attempts at living

to make a system out of delusions

Tag: ‘problems with living’


Tens of thousands of sick and disabled people in Scotland face being forced on to unpaid work programmes under threat of losing their benefits from tomorrow.

That is when disability claimants will become eligible for controversial mandatory “workfare” placements, according to new plans which have been quietly drawn up by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

People with a range of physical or mental health conditions could find themselves stacking shelves in high-street stores such as Tesco and Poundland, or cleaning private homes, under the new proposals.

Since the Government’s Work Programme began in June, tens of thousands of job seekers have been put on unpaid placements. Now some ill or disabled people are to be told that they must take unpaid positions or risk losing up to 70% of their employment support allowance (ESA).

Ironically, the new measures are coming into effect on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. A series of national protests against the Government’s workfare programmes will take place this week.

Leading Scottish charities have expressed serious concerns about people with disabilities being forced on to compulsory work placements.

Across the UK, some 340,000 disabled people have been placed in the work related activity group (WRAG), which means they must undertake a range of activities to help them get back to work, including training, job-hunting – and now mandatory work placements.

Read the full story here.


Same old same


Catastrophe is an action bringing ruin and pain on stage, where corpses are seen and wounds and other similar sufferings are performed

Aristotle, Poetics

Whoever writes, no matter the form that writing takes, is pushed on by some kind of obsession, no matter what intensity that obsession reaches or fails to reach. What is mine? I survey the history of my productions and reproductions.

Short texts on obliterated sculpture, wastelands, abandoned and decaying spaces, deserts- an aesthetic of urban collapse;

depressions, schziophrenia, epidemics of anxiety and panic being produced by the excessive demands of capitalism’s infosphere, the post-traumatic subjectivity that becomes hegemonic in these last days of capital’s reign- the neuropsychological collapse of eviscerated minds;

the Inevitable, both proximate and distal in the forms of the perishing of the individual organism in human death and in considerations of entropy, heat-death of the universe, and ecological catastophe- the intimate and cosmic levels of material collapse.

I seek out films about the end of the world, and the destruction of populations. I seek out body-horror and science fiction, zombie films and, although less so now, the cold music of inhumanity and monstrosity in industrial and blackmetal. I read widely but return again and again to the catastrophic novels of Ballard, Kafka and Houellebecq, to the linguistic excess and overload of Ieonescu and Steve Aylett. Philosophically, I can’t and haven’t ever been able to dissociate myself from the first adolescent truths that dawned on me. I remain entrenched in a philosophical pessimism.

What then is my obsession?

Some are driven by a love of truth and they are called philosophers. I am not driven by such philosophia. The truth is abject and indifferent and entirely in-itself. Who could have such passion for such a passionless thing as truth?

No. I am driven by the catastrophic thought, by an obsession with the wound and the ruin, the collapsing and the ecstatic, the obscene figures of human and nonhuman suffering, the withdrawn core of things concieved of as the thing in itself that doesn’t simply remain hidden but which actively resists actualisation. The end of the world as it’s apotheosis.

My obsession, in a word, is a catastrophia. This is why I return to the question of life, the question that that of death is really asking. Life concieved as objectively catastrophic, accidental, horrific.

Fail again…

Psychiatry even works on the assumption that the ‘healthy’ and viable is at one with the highest in personal terms. Depression, ‘fear of life’, refusal of nourishment and so on are invariably taken as signs of a pathological state and treated thereafter. Often, however, such phenomena are messages from a deeper, more immediate sense of life, bitter fruits of a geniality of thought or feeling at the root of antibiological tendencies. It is not the soul being sick, but its protection failing, or else being rejected because it is experienced- correctly- as a betrayal of ego’s highest potential.

Zapffe, The Last Messiah. Full text.

On symptoms

The dynamic conflict thus remains firmly in place no matter how desensitised Bob is the surrounding world. This last act of desperation by Dr. Marvin—not simply to shoot or stab him, but to literally remove all trace of Bob by killing him with explosives—is the logical expression of his flawed therapeutic methodology: to avoid the original conflict and erase the symptomatic matter that remains, as he says to Bob when tying him up: “You understand, don’t you? You won’t go away.” Is Dr. Marvin talking to Bob or to (his own) anxiety?

Dylan Trigg of Side Effects provides us with a psychoanalytically informed phenomenology of ‘the symptom’. Read here.

I think there is something in this and my own tentative attempt to express it in relation to hearing voices can be found here.

An uncontroversial axiom

The radical psychiatrist Thomas Szasz introduced the concept of ‘problems in living’ into psychiatic dicourse and practice in an effort to draw attention to the ethics and politics of both psychopathology and therapeutic work[1]. He was followed in this by the (more or less) radical psychiatric nurse Phil Barker [2] and the not at all radical counsellor John McLeod [3]. It is not medical science that should take centre stage in psychiatry. I am broadly in agreement, and certainly regard Barker’s Tidal Model as the best suited theory of mental health nursing practice. But I would go further and posit the following axiom:

Life itself is the fundamental ‘problem with living’.

On the basis of this axiom I come to understand what I’m doing on this blog- in provisional terms- as part of a desire to see a realist-oriented psychiatry that is both posthuman and engaged with philosophies of life. Necessarily it includes political and ethical reflections. I make no claims to being a philosopher or a theorist. At best I am expressing the shape of this desire, even from within a pessimistic climate, and giving the beginnings of a sketch what it is to attempt to live.

It may seem odd that I claim to be writing about psychiatry when it is so absent from these entries but it lurks in the background of everything I hav tried (not) to say.