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A Fabulous, Forward-Moving Workshop

Janet Foner’s Jewish “Mental Health” System Survivors’ Workshop [see previous article] was fabulous and forward moving. Here is some of what I took away:

  • “Mental health” oppression and anti-Jewish oppression intersect. “Mental patients” and “retarded” people were among the first to be killed in the precursor to the Holocaust, in order to “desensitize” the Germans to killing the Jews.
  • The oppressive society expects Jews to assimilate, be upwardly mobile, and “look good.” If we got caught up in the “mental health” system, especially if we got locked up, we supposedly failed as Jews.
  • The cultural norm for many Jewish families, particularly those with Eastern European, poor or working-class roots, includes showing a lot of feelings and being loud. This is not the society’s idea of “normal,” which sets us up for “mental health” oppression.
  • As Jews we have already internalized oppression that says there’s something wrong with us so we don’t deserve to live. Thus “mental health” oppression and anti-Jewish oppression exacerbate each other.
  • We have all been hurt and still carry and show many of our hurts, but we survived and are okay as who we are right now. Treasuring all Jews, especially those who have been despised and blamed by the oppressive society, points us toward the benign reality.
  • Janet’s Five-Point Program for Getting Present and Staying That Way:

0. Don’t quit RC!

1. Build a large network of Co-Counselors and friends and have lots of sessions (“mental health” oppression says there’s “something wrong” with us for needing help).

2. Make a commitment to focus off distress and on reality and discharge on it in many sessions.

3. Take client time on making your life the way you want it, and then do it.

4. As client, have all sessions with at least part of your attention focused on reality instead of diving head first into the distress.

5. Have fun. Do lots of things you enjoy every day.

I left behind a chunk of fear. I left ready to rest more and take more initiative. I left with renewed respect and enthusiasm for the project of human liberation that first drew me to RC.

Eric Lessinger

Trumansburg, New York, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of Jews

(Present Time 184, July 2016)

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00