‘Coercion—the use of physical, legal, chemical, psychological, financial, and other forces to gain compliance—is intrinsic to our society’s employment, schooling, and parenting. However, coercion results in fear and resentment, which are fuels for miserable marriages, unhappy families, and what we today call mental illness.’
Well-written, broad-ranging, interesting article from Bruce. He makes some useful observations on diverse linked themes, for example coercion in parenting and education:-
‘Diamond, in From the World Until Yesterday (2012), reports how laissez-faire parenting is “not unusual by the standards of the world’s hunter-gatherer societies, many of which consider young children to be autonomous individuals whose desires should not be thwarted.” Diamond concludes that by our society’s attempt to control children for what we believe is their own good, we discourage those traits we admire:
“Other Westerners and I are struck by the emotional security, self-confidence, curiosity, and autonomy of members of small-scale societies, not only as adults but already as children. We see that people in small-scale societies spend far more time talking to each other than we do, and they spend no time at all on passive entertainment supplied by outsiders, such as television, videogames, and books. We are struck by the precocious development of social skills in their children. These are qualities that most of us admire, and would like to see in our own children, but we discourage development of those qualities by ranking and grading our children and constantly telling them what to do.”’
He also explores the psychiatric model (which routinely disempowers and coerces its patients), the relationship between its preferred route of medication, and financial vested interests:-
‘Since the 1980s, biochemical psychiatry in partnership with Big Pharma has come to dominate psychiatry, and they have successfully buried truths about coercion that were once obvious to professionals who actually listened at great length to their patients—obvious, for example, to Sigmund Freud (Civilization and Its Discontents (1929) and R.D. Laing (The Politics of Experience, 1967). This is not to say that Freud’s psychoanalysis and Laing’s existential approach always have been therapeutic. However, doctors who focus only on symptoms and prescribing medication will miss the obvious reality of how a variety of societal coercions can result in a cascade of family coercions, resentments, and emotional and behavioral problems.’
It is worth mentioning here that most psychiatric research is funded by drug companies. The MHRA (which regulates psychiatric drugs in the UK) is wholly funded by the pharmaceutical industry, employing ex-industry professionals in senior positions. Here’s a relevant previous post:-
Bruce also looks at the link between schooling – which coerces a disengaged population – and employment, which does the same, and so requires schooling that turns out adults conditioned to accept this as normal and inevitable. He considers the adverse psychological impact of cultural values that are not consensual, and which we do not at heart respect:-
‘In all societies, there are coercions to behave in culturally agreed upon ways. For example, in many indigenous cultures, there is peer pressure to be courageous and honest. However, in modernity, we have institutional coercions that compel us to behave in ways that we do not respect or value. Parents, afraid their children will lack credentials necessary for employment, routinely coerce their children to comply with coercive schooling that was unpleasant for these parents as children. And though 70% of us hate or are disengaged from our jobs, we are coerced by the fear of poverty and homelessness to seek and maintain employment.’
And so we pass this on – imposing on each other what has been imposed on us – parent to child, employer to employee, between marriage partners: ‘Accepting coercion as “a fact of life,” we often have little restraint in coercing others when given the opportunity’.
We deal with the suffering all of this generates through prescription psychiatric drugs, addictive behaviours, numbing, self-medicating of one kind or another. Like Bruce, the writer feels deeply concerned by the ever-increasing levels of coercion in our society, and the extent to which this has become normalized, seldom questioned. From the perspective of our therapy service, the toxic effects of this are clear. Many of those coming bring experiences of coercion, of one kind or another – within the psychiatric system, within their families, within education, within the criminal ‘justice’ system, in employment, through claiming benefits…. The list goes on. They bring the ill effects; the crushing of their personhood and autonomy, and the perceived requirement to sign up to values they do not truly or freely accept. These experiences are often interpreted as failure to fit in, do right, or belong. They erode well-being, and reinforce self-concept structures, external locus and conditions of worth.
From a person-centred perspective, it is only in a non-coercive environment – characterised by respect/value for each human being’s unique personhood; support for internal locus; empathy; loving presence; and authenticity – that we become freer to reconnect with our organismic experiencing, and a more enhancing, holistic way of being in the world. Which runs wholly counter to the culture we live in. As Jiddu Krishnamurti puts it:-
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter
Counselling Exeter since 1994