A lot of critiques one levies against Christianity can be levied just as strongly against the therapeutic industrial complex (TIC).
Both are disingenuous about authority. In Christianity this takes the form of denying the faith is in fact a religion and making people think their opinions actually come from God and not religious authorities (that’s why they’re fine with people being attuned to the voice of God so long as it doesn’t go against their teachings). With the TIC therapists claim to be facilitating one’s own decision making process when they suggest things (the therapist I have to see told me to quit my job, which would have been bad had I done it). The problem is in order for therapy to work one must trust in the authority of the therapist (for example sleep therapy where the therapists told the patients not to have such anxious thoughts about going to sleep). One of the austerity measures in Britain was to force people on the disability roles to see therapists that would presumably tell them to get a job. This brings up another thread where the dynamic of the doctor patient relationship changes depending on who is footing the bill (so an upper middle class professional seeing a therapist on private insurance might use a therapist as a sounding board only where someone lower down will be more controlled by them).
Both include thought crimes. In Christianity this is obvious borne from Jesus’s teachings on lust and anger. The negativity bitterness is met with also seems to indicate Christians are culpable for their emotions as well. Things aren’t any better in the TIC. Sexuality is left alone much more in the TIC but other thoughts get banned. You enter the tyranny of self-esteem. Feeling bad about yourself (even if it’s warranted though reasons grounded in anthropology and common sense) is off limits. And to continue to do so just brings more guilt. Negative thoughts are almost always seen as bad even though they are often accurate and ground a person in reality. Treatments try to get deep inside your head and are really invasive with your thought processes with the promise of making you “healthy”. But often, like a half done house, these mechanics applied poorly are worse than them not being applied at all. People who can’t play the cognitive tricks needed to succeed in therapy are guilted the same way Christians who don’t experience God are (both require a brain way beyond mine).
Both have an unrealistic expectation for purity. In Christianity this is obvious, there is an emphasis on sinful things and not being good enough. In the TIC “unhealthy” replaces sinful as the term to stay away from though they are much less direct about this. The TIC tends to assume one has the material, social, and emotional resources to live a successful hyper individualistic life and if one happens to fall short of this they aren’t healthy. They demonize neediness because that implies dependence which is something to stay away from (plus a lot of people would see therapists less if they had good friends). People of lower means often don’t have access to “healthy relationships”, simply because people who the TIC deems healthy generally don’t associate with people the TIC does not. Like God’s perfection, being what the TIC calls healthy is an impossible goal only available to a small portion of the population.
Both pretend to care about you when all they want to do is control you. I understand there are caring therapists and caring people in the faith but these are a minority. Most people want to exploit and control you, it’s just that in some professions they have to do so while playing lip service to having concern for you. Remember that the religious people who tell you to take your experience of God seriously won’t be there to pay the mental hospital bills when you do. And therapists are not bound to what their work produces the way engineers are. If a bridge fails an engineer will often suffer the consequences. If a therapist ruins a life no one bats an eye. In fact because patient confidentiality and the itinerant nature of that kind of care they more often than not will never know.
Every therapist should listen to this podcast. All disallowing negativity does is silence those who speak truth to power. In fact if you take the idea there is truth away entirely than in the vacuum all that exists is what those in power command, in this case circuitously by banning negativity.
Therapists demonize neediness and dependence. Somehow we are all supposed to live in a world where we can live a self contained hyperindividualistic existence. Unfortunately economic reality dictates that many of us can’t and certainly most of us with disabilities can’t. What we can’t help being is what we’re not supposed to be. If that isn’t ableism I don’t know what is. It’s even worse than religion. At least with religion if you submit to their tenants and perform their rituals they usually treat you as someone you’re supposed to be.
And why is dependence a bad thing? Calling someone dependent on others is almost a slur. If the capability to be autonomous wasn’t out of reach for a large portion of our generation then maybe you could make the case for it. But it’s not. It’s just another way to kick us while we’re already down. That’s what our culture is good at, kicking us when we’re down. Those on top are loved and lifted up. Everyone else can go die in a fire.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.