Cooking up a Mental Illness and Radicalism

One of my teachers used to talk about cooking up a solution to a Math problem. Today I’ve been thinking about how one can literally cook up a mental illness in anyone. You can take anyone and throw in the essential ingredients into the pot and voila, you have a mental illness and you have a “crazy” person. All you need to do is follow the recipe. You throw in the ingredients in the way directed and you get the baked up mental illness. You can produce a startling array and severity of symptoms including psychosis, if you just add the right ingredients.

Also you can create the symptoms of mental disorder in someone by simply shaming them enough. Humiliate anyone enough and you can drive them crazy literally. It’s science. The first, most important and absolutely essential ingredient to go into the pot of cooking up a mental disorder is shame. If you take a human being and shame them enough, you can create a mental illness in anyone, no matter how “strong” the person. You just need to humiliate and degrade them enough. It’s a highly reliable method of torture. And the production of mental illness proceeds like clockwork, you just follow the recipe and you will have your mental illness baked together perfectly and emerging from the oven at the set time (well almost).

Someone and I were recently discussing PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). The essential recipe seems to be trauma + shame => PTSD. People think that PTSD comes from trauma. Shame is an essential ingredient in that recipe. It’s like baking bread, you cannot bake bread without adding the flour. If you fail to add the flour, you can bake and bake in the oven but what comes out will not be bread. You cannot develop PTSD or CPTSD without the shame. Scientifically researchers have found that PTSD virtually never develops after a trauma in which the person does not dissociate or feel ashamed. A person can be traumatized but as long as they are not humiliated they probably will not develop PTSD in response. Dissociation is a shame reaction. Trauma + dissociation (shame) => PTSD.

To apply this to feminism, a feminist recently wrote to me, “Womyn are literally going nuts living in this toxic sewer of men’s unfathomable reign of terrors all over the globe.”

I think that “toxic sewer” is a good way to describe it, no one can live next to an open toxic sewer and not get sick, we know that. We do not expect people to have a superhuman immune system to live next to a toxic sewer and not get sick. Just like you can sicken anyone by making them live next to a toxic sewer you can sicken someone by making them live in shame, it’s like clockwork almost, you do the shaming and humiliating enough and you can make them more and more ill mentally. Literally I’m sure you can produce almost any symptoms of mental illness (including psychosis) in someone by shaming them enough.

The lack of knowledge about this issue is unfortunate because we have women blaming themselves and their genetics or lack of strength or judging each other as “mentally ill”, when in reality we should be acknowledging our own and each others’ strength in surviving the shame that is continually thrown at us. It is like we are living in the pre sanitation and public health era where people lived next to open sewers and the expectation was that people were supposed to fend for themselves in the face of the disease causing organisms they were constantly exposed to. Instead of immediately dealing with the problem as a public health crisis I’m sure many people felt that the onus was on individuals to have superhuman immune systems. I’m guessing that those that got sick from the open sewers were blamed as being intrinsically weak and “sickly”, rather than the problem of the open sewers being dealt with immediately.

I think that we need some consciousness raising around this issue of “mental illness.” It is not us that are the problem and the more we believe that it is us and our genetic mental illness that is the problem, the more we freeze and accept the sexism in society and stop fighting it. The solution is to combat the shame we are being subjected to, not to add to it by seeing each other as damaged and mentally ill.

Another fascinating consideration is that if you look at the anti war activists or the socialists or the anti racism activists you hear the same sets of ideas over and over.

If you talk to the socialists you hear about how some of the lower socioeconomic class behaviors and “preferences” are a response to the oppression of classism. People are really displaying injuries of classism, and these would not be their preferences or choices if they hadn’t been and weren’t being oppressed that way. You hear about how poor people’s bad choices actually make sense when you further investigate the constraints that they are living under. You hear about how some of poor people’s behaviors, preferences and “bad choices” can be easily diagnosed as a mental health disorder. Their behaviors can easily be misinterpreted as a mental disorder if looked at from the perspective of someone of a different socioeconomic class who does not understand class differences.

If you look to the anti war activists they talk about how maybe men should not be considered to have post traumatic stress “disorder” after coming back from war. War in their opinion is such an evil that it is not an abnormal response or disorder for a man or woman to be in severe distress after it. What else do you expect than for the person to be traumatized ? Do you expect war to be good for their psyche ? In their view war is the disorder, not the soldiers who have been subjected to it and are coming back with post traumatic stress. To them the post traumatic stress is a legitimate response to an egregious evil. To find war intolerable and unbearable and be mentally injured by it is not an abnormal response given that to anti war activists it is an evil that should never happen.

The anti racism activists talk about how racism takes a toll on people’s mental health. They talk about humiliation and how shame is used as a system to keep people of color down. You hear how shame creates and upholds a hierarchy. They talk about how some of “black culture” is not intrinsically “black” but a response to oppression and in some cases it may be a wounded response and an injury of racism.

I hear the same thing from gay rights activists, that homophobia takes a toll on people’s mental health and contributes to struggles like alcoholism, depression, anorexia etc.

It is certainly interesting to hear the same message repeated at you from people in so many disparate groups.

Again and again and again and again you hear the idea that the way to fight these oppressions is not to ask women or poor people, or veterans or people of colour to change their behaviour. The way to fight these oppression is not to try to fix people of colour or poor people or women even if these people are making “bad choices” and have an incorrect viewpoint but the more effective way is to fight the abuse directly. The abuse is continually shaming them and warping their viewpoints and behaviour. You can’t keep trying to fix their mental injuries and “cognitive errors,” you have to try to stop the abuse because it is the abuse and the shame that is creating the “cognitive errors.” You also start to see that when you take poor people out of the conditions of poverty or when you fight racism or sexism and make women feel taken seriously a lot of these “cognitive errors” will resolve once they know that someone recognizes their suffering and sees it as legitimate.

Personally I see that alternately once you can get someone out of a situation of being oppressed and shamed and address the shame, their ability to problem solve and fix things themselves spontaneously increases. They don’t necessarily need someone to fix their “cognitive errors” or give them therapy, they just need someone to acknowledge the oppression with not mere words but actions most importantly. Once someone breaks through the shame it seems that that is the most important part. Then they spontaneously begin to fix things, right their thinking, “set boundaries” and improve.

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