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.
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.