Shamanic initiatory illness – it can happen to you

I have a bunch of half-baked ideas swirling around in my head after reading the following description of kundalini and shamanic initiatory illness at the Beyond Meds blog (also reprinted below). I’m nowhere near as knowledgeable about kundalini and altered states as most others who write on this topic. I haven’t experienced protracted drug withdrawal, which is how some people may experience kundalini, but I’ve undergone something like a shamanic initiatory illness  the experience of becoming “sick” in synch with someone else and then getting better once the other person shows signs of recovery.

I had a gut feeling all along that I would know that Chris was on the path to recovery when I got physically sick. My original thinking is that this sickness would be a stress reaction on my part that would emerge after the major stress with Chris was over. I had no idea what form this illness would take, and hoped it wouldn’t be something life threatening.  As it happens, for a period of about two years, and ending a year ago, I had inexplicable spells of vomiting. Since I rarely vomit, it was a concern to me that every three months I had violent (and I mean violent) spells that would last a couple of hours, or, in one case, about three days. The first time this happened was after I meditated on a full stomach not the smartest thing to do, I learned to my regret. More often than not, I couldn’t link the vomiting to anything specific I had done.

I wondered, during this period, if I was literally purging myself of sadness, guilt, trauma, and preparing myself for a new phase of life. Chris’s crisis situation reached a peak in early 2009 when he went into the psychiatric hospital for the third time. By November 2010, tired of the recurring vomiting and now swollen ankles, I  finally decided to see a doctor, who ran some blood tests. My liver enzyme levels were alarming. I read with horror what normal levels were supposed to look like compared to what mine were. I booked an appointment for another blood test and then to discuss the results with a specialist.

In the meantime, I meditated on my health problems, using decree and divine light as the mechanism of healing. I went for a Thai massage and imagined the masseuse bathed in golden light while she worked on different parts of my body. The swollen ankles disappeared right after the massage. By the time I saw the specialist, he reported that the test results were normal. I have not had a problem since.

One explanation for this cleansing process that I went through and for Chris largely overcoming his mental health problems might be that we both learned to see Chris’s so-called illness as in a more positive perspective. We embraced the “mental illness” and the physical illness, meaning we saw the good in it and a process we knew we had to go through. There was a reason for it, and we might as well learn something from it and maybe even enjoy it while it lasted. I started to see Chris as a shaman, a healer, who was put here in part to bring healing to those around him. I encouraged him to find out who he is by visiting other shamans and learning from them. So, in my own way, I, too, became a shaman. The process of becoming a shaman is democratic. Anyone who believes can join.

Kundalini is a neuro-psycho-spiritual developmental potential that traditionally resides latent at the base of the spine until it is activated. It can be activated on purpose by spiritual practice, or by accident through physical or psychological trauma. Once it is activated, it involves a deep cleanse or purge of the body, psyche, and spirit. Psycho-physiological traumas from throughout the lifespan are repaired. The grueling symptoms listed above are merely the side effects of this repair process.

The final result is a rewired neuro-endocrinological system. The person who goes through the process and comes out the other side takes a quantum leap in health, happiness, peace, wisdom, sense of mission, and, potentially, “extended human capacities,” or what we call psychic abilities. It’s like being born again into a second life without actually dying in between. And it’s supposed to result in a literally more evolved human being.

A shamanic initiatory illness is a transformative ordeal that either comes on unexpectedly with no known precipitating event or can be activated on purpose by spiritual practice. It shows up as an odd amalgam of mental and physical symptoms, as mentioned above; is typically very debilitating; and takes the individual to very odd and dark mental and physical places. Interestingly, the illness seems to create a field that affects family and friends around the sufferer, who sometimes go through their own tough times in parallel.

 Most initiations seem to be involuntary and un-asked-for, and, consequently, resisted. Eventually, the resistance in broken down, and the sufferer agrees to be a shaman. Symptoms can remit quite dramatically once the initiate starts to “shamanize” in some way, such as performing healings (using herbal knowledge, psychic healing, or a combination) or divination, involving knowledge and abilities s/he did not have before the illness. Shamans are considered to be more advanced in their development or more evolved than people who have not gone through the initiation.

Jayme at Rayne’s World, in a similar vein, relates how she overcomes dissociation, one of her many debilitating symptoms.You can read the full post here.

She writes: This method also worked with Dissociation. The diagnosis used to be called Multiple Personality Disorder. If I have other personalities inside of me, why not get to know them and embrace them and learn from them? They are there for a reason, and they are me! I could write a whole post on this subject alone (and maybe I will), but trying to fight off any aspect of myself, whether it is depression, anxiety, or multiple personalities, is only denying myself yet another human experience. I refuse to do that anymore. I have a right to experience being human because I am human!

So, what really happens when I embrace all these symptoms rather than fix (mask) them through psychiatric “treatments”? Hmmmm…. well, I very rarely have any of these symptoms anymore, and when I do, they don’t last nearly as long. To be honest, I can’t remember details of their recurrences anymore because they don’t stand out like they used to. They are no longer “bad” or “horrible” in my mind or my experience, so why make a note of them? It’s like having a rainy day. Who cares? It just happens. Anyway, my goal was never to make the symptoms go away. It just happened.

Probably the greatest benefit of using this method is the lack of fear and guilt I now have toward any of these symptoms creeping into my life.

The deal of the century

I don’t know if Thomas Szasz has children, but for what it’s worth, here’s what he has to say about why so many parents would prefer to see their children as “mad.” I’ve often wondered about the exact same thing. Bearing up heroically under the strain of our child’s “mental illness,” we’ve stupidly handed ourselves and our child a life sentence because we shy away from looking at our own lives as a possible contributing factor to the problem. This quotation is taken from a new e-book, The Szasz Quotationary

Why do so many parents prefer to dispose of their young-adult children as mad rather than divorce them as unwanted? The answer is obvious and painful. Divorce leaves the son free to embarrass the parent, precisely what the parent wants to avoid; it also leaves the parent open to censure by kin and friends for “abandoning” his own child. Psychiatric disposition protects the parent at the expense of the child. The masks of diagnosis and treatment conceal the true nature of both the problem and the solution. It affects the separation of father from son that the father desires; at the same time, it casts the parent in the role of tragic victim, afflicted with a defective child for whom he “cares” with the medical treatment science has to offer.

Comment from an Amazon reviewer:

Tom Szasz’ thought has been an inspiration to me for a lifetime. To me, he is a true philosopher, one whose thoughts help you live. As a neurologist I saw patients with horrendous diseases like ALS and some who did not have ALS but thought they did. What I learned – among so much else – from Dr. Szasz is that I didn’t have to fret about mental illness. I could divide problems into organic i.e. real disease and no disease and not worry about mental illness, a metaphor. No disease means no disease. Fear, anxiety, “voices” (inner speech), depression, alcoholism etc etc etc aren’t diseases, should not be treated with more drugs, the loss of civil rights or the acquisition of money and fame.

His thoughts aren’t just about medicine. They are about thinking logically for oneself.

And they are distilled and organized in this Quotationary by a master of the art, Leonard Roy Frank.

Ten dollars AND it is voice enabled – this is the deal of the century.

John Friedberg, M.D.

Tohuhgt for tdoay

I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid. Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the first and last ltteer be in the rghit pclae.The rset can be a taotl mses and you can still raed it wouthit a porbelm.This is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by  istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?

Physicists clock Superman particle

The following quotes about today’s big news story (apart from oligarch Aleksandr Lebedev clocking  fellow oligarch Sergei Polonsky on Russian television) are a mishmash from different on-line sources.

A neutrino beam appears to have moved faster than the speed of light in an experiment whose results need to be confirmed independently, CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, said.

According to conclusions drawn by the theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, nothing can exceed the speed of light.

Even this small deviation would open up the possibility of time travel and play havoc with longstanding notions of cause and effect. Einstein himself — the author of modern physics, whose theory of relativity established the speed of light as the ultimate limit — said that if you could send a message faster than light, “You could send a telegram to the past.” 

Antonio Ereditato, spokesman for the researchers*, said that measurements taken over three years showed neutrinos pumped from CERN near Geneva to Gran Sasso in Italy had arrived 60 nanoseconds quicker than light would have done. The margin for error in the measurements was 10 nanoseconds, which means that even taking that into account, the neutrinos’ speed was still faster than light.

Alvaro de Rujula, a theorist at CERN, called the claim “flabbergasting.”

“If it is true, then we truly haven’t understood anything about anything,” he said, adding: “It looks too big to be true. The correct attitude is to ask oneself what went wrong.”

(Editor’s note: You may ask what this has to do with schizophrenia. It’s easy. Just about everything, hahah.We don’t understand anything about anything. The one constant we do know is we know nothing. Whatever we think we know will change.)

The researchers are affiliated with the University of Bern, the same Swiss city where Einstein worked in the patent office while publishing his early theories on relatively and the electromagnetic radiation of light.

Three upcoming conferences – Los Angeles, San Francisco and Ann Arbor

Working with Voices

Ann Arbor Michigan, Oct. 10-11, 2011

Ron Coleman returns to Ann Arbor to teach methods that he & many others have used in their own recovery from serious psychological problems. This workshop brings together mental health workers & people who hear voices for 2 days of learning & exploration. Ron shows how to create a safe environment, a space free of hierarchies & labeling, in which diverse ideas can be heard.

To learn practical skills to increase self understanding such as voice profiling; to learn how voice hearing can be seen as a means of coping with difficult experiences; &, to learn ways people can begin to change their relationship with voices to regain choice & control in life. “Working With Voices” also fosters connection among voice hearers & their supporters.

ISPS The International Society for the Psychological Treatments of the Schizophrenias and Other Psychoses, Beyond Pandora’s Box: Exploring Integrative Approaches to Treating Psychosis
October 14-16th, 2011, San Francisco CA

Keynote Speaker: Richard Bentall, Ph.D. Author of Madness Explained and Doctoring the Mind

“The Psychology of Paranoid Delusions “

Honoree: Ann-Louise Silver, M.D. Founding President, ISPS-US.

“Early Onset Psychosis: Do We Want It in the DSM-5?”

International Society for Ethical Pyschology and Psychiatry
Alternatives to Biological Psychiatry: If we don’t medicate, what do we do?
Los Angeles, Oct. 28 – 29, 2011

Panel Presentations, Roundtable Discussions, Meet the Authors; More!

Confirmed Speakers
■Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D.

“When Johnny and Jane Came Marching Home: How All of Us Can Help Veterans”

■Nicholas Cummings, Ph.D

“Restoring Psychotherapy as a First-Line Intervention”

■Thomas Szasz, M.D.

“Varieties of Psychiatric Criticism”

■Robert Whitaker

“Psychiatry’s Response to Anatomy of an Epidemic: What the Emperor Says When He Has No Clothes”

■David Antonuccio, Ph.D.

“It May Be Time To Stop Calling Them ‘Antidepressants: Skills, Not Pills, for Depression'”

■Scott Shannon, M.D.

“The Ecology of the Child: A New View of Pediatric Mental Health”

■David Stein, Ph.D.

“A Unified Model for Matching Therapy with Etiology: Better Therapy Is the Most Effective Weapon Against Reliance on Drugs!

■Jacqueline Sparks, Ph.D.

“Listening to Clients, Not Disorders: A Revolution in Therapeutic Services”

■David Oaks

“Where’s Your Canoe? Uniting the Many Islands in Our Movement for Deep Change in Mental Health”

■David Cohen, Ph.D., LCSW

“The Ethics and Politics of ‘Neuroenhancement'”

■Thomas Scheff, Ph.D.

“A General Theory of ‘Mental Illness'”

■Tomi Gomory, Ph.D.

“Working with Human Troubles: Three Possible Models of Practice for the Helping Professions-Two Medical and One Educational.”

■Joanne Cacciatore, Ph.D.

“The Zen of Death: A Mindfullness-based Traumatic Bereavement Intervention”

■Howard Glasser

“Transforming the Difficult Child”

■Ann Rider, MSW

“Narrative Therapy in Peer Support: An Alternative Approach”

■Bose Ravenel, M.D.

“Treating Behavioral Problems Without Drugs: An Integrative Approach to ADD, ODD, and Childhood Bipolar Disorder”

■Ron Unger, LCSW

“Learning to Not Be “Psychotic”: Cognitive Therapy for Psychosis”

■Mark Foster, D.O.

“Ghosts in the Machine: Lessons from the Front Lines of a Mental Health Revolution”

■Claudia M. Gold, M.D.

“Over-reliance on Psychiatric Medications for Children: A Pediatrician’s View”

■Willa J. Casstevens, Ph.D. (w/ J. Coker and T. Sanders)

“Exploring Voices in A Mentored Self-Help Approach to Voice Hearing”

■Brian Kean, Ph.D.

“Psychotropic Medication in the Classroom: How Should Teachers and Education Students be Informed About This Complex Dilemma?”

■Virgil Stucker, MBA

“Restoring Mental Health Through Relationship-Centered Care and Philanthropic Action”

■Jill Littrell, Ph.D.

“Immune System Contribution to Major Depression and What to Do About It”

■Jeanne Stolzer, Ph.D.

“Alternatives to ADHD Medications: A Bioevolutionary Perspective”

■Jacob Z. Hess, Ph.D.

“‘If McDonald’s is the only place in town, we all eat Big Macs’: The case for diversifying community mental health education in the U.S.”

■Brad Hagen, Ph.D.

“The Greater of Two Evils? How People with Transformative Psychotic Experiences View Psychotropic Medications.

■Dathan A. Paterno, Psy.D.

“Desperately Seeking Parents: How to Reclaim Your Family”

■Phil Sinaikin, M.D.

“Psychiatryland: Marketing and Manipulation Tactics of the Biopsychiatry – Psychopharmacology Industry”

■Jennifer Spaulding-Givens, Ph.D.

“Florida Self-Directed Care: An Exploratory Study of Participants’ Characteristics, Goals, Service Utilization, and Outcomes”

■Fred Baughman, M.D.

“An Epidemic of Sudden Cardiac Deaths in the Military Related to Psychotropic Drug Cocktails for PTSD”

■Jay Joseph, Psy.D.

“The “Missing Heritability” of Psychiatric Disorders: Elusive Genes or Non-Existent Genes?”

■Noelene Weatherby-Fell, Ph.D.

“A Non-Medical Intervention for Supporting the Mental Health of Teachers and Students”

■Robert Grome, Ph.D.

“The Differential School-Clinic: A Topological Approach To The Cure-Symptom”

■Mike Mullin, M.D.

“Nutritional Supplements and Diet in the Treatment of Pediatric Mental Health Issues”

■Michael Bloom, Ph.D.

“Human Evolution and Ethical Use of Antidepressants”

■Keith Hoeller, Ph.D.

“America’s Medical Inquisition: Szasz’s The Manufacture of Madness 40 Years Later.”

■Alexander Bingham, Ph.D.

“Phenomenal Healing: Embracing the Next Step in the Evolution of Psychological Research and Practice in a Post-Medication World.”

■Burton Seitler, Ph.D.

“So Close and Yet So Far Away: Successful Non-Medication Psychoanalytic Treatment of a Youth Experiencing a Psychotic Reaction to the Traumatic Loss of His Mother”

■Judith Parker, Ph.D.

“What Can We Know? Making Sure Children Benefit from Psychotherapy”

■Pär Daniel Andréasson

“Mindfulness-Based Approaches in Family Therapy: A Review and Integration of Current Research and Future Directions in Practice”

■Laura K. Kerr, PhD, MFTI

“If Not Biomedical Psychiatry, Then What? Trauma-Informed Care”

■Debbie Felio, MA, LPC

“The Path of P.E.A.C.E. – Treating the Family and Community”

■Robert McKeever, Ph.D. Student

“Beyond the Medicine Cabinet: A Comparison between Online D-T-C Advertisements for Psychiatric Medications and Other Medications in the Digital Marketplace”

■James Dugo, Ph.D., and Sandra Lema-Stern, Ph.D.

“Working with Resistant and Aggressive Clients in Therapy”

■We are adding speakers to our program daily!

Day residue

Normally, I don’t have anxiety-provoking dreams, but last night was different. Okay, I know I had too much to drink, and the Ben & Jerry’s for dessert didn’t help, but by 3 a.m. I was awake from my dream and heart pounding-in-my-throat anxious. The dream was the usual day residue. The family friend who telephoned earlier in the evening (whom I’m convinced is a spy) made a spy-like apearance in my dream. I had also read a poignant story in the New York Times earlier in the day about the struggle of a young, autistic man to become independent. So that went into my dream, too, and resulted in anxiety—about Chris. In my dream Chris was planning to go back to college and, rather than rejoice, I didn’t think he was ready and I didn’t want him to go! When I woke up I realized how much I’ll miss him and his brother Alex, when they eventually leave home. The autism story had really shaken me.

Reality tells me that Chris is doing fine, but finding comfort in reality is something best done in the daylight hours when I’m more fearless. So, in order to get  to sleep I had a talk with myself to go back and set the outcome of that dream differently, to something more accommodating of the fact that Chris is going to leave the nest eventually. I can’t remember how it all worked out, but I managed to get back to sleep.

Chris phoned me at work this morning with the wonderful news that he was asked to be part of an octet at an upcoming concert featuring the music of Vaughn Williams, Purcell and some other English guy. I recalled that, when we had guests over last night, Chris sat in the living room with Alex and the rest of us, very at ease with the conversation and making interesting comments of his own. I can remember that it wasn’t so long ago (after his third hospitalization) that he was too socially withdrawn to be around company. I had wondered at the time if he would ever snap out of this painful period of his life.

Life goes on. People grow and change.

David Healy and Robert Whitaker address suicide rate in New Zealand

I’m passing on this e-mail from Vince Boehm and video link that I received in my maibox today via ISEPP.

“Risk of suicide” was one of the many reasons given by my son’s psychiatrists for wanting to keep him on medications, not that he was suicidal, but because “statistics show that people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia have an increased risk for suicide during the first five years after diagnosis.”  I always felt that the specter of suicide was invoked often for the wrong reasons — not because patients were suicidal, but in order to keep them meds compliant. I was being made to feel irresponsible by continuing to inisist that my son was unlikely to commit suicide and I would prefer to work with him in non-drug interventions. The problem is, how do one ever really know that someone else is or is not suicidal?  That’s where I feel drug companies have gained the advantage. You don’t know, and nobody wants to assume the risk, so medications are prescribed as some sort of “insurance policy.”

People can and do commit suicide while on meds and when off meds, so it’s kind of murky to now whether the meds would have prevented it or caused it. On the other hand, there is valid scientific concern about the effect of antidepressants on suicide ideation in children and teenagers because antidepressants are being used off-label and little to no research had been done for this age group before this practice became widespread.

Here’s the e-mail from Vince Boehm about the video link:

CASPER (Community Action on Suicide Prevention Education & Research), the New Zealand organization organized by two mothers who lost children to suicide, invited two of our prominent list members to present at their conference this past month.   New Zealand has the highest rate of youth suicide in the OECD, twice the rate of the US and Australia and five times the rate of the UK. More young people in New Zealand die of suicide than all medical causes combined, with 10% of the deaths of New Zealand’s 10-14 year-olds being suicides.

David Healy is an Irish psychiatrist who is a professor in Psychological Medicine at Cardiff University School of Medicine, Wales.  He became the center of controversy concerning the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on medicine and academia. For most of his career Healy has held the view that Prozac and SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) can lead to suicide and has been critical of the amount of ghost writing in the current scientific literature.

In his segment of this compelling video, Healy delivers a powerful indictment of suicide and violence caused by psychiatric meds. Robert Whitaker is a friend and a former medical writer at the Albany Times Union newspaper.  In 1992, he was a Knight Science Journalism fellow at MIT.  Following that he became director of publications at Harvard Medical School. In 1994 he co-founded a publishing company, CenterWatch, that covered the pharmaceutical clinical trials industry. CenterWatch was acquired by Medical Economics, a division of The Thomson Corporation, in 1998. His articles on psychiatry and the pharmaceutical industry have won a George Polk Award for Medical Writing. and a National Association of Science Writers’ Award for best magazine article. In 1998, he co-wrote a series on abuses in psychiatric research that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service. He is the author of four books. His most recent book is Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America. His Mad in America has become a classic and belongs in your library.

These two books are destined to be mental health’s Silent Spring, the book that launched the environmental movement.

Judge Rotenberg Center – a shocking story

I apologize for the length of this post. However, the webpage for the original article is not available right now. Please read this letter from a former teacher’s assistant at the Judge Rotenberg Center, a residential facility in Canton, Massachussetts that, according to its website, offers “very effective education and treatment to both emotionally disturbed students with conduct, behavior, emotional, and/or psychiatric problems and developmentally delayed students with autistic-like behaviors.”

The Rotenberg Center appears to have a two-pronged strategy to appeal to desperate relatives: To get children and adults off the heavy medications and to employ behavior modification in a system of punishment and rewards. This strategy is entirely superficial, as if severe mental health problems are merely a question of getting off the meds and then fixing the “bad behavior.” When I looked at their website, I was struck by how the treatment is entirely focused on behavior-modification, instead of finding out the psychological underpinnings of a person’s distress. It’s hard to believe in this day and age that such a place exists, but it does.

Rather than exploring human alternative treatments, the Rotenberg Center routinely employs shock devices as a disciplinary measure, sometimes up to thirty times a day. This  is not done for “medical” reasons nor is it done in privacy. According to the letter writer, students regularly witness electric shocks being performed on their classmates. The teacher’s assistant found he was getting stress reactions to watching this. You can imagine what this did to the patients!

Canton Patch
September 13, 2011 9:00am

Letter to the Editor: A Former Judge Rotenberg Center Worker Speaks Out
Greg Miller worked for the Rotenberg Center in Canton for three years and speaks about his experience.

Warning: Some of the content in this letter may be disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.

By Greg Miller

There is so much for me to share about my three years of experience as a staff in Judge Rotenberg Center that I wanted to share them in writing.

Please note that other former JRC teachers and staff and even psychologists have contacted me in the past to tell me that they appreciate my speaking on behalf of the students, and to tell me of legal threats that keep them from speaking out vocally against JRC’s practices. I can share only my own experiences and opinions. No doubt JRC has attempted to discredit me and what I have to share.

My Background

I worked for the Judge Rotenberg Center for over three years, between  2003 – 2006. I worked as a Teacher’s Assistant, and I turned down offers to work at JRC as a classroom teacher because I was too busy with my studies. I have a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education from Lesley University. I previously taught as a classroom teacher in Watertown Public Schools, Lincoln Public Schools, and Winchester Public Schools. I worked too many hours as a classroom teacher to be able to also study alternative medical approaches for the treatment of children with learning difficulties and autism, and JRC offered me an opportunity to continue to work with children and youth while putting myself through school with ideal work hours.

The reason why I remained at JRC for three years instead of leaving on my first day of training was that I liked JRC’s commitment to getting students off of psychiatric drugs. Students were arriving at JRC looking very drugged up and in very rough conditions. I was a very dedicated worker and supporter of JRC at the start of my employment.

JRC always treated me fairly as an employee.Then my opinion of JRC started to change significantly to where I felt I needed to leave JRC and to speak out against its practices. I started to get signs of traumatic stress while working at JRC, and my doctor advised me repeatedly that I should leave JRC for my own health reasons. I became more aware of what was actually happening to individual students at JRC that parents were not permitted to see, and I wondered how many parents would actually be supportive of JRC if they saw what was happening to their children as I did.

My Opinion on the Use of JRC Shock Therapy

I believe that electric shocks are harmful not only to the student receiving a shock, but to all other students in the room witnessing the traumatic shock incidences. Electric shocks are not necessary to help JRC’s population of students. I saw much use of electric shocks that I felt were unwarranted to appear in student plans, and it seemed to me that individualized student plans were designed without proper oversight or adequate safeguards to prevent misuse of the shock devices.

I was having signs of traumatic stress including nightmares, night sweats, and elevated blood pressure, so that my doctor advised me that I needed to leave JRC. So imagine what it is like and what harm is being done to students who are actually on electric shock devices, who are committing no “wrong” behaviors, but who must witness their classmates getting shocked all day long!

I have witnessed the traumatic effects of electric shocks not only on the students receiving shocks, but also on other students in the room witnessing the shock “treatments” even though they have exhibited no behaviors. It was not uncommon to have incidences where I would reach for my pencil in my JRC apron pocket, on which hung the remote controls, to have students crying out and or jumping up, or throwing their task up in the air, and even grabbing me, because they thought I was going to shock them.

These were all behaviors that would cause students to be shocked depending on the individual student’s plan, so groups of students would all get shocked together, all out of their reaction of fear due to myself or another staff reaching for a pencil in our pockets. If any staff chose not to shock students at such times, we would immediately lose our jobs for “refusing to follow student plans.”

I have participated as required in following student plans to shock multiple students, including when they reacted to watching a fellow classmate tied up in a restraint chair getting attacked by a staffer with a plastic knife (being held) to the student’s throat. This was a judge-approved Clockwork-Orange-type “treatment” for a student who swallowed a small X-Acto knife blade. A staffer, according to the plan, would run up to the student who had all four limbs tied all day long to a restraint chair, and pretend to force a plastic knife down the student’s mouth while another staff pressed the remote control to give a shock to the student. The staff would repeatedly yell in a gruff voice, “Do you want to swallow a knife?”  Sometimes a number of students watching this would act out in fear and receive shocks for jumping out of their seat, crying out, or dumping their task in reaction to the violence. I highly doubt that the judge ordered all 40 plus other students in the same classroom to have to watch this violent “treatment” of their classmate with his arms and legs tied to a chair. This took place day after day for weeks, with their classmate unable to defend himself in any kind of way. I felt nauseated just being in the room during those treatments, and I was not one of the humans with electric shock devices strapped to my body, so I could only imagine what the students were going through.

I have witnessed terrible injuries including bloody scabs all over the torso, arms, and legs caused by the electrodes. While I have heard of Dr. Israel previously claiming that the injuries were due to staff not properly rotating electrodes after shocking a student, the reality was that some students exhibited behaviors resulting in up to 30 shocks in a day. Some students stopped their behaviors after receiving their maximum 30 shocks for the day. Most of the shock devices used two electrodes to pass current through a specific distance of human flesh to maximize the amount of pain from the same amount of current. Two red skin marks from electrodes per shock, times 30 shocks in a day, quickly adds up so that very soon electrodes will be placed over previous marks resulting in bloody scabs. In these cases, the multiple patches of bloody scabs have nothing to do with staff failing to rotate electrodes after shocking students. Rather it exemplifies that the electric shocks approach were not appropriate for the student, and that other approaches should have been found.

Dr. Israel has previously compared the electric shock devices to bee stings. I vividly remember nearly getting the wind knocked out of me during training at JRC back in 2003 when (I was) permitted to test out the weakest of JRC’s electric shock devices on my own arm. That was no bee sting!

I have worked with a young lady who was so underweight while on electric shock devices that she had a test tube sewn into her stomach to feed her when she would not eat enough. Upstairs there was a photo of her on the wall near Dr. Matthew Israel’s office from when she first entered JRC, looking comparatively plump.

I have witnessed a student with autism getting shocked for sitting at his desk with his eyes closed for more than 15 seconds because his mother didn’t like the fact that he closed his eyes. I wondered what it might feel like for me to try to shut my eyes at night to go to sleep after I had been shocked several times during the day for closing my eyes! Initially in his behavioral plan, the student was shocked for closing his eyes while walking down the hallway with the reason that it was “health dangerous” to close one’s eyes while walking down a short carpeted hallway. Later, JRC added more and more places where this student would get shocked for closing his eyes. Students with autism characteristically see the world as over-stimulating and overwhelming. I saw a photograph of the student at a young age with his eyes closed while holding up a large fish on a fishing trip. I don’t believe students should be shocked for having autism.

Besides shocking a student for the behavior of “closing eyes” while sitting at one’s desk for more than 15 seconds, or while walking down the hallway, shocking students for reacting to their classmates getting shocked, or shocking a student with all four limbs tied to a restraint chair while a staff violently attacked the student with a plastic knife to teach him a lesson, there were many other behaviors for which students were shocked that felt absolutely wrong to me. Students during my time at JRC were shocked for tearing a paper cup or Kleenex while sitting and watching television during their break, shocked for standing up and raising a hand and asking to go to the bathroom, shocked for pulling apart a loose thread, shocked for going to the
bathroom in one’s clothes after signing that they need to use the bathroom for over two hours, shocking a blind, nonverbal girl with cerebral palsy for making a soft moaning sound in an effort to communicate and also shocking her for holding a staff’s hand, to name a few examples of many.

I am still unaware of even one study done that demonstrates that student behaviors remain “changed” after leaving JRC, once off the shock devices.

I was told repeatedly as a staff member at JRC that not only were these student behavior plans permitted by the judge, but some of the plans were ordered by the judge. Looking back, I question what the judge knew. Certainly JRC had a huge lack of oversight and it seemed that there was inadequate protection for the students.

On more than one occasion, I remember arriving to work and being surprised by drastic changes to individual student plans, where many behaviors for which a student would be shocked were eliminated from the student’s plan or else moved to a “minor” category for which the student would not be shocked. I remember being told by a student’s case manager that the behavior plans were changed because the student had an upcoming court date to prepare for. I do not believe that the judges were given the full picture of what they were approving when approving electric shocks on students.

After looking back, and to summarize some of the atrocities I witnessed and participated in while working at JRC, it is difficult for me to understand how I could have done something so cruel to other human beings. No doubt I was operating on misinformation, and misled to believe many of the same arguments that I hear parents arguing today. I truly believed that JRC was the only school that could help this population of students without the use of psychiatric drugs that turned children into zombies and ruined their livers.

Some children, not all, do respond to the threat of pain as long as they are strapped up to electric shock devices. But it is my strong opinion that JRC used electric shocks for many behaviors when other alternatives were available, and to the exclusion of more effective treatments. Psychologists leaving JRC told me that they had other treatments based on real research in established psychological journals that they wanted to use, but they were not allowed to use those other methods because Dr. Israel favored exclusively the use of electric shocks.

Dr. Israel was out to prove the power of his electric shock devices, and in doing so, somewhere along the line the shock devices must have become more important to him than individual students. It is my opinion, as a former JRC teacher who later worked at another school serving a very similar student population as the JRC students with autism, that NO shocks are necessary to control student behaviors at JRC.

If I was given the opportunity, I would sincerely apologize to each and every student I shocked at JRC. I certainly applaud Senator Brian A. Joyce and many others who have worked so diligently to end what I consider to be torture. Torture that is allowed and exists only in Canton, Massachusetts.

Please vote for Combat Arts for Recovery!

Corinna West, founder of Combat Arts for Recovery has provided an update on where her program is currently in relation to the competition. Her program is one of 12 semi-finalists out of 55 entries to the Team USA grants competition. If chosen as the winner, her program stands to earn $12,000 to promote combat sports for mental health issues.

Hi friends,
At this point 82 people have communicated with me that they were voting or trying to vote for Combat Arts for Recovery. Thanks so much for your vote. I really appreciate your efforts. If all 82 of you voted once each day we would have it made, and now the Olympic Committee has fixed the worst of the bugs in the program.From now on, for the next six days, if each of you could vote once per day, we would win in no time. We need to catch up to the figure skaters. This program is designed to help bring disadvantaged people into the Olympic movement, but I’m not sure how disadvanted someone can be if they can afford to hire a private coach and rent out a whole hockey rink each time they practice. We are also the only fighting sport in the whole finals. We are also the only program helping people with mental health labels. We need your help.

Go to
Click Team USA Grants on the left, then accept non-secure browsing, accept the Facebook application, then vote for Combat Arts for Recovery. If you have trouble, try clicking the video and then click logout right by the comments. Please email me with any problems.My blog about this program is here for more information: If you want to help further, invite 25 (or all) of your friends using our Facebook invite. Or send out a bulk email and post my blog to your Facebook status.

Thanks so much for voting for me. This is a wonderful program which can bring two communities together.

Schizophrenia – needed by bad psychiatry

I try to avoid Dr. David Allen’s blog Family Dysfunction and Mental Health, because, Dr. Allen, alas, does not understand schizophrenia and seems resistant to ex-patients explaining to him that their issues relate in some way to overt trauma or family dysfunction. Some of my blog’s energetic readers have taken him on in the past, but to no avail. He, like 99.9% of psychiatrists, thinks schizophrenia is always the special case, some kind of weird creature unrelated to trauma and not treatable in a trauma-related context. Family dysfunction only has an impact on other conditions, apparently.

None-the-less, Dr. Allen’s latest blog post, linking the increase in psychiatric diagnoses to the disability benefits juggernaut is quite interesting, and he makes some good points. I also have to give Dr. Allen credit that his blog is open to all, unlike some sites where you have to be a mental health “professional” to sign in and comment.

However, then there is Dr. James Woods comment to the Allen post below. Can you imagine getting better if Dr. Woods (or 99.9% of psychiatrists) was your shrink? Before you take on a shrink (and yes, they can be helpful), find out how schizo positive he or she is. My educated guess is that most psychiatrists will say all the right things, but keep you on the drugs and other dependencies because they really see you as mentally disabled. Here’s a nasty thought of mine. Homosexuality as a mental illness label  got away from psychiatry in the 1970s through mass action by the gay rights movement, but “schizophrenics” will have difficulty organizing themselves against psychiatry if they are on disability and heavily drugged. Truly a malicious thought on my part.

Kudos for an extremely well-written and timely article, David.

As a psychiatrist myself, I try to avoid disabling people and rather concentrate my efforts on enabling people.

While certainly there are some diseases such as classic autism, moderate to severe schizophrenia, moderate mental retardation etc. which require disability, (and I am delighted to participate in securing disability services for these patients) we must remember as psychiatrists that many of our disorders are episodic; and tend to get better with treatment.

We need love (sic) work and play.

James Woods M.D.

I guess Dr. Woods does not consider people with schizophrenia as people, otherwise he, too, would avoid disabling them. Anyone want to picket his office? Oh darn, he didn’t leave an address!