Tag Archives: Politics

Abusers are only afraid of losing control, if you get up, they fall


I, like many others, have a burning desire to DO something for the world, and I try to do my part every day at work. The last couple of years I have also been reading many books about issues related to the world today, and watched world kindnessrandondocumentaries and movies that also inspired me. After some time, excitement rose as I understood how ideas, psychology and internet have the potential to accomplish things we could not before. Some people say it`s too many bad things out there, we can`t do anything, anyway. I simply believe that is not true. Those words are uttered by bullies not affected by people starving and losing their jobs, as long as they can fly their jets, live in mansions and wear expensive suits.

From working with traumatized people, some of the most lovely persons I`ve ever met, and feeling the unfairness of people USING their kindness and warmth against them, making them feel bad and unworthy, when in reality the roles could have been reversed. Also reading about how psychopaths can climb to high positions in the society EXACTLY because they don`t fear stepping at toes (Watch the documentary I am Fishead for more on this) scares me even more. But, remembering that just 1 – 2 % of the populations truly have no conscious (still the number is so high that we all will encounter one of them quite often. The staggering number is still big when you think about how many people inhabit this planet. Some have even noticed that capitalism is as built for psychopaths, what do they care if Greece goes bankrupt as long as they get their cash and power?

All this made me realize: People trying to make the world worse, will always be a challenge, but they will NOT accomplish this if others protest. The internet makes this possible, and by spreading an attitude of compassion, we can work against this tendency. In his book, “Defense Against the Psychopath,” author Stefan Verstappen outlines the greatest and stealthiest danger in the human jungle. Leaders throughout history – the people we vote for – are rarely moral leaders. For them, lying is as easy and natural as breathing. It is completely unnerving and rattling to face the fact that someone can have absolutely no empathy. This realization is so frightening, most would rather go heavily into denial and fantasize that our helping them succeed is a good thing.

“Because of the tremendous destruction psychopaths reap on society, it is vital for everyone to be aware of their existence and to recognize their behavior traits. Understanding them is the first step to defending oneself against them.”

Peace one day want to make one day a year, a “peace day”, and what about a “kindness day” ? Philip Zimbardo, one of the greatest scientists, have introduced Heroic Imagination Project where he encourage people to take heroic act. Do you 142577dfa7c5e25cfaa3466d2bcf5354know that often it is enough that ONE person protest, for others to join in? In fact, they found that the Milgram Experiment of obedience (where you must deliver shock to others) the willingness to do what they “felt” was not right, went down if they “by coincidence” saw somebody else say no. This means: It helps to follow your heart, when something is not “quite right” even if authority tell you something else. Some do anyway, because they trust their gut-feeling enough to do what feels right, but most people look at what others do (cognitive heuristics) because it is easier.

So, if somebody else does kind things for others, would you not want to, also? If your best friend always smiled at strangers, would it not be easier for you also?

But you need energy, to be there for others. For that reason: Take care of your own needs first! Many feel egoistic if they do, but it`s actually the other way around. By not taking care of yourself, you neglect the energy and happiness necessary for giving others what they need. If an oxygen mask fall down, take your own mask first. Not because you don`t care about your children, but because then you are more able to help others, afterwards.

Read more:



Capitalism: A System Run By and For Psychopaths



Psychopaths run the world




Police ticket for good behavior


Can We Reverse The Stanford Prison Experiment?

by Greg McKeown  |   8:15 AM June 12, 2012

 When I met for lunch with Dr. Phil Zimbardo, the former president of the American Psychological Association, I knew him primarily as the mastermind behind The Stanford Prison Experiment. In the summer of 1971, Zimbardo took healthy Stanford students, gave them roles as either guards or inmates, and placed them in a makeshift prison in the basement of Stanford University. In just days, the prisoners demonstrated symptoms of depression and extreme stress and the guards had become sadistic. The experiment was stopped early. The lesson? As W. Edwards Deming wrote: “A bad system will defeat a good person, every time.” But is the opposite true? I asked Zimbardo, “Can you reverse the Stanford Prison Experiment?”

He answered with a thought experiment referencing the infamous Milgram experiment (where subjects showed such obedience to people in authority that they administered what they believed were fatal electric shocks to patients). Zimbardo, who by an almost unimaginable coincidence went to high school with Stanley Milgram, wondered whether we could conduct a Reverse Milgram Experiment. Could we, through a series of small wins, architect a “slow ascent into goodness, step by step”? And could such an experiment be run at a societal level?

We actually already know the answer:

Positive Tickets

For years, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment in Richmond, Canada ran like any other law enforcement bureaucracy and experienced similar results: recidivism or reoffending rates ran at around 60%, and they were experiencing spiraling rates of youth crime. This forward-thinking Canadian detachment, led by a young, new superintendent, Ward Clapham, challenged the core assumptions of the policing system itself. He noticed that the vast majority of police work was reactive. He asked: “Could we design a system that encouraged people to not commit crime in the first place?” Indeed, their strategic intent was a clever play on words: “Take No Prisoners.”

pos tickets

There you go: A ticket for the good deed you did!

Their approach was to try to catch youth doing the right things and give them a Positive Ticket. The ticket granted the recipient free entry to the movies or to a local youth center. They gave out an average of 40,000 tickets per year. That is three times the number of negative tickets over the same period. As it turns out, and unbeknownst to Clapham, that ratio (2.9 positive affects to 1 negative affect, to be precise) is called the Losada Line. It is the minimum ratio of positive to negatives that has to exist for a team to flourish. On higher-performing teams (and marriages for that matter) the ratio jumps to 5:1. But does it hold true in policing?

According to Clapham, youth recidivism was reduced from 60% to 8%. Overall crime was reduced by 40%. Youth crime was cut in half. And it cost one-tenth of the traditional judicial system.

There is power in creating a positive cycle like Clapham did. Indeed, HBR‘s The Power of Small Wins, recently explored how managers can tap into relatively minor victories to significantly increase the satisfaction and motivation of their employees. It is an observation that has been made as far back as the 1968 issue of HBR in an article by Frederick Herzberg titled, “One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?” (PDF). That piece has been among the most popular articles at Harvard Business Review. His research showed that the two primary motivators for people were (1.) achievement and (2.) recognition for achievement.

Very, Very Small Wins

The lesson here is to create a culture that immediately and sincerely celebrates victories. Here are three simple ways to begin:

1. Start your next staff meeting with five minutes on the question: “What has gone right since our last meeting?” Have each person acknowledge someone else’s achievement in a concrete, sincere way. Done right, this very small question can begin to shift the conversation.

2. Take two minutes every day to try to catch someone doing the right thing. It is the fastest and most positive way for the people around you to learn when they are getting it right.

3. Create a virtual community board where employees, partners and even customers can share what they are grateful for daily. Sounds idealistic? Vishen Lakhiani, CEO of Mind Valley, a new generation media and publishing company, has done just that at Gratitude Log. (Watch him explain how it works here).

These are just a few practices. But experimenting with the principle could have far-reaching consequences.

Indeed, Zimbardo is attempting a grand social experiment himself called the Heroic Imagination Project (watch his TED Talk here). The logic is that we can increase the odds of people operating with courage by teaching them the principles of heroism. The results are already fascinating.

The Stanford Prison Experiment was profound. But just imagine what would happen if we could consciously and deliberately reverse it.

Greg McKeown

Greg McKeown

Greg McKeown is the CEO of THIS Inc., a leadership and strategy design agency headquartered in Silicon Valley. He was recently named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Greg did his graduate work at Stanford. Connect with him on Twitter @GregoryMcKeown.

Related articles

Why don`t they just LEAVE?


If you’ve been following the news, you’ve probably been watching the explosion that has engulfed  Anthony Weiner, New York City mayoral candidate and ongoing political comedy sketch. Aside from the fact that his name is almost too perfect considering his scandal, you may have noticed something else about Anthony Weiner: his wife, Huma Abedin, has stuck around through this mess. And she’s been getting a lot of flack for it.

YesEven Hillary Clinton seems to think that Huma Abedin should leave. Which is a little ironic, considering she stayed with Bill. Obviously Bill and Hillary had more history when their scandal broke, and they were in different situations, but the real question is this: does Hillary Clinton have a right to make a public statement about what another woman should do in her marriage? In fact, do ANY of us have a right to judge another person’s marriage or relationship?

Probably not.


There are so many beautiful women (Kasandra Perkins, Reeva Steenkamp, Nicole Brown Simpson, Rihanna) who’ve lived and died this story. Heather Cassel was a 20 year-old woman from Spokane who died this week.  Heather’s not a model or a superstar, but someone’s mother, daughter and friend, and of as equal value as any of us.

It’s one thing to support someone trying to leave a bad situation. Or to say that YOU would leave in that situation. It’s one thing to say that abuse is unacceptable, etc. But those aren’t actually the kinds of statements we’ve been hearinganxious

We see this all the time. When Rihanna and Chris Brown went through that nasty split years back, people were outraged…that she didn’t leave when it first got bad. Survivors of domestic abuse are actually blamed all the time. ”Why didn’t you leave?” Women who stay with husbands who cheat are criticized for staying. Society has its own particular ideas about monogamy and relationships and morality and projects them as blanket judgments on situations that require more than simply one-size-fits-all determinations. Life is not always black and white. We exist in a world marked by shades of gray, and when the media, when fellow women and fellow members of society, start to project those black and white determinations onto those gray areas, they end up condemning women for making choices that may have seemed like the only options, or who may have made the choices that they deemed best for them. In fact, language and phrasing have much to say when it comes to keeping women down. In fact: The word “woman” is believed to have derived from the Middle English term wyfman, broken down simply as the wife (wyf) of man. In Old English, women were described simply as wyf, while the term man was used to describe a human person, regardless of gender.c It`s funny how easy it is for us to judge the person who didn`t leave, but why don`t we focus more on the person who abused? By saying that she should have left we are also saying indirectly that she should be blamed. What if we would focus the same way on other tragedies? For example: Who would say: “The stupid Cambodians, why did they go like sheep to the slaughters” when two- thirds of the population was killed. We look at how we can prevent this from happening again, and at the abusers. We don`t blame the people who have been manipulated. 


previously pointed out


Our Campaigns - Sexual Assault Voices of EdmontonPatrick Stewart: Men need to help end abuse

The actor speaks out on rape, telling men to prevent domestic violence

Verbal Abuse Journals



Why care?


Best Of The Week


The most popular posts of the week both had to do with the saddening swell of violence and terror in Egypt this week: Violence Erupts In Egypt — Reactions & Analysis, and my follow up piece Egypt Quickly Descending Into Hell.

Other highly circulated pieces included Californians Use Less Electricity As Everyone Else — Here’s Why; our brutal and effective Photo Of The Day: “Not All Violence Is Physical”; and whether or not it’s time to mark The End Of The Art Gallery?

Just a few recommendations, in case you missed them: Is Washington In A Post-Policy Moment?; my thoughts on why Obama’s Economic Approval Rating is so terribly dismal; Here’s How Little The Public Knows About The Deficit; and a small defense of Edward Snowden, Time To Give Credit Where Credit Is Due.

For good measure, also check out Rep. Steve King’s latest racist rant. Good luck with that Hispanic vote.

How the world got a little better: People who inspire


Many of our post focus on how we can do small things to change the world. We have a chance, every day, but sometimes it just feels like a drop in the sea. Be assured, your drop might be a important ingredient the world-remedy. With all those individual and special drops, our sea will never be polluted by debris from high power industries, stigma or “parasites”. Today I want to focus on a blog that has dedicated itself to searching for the good, by also contributing to it. It amazes me how much love and joy one person is able to give, and I am sure he has already inspired many others to do the same.

Does this little step towards changing the world matter? Or is it «no more than a drop in the sea»? Decide for yourself.


All Posts


How it began:

My lungs ached, as frost hung in the bitterly cold December morning air, making breathing difficult. I trudged in the falling snow toward Place Bell where I work, in the city’s gray, concrete, office tower canyon. I dodged other pedestrians, also trying to get to work on time, I noticed a woman seated cross-legged on the sidewalk with her back against the wall of the library. A snow-covered Buddha wrapped in a sleeping bag, shivering in the below freezing temperature. I guessed her to be in her forties. Everything about her seemed round. She had the most angelic face, sparkling blue eyes and a beautiful smile. A cap was upturned in front of her. I thought,There but for the grace of God go I. Her smile and blue eyes haunted me all day.

In the past I’ve been unemployed, my wife and I were unable to pay our mortgage and other bills, we went through bankruptcy, lost our house, my truck. Being in my fifties, my prospects looked dim. It could have been me, on the sidewalk, in her place.

I’ve been told not to give money to pan handlers because they’ll just spend it on booze. I thought to myself, What should I do, if anything? What would you do? I asked for advice from a friend who has worked with homeless people. She said, “The woman is probably hungry. Why don’t you ask her if she’d like a breakfast sandwich and maybe a coffee?”

That sounded reasonable, so the next day I asked, “Are you hungry? Would you like some breakfast, perhaps a coffee?”

“That would be nice,” she replied.

ballongWhen I brought her a sandwich and coffee she said to me, “Thank you so much, sir. You’re so kind. Bless you.” I truly felt blessed.

This has become a morning routine for the past two and a half years. The woman (I’ll call Joy) and I have become friends. Often I’ll sit with her on the sidewalk. We sometimes meet her companions in the park. They have become my closest friends. I think of them as angels. My life has become much richer for the experience.

Throughout the past few years I have come to know many people, now friends, who for various reasons are, or were, homeless. Antonio, slept on a park bench and was beaten, had his teeth kicked out, for no other reason than his choice to sleep outdoors. He is a small, gentle man who has a phobia about enclosed spaces.

Craig, slept on the sidewalk in the freezing cold. I see him every morning and am never sure if, when I lift the corner of his sleeping bag, I will find him dead or alive.

husSometimes, he confided, he would prefer never to awake.

Joy is a friend who fell on hard times. She slept behind a dumpster in back of Starbucks. I have seen her with blackened eyes, bruised legs, cracked ribs, cut and swollen lips. I usually see her sitting on the sidewalk ‘panning’ for change.

I can’t do much for these people except to show them love, compassion, an ear to listen, perhaps a breakfast sandwich and a coffee. I would like to do more. To know them is to love them. What has been seen cannot be unseen. I have started to write an account of their daily lives. I intend to turn this into a book and have it published. That is my goal.

I am writing articles and biographies of Joy and other street people. They have been informed that they don’t have to use their real names, that any profits would go back to the homeless and that it could be a vehicle to say whatever they want to the population at large.

Let`s change the world: Background

Project Validation

Justice Or Not, We Take One Step At A Time    #Karma

Make people Happy: 9 ways to make anybody feel special

Random ACTS of Kindness Misty Shaw 532 pins


   Barefoot Baroness on Alphonse Jr. Dies
Owls and Orchids on Trading Pants
Nativegrl77 on One Week Sober
menomama3 on One Week Sob

The tabula rasa


We have all wished for it, one time or another. What if we could forget all the bad things that happened? What if we didn`t have to feel all the pain? If we could erase all of it, would we do it? Some of you might have seen the movie eternal sunshine on a spotless mind, where the protagonist wants to erase the memory of his former lover, but discovers that he doesn`t want to, when the process has begun. I am a bit curious. What would you do, if given the choice?

Can our memories be edited, even turned off? Can we turn bad memories into good memories? MIT neuroscience lab rats, Steve Ramirez and Xu Liu, say yes. In fact, they’ve done it.

But what about the ethics of such science? They discuss that, too, in today’s featured TED talk


 To manipulate memory




Feats of Memory anyone can do


One of the reasons I started this blog, was from my personal experiences of starting to read psychology and the dawning realization that much of what I learned, would have made my life very different had I known what the books told me, much earlier. One of the things I really loved, was the memory techniques. Why did we not learn this at school? Already in first class? In finland they have a school system that actually have started to apply principles from psychology. They don`t focus on rote repetition, but on meaningful learning. But many countries have much to learn when it comes to school. Last fall we had a course with the «memory expert» from Norway, called Oddbjørn By. He talked about the method of loci, and told us the tricks. He made learning and memory fun, and I think life should be more about enjoying learning than making it a drag. I want to present a TED-talk that presents the method of loci, and the concept of «elaborate learning». I think we all are eager to learn and explore, but sometimes this thirst is quenched. I like this talk, since it inspires and give hope!



Joshua Foer: Feats of Memory Anyone Can Do

There are people who can quickly memorize lists of thousands of numbers, the order of all the cards in a deck (or ten!), and much more. Science writer Joshua Foer describes the technique — called the memory palace – and shows off its most remarkable feature: Anyone can learn how to use it. Including you!

Joshua Foer is a science writer who 'accidentally' won the U.S. Memory Championship.

Joshua Foer

Joshua Foer is a science writer who ‘accidentally’ won the U.S. Memory Championship. His writing has appeared in National Geographic, Slate, the New York Times, and other publications. He is the co-founder of the Atlas Obscura, an online guide to the world’s wonders and curiosities, and is also the co-founder of the design competition Sukkah City.

Related articles


Raising our voices for less prejudice


This Sunday`s recommendation:

The war against prejudice has lasted far too long. We have produced every type of commercial good, but the production of systems that take care of the people who buy the products, have not come so far.

Where is the logic in that? Production of weapons rather then another hospital for the sufferers. Millions on technology when people in Africa, Asia, America, South America and Europe die from diseases, hunger and mental illnesses? Sadly, no matter how “intelligent” the human race has become, still people are dying between our helpless hands. The logical intelligence has been prized and applauded for centuries, while the people who are peaceful and nice never came in the news, at least not before they already had died. When we know that 97 % of us are emotional human beings, where most of us derive meaning from emotional relationships with others, how could this happen?

Is this our legacy? Are we okay with it? I think not. Luckily, many others agree with me. One of the people who want to focus on a world were we pay attention to other human beings, is Elanor Lodgen, who dared to speak up in front of thousands of both normal and famous people. Would you? If you want to do some part, feel free to read this inspirational story. For those who want to take everything a step further, feel free to share this blog, its message or go to the post “project validation” and read how you after 30 seconds can make somebody`s day better, without paying anything other than a pleasant smile. 

Thanks to all our guest-bloggers, readers and people who so far have fought for others. You are invaluable. 

Raising Our Voices at TED 2013

Eleanor Longden

August 8, 2013

It was a real pleasure and privilege to be invited to write for Mad in America. Partly because, like anyone with a shred of sense and (in)sanity, I am a great admirer and believer in Robert Whitaker’s work: epitomizing, as it does, George Orwell’s observation that “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” But also because of the MiA community itself. As a relative newcomer to the site, I was immediately struck by the vibrancy, fellowship, and solidarity between individuals with differing views but a shared cause.

Community is a valuable concept for me, because the essence of my own madness was betrayal and isolation. Similarly, for many of us, the main crucibles for madness (loss, discrimination, abuse, or other injustices) are enacted on a silent, shameful, and lonesome stage. Social bonds, in contrast, foster the sense of reconnection, reclamation, and emancipation that are so important for recovery (Herman, 1992).

It was that sense of kinship and convergence – of shared perspective and shared beliefs – that fortified and sustained me when I was asked to present about my experience of voice hearing at the TED 2013 conference. In the run-up to the event, and constantly afterwards, people would ask, “How can you bear the pressure of doing a TED talk?!” A quick scan through the attendee list showed that, amongst 1,700+ other audience members, were Ben Affleck, Cameron Diaz, Bill Gates, Al Gore, Matt Groening, and Goldie Hawn. In my own session, amongst other brilliant individuals, was Vint Cerf, widely credited as a ‘founding father’ of the Internet. And there was me, a mad woman from Yorkshire! But it was the knowledge of all those others out there, “the rebels and renegades, truth-tellers, pioneers and freedom fighters” as Jacqui Dillon (2010) puts it, “all walking along the same path … seeking the same kind of justice” – that stayed with me and helped ensure I didn’t falter.

At the end of my talk June Cohen, one of the conference’s wonderful co-hosts, came onto the stage and asked me, with a respectful interest, whether I still hear voices. For a split second I hesitated, wondering whether to play it down with an airy “oh, not all that much now.” Instead I opted for the truth: “All the time,” I said cheerfully, “In fact I heard them while I did the talk – they were reminding me what to say!”

In the words of the British activist Peter Bullimore, “I’m a voice hearer, but more than that I’m proud to be a voice hearer – because I’ve reclaimed my experience.” And it’s the healing power of a community that’s enabled me to feel this way, particularly that which is embodied by theInternational Hearing Voices Movement (see ‘The Voices Others Cannot Hear’). Representing this critical, empowered perspective at TED really was a case of standing on the shoulders of giants, because I’ve been so fortunate to encounter an assemblage of extraordinary people – far too numerous to name – who have inspired, guided, educated, and encouraged me in both my personal and professional journey.

This includes, but is not limited to, courageous family members/carers who tirelessly fight alongside their loved ones, the heroic and dedicated clinicians prepared to challenge an established system, and revolutionary academics seeking and proclaiming the truth, no matter how unpalatable their contemporaries might find it. And, of course, fellow survivors: those who have been victimized and demoralized beyond endurance, but who have nevertheless negotiated their way out of the blackness and emerged, triumphant and phoenix-like, with a spirit, awareness, and energy that gives others the inspiration to do the same. It was the fusion of these alliances and perspectives that enabled me to stand on the TED stage and talk about the delirious, frenzied depths and exhilarating rewards of my voice hearing voyage; not as an ex-psychiatric patient with a ‘Bad Brain,’ but as a proud and maddened survivor.

The communication opportunities made possible by the internet means it’s easier than ever before to seek out a healing community: a listening ear, a space to be, a place in which to speak truth to power. Communities that acknowledge our right to own our experiences and make sense of them in our own way; our right to freedom, dignity, justice, respect, and a voice that can be heard. The Amnesty International founder Peter Benenson observed that it’s “Better to light even a little candle than to curse the darkness” and over the years these little candles are flickering ever brighter, all over the world, illuminating the massive flaws and injustices in a system that blames and denies, protects the powerful, and pathologizes the survivor. And, equally, the light from these candles are blending together to forge a social and psychiatric response to mental health crises that promote genuine healing and growth (however the person in crisis might choose to define it).

There is still a long way to go, many more obstacles to overcome, many more untruths to expose and misconceptions to challenge. But I believe, without doubt or reservation, that it’s happening. And it is empowered and empowering communities that have made it happen, and will continue to energize and sustain that change: the impetus to change the world! In The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in Time of Fear, Paul Rogat Loeb states that “Those who make us believe that anything’s possible and fire our imagination over the long haul, are often the ones who have survived the bleakest of circumstances. The men and women who have every reason to despair, but don’t, may have the most to teach us, not only about how to hold true to our beliefs, but about how such a life can bring about seemingly impossible social change.” Increasingly, these are no longer battles that we are condemned to fight alone. Rather the growing strength and solidarity of our communities show the doubters and deniers that, for all their opposition and resistance, it’s too late: the revolution is already taking place.

So, as a final thought… Robert Whitaker, Jacqui Dillon, and John Read for TED 2014. Viva la revolution!

Eleanor Longden’s talk is available to view on TED.com. The accompanying e-book ‘Learning From the Voices in my Head’ can be purchased via Amazon.com, Apple’s iBookstore, Barnes and Noble online, and the TED Books app for iPhone and iPad.


Dillon, J. (2010). The tale of an ordinary little girl. Psychosis: Psychological, Social and Integrative Approaches, 2(1), 79-83.

Herman, J. L. (1992). Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Of further interest:

A first-class recovery: From hopeless case to graduate (The Independent)
How to Live with Voice Hearing (Scientific American)
Living with Voices inside Your Head (Scientific American)

Eleanor Longden is a doctoral researcher who has lectured and published internationally on aspects of voice hearing, trauma, psychosis, and recovery. She is current coordinator of the Intervoice Scientific Committee and a trustee of the UK Soteria Network.

Welcoming our new Guest-blogger: Niko


Dear readers

I can not underline enough,mess how very happy I am for all the people willing to share their stories and views of the world with us. I am sorry I have not written a proper introduction to all yet, there is simply to many things to write and too little time. But know I truly appreciate all your posts, and I have to honor especially Judee for also having looked through many posts for grammatical errors (that my Norwegian-prejudiced brain cannot detect). I recently came in contact with the most lovely women, called “Niko”. It touched me how alive and beautiful both her personality and writing was, and emotional softy as I am, her way of describing her inner world, gave me goosebumps and tears in my eyes. I thought: YES! This is how it must be. The slightly (at first) confusing post, made perfect sense since I know many schizoaffectives can have a hard time organizing their thoughts, and have a lot of association here and there. Instead of calling it a “disease” that needs to be “hidden” from view, and just medicated away, I love the thought that also schizoaffective people, like everyone else, have their right to be heard and seen as the wonderful (but sometimes slightly confused) people many of them are.


I am so proud of you, Nico, and look forward to your post as much as I hope rest of you do 🙂

Thank you

Best regards, Nina (admin and psychologist)


To learn more about me you can check out my About page on my blog, NIKOtheOrb. I also contribute nature videos (on good days, but I have found that being immersed in nature is one of the best medicines for SchizoAffective Disorder) and essays to EXPLORINGtheLATERAL.

  • Schizo (nikotheorb.wordpress.com)

Psychiatry and the brain


Psychiatry and the brain

Posted on Thursday, August 1st, 2013 at 4:30 am SHARE:   

By George Graham and Owen Flanagan

Even before the much-heralded DSM-5 was released, Thomas Insel the Director of NIMH criticized it for lacking “scientific validity.” In his blog post entitled “Transforming Diagnosis,” Insel admitted that the symptom-based approach of DSM is as good as we can get at present and that it yields “reliability” by disciplining the use of diagnostic terminology among professionals. But (he went on) DSM-5 does not reveal the nature of a mental disorder, which is to be found largely in the head. In an interview with the New York Times, Insel said “his goal was to reshape the direction of psychiatric research to focus on biology, genetics and neuroscience so that scientists can define disorders by their causes, rather than their symptoms.” At the same time, Insel has announced a new initiative called Research Domain Criteria Project (RDoC) at NIMH to develop a new nosology that eventually will replace DSM categories. He writes that this program began with a number of assumptions, two of which are:

  • “A diagnostic approach based on the biology as well as the symptoms must not be constrained by the current DSM categories.”
  • “Mental disorders are biological disorders involving brain circuits that implicate specific domains of cognition, emotion, or behavior.”

Insel sells RDoC as a replacement of DSM on grounds that “patients with mental disorders deserve better.”

No doubt, patients deserve the best. But is RDoC really the direction in which psychiatry and mental health medicine ought to go? Does a nosology that explicitly pre-privileges the brain and genetics and that begins with the assumption that mental disorders are brain disorders start from a reasonable assumption? Or is this more likely an empirically contentious, discipline non-neutral position about the nature of mental disorders?

woman gamblingSometimes scientists believe that mental disorders are based in the brain. They don’t recognize that just because a disorder necessarily involves the brain doesn’t mean that it is of the brain (viz. a brain disorder). Consider: One of the reinforcement schedules that is responsible for much human and non-human animal learning is the so-called variable ratio schedule of reinforcement, in which reinforcement is delivered occasionally and unpredictably. It is a powerful schedule for the acquisition of new behavior and well-suited for creatures like us who often must persist in trying to satisfy needs in the face of possibilities of protracted failure. However, when pursued in certain environments, the schedule can lead to gambling addictions and to other patterns of imprudence that qualify as disorders. The brain contains a capacity to squander a family’s resources on a final trifecta.

To get a gambling addict to disengage from a harmful schedule of reinforcement at race tracks or casinos you don’t need to fix the brain. It is not broken. It is behaving as it should from a biological point of view. Indeed, to redesign the brain so that it makes gambling addictions impossible would be a huge mistake.

Our proposal is this: In any particular case of mental illness, even a kind or type of mental illness, the brain may not be at fault. As a brain, it may be in perfectly good working order.

To be sure, we all wish for superior psychiatric diagnostic labels for mental illnesses and for the explanation of the onset and course of illness. Certainly none of us wishes to strip reference to the brain and biological science of an important role in our understanding of mental illness. We need help from brain science for much that we want to know about a disorder. But we need other disciplines as well.

The best picture of a mental illness is not likely to be found in a single, precise, biologically privileged ‘frame’ (viz. a biological marker). The best picture is more likely to be found in the overall manner of organizing the most useful perspectives about an illness that we have or otherwise achieve. Perspectival multiplicity, when properly channeled and evidentially controlled, is often not just the best but the only way in which to understand a phenomenon. Imagine, for example, trying to understand a soccer or tennis match just by deploying the physics of space, time, and motion. It just cannot be done. We need references to human psychology, history, and cultural context.

Ironically, despite his impatience with DSM-5, both DSM-5 and Insel’s aspirational RDoC share one methodological prejudice in common. Both disfavor etiology or history and context in defining mental disorders. In DSM’s case, present symptom clusters are placeholders for eventual filling in by something like RDoC’s neurobiological markers supplemented perhaps by genetic markers. In both DSM and RDoC, mental disorders are conceived exclusively in synchronic or present-tense terms, notdiachronically as complex social-emotional-behavioral syndromes with complex histories and long backtracking arms.

To see where and why non-brain science is important to our understanding of mental illness, we need to assemble a number of points that cannot be assembled here. Mental illness will not be understood by those who live in disconnected sets of scientific rooms or aspire to a single pre-determined resting place of theory.

George Graham is the co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Psychiatry with KWM Fulford, Martin Davies, Richard Gipps, John Sadler, Giovanni Stanghellini, and Tim Thornton. He is a former president of the Society for Philosophy and Psychiatry, and teaches philosophy at Georgia State, having taught at Alabama-Birmingham and Wake Forest. Owen Flanagan is also a former president of the Society for Philosophy and Psychiatry, and teaches philosophy at Duke, having taught at Wellesley.

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