Frighten them, drug them or shock them… (Women’s Voice, 1977)



MY PROBLEMS had their origin in my upbringing – of course.

The initial damage was done at home, and then it was reinforced by years of being a ‘charity’ pupil in a convent. There every flickering of individuality and independent thought was crushed as a matter of policy.

My doctor sent me to an ‘expert’ because I was having crying fits after having two operations in a year, and because I suffered from lapses of awareness. I would ‘come to’ in the middle of the road, feeling lost and disoriented.

I wonder how many years of training it took to create this expert on mental health? I wonder how big a salary he gets for saying, as he said to me, ‘You’re a student, eh? Fancy teachings about sociology and psychology, eh? I suppose they’ve been teaching you that freedom stuff. I don’t hold with that. What you are is genetically determined. There’s nothing I can do for you.’

The sum time of that bit of ‘treatment’ was two minutes, including the time it took me to go in and out of the room.

When I left that ‘psychiatric unit’ I walked straight in front of a car. I can remember the screeching brakes. I remember feeling grazed and hearing shouting, but to this day I don’t know where I was for the next 89 hours.

I had to leave the degree course I was on – and I’d grafted years at night-school to get on that course.

I struggled through a few years of mundane office and factory work with the help of fags and booze and occasional drugs. Then I just caved in.

I found I would just work and then go home to bed. I spent my weekends in bed. I was unwilling to go near the medical profession because from experience I knew they had three basic solutions to people’s problems: frighten them, drug them, shock them.

Eventually I became unable to get out of bed at all, and my husband called in the doctor. He gave me drugs which left me in constant sleep.

When I took overdoses, the hospital doctor asked me if I didn’t feel silly putting them to all that trouble. I told him that I used to be an auxiliary nurse and that I knew he might be overworked, but it was no good trying to make me feel guilty about that! I guessed from his reaction that he wasn’t used to such an attitude in his patients.

I turned to private ‘therapists’, who didn’t know an arse from an elbow, but who certainly knew a ten pound note from a fiver.

Then three things happened.

I read the books of Arthur Janov, where he describes that human beings are not naturally destructive, aggressive, grasping and frantic. It’s the way we are screwed up that causes us to suppress our true nature and needs – leading to tension and neurosis. Uninterfered with, we would be peaceful and co-operative. We survive at the price of conformity to false, imposed values, the values of those who have power over us.

The second thing that happened to me was that I met a woman psychologist who wasn’t interested in lining her pockets. She related to people as feeling individuals with unmet needs, not as morally inferior deviants who threaten society’s order.

The third thing was the construction of a ‘shelter’ of mattresses and bedding where, in cushioned, sound-proofed surroundings, I can experience all those suppressed pains of stifled individuality and needs.

The more I experienced the suppressed ME, the more I got rid of the imposed muck.

A warning though, this shouldn’t be undertaken without some supervision. It’s a long and painful process. But where are people to have such treatment and be psychologically liberated?

Where are the ‘feeling-centres’ where in-touch therapists can assist us? Where we do most of the treatment ourselves, helping each other to feel and express our most deep-felt needs, so they are no longer blocked and filling us with tension?

Such an approach calls for taking away much of the almighty power and control of the doctors and ‘experts’. That needs to be done. It is our lives, our sanity that are threatened. It is our needs to be whole and happy human beings. Treatment should be in our interests, with our full and willing participation.

I’ve spent two years slowly and painfully dismantling the phoney me that was conditioned into being for the sake of survival and acceptance. I’ve come a long way. During that time I’ve read Socialist Worker and other socialist publications, keeping in touch with the struggles against repression and for freedom, more and more convinced of the necessity for people to control their own lives.

The freedom of the capitalists stinks. It’s the selling out of true individuality to the man-made symbols of profit and prestige – the ‘freedom’ to crush one’s fellow beings.

The we’ll-provide-it-for-you reformers have missed the point.

Freedom isn’t given. Freedom is what we naturally and automatically have, individually and socially, until someone starts defining our freedom for us and imposing their own limitations on its expression.

By Marie, from Manchester

Women’s Voice 12, December 1977

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