Wessely's Book Recommendations

starryeyes

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In The Fight Is On thread, Esther gave a link and her impressions about an article Simon Wessely wrote which helps one understand where Wessely's coming from a little better:

http://bjp.rcpsych.org/cgi/content/full/181/1/81

I wrote about my impressions of it here for anyone who is interested.

In the British Journal of Psychiatry Wessely wrote an article where he gives his book recommendations to fellow psychiatrists:

Wessely says: Naturally, when I arrived for interview at the Maudsley in 1984, I professed to Robin Murray, who was the gatekeeper to the rotation, a passionate commitment to research, but I was lying.
And thus began Wessely's illustrious career in psychiatry. He admits he's a liar from the beginning, which is not too surprising, is it?

Wessely continues: Research was what people did when they should have been teaching me. My greatest triumph was to hear a diastolic murmur, albeit after 5 years of trying.
Wessely clearly does not like or respect scientific research.

He continues: It was not clear where the diastolic murmurs of psychiatry lay, but the relevant skills seemed to include talking to patients, an expertise which I arrogantly thought I possessed until I tried it.

In the Dean's presence, I had sworn allegiance on the altar of research, but for a while my heretical views remained constant, if of necessity private.
One of the books Wessely recommends is: The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture, 1830-1980

Here's the synopsis at Amazon: Showalter, well known for her feminist studies of literature, here turns her attention to the history of psychiatry. Approaches to treatment have ranged from kindly paternalism to repressive discipline to psychosurgery to drugs. They have this in common: The treatments are devised by men and inflicted, predominantly, on women. She finds one exception, and a fascinating parallel, in the shell-shocked soldiers of World War I. Men in war, experiencing powerlessness, responded with hysterialike women. The doctors' response was to treat them like women.
What does this mean, the doctor treated the men like women? How do they do that? :confused:

There was only one review for this book at Amazon which is strange but that Reviewer did give it 5 stars.

Another book Wessely recommends is: "Intellectual Impostors"
The real title is: Intellectual Impostures
-Did Wessely make a little Freudian slip there?

Here's the first review at Amazon:

Its Fashionable to To Praise Non-Thought!, May 5, 2009
By*
Curveball "Curve" (washington dc)

It could only have come in a context such as the 1990's neo-liberal America that non-thinking could be praised and even become fashionable. Derrida to tough to read? Make fun of him! Deleuze's philosophy too non-analytic for you? Make fun of it! Jacques Lacan getting too personal with his appreciation of the psyche? Denounce it as rubbish! You'll have an instant best-seller on your hands and a multitude of people who hate thinking here to cheer you on! Hooooo-ray!!!
Well that's right up Wesselys alley!

Another Reviewer writes:

Unfortunately, the truths of the postmodern movement, as obscured by the common trash as they are, have equally been lost on Mr. Sokal and Mr. Bricmont.

In a word..."hermeneutics."

What the authors fail to realize is that philosophy is indeed not science, and should not be read as such...even when it uses the ideas and words of science in new contexts for which they, the scientists, are wholly unfamiliar, and unqualified to judge.
This could just as easily say: What Wessely "fails to realize is that philosophy is indeed not science, and should not be read as such...even when it uses the ideas and words of science in new contexts for which they, the scientists, are wholly unfamiliar, and unqualified to judge."

The Reviewer goes on to state: Unfortunately, the truths of the postmodern movement, as obscured by the common trash as they are, have equally been lost on Mr. Sokal and Mr. Bricmont.

In a word..."hermeneutics."

The meaning of any text is a function of the interface between reader and writer; i.e. hermeneutics. The authors don't UNDERSTAND the text and they fail to understand the limitations of their own personal, and in this case, failed, reading.
It's becoming pretty obvious that Wessely is no intellectual as this is one of his most highly recommended books to his fellow colleagues.

This Reviewer writes: Is a failure to interpret, an interpretation of failure?
It's just so funny that Wessely likes and recommends this book!

The Reviewer continues: The authors have adopted, and indeed adapted the words of science for their own specialized use.
This Reviewer could easily be writing about Wessely and his cohorts regarding ME. It's just fascinating that this is one of Wessely's favorite books.

Another Reviewer writes: Now we've got that cleared up, let me say it straight: This book takes on some big arguments, but, other than humorously swatting some flies, loses hands down. All it succeeds in doing is illustrating that there are fakers, losers, charlatans and wankers to be found in the Social Sciences departments of any given University.
Keep in mind now, this is one of 11 books that Wessely likes and highly recommends to fellow psychiatrists.

This Reviewer goes on to write: Anyone who's been to university and didn't know that deserves a clip around the ear and to be sent to the back of the class. Now either Sokal didn't know that ( - ~clip~ -), or he's spent half his book shooting fish in a barrel. That might seem like good sport, but before long it becomes obvious it's a cheap thrill.
Having said that, I sincerely doubt that the titillation of seeing dumb French Feminists taken apart is what made this book such a splash:
Maybe not, but somehow I'm pretty sure that Wessely enjoyed that part of the book too.

Thank you for supplying us with this link, Esther. It provides insights into Wessely's mindset and serves to prove that our impressions of him are very accurate.
 

flybro

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Wessley also writes

Walter Mittyis all our secret fantasies, whether it be the intrepid torpedo-boatcommander defiant of weather and enemies in equal measure,the attorney saving his client, the surgeon with nerves of steelwho repairs the anaesthetic machine with his penknife whileoperating with the other hand, or finally, the insouciant resistancefighter, facing the firing squad, cigarette in hand, defiantto the last.

So he wanted to be a hero, not a coward, and certainly not a bully.

Mmmmm I wonder how impressed he is with his self?

I wonder if this would be a good time to execute an intention experiment, on the great man?

Other Wessley aritlces or books

Wessley mentions the DSM-III here in the The Palestine-Israel Journal he's talking about GulfWar and the VietWar.

http://www.pij.org/details.php?id=55

a book he co-authored http://muse.jhu.edu/login?uri=/jour...h_politics_policy_and_law/v027/27.2hyams.html


The possibility of terrorists employing chemical, biological, or nuclear/ radiological (CBN) materials has been a concern since 1995 when sarin gas was dispersed in a Tokyo subway. Contingency planning almost exclusively involved detection, containment, and emergency health care for mass casualties. However, it is clear that even small-scale CBN incidents—like the recent spread of anthrax spores through the mail—can cause widespread confusion, fear, and psychological stress that have lasting effects on the health of affected communities and on a nation's sense of well-being. More emphasis therefore needs to be placed on indirect effects and on the medical, social, economic, and legal consequences that follow months to years afterward. To respond effectively to CBN attacks, a comprehensive strategy needs to be developed that includes not only emergency response, but also long-term health care, risk communication, research, and economic assistance. Organizing an effective response challenges government institutions because the issues involved—eligibility for health care, the effects of low-level exposure to toxic agents, stress-related illnesses, unlicensed therapeutics, financial compensation—are complex and controversial.

Incidentally the title pf the book is Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law
 
R

Robin

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One of the books Wessely recommends is: The Female Malady: Women, Madness and English Culture, 1830-1980[
The author, Elaine Showalter, wrote a book called Hystories. She grouped people with CFS and GWS in with people who believed they were abducted by aliens. All were deemed victims of media induced mass hysteria. Simon Wessely was cited quite a bit!

That speaks volumes that it took him five years to hear a murmur.
 

starryeyes

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The author, Elaine Showalter, wrote a book called Hystories. She grouped people with CFS and GWS in with people who believed they were abducted by aliens. All were deemed victims of media induced mass hysteria. Simon Wessely was cited quite a bit!

That speaks volumes that it took him five years to hear a murmur.
Oh my, that's her? I remember that! Holy cow. I knew her name sounded familiar.

 

Esther12

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Hi there.

I'm a bit busy with non-internet stuff at the mo, but seeing as I've already rad this, I thought I'd add some quick comments.

I've not read the Sokal book (intellectual Impostures), but have read some of his writing on this topic, and I think they're quite good and funny - it's good to have terrible arguments taken apart. Some reviewers saw this book as an attempt to discredit all post-modernism by swotting some flies, but Wessely made it clear he did not, and that he valued some post-modernist critiques of modernist thought - I'd be really interested to read more about his thoughts here - he sometimes strikes me as someone who's read Foucault's writings on the potentially oppressive nature of psychiatry, but has taken exactly the opposite lessons from them that I have (not that I've read much).

I don't really think it's fair to make a big thing of him lying in a university interview... I'm certainly not willing to hold myself to that level of honesty. Oh yeah - and he was saying (I think) that he's only written two books.

The Female Malady stuff seems far more related to CFS. I vaguely remember reading about this literary professor's views on CFS a long time ago, but it's all a bit hazy. From what I remember, it was comically bad stuff. If she's got any pieces online, they could well be useful for illuminating Wessely's philisophical understanding of CFS. I think I remember the two of them being mentioned together elswhere too.

Edit: I don't know this "Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America", but it again sounds as if it ties with what I think are some of the motivations behind his understanding of CFS.

The more I read about Wessely, the more I think of him as a fairly normal academic who just happens to be working in a field where he has too much power over people, and where it's such a backwater for research that there's a real dearth of opposing views. It's a bit of an indictment of academia really, but it only seems a problem when you're directly affected by it. If he was writing equally weak papers about economics (and many people are), I wouldn't have a problem with him. I'm really interested in how his views on fatigue in cancer/MS/etc patients are treated (will GET and CBT be introduced here?), as there he's going to have to be a part of a more legitimate intellectual process. With CFS, it's all a bit of a joke.
 
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The author, Elaine Showalter, wrote a book called Hystories. She grouped people with CFS and GWS in with people who believed they were abducted by aliens. All were deemed victims of media induced mass hysteria. Simon Wessely was cited quite a bit!

That speaks volumes that it took him five years to hear a murmur.
And he still can't hear the shouting.

Showalter is big buddies with Wessely, and he helped her write Hystories. As she cannot even pretend to medical knowledge, he coached her for her promotional appearances.
 

Dreambirdie

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Wessely continues: "It was not clear where the diastolic murmurs of psychiatry lay, but the relevant skills seemed to include talking to patients, an expertise which I arrogantly thought I possessed until I tried it."

So... by his own admission he's not even qualified to be a psychiatrist. :eek:
 

gracenote

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the victim role

Maybe the following quote, from the sixth book on his list, will offer some further insight into Wessely's world view. Maybe not.

Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America

Hughes returns to the question of self and self-esteem, and when he argues that the latter should and can be earned, rather than assumed of right, he is setting his sights beyond the world of art. And his flag is planted firmly on our soil when he addresses the current victim culture. Here we, if not Hughes, must tread carefully. Empathy for the plight of victims is one of the most attractive aspects of human nature, and if we in psychiatry do not favour victims, then who will? But Hughes's case is not against victims; it is against the elevation of the status of victimhood. Being a victim conveys no automatic moral authority or insight. Moral authority, like self-esteem, must be earned and is not an automatic sequela of adversity. Too powerful an identification with an identity defined solely by adversity, as happens in the further reaches of the Oprah culture, carries dangers. The problem with assuming the victim role for a prolonged period is that the self becomes defined by what has been done to one, rather than what one is or has achieved.
Note that "we in psychiatry" should have empathy for victims, but also that anyone who "assumes the victim role" needs to be careful not to have "an identity defined solely by adversity."

I can't help but think that his view from above looking down on the "plight of victims" who he ought to have empathy for has obscured his vision. He says it is "we in psychiatry" who ought to favour victims. And then he says all us "victims" (and substitute those of us with CFS here) should not think we deserve any "elevation of status," or "automatic moral authority or insight" due to our having become victims. We need to earn it.

It always seems to me that Wessely's writings contain important bits of truths that then become utterly distorted I can agree that of course "victims" should not be identified only by what has been done to them, but then have to ask, Who is putting us into that particular box? And by pointing out the box we have been put in, does that then confirm that this is all we have become?

Obviously, by not living in the same world we inhabit, his view looking down at us from above is missing the whole, beautiful, amazing, resilient lives that we do lead. When he talks about "victims," and who will "favour" us if not all of those like him "in psychiatry," he does us great harm. We don't need his condescending, patronizing favour, we are looking for real answers to make real change in our lives. This is not a philosophic, existential, post-modern linguistic exercise. We are asking for medical help for a medical need. It's time for Wessely to start being a doctor and stop theorizing about a world he knows so very little about.
 

starryeyes

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This next song is dedicated to all our friends with ME in the UK:

♫♪ "We don't need no C - B - T...
We don't need no G - E - T... No dark sarcasm from the shrinks... Hey! Wessely! Leave MEers alone!"
♫♪


 
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The author, Elaine Showalter, wrote a book called Hystories. She grouped people with CFS and GWS in with people who believed they were abducted by aliens. All were deemed victims of media induced mass hysteria. Simon Wessely was cited quite a bit!

That speaks volumes that it took him five years to hear a murmur.
Hi Robin,

Thanks for the reminder about Showalter. I remember when that book came out. At one point the book was a "monthly selection" from either Barnes & Noble or Borders - can't remember which - fog - fog. I can remember that all of the members of my support group boycotted the offending book store for several months. I am sure they didn't notice, but it made us feel slightly less helpless.

Take care,

Maxine
 

starryeyes

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Last night I was watching a tv program called "In Treatment" and the psychiatrist who's the main character said that one of the rules of psychiatry is that "the customer is always wrong". Inotherwords, their patients have the wrong viewpoints about things otherwise they wouldn't need to be seeing a psychiatrist.

I'm not saying I agree. This just helped me understand how the psychiatrists think. If your problem is truly mental I think they might be able to help you but we are physically ill and they think we are just thinking that we are physically ill because "the customer is always wrong".
 

Mithriel

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Esther wrote

The more I read about Wessely, the more I think of him as a fairly normal academic who just happens to be working in a field where he has too much power over people, and where it's such a backwater for research that there's a real dearth of opposing views. It's a bit of an indictment of academia really, but it only seems a problem when you're directly affected by it. If he was writing equally weak papers about economics (and many people are), I wouldn't have a problem with him. I'm really interested in how his views on fatigue in cancer/MS/etc patients are treated (will GET and CBT be introduced here?), as there he's going to have to be a part of a more legitimate intellectual process. With CFS, it's all a bit of a joke.
He isn't a normal academic and it isn't a joke. He is a government adviser and also to NATO. This man has immense influence, overt in the UK and covert in the US. He says what government wants to hear and his authority influences others who believe that authority counts as integrity.

You could see that in the reports of the Imperial College study. I don't mean the newspapers but scientists could not believe that he was underhand. It is easier for everyone to believe that we are a group of hysterical conspiracy seekers.

The people of Camelford had their water contaminated with aluminium. SW's investigation PROVED that all the villager's ill health was caused by a hysterical worry that they had been damaged. Big business and government were off the hook. Now, of course, people are dying and autopsies are showing aluminium damage but the silence from SW is deafening.

His hand in GWS has been mention elsewhere.

We underestimate him at our peril.


Mithriel
 

Dreambirdie

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Last night I was watching a tv program called "In Treatment" and the psychiatrist who's the main character said that
one of the rules of psychiatry is that "the customer is always wrong". Inotherwords, their patients have the wrong viewpoints about things otherwise they wouldn't need to be seeing a psychiatrist.

I'm not saying I agree. This just helped me understand how the psychiatrists think. If you're problem is truly mental I think they might be able to help but we are physically ill and they think we are just thinking that we are physically ill because "the customer is always wrong".
This kind of superiority complex is unfortunately all too common among many in the "elite" medical world. Not JUST psychiatrists are guilty of it. As we all know, many doctors have the same exact attitude. I grew up with a father who was a pathologist, and even he complained about many of the oversized doctor egos, that he encountered during his decades working at his lab in the hospital.

I can't agree that believing that the patient is "always WRONG" would help ANYONE. Even someone with a genuine mental health issue needs to be heard and taken seriously. Having spent significant time on both the receiving and giving end in the therapeutic counseling session, I know how important a role EMPATHETIC LISTENING plays in these situations. AND... how really rare it is to find someone who is WILLING and ABLE to do it! If you already "know" in advance that someone is WRONG, before they even open their mouths to speak, then you will be a really really lousy shrink.
 

debored13

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Hi there.

I'm a bit busy with non-internet stuff at the mo, but seeing as I've already rad this, I thought I'd add some quick comments.

I've not read the Sokal book (intellectual Impostures), but have read some of his writing on this topic, and I think they're quite good and funny - it's good to have terrible arguments taken apart. Some reviewers saw this book as an attempt to discredit all post-modernism by swotting some flies, but Wessely made it clear he did not, and that he valued some post-modernist critiques of modernist thought - I'd be really interested to read more about his thoughts here - he sometimes strikes me as someone who's read Foucault's writings on the potentially oppressive nature of psychiatry, but has taken exactly the opposite lessons from them that I have (not that I've read much).

I don't really think it's fair to make a big thing of him lying in a university interview... I'm certainly not willing to hold myself to that level of honesty. Oh yeah - and he was saying (I think) that he's only written two books.

The Female Malady stuff seems far more related to CFS. I vaguely remember reading about this literary professor's views on CFS a long time ago, but it's all a bit hazy. From what I remember, it was comically bad stuff. If she's got any pieces online, they could well be useful for illuminating Wessely's philisophical understanding of CFS. I think I remember the two of them being mentioned together elswhere too.

Edit: I don't know this "Culture of Complaint: The Fraying of America", but it again sounds as if it ties with what I think are some of the motivations behind his understanding of CFS.

The more I read about Wessely, the more I think of him as a fairly normal academic who just happens to be working in a field where he has too much power over people, and where it's such a backwater for research that there's a real dearth of opposing views. It's a bit of an indictment of academia really, but it only seems a problem when you're directly affected by it. If he was writing equally weak papers about economics (and many people are), I wouldn't have a problem with him. I'm really interested in how his views on fatigue in cancer/MS/etc patients are treated (will GET and CBT be introduced here?), as there he's going to have to be a part of a more legitimate intellectual process. With CFS, it's all a bit of a joke.
It's ridiculous to classify Deleuze and Guattari as "postmodern". They were continuing a philosophical project initiated by Kant, Nietzsche, and other moderns. When people hate on stuff like this, without understanding that it's not "postmodern", they are often betraying their hatred of and misunderstanding of philosophy as a whole.

Most people who decry post-modernism haven't even read the most important counter-enlightenment philosophers like Nietzsche or Heidegger.