Acknowledging The Survivor: Exclusion, Trivialisation and Denial — By Grainne Humphrys


Grainne Humphrys is first and foremost a Mother of two new light beings called Hazel (age 7) and Joshua (age 3). She is a survivor of distress as a transformational crisis and process of renewal, living through her transformation without medication or incarceration but with lots of shiatsu and loving support from her family and community. Grainne promotes alternative routes through distress, crisis and overwhelm.

Grainne enjoys writing and all forms of creativity. She has completed her first year of training in Family Systems Therapy in the tradition of Bert Hellinger. She is learning to translate into the language of the soul and work in service to the soul in the energy field. Family constellations work has reawakened her passion for all things Heart and Soul. It has also reminded her of the mystery, depth and wisdom of Life and the natural laws of the universe.

Grainne is radically opposed to bio-psychiatry and the drugging, labelling and incarcerating of people experiencing distress, crisis and overwhelm. She believes crisis is a messenger for personal transformation. She is deeply concerned and appalled by the drugging and labelling of children, our most precious gifts and teachers. She has been campaigning for the release of John Hunt for 4 years.

(see video of John here)

Grainne is a member of RENEW and MindFreedom Ireland.

Exclusion, Trivialisation and Denial; Society’s refusal to Acknowledge, Honour and Integrate the trauma and human rights violations experienced by the psychiatric survivor.

By Grainne Humphrys.

In looking at exclusion I would like to use the systemic lens. That which is excluded creates imbalance and so, I believe, as a society we become imbalanced at a collective level when we refuse to acknowledge difficult and painful truths within our society. Nowhere is this felt more keenly than by the psychiatric survivor. As a so-called ‘civilised’ society we collude in our collective trivialisation of both the violation of human rights of this marginalised minority group and the trauma, pain and silencing of this group. This I believe is our last great civil rights movement.

The ‘treatment’ of distressed individuals with labelling and drugging is simply not acknowledged publicly by society at large, and if it is, it is trivialised and skimmed over. It is given lip-service but it is, by no means, acknowledged at a profound level. In order for survivors to deeply heal they need deep acknowledgement. This has not yet occurred publicly by the mental health professionals (bar a few) or the general public (look, for example, at the recent acknowledgement of abuse survivors in the Ryan Report, and the watershed and paradigm shift that created. This was painful but healing).

The book ‘Crimes Against Our Humanity’ by Lars Martensen should be compulsory reading for all people going into the psychiatric profession as doctors and nurses – though reading it may raise many questions around whether they want to continue working in that system. What is happening on a daily basis in many hospitals all over Ireland is barbaric and a crime against our humanity and it is simply not acknowledged. Why is this? Why does it feel so threatening for people to acknowledge this truth? By not acknowledging it, we are adding fuel to an unimaginable well of pain and a raging fire of frustration and anger. Perhaps we are experiencing collective guilt at witnessing and knowing about such violations (however much we push this knowledge to the back of our minds, it taps into our own fear about survival). Through our turning a blind eye though, we render the psychiatric survivor invisible. Perhaps it just doesn’t feel safe to acknowledge their experience.

I would like to coin a new phrase; ‘lip-service-providers’. We are all lip-service-providers to the psychiatric survivor. I believe if the deep pain of survivors is truly acknowledged the house of cards will fall, the domino effect will be set in motion. It is not a pain many of us can identify with (though it does tap into our own pain of being human). Neither should it become a pain competition. The pain of the psychiatric survivor is, however, a very particular kind of pain; it is the pain of being silenced over and over again. It is the pain of being erased, tortured, silenced and rendered powerless. It is unimaginable for most of us, a violation of our basic human rights we take for granted. It is just not within our realm of experience and this too has to be acknowledged. In attempting to compare our pain we deny theirs and add fuel to a justified anger, we simply cannot compare or understand or fathom it, because it is not within our range of experience. It is another subtle way of denying their experience.

We want the psychiatric survivor’s raw pain to be packaged into a more easily digestible form, a socially acceptable and ‘appropriate’ way. It follows that we don’t allow the sheer depth and range of their experience. It is not because the survivor doesn’t have a voice, they do, but they are just not allowed to really use it in whatever way they so choose or wish to, or we will reject it. In effect, we cannot hold or contain their pain as a society or as a group. We collectively repress their experience due to our difficulty in facing and acknowledging this truth about our capacity for man’s inhumanity to man. We re-package their experience and present it in a ‘safe’ and ‘politically correct’ form, brushing over it and side-stepping past it. We are repelled by their anger, it upsets our civilised sensibilities. It infringes on our safe bubbles of imagined democracy that we have created.

At a deeper level it is our failure to acknowledge the original trauma before people experiencing distress and overwhelm enter the psychiatric services that hurts vulnerable people the most though. We hurt them three times; by ignoring the original trauma and then by labelling and drugging (in effect, denying) the trauma. We then hurt them again by not allowing them to express their anger at this violation of both their human rights and their right to their trauma. We label the layers and I believe it is that is what we feel most guilt around because we collude with psychiatry. We all know collectively deep down and subconsciously that there is no such thing as ‘chemical imbalance’ but trauma is taboo in our culture. This really taps into our victim/ perpetrator energy, our inherent fragility as humans, our fear of the unknown, our primal instincts. Our hiding behind a veneer of ‘respectability’ separates us from those experiencing crisis and overwhelm. We don’t want to look trauma in the eye. But acknowledging this trauma truth holds enormous power and depth of healing if we can do it. We do an enormous disservice to the psychiatric survivor in not revering and honouring their experience.

We need to search deep inside ourselves and our hearts as to why we feel so threatened by the psychiatric survivor’s pain. This is not an easy emotional task, it requires deep and difficult work. Survivor’s anger can be as much about not having their pain and experience acknowledged by us, as about the abuse of their human rights within the psychiatric system. This, to my mind, is the crux of why change and deep healing cannot occur because;
(1) We cannot fathom their pain
(2) We feel threatened in some way by this pain
(3) We deny it and put it into shadow

The facts are there, the recovery stories are there but we barely give the facts lip-service. We need to wake up to these facts. We get distracted by frameworks and models and politics and language and all the trappings of our minds. We have one set of rules for us and another for the psychiatric survivor. We skirt around the issues that really count (like acknowledging feelings). I believe this is because we are afraid of that depth of emotion. Indeed as a culture we trivialise our emotions and are afraid of them. We are governed by logic and rationale which moves us away from our hearts and the language of our souls.

Psychiatric survivors are not acknowledged. In fact, my feeling is that they are put into collective shadow and their pain is trivialised and even patronised. In order for us all to integrate as a society, we need to open our hearts and create a space for all those who have been excluded, put aside our own pain, to acknowledge their pain (that we cannot even begin to imagine because, quite simply, our human rights have never been violated to such an extent. This is a fact we need to acknowledge. This is our work, not the survivor’s). I believe our difficulty in acknowledging the survivor stems from our fear of acknowledging our collective perpetrator energy. The survivor is a precious reminder of our ability to deny our perpetrator and how blocking this aspect off, we prevent integration and deep healing. The survivor has much to teach us, their lessons are gifts, but like all difficult lessons, many of us turn away and resist the challenge for true growth.

Labelling, forced drugging, coercion, incarceration is a barbaric violation of what we hold most dear, our human rights, our right to be human. The fact that it is then called ‘care’ is a denial of what it really is. I stand in awe of people who survive this system. The way it is then glossed over and trivialised by people further adds to that denial. This actually fuels and reinforces anger (is it any wonder?) It excludes the survivor and their experience. It is a culture of covert abuse.

We should not pretend that we can understand or fathom this pain, be it lost years, chemical damage or unimaginable trauma, just as we cannot understand what it is to be in a concentration camp or to be a victim of war. We need to allow survivors their pain, we need to acknowledge it and bow down to honour it. This movement (of the soul) towards acknowledging a difficult and painful truth will ultimately heal us at a societal level and allow psychiatric survivors the journey home to their rightful place within society.

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