Critical reading for those who use the term “mental illness” as a means of avoiding responsibility for drug abuse, promiscuity and so on – which is not to say that trauma does not deform behaviour or that genuine grief, impacted sadness and neurological damage do not exist.
I have known narcissists who identify themselves as “mentally ill” as a means of asserting their specialness in relation to others in the way a spoiled only child demands special treatment/dispensation on a permanent basis, and who righteously consider themselves above the rules of civility (“I don’t have to be kind or honest because I’m mentally ill“; “I can do what I want at all times because I’m mentally ill“; “I had sex with the entire cheerleading team and the neighbourhood Dalmatian not because I’m self-indulgent, sexually dominant as a way of expressing anger or lack the tools for self-expression but because I’m mentally ill“).
The ordinary is of no interest to them. Respect for others is unnecessary.
Diagnoses of mental illness cater beautifully to the self-serving. Any criticism of the status quo – that is to say, of the King/Queen Baby Syndrome – is held up as a global attack on vulnerability and evidence of general perfidy. Never mind the fact that the self-serving bully, deceive and manipulate at will. Never mind that they manage to meet their own needs for pleasure without difficulty. Never mind that they can function superbly in a professional context.
The self-serving must remain exempt from emotional accountability at all costs.
After a specious diagnosis of mental illness, an intelligent individual I know emotionally tortured their partner of almost four decades for a number of years before abandoning them without acknowledgment. They are now very happy with their similarly afflicted partner, with whom they spend many hours discussing the tragic specialness of their “condition”.
That which I find interesting is this allegedly terminally flawed individual’s capacity to hone in on their own desires and fulfil them at the expense of however many other people’s feelings, ending up with adoration, significant alimony, almost no parental accountability, zero judgment for their behaviour on account of their “disease” and universal sympathy.
The psychologically “normal” partner, on the other hand, was almost destroyed.
As the sister of a suicide, I am fully aware of the ramifications of impacted trauma, grief and sadness. I am familiar with the matrix of such trauma, and with the need to immediately seek loving, cognitive support. But I am also familiar with the self-serving manipulation of intelligent people whose refusal to be honest, vulnerable and respectful amounts to so much sadism.
Those who blindly accept – or actively seek the special status afforded by – a diagnosis of mental illness should read Alice Miller and the visionary Peter Breggin‘s work.