Talking Back to Dr. Phil: Part 1 of the David Bedrick Interview July 27, 2013Posted by Onely in book review, Interviews.
Tags: David Bedrick, Oprah and Dr. Phil, prejudice against mental illness, singles blog, singlism, Talking Back to Dr. Phil
A love-based psychology promotes social justice, whereas mainstream psychology treats the difficulties of individuals in a vacuum –David Bedrick, J.D.
Copious Readers, Onely has been unhappy with Dr. Phil for a very long time, because he has counseled single people to embrace themselves and their hobbies and be happy, so that they can find a partner. Instead of just being happy, period.
So we were glad to have the opportunity to interview David Bedrick, author of Talking Back to Dr. Phil: Alternatives to Mainstream Psychology. (Belly Song Press, 2013). He proposes a “love-based psychology” that goes beyond the normative (restrictive) ideals that our society (as evidenced by Dr. Phil) puts upon people.
Bedrick’s approach parallels Onely’s efforts to dismantle normative prejudices against unmarried people. We disagree with the idea that couples (whether socially coupled or married) are “better” than single people, or more deserving of government protection.
We came up with some questions for Bedrick that we hope will flesh out the similarities in our missions. In a series of posts, we will tackle one or two questions at a time.
Are people trying to “Normalize” your way of living to their (more common) way of living?
Don’t React to their behavior–Act Out their behaviour!
Onely: Dr. Bedrick, you say in your introduction to Talking Back to Dr. Phil (xvii):
The norms inherent in mainstream psychology’s diagnoses essentially reflect the majority’s beliefs, values, and viewpoints regarding psychological health. As such, it is a psychology often in service of normalizing people, seeking to help them act more reasonably and get along better with others even when the accomodation is contrary to their natures and life paths.
Do you agree that the normalization performed by mainstream psychology parallels the normalization of romantic relationships that occurs in our culture on a daily basis? If so, how do you think this impacts people who are “single at heart” and have no desire to seek a committed-romantic partner (which would be a life path contrary to the norm)?
Bedrick: Absolutely! Most blatantly in the way mainstream psychology promotes stereotypic gender roles that not only marginalize GLBT relationships but all relationships.
Mainstream culture encourages, celebrates, and bestows privileges on people who partner, especially those who partner in a traditional marriage. People who use their energy to focus on their own creativity, ambitions, healing, happiness, or non-traditional paths are looked at as if something is wrong with them. The internalization of this experience, a kind of shame, can leave people feeling depressed, angry, or both. This shaming can pressure people to look for a partner even if that is not truly their way.
Onely: How would you apply a love-based-psychology to someone who fears being single because of family pressure, or (Western) cultural pressure? For instance, you give the example of a Dr. Phil show where he challenged a woman about whether she really wanted to lose weight (90). Single people who are happy with their status are often challenged in such ways: Do you really want to be single? Single-but-seeking people are also challenged: Are you really trying to find someone? Are you being too picky? Do you have any advice for how these people can handle such situations?
Bedrick: Most people need to learn to stand up for themselves in order to create the freedom to live an authentic life, however there are different ways of doing this including confronting people and creating greater boundaries or distance from people who are critical.
More specifically, it can be very useful for people to play out the roles of those that are critical. The best way to do this is by play-acting them in a dramatic, almost caricatured way (e.g.: a role play). This helps people not only get in touch with these people’s opinions but also their attitudes. If the attitude is nasty, demeaning, shaming, patronizing, or otherwise hostile then it is important to confront these attitudes before going on to address the beliefs and opinions of the person who is challenging them. Once a person can play-act to the people who are critical of them, they can go on to play-act a ‘forbidden’ response. This can help the person get in touch with their deeper feelings which are key to understanding and supporting oneself.
Onely: On a larger scale, do you have suggestions on how to educate or respond to people about marital status discrimination?
Bedrick: It is important to acknowledge that some folks are not open to being educated or changed. Their beliefs are rigidly fixed and the structures that hold their lives together would be rendered too shaky for them to be truly open to life paths that don’t include marriage.
Further, educating others is best if the person doing the education is connected to their own power, intelligence, and wisdom. When we feel smaller than another person, it can be harder to teach others without at the same take ‘attacking’ them. When we feel bigger (wiser about an issue or emotionally, intellectually, or spiritually empowered) we can treat others like children (i.e. – people who don’t know any better) who need to learn.
However, if we feel put down or diminished in some way, feeling ‘bigger’ will be difficult. In that case, I would encourage a person to use their voice to speak out, resist, write, and live their lives as fully and happily as they can. And, using the aggressive energy in certain situations is necessary.
Copious Readers, stay tuned for further interviews with Dr. Bedrick. And in the meantime, for an example of acting out the role(s) of people who try to normalize your lifestyle (question 2 above), please check out Onely’s little play we did a while ago on Psychology Today.