Friday, December 23, 2011


In today's NY Times David Brooks points to the following essay as one of the best of 2011. Marcia Angell's two part series in the NYRB is titled THE EPIDEMIC OF MENTAL ILLNESS. Angell's review-essay is a serious critique of contemporary psychiatric practice that relies excessively on drugs to treat "mental illness." She cites evidence to indicate how a) the drugs themselves, including such well known items as Prozac, are scarcely more effective than placebos b) how psychiatrists are influenced-- in many cases basically bribed-- by major drug companies to prescribes their dubious products and c) how the psychiatric profession through the publication of the ever-expanding DSM (diagnostic manual) is continually manufacturing diagnoses of dubious value, with no scientific citation, but with a powerful influence on prescription and treatment practices. With a new DSM coming in 2013 with even more "illnesses", there's a sense that no after who you are, no matter how normal you might think you are, there's a diagnosis heading your way, complete with a handy drug to pay for.

This is a context for understanding the power of dream work as a natural alternative. Dreams are a natural human experience-- most people dream three or four times a night whether they now it or not. Dreams have long been used to explore the unconscious and for self-understanding. Dreamwork offers a natural approach, and relies on the self-healing properties of the psyche, to produce images that point to new ways of feeling that help people reframe their attitudes and change their lives. Rather than a magical pill offered as a cure-all, dreams offer a longer term process of self-understanding, a curriculum of the soul.

Angell's article points out that the situation in current psychiatric practice is the opposite of natural. Diagnoses are arrived at based on which drugs are used to treat patients, instead of the other way around. The expansion of diagnoses in the successive DSM volumes, is creating numerous "false positives". Perhaps a slower, more natural, more human and more humane process of working with dreams offers an alternative model that is free of the influence of major pharmaceutical corporations and the psychiatrists who according to Angell, appear to have very corrupting relationships with them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


You might also find the book Anatomy of an Epidemic a useful read, though the author clearly has an agenda and it is hard to tell what he has chosen not to include.

Separately, I am an enormous fan of your work. I ate up The Jew in the Lotus and now I am completely absorbed in Stalking Elijah. Just put a hold on Burnt Books at the library.