by Roy Charles Henry (b. 1938)
This is a short theatre piece, actually a “conversation” about perfervid cupidity—what Simple Reality considers to be an overheated false-self security energy center. Is this a form of mental illness or merely some poor soul lacking in awareness and, as a consequence, self-destructing? If it were a mental illness, we would consult the experts in the DSM-5, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Edition), the so-called “bible of psychiatry.”
“The arrival of a new DSM is always an awkward moment for psychiatry. It’s a rewriting of the rules of engagement with the human mind and a tacit admission of past errors, errors that have caused irreparable harm. Homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder, for example, until 1973.”[i]
To clarify, perfervid cupidity is not in the DSM-5 but we recognize its symptoms … we’ll get to them later. First though, it’s always good to start with a clear definition of the vocabulary involved. “Define your terms,” somebody said: Perfervid means impassioned, zealous, extremely or extravagantly eager; Cupidity means excessive desire especially for wealth, avarice.
Person #1 (P-1): OK, we have our lexicographical context established; we’re good to go.
Person #2 (P-2): Not so fast! A good researcher takes nothing for granted, assumes nothing without a penetrating skepticism.
P-1: Do you mean we are not to trust the DSM?
P-2: That is precisely what I mean.
P-1: But this resource has been around for years, has been used by mental health professionals for decades, surely it doesn’t change much from year to year. Isn’t it like the dictionary? Can’t we just look up “Perfervid Cupidity” and its symptoms and get a diagnosis and prescription?
P-2: Ha! Ha! Ha! What culture do you live in my friend? This is the U.S. In case you haven’t heard, these Americans inhabit the DSM-5 like rats thrive in Manhattan, and it’s the rats that define who’s sick and who’s not.
P-1: But those are the rats who know what they are talking about, they are the trained rats, the rats that know how to run the maze of mental illness.
P-2: How in heaven’s name does a guy like you become so naïve, so brainwashed?
P-1: What do you mean?
P-2: You’ve assumed, first, that trained psychiatrists know what they’re doing and secondly that there is agreement among them as to what mental illness is and how it should be treated.
P-1: Nevertheless, when I leave my therapist’s office, I feel that I am making progress. And what’s more, I feel less anxious after I take my medications.
P-2: But why do you feel you’re getting better? Which is it, the talk therapy or the medications?
P-1: I assume it’s both.
P-2: When you climb off the operating table do you have to guess that you feel better because the surgeon removed the cyst or because of his comforting bedside manner? You trust them both don’t you, your therapist and your surgeon?
P-1: Well, sure.
P-2: Then you had better sit down as this conversation continues my friend. There are three books I want you to read: Book of Woe (2013) and Manufacturing Depression (2010) by Gary Greenberg, a practicing psychotherapist; and Saving Normal (2013) by Dr. Allen Frances, former chairman of the psychiatry and behavioral science department at the Duke University School of Medicine and the chairman of the task force that put together the previous iteration of the DSM-5 diagnostic manual. People who probably have some knowledge of our subject, no?
P-1: I would say so, yes, but I reserve the right to withhold my judgment.
P-2: Fair enough my fine-feathered … err … hairy friend [involuntary maze runner]. I think it only fair to warn you how one reviewer of the 2013 [DSM-5] characterized it. “Like Patriot missile systems, these volumes propose to knock the forthcoming manual out of the sky.”[ii] Let’s hear from Frances and Greenberg.
Dr. Allen Frances [noting that the manual influences many lives in a profound way]: The manual ends up dictating “who is considered well and who is sick; what treatment is offered; who pays for it; who gets disability benefits; who is eligible for mental health, school, vocational, and other services; who gets to be hired for a job, can adopt a child, or pilot a plane, or qualifies for life insurance; whether a murderer is a criminal or a mental patient; what should be the damages awarded in lawsuits; and much, much more.”[iii]
P-1: I get it, it’s an important set of guidelines. It needs to show restraint, I would say.
P-2: I agree, let’s see if it does indeed wield its power judiciously, my friend.
Dwight Garner (Critic): “Both Mr. Greenberg and Dr. Frances argue that the manual and its authors, the American Psychiatric Association, wield their power arbitrarily and often unwisely, encouraging the diagnosis of too many bogus mental illnesses in patients (binge eating disorder, for example) and too much medication to treat them.”[iv]
Mr. Gary Greenberg: “A doctor who diagnosed strep entirely on the basis of symptoms was practicing bad medicine, while a doctor who diagnosed depression only on the basis of symptoms was practicing standard psychiatry.”[v]
Critic: “He [Greenberg] argues that psychiatry needs to become more humble, not more certain and aggressive. Both men [are] essential targets. The first is diagnostic inflation—the way we are turning normal people, especially normal children, into mental patients. The second is the American Psychiatric Association, which neither writer trusts to possess naming rights to psychological pain, in part because of its financial stake in new editions of the manual.”[vi]
P-1: Well, so far this is a little unnerving, and I see that avarice has raised its ugly head.
P-2: There’s more.
Mr. Greenberg: The manual in its every iteration is “… a compendium of expert opinions masquerading as scientific truths, a book whose credibility surpasses its integrity, whose usefulness is primarily commercial.”[vii]
Critic: “Each of these books is depressing to read; each should come with a strawberry milkshake and a side order of Zoloft. Each man spies a kind of bad faith at the center of the psychiatric world and each argues for more honesty, less certainty and more close and extended observation of patients, who can’t be reduced to numbers by their psychiatrists.”[viii]
No, “Perfervid Cupidity” is not in the new DSM manual but those of us familiar with our own false-self behavior will recognize the symptoms as the security energy center of the false-self survival strategy. Nor will we rely on any medication for this universal human condition because we know that what has already been “prescribed” by the wise therapists (mystics) of the perennial philosophy is simplicity, solitude and silence in the context of Oneness with the practice of choosing response over reaction resulting in equanimity and compassion. No pills necessary!
This is not to say that Perfervid Cupidity is not a serious disease; it is:
- Perfervid (impassioned, zealous, extremely or extravagantly eager)
- Cupidity (excessive desire especially for wealth, avarice), along with its cousins:
- Mercenary (motivated by a desire for material or monetary gain)
- Affluenza (a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more), and
- Dominative (arrogant tyrannizing and control). Plus
- Bullyragging (to mistreat or intimidate by bullying or manipulation).
All are rampant in the global village.
The three types of mental illness that we have just defined, namely the seeking of plenty, pleasure and power, should be in the DSM-5 because they cause 93.8 percent of the human mind’s reality-avoidance strategies. (We chose that 93.8 percentage rather arbitrarily which is not unusual in the realm of “scientific research.”)
With the false self in control of defining mental health and treating mental illness, the institution of mental health is becoming more “Kafkaesque” in its absurdity. We do not mean to single out the practitioners in this institution, because this absurd human behavior is system-wide, a world-wide problem, this absence of awareness, this asleep-at-the-wheel human endeavor called the human condition.
P-2: Want some Prozac?
P-1: Yes, please!
[i] Garner, Dwight. “Two Pleas For Sanity In Judging Saneness.” The New York Times. May 2, 2013, pages C1-C2 and 2.
Find a much more in-depth discussion in printed books by Roy Charles Henry.