psychiatry (4)

Feariatry: Psychiatry in a Critical New Key

FEARIATRY, is a play from the book of "psychiatry"--as an overt word-game and conceptual connection between the two. "Feariatry" first coined by Desh Subba, the founder of philosophy of Fearism (see his 2014 classic book), knew on the one hand exactly what he was expressing with this 'call' to begin a new theory, study and practice of feariatry that would complement, if not some day replace, psychiatry as we know it. On the other hand, he did not know what feariatry would actually shape out like, and he wasn't going to lead that formation.

Subba is no psychiatrist or psychologist, and this raises the question: Who is he to be so rebelliously confident that the entire domain of psychology and psychiatry need to change?--and more so, need to transform their very identity and ways. It's a grand sweeping gesture for anyone to make. I loved it when I read it and had already intuited in my own work on fear and fearlessness that, indeed, there was something fundamentally wrong with these two fields and the BioMedical Paradigm they rely on, that is, if we ever want to truly have liberated humans and societies on this planet. Like Subba (and others), I was a quiet advocate for years to revision psychiatry and psychology--as they are accepted legitimate in the mainstream and by the State. In fact, they are 'the State' and its long-arm of intervention into how human beings 'should be' and how they should be fixed when they are no longer 'normal' (i.e., how they should be). This for me, is a very contested territory, and reaks with ideologies of "normal" and the control systems to maintain such. Yes, a politics of psychiatry and psychology cannot be ignored, in our search to better understand human behavior, etc. 

I encourage people to read the reasons for Subba (2014) making the claim for a lot of changes in concepts, fields of inquiry and disciplines because of his discovery of the core nature and role of fear in life and human life in particular. Philosophy of Fearism was his beginning articulation of that primacy of "fear" and the valuation imperative that discovering fear as such one ought to revise everything--even change our language which has gone away from acknowledging this primacy of fear (e.g., see also the fearist Samuel Gillian's (2002, 2005) work on this loss of fear from the English language as a cover-up of distortion due to mind conditioning, propaganda and ideologies). The primacy of fear is the central philosophical and theoretical driver behind Subba, and myself, and our work in fear management/education. 

BACK TO SUBBA and a fearism perspective (a fearist lens)--and, one now is reconfiguring psychiatry and psychology--based on the fear findings. It is a new awareness, a new paradigm of fear, that is being 'called' to bring about a better (hypothetically) psychiatry and psychology to the 21st century. I have totally got on board with this project too. FEARIATRY is particularly intriguing to me. You may search that term in the upper right box of the FM ning and you'll see some of my posts on feariatry over the years. 

BACK TO PSYCHOANALYSIS--AND OTTO RANK (a post-Freudian psychoanalyst and theorist)-- as I have always liked Otto Rank since my reading of his work in the early 1980s, and off and on, I am now reading his 1941 book "Beyond Psychology" (also once named, in the text "beyond individual psychology"--but he also meant beyond social psychology as well)-- the Preface and first chapter pages of this book are intriguing. I kept writing in the margins just tonight that "this sounds like a good place to start a theory of feariatry" --and so on. Indeed, I find a good deal of his thought, experience and theorizing fascinating as grounds for a fearist-revisionist accounting of what psychiatry and psychology need to change. I will do another blogpost on this soon, but just wanted to give you all a heads-up, and to get you maybe starting to think about Feariatry with some seriousness--as it is one of the least developed paths/areas/pillars under the Philosophy of Fearism and Fearology trajectory (i.e., Subba-Fisher's work)...

A small hint: Rank is very big on bringing back to center (or at least to 'balance') "irrational" [1] along with "rational"--and, he believes that is the only way to human health, sanity and a good life worth living. He is a psychoanalyst who actually undermines psychoanalysis (and psychology generally) by the time he wrote this last very honest and penetrating critique in 1941--his last book before he died. For me, I see his 'call' for "beyond psychology" as exactly a route to foreshadowing a "feariatry" (and fearanalysis), etc. But Rank saw through this problem, and named "fear" and "fearless" as key players in his revisioning--so that very much excites me. Again, I'll write out more and cite his work in another blog soon. 


 End Note

1. By "irrational" he means just the same as "the natural" (e.g., "natural self"); in my theorizing, with my partner Dr. Barbara Bickel, we often call this "arational." 




Read more…

Love-Pleasure-Dopamine Addiction

For a good short explanation of a theory that explains brain functioning and dopamine release process and regulation of that ...

go to

Dr. Anna Lembke, psychiatrist who also points out the social-cultural habit problem of "too much pleasure" available and digested today in the postmodern world--it is literally making us more and more anxious-depressed and dysphoric and suffering more physical pain. Our brain system didn't evolve with so much access to pleasurable thoughts, substances and behaviors. Now, I would add the problem of "Love" (especially in contrast to Fear)--and, how I am quite sure that Fearlessness IS a much healthier pursuit and path that does not get caught in trying to always get to the "Love" side. Lembke, at least physiologically, speaks to this and the vicious cycling of "always searching for love" --and, it creates huge problems on the other side (via, what Lembke calls "opponent process reaction").

Note, "Fearlessness" gets us beyond this opponent process reaction triggering mechanism (at least theoretically) because it gets us beyond the binary-seeking of pleasure over pain or equally in parallel the love over fear (e.g., positive over negative). "Fearlessness" paradigm unhooks us (albeit, slowly often) from the binary obsession and problems of opponent process reaction in the brain-emotional system. 

Read more…


Dr. Christopher Bollas, psychoanalyst-theorist

In 2016 the internationally renowned British (and American) psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas (one of my fav. of this school of psychology) has given an excellent lecture on "Mental Pain" and offers his decades of clinical experience, his creative original thought, and what I see as a profound wisdom of understanding the relationship of the self, to the mind, to the society (and history and politics). Go to:


Read more…

I just found a new 300pp doctoral dissertation entitled: "Fear: A Conceptual Analysis and Philosophical Therapy" Starkstein2016%20Fear.pdf by Dr. Sergio Starkstein, out of Murdoch University, Perth, Australia. Wow... I have not read it but I highly recommend it to all serious students of fear, fearism, fearology... etc. I look forward to some of you posting about its content and approach on the FM ning in the coming weeks... Below is the Abstract (and brief Bio):

Abstract Fear is a critical emotion in everyday life as it permeates many of our minor and major decisions. Explicitly or implicitly, fear is one of the emotions that most strongly shape human life. In this thesis fear and its philosophical remedies will be analysed through the work of western philosophers and thinkers selected based on their overall contributions in conceptualizing fear and suggesting therapies for reducing its more damaging effects. The study will show how Epicurus, Cicero and Seneca considered fear as the main obstacle in achieving peace of mind, and their ethical systems were primarily focused on dealing with this emotion by proposing eclectic philosophical therapies. Montaigne presented a humanist therapy of fear instrumented as a critical self-analysis. In contrast, a reductionist trend in thinking about fear emerged during the 17th century with the growth of materialistic philosophy. Thomas Hobbes reduced fear into a necessary tool for social control, whereas René Descartes demoted fear to a secondary emotion enacted by a dualist mechanism. This trend continued with William James’s conception of fear as a sensory-somatic reflex, and with Sigmund Freud’s hypothesis of a neurotic fear resulting from universal unconscious laws. I will also discuss how current neuroscience has reduced fear to decontextualized neural changes, and how the dominant trend in psychiatry has reified anxiety into arbitrary nomenclatures of unclear validity. On a completely different tack Ludwig Wittgenstein provided a broad ‘perspicuous presentation’ of fear, but his nuanced analysis has been largely ignored in philosophical studies. Overall it can be seen that, in keeping with the scientific revolution, the influential perspectives throughout the philosophical history of fear change from understandings that philosophy itself and reason are the best therapies for fear towards the medicalization of fear that is dominant today. By following these specific and diverse historical convergences, however, their criss-crossing insights and oversights, the thesis aims to enhance the conceptual understanding of fear and the variety of perspectives and therapies available for accommodating its enduring influence in our lives.


Bio (I asked Sergio about his background to this Ph.D. and he graciously wrote back:)

Dear Michael

Thanks for your kind words. I am a neuropsychiatrist working in Perth, Western Australia. I started my philosophy studies in Buenos Aires in the year 2000. I resumed my studies after migrating to Australia at the University of Western Australia, where I obtained my B.A.(Hons). I then transferred to Murdoch University to do my Ph.D. in philosophy, which took me 8 years to complete, as I work full time. This is in a nutshell my story.

I was always interested in philosophy, which I enjoy reading and practicing. Fear and anxiety are in my blood, as is usually the case with Jews living in South America, although I spent half of my professional life abroad (5 years at Hopkins in Baltimore and 15 in Australia).

Many thanks for posting my abstract. The dissertation is now in book format, and I am awaiting a (hopefully positive) referee report before it gets published by an English printer.

This is all I have to say!



(Oct. 28/17)


I appreciate this short bio and I would like to keep in touch. I look forward to reading your work ... wow ... 8 years ... and working full time, and yes, I think the Jewish perspective of your life and your peoples is an important one to the Fear Problem on this planet. 
Read more…