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Two Very Different Takes On Psychiatry

When I first found the website Mad in America I was quite enthused. I’d done my doctorate in psychology and religion. And one of the papers I wrote for a methodology course had to do with deconstructing different beliefs about the human self from a cross cultural perspective.

This involved stepping back and assessing the ideas of “truth,” a particular “personality disorder” as defined by the APA and the notion of “mysticism.” There seemed to be some overlap among psychology, society and mysticism. And I was keenly interested in exploring those sometimes contentious connections.

In doing so I never romanticized the plight of those who psychologically suffer. I know that these people really do have a tough and often confusing time. The question is why. And also, whether our culture and its classification and treatments are making this suffering better or worse.

Both of the following tweets address these questions but the slant is quite different for each.

Today, Mad in America seems like an overly biased web site in that it’s usually emphatically negative about psychiatry. I don’t think that’s balanced.

Having said that, Mad In America does play a role in alerting us to some of the abuses in psychiatry and the pitfalls of an uncritical acceptance of the psychiatric worldview. But again, I don’t think it tells the whole story. Life is complicated. And people do suffer and some are suicidal or violent. The latter two, especially, often need intervention not only for themselves but to safeguard the human rights of others.

This video, on the other hand, grew on me as I went through it. At first, I expected just another mouthpiece for the latest gee whiz stories about psychiatry which, in my opinion, are often deeply and unconsciously influenced by cultural assumptions and recent trends.

But that’s not what this video is about. I urge anyone interested to watch it. I think we’d be much better off as a species if more psychiatrists displayed this blend of optimism, an appreciation of history and, above all, scientific humility.


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Author Karen Armstrong talks about religion and violence

I was impressed with the lead-in to this video (follow link in above tweet). The anchor seemed a bit more on the ball than some media anchors, who stumble on their words as if they’ve just heard of some distant country, leader or idea.

Karen Armstrong is well-known within Religious Studies. Anyone who’s taken a graduate course in that area, maybe even undergrads, would know her name. It seems she’s a slightly better author than speaker. But still, what matters is her words, not so much the delivery. And she rightly points out that conflict is caused by a variety of factors—religion only being one of those.


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Continuing my summer cyber travels – This time, Vienna

The caption for this tweet might sound a bit cynical but that’s pretty much how I feel. I had a professor once who came from that neck of the woods. He insinuated that we had a dearth of “culture” in the West. Probably the worst professor I ever had, and things ended badly with him. But I won’t go into the details. That was a long time ago and I’m past it.

So yeah, my view of Vienna is probably tainted by my very bad experience with this person. And, in fairness, there is quite a bit of interesting material here. In the video you can see a grandiose palace where Napoleon stayed after invading the area, and lots of statues of Mozart and Johann Strauss (both of whom I adore). Also, several neoclassical statues stand out—even if they seem a bit incongruous in their foreign setting.

All the same, I think some folks overrate old stuff and cannot really appreciate the complexities of contemporary cultural forms. I could go on here, but I just want to share my summer cyber travels for now.


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Taking a cyber trip – Greece

It’s virtually summertime, and I need a little break from the same ol’, same ol’. Not being in a position right now to jump on a jet plane, I get almost as much satisfaction from watching travel videos. Yesterday I watched this one about Greece—particularly, the Greek islands. I enjoyed it. A little bit heavy on the whitewashed buildings, but I guess that’s par for the course.


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London’s Roman history unearthed


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How did public bathrooms get to be separated by sex in the first place?


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Islam and Christianity share ‘idea of conquest’, says Pope Francis

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