Dr. Peter Breggin’s Mission Statement
October 14, 2014
Something dreadful has taken over our society and our individual lives, even inflicting its noxious influence upon our children, snuffing out their human potential before it even gets started. My life’s work has involved both looking into the face of this evil and affirming the genuinely life-enhancing ways in which we can overcome our emotional blocks and liberate ourselves and our children and families to live productive, happy lives.
Psychiatric thinking and practice, fueled by drug company money, has undermined our traditional understanding of life—that each of us is capable of pursuing life, liberty and happiness. We no longer believe that every human being has the inherent capacity to develop self-understanding and to take charge of our emotions. We no longer believe that with effort we can overcome painful feelings and learn to live by positive emotions and values. In some ways worst of all, we have lost faith in ourselves as parents, caregivers, therapists and teachers and no longer believe that they can help any child without drugs and with responsible adult interventions based on wisdom and love.
Instead, we have surrendered our uplifting faith in ourselves for a degrading faith in biological and genetic explanations, and psychiatric interventions. We have endorsed and accepted the belief that our personal suffering is determined by genetics and biochemical imbalances, when this is not true. We have lost confidence in ourselves as the directors of our own lives. We have given up responsibility for raising and teaching our children, instead casting them off to the pharmaceutical industry and drug prescribers at the earliest sign of difficulty or conflict with them.
Organized psychiatry has always held these dismal beliefs about human nature and how to fix it by assaulting the brain. As a result, over the past hundreds of years psychiatry has given us an array of poisonous drugs, shock treatments, and lobotomy. In the past, these assaults were largely confined to hapless victims of state mental hospitals and their outpatient clinics in North American and Europe, where untold millions of lives were devastated and destroyed. Only since the 1960s has psychiatry gone into partnership with the pharmaceutical industry and reached out to impose itself on the whole of society. Together they have created what I first described in Toxic Psychiatry as the psychopharmaceutical complex. Led by the pharmaceutical industry, the psychopharmaceutical complex includes their collaborating psychiatric and medical societies, medical schools and universities, government agencies like NIMH and NIH, health systems in the VA and the military, state mental health agencies and foster care, public schools that push drugs, AstroTurf lobbying organizations like NAMI and CHAD, and insurance companies that mistakenly believe that psychiatric drugs are relatively cheap and efficient. As I document in Toxic Psychiatry and later books and scientifically articles, hardly any of this existed until psychiatry created its self-described partnership with the drug companies in the 1960s and 1970s, and them ramped it up with promotion of so-called blockbuster drugs exemplified by Prozac.
The pharmaceutical industry and the psychopharmaceutical complex have used their combined authority, power and wealth to overturn the moral climate of America itself for the sake of power and profits. They have imposed upon Western society a faith in fake biological explanations, concocted diagnoses, and toxic drugs that do infinitely more harm than good. Even more millions of lives are being damaged and destroyed by years of exposure to shock treatment and drugs. In the process, they have compromised and corrupted the most fundamental human ideals of personal responsibility, personal growth, and principled living. They have ignored and rejected the truth that personal emotional suffering almost always grows out of trauma and loss related to our social relationships and ultimately to our capacity to love and be loved.
The contest is not between biological psychiatry and psychotherapy, it is between biological psychiatry and all the wisdom that life can offer us. On the dark side, we have this demoralizing and physically destructive idea that there are medical experts who can tinker with our brains and “make us better.” On the positive side, we have the uplifting belief that our inner resources can utilize self-understanding, wisdom, education, art, nature, spirituality and God to provide us what we need to triumph over our mental confusion and emotional turmoil.
Yes, therapy can be helpful—I have been working as a therapist ever since I began volunteering in a state mental hospital at the age of eighteen and directed the Harvard-Radcliffe Mental Hospital Volunteer Program. As of 2014, my experience reached 60 years, often helping the most lost and shattered souls. But therapy is only one of many avenues to self-transformation and does not provide the ultimate answer. Life requires that each of us begin by taking responsibility to live by higher principles that bring out the best in ourselves and every other person whom we touch. Life requires living by reason, higher principles and love.
I have tried to sum up what I have learned about life in three statements. The first comes from the closing words of my forthcoming book (December 2014), Guilt, Shame and Anxiety: Understanding and Overcoming Negative Emotions:
The science in this book and the wisdom of the ages come together with a shared understanding that human beings must daily choose between their two natures: willfulness and aggression on the one hand, reason and love on the other. Simply, we must learn to live by our better nature. We can only do that if we triumph over and transcend our negative legacy emotions of guilt, shame, and anxiety, as well as chronic anger and numbing.
This book, at heart, is an invitation to love—to love not only people but also life, our highest values and purposes, and our spirituality, with an appreciation of something or Someone greater than ourselves. By becoming a source of love, we bring out the best in ourselves and in every person we touch.
The second and simplest set of principles is from my book, Wow, I’m an American! How to Live Like Our Nation’s Heroic Founders:
The Primary Principles
Take responsibility at all times.
Express gratitude for every gift and opportunity.
Become a source of love.
The final principles that reflect my credo are called Guidelines for Empathic Therapy. I wrote these guidelines with the help and endorsement of Advisory Council members of our nonprofit (501c3) Center for the Study of Empathic Therapy. They can enhance all our relationships, both personal and professional. They bring together the two intertwined ideas of how to help other people and how to live a good life:
Guidelines for Empathic Therapy
(1) We treasure those who seek our help and we view therapy as a sacred and inviolable trust. With humility and gratitude, we honor the privilege of being therapists.
(2) We rely upon relationships built on trust, honesty, caring, genuine engagement and mutual respect.
(3) We bring out the best in ourselves in order to bring out the best in others.
(4) We create a safe space for self-exploration and honest communication by holding ourselves to the highest ethical standards, including honesty, informed consent, confidentiality, professional boundaries, and respect for personal freedom, autonomy and individuality.
(5) We encourage overcoming psychological helplessness and taking responsibility for emotions, thoughts and actions—and ultimately for living a self-determined life.
(6) We offer empathic understanding and, when useful, we build on that understanding to offer new perspectives and guidance for the further fulfillment of personal goals and freely chosen values.
(7) When useful, we help to identify self-defeating patterns learned in childhood and adulthood in order to promote the development of more effective choice-making and conduct.
(8) We do not treat people against their will or in any way use coercion, threats, manipulation or authoritarianism.
(9) We do not reduce others to diagnostic categories or labels—a process that diminishes personal identity, over-simplifies life, instills dependency on authority, and impedes posttraumatic growth. Instead, we encourage people to understand and to embrace the depth, richness and complexity of their unique emotional and intellectual lives.
(10) We do not falsely attribute emotional suffering and personal difficulties to genetics and biochemistry. Instead, we focus on each person’s capacity to take responsibility and to determine the course of his or her own life.
(11) We recognize that a drug-free mind is best suited to personal growth and to facing critical life issues. Psychiatric drugs cloud the mind, impair judgment and insight, suppress emotions and spirituality, inhibit relationships and love, and reduce will power and autonomy. They are anti-therapeutic.
(12) We apply the Guidelines for Empathic Therapy to all therapeutic relationships, including persons who suffer from brain injuries or from the most profound emotional disturbances. Individuals who are mentally, emotionally and physically fragile are especially vulnerable to injury from psychiatric drugs and authoritarian therapies, and are in need of the best we have to offer as empathic therapists.
(13) Because children are among our most vulnerable and treasured citizens, we especially need to protect them from psychiatric diagnoses and drugs. We need to offer them the family life, education and moral and spiritual guidance that will help them to fulfill their potential as children and adults.
Life is not what official mental health authorities tell us. It is not about finding biological and genetic “disorders” that can be improved by psychiatric drugs or shock treatment. As I summarize in Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal (2013), there is no solid science behind the prescription of psychiatric drugs and they do far more harm than the drug companies will admit or that prescribers realize. Biopsychiatric theories and practices drive the accumulation of enormous authority, power and wealth; but they destroy lives in the process.
Life is about bringing out the best in ourselves so that we can bring out the best in others. This is best accomplished with a drug-free mind and drug-free approaches that help people triumph over their emotional suffering in order to live principled and love-filled lives.