Why I Reject Forgiveness Culture

STIR article that says what I feel way better than I could:

When I say that I am against forgiveness, I am not judging individuals who choose to forgive. If doing so helps you, then by all means, forgive. What I abhor is a culture that places demands on victims and survivors, insisting that we are not whole until we forgive. Forgiveness culture implies that betrayers and abusers can expect to be forgiven — they can hurt and harm and rage — and should their targets decline to forgive, they can rest smug in the assurance that the refusal reflects a flaw in their victims, not in themselves.

Why Therapists Should Talk Politics

Great NYTimes article on people always blaming themselves for toxic situations:

When people can’t live up to the increasingly taxing demands of the economy, they often blame themselves and then struggle to live with the guilt. You see this same tendency, of course, in a variety of contexts, from children of divorce who feel responsible for their parents’ separation to the “survivor guilt” of those who live through disasters. In situations that may seem impossible or unacceptable, guilt becomes a shield for the anger you otherwise would feel: The child may be angry with her parents for divorcing, the survivor may be angry with those who perished.

 

And a great comment by James H:

Sometimes people are depressed because the world is dying. Those who read the science of climate change and the politics of multinational corporations are trying to come to grips with the impending end of civilization and environmental diversity as we have known them since the beginning of human consciousness. How we approach those large possibilities should spawn a new entire new therapeutic focus that tries to help humans deal with their own extinction.

 

Talking Points

What I like to say to everyone that parrots all the talking points of the Christian and therapeutic world.  Participate in the delusions you perpetuate.  If you believe a person has innate worth treat the people lower than you like humans instead of making excuses as to why you won’t engage them.  If you have a romantic view of suffering, don’t drop out of or stay away from the lives of people who have suffered (treat them the way you’d treat people who other good things happened to like hitting the powerball).  If you believe in prayer, trust in its power.  That means if you were praying for someone to be healed you have to treat them as if they were already healed (as you’d be expected to assuming you were praying in faith).

Chances are, when you start actually thinking critically about these things, you’ll realize that these ideas you got from the faith and the therapist were nothing more than talking points all along.  They have nothing to do with the way reality actually functions.

Before Therapy Can Work

This is blatantly obvious but for therapy to work one has to trust in the authority of the therapist.  I had a therapist lead me away from Christianity at an extremely vulnerable time in my life (just got a bipolar diagnosis, had no job, the girl I wanted to marry was ignoring me, etc..).  Suffice it to say I do not trust therapists.  That’s why I’m not being proactive finding one even though I’m supposed to be.

I have a hard time understanding why people give therapists any authority at all.  It sounds so ridiculous to me to pay someone to tell you you’re worth something.  Heck I’d tell you you’re worth something if you paid me!

shapes

Psychology is not truth.  It shifts shapes depending on who is paying whom.

When the ad men pay psychologists they are told not to get a brand too closely associated with ethnic minorities.  Pepsi actually tried to market to blacks in the 1940’s.  It worked but then the Pepsi brand got associated with the minority and white people stopped drinking it.  So Pepsi returned to putting white people in their ads.  The overarching principle here is that a person’s value is based on how close they are to privilege, and value cascades from the top down, it is conferred to you by culture derived from your privilege, health, wealth, and physical appearance.

When individuals pay psychologists they get near the opposite.  Suddenly constituents have “innate worth” separate from privilege, health, wealth, and physical appearance.  Value is purported to bubble from the bottom up.

It doesn’t matter which one of these is more true more of the time because psychology is not beholden to science.  It may take advantage of science sometimes to move it forward but it certainly doesn’t answer to it.

In this world the way people are treated usually reveals that value cascades from the top down rather than bubbling from the bottom up.  This means the best thing a therapist can do is ask their clients which people lower in society in their lives they are ignoring and denigrating and get them to stop ignoring and denigrating said people.

Therapeutic-Industrial Complex

Religion is really easy to counter with logic.  It’s like in med school how they start out showing people a black lung x-ray and say it’s cancerous.  As one progresses through med school the lung x-rays become less black and the cancer is harder to spot.  That’s what the therapeutic-industrial complex is like.  Unlike religion which is explicit about you not thinking for yourself, the therapeutic-industrial complex make you think you’re thinking for yourself.  They prime you with things that are false (not backed by evidence) but make you feel good (like telling you you aren’t in a powerless situation when you are).  Then they level ad-hominem attacks at you when you disagree.  You’re “mentally ill” so you can’t possibly have any insight on how the world actually is.

You’re Not Allowed to Believe These Things

The lower you are in society the less you are allowed to believe.  The obvious manifestation of this is fundamentalist religion getting shoved down one’s throat but there are more nuanced ways it plays out as well.  There is this myth in America that we’re all equal and even though it’s patently false those of privilege and power will go to great lengths to get people further down to buy into it.  Some things you’re not allowed to believe follow:

Money and status are the most important thing.  Those on top want to have their cake and eat it too.  They want to be able to reject lower status people and turn around and pretend status doesn’t matter.  It’s an ego thing.  They want to appear humble on the outside while being arrogant on the inside (feigning humility is an artifact of the Christian influence on Western culture).

Those on the bottom (like me) are the ones that know money and status are all that matters because of all the friends (and potential friends) we have lost on account of being low status.  Of course high status people will give other reasons why they reject us and people will believe them because we naturally believe those of more power and privilege.

The world is cruel.  Those in power want those without to be naive as possible.  In this state the powerless can be taken advantage of more easily.  You need both the carrot and the stick to effectively manage and control the masses.  When people stop trusting the system you lose the carrot and consequently lose a lot of your control.  For example it gets more difficult to string people along, promising them a job or marriage, if they just stay in an exploitative situation just a little bit longer.

My life would be better if I didn’t have this disability.  One of the narratives of the powerful is the narrative of contentment of those at the bottom.  And who is really lower in society than those with disabilities!  The powerful’s narrative of fake egalitarianism goes something like this, “If those at the bottom are happy than we are all equal, so let’s pretend they are!”.

Show me!  There is little that scares those in power more than people giving up on hope and taking up conjecture.  Hope requires trust, conjecture doesn’t.  Trusting is deferring to a person or institution with power with a best case scenario of breaking even.  When trust is withheld, it strips a lot of power from that which was formerly trusted.

Occupy Therapists

self_tower

It’s easy to miss the therapeutic-industrial complex’s role in keeping positive change in check.

Therapists tend to medicalize malaise.  If modern life is making your depressed it is because the chemicals in your brain are out of whack or some bad childhood experiences.  I’m not saying clinical depression isn’t real (I’m depressed probably half the time) it’s just that the way society is structured even one with perfect chemicals has to be good at playing mind games to not be depressed.  When one is unable or unwilling to play these games they are seen as having a pathology.  For example our culture prizes individual autonomy but without money one cannot obtain it (along with the respect and relationships that go along with it).  This is an intractable problem.  No amount of words or pills will make it go away.  A therapist probably isn’t going to tell you to collectively bargain even if a union contained more supportive people than a support group.

The self is the end of the thread of causes; in the therapeutic-industrial complex, everything grounds to self.  Because of the way American men and women are formed we (including me) are incredibly self-absorbed.  When therapists got a peek inside people’s minds they found patterns, a lot of time people who were dickish had low opinions of themselves.  But then they jumped the gun mixing correlation with causation saying people acted dickish because they had low self-esteem.  This is understandable because most of the output of people’s minds are going to be thoughts about them self.  This focus on self manifests itself in society in that the poor would just do better if they “believed in themselves” and had “higher self-esteem”.  The Secret and Joel Olsteen are the most overt manifestations of this but the cultural narrative is steeped with the notion that if something is wrong in your life it is just something wrong with your thinking, often an one’s erroneous opinion of them self (as non sequitur as the reasoning often is).

Therapists teach us to soften the language we use for addressing the actions of those in power.  Instead of saying, “it was unfair he passed me over for a promotion”, one must say, “I feel it was unfair he passed me over for a promotion”.  This is a seemingly innocuous wording change but it is something we are trained to do unconsciously.  In many places questioning and anything seen as negative is not tolerated.  Speaking truth to power does not even get past the gate keepers because it’s dismissed as venting, for the domain of therapists.

The therapeutic-industrial complex propagates a hyper-individualistic message that professionalizes friendship, helping keep building blocks of empowerment from coming together.  A brick wall consists of bricks and mortar just like organizing consists of people’s will cemented together towards a common goal.  At first blush a therapist sounds like a great ally to have, someone who will listen to your story—your side of it.  But the your never gives way to our.   You may feel empowered and relieved getting these things off your chest but by opening up to a therapist instead of a friend who shares your struggle you lose out on group solidarity.  Solidarity and any interdependence is demonized by the therapeutic-industrial complex.  Individual happiness is its goal but a hyperindividualistic form that is such a mash of hedonic super-specific tastes and preferences that make one a poor fit for any kind of group cohesion or solidarity.

Ramblings on Forgiveness

The party line is you are supposed to forgive others’ wrongs:

The party line call to forgive comes off as perverse.  When you tell a kid not to touch a hot stove, they do.  When you tell people to forgive they automatically assume you are doing it to aid those who wrong (who usually have more power than you do).

The weight of the wrong falls upon the aggrieved party no matter how they handle it.  The aggrieved party loses either way.  They fester in immobilizing bitterness or forgive the offending party (which signals the offender to wrong more).  A lot of time anger is just part of depression, but the part of it that drives people and trying to snuff out said anger (via  forgiveness) just leaves the rest of the depression there minus the anger that was driving the person.

The forgiveness psychobabble brings up the unspoken assumption that you are responsible for what you feel.  We don’t like admitting that one can commit thought crimes but the way we label people speaks otherwise.  If someone internalizes the negative things about them society has been sending their way we call them insecure.  If one holds a grudge they are looked upon unfavorably as if being prepared for the offender’s next offense is the wrong way to feel.

The idea that forgiveness is an act of will is a misnomer.  Emotions will reanimate a “dead” wrong and mind games won’t be able to kill it.  The therapeutic-industrial complex has taught us to delineate between thoughts and emotions when a lot of the time they are interchangeable (but to study things one needs to put everything into neat little boxes).  The human mind is messier than anyone would like to admit.  Freaud knew this but later psychologists haven’t taken this to heart.

The scope of the imperative to forgive falls under situations where those without power are the most likely to be wronged.  For example, if an employer wrongs you, you are expected to forgive them.  But if you wrong someone during a psychotic break, the imperative doesn’t apply at all.

Therapist Improvements

I think therapists are the ones who need help!  People aren’t going to them as much as they used to.  So I give them perspective from an older millennial.

Counsel on how people need to face the world needs to be gleaned from real-world experience, not idealistic academic material.  For example, social anxiety is often a fitting adaptation to a hostile social environment and one needs different tools to manage in said environment.  In sports lingo, they say practice how you play.  Academia has this Palagian view of man that says man is basically good, or at least the bad in him or her can be educated or socialized out of them.  This is experientially untrue (and politically incorrect to believe).  Our culture has adapted to hide verbal expressions of evil but the kinetic expressions are still there, sometimes even more strong (because they can’t be expressed any other way) than when we didn’t have our verbal correctness fetish.

People need to be told the truth, even—and especially—when it hurts.  Therapists are afraid they’ll lose their clients if they tell them what they really need to hear so they dance around things.  This isn’t helpful to the client at all.  There is this myth that our (the millennial) generation likes to be coddled.  We are used to being coddled to an extent but that doesn’t necessarily mean we like it.  We have seen so much inauthenticity that we can see right through it as clear as glass.  So when someone tells us the truth it may shock, startle, and hurt us but most of us will still appreciate it.  In my life no one would tell me that church people didn’t talk to me because I didn’t have a real job.  I waited years and finally someone of the older generation told me.

Unfinanced worth mandate.  Every once in awhile congress will pass a huge spending bill without appropriating funds to finance it.  There are a lot of things in our culture like this.  For example the cultural belief that one has innate worth.  This was once a Christian ideal sometimes lived up to in tight knit communities.  However as the boomers got older it morphed from an ideal to a mandate.  And, as the erosion of community and family happened, one less and less “financed” by evidence.  But you’re paying therapists so of course they’re going to tell you you have innate worth.  And if you start with the evidence-based belief that you don’t they are going to slap you with a pathological label rather than lauding your skills in logic and perception.