From the chapter “Psychological Practice and the Cultural Revolution”:
A dialectical approach in psychotherapy can be understood as the struggle between irrational and rational aspects of the individual. It is materialist because it is based on the conviction that there is a real world that can be understood, and that all people are capable of understanding it. The truly mentally ill are confused in their understanding of the world, and their confusion may be cleared up through study and treatment. This message is not “there is a real you, let’s find it”, but rather “there is a real world, let’s get you back in it”.
In [Cultural Revolution era] China, a mentally ill person was not viewed as a passive witness to the illness or suffering, or the object of medical treatment by means of medication. The patient was called upon to fight the disease and its symptoms. At the start of treatment, the psychiatrist would explain to the patient the origin, nature, and course of the illness, and the course of treatment to undertake.
The Chinese process of psychotherapy can be divided up into three basic elements:
- Call on a sense of responsibility from the mentally ill, and encourage optimism in the prospect of rapid recovery.
- Help the patient understand the illness. It;s origin, development, deterioration, and recovery follow an objective and regular pattern. Once patients understand this pattern they can adopt actions that push toward recovery.
- Stimulate the patients own activity against the behaviour. Patients can relate the objective pattern of their behaviour to the environment and their own personalities to formulate a practical approach to combat the behaviour. This is a long-term proposition that includes structuring a life with a proper balance of work. exercise, and recreational activities.
As many as 80% of Chinese patients achieved lasting and significant improvement. Results like this come from social consciousness and the impetus to fight the disease.
In the case of hospitalized patients, physicians and staff strove to create good relationships with the patients, because this social relation fostered recovery. Patients were engaged in collective cultural activities and politics to fight their isolation.
In part of the attack on hierarchy, it was decided that staff should share the living conditions of the patients, eating and sleeping in solidarity with them. The patients were now encouraged to stay clean, and assisted if they needed it. Crucially, they were assured that upon release they would have jobs waiting for them, and their families were supported during their absence to minimize the stress of hospitalization.
Old Chinese psychiatric hospitals like Amerikan ones, relied on sedation to keep life within the hospital smooth. But in revolutionary China patients’ minds were kept as active as possible. They were taken to public displays, and the staff explained daily news to them. Work was of course important, whether it was simple domestic tasks, semi-industrial labour, or recreation like singing or dancing.
As a consequence of British imperialism opium addiction was a widespread problem in China before the revolution. The Chinese Communist Party eliminated the existing supply, and provided alternative employment for those engaged in its distribution, struggling with those who were willing to struggle, and punishing those who were not. The main way to combat substance abuse for the users, in addition to taking the substance away, is at its root. When a meaningful way to live life, such as waging revolution, is a real option far fewer people turn to drugs in excess.