February 26, 2010

The Democratization of Knowledge

"In a world with abundant, actionable health data - both from electronic medical records and our everyday observations - we will be empowered to make better decisions and our relationships with doctors may significantly change." 
My last post focused on psychologists’ concerns about self-help; i.e.: the danger of google-pathic checklists diagnosing abusers, users, and manipulative losers. The criticism is that identifying with those who were maliciously deceived leads to a victim mentality---the perception that a partner had never loved at all, but only manipulated our love to serve him or herself.

Now undeniably, countless numbers of websites have populated the Internet, demonizing celebrities, politicians, CEOs, and any authority figure whose larger-than-life-character can be comfortably reduced to a google-pathic diagnosis of malignant narcissism. However, most people resist pointing fingers unless there is sufficient reasoning to support such allegations. Websites such as those, discredit the serious work it takes to admit a beloved might be pathologically narcissistic and therefore, incapable of normal and healthy relationship.

When we search the net with keywords like Narcissist, Psychopath, Infidel, Liar-head, Pretender, and Rat Bazturd, we’re linked to thousands of sites about narcissism. Some are professional, some aren’t. I prefer a mix of both.

I've been writing cyber messages since 2002 and haven't yet found words fully descriptive of ‘objectification’, the precipitant to feeling disconnected from one’s soul. This disconnect is similar to, but unique from, rejection. Rejection hurts; objectification silences…clipping the tongue of even the most verbally fluent or educated. This is why it is imperative to find people who empathize with this 'felt' experience.

The advantage of the layperson's blog or website is personal experience in a descriptive narrative. Perhaps it’s terminologically incorrect to say “narcissists steal souls” but in the victim’s reality, anything short of metaphor misses the mark of emotional accuracy. The non-credentialed layperson is thus free to write from the heart, using meaningful metaphor in lieu of psychological jargon. Readers connect with one other’s stories, vicariously making emotional connections within themselves.

Professional websites describe theory with erudite language and psychological concepts defining human pathology. Readers glean in a head full of information, eventually making connections between psychological theory and human behavior within the rubric of what is considered ‘normal’.

Head and heart.
Head and heart.
Healing connects the head and heart

In my e-experience, professional websites educated my brain while the penetrating honesty of self-disclosure healed my heart. Nonetheless, educating gray matter failed to instruct matters of the heart. Isn’t it reasonable then, to seek respectful collaboration between academic research and experiential wisdom?

As concerned as some psychologists are about google-pathing people with DSM checklists, it may also be fair to suggest psychologists misdiagnose pathology where there isn’t any. Lay folk are reproached for having been given a hammer and subsequently seeing everything as a nail; but the corollary may also be true: once a clinician has a diagnostic manual, any client complaining of the human condition gets nailed to the wall. Psychologists ‘see’ what they expect to ‘see’, not unlike the rest of us who did not expect to see pathology.

Now don't get me wrong. I've personally known lousy therapists and equally lousy online groups. This doesn’t mean I dismiss the therapeutic value of psychological intervention. It means I think critically about subordinating myself to external authority, either singular or group authority. As cyber self-helpers discriminate between healthy and unhealthy groups/communities, we also wise-up to healthy or unhealthy professional support.

It’s my sense that E-Self-help is finally gaining respect, despite the ridicule, dismissal, and suggestion that non-professional groups are comprised of The Blind leading the Blind. Self-help has been demonized as dangerous; and yes, there are dysfunctional groups oblivious to oppressive GroupThink. And sure, there are crackpot gurus mesmerizing people and leading them over the edge of narcissistic cliffs, encouraging self-admiration and destructive self-actualization as desirable goals.

From my experience however, people eventually differentiate healthy from unhealthy groups---maybe even more quickly than separating healthy therapists from unhealthy ones. At least with self-help deference is not expected, it’s earned.

Self-help is highly effective when people relate to one another as peers, without an established hierarchy of authority. This in itself is empowering because we are not asking an authority to verify our ‘normality’. We begin to feel safe in our skin again after communicating with people like ourselves. And in a process of identification, increase our self-esteem and self-confidence.

On occasion, I've joined online commentaries discussing cooperation between professionals and lay people support. Professionals discount the credibility of self-help the way some laypeople discredit therapeutic legitimacy. Unfortunately, discussions quickly polarize and rather than valuing one other's contributions, people defend their turf, dismissing the credibility of the ‘opponent’. This is Either-Or thinking, a black and white mentality: pitting self-help and professional help against one another as if either side has all the answers.

I'd like to end this "Soliloquy to Self-Help" by encouraging people to read this essay by Tom Ferguson. Later this week, I hope to consolidate my thoughts about what constitutes a healthy self-help community from one that re-victimizes the victim.

Hugs all,

"...I almost hate to admit how many hours I've spent over the last three years looking at what happens when consumers go online for health purposes. I think that as health professionals we're at a disadvantage in learning about this area. We're already behind because we were taught that we can learn all we need to know about health care from other health professionals, not from our patients. But in this area, it's frequently our lay colleagues who are doing the most pioneering work.
"Now let me identify two different consumer populations among those who use online health resources. First, there's the online newbie who's not particularly familiar with what's out there. And second, there's the veteran online self-helper, who's comfortable with the Net culture, has been using these resources for a year or more, and typically logs on to his or her regular haunts several times a week. I'm particularly interested in this second population---the veteran online self-helpers because I think their patterns of online behavior are typical of what we're going to see consumers doing in the years to come.
"So what do these veteran online self-helpers do online? Above all else, they communicate back and forth with other people. They send and receive e-mail. They read and contribute to the online mailing lists that cover their areas of concern. They visit the discussion areas on the commercial services and the newsgroups. And may attend scheduled or ad-hoc love chat groups that in many cases serve as online support groups. They sometimes search for information by doing a search of the Web by subscribing to an inexpensive news services to help them keep up on their areas of interest. And increasingly these days, they may create their own mailing list, Web site, or other online resources. But above all, they exchange experiences and opinions with others who share their special concerns..."
"...This is a fairly typical example of the high-quality responses people receive when they reach out to online self-help groups for support.
"I recently had an opportunity to cite this case example at a medical conference in New Orleans for psychologists and psychiatrists. After my talk, two very distinguished therapists came up to talk to me. They'd been asking themselves the question: "If this person had come to us as a patient, would we have been able to provide the same level of good help and support he received from the self-helpers he found online?" And they had decided, in all humility, that although they are both very well trained, highly-respected therapists, that they probably would not have been able to help him in nearly such an immediate, compassionate, practical, and powerful way.
"Now not all the interactions on the online support groups are this helpful and wise. But many of them are. I must say I've been very impressed by the ability of these online communities to provide high-quality information and support on both the emotional, and on the practical level. And they're often, though not always---quite impressive on a purely technical level as well..." 



  1. YOu are awesome. This is so lovely, and so true.

  2. Right on, Sister! Some of my electronic data got fed into the computer and shared with every doctor and hospital by a nurse that didn't know me at all, and somehow got my meds wrong. Now I have a list of allergies I never knew I had to certain meds I can't pronounce.
    So I made up a new list and presented it to my primary doctor's nurse, asking that the data be corrected in the computer.

    I am not holding my breath. And I will speak my answers very carefully in the future, and check to see that the intake person has recorded it correctly. I was deprived of my usual meds during my last hospital stay because the nurse decided I didn't need a certain pill. Finally she substituted.
    Thank goodness it was only one day.


  3. Thank you, Maeve! Always good to hear from you and yes...validation is good, too. *grin*

    Dear Anonymous,

    We had a couple of lousy therapists mess with my nephew's head and had to question our tendency to trust therapeutic authority beyond all reason.

    I finally attended a therapy session with him and that was that.

    Not long afterwards, the therapist was fired from the clinic after receiving parental complaints and concerns by more 'seasoned' professionals.

    "Our" complaint was not on the list. Like most people, we distrusted our own perceptions and it took awhile before we could bust through the illusion that all therapists were competent and SANE.

    I have had issues with automatic deference to authority. This is a different world than it was thirty, forty, fifty years ago. We must learn to take care of ourselves, and trust without trusting too much.

    Good thing you were paying attention to your proper medications! I'm not sure how you got a hold of your medical records though. How did you find out that the primary nurse had made a mistake????


  4. About the meds mistakes......The opthamologist's nurse, who took down my info, recorded it in the computer wrong, apparently mistaking my statements. I think she missed a couple of words I said.
    It was obvious from the entries that the source was the unfamiliar nurse, which every doctor used as a reference. In the hospital, that combined list took preference over any protests I had about the meds and my allergies.
    I kept telling them it was incorrect and needed to be changed.
    The hospital nurses only believed what was in the computer.
    So evidently, once it is in the computer, it can't be an error.
    Upon request, I was given a printout of every record from the hospital visit, because I wanted the blood test results for my personal records at home.

    I hand delivered an updated list of my meds and allergies to my primary physician's office. But the errors were not corrected. So at every visit when they ask questions, I must argue with them.

    Perhaps the word "senile" will be entered sometime soon. I now avoid going to the doctor and taking any new medication without looking it up on my computer.

    That's progress in the technical world.


  5. Thanks for this post - it definitely resonates with my personal experiences in trying to heal from narcissistic injury.

    I think of it this way: Every successful mode of healing had humble origins. And that the wrong remedy applied by even the most qualified professional is still the WRONG REMEDY.

    I've found sites like yours and others that speak from personal experience the most helpful to me. Once I could hear variations of my own story from the lips of others, I knew I wasn't alone and gained strength from that. A therapist with a lot of book knowledge but no personal experience as a victim really has little idea of what we've been through.



    1. Hi Janice,

      I've added your website to my blog list below and look forward to reading more entries from you! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I love hearing back from readers!


    2. This is my first apply to any blog ever. I am so enthusiastic about this blog! Yes, I have been looking around for all kind of information about narcissism since I discovered my partner is a narcissist and yes, I have found a lot of spitting about them and people who are hurt by narcissists feeling sorry for themselves. But I am diagnosed with Borderline and according to many blogs, Borderliners are terrible as well. At the moment I don't suffer as much from my defects anymore and now have space to find out how to cope with my best friend. We both agree he needs help (yes, he gives in he has a problem now and I am proud of him for that). But my personal experience is indeed being pushed in the corner of the studies of the therapists who strangely enough assume we are all alike, while I have learned that every person suffers a different stage of the disease. I care about him a lot and I know he cares about me, so I rather try to have some more patience and see what will happen.
      . With this story attached I just try to explain why I am so enormous happy with this sober, well explaining website.
      And to this blog I think; Yes! Yes! and yes! So true!
      I have not read every subject yet, but I certainly will read it all. It is not a coincidence I attract narcissists. Because my partner and my mother are a lot alike I found a link between his narcissism and why my mother is who she is(before that I already have accepted she is who she is after 36 yrs). So thanks to him I found out more about her and about myself. And your blogs helps me a lot to get to answers no therapist has given me.
      So all I want to say is; Thank you!
      p.s; sorry if my grammar is a bit strange.I am from the Netherlands


    3. Hello Sara! Thanks for reading my blog and commenting! And congratulations on your first post to someone's blog! The internet offers us an amazing opportunity so take advantage of it, stay out of hate groups, take time to compose your thoughts, give people the benefit of the doubt (and they'll reciprocate).

      As you browse my articles, you'll find some that are sad, and some that are pissy. I started writing during my divorce and believe me, I wasn't nearly as objective. I suppose anyone would be if their life were turned upside-down with no ability to "defend" themselves against false accusations and devaluation. But we heal. We get better. It's a process and the one thing that is true for both the narcissist and the "non" is that we can grow. We can change. I believe free access to information about narcissism (and borderline disorders) can lead us towards a more compassionate response with deeper understanding of self and other.

      I have loved ones in my life today who have narcissistic disorders and feel no need to cut them out of my life because they are not malicious nor without empathy.

      I've read some encouraging reports about treating borderline traits/behaviors, even curing BPD. This is good news because it is not uncommon for children of narcissists to have 'borderline traits' (or what appears to be borderline traits).

      Your English is excellent so no need to apologize! Your comment was very clear and honest. I've talked with quite a few people from the Netherlands, by the way!Don't be shy about commenting. I love to hear from readers!



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