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)

I won’t give up on us, and I hope love doesn’t

I did create him after reading my pain and distrust
But all he did was spew fanaticism and used the rod
In wicked ways that torture weary minds and kill the soul.

But he was processed by red Calvinism and icy heart
His Cherry Blossom euphemism for biting words so harsh!
That spiteful torn design masked using a soft, milder hue.

Then studying him, I read words absent; and battered phrase
Those paradoxes and aporia that I couldn’t solve
And that calamitous voice frightened me and shook my core.

He held the gun and pointed; tricked me into mangy grunge
Lamenting profligacy using its depravity
In search of all the truth that’s lost, he said but never wept.

But when he said the honest might be dead, I had enough
I walked with him, exhausted, but resolved in mind and will
I plucked that gun from him in some uncanny, painful way.

And after, lay on grass and waited for that petrichor
And when it rained, I wept, went home, removed that stinging blog
And went to her and smiled when she embraced me in those arms.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

On Chimeras and a constant need for validation in our postmodern age

You sometimes encounter people in life who want you to love them intimately. They’re literally obsessed with you and try forcing their perceptions of intimacy on you. They’re not exactly stalkers but aren’t a far cry from that breed. Now, I understand unrequited love and the need for someone to reciprocate your feelings, but if you truly love someone, you’ll let them go. You’ll never force your delusions on them because no two people think alike.

Yes, there may be a collective consciousness, but I don’t believe in the concept of soul mates or two people sharing one soul. A collective consciousness is something more genetic and has to do with traits acquired and personality, but ultimately you are your being.

People fail to recognize this aspect of liberating individuality and seem to constantly seek the approval of the ‘other’. They have ideas of the other which are often so different from who the other really is. They have dreams and misconceptions that often lead to such acts of foolishness. We live in a cyber, postmodern reality where a few messages sent, or a few Tinder dates make ‘together forever.’

Love requires commitment. Love isn’t judgment. Love isn’t falling for fancies. Love has a deep emotional aspect to it but that’s something that one acquires after years of actual togetherness and it’s not the puppy emotional, fake, cyber simulacrum.

I have found strange people entering and exiting my life. They come in like hurricanes of trust and promises and exit like whirlwinds of bitterness all because they expected something that I didn’t want to give them. I can offer friendship, loyalty, and trust if people give me the same, but I cannot offer love that satiates your chimeras. People don’t understand that I’m not hardwired to love them like their mind tells them. Your mind tells you many things and you feel myriad things but most of what you’re going through is self-indulgence. Pure selfish, hedonistic anti-altruism and when I don’t give you what you seek, your bitterness erupts like a pustule and those warm eyes turn into icy glares meant to pierce or wound.

People go to insane heights when their delusion meets the hard ground. You’ll find them unfriending people on Social Media, engaging in gossip and projecting their anger and insecurities onto the person they perceive insulted them. They dig into their pasts and scrape old wounds until they’re bleeding again and play the blame game. The person of adoration becomes an object that needs destruction.

Sometimes the madness descends to utter incoherence. ‘How could you have done that?’ You’ll find them screaming when you did nothing wrong. I don’t love you and neither did you. You worshipped me, and I’m not flattered. I need you to move on. So, please get over it. That’s the only response you can give people like that and if you don’t want a direct confrontation, just cut ties. Trust me, any vicious cycle, even if a person has faced similar circumstances in their life but deludes themselves into thinking that creates a special unity, needs a severing.

What is with this age and the need for constant reinforcement? I guess social media has played a destructive role in fueling our narcissistic egos. It’s all about the likes, comments, and shares and it doesn’t matter if you’re happy or depressed. If you’re happy, you’ll resort to posting picture perfect selfies and gloat as the likes and comments flow. And then there’s the sorrowed narcissist. The person who uses depression, prior abuse, and the ostracism or bullying they’ve faced to get the same likes. This person doesn’t usually use Facebook but uses blogging platforms to achieve the same goal – an ephemeral reinforcement.

I think we’ve forgotten how to have a good time. We don’t even read paperbacks anymore. We prefer shortening our attention spans by spending time reading blog after blog, hoping someone will find our blogs and like or comment. And a comment; something said by a stranger we know nothing about makes our day. And if it isn’t repeated the next day, we feel insecure and lost.

My friends, this is shallow living. But getting out of this needs suffering. You need to suffer pangs of loneliness to know solitude. You need to suffer failure to know that victory isn’t everything and this is a gradual change or an unraveling of sorts.

Having said this, I’m guilty of so many things I’ve pointed out and criticized, but I’m slowly realizing that this cyber existence isn’t worth it. Now I’m not advocating a Luddite puritanism but a balance or a middle road like the Buddha put it – neither giving in to too much or too little.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

The key to the subconscious mind

I think any contemplative reader will wonder if stream of consciousness writing is pure and unadulterated, or if there are gaps and minuscule writer’s blocks during the process, or if it really exists? My answer from personal experience is that it only partially exists. At the end of the day, you’re human and though I’ve reiterated this point so many times, I’ll say it again: You can strive for perfection, but you’re bound to fall short, and even if you end up becoming a visionary or revolutionary, you’ve still only come close to perfection. When Barcelona thrashed Madrid 5-0, a few years ago, José Mourinho called them, ‘the finished article,’ but he was wrong. Yes, back then, they played football which was an absolute treat for the viewer, and it was like a spiritual experience of sorts, but they still weren’t perfect. To call anything man-made or shaped by clay – if you prefer the use of the figurative – perfect is foolish. We’re in a state of continual cognitive and collective evolution as individuals and as a species, and even millennia from now, if we still exist, and have made conditions better, the world will still be an almost utopia. So, coming back, what then is stream of consciousness writing? The answer is simple: It’s tapping into the subconscious and writing without inhibition to the best possible extent. Sometimes the writer can tap and mask what he finds with imagery, which takes effort and causes strain in a few cases, but the very fact that the writer taps makes them distinct and gives their word a unique pitch and tone. Now my theory is Lacanian only in the sense that the subconscious is structured like a language, because the writer is engaging in a simultaneous thought-write and not thinking first and then writing. So, how to you gain access to the subconscious mind? Now, this is a valid question because you’ll find writers who deploy this technique very different from the folk you meet every day. I’m talking from personal observation and introspection. As a matter of fact, you’ll find many gifted writers, possessing idiosyncrasies and oddities and being distinct from the pack. So, not everyone taps into the subconscious and whether we like to admit it or not, innate talent exists. And hence the question. Well, there are five ways, I can see this happening from observation and personal experience. The first is insanity. Insanity comes with a blessing and a curse, and people who are mentally ill exist in a different realm from people who are just like everyone else, or want to become everyone else, or someone else. The second, is prescription medication to treat insanity. It alters a person’s personality completely and gives them access to an otherwise restricted inner Area 51. How they use it depends on their insight. The third is mind altering substances – most of which governments ban, and hence, unless you’re willing to take the risk with the possibility of it going wrong, like Huxley did, your door of perception will sadly remain closed. You could try marijuana though, and it’s legal in many places. The fourth is an intense religious experience which usually culminates in a vision or a set of visions. These experiences are extremely emotional and involve terror, peace, joy, sorrow, repentance, awe or love in intense forms, and eventually the person may get a vision, but regardless of if they do or not, they’ll have a better perception, and a deeper insight into the world and metaphysical questions. The last is a dangerous road. It’s occultism, and here’s the biggest problem it poses – now you want access to your subconscious for liberation and loss of inhibition when you write but seeking the dark will only give you a façade of it, because you’re basically a puppet in the hands of some supernatural horror, and all your writing will have that strain running through it. You won’t be able to achieve self-transcendence or be able to write about a hundred different things. You’ll have some esoteric knowledge, but you’ll never be eclectic. And so, I’ll end with this – What about me? Well, I am Bipolar, I am on prescription for it, I have tried mind altering substances and I have had intense religious experiences with every emotion I’ve mentioned, culminating in a terrifying vision, and yes, they all shaped my writing. The occult part I don’t want. I’d rather pop a downer! And I don’t know why they even call it that. I guess it depends on the music you’re listening to once you’re ‘in the zone’. If it’s Alice in Chains, well, it’s Hell inside and Heaven outside alright, but if it’s jazz, you’ll have a maelström of ideas flooding your mind, and you’ll find yourself in this hypnotic, hypomanic, pro-improvisation state, and it’s fucking amazing!

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Protected by Copyscape

The Practice

He came wearing a Gucci designer suit,
said, “I’ve achieved so much, earned status,
and still feel empty,” he wept, asked me
what he should do, and I wept with him,
comforted his frayed nerves, walked into
the all-encompassing dark,
holding him, whispering softly, while he shook,
now some of you may ask, “Why treat him
differently? Why slap the child, and take an
authoritarian stance with her, while you
arm wrestle with this man’s guilt?” and to
them, I say this: “There is a hierarchy—
whether you acknowledge it or not—
and drive and success
determine a man’s position,
which is something
a ten-year old cannot understand; approach
a worn yet successful face with a mask of empathy,
and a rosy-cheeked naïve one with a toothbrush
moustache and a red Hakenkreuz armband. It’s
really the only truth, the only path a true
psychologist should take.” Now, there was
this particular dilemma that made our team
wonder where we should place ourselves
in that spectrum of emotion. A French
millionaire who was in a relationship with
a widow started sexually molesting her twelve
year old son, few of you might burn with
indignation at the very thought of this,
but think deeper, the widow needed
financial support, so calling the police was
out of the question, which left us with two
ways of achieving a Pyrrhic victory: placing
the child in a remand home, or somehow
talking the man out of it. The practice is
complicated, but remove that one-dimensional,
fantastical, looking for a happy ending approach
and explore, analyze the variables, giving
each one its due consideration. Remember, there
is nothing distasteful here, it’s a business
and you get paid.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Protected by Copyscape

Suicidal Tendencies

Like we all don’t get them. Some people get a slight taste of them even if they believe in zen or meditation or yoga; others a moderate dose like three shots of tequila, and a few an overdose like too much cocaine snorted until a nose bleed. Now, I’m not a ‘life-coach’ or a three-piece suit wearing, Joel Osteen smile wearing, ‘This is your best life!’ Man, or a quasi-mystical, pseudo-aphorism on aphrodisiac spewing fame whore: ‘Karma will slap you in the face,’ or ‘Truth is relative’. Sure, sure. Go on. Don’t expect me to listen. But do you want a real aphorism? Then here’s one that’ll shake your very core: ‘To continue the same man as you have been up to now, to be torn apart and defiled in this life you live, is just senseless self-preservation like that of half-eaten gladiators who, mauled all over and covered in blood by the wild beasts, still plead to be kept alive for the next day, when in their same state they will never meet again those same claws and teeth. Launch yourself then, on these few claims. If you stay within them, stay there like a man translated to some paradise, the Islands of the Blest. But if you feel yourself falling away and losing control, retire in good heart to some corner where you will regain control – or else make a complete exit from life, not in anger, but simply, freely, with integrity, making this leaving of it at least one achievement in your life.’ – Marcus Aurelius (Meditations, Page 97). And the claims he’s talking about are being good, decent, truthful, cooperative and independent. Now I don’t believe that any person achieves perfection when it comes to these qualities, but you can try. But this post isn’t about those epithets. It’s about our dark tendencies like gargoyles with fangs that threaten to suck us dry, until we decide that the time has come. Now a lot of people do it out sorrow. Man, what is with this world and emotionalism! Feel, feel and feel some more! That seems to drive art, romance and even trivial aspects of life. Yeah I feel, but I know how to not feel at all. It’s simple really. My feelings are my judgments of things outside and inside. And if I didn’t judge, but just left them as abstractions that I observe, I don’t feel. And if I’m in extreme circumstances, I breathe or alter the emotion completely: Sorrow to love, fear to excitement and anger to endurance. Use a psychological or a pop-psychological term, but the truth is everything external stays external. And what about that old Kryptonite? That green spear that once crippled? Yes I’m talking about the old man upstairs: Indifference, regardless of belief or unbelief is the key. Moving on, well the real aphorism says that suicide might just be an achievement. I don’t agree, not because I’ve watched 13 reasons why, or because a counselor said so. No I like the challenge life presents. Hell, what’s the fucking worst that can happen? Which is pretty much why I like Gohan in the Dragon Ball series, which should have ended with the Cell saga, once his transformation from a whiny, wimpy kid to a guy who manages to humble the vainglorious Vegeta finishes. He’s unstoppable, and unleashes in an unfathomable way, after years of being bashed up, scuttling around and hiding and crying. That’s transcendence. Now, I’m not asking you to go around wearing a cape and acting all quixotic, but I’m telling you to endure with grace, and stay neutral when it comes to making unnecessary judgments. But hell, like I said, I’m not a life coach. It’s your life and you’re responsible, and the stoic did say end it without anger or impulse if you’re losing control, but I’ll be kind this once and say don’t. Fucking live. It’s worth it.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Protected by Copyscape

Strength in the nonchalant now

As I return home, from the library, the aura of knowledge replaced by the scent of nothingness, enveloping, engulfing and emancipating me from the unnecessary, unwarranted sorrow we fashion our lips to taste, I see a group of hooligans trying to hurt a man; maybe they want to scare him and instill in him a sense of, “Push us, and we’ll destroy you,” or perhaps his fate’s already sealed, and I wonder, ponder about the man’s anguish as they approach. He’s smoking a cigarette and smiling, but his hands shake. Does he think his feigned arrogance will save him from blows and kicks? Will his fear turn into a desperate need for mercy? I know he’ll do his best to endure, and then when it’s over, exclaim, “This too has passed!” Some of you might ask, “Why didn’t you do something?” Well, this happens regularly, and I’ve seen men shutting down coffee shops with vengeance as the police looked on. And one man cannot fight a system of depravity, corruption and injustice. But maybe I over imagined the scenario. I think they’ll leave him alone after a few slaps, unless he’s foolish enough to goad them. And that’s where freedom from neurosis, paranoia and delusion lies. All you need to do is predict. If a+b=c, and a is your irritability at a vicious circumstance biting you like a rabid dog, and b is the cause of the circumstance, then you adding both will only cause needless strife or c. And so, you change the equation completely: Sublimate your anger, avoid the root of the circumstance, find another cause, or something else to uphold, and soon you’ll also exclaim, “This too has passed!” And that’s life, and if you want to use a psychological term for it, go ahead. I walk on, and see the football field where I played when I was 22. Nobody plays there anymore, and I wonder why. A part of me just wants to wander into it, but nostalgia has no use, just like make-believe tomorrows or an imagined eternity. The only reality is that you’re an inconspicuous individual touching now, and you’re handed the arsenal of today, to destroy or create. I’ll admit there was a point when in anger, I destroyed, using art that’s only meant to create, but liberated from the chaos of yesterday, by the lucidity of the senselessness of anger, I burned and deleted artistic vengeance, and found hope. And it isn’t God, or a person, or beauty that pushes me forward. No, it’s just the now and the time I have. I walk on and nearing my apartment, I see a house in strife: Husband and wife, fighting, both playing the blame game, and I wish they would realize that life isn’t worth petty squabbles and arguments. It just is. And when you’re cornered, ask yourself, “What’s the worst a foe can do?” And sure, they can push you, break you, crush you, but once you know what triggers you or them, and walk away, they’ll hallucinate while you sleep soundly. And your will is yours, never subject to bondage, unless you let it, and once you reach that stage, you’ll welcome Death himself and dine with him, and kneel while he wields his sickle. I finally reach home, smoke a cigarette, pen down something, and sleep.

© Nitin Lalit Murali (2018)

Protected by Copyscape