compulsion the fear of losing control

Pan and Panic: Watch This Space

There it was, on the TV, on Al Jazeera. I get their version of the news and documentaries for free. If the IMF oligarchs who run Europe and President o’Bummer want me to watch their version of reality, BBC and CNN should make themselves available. What I saw was a full program devoted to PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder. Admittedly, some of these blokes had lost limbs in the war in Eye-Rack. Sorry. Others told their stories of  ‘a bomb that went off, unexpectedly, somewhere nearby’ – they sustained no injury, no sound loss or disorientation – but ‘since then, I get angry a lot and lose my temper with people and I cannot control myself’. I see lots of people like that in the streets who never went to war. Now he needs Big Drugs to help him deal with his unemployability, his lack of relatedness and intimacy, his loss of myth and meaning, his lack of self-worth and potency in a world where 80 living individuals have more money than the poorest 3 billion people on the planet. Or maybe it’s 200 people. Who cares how the numbers crunch, it’s just immoral. I’m sorry for all these men (mostly men, in the documentary I saw) and women. But worse than their predicament, is the shallow understanding of humanity’s insults to the gods generally, and to Pan specifically, and the consequent misapplication of the proposed treatments of neurotic, anxious, stressful and panic conditions. We’ve seen the writing on the wallstreets. It’s only a matter of time and economics before PTSD becomes the disorder that everyone has. Wasn’t your childhood stressful?

A condensed time-line of some of the names psychiatry and psychology have given to the same fundamental condition includes: Hysteria (‘wondering womb’), Schizophrenia (‘split lungs’), Hormone Imbalance Therapy (which includes Electroconvulsive Therapy; Early ‘change the brain to change the behaviour’ therapies), Clinical Depression (‘depression causes loss of interest in activities once enjoyed’. So does growing up. How depressing), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME, how lovely is that! The UK Department of Health “now accepts ME as a bona fide medical condition”), Bipolar (“Do you have Mood Swings? It could be Bipolar”. Despite its name, derived from ‘Manic-Depression’, Bipolar now has at least 5 varieties, one of which is just plain depression without the mania. That just doesn’t seem right. Shouldn’t that then be ‘Polar’?) I just overheard that the Oscar for the best short film went to, you guessed it: a 20-minute drama of talking a PTSD-suffering veteran out of suicide. Remember those stories about “One in Three Americans Need Therapy”? OK, maybe that’s true, so that’s a bad example. But PTSD as a national epidemic is waiting in the wings for the day the pharma-pseudical companies can no longer justify selling ‘the old drugs’ that don’t quite seem to work to ‘cure’ us of the fundamentally messy condition of being human. So that they can try, once again, to sell to an audience that desperately wants to believe it, the idea that being human is something that needs to be, and can be, ‘treated’.

“I have renamed my talk ‘Drug Treatment in Modern Psychiatry, The History of a Delusion’, because it occurred to me that the standard beliefs about modern drug treatments in psychiatry are similar to delusions.. Almost every person, who sees a psychiatrist at the moment, is prescribed at least one sort of psychotropic drug.. The way psychiatry is practiced today is not very different from the way it was practiced 50 or 100 years ago. What is different however, is the way that psychiatry views itself, and particularly its drug treatments. What is different is psychiatry’s representation of its activities.” Opening statement from ‘Drug Treatment in Modern Psychiatry’. Lecture by Joanna Moncrieff. ¹

Well, we know that. It’s just good to see that others know that too. But we need to dig a little deeper, and in our own backyards. That’s where the bodies of the favorites are buried. “Psychoanalysis began over a century ago as a treatment for neurosis…(however) it left the sickness of the soul that was its actual subject matter, the neurosis which it was supposed to be about, out of its purview.. But neurosis.. comes from the soul, even is soul”.² Like Chogyam Trungpa telling us we should be in a constant state of panic.³ How to live then? How to be religious in the days after religion. How to live with many fictions all going on at the same time. With pathos, loss and pothos and with dignity, kindness and humour.

That’s a decent enough ‘amuse-bouche’ª for the discussions that follow. The only question now is regarding the main meal. I suggested Hillman’s Pan and the Nightmare. Siobhan said it doesn’t make sense without The Myth of Analysis first. Hillman said in an interview, “I think we’re miserable partly because we have only one god”.º The Myth of Analysis discusses at least a dozen gods, all appropriate to inform our lives, our deaths and the dance between those poles, the alchemist’s true gold, our bi-polar. We can sing one god at a time, thus allowing closet-monotheists to explore polytheism less guiltily.

The discussion on which is the better primoˆ and which the meaty secondo could be our dessert. So you’d best work on both. Start with the first essay in Myth and read as much of (the Hillman section of) Pan as you can.

As Much of Pan as You Can. That seems good advice.


² Wolfgang Giegerich: Neurosis. Google this. Maybe even buy. Or maybe not. He’s a bit of a boykie. Got jolly petulant with Papa Jim, as boys will, even clever ones.

³ Chogyam Trungpa: Journey without Goal. P55. Renowned Buddhist master, holy fool, scholar, profound teacher, alcoholic and womanizer. Died of alcohol-related liver failure.

ª You need to learn about other stuff as well.

º A bit too Soul’s Code-ish for me. That was possibly Hillman’s only average book.

ˆ ‘The primo or the secondo may be considered more important, depending on the locality and the situation.’