February 16, 2012
To show that sometimes what we call things can create false realities. To invite readers to consider that this is what’s happened to our mental life and our feelings. To add a critical political/philosophical dimension to the current DSM-5 debate. (Note: This is what I think; I haven’t asked Dr. Maisel why he’s asking, but I intend to.)
Here’s the opening to his very fine essay:
If you call your daughter “my little petunia,” does calling her that make her a flower? No, it doesn’t.
If you call your wife “the little woman,” does calling her that mean that she is no longer six feet tall in her stockinged feet? No, it doesn’t.
If you call your anguish “the mental disorder of depression,” does calling it that make it a “mental disorder”? No, it doesn’t.
Maisel goes on to expose the linguistic trick by which nearly every unpleasant life experience is turning into pathology. They then have the look of illness, even though the claim that they’re disorders doesn’t pass any established scientific test of illness.
To go further with what this essay introduces, I think we have to ask, “How did it happen? How did it come to pass that we let our feelings and thoughts become pathological and medicalized? How come what’s happening with us emotionally speaking (including how we understand these happenings) is institutionally mediated?
I invite you to ask these questions of mental health providers you know and see if they have any idea. And to find out yourself if you don’t already know (there are many books on the subject, not just those by Fred Newman and me —just do a Google search.)
If we want to take back our subjectivity, then we need to get smarter about how mainstream psychology and psychiatry took it away from us.