Towards a governance 2.0 definition of mental illness
Belief, like fear or love, is a force to be understood as we understand the theory of relativity or principles of uncertainty, phenomena that determine the course of our lives. These forces begin long before we are born and continue after we perish. Our lives are not our own — we are bound to others — and through each crime, and every kindness, we birth our future.
Leon Eisenberg, the “scientific father” of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)”, made a luxurious living off of his research, thanks to pharmaceutical sales. He received the “Ruane Prize for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Research, and he was a leader in child psychiatry for more than 40 years through his work in pharmacological trials, research, teaching, and social policy and for his theories of autism and social medicine.
7 years ago, in the last interview Leon made before his death, he admitted that ““ADHD is a prime example of a fictitious disease.”
Allan Frances, lead editor of DSM-IV, goes even further as he 6 years ago admitted that “There is no definition of a mental disorder. It’s bullshit. I mean, you just can’t define it. “
I’ve argued that there is a definition for mental illness — that mental illness is a position in a pecking order — but there is an ever better definition:
Mental illness is coerced contractual agreements
It’s fight and flight from coercion. What DSM diagnoses is individuals who rightfully try and either fight, or flee, from other individuals who try to coerce them. The problem is that in the eyes of the law, they’ve signed contracts, and their attempts to fight or flee are therefore seen as illegitimate by their peers. But the so called social contract that is nation-state citizenship is, to begin with, coerced upon each human being as they’re registered at birth like animals, without being asked to consent to the contractual agreements that are signed between the individual and their nation-state. There is no consent to begin with. And any contractual agreement that happens on top of a nation-state citizenship is per extension not voluntary either. Thence, it is only natural that people try and escape or fight the constant coercion that they face as citizens under a coercive state.
In that sense, we are all pre-programmed with a form of mental illness from the point we’re registered as citizens, a neurosis that Deleuze and Guattari saw as the origin of all other mental illnesses.
Humans have not always lived under conditions where their peers were more loyal to a nation-state then to them. The word legal derives from loyal, and the human brain is designed to select peers that are loyal to the self, not to the super-organism of the state. Enforcing a set of laws on everyone, removing the ability to question it and to compete, claiming a monopoly on violence and governance, makes it impossible to be picky about loyalty and to form tribes based on shared values, and leads to all sorts of emergent phenomena. Humans in nation-state cultures face more coercion from those they identify with, than humans in hunter-gatherer tribes did, as they are forced to conform to a pre-written set of ideas, with little power to question the belief-system or to create a new one. The human brain did not evolve to deal with that amount of coercion from peers in one’s tribe, and that’s the systemic origin of the fight and flight symptoms and cultural schisms that we call mental illness.
This is not a new idea. There’s lots of consensus amongst psychologists that coercion is what causes say, a struggle to pay attention to something that the law coerces someone to be mediated by. It’s not a controversial idea. What I emphasize here is the idea that psychologists should focus more on legal mediation when they study human behaviours. We are mediated beings and coercion causes us to behave in all sorts of strange ways, and as it stands, what DSM currently diagnoses, ADHD, autism, bipolarity, schizophrenia — those are all mediated behaviours. For example, ADHD is the human brain in conflict with a legal system that tries to coerce it into something it has not accepted or agreed upon. As Leon Eisenberg said, ADHD is a fictitious disease, and it’s morally, ethically, and scientifically wrong to pretend otherwise.
8 years ago, The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine made the case in Is Psychiatry a Religion that psychiatry has more in common with religion than with science.
“GK Chesterton famously remarked that when people stop believing in God, they start believing in anything. This begs a simple question — is there a lay replacement for religion in contemporary societies? Is there any comparable system of beliefs, behaviours and attitudes that stands as a binding doctrine held ‘true’ by the populace at large? Is there any such comparable system marked by a proselytizing zeal and enthusiastic sense of mission? In this essay, I argue that psychiatry, and its handmaiden, clinical psychology, now constitutes an amorphous system of beliefs, behaviors and attitudes whose functions and doctrines are unsettlingly similar to those held by conventional religions. Are psychiatrists the new priests? Are clinics the new confessionals? Are pills the new prayer? Read on to learn that now may be the time to proudly add ‘psychiatry’ to the pantheon of world religions. “
“It may sound bizarre to suggest that those working in psychiatry are somewhat akin to missionaries, but anyone with access to an Internet search engine will soon discover that this is indeed a common self-conceptualization. For example, prominent psychiatric journals, service providers and academic departments all have ‘mission statements’. Missions cannot occur without missionaries. Thus psychiatry (and clinical psychology), it can be concluded, is ‘on a mission’. “
Why have we succumbed to the religion of psychiatry ?
We needed a story to normalize coercion. It seems to me that the religion of psychiatry, and the religion of the nation-state, what many call statism, is two sides of the same thing. Psychiatry is what made statism possible and it is what kept people from revolting against inequality. Psychiatry legitimized coercion and gave authority to the nation-state. Now with new governance 2.0 systems based on voluntary consent, and post-tribal technology such as ethereum, we no longer need to use pseudo-science to defend coercion.
Psychiatry is an ancient phenomena. 100 years ago, females who chose to not conform to the role they were coerced into were diagnosed with “hysteria”, 50 years ago, gays were diagnosed as being ill in the mental illness homosexuality, 20 years ago, kids who chose to question the legitimacy of a coercive school system were diagnosed with having a “chemical imbalance that made it hard for them to pay attention”. And looking back a few 100 years, those who chose to question the legitimacy of the state were diagnosed as heathens or witches, and so on.
It’s probable that psychiatry and DSM have had an adverse effect on culture and social evolution as they normalized coercion using a sort of pseudo-science that had more to do with government or religion than with the study of the human mind.
New social systems in the internet age will outgrow this somewhat medieval behaviour for two reasons:
Decentralization works better. In his talk The Four Pillars of a Decentralized Society, Johann Gevers makes the case that we have been on a trajectory towards increased decentralization for thousands of years. We have gradually come to rely on economic principles that scale beyond tribal instincts such as the belief in heathens or mental illness. So, it might seem like superstitions such as ADHD or autism are pre-posterous, but they are less so than what came before (hysteria, homosexuality as a disease, etc)
The second reason: Science evolves too fast for tribal beliefs such as mental illness to keep pace. There’s just too much data pointing out that it’s not science.