Patient-Objectification: “a person, in being put in the role of patient, tends to become defined as a nonagent, as a nonresponsible object, to be treated accordingly, and even comes to regard himself in this light.” The implication here seems to be that the more a patient is treated like an object, i.e., abused, the more likely it is that the trauma which brought about the mental ‘illness’ is to persist and/or become more intense. (Laing 1967:110)

 

 

Stigma as Death Camp Singularity: Whenever a group of people is stigmatized, an ‘inferior race’ is constructed within the knowledge system of a particular group, which is self-anointed as a ‘superior race’ – this concept often gets adopted (or introjected) by the stigmatized group. And when interpersonal interactions are designed in such a way that one group regards itself as superior to an inferior group, a foundation is laid for violence and abuse perpetrated by the superior group against the inferior group—the terminal point (or the logical conclusion) of which seems to be a death camp or genocide. [Note: a “singularity” in mathematics is a turning point in the behavior of the mathematically modeled system]

 

 

Vicious Circle: The sociologist Erving Goffman noted that as psychiatric patients are put on a bad ward, their behaviors (that are a protest to this seclusion and confinement) tend to get interpreted as further justification of seclusion, confinement, and more limitation (e.g., taking away chairs, desks, etc.). And as the staff and doctors intensify limitation, so to do the patients escalate their protests, which further justify… In short, with these vicious circle processes, you have an abused person or community that revolts against the abuse, and with each revolt, the abuse increases: abuse → rebel → abuse + 1 → rebel + 1 → abuse + 2 → rebel + 2 → abuse + 3…etc. (Laing 1967:111-112)

 

 

‘Schizophrenic’ (& Drug) Strategy: Both drug use and ‘schizophrenia’ appear to be methods of dealing with traumatic and/or unlivable situations in which the world itself doesn’t offer a way out of suffering or misery—in shot, when a world (lived situation) becomes too hostile, one manufactures a way of escaping it (often without leaving it). E.g., people labeled schizophrenic are usually subjected to disturbing/abusive family members and people deemed ‘drug addicts’ have a higher likelihood of having undergone childhood trauma. “the experience and behavior that gets labeled schizophrenic is a special strategy that a person invents in order to live in an unlivable situation.” (Laing 1967:115) (Laing 1967:112-114)

 

 

Socially Produced Psyche: One of the basic ideas of Laing’s The Politics of Experience is that the mind is plugged in to the environment, and, thus, this ‘inside’ is produced by the ‘outside.’ As a consequence, typical forms of treatment that see the mind alone as the site and source of disturbance fail to hold the social system that produced this mind accountable; this means that the generalized production of psychological suffering for individuals that undergo this cultural system is untouched and uninterrupted by the usual means. In fact, as Laing mentions, psychiatric practices often make things worse for patients. The same could be said about the war on drugs and its relation to drug users: it attacks the user—who is often self-medicating their own trauma—thereby worsening their trauma/suffering, and it does nothing toward addressing the traumatizing, abusive culture that lead to drug use in the first place. “Something is wrong somewhere, but it can no longer be seen exclusively or even primarily “in” the diagnosed patient.” (Laing 1967:115) (cf. Johann Hari)

 

Maladaptive Fallacy:  Both in the area of schizophrenia (and mental illness, generally) and for the subject of drug use (and addiction, specifically), there is a fallacy about what exactly is happening, what caused the behavior and experience, and, therefore, what should be done to treat the ‘problem.’  It is often assumed that the problem with someone who uses drugs or who is diagnosed with a mental illness is that they are unable to adapt to ‘normal’ social conditions.  As a consequence of this idea, the people themselves are seen as a problem and in need of treatment.  But as we have learned from Laing and Hari, in both these cases, it is the environment that needs treatment—though people who’ve already become addicts or initiated a schizophrenic episode may need a specialized form of care (that doesn’t relegate them to the status of second-class citizens).  With the maladaptive fallacy, it is assumed that the victim of an abusive social process is to blame and be ‘treated’ for their ‘inability to adapt’ (often by imprisoning them).  “The perfectly adjusted bomber pilot may be a greater threat to species survival than the hospitalized schizophrenic deluded that the Bomb is inside him.” (Laing 1967:120)

Medicalization of Deviance: Another problem in the area of mental illness (and to some degree the situation of drug policy) is “the designation of a deviant behavior as an illness that can be treated by medical professionals” (Hoynes and Croteau 2013:195)  As long as these ‘problems’ are seen as something ‘wrong’ with an individual, the social system that produces them can’t be addressed. [Note: relative to the maladaptive fallacy, this often is what brings it about]

Demedicalization/Societization of Deviance: This occurs when a social category (e.g., homosexual, drug user, ‘schizophrenic’) is taken out of the arena of ‘the deviant.’  This procedure also entails locating the deviance or the problem not with the ‘condition’ or individuals previously seen as deviant but with the social system that labels people deviant and/or that abuses and neglects the people so labeled.  [Note: relative to the maladaptive fallacy, this is the process that would remedy it.] (Hoynes and Croteau 2013:197)

Degradation Ceremonial:  When a person experiences a loss of face or a decrease in their social status/prestige as part of a ritual and routine practice for being an ‘outsider.’  In other words, there is a ceremony in which a person is degraded in the eyes of the community, which results in various forms of neglect and coercion.  In the case of a person who uses drugs, their degradation ceremonial spans the informal responses of their peers and the formal responses of the criminal justice system that robs them of their freedom in order to shame them for how they relate their own bodies to synthetic and non-synthetic chemicals.  In the case of a person labeled “schizophrenic,” the psychiatric examination is the degradation ceremonial.  Laing says of this labeling process: “This political event, occurring in the civic order of society, imposes definitions and consequences on the labeled person.  It is a social prescription that rationalizes a set of social actions whereby the labeled person is annexed by others, who are legally obliged, to become responsible for the person labeled.  The person labeled is inaugurated not only into a role, but into a career of patient, by the concerted action of a coalition (a “conspiracy”) of family, G.P., mental health officer, psychiatrists, nurses, psychiatric social workers, and often fellow patients.  The “committed” person labeled as patient, and specifically as “schizophrenic,” is degraded from full existential and legal status as human agent and responsible person to someone no longer in possession of his own definition of himself, unable to retain his own possessions, precluded from the exercise of his discretion as to whom he meets, what he does.  His time is no longer his own and the space he occupies is no longer of his choosing.” (Laing 1967:122)

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