The House

The House

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Occupy and the empowerment of the individual

                July 7: As part of an independent study to meet my continuing education requirements as a licensed professional counselor, I will be posting over the next sixth months a look at the state of mental health via the views of Occupy. Occupy has shown people their individual power and we are the "hope" we are looking for. 


                In America, Mental Health is over-medicated, underserved, narrow in focus, reactive instead of proactive, quick to pathologize, stigmatize,  and  a failure overall. The statistics, if they are to be believed having been promulgated by big pharma; with its profit agenda, reveal a nation of bi-polar, p.t.s.d., anxiety ridden people with a varying array of eating disorders, addictions, violent tendencies and personality disorders from ADD to Xenophobia and getting worse every day. Everything, and the smallest things are turned into pathology so a pill can be used to cure vs. the genuine interaction of one caring human with another over time. Mental Health has been co-opted by advertisers who want to manipulate the masses to buy the products of their clients, used to find better ways of torture and taken over by idealogues who believe that God is the only cure for all mental illness as if "demons" exist in our heads.

                If mental health does any good it is by accident, not by design; by the very tenacity and heart of the men and women who choose to be in service to others. What these caring individuals end up doing is triaging the horrible bloody psychological wounds of a society that has turned people into liabilities and assets. Consumers not customers, terrorists not patriots, chickens in a pecking order of meritocracy where the biggest bullies claim to be the smartest and have been robbing everyone blind, raping the environment for decades through the piracy of free market hierarchy, wars un-ending and the co-opting of democracy worldwide. On the one hand we are manipulated daily by the marketplace, surveyed, polled, analysed, spied upon, brain washed and kept confused with lies, lack of information, and fear and then told each of us must fight peer pressure, temptation, impulse by simply not thinking or acting wrongly. It takes super human effort not to be dragged about by the tender parts

                My own personal story of trying to do good in the world, while holding onto any semblance of mental and spiritual well-being perfectly illustrates the undermining of fragile ego, the fracturing of the id, and expecting the soul to survive in a country that has become full of religious fascism, demagoguery, phony patriotism, myths of the rugged individual, glorifying militarism and violence, brainwashing and outright lies.

                I am 54 and have been a therapist for twenty years. I started out in theatre because it felt safe and helped me to overcome a life time of being bullied, abuse and grief. I decided at eighteen I wanted to use theatre and dance to help others delve into the largeness of themselves, to "fill the egg" as the great dramatist Stanislavski taught. I invented drama and dance therapy and it would be twelve years later before I would find out it had already been invented. I realized very quickly that I needed to live some life and learn about who I was before I could take on the hopes and wounds of others. I went to graduate school in theatre only to be attrited out. I thought at first I was not good enough but found out due to cuts by the Reagan administration the university couldn't afford to have so many graduate students. This was the first time in my life I was aware how national politics could effect me personally. I was always more aware of national politics than most of my peers. I snuck out of bed at the age of 12 to see the election returns. I was aware of environmental issues because of an art teacher in seventh grade. The Vietnam War was played out before me in black and white, but somehow I could still see the red of the blood. When Reagan ran I got into fights with class mates over his being a John Bircher and his record of austerity in California. I was very aware of local politics, of graft and corruption in the county commissioners, developers wanting to run highways through established neighborhoods, the race riots of 1927 in Tulsa still being played out 60 years later in aggressive and passive aggressive Jim Crow, the oil industry’s  devastation of the water and air along the Arkansas river.  

                Along the way I have felt useless and helpless. During the crash of the 80's I was everything the President and his minions said was causing the downfall of America. On welfare, not a Christian, liberal politically and female, the only thing I wasn’t; black. I didn't own a car or phone, day care was impossible to find. I can't express the gratitude for our public schools for a place for my child to be safe while I tried to find work. Then as now the need for money was critical. The schools were under attack, the war on drugs ramping up; the ideologues were emboldened, the racists wanting segregation again. Big pharma had its eye on boys and the use of Ritalin was a dollar sign in their eyes. Reading rates had plummeted, math dumbed down, crowded rooms, less pay and the attack on the teachers and their union and unions in general was just under way. The grade school I had my daughter in told me she needed to go to transitional before first grade. I respected their professional advice and it was a mistake.  The transitional year had become a place to make money, not to help learning disabled children. Since there weren't that many learning disabled kids they started cherry picking, especially kids from single parent homes. My daughter could barely read by third grade in spite of the extra year. I read a book called "Why Johnny Can't read" that laid out the national politics behind the removal of phonetics in the schools. I taught my daughter to read in two weeks from that book. The teachers were amazed at her progress and I sent them a copy of the book. A year later the school won a presidential award for the most improvement in reading. Again national politics and money had a profound influence to the negative in my eldest and later two subsequent daughters’ lives.

                I was married to a lawyer and  his legal assistant for several years. In that time he had environmental cases come across his desk from natural gas condensates in the water of a Kiowa family, a team of con artists tried to put toxic waste over an aquifer on Apache land. Another suit that had been in the works ten years by the time he saw it, where a crop duster spraying a noxious mix of a variety of chemicals on peanuts and homes nearby.  Pres. Carter allowed the chemical companies to spray under "experimental" status on peanuts. It was then we began to see the rise in peanut related deaths. Politics reared its ugly head again when laws were passed to allow large law firms to advertise and do the thing lawyers are always accused of, chasing ambulances. Once large firms could hire cheap or free interns to track down accident records and literally go to the homes and hospitals of victims to offer their services, my attorney husbands business fell off the map. Bankruptcy was the biggest part of his business and that changed has changed as well due to federal laws that make the lawyer responsible if clients lie about assetts.

                When I went to graduate school for my masters in human relations, counselors were making on average to start of $55,000.00; where they got this number I do not know but I have never seen more than 24,000 a year. As the ink was drying on my license Pres. Bush was changing the laws around mental health and giving public dollars to religious organizations. Religious organizations see psychology as secular humanism and God-less. They were telling us through the corporate media that humanists ( code for therapists) were destroying our nation. Pres. Bush being "born again" believed this as well. Under Reagan, mental institutions were shut down all across the country. My grand uncleTed was released from a Baltimore hospital and never seen again. No one in my family could find him, no doubt like so many others he ended up homeless, unable to manage his medications for schizophrenia and died. Then the religious lobbyists wanted all institutional facilities and clinics to hire preachers. I am a licensed therapist, passed my boards and am in good standing and can't find work because I haven't a degree in psychology, sociology or theology. My masters is a diversity program which includes counseling, systems and organizations. I watched religious students get up and leave in a temper because the professors discussed gender issues, religious abuse of women, reproductive choice, racism, atheism, gangs and value systems of people from all walks of life. Gender issues seemed to be a particular sticking point. My masters combines sociology on steroids, psychology with soul, theology not just Christianity. I can't get work for the lack of the suitable degree and more importantly because there is no money. ( I  read an article yesterday that discusses the lack of mental health dollars and the ramifications of further cuts in light of the Aurora theatre massacre.) It was pointed out to me that it is also hard to get hired when every place I have worked has been shut down. Two nursing homes and a facility for children all shut down for neglect, dangerous facilities, and wrongful death. I caught a doctor prescribing anti-psychotics for the sedative side effect, gas leaks, water in air ducts, mold, religious abuse of a patient, bed sores, and sexual assault. We won't even talk about the food and the need for profit running it all. Politics looms large while the men behind the curtain of the tea party takeover of the Republican party ( or is that bring it out of the neo-con closet). They scream for cuts in all social programs since FDR, all the while the corporate war machine, oil and banking get fat on subsidies and gaming the system. My depression was deepening the summer of 2011, to a level I had never experienced before. I didn't know what to tell someone like me. I am well educated, always made goals and kept them, tried to do right, and was working in a low wage service job. No hope or prospects and realizing the older I get the less likely anyone would hire me. I am worth more dead than alive to my family (1,035.00 in social security to my daughter and husband if I died, and bringing in less than $1,000) what a way to see things. Then you add in the savings in resources from food to upkeep.  

     Occupy came in the nick of time for my part. I had spent so many years working to be a person who could make the world a better place in my small way. After I obtained my license and finished almost a decade in personal healing and certification in integrative breathwork I couldn't find work. I bought a little store from a friend who was moving and was able to provide counseling with some of my customers. When the bankruptcy law was passed and the adjustable mortgages began to trickle through the economy, gas reached four dollars a gallon and inflation roared I could see we were in for hard times. As my sales slumped, customers would come in to apologize for not spending money, just to say hello and try to make sense of things. I did my best to help them realize it isn't their fault; the deck was stacked against them long ago. By Christmas of 2007 I knew I would need to close. The depression from yet again being cut off by politics and the greed of corporations has been devastating. Now I am hounded by collection agents with false lawsuits and inflated amounts owed on credit cards. I tried to pay and when we lost our jobs it was impossible. The 1% ultra-rich sells our debts over and over to make money and don’t actually care if the debts are paid back. Watching the Spanish "indignado" and the Arab spring unfold on the internet via current TV, free speech TV and Democracy Now lifted and excited me like nothing has in over almost four years. From there I was aware of the protests in New York. I was watching live streaming the second week and Ad Busters called for occupation I was glued to my computer hunting down all the live streaming footage I could find.

     Like the hiking in group’s adage, our society only evolves as fast as the slowest among us.The personal sense of vindication was powerful. The conclusions I had come to regarding the shadow side of capitalism were not just the personal rantings of  a woman slowly losing her grip. I wasn't and am not alone. People like me who had been bullied and shamed into silence, derided and marginalized for not joining the group think of "Americanism" now had the courage to speak out loud, to wear our values openly. Slogans like; "Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!", "Human Need over Corporate Greed" "The Earth is not an Assett", "I am a human being, not a pathology!", have changed the tone of the conversation dramatically.  Occupy helped expose the horrible state of mental health among the many inequity’s in the world. This very young field of science was just beginning to get some strength when it was attacked by ideologues and a right wing agenda of rugged individualism, hyper masculinity and "Greed is Good". Occupy Wall Street was in a position to help many mentally ill persons who were tossed aside. At one time they were the largest free food kitchen in the city of New York. They also were dealing with a rainbow of mental issues from depression, addiction and suicide, violence was rare but not unheard of. The encampments across the country gave voice to those parts of our society that have been cast aside the mentally ill, addicts, veterans, single parents, LGBT, non-Christians, debtor class, wage slaves, unions holding on by a thread, immigrants and allowed us to yell enmasse, THE EMPORER HAS NO CLOTHES! 

    My endeavor over the next six months through articles, videos, websites, books and activities to research the benefits of Occupy and the Empowerment of the Individual. There is a long history of populism in this country usually by factions whether is it white blue collar labor, African Americans, women, gays and immigrants.   I want to explore the non-hierarchy used in the general assemblies, the inclusion of the best of social structures, the failure of the mental health field to protect its own, and its client’s best interests. The application of psychology of place as it relates to inequity in the United States. Occupy has changed the conversation and given voice to those who are marginalized. I want to find my way to understanding what can come of the cry rising from the land, to understand how mental health can better assert itself as a way through the miasma of pain. How mental health can overcome derision, educate better, be more present, overcome profiteering, and help us as a nation to attain that small part of the pursuit of happiness our founders felt was a right of all beings.

These groups have changed the conversation slowly but surely through decades of protest and education. As factions they fought often alone and died, only when a larger part of society joined them, those not a part of the core group, change was realized. What is remarkable about Occupy, it is a banner where all groups can rally together as a force not seen in the world or this country. All walks. Not factions. All walks all voices. And though the powers that be have tried to fraction and cause dissent the movement keeps going. A deepening equality is being revealed by Occupy. 



  1. I just got a runaround trying to post a note here. Let me know if you get this please. Cherrylogger on Alternet comments

    1. thank you yes I got the comment...I am not good at keeping up with the email. life drags me around by the tender parts at times and it isn't a priority. your right...I am not good at hawking myself. I do this mostly to be creative, vent...did you read my last one called Radical Hag? I though it was funny. Men are affected by hyper-masculinity and patriarchy. If a man can get through life without joining the military, beating someone up or becoming a mean greedy asshole, he is in the majority but wouldn't know it with all the brain washing and "hawking" of the culture of macho. If a woman can get through life with our selling her body, or beating anyone up, or becoming a stupid greedy get my point. I am less about convincing anyone of my value, I work against having to justify my existence...I appreciate you find it valuable. How so? what do you get out of reading one, all? sorry about the run around...I too got it as well and had to write this over. damned id thang...I do dance on the edge of madness, it makes me a good therapist. something about pins and angels fearing etc. I am decidedly a liberation most of our madness is from being bullied, vilified and robbed and blamed. I do believe we are on the verge of a change to the better. Some how I want to be on the "edge' of that also. I am working on one called Welcome to Dystopia about how movies and t.v. are our waking dreams, collectively and what warnings, premonitions and guidance do they give us. thanks

    2. Diane,

      Apologies for the delay in responding. Just noticed your response. Rereading mine I supposed you that you supposed that I was just another Male trying to tell you what to do. Apologies for that too.
      Working backward through your post:
      I have twice had dreams of situations from which I had to escape, that caused me to fling myself out of bed. and which I took as clear warnings. Because of one I quit my job, retired early.
      Financially this was imprudent but at the time it seemed necessary and perhaps it was. A good Counselor might have helped reframe my angst allowing for a more appropriate or generative response, but my point here is that my work situation and my conscious management of it was at odds with my unconscious awareness and the subconscious was making itself heard as it will one way or another.

      The causes of madness are correct, but one especially troublesome: Blame. I think that this is so for the individual, both consciously and unconsciously, and for society as well.
      A child from neglect or abuse, may surmise its own unworthiness and use its creativity toward self destruction or diminshment of others.
      Blame by others can, and often is internalized as shame. Shame, I think, may be the greatest, most powerful, cause of madness. And this is so because it hides itself in territory of our subconscious that is so fearful and painful to enter. Shown as Terra Incognita or Here be Dragons on maps.
      For me, a liberation therapist's work, or even that of a proper friend is a sensing of our fear of shame and returning it on a more explicate map. A map showing not just the cul-de-sacs, but a way through as well.
      Its also what writers, poets, playwrights, storytellers do.

      I am not at all sure that our specie is a viable emergence on this wee and lovely planet. But some are aware of the pestilence our notion of exceptional prerogative amounts to. Better maps will emerge.
      In the 80's Ted Turner offered a prize for a fictional vision of a future that worked, perhaps in response to the Club of Rome's pronouncement "I have seen the future and it doesn't work." Tom Quinn's book Ishmael won.
      This in not so much to recommend the book as to notice say the call for a generative, creative response to the dystopia we live in is getting louder. Turner, I also suspect, erected the Georgia Guidestones as a warning. Why they are so thoroughly ignored still astounds me.

      I get from your blog postings an attempt to come to terms with the dystopia, both individually and creatively and broadly. I relate to the artists work and its pain. Is it useful to think of men as simply more easily infected by hierarchical notions than women, as victims of their own vanity than women?
      There is risk I think in blaming a gender. The blowback is an ill wind indeed.

      So, immer gerada aus, keep on going ahead.
      You have whatever encouragement I can give. It worried me that you seemed to find yourself alone, unread. And maybe that was why I commented, me too. And because you posted the blogs link, that is you asked me to.
      Glad I did.
      Cheers, Tom

  2. Hawking your blog might not be such a bad idea. It would at least imply that you think it is valuable. I think so too.
    Its also what is meant by "Get your act together and take it on the road."
    I have seen women (and men) in your circumstances go mad and become homeless. It happens routinely. Want recognition? Ask for it and importantly, acknowledge it when you get it. Come back.
    Are you subscribed to your own post? Did you get a notice that I commented?