Category: Capitalism, Neoliberalism & Globalization

A sketch of societal-based obstacles to transformation after trauma

In the preface to his book The Order of Things (1966/1973), Michel Foucault shared the following excerpt from an ancient Chinese encyclopedia: “… animals are divided into: (a) belonging to the Emperor, (b) embalmed, (c) tame, (d) sucking pigs, (e) sirens, (f) fabulous, (g) stray dogs, (h) included in the present classification, (i) frenzied, (j) …

The “Trauma-Focused Turn” in Critical Psychology

A Review of: De-Medicalizing Misery II: Society, Politics and the Mental Health Industry Edited by Ewen Speed, Joanna Moncrieff and Mark Rapley Click on title to read the review (downloads as Word document or contact me for a pdf copy): The “Trauma-Focused Turn” in Critical Psychology First published with PsycCRITIQUES, June 1, 2015, Vol. 60, No. …

Capitalism exploits the body’s response to traumatic stress

Shelves of Ceramic Models of Brains

The Great Recession, like financial disasters before it, took its toll on bodies and psyches as much as it did on bank accounts and lifestyles. Suicides, family violence, stress-related diseases, and mental disorders increased during the crisis. For many, these hardships continue. Yet even during the best of times capitalism’s dependency on social hierarchies — …

Globalization: The age of psychological neoteny

Neoteny refers to when a species’ traits that are typically associated with juvenile stages of development are carried into adulthood. A common example is the Mexican salamander, or axolotl. At full maturity, the axolotl continues to look like a tadpole, which supposedly is more adaptive to its environmental niche than the adult salamander body. As the …

Want to reduce mental illness? Address trauma. Want to save the world? Address trauma.

Different explanations have been given for the increased number of people suffering from mental illness. Some have claimed the increase is the result of ever-expanding diagnostic criteria and syndromes that risk medicalizing normal emotional reactions. Others argue the increase is the result of the pharmaceutical industry financially courting the medical establishment as well as using …

History after trauma

In 2012, I saw on display at SFMOMA Sam Durant’s “History never ends, I hate to bother you”: Sadie Coles HQ gave this explanation of the piece: “The show’s title [History Never Ends, I Hate to Bother You] may furthermore be read as a sardonic refutation of Francis Fukuyama’s famous postmodern thesis ‘The End of History?’, which proposed …

Trauma nation?

Medicine is where hope is alive and well in America. During the past fifty years, due to rapid advances in microbiology, many persons who once might have died prematurely, or suffered debilitating diseases or disorders, instead enjoy productive lives, albeit often with chronic illnesses to manage. Through its near-miracle successes, the field has engendered the …

Shopping our way to extinction

We humans have been destroying environments and eradicating species throughout our history. When some of our ancestors arrived in the Americas over 10,000 years ago, they wiped out at least 70 genera of large mammals and literally millions of animals — including ground sloths, camels, wild pigs, and several species of horses. Not much seems to …

The mental health field has a branding problem

For over two centuries, the mental health field, and psychiatry in particular, has actively cultivated a “brand,” distinguishing itself as a remedy for societal ills, largely by adapting its philosophy and methods to the dominant social agenda. In 1793, when Dr. Philippe Pinel initiated reforms in the Salpêtriere and Bicêtre Hospitals in Paris where the …

“The Why Factor”: Cultural memory and PTSD

Screen Shot of BBCs "The Why Factor."

BBC’s The Why Factor posted two short podcasts (18 minutes each) on trauma — one on cultural memories of traumatic events and the other on Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “Cultural Memory” explores how societies respond collectively to traumatic memories, such as war and extreme human rights violations, which often involves silencing memories of the past as …

All those lingering lusty images…

There’s something untoward about a married woman of my age writing about lust, let alone feeling it. I should be spending time managing my hormones rather than hot flashes of an entirely different sort. But I am here to disclose that, yes, lust continues well into middle age. And here lies the problem: lust continues …

Does globalization 3.0 need DSM V?

The slated 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) wobbles like jello. It can’t tell the difference between psychopathology, normal misery, or bad habits. When you know there is something definitely wrong and need help, it won’t necessarily confirm your problem. Allen Frances, MD gives a good breakdown of some …

Trauma’s imaginal worlds

Few people pass from birth to death without intimate knowledge of trauma’s capacity to alter the landscape of the psyche. So many experiences are traumatizing: war, rape, death, car accidents, hurricanes, earthquakes, bullying, scapegoating, incest, family violence, racism, homophobia—and this, a cursory list at best. Even if you are fortunate enough to dodge trauma, its …

Alexithymia, emotional neglect & capitalism: How are they related?

Alexithymia. Now that’s quite the word. Derived from the Ancient Greek, it means “without words for emotions,” and identifies difficulties with recognizing and naming feelings. Since emotions are central for understanding oneself and others, not being able to discern what you feel can cause distress, agitation, and anxiety — along with rocky, unsatisfying relationships. (Honestly, …

Wired for distraction

USA Today identified 2010 as “The Year Technology Replaced Talking.” Rather than face-to-face communication, it seems a significant number of us prefer using cellphones and other wireless devices to keep in touch, even when the person we want to talk to is just a spoken word away. (93% of Americans have cellphones/wireless connections.) In her …

Can the West save the world from mental illness?

When health care is inadequate to nonexistent in a country, mental health care is generally much worse. In places like sub-Saharan Africa, where treating AIDS and malaria burden an already overrun health care system, mental illness is largely ignored. Families in the poorest countries around the world sometimes resort to tying mentally ill family members …