The Comforts of Unreason

Wednesday, 31 August 2011 14:05
Published in Living Together ed David Kennard and Neil Small, Quartet Books, 1997 In my salad days when I was green in judgement I believed that universal enlightenment was possible. I saw that the body of human stupidity far outweighed the body of human knowledge and wisdom with the result that just about all of the vastness of human suffering derived not from natural causes but from what we do to one another and to ourselves. However, I believed that the forces of unreason (the kind of thinking which results when fear, greed, vanity and the desire for power are allowed to prevail over logic and scientific thinking) could be exposed for what they were and thus defeated. I thought that psychotherapy would be the means by which this would happen. Through psychotherapy we would come to understand that all we know is what we have constructed, and that out of this understanding we would develop new ways of living together based on tolerance, mutual dignity and knowledge informed by the search for truth rather than the fulfilment of desires. Now I know that this has not occurred and might never occur. I no longer see psychotherapy as being as…

Relative Grief

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:55
Foreword to Clare Jenkins and Judy Merry Relative Grief Jessica Kingsley 2005.  Death is the elephant in the living room – the huge thing that everyone knows is there but no one mentions. Fear keeps us silent. We fear the physical aspect of death, the body becoming still, silent, cold, and then decaying, but even more we fear the annihilation of the person, what we call ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘myself’, which is what makes us unique. We fear not just the annihilation of the person we love but our own annihilation. Talking of his brother’s death, Rony Robinson said, ‘You lose a bit of yourself in the process of somebody dying.’  There’s no way of knowing beforehand which bit of yourself will disappear when someone close to you dies. My friend Jean Flanagan had emphysema and I knew she was dying, but when the news of her death reached me I found myself utterly distraught with grief because I suddenly realised that Jean had known about my erstwhile marriage in a way that no one else did. Both of us had married fascinating, entertaining, exciting men who often behaved like wilful, selfish, naughty schoolboys. Jean and I could discuss our husbands in…

Losing a Child

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:55
Foreword to Linda Hurcombe Losing a Child Sheldon Press 2004  How do parents survive the death of a child?   Some don’t. Heartbreak can kill when it takes away the will to live. Guilt can kill when it carries the message that the person has no right to exist. Fortunately, most parents go on living.  Some parents go on living because, despite the pain, their bodies go on working. Some parents go on living because they have other children to care for. Some parents go on living because while they live their lost child is remembered. Some parents go on living because the nature of their child’s death gives them a task which they must perform with all their might.  With the death of her daughter Caitlin Linda Hurcombe found herself with two tasks to perform. The first was to question whether Prozac was the safe and effective drug which the medical profession and the pharmaceutical companies said it was. The second task was to tell the truth about what follows for parents when their child dies.  In the attempt to make a difficult life more bearable we all lie to ourselves. Another person’s grief distresses us, and so we often encourage that person…

Beyond Prozac

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:54
Foreword to Terry Lynch Beyond Prozac PCCS Books 2004  Terry Lynch is a brave man. The medical profession does not forgive renegades, and a renegade is any doctor who criticises the sacred dogma of the profession. A doctor who dares to do this is likely to see his career and his reputation suffer. Nevertheless, Terry Lynch believes that he must tell the truth about his experience as a doctor, even if this experience contradicts one very important part of medical dogma.  This concerns mental illness, or, as it is now called, mental disorder. The profession of psychiatry is based on the belief that there are such things as mental illnesses, and that these illnesses have a physical cause and a physical cure – drugs and electroconvulsive therapy. Nowadays psychiatrists talk of ‘social factors’ and ‘psychological factors’ in mental disorder, and a few psychiatrists see such factors as the prime cause of mental disorder, but for the majority of psychiatrists social and psychological factors merely exacerbate what is for them essentially a physical illness. Such psychiatrists expect general practitioners like Terry Lynch to conform to this belief.   The only way to maintain the belief that mental disorder has a physical cause is…

The Glass Wall

Saturday, 02 April 2011 01:54
Foreword to Dorothy and Walter Swartz The Glass Wall Chipmunch Publishing 2005  Most of us don’t discover what helplessness really means until we become a parent. We think we know how to solve problems, how to get things done and be in control. Then we become responsible for a small scrap of humanity and we discover that there are problems we don’t know how to solve, things we don’t know how to do, and events for which we are responsible but over which we have no control. As the small scrap of humanity becomes a child, a teenager, a young adult, our sense of responsibility becomes greater as our ability to solve problems and be in control of events becomes less. Even if our child is strong and healthy and deals with education, work and relationships competently and happily we have some inkling that all of this could fall apart and we wouldn’t know how to put it right. Being a parent is an impossibly difficult task because what determines a child’s behaviour isn’t what parents do but how the child interprets what parents do. This is something over which parents have no control whatsoever. Nevertheless, as the years go…
From The Right Use of Money edited by David Darton, The Policy Press, University of Bristol and Friends Provident Foundation, 2004 (Also mentioned in blog published on 13 July 2011) Vast sums of donors' money have been wasted because the donors did not take the time and trouble to understand how the people they wanted to help saw themselves and their world. Gaining such an understanding usually threatens the donors' world view, and so they prefer to believe that they know best. We often see the same thing happen in our personal lives. I was ill recently, nothing life-threatening but it was quite debilitating with intermittent bouts of severe pain. Two friends, separately, chose to help me. Without asking me, the first friend decided what it was that I needed. I found myself side-lined and, from the way she was treating me, I feared that my friend thought that I had become senile. Meanwhile she created havoc around me. Finally she departed, and I was left to pick up the pieces. The following week, still ill, I went to visit the other friend. She listened carefully to my account of my illness and she observed me closely. She learned very…