Some reflexions on therapeutism and reading “changing our minds”

I would really recommend to read the book by Celia Kitzinger and Rachel Perkings, Changing our Minds; Lesbian Feminism and Psychology – a critique of the influence of psychology in lesbian feminist communities.

index

Psychological culture creeps insidiously into our behaviours, discussions and language without us even being aware of it, especially because it appears as a caring, nurturing and self-protective approach to relationships with women. Before I read that book, I was already very weary of psychologists, knew that it’s part of men’s global genocidal scheme and anti-woman repression, that its intent is to depoliticise men’s violence, erase the evidence of men’s crimes on women’s psyches, revert the responsibility of the atrocities, isolate women from one another, put victims back in perpetrator’s hands and finally prevent women from simply talking about their experiences to other women, putting the dots together and becoming feminist. I also hated the fact that psychology paralyses so much of women’s aids and feminist sectors, where therapists are treated as the new saviour gods who will “fix” women of their pesky victimisation problems that they keep getting sucked into.

But Changing our minds took me one step further into making me see how professionalised therapy was inherently wrong and part of the antifeminist backlash, that there’s no way you can make a psychotherapy be feminist. It also struck me to discover how so many words various radfems and I use actually come from the male psychocontingent, and in that sense psychology’s infiltration went much deeper than I thought.

Both writers were students, workers and academics in psychology and know a hell of a lot about it all. They explained very well the different antifeminist intents and functions of male psychology and how it is based on an unethical, unequal power-over relationship between the therapist and the therapee, even if the intents may initially be feminist. They also demonstrate how problematic it is when the only ones we trust to talk about the most intimate parts of our life are ones we pay for being there, with the superficial parts of ourselves reserved to our “non-paid friends”. To paraphrase their points, it fosters the belief that sharing our distress with friends will overburden them and that we lack specialised skills in order to support ourselves and friends too. It takes away from us the power to support each other and be experts on our own emotions and experiences, and entitles therapists as the only ones capable of understanding and naming what we are going through. In fact women need feminist / understanding friends, not therapists, and as feminists we also need to learn how to deal with our distress and trauma collectively and politically. Let me quote the following passages:

Is lesbian friendship … so “limited” and circumscribed that we need to pay therapists to fulfil ordinary human needs for understanding, comfort and support? What therapists are actually providing is prosthetic friendship – an artificial and unequal friendship that is paid for. (p. 84). … With the institutionalisation of therapy, we cease to expect to have to deal with each others’ distress: it is consigned to the private realm of therapy. This deprives our communities of a whole realm of experience, deprives us of the strength and ability to support one another, and deprives us of the understanding the context and meaning of our distress. … Therapy privatises pain and severs connections between us, replacing friendship in community with private therapist client relationship. (p.88)

This struck a chord with me because I do get frustrated when friends tell me they need a therapist because they want to talk about their childhood trauma. Whether I’m the person she would like to talk to about it or not is one thing, but it bothers me that this friend has more trust in a stranger she’s paying, than in a close friend who, as a feminist, understands the workings and effects of men’s violence way better than any therapist does. And it bothers me all the more that she’s going to waste money on that. I just hate how psychotherapists have become the new miracle-makers and one-solution-for-all tricksters in which we are supposed to have blind faith. As with every male field, men strip us from our autonomy and access to resources, destroy our ancestral and communal knowledge, proclaim themselves exclusive experts, reserve the monopoly of this “knowledge” or resource to a selected elite and then enforce our dependency on their lethal, toxic injections for our survival – which eventually kills us off, but does so slowly enough that we don’t see it comes from them. The whole point of psychology is to maintain our captivity to men.

The frustrating bit about that book however is that the political alternative they propose to privatised, depoliticised therapy is reformist activism such as picketing and demonstrating, which isn’t a very satisfying response either. Also, in their refusal to pyschologise women’s emotional pain, they sometimes go to another extreme of considering pain, distress or despair as a natural aspect of life that we should accept as normal and just do with; rather than seeing it as mostly (if not always) a natural consequence to violence and abuse. This “that’s the way life is” position is depoliticising and disempowering too. And irritating. Last, through their rejection of psychology’s pathologisation of women’s pain, they appear to reject the notion altogether that women are wounded by men’s violence and do need to recover from those wounds. In that sense they reject the notion of healing altogether. Yet politicising oppression shouldn’t be cause for denying the reality of the different emotional and psychological (as well as physical) harms it causes, and the need for not only getting away or stopping the source of harm (men, men’s violence) but also recovering from it too. If someone breaks your leg, you will need a plaster for a certain amount of time after that and some amount of care and rest, so your arm can heal. In the same way it seems logical to me that if we were violated and humiliated for years, we’d also need time to recover from that.

So I do think it’s possible to affirm that there’s nothing wrong with women, women don’t need to be ‘fixed’ from the inside by psychogenocidal surgeons and mind rapists, and at the same time acknowledge the effects of men’s atrocities committed against us – that we may have special needs for care (whichever they may be) as a result of this. Men’s violence cause a whole lot of chronic physical problems and various forms of PTSD in us, and we do need to be knowledgeable about these physical and psychic effects of men’s violence in order to help recovery – as long as it’s from a radical feminist perspective of course.

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14 Responses to “Some reflexions on therapeutism and reading “changing our minds””


  1. 1 Rididill October 6, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    This is a really great post and important issue. The thing about pain is a really tough one, it had me stumped for a long time. I have recently come to realize that in the past I have felt so much that my pain was a protest: if I could just get better on my own then it would mean that none of those who I held responsible for my pain were really to blame; that getting better would mean everyone who just told my I could pull myself together and get over it, had been right.

    You talk about ‘erasing the evidence’ here which I think relates to this, though it might not be quite what you meant. I suppose it keeps the evidence within the therapy room, rather than shared, and then when (if) the woman improves, she does not speak about it to others.

    Anyway, it is hard to both to feel that healing can be within reach if you approach it the right way, and not feel that this means that your pain itself is simply your own failure to deal with it. It’s so perverse – it’s like, it has to be deadly damaging for it to be taken seriously, so if you get better then clearly it wasn’t that bad. You know? I guess I’m repeating myself here.

    Also very true about the paid friends thing. In my experience this is waaaaay worse in the US, I found it very hard to achieve any kind of emotional openness with anyone.

    Thing is, everyone is so terrified of being shunned for being a ‘negative person’ or ‘energy vampire’ they need to pay someone to be able to really speak as honestly and as long as they need to. Because the fear of rejection there, it’s not irrational, it’s a very real risk. And it is true also that it is hard for friends to support someone going through a bad time even if they have the best of intentions, it can be a strain.

    Paying means they can’t refuse to listen, paying means they aren’t going to reject you because you’ve just revealed something about yourself that they didn’t know before and might not like.

    One big problem here is that people have no time and no energy to build real, proper friendships where friends can actually support one another. Capitalism is like this. Uses up more and more of our time so we need to buy the things we no longer have time to make – food, friends, a walk in nature (now replaced by gyms). So it’s a much bigger strain on someone to listen if they have ten million other things to do, stresses, and limited energy.

  2. 2 witchwind October 7, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    Thanks for this reply, very thoughtful! What I meant by erasing the evidence of men’s crimes on women’s psyches is first that psychotherapists, just like patriarchal medics, focus on erasing the symptoms of distress as a measure of success, rather than addressing the political causes of it and erasing the source of our distress (men’s violence). What it does is effectively adding a cosmetic layer of change on female victims so they continue to appear functional and healthy from the outside – thereby erasing the few signs of conscious or unconscious psychic/bodily resistance to men’s violence and help-calling. Signs that are of course pathologised as “disorders” or “hysteria”, because all forms of more direct and conscious naming, resistance and flight from men’s violence have already been suppressed in ourselves. Therefore it makes it more difficult for women to recognise ourselves as victims, to see the evidence of men’s violence on ourselves. Our depressions, chronic fatigue, phobias, insomnias and other displaced reactions to men’s violence are to be hidden, kept secret, to be felt ashamed of, gotten rid of.

    This is particularly the case with these new behavioural-cognitive therapies, where the therapists treat your condition as a internal, dysfunctional behavioural/thought pattern or habits (such as phobias, panic attacks, obsessive behaviours) that are in appearance, disconnected from the immediate reality. The aim is to train the patient to replace these thought patterns or habits with different ones that connect to the immediate reality. Say you’re phobic of birds, so what they will do is train your brain to see that this fear of birds does not connect to the reality of birds, because birds aren’t dangerous at all, and train you to have positive thoughts about birds.

    In other words, all the phobias, anxieties, obsessive disorders and depressive moods that we have (as a result of dissociation / displaced, repressed anger/fear) are treated as irrational dysfunctions disconnected from reality, rather than a normal consequence of years of abuse from which we could not escape, of having the reality of the atrocities denied and our resistance to it suppressed. And instead of reconnecting our displaced fears and angers back to their original reality and source (the real violence and fear, distress and anger we felt against our perpetrators, rapists, abusers, torturers) and validating them as normal survival reactions to violence, they add another level of suppression and repression of our fears and anger by wiping out the dissociated ones from us too.

    This is a technique of mind-control, self-imposed brainwashing and memory rewriting.

  3. 3 witchwind October 7, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    By self-imposed I mean that men / therapists impose us to inflict it on ourselves.

    To take the bird phobia analagy again:
    Say, M. was raped as a child. She had no way of escaping it. She tried to ask for help and tell her surroundings, but the rapist and his allies and all the adults around her did everything they could to silence her, to take the side of the rapist. As nobody would listen to her and protect her from the rapist, she had no choice but to shut up and live in her shell. She is 5 years old. Because she can no longer speak, her body speaks for her: she starts eating her hair, scratching her body. Her parents tell her to stop. So she suppresses that, too. She then has all sorts of problems, but less visible to the outside: panic attacks, bird phobia, nightmares at night. She’s now almost 18, and the rapist stopped seeing her long ago. She has probably forgotten about it, because the dissociation made her amnesic. When she’s 21, she decides to see a psychotherapist to treat her bird phobia. He will do the final job of erasing the signs of the violence she was subjected to – if he’s successful.

  4. 4 witchwind October 7, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Which doesn’t mean she should stay with her anxieties and phobias, right – all she needs is becoming aware again that her suffering was caused by male abuse, that it’s got nothing to with her personally but is part of a system of global male genocide against women, that she’s not alone, that her reactions were legitimate, to protect herself from further abuse and meet supportive women. In other words, becoming feminist.

    Very good point that the risk of rejection is real. People not only don’t want to have to deal with “negative feelings”, but they also will silence and reject any female victim implicating the responsibility of an abuser / rapist for her current suffering: naming men’s violence is simply forbidden. Even if you can say you’re sick, broken and depressed, you can’t say that men or a man caused this. But yes, forbidding even to name agentless-caused suffering is the next step in psychic genocide.

    Yes, true that it links to men’s manufactured, plastic world, making us dependent on their synthetic, dead shit, after having destroyed all things natural. Land, food, water and air becomes reserved to the male elite who can afford it.

  5. 5 Rididill October 7, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    Oh don’t get me started on CBT, it’s so creepy, anti-truth, repressive shit.

    Not just refusing to blame men, but there is also a culture that blaming anyone but yourself for your problems is a sign of emotional immaturity.

    Like we were discussing the other day – there’s also that whole strand of ‘anything you have a problem with in the world is just a reflection of your own issues’.

    The most important thing I think is to realize that once the source of the problem has been identified and the blame laid in the right place, this does not imply that getting better has to depend on them changing, apologizing, reconciling or whatever.

    This is a big problem with feminism too. Like, you get a lot of talk about how certain things aren’t ‘women’s responsibility’, which should be true, but seeing as men aren’t likely to step up any time soon, we have to do something.

    For example, there is a lot of confusion in that any suggestion that women do anything at all to try and protect themselves from rape is seen as victim-blaming. And yet, there are things we can do, and we all do them, at least some of the time. To say that there are things we can do, is not the same as saying it’s a woman’s fault she is raped if she doesn’t do them. Which is quite tricky. I feel this is the same issue.

  6. 6 witchwind October 7, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    I think the thing about telling women what to do against rape (for instance carry pepper spray, etc – all those prevention fight back stuff) is that it usually never says all the truth about men, sometimes even fails to name men and their responsibility, and treat exposure to men as well as exposure to men’s dicks as natural and inevitable as breathing air – just as abortion campaigns do.

    Also, most of those anti-rape prevention messages or trainings focus on defence from male strangers, IOW those who are least likely to attack us from a quantitative and qualitative point of view. When they should focus on developing defence mechanisms to the men who claimed right of ownership over us: fathers, husbands, brothers, employers, pimps, etc. those to whom we have closest interaction to.

    Instead of saying: “carry pepper spray with you, an alarm bell and always walk accompanied”, we should say “stay away from men and from any kind of interaction with them as much as you can. Get away from PIV. Never marry or date a man, let alone make children with one. Seek only trusted female company and friends. Avoid working for any male institution if you can.”

    Finally, they discourage from killing rapists/men, which is the most logical, legitimate defence to have.

  7. 7 Rididill October 7, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    yes you are right about that, in a sense, although it is usually phrased, why aren’t you telling men not to rape (rather than, this is what men are and do and we need to face up to that). suggesting that if we did that, men would stop raping, and women would then not have to do anything.

    so, any suggestion that women should do something (i.e. stay the hell away from men) is still seen as victim-blaming.

  8. 8 witchwind October 7, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    interesting, I don’t think I’ve come across that kind of brand very often (the ‘why are you not telling men not to rape’). Where did you get that from? Although what I have seen a lot lately from non-feminist, hippie quarters is “women should just educate their boys properly” – yawn.

    Also, we have the case where suggestions not to spend our energy at changing men or their institutions are dismissed as defeatist, individualistic and what have you.

  9. 9 Rididill October 8, 2013 at 11:36 am

    seriously? It’s literally everywhere. I mean as far as I’m concerned it’s the party line for funfems and semi-radfems. I think the ‘teaching men’ thing is the same ballpark idea though.

    Some examples

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2012/12/30/dont-tell-women-what-to-wear-tell-men-not-to-rape/

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/03/05/democratic-strategists-shocking-claim-women-dont-need-guns-for-self-defense-just-tell-men-not-to-rape-women/

    http://amptoons.com/blog/2009/09/15/sexual-assault-prevention-tips-guaranteed-to-work/

    Yes, it’s men’s responsibility not to rape, but our responsibility to teach them, apparently. It’s really just a shifting of the victim-blaming in a way.

  10. 10 witchwind October 8, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    ah ok I see what you mean. Yes true that’s everywhere.

    As if telling men will make a difference anyway. They know they’re raping, they know it’s harmful, they just don’t give a shit about it. Telling them to stop won’t make them stop. We have to make them stop one way or another. Either by getting away from them, or getting THEM out of our way.

    yes they just shifted the victim blaming, very interesting

  11. 11 Rb dN October 8, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    I’d like to respond to one thing: that of lesbians or any woman going to a psychologist or psychotherapist or psychiatrist to talk about their childhood, their relationships, whatever traumas.

    You are pathologized the minute you do this, not only with this therapist, but with your health records if your sessions are covered by health insurance. The counsellor will not tell you she thinks you are paranoid, or any other of the terms in the DSM that gets her paid when she codes it. But she will on your record. The person(s) transcribing her taped notes will type that on your file, will know what you are being called, the intimate details of your sex life, and those words and confidences (sic) will go on your medical file to be seen by any other therapist or doctor, and those people will treat you according to whatever their prejudice and understanding of that word/diagnosis is. Your medical/insurance records will be accessed by employers, landlords, life insurance and business insurance, automobile insurers, and you will pay a higher premium (you’re insane therefore dangerous) for everything, and may also be refused.

    Just a caution for those who think confiding (sic) in a therapist is a good idea.

  12. 12 witchwind October 9, 2013 at 8:01 am

    wow that’s insane, thanks for the info. Is this in the US??? Crazy they’re allowed to record it, type it down and hand it to any odd professional who comes in your way, even the insurers!!! I thought the therapists would be bound to keep some professional secret of some sort?

    Plus it’s deadly dangerous, this is a very good reason indeed to never confide in a therapist. Not only because of all the life insurance / medical insurance problems but because also, but because any perpetrator in the professional sphere (there are tons of them in there waiting for new victims) will have access to the most vulnerable, intimate parts of a person and use that against her. This is really terrible.

  13. 13 Rb dN October 9, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    I am under a universal healthcare system, but I’m assured by Americans it’s similar for anything paid by insurance. Doctors/Nurwse practitioners have to code treatment for the insurer to pay them for seeing you. A pap smear? One code. An STD, another.

    I know a nurse who was refused business insurance, and when she pursued it with her insurer, found out it was because here insurer had paid for “psychiatric” counselling from her general practitioner. She enquired with GP, and was told it was when nurse had been stressed to the max with dying father and your mother in nursing home with dementia. “How else did you expect me to get paid for listening to you,” said her (former) GP.

    Doctors are not allowed to remove a diagnosis, even if they say it was a condition that had been improved. They can say two years down the road you’re over your depression STD drug addiction to oxycodone whatever. But it’s a done deal on your records and insurers get to access that. When landlords do credit checks, they can get such information on you, if you have used psych drugs, it’s worse. Doctors see that and see everything you come to them with through that lens, and pick up the prescription pad.

    Psychologists NOT working in a clinic or hospital setting may not be able to take insurance claims, but even if you pay them privately, someone is transcribing their notes. Those files are stored somewhere. On the net? Google “medical records privacy”.

    Ask ask ask. Do not be blown off you have a right to know how your information is recorded. And for your problems, talk to your friends, talk to the dog, drive around the ring road screaming your head off. It’s safer.

  14. 14 Rididill October 10, 2013 at 11:06 am

    That’s really shocking. Do not understand how this is legal.


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