Bad News on the Doorstep: Psychologists Prescribing Drugs

[Note:  In this post, “APA” refers to the American Psychological Association]

There is an article in the current (July/August) issue of The National Psychologist titled “Iowa becomes 4th state to approve RxP”.  The author is James Bradshaw, Associate Editor.  RxP is a commonly used abbreviation for prescription authority for psychologists.

Here are some quotes from the article, interspersed with my comments.

“Iowa Gov. Terry E. Brandstad has signed a law granting prescription authority to properly trained psychologists, making Iowa the fourth state where psychologists can prescribe drugs from a psychotropic formulary.”

The three previous states to pass this measure are New Mexico, Louisiana and Illinois.

The article quotes Neal Morris, Ed.D., president of the American Society to Advance Pharmacotherapy, a division of the American Psychological Association.

“‘I am very excited and optimistic that in the near future other states will be enacting prescribing psychologist legislation,’ he said, adding, ‘RxP is such a good idea from the public health access to quality treatment standpoint I think it should be a top priority for every thoughtful legislator concerned about providing good health care to their constituents.'”

Katherine Nordal, PhD, APA’s Director for Professional Practice was also quoted:

“‘This is a landmark decision that will improve access to a wide range of mental health services'”


“Increasing access to mental health care is critical given the increase of major depressive disorders among Iowa’s youth and the number of people over 65 experiencing a diagnosable mental illness.”

This is straightforward psychiatric PR, coming from a psychologist!  Note, in particular, the complete acceptance and endorsement of the spurious medical model.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Bethe Lonning, Psy.D., represents the Iowa Psychological Association on the APA’s Council of Representatives, and was a prime leader in Iowa’s RxP movement.  Dr. Lonning is quoted in the article:

“‘Signing this legislation into law is a great step toward increasing accessibility to mental health care for all Iowans, many of whom currently have to wait months or drive long distances to receive treatment.'”

Notice that, by implication, the word treatment is being used as synonymous with drug treatment.

The article continues:

“The dearth of psychiatrists in Iowa, particularly in rural areas, was a prime selling point to convince state legislators of the need for prescribing psychologists.  There are no psychiatrists practicing in two-thirds of the state’s counties.”

This picture – of the misfortunate “mentally ill” people languishing unserved in the psychiatry-less wasteland – is, of course, pure PR.  But I guess it was enough to convince the Iowa legislators.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

This, of course, is sad beyond words, but it reminded me of another article published in The National Psychologist eleven years ago (September/October 2005).  The article was titled “The Decline and Fall of the American Psychological Association”.  The author was the late George Albee, PhD, then professor emeritus of psychology at The University of Vermont.  Here are some quotes:

“The decision by APA’s Council to proceed to seek prescription privileges for practicing psychologists is the final straw.  We are doomed.”

“The pharmaceutical industry became top earners.  They spread funds generously into organic psychiatry, brain research, training and public education.  They sponsored drug research, wrote the results for the researchers, funded their journals and put everyone on as paid consultants.”

“Let us not misunderstand.  Psychologists will get the legal authority to prescribe.  They have the strong support of the powerful pharmaceutical industry.  Psychologists can and will learn to be competent prescribers.  But it will finally stamp us as an integral part of the invalid, unreliable medical explanation of emotional distress.  Writing prescriptions for ‘drugs for the mind’ will cement us into a system from which there is no escape.”

“Being part of the system means supporting the system.  So we must close our eyes, hold our noses and agree that half of all Americans will have a mental illness caused by a brain defect at some time in their lives.  If judged incompetent they can be forced by law to take their pills.”

“In spite of years of seeking, no organic pathology has been found that causes mental disorders and diagnoses for these conditions are unreliable and hence invalid.  Organic (drug) treatment does not cure mental disorders.  But to work in the field it is necessary to support all these myths and dishonesties.”

“A few competent and informed journalists could expose the flimsy and invalid evidence on which the current model depends.  We need more like A. Deutsch (1948) who, in The Shame of the States, brought attention to the horrible inhumanity of the state hospitals.  R. Whitaker (2002) has made a start, but he cannot compete with the powerful citizens’ groups such as the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), mostly relatives of seriously disturbed people.”

Albert Deutsch (1905-1961) was an American journalist and social historian.  The Robert Whitaker book Dr. Albee references is Mad in America, and in the eleven years since George Albee wrote these words, Robert Whitaker’s work has progressed way beyond “a start”.

“NAMI fiercely defends the brain diseases model and goes ballistic to any suggestion that social conflicts could play any role in causation.  The National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression holds formal balls to showcase its upper-class contributors but denies the clear evidence that schizophrenia is not a disease (Boyle) and that depression is unknown in many cultures.”

The Boyle reference is to Mary Boyle’s cardinal work:  Schizophrenia: A Scientific Delusion? (1990).  Dr. Boyle is a British clinical psychologist, and Professor Emeritus at University of East London.  A second edition of the book was published in 2002.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Also in 2005, Dr. Albee wrote this in a letter to the Independent Practitioner, an APA publication:

“To prescribe drugs as treatment changes fundamentally our orientation as a profession.  We now become part of a group that sees emotional behavioral disturbance as biological defect or glandular irregularity to be corrected with chemicals.  Our long history of research into the damage done by toxic relationships in the past, and the ways these can be mended by relearning, is abandoned.”


“I do indeed think we have sold our soul for money in accepting the medical model of emotional disorder.”

George Albee died on July 8, 2006, at his home in Longboat Key, Florida.  He was 84.  During his life he had written tirelessly and cogently against the medicalization of human distress.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Four states plus the US military now allow psychologists the authority to prescribe psychiatric drugs.  More states will certainly follow, and the profession that should be most aware of, and most outraged by, the psychiatric hoax will soon be fully integrated into the spurious, disempowering, and destructive system.

To state the obvious, psychology is a split profession.  On the one hand, there are those who accept the illness model, believe that the “diagnoses” have some ontological and explanatory significance, and embrace “pharmacotherapy” as a valid and ethical way to address problems of thinking, feeling, and behaving.  On the other hand, there are those of us who reject these premises as spurious and unequivocally harmful.  The split has been long evident.  For decades the two factions have worked alongside each other with a reasonable level of collaboration and a semblance of mutual respect.  But the conflicts are being exposed in sharper relief as the medicalization proponents continue to expand their prescriptive authority.  I doubt that a profession can contain this kind of internal tension indefinitely, and perhaps the day is approaching when we will have two very different kinds of psychologists:  the druggers and the non-druggers.  Though I’m sure that different terminology will  be used.

It is customary in these sorts of circumstances to lament the schism and express the hope that the two sides can “iron out” their differences.  But just as the rift between psychiatry and anti-psychiatry is irremediable, so there can never be any substantive common ground between psychologists who embrace and promote a medical model of human distress and those who do not.  To adapt Dr. Albee’s metaphor:  people can close their eyes and hold their noses for only so long.

The philosophy and practice that psychiatry has created within the mental heath system, public and private, is a spurious, destructive, self-serving travesty.  It is also a tyranny that demands of its “ancillary staff” acceptance of, and compliance with, the biological medical model.  Staff members who don’t accept the doctrine are marginalized, ridiculed, or worse.  In a recent post on Mad In America, Michael Rock, psychotherapist, vividly described his experiences in this area as he struggled with the obvious invalidity and lack of efficacy of the psychiatric system.

The reality is that as psychiatry, beleaguered as it is, doubles down on its spurious and destructive premises, routinely substituting PR and unsubstantiated assertions for logic and evidence, more and more “ancillary staff” will see through the hoax.  The emperor really and truly has no clothes.  Organized psychology and some of its members are willing to play along for the sake of the crumbs that fall from the table.  But what of the other professions:  the social workers, counselors, case managers, job coaches, etc.?  These are the people who spend the most time with the clients.  These are the people who know that there is something terribly wrong with the system, but who dare not speak out, for fear of ostracization or even loss of livelihood.

The “chemical imbalance” part of the hoax has been successfully outed.  It’s only a matter of time before the rest of the shabby enterprise follows suit.  And as psychiatrists are increasingly exposed as the destructive, self-serving, drug-pushers that they are, psychologists who pursued the primrose path of “psychopharmacotherapy” will inevitably find themselves tarred with the same brush.

  • Circa

    I’m not clear on whether this means forced treatment could begin solely on a psychologist’s recommendation.

  • Phil_Hickey


    I believe that in some jurisdictions, psychologists can initiate commitment proceedings. Actually, I think any “concerned person” can initiate commitment proceedings by petitioning a judge.

  • Circa

    Well, at least you get your day in Court (usually)! Up here in British Columbia, the police can bring you in without a warrant. The first shrink takes a look at you and then the second shrink rubber stamps what the first shrink wrote and then, bam, you’re an involuntary patient. Frankly, I think my American friends need an attitude adjustment. I do note, though, that Jim Gottstein of PsychRights confirms that these Court proceedings can be ex parte and that ought not to be.

  • Boans

    In my juristiction psychologists can authorise the drugging of people without their knowledge and planting a knife in their pocket. There is a little known of police unit called the ‘evidence retrieval unit’ which will get up to all sorts of mischief if you happen to get the documents showing that this is being encouraged. Must be a trade secret or something.

  • Boans

    Note that this is in a juristiction where they have no prescribing rights, and the person doesn’t even need to be their patient (or anybodys for that matter, just a Joe Citizen)

  • Boans

    Further to comments below. I think you might appreciate the humour in this Dr Hickey. Police Integrity Unit.

    I get evicted from my home for saying to my wife that It might be best I make my own coffee from now on (documents show she drugged me with her benzos). I make a complaint about being evicted for being “loud, angry and aggressive, though I have a third party witness who knows this is not true. Police IU call me and I explain this. They come back saying the officer now says I was under the influence (ummmm they not know Muslims don’t drink?). However, knowing they are to retrieve the proof of the drugging, they document my claim that I explained how I had been drugged without my knowledge, but not that the evidence is there to support my claim.

    So now when I walk into a police station they are free to refer to mental health on the grounds I am “hallucinating”. Integrity? Awwww, he’s still got the documents? Arrest him for that…. awww he can prove he didn’t get them unlawfully, well arrest him for the contents of the documents, you know where the Community Nurse had to make him sound violent and just wrote down what he wanted to be true?

    Hope your doing well Doc.

  • Boans

    Senior constable takes the complaint and it is returned “insufficient evidence” (lawyers call it proof). The psychologist who handled the police referral and refused to have me snowed because he had seen the proof is now asking me who else has the documents (Minister/Shadow/Chief Psychiatrist/Corruption Crime Commission/MH Commissioner ….. cleaner at the local fuel station), and he became afraid for the safety of his family and stopped seeing me 🙁

    Bit of a problem because everyone had been acting in accord with the fraudulent documents sent to my lawyers.

    And let me say, when the person (Operations Manager at the hospital who kidnapped me) who did the formal investigation into these matters said “we will fuking destroy you, she meant it. 5 years homeless, lost family friends, denied access to any resources, lawyers are obviously afraid to say anything because they have families too ……. and they get to close the account with “suicide”

  • Logicalle

    Unfortunately, there is another split within the “non-drugging” group of psychotherapists/psychologists. It would be nice to assume that if a psychologist/therapist is against drugging then they are logical, objective and helpful.
    However, therapists come in two broad kinds: those that have an understanding of human behaviour grounded in research, science and logic (e.g. behaviour and habit formation) and understand that people can change and those that are into complete woo (e.g. repressed memory movement, trapped energy releasing, past life therapy and those that explain everything in terms of the subconscious and inner hidden conflicts etc). The former are helpful and effective, they help people to understand themselves and change and become stronger and independent and self-confident. The latter, because their treatments have no basis in reality and because they view past experiences as “damaging” and “scarring” their clients “for life”, create dependence and childishness. These types of therapists are just as bad as those who follow the biological model. With the bio model, people think “Well, my brain is broken, I’m like this for life. All I can do is keep taking my pills.” With the woo therapists people think “Well, terrible thing/s happened to me when I was little and it damaged me and I’m like this for life. All I can do is keep going to the therapist to learn to manage the damage.” All you need to do is browse any psych type forum and you will see them, a sea of people who have been taught to see all their problems through the prism of the past. Because the past cannot be changed, these people effectively believe they can’t change. This is also what’s making modern parenting so toxic. Poor new parents are bombarded with this idea that any little thing they do or don’t do can “damage” their baby/child “for life.” No wonder parenting is fraught with anxiety!! But that’s a topic for another time…
    There are very few effective and competent “mental health” (hate that term) professionals. Dr. Hickey, you are one of those few. Keep writing!

  • Phil_Hickey


    Thanks for drawing this important distinction, and for the encouraging words.

    Best wishes.

  • Rob Bishop

    I appreciate your point. I once dismissed the idea that our past experiences can significantly influence our current emotional health, but as an incest survivor, it’s helped me a lot to understand how my inner conflicts have greatly contributed to my anxiety, depression, and addictions. The knowledge about my trauma has helped me resolve my distress and misery, and has allowed me to largely defeat my former cognitive struggles. I have a strong science background and agree there’s a lot of quackery (trapped energy releasing and past life therapy) and I totally dispute the current bio model, that biological defects create emotional disturbances. Look at, for example, rage fueled violence. All behavior is logical, but don’t you think rage has more to do with inner conflicts than habit formation?

  • Hypatia

    Dear Dr. Philip,

    I have been regularly reading this blog for quite awhile now, and I must thank you for all the great articles and book reviews, I found them all useful and extremely accurate. So, now that I finally came out of lurking I would like to first and foremost thank you for your awesome work.

    Although at many times I had an urge to comment, I decided not to until now, I was simply content reading. What made me decide to write now, is a news-story I found just tonight, claiming how some scientists found a genetic marker for depression, which I found to be quite an extraordinary claim and one I have plenty of issues with – from the source of the so called research (Pfitzer pharmaceuticals) to the conclusions the news-piece attempted to draw. Needless to say its a blood-boiling facade again as far as I`ve been able to tell, but the way this was presented by the commentator – (I will link the video – its only 5 minutes or so, might worth watching it) as a revolutionary, new SCIENTIFIC discovery, which finally found the underlying cause of depression, so that we will now have “better cures” and how it will finally end the stigmatization of mental issues (as if it were not its very bio-medical model which makes the stigma by presenting distressed people as defective and irrational), and so forth…- was really over the top.

    I would be very grateful if you could please look into this research and see if the research is sound and if its conclusions are warranted. I assume its a story which must be interesting to you as well as for most of your readers to hear your take on this “news”.

    Here is the video:

    Here a presentation and an article about the research:

    The youtube video has the following description:

    “In a medical first, scientists believe they have found several genes thought to be associated with severe depression. The study, carried out by Pfizer pharmaceuticals, scoured the genomes of 450,000 people in order to uncover 17 genes associated with significantly increased risk for developing depression. This finding not only gives researchers a better idea of the underlying cause of the condition, but may even help us better treat it…”

    I left a comment on the video, so far I got no reply:

    How can you treat it as a brain disease if what they found are genetic markers? Would that not rather require gene therapy? I mean the argument is a non sequitur: 1. they found some genes which predispose you to be depressed 2. therefore its a brain disease. I cant see how you can get 2 from 1 here. Also as usual, the pharmaceutical company`s take on the issue is to market a pill which will do something to the brain not the genes, yet what they found are some genes. More importantly, this perspective which sees depression as solely biological in nature seems to downplay the role of negative life experiences, social/economical/political injustice, poverty, personal failure to reach one`s potential causing LEGITIMATE despair. It also turns away attention from the social dimension, the systemic dimension of how a life can be ruined from the outside, due to the circumstances they create. Which can lead to an absurdity like: “oh, so you say you are absolutely depressed because you are homeless, half blind and are regularly mistreated by people? nonsense! You feel terribly disillusioned and despaired because you have faulty genes, not because the objectively shit situation you are in. You take these pills and you will be just dandy being spat on, crawling into a box and begging for some change…”.

    Any input you can give sir, would be really appreciated.

    Thanks you again for your amazing work and for sharing it with us!

  • Hypatia

    I wrote a long comment it got flagged as spam:(

  • Logicalle

    Rob, I am in complete agreement with you. Past experiences definitely influence our present behaviour. If we grow up in an unsafe or abusive environment we’re going to learn habits and behaviours to survive this environment. These habits and behaviours and ways of thinking however become dysfunctional and ineffective once outside the negative environment or situation and sometimes people need help learning new and effective behaviours which a competent therapist can help you with. I have seen your positive posts on CBT and I completely agree. CBT helps people achieve that goal.
    My post was against those therapists that deny this straightforward to understand reality about learning and habit acquisition and replace it with their own brand of woo which only they can understand and administer, leaving the client helpless and dependent. I am also fed up with therapists who do understand that our past influences our present behaviour and thinking but then treat it as if it is permanent damage that cannot be changed which you and I both know is not true. This leaves people just as helpless as if they were told they had a chemical imbalance that can only be fixed by drugs. Except in this case only the therapist has the necessary skills to manage this permanent damage.
    As for inner conflicts, I should’ve clarified. I meant inner conflicts as in the psychoanalytical sense… inner conflicts that only psychoanalysts can see but you can’t, making them superior and know more about you than you do yourself.
    I appreciate your messages and where you are coming from because I basically share the same view!

  • Phil_Hickey


    Thanks for writing and for your very thoughtful and encouraging words. Sorry your comment got marked as spam, but I’ve fixed it.

    As you may have noticed, I’m not writing as much now as I used to. The advancing of the years is slowing me down. But I will certainly take a look at “ground-breaking” research, and see if I can do anything with it. I am very grateful for the link.

    As you so graphically put it, the primary cause of depression is depressing life events! But there’s no money in that.

    Best wishes.

  • Hypatia


    I am kinda sad to hear that your age is catching up to you, but I hope you are as healthy as one can be in your age, because no matter how frequent, I do look forward to many more of your insights for many years to come! I am afraid that our ranks is thinning quite rapidly after Szasz`s death… we need the experience and oversight of our elders more than ever!

  • Rob Bishop

    Mental heath and stability is a skill set. The only thing that’s wrong with us it that we think something is wrong with us. Depression isn’t caused by difficult life circumstances, but our irrational perspective about them and our obsession life should be different. There’s much evidence disturbing emotions are created by our cognitive distortions. Our irrational thinking habits and inability to deal with inner conflicts and emotions fuel anxiety, depression, and anger. Depressed people are stuck in a self-absorbed web of self-focus and self-hatred, like people who lash our in rage fueled violence. To be miserable is to be the center of the universe. Misery and despair aren’t biological defects. We aren’t victims of our genes or chemistry. We’re victims of ourselves. Neurologists refer to our “negativity bias” of experience, which details the nature and evolutionary basis for chronic negativity. Negativity and anxiety have been highly adaptive traits critical to the survival of our species.

  • Hypatia

    I wont bother to counter-assert all your bold assertions here, for I wish not to self-impose on me that role I already know will yield little results for far too much effort and it would bloat the already too long comment. It is easier to just claim and assert than it is to untangle such assertions – many falsehoods can be stated in just a short time, their refutation usually needs to be longer, the shorter the false claim is. False claims are like icebergs, they are usually built on huge mountains of further false assumptions to untangling of which is a task I am not willing to volunteer. I do not wish to transform this thread into a pointless debate.

    “Mental heath and stability is a skill set. The only thing that’s wrong with us it that we think something is wrong with us.”

    I most emphatically disagree. We are plentifully wronged in a myriad of ways by things which most definitely are exterior to our thinking. To say otherwise, hits me as undue psychologisation of both social and existential categories of existence or at worst, some kind of subjective idealism, a denial of external realities and their impact on us.

    We are thrown into a world of ready made systems of society (gross inequality of wealth, unjust hierarchies, exploitation, injustice, systemic oppression, a family nexus, etc) and into a world of independently existing natural processes (like disease, death, pain, etc), both of which can fall short of a quite rational expectation to the contrary and of any unbiased evaluation of their impact on our best interests.

    The experiencing of gross injustice, exploitation, economic adversity, poverty, exclusion, prejudice, ostracization are definitely not merely happening in our heads, they are not OUR distortions, or OUR creations, quite the opposite: they are rather the way an external reality distorts our chances to thrive and inhabit our possibilities; they are things done TO US over which we have limited or no control. Similarly, physical afflictions of suffering and death itself constitute events and circumstances, which are external to our thinking and to a significant degree, are out of our control (assuming we have any control at all).

    Your assertion, that the “only thing that’s wrong with us it that we think something is wrong with us” is not only saying, that the experience of losing loved ones, the experience of unredeemed suffering, the experience of injustice, of domination, of exploitation, of the bigotry of others are not things we are involuntarily and unjustly subjected to by outside forces, and towards which feeling badly is quite reasonably justified, but its also a most vile apology for the continued existence and perpetuation of those negatives.

    To be exploited or subjected to unjust circumstances depends not on how I choose to think about them – if its actual injustice, if its actual exploitation, the irrational and delusional thing to do would be not to accept their existence and appropriately be disappointed, angered, saddened and despaired by them, but to deny them and rationalize them away. To paraphrase Ivan Illich: “depression is a healthy reaction to a sick society.”

    “Depression isn’t caused by difficult life circumstances, but our irrational perspective about them and our obsession life should be different.”

    Not so amazingly I again have to absolutely disagree. Life circumstances can and do create emaciated, disillusioned and broken people, not because of their perspective on those circumstances, but because the real harm done by them. That life should be different, when its a burden is not an irrational obsession at all, the desire for life to catch up to what our reason can accept as a life worth living is anything but irrational, its the engine which throughout history propelled individuals and societies to find a better, more equitable and just form of society. It is the RECOGNITION of harmful elements in the blindly and sloppily spawned natural and/or maliciously and selfishly created social state of affairs which any reasonably established ethics quite rationally would challenge. When we are caught in a pit full of manure, its damn justified to be “obsessed” that our circumstance should be different. The complacency and victim blaming in your analysis its so staggering, that I am quite sickened by it. Your blaming of the sufferer, your putting of blame and problem onto the victims is quite similar to what psychiatry does, the only difference – if there is any – is your lack of a biological narrative. But its the same kind of paternalistic, overriding and invalidating of lived experience and a preference of individualization and pathologization of problems which are in fact sociological in nature. What you do here, is the same “politics of experience” which kept slaves who ran away diagnosed with “drapetomania”, just declare a genuine wish for justice and equity into a “perspective of irrational obsession” and voilà, you got yourself into the same old mold psychiatry is doing. You made patients out of people who have a genuine beef with life.

    “There’s much evidence disturbing emotions are created by our cognitive distortions. Our irrational thinking habits and inability to deal with inner conflicts and emotions fuel anxiety, depression, and anger. Depressed people are stuck in a self-absorbed web of self-focus and self-hatred, like people who lash out in rage fueled violence. To be miserable is to be the center of the universe. Misery and despair aren’t biological defects. We aren’t victims of our genes or chemistry. We’re victims of ourselves. Neurologists refer to our “negativity bias” of experience, which details the nature and evolutionary basis for chronic negativity. Negativity and anxiety have been highly adaptive traits critical to the survival of our species.”

    There is so much wrong in this paragraph, that I am almost at a loss as to where to even begin. I doubt that we can have a productive exchange of ideas for if possible we have the almost diametrically opposite views.

    There is just as much evidence that disturbing emotions are caused by unprocessed trauma and occasionally even the very lack of “cognitive distortions”: see depressive realism, pessimism, antinatalism and to an extent existentialism. I would argue, that the Pollyanna, optimism bias which characterizes the social cognition and which fuels the manufacture of the socially useful delusions about life`s sacrosanct nature and which keeps the churning out masses of humans – degraded to be consumer drones – aloft, in a charade of ritualistic submissive behavior towards power and unjust hierarchies, due the dissemination of false beliefs regarding illusions of locus of control and other grandiose, semi-magical individualistic exaggerations – its not only “good for the economy” but its also a whole virtual reality installed into the heads of many which only when it begins to crack, is when reality can seep in, and as it is, the reality of the human condition is such, that only the mentally stunted would not be depressed by it, when it does nakedly confront our comfy positivity bias. Depression happens when we have no delusional self-deceit left, when reality can enter without distorting positivity bias into our understanding in its full gory glory.

    We are not victims of ourselves, but victims of an inhospitable reality from the ground up to the most symbolic social level, we are subjects of unfairness and injustice, of actual hardships. The inner conflicts we may have do not happen in a vacuum or in a windowless monad.

    “We are victims of our genes and chemistry” is exactly what psychiatrists say. On this site that should tell everything one needs to know about the gist of your position.

    In opposition with your theory of “negativity bias” there is the much more well argued case of “optimism bias” as described by Ernest Becker (The denial of death) and many others. In opposition to your claim of irrationality, there are claim of depression being a state of lucidity – that the very fundamentals of life in its unguided, purposeless, grand narrative lacking nature are so uncomfortable to face up to, that all most humans do is live by denial of those facts (Wessel Zapffe: Om det tragiske).

    I also point out that evolution is not a normative/prescriptive account of our existence, but descriptive one, which means that its not the yardstick of “correct behavior” and can be re-evaluated based on the validity criteria of reason, which are not one and the same with the criteria of successful survival which describes the blind processes guiding the evolution. It can be argued – as many already did – that evolution is the main installer of biases in favor of live via its drives towards self-preservation and reproduction so much so, that our whole psychological makeup is one of interlocking fears and aversions, needs and desires which keep us bundled into a ball of stress and delusion. Only by hijacking the biological programmings can we finally be free to see it for what it is in the cold hard light of reason – I argue that when that happens the picture of human existence is less than flattering and there is nothing to celebrate intelligently what reveals itself from its study. We are the result of unintelligent, uncaring, unplanned, non-teleological blind processes – to take these processes as being normatively binding to what our reality should be is both a fallacy (the naturalistic fallacy) and a travesty of reason. We know that nature cares not for violence, rape, murder, in fact, they are part of its mechanism. To idolize “life” in this biological sense, is to give up the arguments and reservations our intellect has with it.

    I only add this: The threat of medicalization and individualization of potentially merely deviant and socially disapproved forms of behaviors as a tool of social control and manufacture of consent/dis-empowering dissent is real. It is definitely more simple to blame the individual than change society for the better. Its also a real concern that by medicalizing all and every difference and conceivable problems in the human life/condition, unduly narrows the acceptedly meaningful range of human expression and personality, where analysis and understanding of the peculiar, strange or merely radically different, becomes dismissed, invalidated and treated as symptoms of an illness, without a chance for the potential truth of such experiences to be explored or attempted to be understood, nay accepted. A future of chemically controlled automaton zombies of uniform personality and range of self-expression, a future of silently suffering masses from any forms of oppression or injustice is conjured up, where any form of dissent or dissatisfaction, despair or exhalation is quickly neutralized, stifled and deligitimized by the authority of a therapeutic-state.

  • Athena Koop

    WOW. Thank you so much for expending the time and energy to craft such an articulate and well reasoned rebuttal! Do you have your own blog, and if so, could you provide us with a link?

  • Hypatia

    Thank you, Athena! Interestingly you are the second person this week asking the same question. This must mean I really have to make a blog:) I do not have one yet tho:( I`ll make sure to spread the news around when I make one…

  • Rob Bishop

    I believe your ego clouded your ability to read my post. I wrote, “We aren’t victims of our genes or chemistry”. I don’t “blame” the individual. That’s your word. Don’t put it into my mouth. Causes are not “blame”. Feeling victimized by life is the narcotic of the masses. It’s a social movement. People prefer to look elsewhere for the cause of their misery instead of looking in the mirror. We create our reality by what we decide to focus on. This fact is empowering. Do you know what cognitive distortions are? Disturbing emotions are caused by a cognitive distortions. Name one disturbing emotion you’ve had that’s not a distortion. Nobody “makes” us mad – we make ourselves mad. Some people in the death camps during the Holocaust were able to maintain strong stable mental health, so we can overcome our suffering. Abused as a child, it took me 25 years to shed the glorifying illusion I am a victim. I’m unwilling to return to those dark ages. I reject any proposal I am my experiences. I refuse to make my trauma the cornerstone of my life.

  • Hypatia

    It had nothing to do with my ego. Try not to blame and accuse me I did not. Attack the ideas not the person.
    I disagree about the causes, I disagree that great sadness and despair is always due to one`s distortions and not due to objectively bad circumstances, I disagree that what you wrote is not basically blaming the individual (causes can function as “blame”, when the only cause given for someone`s misery is their own mind – denying even the possibility that someone is in misery as a response to being wronged by outside forces), I disagree that cognitive distortions alone or always EXPLAIN depression. In fact I claim the opposite: many times a lack of cognitive distortion leads to depression (like in the case of the most brilliant minds, the majority of whom all shared a pretty bleak view of the human condition, society and humanity), because REALITY is depressing, especially social reality. I disagree that its irrational to feel sad for saddening events, states of affairs…

    That some people in the Holocaust were able to handle the horror (I think they were the deluded ones – a delusion is a delusion even if its useful or comforting – see religions) it does not change the fact that it was a HORROR independently of cognitive distortions – and that anyone who reacted in concordance with becoming horrified was in fact closer to appropriately understand the nature of the situation. If we can`t even agree that the Holocaust was not a mental distortion for those whom it afflicted, but an OBJECTIVE blight which victimized, tortured and killed people, then I really wish for you to stop ever addressing me in any way, form, shape, anywhere…You ask me smugly, if I know what cognitive distortions mean, yeah I know: all the Pollyanna, optimism-biases which keep people enslaved and dis-empowered to demand real change, which prevents them to revolt against the manufacture of consent to be an exploited wage slave. I call cognitive dissonance the main defense mechanism of not having to admit defeat/loss/lack of ability/lack of control, etc, or to examine life in an intellectually honest way and sticking to the conclusion that reveals itself, even if its not beneficial for maintaining any further desire to exist.

    I can`t tell you how much I disagree, there are no words in the vocabulary which could convey the degree of my disagreement.
    If you were abused, you WERE a victim, its good that you managed to work it over, but that does not change the fact, that you were a victim, that when you were victimized which did not happen in your within your mind, rather someone form outside of your mind, and part of your surrounding reality, coerced you/violated you – that is, a reality outside of your interpretations and your mind, unjustly forced itself onto you.

    I do not say you are your experiences. I say that your experiences contain valid information about that which was experienced, that your experience is DUE to that which lends itself to experienced, something other than you who does the experiencing.

    I similarly reject that I am a windowless monad, that for the misfortunes I suffered because of injustice and poverty I am to be blamed for “my mental distortions”, when clearly, I was abused by a system against my will and it was not me, but the system which deserves to be called “distorted” – I reject the idea that I am not even allowed to be reasonably SAD and deeply disillusioned because of it. I reject that my experiences can be invalidated to be “distortions”, I reject to overcome any suffering if it involves its glib and dishonest negation, if it includes the denial of the causes which produce and reproduce them all the time.

    As long as the world has holocausts, rapes, poverty, which-burnings, honor killings, suicide bombings, government surveillance, famine, wars, horrible diseases in it, someone somewhere, right now is SUBJECTED to horrors of this world, not of his mind, and the least we can do is not say that it is their mind`s fault that they feel utter despair for what has been inflicted upon them.

    Name one disturbing emotion that was not a distortion? I never have emotions without them mapping up onto an underlying reality which informs, spawns and explains them. I have thousands of thoughts, conclusions, which elicit disturbing emotions because they are disturbingly true and sad, sad objective states of affairs. Just a few: life is objectively purposeless and meaningless, death is final and irreversible, suffering is rife on earth, life has no cosmic function to play, most economic systems breed and farm us like animals (“human resources”) to feed a soulless economic machine gone awry, and treat us like tools rather than goals (as Kant would say), the life we ended up crafting, the social reality we are doomed to participate in, has little if anything to do with “deserve” or “fairness”, its composed of thinly veiled myths which irrationally justifies one man`s dominion over the other etc. I can defend each and every of these thoughts and why disturbing emotions are the only appropriate responses in case they are genuinely understood.

  • Athena Koop

    So if you tell a profoundly sad person that they are sad because their thinking is screwed up, how is that NOT blaming the sad person? Do you believe ALL uncomfortable emotions deserve to be invalidated like that?

  • Rob Bishop

    That we’re ultimately the cause of our own suffering is an ancient idea embraced by many millions of people. It’s not my idea. You’re welcome to reject it. It goes against Western teachings, which focus on our environment as cause of suffering. Being sad is normal, but we cause our own depression when we have irrational expectations of how we think life should be. “Bad circumstances” are simply circumstances we wish didn’t exist. Human misery is the inability to accept reality. Cognitive distortions are at the root of all disturbing emotions. They’re not related to cognitive dissonance. You keep saying “blame”. Not me. Reality isn’t depressing. Our perspective on reality creates our depression. That suffering is evil and depressing is your perspective. It’s your choice. Death is depressing if we decide it’s depressing. The despair you refer to is voluntary. Many people cling to despair like a religion, as misery fuels the ego. To be miserable is to the be the center of the universe. Depressed, anxious, or addicted people are obsessively self-centered. Talk to them and you will see, their thought are all about me, me, me.

  • Rob Bishop

    You totally misunderstand. I don’t invalidate anyone’s experience. Being sad is a normal and healthy experience. But chronically depressed people are spending hundreds of billions of dollars trying to get rid of emotions that go far beyond sadness… If a person is full of violent rage, do you support telling them they are a victim of their life circumstances, or do you help them to identify their irrational thinking? I promote compassion. You two keep talking about blame.

  • Athena Koop

    Telling a person who’s full of rage that his/her thinking is “irrational” seems somewhat ill-advised. LOL And the boundary between sad and “depressed” is fuzzy at best.
    You state, “Cognitive distortions are at the root of ALL disturbing emotions”? Nope. Too simplistic a formula to be applied to complex human responses – e.g. grieving the loss of a beloved one. Who decides how much grief and for how long is “acceptable?” Would you say all grieving is due to distorted thinking? Bereavement expert Dr. Joanne Cacciatore has said “Big love means big suffering.”

  • Rob Bishop

    Emotional disturbances aren’t complex in nature. They’re simple in origin. Once we identify our distortions, we see how we create our disturbances. Anxiety, depression, rage, and addiction… the good news is we can change! Grief is normal. I’m talking about misery…. Love is not wanting something from someone. If love is “big suffering”, that’s not love, that’s selfish desire. To be miserable is to feel god-like. Talk to a chronically anxious or depressed person and see where their focus is. You’ll discover they’re obsessed with thinking about themselves. Western teachings makes the relatively simple, complex. For 2,500 years, millions have embraced the idea we cause our own suffering. In the West, we’re very busy claiming we’re victims of life, and need drugs to be happy.

  • Athena Koop

    You totally misunderstand.

  • Hypatia

    Indeed. He does misunderstand a lot of things said above, but then proceeds to project that onto us. This way of thinking is at least consistent in its own folly of denying the dialectic dynamics between experience and reality and the belief that what reveals itself in terms of reason can have no justified impact on the feelings of a creature whose interests are directly affected by that which reason unveils in an unbiased manner.

    Just look how he puts his experience onto a pedestal of objective assessment – while treating the experiences of others as merely distorted – in that glib treatment of “depressed people”, as obsessively self-centered, selfish people, who have lost contact with reality. He does not stop for a moment to actually think. A person who is in suffering, will of course concern herself with that experience, since its not something you can ignore. You can`t shrug it off, that your leg is on fire. All people are of course self-centered, but the ironic truth is that I have met no people less in love with themselves and less centered only on their personal gains than those labeled “depressed”. Most people who despair – including myself – are shouldering the woes of all the wretched, abused and unjustly treated, we care and understand the evils of this world as it affects others too – even if we are too realistic not to know, that we can not save them all, heck we can barely save ourselves.

    Some people are more sensitive to certain kinds of harm than others, and sometimes from the desensitized perspective of a majority – who may never even experienced what they glibly judge – the expression of suffering of a more sensitive person may be portrayed as an exaggeration – but its always important to identify WHO is making that assessment. Yet it may well be, that sometimes the problem is not with a given sensibility but its lack thereof: the masses may in fact be those “ill” in a metaphorical sense, who lost the ability to correctly evaluate the weight of an experience, either because its more convenient to just ignore it/to self-delude it away, or because they have been made desensitized and rugged by a life below what they themselves would call optimal, if only they were not actively in the business of validating their choice to celebrate their lives; similarly how parents tend to be defensive and aggressive towards child-free people and their concerns.

    This is why my theory of depression (and as one of those apparently self-centered obsessed lunatics, I speak from personal experience as well), contains a huge dose of what I call uncommon sensitivity of experience and a ruthless commitment to honesty. In my estimation, most depressed people have simply failed to arm themselves with the tools of self-deceit offered both by nature and society. Its like waking up from a matrix of lies and convenient delusions to a reality which offers no consolations. A circumstance which understandably has a solemn air of despair in it. Now granted, most people cant bear wearing their truth-seeing glasses and opt for a way out – be it major tranquilizers or the meanderings of lonely mystics.

    He says: “Human misery is the inability to accept reality.” – No, sir, not even close! The inability to accept reality causes REAL human misery, because its an inability to see the harmful realities which makes the lives of many people miserable. It is not that reality is some absolutely unproblematic realm of pure bliss if we would only be able to see it as it is, quite the contrary, the sad but true fact of the matter is, that MISERY IS REAL and by denying its reality, we only cause more misery. Reality imposes itself onto us, we do not “choose” a reality, we don`t each have our own set of facts, we share a single reality, which is often vile and full of actual, real harming events, caused against the will of sentient beings by both nature and man.

    Differentiating sadness from “depression” in the similarly manipulative way psychiatry does, via simply adding lets say “clinical” in front of it, is ridiculous. We only have a “clinical” degree regarding thoughts, behaviors and feelings society disapproves of, its no coincidence we do not often speak about “clinical joy” or “clinical positive outlook”, because we as a society are interested in promoting those feelings. The problem is we promote it, even in the face of real misery, when real world, tangible help is needed, not some fakir`s ideology of light and “healing-energy”. Look up a video (and a book btw) called “Smile or die” by Barbara Ehrenreich, its amazingly accurate in showing how our culture`s “positivity” bias and ideology creates harm.

    Psychiatrists tell you that there is nothing wrong with the system, you are not exploited, your problems are not socio-political and psychological, nor existential, meaningful and authentic, that they do not reveal anything real and problematic in the world, but are due to your distorted brain which causes distorted feelings.

    Rob Bishop tells you that there is nothing wrong with the system, you are not exploited, your problems are not socio-political and psychological, nor existential, meaningful and authentic, that they do not reveal anything real and problematic in the world, but are due to your distorted feelings, caused not by your diseased brain, but by your “confused” self.

    Their dis-empowering, invalidating and controlling message is identical, it really does not change a lot, that one blames your brain, the other blames your self (whatever that means), in both cases you are not supposed to seek solutions outside, confront your torturers, accept the reality you have been dealt with as objectively limiting, harming and/or unfair, you are not supposed to seek partners to unite and fight for a society which eliminates the sources of your suffering – because on one hand your suffering is either unreal (reality and suffering apparently don`t mix) or exaggerated due to irrational overreaction. On the other hand, you problem is entirely individualized, so no need to seek social-political upheaval, no revolution, just be a good little victim, swallow your pill and smile. This is how females were treated for the mental illness of hysteria a while ago, for disobeying their husbands and having opinions of their own – they must have been imagining that their anger and despair is based on real injustice, it must have been only their distorted thinking, which made them want to be treated as full human beings.

  • Rob Bishop

    Emotional intelligence is a skill. We all have the capacity to not be ruled by our emotions. You’re passionate that life causes suffering, which is a Western concept. Millions disagree with that perspective. Your belief that everyone is equally self-absorbed is inaccurate. Have you read the angry ramblings of a terrorist bomber? Suicide letters? Talk to a depressed person and notice their depression is anger turned inward. We’re driven by our self-loathing and belief something is wrong with us. People aren’t victims of life, but of themselves. That love involves suffering is an example of an irrational (conditioned) idea of what love is. Compassion doesn’t involve “a knife hanging by a thread over one’s heart”. That’s called “fear”. I’ve never once supported the positive thinking Barbara Ehrenreich criticizes. I’ve discussed evidence humans are neurologically wired to focus on the negative (an important evolutionary trait that’s helped our species survive), and isn’t a defect. That we’re anxious like hamsters isn’t a mental illness. The more we resist life as it is, the more crippled we become and the less able we are to heal ourselves and others. We disturb ourselves when we are unable to accept life as it is. It’s the origin of the ancient phrase, “We are our own worst enemy” (Proverbs 29:24, Jeremiah 17:9, Matthew 5:43)

  • Hypatia

    We really need to agree to disagree.

  • all too easy

    The bad news is that little pea shooter Robbie Bishop, aka “U no who” cannot be honest and he cannot shut up. The good news is that he is one of a kind. Of course, he and fellating the mass phallus are all too similar, but they merge into the funniest comedic team in U.S. history, mostly because they take themselves inordinately seriously. (But, I suppose they need to. The whole world depends upon their loquaciousness and their pontificating about how they have each and every answer for absolutely everything and everyone–when it is clear they have no idea how to manage their own lives!) If not for Robbie and Paladapuss, imagine what life would be like. We’d be free of incessant preaching of nihilism and Buddhism and anti-modern medicine incessantly 365/year.
    They are so cute. Enough to make others rather ill, wouldn’t you say, fellating?

  • Cledwyn’s Pus Poetry

    I don’t think it fair to say that depressed people are any more self-absorbed than the general populace of non-depressed people, as has been suggested. True, when either suffering or pain reach a certain pitch, they come to preoccupy a person’s thoughts almost to the point of total abstraction from the environment, and often to the exclusion of the feelings of the people situated therein, but that is only natural, and when the suffering recedes, as happens with the ebb and flow of a man’s feelings and fortunes, the shared experience can lead to a fellow-feeling and uncommon concern for the plight of suffering creatures, to the kind of extra-personal reflection rarely encountered amongst men and women who are comparatively happy, who have been dealt a good hand in the rigged game of life, who say life is beautiful and esteem it good and fair precisely because they are self-absorbed; because they will themselves and themselves only; and because they are too parochial to see beyond their own narrow experiential horizons, and thus to be able to enter into the perspective of others.

    Nietzsche was right when he said that all belief in the value of life stems from impure thinking, and that if a man “were able to embrace the whole consciousness of humanity, he would collapse with a curse against existence” (Human, All too Human).

    Inasmuch as such people (that is, those blessed with good fortune and comparative happiness) take an interest in the misery of others, it is usually only to turn it to account, or to trivialize it and explain it away, and to – under the influence of the conceit of free will – blame he upon whom it has been visited, thereby adding shame and a sense of guilt to the burden of adversity of the person so afflicted.

    “As invariably happens in nature, the weakened elements in the organism, the weakened substances, are the first to be attacked, exploited, killed off, eliminated. And of all the organisms there are human society is the basest, being the most cunning.”

    Thomas Bernhard

    Attacking the weak and the unfortunate, whatever the form it takes, is part of our heritage. If such people are lucky, they are left to languish like lepers in obscurity, though they must hang their heads in shame for being miserable, in a world where responsibility for misfortune, and failure to overcome the insuperable obstacles fate often places in a man’s path, is fixed upon the individual. If not, they are exploited, or scapegoated, scapegoated for all that we find inadmissible about ourselves, or for the problems of society, for as with rats placed in a cage with an electrified floor that attack each other when shocked, in lieu of being able to lash out at the true source of their problems, so it is, mutatis mutandis, with men.

    Just as children resolve their disputes through the centripetal mechanism of scapegoating the weakest child; just as the teacher discharges the anger and frustration stemming from his collegial disputes and domestic squabbles on the pupils confided to his charge; just as parents lash out at their children when there is conflict in the connubial chamber; just as in monkey colonies our simian brethren, hurt by one of superior rank, lash out at their inferiors; and just as doctors blame their patients for not getting better, those who suffer greatly, their tiny, frail little bottoms on the receiving end of a temporal gang-bang in which all the years lustfully participate, are blamed for it, blamed for not pulling themselves up out of the swamp of misfortune and adversity by their own hair, even though differences in the diverse trajectories traced by different men in the course of their lives are always owing to the invidious distinctions Nature draws between creatures (molding – in her diabolical foundry – some for glory, some for tragedy etc.); and to Fortune, ever-discriminating in her dispensations.

    “Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.”

    Herman Melville

    Which holds equally of many another assumption made about the unfortunate, though philosophers like Daniel Dennett deny that such people even exist (or at least that such people are so few and far between, they therefore don’t matter), since supposedly luck averages out over the course of a life. (Try telling that to the elephant man, or to the many Holocaust victims who died a slow, miserable death in Augean mental hospitals, who were effectively punished for their ordeal. Far from bad luck evening out, it is all too often true that it lays the groundwork for more, given the way societies respond to it – of which institutional psychiatry is a shameful example – and the toll it can take on a man mentally, redounding to his disadvantage interpersonally, socially, and economically).

    To bring even a turd into this world is ethically dubious. We should concentrate all our energies on the building of nuclear warheads big enough to annihilate the whole cosmos, and with it the trace of all the crimes perpetrated by Nature, of all the scandals so faithfully whitewashed by its most loyal servant and apologist, man.

    Bestirring myself from such apocalyptic reveries, and addressing myself to the comment that depression is irrational, nah, I think the depressed cast of mind is a much more precise filter of reality, at least those aspects that are crucial to an understanding of the profoundly negative character of existence, which leaves a much greater impression on the depressed individual’s often much more refined sensibility, whereas men of a more coarse-grained nature, or of a more brutalized character, being insensitive to human suffering, and identifying with almost every fibre of their being with the injustice of the world, such men, when confronted with the ugly truth, are (to borrow from Herman Melville) like savages who encounter a pistol in the woods; its true function not being understood, it occasions more wonder than terror, so that those who utter it, seem like mad men.

    Which is not to gainsay the fact that depressed people have irrational thoughts,. Everyone has a share, in the madness to which all human flesh is heir.

  • ain’t me babe



  • Hypatia

    I salute you whoever you are, your words gave me that rare cerebral pleasure, of both style and accuracy – with clear marks of someone who navigates the relevant discourse with ease, but not in an arcane, obfuscating self-congratulatory masturbatory jargon-magic, but in genuine service of that, which lends itself for the task of unbiased thinking and clear experience. I recognized your words as educated, independent products of authentic thinking which submits in pure intellectual honesty to the clarity of experience and displays a true passion to grasp reality as it is, rather than how its convenient. Thanks!

  • Echo

    I know you finished this debate a week ago but I have to interject here. Neither of you are exactly right. This is the problem in “mental health” where everyone wants to find The One True Cause/Cure whether it be drugs, life experience, faulty thinking etc. And it’s NEVER that easy. The truth is probably something in between circumstances and thinking.

    Hypatia – yes, there are experiences and circumstances that you can’t help but be depressed/frightened/enraged by. E.g. if a beloved person passes away unexpectedly it would be normal to forever feel pain and grief over this event. I don’t think any sort of cognitive therapy would be able to ever eliminate this, at least not entirely. However, there is a very big flaw in this idea that objectively bad circumstances cause all negative feelings. Simply being the fact that there is NO such thing as an OBJECTIVELY bad situation. Good and bad are value judgements specific to groups of people, whether they be tiny minorities to large majorities. Think about it. There are religious or lifestyle minorities that believe situations to be terrible that others wouldn’t bat an eye lid at. For example, in some cultures not being able to have children (i.e. biologically) is considered a life-long devastating circumstance for a woman. In Western society this is rapidly changing and many people actively don’t want children at all. This is one small example out of a huge number of the things that humans all over the world consider both good or bad. Even things that seem objectively bad are not so, like poverty. Many religious ascetics CHOOSE to live in poverty as they believe this is a good thing that will bring them closer to their god. Circumstances are only bad when they prevent people from reaching their goals or living the life they want to live. But there is NO SUCH THING as an objectively bad circumstance. If there was then the same situation would make ANYONE in the world experiencing it feel exactly the same way and this just doesn’t happen. We would be able to pick people at random from planet Earth, put them in the situation and expect the exact same reaction every single time. Not possible. Shakespeare: “There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.” 😉

    Rob – Cognitive/behavioural therapy has had huge successes in helping people overcome negative emotions. However, I also feel its ability has been overstated. Like I said above, there are situations in which you will never to fully control your response. Simplistic example, but if you are walking down the street and a stranger comes along and punches you in the face you WILL feel either angry or frightened or both. You can’t help that. But, you can learn to control whether or not to act on that. If you’re angry you can learn to decide to leave it and walk away. As for depressed/anxious people being self-absorbed, I agree BUT this is not a narcissistic self-absorption. We in the West have been fed a stupid therapeutic ideas diet which teaches that each feeling means something and has to be “released” or “processed” so you can “heal”. So these people are constantly focused inwards on their feelings because they feel if they don’t “process” correctly the feelings will not change. They are constantly on edge trying to process every minute thing just in case. This doesn’t work. Constant scrutiny of negative feelings doesn’t release them, it just makes them into a habit and you end up feeling those feelings even more. But unfortunately people resist this idea. Also, I think when it doesn’t seem to get better (because of reasons just outlined) the only choice is to make the most of a bad situation and try to spin it into a positive and that’s why people seem like they are “proud” of their misery. A quote I like from a person who eventually gave up on digging into her past circumstances goes “what we focus on is what grows in our lives. Focusing on every detail of your trauma over and over again every single day will make that trauma the part of your life that grows so that you can’t see much beyond it. If you were abused as a child, grieve it for a time. If you keep on going over and over it each day though, your abuser has not only hurt you as a child, but he is hurting you as an adult. After you feel sad for awhile, you have to pick yourself up and move on to create a happy life for yourself. You cannot change your past, and dwelling on it can only bring pain and shame.” Meaning the more you focus on how terribly you were treated and how badly you felt/feel the more badly you will feel. This is what, in my opinion, cognitive therapy helps you do. It helps you to stop focusing on how horrible everything WAS and instead helps you focus on how things can be different and better NOW.

  • Hypatia

    What counts as harm in a given circumstance, in relation to what constitutes wellbeing or autonomy (these can also be easily conceptualized to generally hold true to all living, sentient creatures) can easily be objectively established (Aristotle, Schopenhauer, Heidegger, Sam Harris). The experience of harm (suffering) is phenomenologically as real, but definitely more urgently pressing for a sentient being`s structure of mattering than a rock hurling alone in space – it can be way more than a mere value judgment (Heidegger) – there is no going around with calling it a value judgment when a sentient being is just being burned alive. Subjectivity itself has a universal structure (Kant), which holds valid across all subjectivities (Habermas) – and constitute the possibility criteria which demarcates it from non-subjectivity. Thus subjectivity matters rationally (Korsgaard) for a creature possessing subjectivity. There are differences in what causes person x and person y more suffering, but each can experience genuine suffering. Living organisms try to avoid harm, pain signals are reactions to harmful stimuli, but it goes way beyond this useful role, and can transform into a problem in and of itself (Schopenhauer).
    The evaluatory concept of “bad” is appropriate and can be rationally justified by any unbiased verification and observation of the amount of suffering life bestows upon its blindly spawned entities which by nature, structurally can be harmed – is an evaluation and deduction made by reason and evidence alone.

    I do not hold 1 cause only (without being complete):

    1. society (injustice, poverty, intolerance, structural aggression, systemic oppression, etc)
    2. nature (horrible diseases, natural disasters, death, injury, aging, etc)
    3. rational evaluation of the sentient condition without denying the valid and justified emotional impact the revealed “neutral” facts represent in such an analysis for beings in need for meaning, significance, wellbeing (aka existential analysis of life in general and its most reasonable negative conclusions: it genuinely leads to philosophical pessimism, antinatalism, depressive realism, existentialism, etc) – most of the statements of which are indistinguishable from the assumed madman`s ramblings (the depressed) – this links up with the human tendency of self-deceit and optimism bias, which in many cases disallows an intellectually and emotionally honest evaluation of life in tune with the data of rational inquiry
    4. personal failure to reach one`s potential, due to insufficient ability or accident or bad choices, learned helplessness, etc – this may link back to and merge to a degree with both the 1. and the 2. causes but not necessarily – an existential choice (for example identity defining commitment to a value, like honor) can also lead to a circumstance when one ends up not living up to his or her own standards and if honesty is in play, then dissatisfaction with the self is structurally sound, not a distortion

    The above are not the same cause. They all share however 1 thing in common, they are all rational and grounded in and informed by external reality.

    Let me part with a quote from Bertrand Russell:

    “That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the débris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. /Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built/.”

    – emphasis added by me

  • Rob

    Our thoughts create our emotional reactions. Emotional disturbances are created when we believe the thoughts that cause us suffering. Do you have examples when anger, depression, and anxiety aren’t rooted in thoughts? Conditions such as Anorexia are thinking disorders. We can’t experience rage unless we are existing within the fantasy movie of the past and future. When we pay close attention to our experience, it is clear that all pain is either remembered or anticipated (even if you are being burned at the stake). As Ju Mipham said, “The only reason we don’t realize the truth is because it is too simple.”

  • Circa

    I agree with you that most depression is situational but what can we say about someone like David Foster Wallace? At the top of his career, one of America’s greatest modern writers, had a loving spouse, lots of friends, lots of money …. So how could he have been depressed? He was on antidepressants for most of his life. And he even tried ECT which makes me a little less ashamed of my own ECT.

  • all too easy

    Where is your proof? U have none, honey. Not one scientifically established test proves you are right.

    BTW, beloved lil Robbie, what exactly is a thought? Prove thoughts exists, sweetheart. Scientifically. You know, with a microscope or an MRI or CAT scan. I will not respond to your pathetic attempts to divert. Sorry Robbie, but, u b clueless.

  • Circa

    Brain scans show changes when a person is afraid of something(scary movie, perhaps) or thinks of something wonderful (flowers in bloom), etc. Answering “What exactly is a thought?” would require a neurologist and a philosopher. You, I dare say, are neither.

  • Phil_Hickey


    Sorry, I’ve gotten a bit behind. Here’s how I see it.

    We all have a public life and a private life. Often it is the case that people who outwardly have everything going for them, are privately besieged by an array of problems which they manage to conceal from even close friends for years. So the answer to your question is: we don’t know.

    But I do know this: of the hundreds and hundreds of depressed people that I worked with over the years, once I got to know them, (and that takes time and trust), I could honestly say: if I were in your shoes, trying to deal with what you’re having to deal with, I would be depressed too.

    Best wishes.

  • Circa

    Yes, I think that must be the case. It’s incredible how much he accomplished while suffering so much pain. DFW’s death had an enormous impact on me. I couldn’t help thinking “Well, Christ, if he couldn’t go on living, how is someone like me (with none of his successes) supposed to manage?” I don’t know if you have read his suicide note. It as, just as one would suspect, beautiful and moving as is the rest of his work. Makes me teary just thinking about it.