Mental Illness Is Insane
The whole medical model of psychology and psychiatry is broken.
There are precious few people with psychology issues arising from genuine medical problems. Having spent decades working at least part of the time in pastoral counseling, and watching an awful lot more practiced by others, even when I visited mental institutions, most of those who struggled with life were not suffering a genuine need for treatment under the Illness Model. Thomas Szasz had it right; the problems in almost every case are moral brokenness.
Let’s save, for now, the whole discussion about how institutional care is a disaster simply because it’s unrelentingly bureaucratic and hopeless. That aggravates the real failure, which is thinking of psychology as a matter for treatment, as if it were a disease. The very concept behind the term “mental illness” is itself insane.
Hard wired into the human psyche are varying levels and types of awareness this world is broken. Average people will sacrifice and compromise bits and pieces of themselves in coming to terms with a “reality” which is not simply less than optimal, but hostile to inner peace. The world, as a whole, is truly insane. It manifests in different ways in each person we encounter, and in differing degrees. The precious few in this world who are fully conscious of the truth about our broken “reality” are the best therapy there can be. Don’t expect and demand the world make sense by any standard, much less your biased and damaged individual hopes and dreams. It cannot and you should not ever expect it.
Once we get folks to embrace a more realistic expectation, we are in a much better place for fixing more intractable breaks in the conscious mind. In the vast majority of cases, the client simply needs to be led to that conclusion, but you cannot ever choose it for them. They have to embrace it voluntarily. In essence, almost all counseling and therapy is simply teaching.
The number one cause of instability is emotional damage from someone close. In the broad sense, it hardly matters what brings a person close to you. If they get close, they are inside your defenses, such as those defenses may be. They are in a position to do damage. The types of people and their weaponry vary widely, but damage comes from vulnerability abused, a sort of psychic burglary, as one therapist called it. Virtually all abuse arises from one person treating another as a non-person in some way. The abuser enters an area of the victim’s life where they have no business.
The second greatest cause of instability is when the victim somehow commits that psychic burglary on themselves. That is, they burst into an area inside themselves where they have no business. Every human bears a massive untapped resource outside the boundaries of the conscious mind. Pushing the boundary properly is hard work, but there are ways to cheat. Typically, it means abusing chemicals which carry you across the boundaries when your consciousness has none of the tools and skills for dealing with that it finds there. However, there are other ways to transgress sane limits without chemistry, such as exposing yourself to experiences which dehumanize yourself and others.
Thus, the victim gains a lot of psychic scar tissue. Scars can’t be removed, but they can be allowed to stabilize and remain as a warning. The problem is moral in nature, not a sickness. The correction is restoring the awareness of choices, sometimes by teaching the moral boundaries, delineating where we destroy our freedom by demanding options which don’t exist. Neuroses almost always come from denying legitimate suffering; psychosis is carrying it much farther. You cannot expect a sane execution of choices until you recognize where choices are not.
My personal answer is teaching God’s Laws, because they reveal the moral fabric, the boundaries which cannot be moved by human will. It covers the whole gamut of human interaction, including how to deal with unconscionable evil in the world around you. But the whole issue of calling it an illness is simply an excuse to victimize the client one more time, taking away freedoms instead of restoring them.