On Therapy

This is a surreal image of the woods entangling a woman. I've used this because the woman - who looks distressed - embodies a mental illness sufferer, while the woods is the therapy that only enslaves her more. My essay is about anti-therapy and pro pure medication approaches to treating people with disorders.

I’ll never understand the purpose of therapy. It doesn’t work because the therapist isn’t you. Ezra Pound said that a person doesn’t truly understand a book unless he’s lived at least part of its contents. I believe that. And applying that logic here, I’ll extend it and say that you can’t grasp the complete essence of something that isn’t you because you aren’t it. The same goes for therapy. The therapist will never truly understand a patient’s conflicts. An example is a Christian approaching a Hindu therapist because of fears of hell. Now, the therapist may have read the Bible, but his immediate inclination will be to merge the two religions and try to console the patient. But monotheism and polytheism can’t be united. They are two radically different ways of perceiving God. So, this will lead to frustration, and the therapist will next hit at the patient’s rationality; saying that he isn’t logical. But what the therapist doesn’t realize is that this is a grave insult against the person’s belief system. So, you see the dilemma. Now, say the same patient goes to a Christian psychologist. Now this man will have a Biblical framework of dealing with a patient’s conflict, but he’ll never understand the schemas of the sufferer; he’ll never understand the paroxysms of angst that seize the patient because he isn’t him. Even if the psychologist has seen some degree of despair, he can’t existentially battle with the patient’s pain because each experience – regardless of how harrowing it is – differs in context, degree and how a person perceives it. So there is no framework – regardless of how flexible it is – that can guide a therapist. So therapy fails in the end.

Now, many will argue, saying that therapy does help a lot of people. My answer to this has two points. Firstly, therapy helps create a ‘sustained placebo effect.’ The patient doesn’t truly get better, but his belief in the system makes him think that he’s better, thereby making him euphoric. It’s like a football player who completely relies on his coach’s belief in him. The ‘C’mon son, you can do it!’ Works him into a frenzy and he’s thrown into a simulacrum of motivation. Say the management replaces the coach tomorrow, and the new coach has a different philosophy of motivating his players; the footballer will not perform well. And if the new coach doesn’t believe in him, he’ll hate the coach and himself and stop performing at a professional level altogether.

Secondly, therapy helps create ‘masochistic slavery that masquerades as optimistic self-sustenance.’ The therapist may be kind, sweet and not authoritarian like the others, but he’s saying the same thing: ‘ Dear patient, you are now in a Orwellian Room 101 which will expose your deepest fears and rob you of your individuality. The only way out is to listen to me. I have the power. I have the control. I have the authority. You have nothing.’ The patient thus listens, and the therapist instills in him a love for his framework and rules; the patient becomes the therapist’s slave. Even if the patient argues with the therapist and the therapist is patient, ultimately – if the patient continues with the therapy – his individuality is castrated. He becomes a slave to a blueprint. A programmed robot who monotonously imbues rules and regulations. His identity is gone, but he starts functioning in society and leading a healthier life, and this makes him herald therapy. But say the conflict in him (which was never really resolved) deepens tomorrow, and the blueprint the therapist gave him doesn’t provide answers anymore, then he’ll suddenly and rapidly regress. Then say, he goes back to the therapist, then he’s trapped in a vicious cycle. The therapist’s module initially gave him motes of false optimism. The therapist’s ‘doctrine’ gave him a ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ to therapy. But now, he can’t handle the stress anymore, and he’s infuriated and despairing over the fact that therapy robbed him of his individuality because he’s suddenly developed insight (which you often do, during periods of acute depression) and he’s worse than he was when he first visited the therapist. He’s like a drug addict who’s thrown into rehab, only to return in a worse state, because the core issue that makes him inject himself was never solved.

Therapy – regardless of the kind – is ruled by hypothesis and not fact. And is hence self-defeating. Freudian notions, Jungian archetypes, May’s existentialism, Frankl’s tragic optimism, Cognitive behavior therapy, Exposure Response Prevention, types and theories of personality are all hypotheses. They aren’t proven facts. They are like literary theories that keep evolving over the decades and view literature from myriad vantage points. But that’s all they do. They are simply perspectives. So, how can something unprovable prove to help someone? That very notion is self-defeating. Instead of using a valid medical E=MC2 to treat a person, therapy uses a medieval E=Truth because E=Truth, even if E doesn’t exist to help people. The outcome, therefore, is one of emotional superstition and cognitive dissonance. Like people in the middle ages believed that an odd old woman is a witch because she’s a witch, without using any valid argument and cruelly executed her with impunity and then celebrated the act; we think that some Freudian notion of sexual attraction towards a mother is frustrated, and hence the person is not functioning well, and thus needs treatment in line with a Freudian framework and celebrate when he succumbs to slavery masquerading as optimism. But we don’t think that our Freudian notions don’t have any proof. E=? is being used to, unfortunately, treat people. And the same is true for all kinds of therapy. A genius conceives an idea, and devout followers promote that idea to the truth. It’s like the Charles Manson cult. The cult of personality is so powerful that it completely inundates the therapist who indoctrinates his patient. It isn’t different from religious fanaticism, or jingoism. So, in that sense, psychology based on hypotheses is pseudo-science. It’s a tool used to subjugate conflicted individuals. It’s a means of power. It’s no different from fiery preaching that scares a person into belief. But it operates clandestinely and subtly and cleverly. It may or may not use fear, but it nonetheless overpowers the person and takes his control over his life from him.

Moving on, how do we treat people then? The only way is to use neurochemistry. Medicine and facts are the way to treat people suffering from disorders. But the problem is that we haven’t evolved enough. We haven’t reached a stage where medicine without side-effects can cure people completely. But we do know things like using SSRI to treat depression. Or using mood stabilizers to treat Bipolar disorder, or using anxiolytics to prevent anxiety or antipsychotics to cure psychosis. Drugs – irrespective of a person’s love or hate for them – help because they alter brain chemistry. They change a person’s mood, thought process, personality, perception, and insight. Now, that last word – ‘insight’ – is a crucial word. Without insight, you’ll never get better if you’re mentally ill. Now, this is a subjective statement, but I’ve noticed that insight comes from experience and medication certainly helps. I’ve deleted at least fifty Facebook accounts and twenty blogs. My capricious mood enslaved me for seven years. I struggled and struggled with Bipolar Disorder, and no amount of therapy worked. I’ve finally reached a stage where I’m erratic but productive. I know that a lot of people think I’m dangerously mad because of my emotional whims. Recently, someone accidentally waved at me on Facebook but then blocked me on messenger because they were scared I’ll respond. I’ve posted obscure statuses, confessed my sins, written garbage, written poem after poem; I’ve vehemently hated people, posted the most damnable statuses against God; I’ve had sudden bouts of religiosity, followed quickly by a death metal phase. I’ve sought help. Therapists have yelled at me. Therapists have asked me if I’m rational. My parents institutionalized me because of psychosis. There, I lay, given injections and almost thrown in a halfway home. I had to argue with the psychiatrists in an assertive way to make sure they didn’t chain me forever. People on Facebook don’t accept my friend requests. People on Facebook ignore me completely. They don’t want me around, and I live a lonely Kafkaesque existence. But medication keeps me going, and I’ve reached a deeper insight because of suffering and experience. No framework or blueprint robs me of who I am, and I have my personal identity and my freedom of choice. Sure, I’ve put on weight, I have what psychologists call periods of ‘low self-esteem,’ but I have a life ahead of me. I’m starting to make long-term goals and work towards them. I’m no longer posting trash. My writing has substantially improved. I see. Yes, I see clearer. Perhaps people think I don’t. They think I’m this clown who’s ‘wasted his life.’ So, I now say to them: ‘No, my friend, you’re wrong. My life is only starting. I’m writing, and I love it. I’m reading, and I love it. Soon I’ll be studying and then working, and I’ll love it.’

Finally, a word to all closeted sufferers of mental illness. Seek help before your prognosis becomes poor. Take your medication, but develop insight through experience, and don’t succumb to worshiping a false god called ‘Therapy.’ Sorrow is a part of life. There is no such thing as total optimism because finitude cannot achieve anything ‘total.’ And for those, with extreme conditions with psychosis and without any insight – my heart goes out to you. My heart aches as I write this, but we haven’t evolved enough yet. Maybe one day science will help us treat mental illness like a common cold.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

On Ayn Rand and Objectivism

This is an image of a man smoking a cigarette while it's snowing. I felt this image captures the essence of individuality and the freedom to make the choice to lead a productive life. The image is surreal and there's something magical about it. It speaks of achieving your dreams and then gaining happiness and contentment.

Say someone gives you a fertile plot of land, and you plant a seed, nourish what grows over the years, until at last, you see a flame of the forest with glittering leaves, dancing ebulliently in the sunlight, giving you the greatest delight.

Now, say, that fertile plot is your consciousness or raw potential, and the seed you plant is your reasoning that you nourish with the knowledge you gather from this world, thereby actualizing the potential. The flame of the forest is the product of your learning and long term goal-directed behavior, and the pleasure you get by watching it dance is the happiness you’re entitled to because of your effort.

Now, say, you don’t plant the seed, and you watch as your land becomes barren, then, you haven’t actualized your potential, or say, you don’t take care of the plant while it grows and it withers, then you’ve only semi-actualized your potential.

Now, what I’ve done is given you an analogy to illustrate the basic premise of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism. There is so much more she detailed in her essays, but this is a crash course, kind of like Objectivism for Dummies, though I detest those books!

Moving on, say you’ve bought two cars – one big and one small – and someone takes the smaller one, without your consent and gives it to a man who doesn’t have the money to buy a car. Now, this is the principle most governments use when it comes to their economic policies, and it finds its birth in altruism, which is a self-sacrificial model of ethics. You live for the benefit of others. You give even if the person who takes is undeserving. The government forces you to sacrifice what you’ve earned using taxation or a Robin Hood type of system, where it steals from the rich and gives to the poor.

Dictators use this system for propaganda, and the full sum doesn’t even reach the poor because of corruption. Socialists and communists use this system to make everyone proletarian.

So what then, is the solution? What’s the ideal system of government? According to Rand, it’s Laissez-faire capitalism or a free society, where the government is a slave to the people and not the inverse. Laissez-faire capitalism is for individual rights and is against collectivism. It refutes the very notion of group identity.

Moving on, say, an industrialist and an artist decided to do business together. The artist will provide the industrialist with a portrait, and the industrialist will pay him based on the quality of his work. And neither of them pay any tax to the government. It’s just a free market between buyer and seller depending on effort and the quality of work produced. Laissez-fare capitalism advocates just this type of market.

The people confine the government to three rooms in a house in laissez-faire capitalism. The first is to provide policing so that individuals don’t harm each other and are free to go about achieving their dreams through work and effort. The second is to provide military support to prevent invasions from other countries. The third is to settle disputes that occur in the free market when a party or two parties cheat each other. For example, if the industrialist refuses to pay the artist an agreed upon sum even though his work is of good quality, or if the artist creates rubbish, but demands payment, then it’s the government duty to intervene.

Moving on, a good question we can ask ourselves is how the government is financed if there are no taxes. According to Rand, individuals contribute voluntarily and thereby help the government function in true laissez-faire capitalism. In all this, you can see a through and through emphasis on individuality which Rand calls ‘selfishness.’ Her definition of selfishness is radically different from that of conventional society, which deems it as inflicting distress on another individual to achieve one’s needs. She says that one can achieve their desires without adversely affecting another person, and there is nothing wrong with this form of ‘selfishness.’ It’s the pursuit of happiness, according to her because it’s done using what she calls ‘an objective moral code.’ So morality does play a big part in achieving one’s selfish desires, and Objectivism is not about doing as one pleases because man is free.

Moving on, according to Rand, the ‘objective moral code,’ or the ‘Objectivist ethics,’ as she calls it consists of a trinity of values and a trinity of virtues. A person uses virtues of rationality, productiveness, and pride to attain reason, purpose, and self-esteem. Notice that this concept has an existential flavor to it though it’s very pragmatic. Values once attained have to be kept by a constant effort throughout life.

Rationality according to Rand is a full commitment to reason. It demands a total commitment to reality and never going against one’s reasoning. Productiveness means focusing one’s mind thoroughly towards a line of work one has chosen, and the character one builds is their pride.

There’s much more I want to say about Rand’s philosophy, and I also want to critique aspects of it because even though it resurrected me from a tomb of self-pity and despair, it also unnerved me because I found self-contradictory mini-philosophies, homophobia, and racism within Objectivism. I also found certain aspects of the philosophy to be extreme.

But all that is for another day. I’d like to end this by saying that I wish laissez-faire capitalism is implemented in India someday though poverty afflicts us, and casteism destroys us, and the aristocracy and the upper-middle class live lives that differ so radically from that of the working-class. I’m for individualism, and I think that collectivism is crushing us and moving us towards religious fanaticism, jingoism, and false pride. We’re voting in demagogues who use bigoted rhetoric and instill mob mentality even in intellectuals. We’re doing this because we see ourselves as a group with a false moral code, rather than individuals with a true one. We’re going through a political upheaval and collectivism and altruism are to blame. Altruism because our leaders are discriminating against minorities and supporting the majority and justifying what they do by making it look like something sacrificial and religiously sound. Cow politics, censorship, media control, and propaganda are at play, and it’s clear that democracy is failing. The only cure is laissez-faire capitalism, where a government’s influence is minimal because we’re not slaves of our government. It’s our slave.

Inspired by ‘The Virtue of Selfishness’ by Ayn Rand

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

 

Lamentation

This is an image of dark clouds hovering above a lonely tree. I chose it because it's bleak and augments my post which is about the rough political climate in the world today.

There is a group of thinking and well-functional individuals who believe that education will solve all the world’s problems. But what they fail to realize is human nature is innately violent and capricious. Give a man the tools to create something beautiful, and he’ll fashion a weapon. We behaved this way when we were tribes and nomads; conquering the weak and destroying the fallen, and we’ll continue this way tomorrow when Elon Musk’s visions meet actuality.

War is inevitable. Crime comes from a fundamental thirst to crush. Suffering will prolong as long as the human race walks the earth. We’ll never see utopia even if some celestial hand gives us infinite means to achieve it because our reflections in the mirror only show us the façade. Beneath it lurks a untameable beast, a Christ-less abomination of hate, lust, greed and a need for control.

Just flip through the pages of history, and you’ll get what I’m saying. Every form of government – whether it’s a monarchy, a theocracy, a democracy or a communist or fascist state – has failed us. Intelligent, well-spoken people have suddenly turned into jingoistic monsters of national pride or religious fanaticism and have brought people like Hitler into power.

We’re finite, and we need something to hold. And because God eludes us, we turn to something either materialistic or quasi-spiritual; idolizing people in power, or a governing set of principles that are detrimental to other people. We work ourselves into a great frenzy. We embrace delusion like a lover. We look beyond ourselves, but we end up welcoming pandemonium. Collective hate grips us, and feverish, we herald the most repugnant revolutions. The finitude of man without a link to a good, infinite God will always be the cause for his destruction. And I mean both ‘man’ in an individual and a communal sense. When the worship of small objects ceases to satisfy, we turn to larger ones, and we change from individuals worshiping to a nation worshiping the wrong policies with unmatched vigor.

As we move towards a new age in technology and learning, we fail to see that all these leaps in knowledge are a far cry from an atom of wisdom. What’s the point in education or reading Marx, Dostoevsky, and Eliot if a twisted mental framework governs us; reducing us to mere impulsive, emotional creatures. Now, I’m not invalidating emotion. I think the capacity to feel is one of God’s greatest gifts, but some recklessness destroys even our feelings; turning them into vulgar things.

Sadly, with the rise of the right-wing in many countries, and jingoism and media policing, we’re watching democracy – which many think is good government – crumble and Fascism grow. Perhaps democracy never existed, and we only believed it did. The freedom to participate in the workings of a nation, the freedom to engage with leaders we elect, and the freedom to collectively unite gave us a sense of purpose, but now that very purpose has turned into something repulsive. We now want the freedom to eradicate people who don’t conform to a belief system. We now want the freedom to confine ourselves under dictatorial regimes that bring us national pride, which is so absurd and ludicrous. We now want the freedom to unite under a banner of wrath deeming it ‘justice.’ And the ones who speak out are deemed ‘anti-national,’ or ‘sickular,’ or ‘presstitutes.’ What we’re creating is borderline thinking of ‘us’ against ‘them.’ We might as well say (and we already are) that you deserve to die if you don’t pay your homage by thoroughly subscribing to the government’s demands, even if it goes against fundamental human rights.

The people who support jingoism argue like lawyers; berating anyone who utters otherwise. I ask like George Carlin did if nationality is even a reason to be proud. Your nation doesn’t define you. Your individuality and what you do with it shapes you. I’m not talking about what you’ve achieved, but who you are. Yes, we’re innately evil, but there is some capacity for good. There has to be. A gathering of people standing for a cause doesn’t define us either. We’re people with understanding, emotion and a will. We choose who we become. I’ll end this by saying that this period in history calls for a personal nihilism. Not a communal despairing of terrible circumstances – though I’m not against that – but an individual, introspective despair and prayers even if you’re angry with God like I am, and lamentations and a forging of a personal identity despite the burdens of censorship, hate crimes, wickedness, and lawlessness.

Find yourself through it all. That’s the least you can do.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

September’s Twilight

This is an image of a pink thunderstorm. There is both a calmness and a coarseness to this image. I chose it because it embodies a love-hate relationship which I've written about.

I’ll never wait for you forever, notwithstanding purple
September’s twilight, when the moon skims over frigid, wintry
Air barely highlighting the flotsam, giving it a spectral
Impression nudging me to aim some thought in lost compartments
Of my despairing mind towards you. And though gloomy auras
Descend from frightening space – threatening like hollow spirits
With voices crippled and dead murmurs, trying to sequester
My peace, and slowly making their way down anfractuous stairwells,
Reminding me of love made and distress felt when we teetered
Between the darkness and soft light, embodying both love and
Strong hate in bonds unbreakable, but needing breaking, crushing
and severing.

Why did we hurt each other so immensely? Stab and stab more?
Why did we peel the scab of wounds that healed with mutant vigor?
Why did we yield to Lorelei’s kiss? Sink to bluish-green depths
With millstones round our necks? Why did we try so fiercely, firmly
And furiously at obeisance and not at invading,
Imbuing faint love?

Now irredeemable, we are dying
For a togetherness that’s like the sound of lost rocks buried
Beneath Autumnal wrath – love lost that isn’t supposed to live once
More; isn’t supposed to have breath or new flame; a Gordian Knot to
Remain forever enigmatic, to lie still beneath pink

September’s twilight.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

A right to peace

This is an image of a wooden walkway leading up to the ocean. I've chosen it because it symbolizes peace to me and that's what I'd like to have in my country which is moving towards Fascism

We’re brazen and defiant only outwardly
While every street bleeds crimson,
In a land so kitschy; so very showy
Where lynching and ejecting ‘them’ is our mission

Because this touches ‘us’ and ‘our’ plot,
‘Our’ nation founded on ‘pure Hindu values,’
We don’t discern that our integrity rots,
And Bollywood and all the glitz and news

Won’t make a difference if we hang from
Fascism’s unbending noose and vote
For monsters rather than people; men who’ve killed
And turned the roads to mounds of flesh while drums
From the abyss destroy with brutal beats and notes.
 

Do we cower while power reigns with blood spilled?

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

For What Pegman Saw 

Brevity

This is an image of a train approaching; making its way through the mist. I've chosen it because it represents the brevity of all things, and the struggle that is life to me.

“This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.”

― T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men

I pass a graveyard on my way to work each morning,
a desolate place filled with scraps of putrid litter,
devoid of any being but a mangy mongrel
with chipped-off statued cherubs and unclean engravings.
The place is an anathema, infected with jinn,
a place where bones still rattle in decaying coffins.
I think of souls that never leave to paradise; damned
to haunt and own us; souls forever wandering; lost
with no respite each time I see the place, but then a
dissimilar thought takes control and I think – looking
at starless skies – if we indeed have souls or if it’s fable
concocted by robed priests to keep the masses senseless,
I wonder if the past and future have no meaning,
if an opaque void circumscribes existence, birth, death,
if only brevity is the hand we fiercely claw at,
if time meets no continuance, and even the present
is just a ball suspended in vitality that
fades, lessens till millennia and cycles are lost
forever, and all you and I have known disperses,
and worlds end with soft whimpers and never thunderous bangs.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)

The tears will never flow again

This is an image of a bleak landscape. I chose it because it augments the tone of despondency in my poem which talks about failure and loss.

A Daughter song plays, making you nostalgic; teary-eyed
While you’re in your unhealthy room; the air so rancid and stale
Your friends have Masters; steady jobs with salaries and perks
They’ve cut through brambles of problems using scythes of constancy
You’ve wallowed in your doldrums; nailed to ashen, windswept walls
The whispers in your head are now echoes: grating, jarring, upsetting,
‘You’re a train wreck! An anathema so noxious! Fuck!’
Your little world that’s so deluded is crumbling and you don’t
Like watching as your placid waters roar and your skies turn red,
As your tranquil wood nymphs look with bestial stares and hate,
As trumpets blare and chariots of rage maraud the land,
As tigers of reality eat sheep of daft naïvety.
Your friends have found the lushest meadows after test and plague,
But darkness swallows you fully; tears at flesh and bone; sucks blood.
You’ll watch as dreams of you becoming an artist with books and poems
Also meets dust, and reduced to ashes you’ll try weeping,
But the tears won’t flow; the tears, they’ll never flow again

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2019)