On Not Having Had The Experience

As part of the “Pioneer Dialogues” at South Florida State Hospital, psychiatrist Dr. Peter Stastny gave the following talk:

“Mental health professionals like me suffer from a serious condition: most of us have never experienced the kind of agony and trauma we have just heard about.”

“… Mental health professionals like me suffer from a serious condition: most of us have never experienced the kind of agony and trauma we have just heard about. This is indeed a serious liability—not having had the experience makes it more difficult to accept people who have, respect them for who they are, and see them as anything other than ‘chronic mental patients.’ Not having had the experience makes it easier to diagnose, restrain, medicate, dismiss, avoid and forget people like Dian, like Sally and like Peter who have had the experience.

But instead of wondering how we could make up for this liability, we spend a great deal of time securing our positions, barricading ourselves behind ‘therapeutic’ armaments and tools; we spend a lot of energy on avoiding any emotional involvement with our clientele and on developing bureaucratic structures designed to perpetuate our way of life and to keep them in their place—where patients belong.

What would happen if we started to ask ourselves why it is that we perpetuate this stance? What if we took the mandate of our psychoanalytic forefathers seriously and really dissected our ‘countertransference’? Would we be reduced to neurotic descendants of a fading Central European intelligentsia, to Jewish doctors who fear the sight of blood, to anxious do-gooders whose egos subsist on Samaritan acts? Or would we disappear, vanish behind the mirrors we wield, drown in the vortex of diagnostic confusion and therapeutic nihilism? …”

You can read more here.

On Not Having Had The Experience
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