about something that affects other people, that’s not good enough. Capital punishment is not like eating broccoli. If you don’t want to eat broccoli, don’t get into an argument about whether it’s good for you or not. Just say you don’t like it and you won’t eat it. Case closed. But if you want to kill other people, then that sort of assertion of your own feelings is not good enough any more.

    Most people get confused by these different kinds of reasoning and arguments and don’t know how to extricate themselves. (I know this is my case.) And when people go around asserting their personal beliefs, then they seem non-aggressive and challenge feels out of place. And yes, in that sense they are great techniques for the evil manipulators out there.

    So yeah, I’m ambivalent.

  21. Uh… if someone were doing something injurious to me, I wouldn’t say “I don’t like that,” I’d say “This is NOT the right thing to do” or “Quit doing that to me or I’ll leave”… and leave. If I say “I don’t like that,” it makes my feelings the problem. No way.

  22. I-statements aren’t fundamentally evil, but they are fundamentally depoliticizing. Like Amanda says, it makes your feelings your problem. “I don’t like being treated like that,” for example can be taken four different ways:

    – That’s a bad/wrong way to treat me. (I don’t like being forcibly restrained when I raise my voice or get upset)

    – I don’t find this enjoyable. It may or may not be acceptable, depending on circumstances. (I don’t like oat bran, but I may need it for my health)

    – I personally don’t like that, but that means nothing on how you should treat people in general, or other people like me. (I don’t like soy sausages, but other vegetarians might)

    – I don’t like that because I have some sort of issue/problem that keeps me from liking it. (I don’t like public speaking, so taking a class to build confidence can help).

    If the person in the first example uses “I don’t like that,” instead of “This is wrong,” or “You have no right,” they face a high chance of having their statment interpreted one of the other ways. It leaves them wide open for such responses as “Sorry, but it’s necessary.” or “How can we help you feel less anxiety in restraints?” or, if they’re lucky, “Fine, we won’t do it to you, but that person who doesn’t communicate? It’s okay to do it to them.” People who have their job security, pride, or professional qualifications invested in being able to treat people a certain way are extremely likely to pick the interpretation of “I don’t like it.” that requires the least amount of work.

    And the whole ‘I feel’ set of formulas (“When you -, I feel -) are even less likely to result in action, because they actively shift the focus onto the person’s feelings, and away from the act in question. Which, like I said, is not fundamentally evil. If the problem’s not the situation, and you don’t want to change the circumstances, just your feeling, I-statements are fine.

    The danger, which is very big, and very real, is that if one person wants to change the system or the circumstances, and the other person doesn’t, there’s a built-in formula that’s seen as a healthy way to communicate generally, but is actually a way of keeping the focus exclusively on feelings. In a political movement, this is a way to stop real action, because it makes things like harshly expressed disagreement seem as important as real physical danger (When you disagree/yell/hit me/imprison me, I feel pain). And with doctors, hospitals, social service, school administrators, or any position where the person who has power over you can claim to be helping you, it’s a way their abuse into you being difficult.

  23. Your feelings are the problem to the extent that they define what is injurious to you. If someone hits you in the face and it feels bad both physically and psychically, you are going to define being hit in the face as a bad thing and injurious to you. Even if the person doing it wants to rationally argue that they are actually doing you a favour. It doesn’t matter: you don’t like it and you are going to do whatever it takes to make it stop happening.

    If someone feels bad that you don’t agree with them, then they feel bad. It doesn’t make you a bad person and it doesn’t put you under any moral obligation to agree with them or pretend to agree with them. But *the person who feels bad* has some choices: do they try to change your mind? Do they try to understand why you say what you do? Do they stop participating in the forum? Or do they just develop a thick skin and learn to ignore the statements they don’t agree with?

    The usual point of therapy is to get people to take responsibility for the choices they make. To *stop* whining that Amanda is a bad person because she posted something mean that hurt their feelings, and instead to decide what they themselves want to do. Because otherwise they are giving Amanda all the power to decide how they feel, a power that Amanda doesn’t (or shouldn’t) have.

    So I would tend to support this idealised “therapy” approach to this extent.

    You are totally right that the more genuine power comes into play, the less the therapeutic approach of taking responsibility for your own choices is helpful. You can decide how to participate in a forum when you get pissed off relatively easily. Deciding to leave an abusive lover can be harder because of economic and social barriers, but is almost always possible. Leaving an institution might or not be possible for any given individual in any given institution, even if the abuse is life-threatening. And frankly, the more impossible someone’s situation is the less I expect them to behave “well.” I know when I’m subjected to mind-fucks I collapse into a pile of ranting jelly and feel totally ridiculous and become the kind of person nobody could take seriously. Once I pick up the pieces and get back to a place where I have more control of my life I can pass as rational again. And this has nothing to do with a helpful therapeutic intervention teaching me the skills I need to be presentable: on the contrary, it usually has to do with getting *away* from a therapist.

    So while I can go along with certain therapeutic goals and approaches, and can go some way to separating them from their “misuse,” I can’t separate them completely. Because in practice, most of the most harmful people in my life have been therapists. (As well as two or three really helpful people. Sigh. Ambivalence again.)

  24. The danger, which is very big, and very real, is that if one person wants to change the system or the circumstances, and the other person doesn’t, there’s a built-in formula that’s seen as a healthy way to communicate generally, but is actually a way of keeping the focus exclusively on feelings. In a political movement, this is a way to stop real action, because it makes things like harshly expressed disagreement seem as important as real physical danger (When you disagree/yell/hit me/imprison me, I feel pain). And with doctors, hospitals, social service, school administrators, or any position where the person who has power over you can claim to be helping you, it’s a way their abuse into you being difficult.

    That stuff is why I don’t get into the “When you… I feel…” sort of formulations. Their actual useful functions are incredibly narrow and also overrated.

    Generally when a statement like that is going to be useful, it’s also going to make logical sense to make it, rather than be trained in making statements like that in a very artificial sort of way, or shamed into making them by people who insist that you are being irresponsible not to. (The worst was a time when someone literally said something to me like, “When you use the word ‘we’ or ‘they’ or ‘you’, I feel sad, because I know that you are missing the enormous power of the word ‘I’.” And continued for quite awhile in that vein.)

    Another quote from one of those articles:

    I have said that therapism requires you to feel. I know this because everyone is always saying how they feel. “When you interrupt me, I feel as if you aren’t listening to me.” “When you raise your voice, I feel frightened.” “When you are late, I feel you don’t care.”

    I find it redundant for someone to continually use the phrase I feel as a disclaimer before every opinion. Why say, “I feel you don’t understand,” rather than, “You don’t understand.”? I’ve never credited anyone with infallibility. When you continually use these disclaimers, I feel insulted. (That’s a little therapy joke.) Or, equally annoying, I think you’re a self-effacing wimp. And, believe it or not, when you say, “I feel you don’t understand,” some of us hear you call us “stupid” anyway. For all your attempt at tact, there are those of us who are good translators and don’t buy the sweet talk.

    …yeah.

    Basically the “I feel” language is mostly used in a manipulative way, and I’ve seen it used in a highly manipulative way — by people who were therapists or trained by therapists and said so — far more often than I’ve seen it used in a useful way. The useful ways are rare, and the formulation makes enough sense in those situations as to sound natural and not like an artificial formula.

  25. I haven’t done any reading on psychobabble to support this belief; but growing up in the 80’s, I thought that “When you .. . I feel. . .” was aimed specifically for troubled marriages? That is, two people who were fighting (maybe violently) and no longer able to communicate needed this kind of formula for supressing the yelling. It was a way to express feelings without assigning blame, eventually helping the two people agree on palatable behaviors. This is going on the assumption that both people are doing something “wrong” in the relationship and need to compromise.
    However, there is an article in Bitch magazine (can’t remember the issue, sorry) that talks about this style having bled into women’s scholarly language. “I feel” turns an essay into a autobiography, a dimunitive.
    I find this style more prevalent on the internet than in “RL”, people who have little in common use the forumla to remain territorial. When they have “hurt feelings”, their friends can come and rally around them and shoo you out for being “the Know-It-All”. In Real Life, theraputic talk comes across as much too intimate and wordy, with the exception of (the ambivalent) “I hear you” at the end of a rant.

  26. I actually saw a woman use the “When you… I feel…” formulation to great effect in real life last year. She managed to get exactly what she wanted for herself, while not taking any responsibility at all for what she did to get it (including some illegal things), and leaving other people in seriously bad positions with no regard to any lives beyond her own. All through “When you… I feel…”. I later learned she used to be a social worker. Not surprised.

  27. Yeah, I seem to be missing the point about the “When you… I feel…” formulation. I don’t recall ever seeing or hearing it used that way… fortunately for me apparently.

    I’m quite comfortable generally with “If… then” statements communicating desires and intention without backing anyone into a corner. “If you pick up that paper then you’ll be a tidy boy!” is one that I remember especially vividly for some reason, addressed to an eighteen-month-old just acquiring enough balance to lean over and pick something up off the floor, and in the process of acquiring vocabulary besides. If he hadn’t picked up the paper he wouldn’t have been bad, just interested in something else. “If you ever hit me again I will leave. I won’t come back. It will be over.” is one that I have used myself. Effectively.

    I’m assuming that tone and context will make explicit the difference between “I don’t want you to hit me because I have personal issues about hitting, and if you hit me I will leave” and “I don’t want you to hit me because that’s an unacceptable way to treat anyone, and if you hit me I will leave.” And that “I don’t want you to hit anyone and if I find that you have, I will raise a ruckus” is an option any time that the first two statements are an option. To me the three aren’t that different: statement and consequences.

    They *are* different from “you hit me so you’re a jerk” which is what therapists are supposed to get people’s focus off. So the other person is a jerk. Proving it isn’t going to change anything. The issue is, what are you going to do about it? Stick around and whine? Leave? Go to court? Rally a movement?

    When I was working on a (short-lived) lesbian newspaper our statement of purpose included the statement that [the newspaper] was *not* a safe place. That we had a point of view, that you could say what you wanted, but other lesbians could say what they wanted too and that you might not like what you heard. Having a point of view meant that if somebody said something we thought should be challenged, we would challenge. (Kind of like this forum here.)

    But we couldn’t figure out how to work together. We collapsed under our own infighting.

    I have heard a lot of people on different fora act all upset and injured about being attacked when they weren’t being attacked at all. Depending on the forum, I suppose more sophisticated people could develop a convincing “when you… I feel…” formulation, but in my experience people get upset and injured and whine perfectly well without it. And gather support too. Sigh.

  28. Relying on context to make clear the difference between “I personally don’t like X,” and “X is no way to treat people,” works if both people are communicating in good faith. In my experience, practically every communication trick and system works when the parties are sincerely dedicated to understanding each other. In short, when they’re not needed.

    Interesting communication experience in college. We were broken up into pairs, and were supposed to argue a random topic, while restating our opponent’s opinion before rebutting it. This was supposed to get us to listen to what they had to say while making them feel heard.

    Anyways, the girl I was working with misstated my argument, making it easier for to rebut. Mostly out of competitiveness, I did it back. Neither of us was paticularly angry; we’d drawn the topic out of a hat. But within five minutes, we’d both worked out that this trick of communication could be used to our own advantage, and started using it that way.

    Afterwards, when we were supposed to share lessons learned with the teacher, I said that I’d learned the same technique can be used for mutual understanding, or to distort the other person’s views. The teacher really didn’t want to hear that.

    Presenting consequences helps IF you’re in a position to offer consequences that they care about (true in most cases, but not every time). Of course, ‘consequences’ can also be another word for threats. There’s a particular trick popular with professional administrators, of using the term ‘consequences’ and the passive voice (if you don’t comply, this will happen), to make threats under the guise of offering choices. Again, it only works if used in good faith.

    Part of the difference in perspectives may come down to experience. I haven’t had experience with people getting as far as “You did something bad to me, which you had no right to do,” and just letting things drop. I’ve also had very little experience with actual therapy (and never quite voluntarily) so that might be different. I have a lot of experience where I-statements, focus on feelings, and other therapy-inspired practices have paralyzed matters, or allowed people to pull manipulative power plays.

    Most recently I had a work situation involving helping abused children in Southeast Asia. I was looking for help in figuring out how dangerous it was when kids talked about suicide,the difference between someone thinking about suicide and threatening suicide, and how to talk to someone in a suicidal crisis without making it worse. I wasn’t trained on this, but it turned out that certain jobs didn’t divide up as neatly as expected, and I wound up having to help manage several emergencies.

    The people I worked for would listen actively, attempt to reflect back what I’m saying (it was always lost in translation), say something sympathetic about stress, and either practice amateur psycoanalysis on me or try to get me to go the company therapist. And when we did get what I was told was a training about crisis counseling, run by a therapist, it turned out to be group therapy so we could deal with the stress. One woman in particular spent the whole time using ‘When – happens, I feel -” to get off on a racist rant about the people she worked with.

    About a month before, a girl had nearly drank a bottle of cleaning fluid because I’d completely botched matters. I wanted to learn how to not screw up again, but the only thing allowed was “I feel…” Watching someone go “I feel you have a lot of insecurity about your professional competence,” was a complete waste of time when I had to go back to work with no idea of how big of an emergency “Sometimes I think about killing myself,” actually was.

    I’ve had a lot of other experiences. mostly of the annoying type (I tend to avoid most lesbian events, except ones involving music, because while I like dating other women, I don’t like spending my leisure time in group therapy), but that was one case where people with authority used therapeutic language as a substitute for action and someone nearly got killed. It’s not just internet-forum arguments.

    Therapeutic language is like the ‘I’m nice’ signals mentioned in a previous post; it announces to the world that you have good intents (Anyone against respect? Mutual understanding? Emotional health?), and makes it hard for people to question what you actually do.

    For anyone reading who’s curious, after I found someone on the outside who gave me useful advice, the girl came out okay. I’m no longer doing that particular type of work, so I don’t now need advice about when people threaten suicide. As far as therapy-speak for people threatening suicide, reflecting back what they said was useful to me if done carefully, identifying and labeling emotions is almost frighteningly effective at stopping action, (great if someone’s about to hurt themselves or others), active listening doesn’t always translate across cultures, and I-statements didn’t help me at all.

  29. RE suicide: J, I know you no longer need this information, but a long as you brought it up for whoever might be wondering. You check for motive, method and means. Meaning 1) the person wants to die, 2) the person has a plan for how they could kill themselves and 3) the person would technically be able to carry the plan out. This is an emergent situation and requires the intervention of a competent specialist. (This could be someone who has been through the situation themselves – it doesn’t have to be a trained therapist.) In people who have not lived through previous suicidal episodes (for instance, young people) it’s particularly dangerous because they don’t yet know that they can live through this time and that life will improve.

    J, thanks for your analysis. As I mentioned above, therapy-speak appears non-confrontational, but we aren’t formally taught how to break it down and identify the, um, I want to say fallacies, but because therapy-speak isn’t a series of logical propositions then fallacies isn’t the right word… Anyway, when faced with someone who is blandly being non-confrontational and appearing that they didn’t *do* anything while my fury is mounting and I am ready to strangle them, I end up feeling stupid for not being able to figure out what the interaction was and what is really going on. So I get a lot of energy tied up in feeling stupid instead of addressing the problem.

    Your comment about substituting I-statements for action is interesting. I’m thinking right now about a television show I saw years ago about therapy for SARTECs, They are actioon-oriented people who are regularly in situations where they fail: they go to rescue someone and can’t, but must leave them there to die. A classic situation requiring lots of talk therapy to work through emotions. Well, turns out this particular centre tried that and it didn’t work at all. The SARTECs weren’t interested and they weren’t particularly verbal people. Oh. So someone else came up with an educational program where they taught all the SARTECs to watch out for eachother. When somebody seemed to be down, they should make a point of hanging out with him. Well, that worked.

    Lesbians seem to be quite verbal and many seem to be competent manipulators. Lesbians also want to trust one another. I had to leave my local lesbian community once. Later I was able to rejoin, but ran into a lot of the same problems. So I withdrew from the community and just hung out with my own friends. Today I’m living with a man. Yeah we have problems, but not the kind where he twists my head in knots.

    My comment is that I’m not ready to blame therapy itself for communication problems. While it may lend itself to evil ends, people who genuinely want to communicate and help one another can use it to good ends.

  30. Pingback: Redemption Blues » Carnival of the Feminists 22

  31. The trouble with motive, method, and means, is…

    Not everyone’s going to tell you that they’ve got any of these things, even if they do. Not everyone’s even got a known method or means even if they’re really going to kill themselves.

    And if they do have these things, it doesn’t mean they’re going to kill themselves.

    One of my shrinks in the past tried to get people to figure out every possible way they could kill themselves by looking around a room. (The guy was twisted in several dimensions, this is the least of it.)

    This means that, right now, I could find “method” and “means” in almost any situation, regardless of whether I have “motive”. I have extensive training, the guy would point things out if people didn’t notice them. I know how to kill myself in just about any situation where I’m not either immobilized or otherwise being physically prevented from doing so, and that includes not just one but several possible plans, almost without thinking about it.

    But it also means that the instant I acquire “motive,” then if I disclose the fact that I have all these methods at my disposal, I become a much higher “suicide risk” supposedly.

    The time when I lost all remaining scraps of naivete about the psych system, I was persuaded by a worker at a suicide hotline to check into a psych ward overnight voluntarily — the next day I would be able to easily get other preventative measures in place at home, but for various reasons, not that day. I not only ended up in the psych ward because my extensive knowledge of methods and means impressed the suicide hotline worker, but I ended up tricked into an involuntary hold.

    If I hadn’t had someone around to take me out against medical advice, there’s a good chance I probably really would have died there. (Not from suicide, though. I just know how that particular psych ward operates — lots of forced drugging with drugs I’m very allergic to with pretty much no provocation, total ignoring of drug allergies even in people whose throats are swollen half-shut.) And they had a really hard time believing that just as I’d checked in to prevent my death, I was also checking out to prevent my death. (They even accused me of not really wanting to kill myself if I didn’t want to stay for three days.)

    Extensive knowledge of how to kill myself says little about my likelihood to actually do so. Other people don’t necessarily have a plan, but will impulsively figure one out on the spot the moment before they carry out that plan. I could come up with dozens of plans this instant, some of them incredibly easy, based on the room I’m in — and I can do this almost without thinking.

    I bet that even if I said that I didn’t really want to die, the sheer multitude of my descriptions of exactly how I could die if I wanted to would convince most psychiatric professionals that I was just concealing motive, rather than lacking it altogether.

  32. I love your posts Amanda. I made a video once about I statements turning into a way to berate and abuse a bad girlfriend. Actually, at this one festival, some friends and I were in a mental health program and the panel afterwards had two people with MI’s and two mental health care workers (uh huh), one of whom went on a long tangent as to the real meaning of my friend Laura’s video. When Laura stood up to explain what she was really talking about, she mentioned something really personally painful in her experience in the system which was part of her video. And the health worker said, ugh, and I quote “How did that make you feel?” Bleh!!! And apparently my video reminded her of conversations with her patients. Icky. It’s funny how “benevolence” can be so malevolent.

    Oh yeah, and the method/means thing, when I was in the ward my panties were confiscated because I could hang myself with them. I had no idea, an orderly told me this. I’ve never looked at panties the same way!

  33. This is such a frustrating thing. In my health class we even had a class exercise where we were supposed to “practice I-statements”. I am often chastised for trying to solve practical problems in practical ways because “I’m not taking everyone’s possible emotional reaction into account”. If it’s a practical problem, it needs a practical solution. Save the emotional-disscussions for when people are having the sorts of problems that require emotional solutions.

    Especially as an activist, you need to be able to stand firmly on your ground. People seem to think that by taking other people’s emotions into account and addressing their perspectives that you’re all of a sudden supposed to walk on eggshells anytime we bring up something that needs to be addressed. Yeah, I’ll preface that most people seeking a cure for autism are indeed trying to do the good thing. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to apologize for opposing cure because I’m making someone “feel like a bad parent” even when I didn’t make any such insulting claim, but rather explained my perspective and why it’s so important that it be listened to, that we can’t take things lying down, no matter how good the intentions. What was that saying, again, about the pavement of the road to hell…?

  34. I’ve never understood the attitude that people need to be self-accepting and stable before they can start working to change the world around them. For those of us who are actually personally affected by problems with the world around us, it’s absolutely the reverse. When I actually do self-advocacy or other kinds of social change work, I (justifiably) feel like an effective, strong person (in addition to the fact that, you know, sometimes I actually make my life or someone else’s life better); when I sit around talking about how sad I am to a therapist, I feel like a sad person. Of course, this fact could get co-opted and turned into a concept of “self-advocacy therapy,” but in some sense it is true: effective personal/political activism is both personally and politically helpful.

    I do use a therapist, but I think that I would probably stop if I didn’t feel like my therapist was my cheerleader, someone who really is just trying to make sure I’m safe and help me get past the things that stop me from being an effective person. I am lucky to have the privilege of discontinuing therapy whenever I want (in fact I had to fight to get it), and that pretty fundamentally alters what “therapy” means to me.

  35. Pingback: Psychiatry, freedom, and noninterference « Urocyon's Meanderings

  36. Pingback: Linkspam! | A world that loved monsters

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s