HOWTO Empower Us Mentally Ill To Heal Ourselves

The crux of my complaint is that you all misunderstand what the objectives of psychotherapy really are.

Michael David Crawford, Consulting Software Engineer
Solving The Software Problem
mdcrawford@gmail.com

November 11, 2009

Copyright © 2009 Michael David Crawford. All Rights Reserved.

I want to clarify why it is so important that you stop helping me. I want to explain why it is so important that you stop giving me advice. I've had quite a lot of time to contemplate this essay since I Went Nuclear last Friday. There are some deeper, far more profound reasons than my complaint that you deprive me of my joy.

Blarney wrote:

Psychs... have this deep down belief, handed down from Freud and never really questioned, that the patient must seize their own opportunity to be helped.

There's actually a very good reason for that. I'd like you to contemplate what that reason might be before you click the Full Story link.

I was once a suicide hotline volunteer. Our six-week training course consisted mostly of learning active listening - that is, listening carefully to the caller then responding so as to make clear that we really understood them - as well as learning ways to facilitate the callers in finding the solutions to their own problems.

I was very good at that work. It happened all the time that someone would ring me up from a payphone with a loaded gun in their hand and every intention to use it. But I never once had to call the police, an ambulance - or the coroner.

The crux of my complaint is that you all misunderstand what the objectives of psychotherapy really are.

Inside: Why this is so important.


(I almost wrote "the mentally ill" and "themselves" in the title then realized I should include myself among the Madmen.)

The Medalist

Suppose I took up running, then decided to train for the Olympic team. Suppose further that you were my personal trainer.

Now suppose that you observed some fault in my technique. I didn't breathe right, or my stride was too long or too short, or I sprinted right at the beginning of a long run and so had no endurance left at the end of the race.

You would say, "There's a problem with your running Mike. Why don't you relax on the bleachers and I'll run for you. I wouldn't want you to wear yourself out with all this training."

In the natural course of things, you my trainer would get into great shape, but I myself would have become so fat and lazy as to be unable to walk to the kitchen for another slice of cake.

The Short Lot

This is actually a very good analogy for our Dysfunctional Gated Community. And I use "Dysfunctional" in the sense that we all contribute to this Dysfunction. In this sense you are all as Mad as I. I'm the one who gets all the attention - and all the blame - because we have all have collectively decided to select Yours Truly to be what is known to psychologists as the Identified Patient.

The way Identified Patients usually work is that a whole family is neurotic, but the family has decided - unconsciously decided, but decided nevertheless - that just one member will be the one to experience symptoms that are bad enough to need treatment by a shrink.

I learned at the very first lecture of the very first psychology course that I ever took, that it happens all the time that parents put their kids into therapy, then yank them back out just as soon as they start to make any sort of real progress.

For the child of a dysfunctional family to become mentally healthy, and then to assert to the rest of the family that he is well while the rest of them are still sick, is to disrupt the family dynamic so severely that it must react promptly and decisively to restore the original dysfunctional equilibrium.

I assert that has happened here. I've spent quite a lot of time contemplating just how it could be that I felt completely dead-sober and sane, that both my shrinks assured me that I was dead-sober and sane, yet the lot of you were completely convinced that I was actually the craziest any of you have ever known me to be.

It is because my steps towards mental health so forcefully upset the Kuro5hin Family Dynamic. I'm less clear how I so upset it, but I speculate it was because I blasted our private family business all over The Series of Tubes. You're OK with me being the kindly Village Idiot - provided I'm careful to keep my Idiocy entirely within Our Village. I didn't do that, so you all went completely bananas.

Now, I did get suicidal last Tuesday, and I had very good reason to check myself into the inpatient unit last Friday. But I wasn't actually sick on either of those days. What I experienced Tuesday and Friday wasn't any sign of mental illness, but was the pain one experiences when one heals from certain kinds of very deep, very painful psychic wounds.

Suppose you have a cancerous lung, and your only hope for survival is to have that lung entirely removed. It's a very dangerous surgery, but you have no other choice. You willingly go under the knife, not knowing whether you will ever awaken from the anaesthetic. But the surgery is a resounding success: your lung is removed, your cancer is gone, and you live to a ripe old age... with just one lung.

Feels real good, don't it?

I won't tell you just yet how I was healed on Tuesday, but I will explain Friday's miraculous insight.

Your Deadly Gift

I know very well the value of finding my own solutions to my problems, because I have been experiencing the finding of my own solutions, with the encouragement of all manner of mental health professionals, for... let me see... thirty-one years. Since long before anyone ever told me I was crazy. That I was crazy even as a little boy must have been plainly apparent to everyone around me, so help was often offered. But no one ever gave me the Painful Truth until I was all grown up.

It's not at all easy, this finding of one's own solutions. It's maddeningly difficult, and during the worst times in my life it was excruciatingly painful. But I owe all my doctors a debt of gratitude for putting me through such agony.

This is why you all misunderstand the real objectives of psychotherapy. It's not at all that your advice was ill-informed or not the very best advice one could hope to give me. It's that your advice took from me the power to find my own solutions.

The patient presents his therapist with many, many problems over the course of their work. Always the therapist forces the patient to formulate his own solutions. The particular solutions hardly ever matter: whether one resolves to adopt an organic diet, run for President or come out of the closet really doesn't matter.

What does matter?

To learn how to solve one's own problems for oneself.

To be completely clear:

I don't need your solutions to any of my problems, numerous and serious though they may be.

What I need is the capacity to solve my problems for myself.

As helpful and as comforting as a therapist might be, there will come a time for her to push me out of the nest. If I'm not to smack right into the ground, I must by then have the strength to fly - and to fly under my own power.

What you all have been doing, in your genuinely well-meant, kind hearted attempts to help me, has been to sap away at my strength. You have been making me more crazy, not at all less so. This only became clear to me over the course of the week and a half leading up to last Friday night because your concerns became so desperate and so urgent, and because so many of you joined in with the game.

My Sanity advanced a significant step on Friday, and my Insanity retreated, because I suddenly had the insight to recognize the nature of Our Gated Community's Dysfunction, as well as the courage to declare my wish not to participate in Our Collective Disease anymore.

Or:

I'm the sane one here. You lot are the crazy ones.

Credit Where It's Due

This is not to say that I am completely blameless, or that you are entirely to blame. I am able now to understand my own role in Our Gated Community's Dysfunctional Dynamic. As I wrote in my nuclear diary:

I recognize that I myself bear some responsibility in this. By falling to set limits when you transgressed my boundaries, I invited you to trample all over me.

You see it's not so much that you disempowered me by offering so much of your help. It's that by taking all your advice as seriously as I did, I disempowered myself. Ever since I published Living with Schizoaffective Disorder here at K5 six and a half years ago, you have invited me to hand my power over to you, and I have chosen - unconsciously, but still freely chosen - to give you that power.

No More

I'm A Big Boy Now. If I want to drink myself into a stupour then rumble with a bunch of street punks, that's my concern and none of yours.

In closing, don't think I didn't understand that by posting that diary, I was inviting you to troll me until the end of time.

Bring It On.