Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Therapists or The Rapists: Checking the Mind-fucker's Queen

Therapists or The Rapists: Checking the Mind-fucker's Queen This is an article that originated on an old Wintel 3.1 machine (which was gonna die come New Year's Eve, 2000).  In fact, I had to “edit” (using which called qbasic.exe) a .txt file to pull it over to a “new” Wintel '95 machine so as to format the file into the “new” HTML format for its presentation at that time.

The “article” was submitted to the Twin Cities Men's Center Newsletter (it, unfortunately, was never published).

Along the way I was reminded of an article on “e-CEOs” in Fortune magazine (May 24, 1999) which characterizes them as “evangelists [for their cause].”  We've not come that far from the religion of “religion” to the “religion of technology”.

The Rapists:
Checking the Mind-fucker's Queen

There's so much you don't know about me.
Cannot ever, no matter how hard I try to make it otherwise.
I have been places, done things impossible to recount . . .

if you're lonely and you're hurting, then you're human . . .

Chris Locke (a. k. a. RageBoy) in Dust My Broom

While in attendance at a male friend's birthday lunch, I often heard the word “denial” used in contexts similar to “you're sure you're not in denial,” as if, accepting the iatrogenic pathology, “everybody's doing it.”  Being no foreigner to the taunt, myself, I thought I would share a perspective on denial that I have been working through for more than twenty-five years, though it is only in the last four years that the pieces of the puzzle have come together with some clarity.  (There is something perverse about a university education when it fails to show one the authentically cumulative tradition of thought.  One has to discover the vital thinkers on their own and serendipitously; professors, if anything, pooh-pooh the very people one should be studying, and needless years are spent just randomly and with luck coming to understand one's heritage.)

A terminus a quo - an adolescent's amazement at the repression of sexual expression in society, fired by Paul Goodman's Growing Up? Absurd! (1960), and fueled since then by, amongst others, any of Wilhelm Reich's works written during the period 1927-1936, Gershon Legman's Love & Death:   A Study in Censorship (1963), any of Michel Foucault's works, but especially The History of Sexuality (1980) [read in the light of his earlier Madness and Civilization (1965)], and any of Ernest Becker's works, but especially the second edition of The Birth and Death of Meaning:   An Interdisciplinary Perspective On The Problem of [Human Being] (1971) and The Denial of Death (1974).  All of these works grappling with the question, as posed by Ernest Becker:  How do we move from childhood toward the practical self-deceit, the well-organized tyranny, of “normal” adult sexuality to accept the sublimation of the body-sexual character of our Oedipal project?  Or, in other words, how do I work through the real differences between a childish impossibility - I can have anything and everything I want - and an adult one - I can live forever?  Either way, leading naturally to the fundamental matters of sexuality and death. 1

I became, of course, acquainted with the most widely accepted answer to the question:  that sexual repression is the sine qua non of civilized life and that a whole raft of devices are used by one's “ego” to defend itself from the demands of the “id,” “superego,” and environment. 2  But this did not satisfy me leading as it did to the rather dismal and pessimistic view of human being as expressed in Freud's Civilization And Its Discontents.

In addition, my work in the history of the philosophy of science brought me to the following interesting quote from Karl Popper's Conjectures And Refutations:  The Growth Of Scientific Knowledge (revised edition, 1972, pp. 34-38):

I should perhaps briefly describe the atmosphere in which [I began my work] and the examples by which it was stimulated.  After the collapse of the Austrian Empire there had been a revolution in Austria:  the air was full of revolutionary slogans and ideas, and new and often wild theories.  Among the theories which interested me . . . were . . . Freud's [theory of] psycho-analysis, and Alfred Adler's so-called 'individual psychology'.

It was during the summer of 1919 that I began to feel more and more dissatisfied with these . . . theories . . .; and I began to feel dubious about their claims to scientific status. . . .
  [W]hat worried me was neither the problem of truth, at that stage at least, nor the problem of exactness or measurability.  It was rather that I felt that these . . . theories, though posing as sciences, had in fact more in common with primitive myths than with science; that they resembled astrology rather than astronomy. . . .

These theories appeared to be able to explain practically everything that happened within the fields to which they referred.  The study of any of them seemed to have the effect of an intellectual conversion or revelation, opening your eyes to a new truth hidden from those not yet initiated.  Once your eyes were thus opened you saw confirming instances everywhere:  the world was full of verifications of the theory.  Whatever happened always confirmed it.  Thus its truth appeared manifest; and unbelievers were clearly people who did not want to see the manifest truth; who refused to see it . . . because of their repressions which were still 'un-analyzed' and crying aloud for treatment
[or, as would be stated today, because they were in denial]. . . .

The Freudian analysts emphasized that their theories were constantly verified by their 'clinical observations'. . . .

What, I asked myself, did [this] confirm?  No more than that a case could be interpreted in the light of the theory.  But this meant very little, I reflected, since every conceivable case could be interpreted in the light of Adler's theory, or equally of Freud's. . . .  I could not think of any human behaviour which could not be interpreted in terms of either theory.  It was precisely this fact - that they always fitted, that they were always confirmed - which in the eyes of their admirers constituted the strongest argument in favour of these theories.  It began to dawn on me that this apparent strength was in fact their weakness. . . .

The two psycho-analytic theories were . . . simply non-testable, irrefutable.  There was no conceivable human behaviour which could contradict them. . . .
  [This] . . . mean[s] that those ‘clinical observations’ which analysts naively believe confirm their theory cannot do this any more than the daily confirmations which astrologers find in their practice.  And as for Freud's epic of the Ego, the Super-ego, and the Id, no substantially stronger claim to scientific status can be made for it than for Homer's collected stories from Olympus. 4

The humanist critique of the psychological myth of paradise through self-knowledge recalls to us that we are all human beings - like children, discovering a strange world, not knowing where we came from or where we are going, we play games, we cry and laugh, we want to be “Big Daddy” Warbucks or Gina Rinehart, G. I. Jane or G. I. Joe, Dick Tracy or Brenda Starr, Kenneth or Gloria Copeland, Peter or Elizabeth Popoff.5  We have bad dreams now, we get sick when we eat certain foods, we have impossible fantasies of sexual fulfillment, we want everybody to listen to us with great respect.  And very soon we shall all be dead.  When a person comes into our experience claiming to hold the keys to the inner door of this astonishing journey, we must begin by recognizing them as another human being.  A human being is speaking, who was also a child and with whom other foods disagree and whose significant other is over-weight and who will also die one day.  We may then listen to what this person has to say.  But we shall take the attitude that it is just another human being that we are listening to.  Most of those working in the therapeutic or “helping” agencies (organizations designed to do away with doubts about how their particular view of the world works [and in our addictive society there is a vast network of psycho-therapists, counselors, and social workers with just this function]) cannot put up with this attitude very well.  Having identified with their particular causa sui project, they regard the attitude as an act of sacrilege in itself and as proof of the depravity of the one who maintains it.  Their goal is not communication but conversion.  They do not wish to understand but to conquer.  As Ernest Becker has pointed out, the reasons for this response are most human ones indeed.  But this does not mean that the psycho-therapeutic nomenclature should continue as an empirical measure within cultural conventions supporting the punishment of dissent, social control of deviants, or, at its most innocuous, fitting people uncritically into their standard hero-games.

Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz raises four questions concerning the nature, scope, methods, and values of the psychotherapeutic enterprise; questions we would do well to ask our own therapists:

1)  Is the scope of psychotherapy the study and treatment of medical conditions, or the study and influencing of social performances?  In other words, are the objects of psychotherapeutic inquiry diseases or roles, happenings or actions?

2)  Is the aim of psychotherapy the study of human behavior, or the control of human (mis) behavior?  In other words, is the goal of psychotherapy the advancement of knowledge, or the regulation of (mis) conduct?

3)  Is the method of psychotherapy the exchange of communications, or the administration of diagnostic tests and curative treatments?  In other words, what does psycho-therapeutic practice actually consist of - listening and talking, or prescribing drugs, operating on the brain [in the case of psychiatry], and imprisoning persons labeled as 'mentally ill'?

4)  Finally, is the guiding value of psychotherapy individualism or collectivism?  In other words, does psychotherapy aspire to be the servant of the individual or of the state? 6

Szasz suggests that contemporary psychotherapy hedges on all of these questions.  And that indeed the mandate of the contemporary psychotherapist - that is, of the professionally loyal, “dynamic” or “progressive” psychotherapist - is precisely to obscure, and indeed deny, the ethical dilemmas of life, and to transform them into medicalized and technicalized problems susceptible to professional solutions.

Today while the entire U. S. society is crumbling around an archaic CIA-congressional-corporate-educational-FBI-financial-industrial-media-medical-military-NSA-police-political-prison-Secret-Service-terrorism-expert complex (or “hero-system”), unrelated to the needs and challenges of contemporary life, we see an apparent incapability and / or lack of imagination in our people to reconstruct the society around goals of peace and social justice.  More importantly, the margin that nature has been giving to our cultural fantasy is suddenly being narrowed down drastically with the consequences that for the first time in history we, if we are to survive, have to bring down to zero the large fictional element in our hero-systems.  Men of good will could begin with the therapeutic relationship, recalling Paul Feyerabend's description of the role of the “expert” in a free society:

[E]xperts are humans just as we are; . . . they have therefore the ability to produce bright ideas and the related ability to commit grievous mistakes. 7

One way or another, we're all baying at the moon.

Chris Locke (a. k. a. RageBoy) in Dust My Broom


1  There's a real bias being expressed here as all of these works are written by men.  One of my growth areas during the past four years is to have started reading the women's perspective on this issue; cf. e. g., Kate Millet, Sexual Politics (1970), Susan Brownmiller, Against Our Will:  Men, Women and Rape (1975), Andrea Dworkin, Pornography:  Men Possessing Women (1981), Susan Griffin, Pornography and Silence:  Culture's Revenge Against Nature (1981), Adrienne Rich, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence," Signs 5(4), Margaret Jackson, "Sexual Liberation or Social Control?" and "Sex Research and the Construction of Sexuality:  A Tool of Male Supremacy" in Coveney, L., et al., The Sexuality Papers:  Male Sexuality And The Social Control Of Women (1984), Anne Wilson Schaef, Women's Reality:  An Emerging Female System in the White Male Society (3rd edition, 1992), Margaret Jackson, "“'Facts of Life' Or The Eroticization of Women's Oppression?  Sexology and the Social Construction of Heterosexuality”' in Pat Caplan, ed., The Cultural Construction of Sexuality (1987), Anne Wilson Schaef, When Society Becomes An Addict (1987).

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2  Sigmund Freud had originally proposed nine “defense mechanisms” - regression, repression, reaction formation, isolation, undoing, projection, introjection, turing against the self, and reversal - to which his daughter, Anna, added a tenth, sublimation.  I believe the most recent count is twenty-four, including:  acting out, avoidance, denial, aestheticism, altruistic surrender, clowning, compliance, counterphobia, whistling in the dark, not to mention any more (before all of human being is included as a defence mechanism).

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3  See Appendix 1 for a footnote from Popper which clarifies what the Freudians meant by 'clinical observations'.  Cf. Footnote 4.

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4  More recently, Paul Kline, in a review of research on Freudian hypotheses, found large numbers of studies that failed one or more of the simple criteria for satisfactory research design (Paul Kline, "Sexual Deviation:  Psychoanalytic Research and Theory," in Glenn D. Wilson, ed., Variant Sexuality:  Research And Theory [Baltimore:  John Hopkins University Press, 1987], pp. 150-175.  Compare also:  Hans J. Eysenck, Decline And Fall Of The Freudian Empire (Harmondsworth:  Pelican, 1985), Adolf Grunbaum, The Foundations Of Psychoanalysis:  A Philosophical Critique (Berkeley:  University of California Press, 1984), Jeffrey M. Masson, The Assualt On Truth:  Freud's Suppression Of The Seduction Theory (New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1984).

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4  More recently, Paul Kline, in a review of research on Freudian hypotheses, found large numbers of studies that failed one or more of the simple criteria for satisfactory research design (Paul Kline, "Sexual Deviation:  Psychoanalytic Research and Theory," in Glenn D. Wilson, ed., Variant Sexuality:  Research And Theory [Baltimore:  John Hopkins University Press, 1987], pp. 150-175.  Compare also:  Hans J. Eysenck, Decline And Fall Of The Freudian Empire (Harmondsworth:  Pelican, 1985), Adolf Grunbaum, The Foundations Of Psychoanalysis:  A Philosophical Critique (Berkeley:  University of California Press, 1984), Jeffrey M. Masson, The Assualt On Truth:  Freud's Suppression Of The Seduction Theory (New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1984).

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5  See the 1992 American dramedy “Leap of Faith” starring Steve Martin and Debra Winger (amongst others).  A story about Jonas Nightengale. the fradulent faith healer, and Jane, his friend and manager (both loosely based on Peter and Elizabeth Popoff), who make a living traveling around America holding revival meetings and conducting 'miracles'.  Read more about the loosely based couple in James Randi's book The Faith Healers.

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6  Thomas S. Szasz, “Crime, Punishment, and Psychiatry,” in Abraham S. Blumberg, ed., Current Perspectives On Criminal Behavior:  Essays On Criminology, 2nd ed. (New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1981), pp. 342-363.

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7  Paul Feyerabend, “Experts In A Free Society,” The Critic, Nov. - Dec., 1970, p.69.

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Appendix 1

Footnote 3 to Chapter 1 of Karl Popper's Conjectures And Refutations:

    'Clinical observations', like all other observations, are interpretations in the light of theories . . .; and for this reason alone they are apt to seem to support those theories in the light of which they were interpreted.  But real support can be obtained only from observations undertaken as tests (by 'attempted refutations'); and for this purpose criteria of refutation have to be laid down beforehand:  it must be agreed which observable situations, if actually observed, mean that the theory is refuted.  But what kind of clinical responses would refute to the satisfaction of the analyst not merely a particular analytic diagnosis but psycho-analysis itself?  And have such criteria ever been discussed or agreed upon by analysts?  Is there not, on the contrary, a whole family of analytic concepts, such as 'ambivalence' . . . which would make it difficult, if not impossible, to agree upon such criteria?  Moreover, how much headway has been made investigating the question of the extent to which the (conscious or unconscious) expectations and theories held by the analyst influence the 'clinical responses' of the patient?  (To say nothing about the conscious attempts to influence the patient by proposing interpretations to her, etc.)  Years ago I introduced the term 'Oedipus effect' to describe the influence of a theory or expectation or prediction upon the event which it predicts or describes:  it will be remembered that the causal chain leading to Oedipus' parricide was started by the oracle's prediction of this event.  This is a characteristic and recurrent theme of such  myths, but one which seems to have failed to attract the interest of the analysts, perhaps not accidentally.  (The problem of confirmatory dreams suggested by the analyst is discussed by Freud, for example in Gesammelte Schriften, III, 1925, where he says on p. 314:  'If anybody asserts that most of the dreams which can be utilized in an analysis . . . owe their origin to [the analyst's] suggestion, then no objection can be made from the point of view of analytic theory.  Yet there is nothing in this fact', he surprisingly adds, 'which would detract from the reliability of our results.') 

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