Saturday, 22 September 2007

The three stages of semiotics, schizoanalysis, and objective social and cultural critique.

There is a common assumption amongst most people, that if you have a psychiatric diagnosis, then not only must you be completely mad, like the tabloid, ignorant, or black and white images they have of people with mental health problems, but you must also be mentally deficient, or have an absence of mental faculties.  Usually, the opposite is the case, in that we have a higher social awareness, or an extra mental function, added onto what is the usual mediocre way of thinking and perceiving things, without much depth or analysis at all.  The fact that we are often discriminated or misunderstood for this special or higher social awareness, is what can cause or add to our frustration and mental distress.

In one of his less socially credible books, The politics of experience, R. D. Laing spoke about so-called schizophrenia, as being a special or higher function of awareness or understanding, which in his time at least, he thought couldn't be fully understood or explained, until one day it would be proved to be true, and then, as he put it, "the joke would be on the psychiatric profession, and not on the diagnosed patients".  But our higher social awareness can be understood now, as it could always have been, and in a wider rational, social, and objective context, it has such unrealised huge potential and possibilities, for the progress of humanity and society.  My own higher social awareness and understanding, is part of a much wider objective process of: 1. subjective semiotics, 2. rational schizoanalysis, and 3. objective political, social, and cultural awareness and critique.

Part of this higher social awareness, on the level of other people's social communication, is that I am very much aware of the shifting contexts of social conversation and communication, both visual, emotional, and verbal, and the fact that whilst most of the verbal content of the shared social conversation of other people is rational, the overlapping and shifting contexts of it, are by no means rational or logical, and in fact tend to follow a very specific pattern of contexts repeating or overlapping, whilst verbal meanings exchanged, naturally change, progress, or digress.  This means that there is often an incongruent or slightly off-course nature to most verbal and other social communication between people, which is also completely both unrealised and misunderstood.

The basic rational content of communication, is of course very important, and I'm not undervaluing or ignoring the social or linguistic importance of this at all; nor am I intending to separate these content-meanings, from the contexts and functions I've described, which would be getting into the realms of something similar to avant-garde art, but this more functional and dialectical aspect of social communication, which is also based-upon the rational meanings that are exchanged, is an extra mental and social faculty that we have, and which is hardly ever realised, acknowledged, or understood by other people, or by the mental health or psychiatric profession.

I believe and know that as diagnosed psychiatric people, for whatever social, mental learning, brain structure, or genetically unique/different reasons, most of us have a higher or special awareness of this, which we don't often talk about, or even acknowledge ourselves, because, like the skills or extra abilities of other marginalised or oppressed groups in society, such as children, blacks, or women, it isn't actually acknowledged as an extra social skill, or an extra or added ability, and therefore it is completely unrecognised, misunderstood, or completely devalued for what it really is.

People diagnosed with schizophrenia and other psychiatric diagnoses, have perhaps somehow internalised these shifting contextual meanings of shared verbal, emotional, and physical social communication, perhaps from their families, peers, or wider society, and by some means of abuse, deprivation, separation, or denial, have become separated or cut-off from the wider or real social context of it.  In this light, part of their or our healing or recovery, might be an acknowledgement, integration, progress, and realisation of this, by ourselves and others.

A great deal of radical or modern mental health thinking, and community psychiatric methods, more appropriately focuses on active strategies and empowerment, of diagnosed-people's ability to take control of situations, which the lack of these social skills, is accurately seen to be at the root of most or all vulnerability, exploitation of, and mental distress.  This is an accurate and appropriate social shift in some therapy and community psychiatric thinking, which as a starter I welcome, but it can also be rooted in some very basic and ignorant dogma, which can lead to very deliberate or thoughtless ignorance, prejudice, and discrimination.

To not learn about, or to ignore or deny us our higher social awareness, whether it is in our full power, knowledge, and control, fully socially integrated, or not, is like some of the ignorant, derogatory, and discriminatory attitudes towards the higher mental and emotional social awareness, of other groups in society, such as children, or women, which in the outcome or end-result, logically and politically leads to more inequalities, disadvantages, and continued ignorance, of what we have to offer, what we're about, and who we really are as psychiatric diagnosed-people, service users, or survivors of psychiatry.


A Critique of Nihilism

"Freedom is the freedom to believe that two and two are four" George Orwell (Taken from 1984)

Whilst ideologies and beliefs can be said to be dangerous, the freedom to hold beliefs other than the state or mass public opinion are very important.  Most people will say that they don't believe in anything, and these days nihilism is very fashionable, and which is why it's hard to say whether nihilism stems from genuine dissent and scepticism, or whether it is just conforming to mass public opinion.  Such mass public opinion may be simply the hegemony of ideas passed down by the ruling classes to the middle and working classes, justifying ones own dissolution, ignorance, and oppression.

Whilst nihilism seeks to deny all social beliefs and values, in the process of denying it may set up its own personal ideology and dogma, and thus seek to impose this upon others, restricting personal or collective freedom and freedom of thought.  Nihilism denies social beliefs and values, but often doesn't take into account things which are related to beliefs and values, but which are also not synonymous and are separate aspects - things such as faith, creative imagination, integrity, conviction, solidarity, and mutual trust and love.

Nihilism is therefore is a form of egocentrism.  Such individualism or egocentrism could be the basis of libertarian and democratic thinking, but it could also be the basis for right-wing views such as Thatcherism or even Nazism.  Personally, I think that whilst it's foolish to throw the baby out with the bath water, and because there is some truth in everything, there are also contradictions in everything - including nihilism.  To be a thorough nihilist, one also has to be self-critical, but most nihilists are not prepared to do this.

So rather than rejecting everything and hypocritically setting personal belief systems up in the process, I'd rather focus on the positive side of nihilism, and which is about finding truths in all systems, whilst realising and taking into account social, political, and personal contradictions.

One critique of nihilism is that it is a bourgeois consciousness, and embodies the anti-values of the ruling classes, that there is no such thing as society and so on.  The ruling classes and those who support them don't have to have shared values and beliefs in order to organise and change society, because they are content with the system staying as it is to keep them in power.

Also, because nihilism supposedly elevates the individual above all social and shared values, and because it sets up its own dogma and lacks the corresponding self-criticism to be a thorough nihilist, it can very easily lead to being destructive, and very easily lead to being self-opinionated and to personal bigotry.

Nihilism can be conditioned or influenced by social, political, and psychological factors.  I'm also interested in where nihilism stands in terms of freewill and determinism.  On the basis on freewill everything is a choice, and so therefore even not choosing, or rejecting, is still a belief and a choice.  This is somewhat reductionist, as nihilism doesn't have to be destructive, and it can be a form of genuine and moderate scepticism; but I would also add that nihilism ends up becoming deterministic in its personal dogma and ideology, and so again, it ends up becoming the very thing that it is rejecting, albeit in a personalised form.


Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Olfactory Hallucinations

Emotions that burn and smolder through the nose and brow

Olfactory hallucinations are hallucinated smells, and in some ways are similar to hearing voices hallucinations, except they function or are experienced as smells or nasty smells, and are therefore called olfactory, which means the sense of smell.  Like OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) olfactory hallucinations are a very neglected area of therapy, and there seems to be no specific therapy treatment for these things in the Thanet area on the mental health NHS.

When I had an acute breakdown about nine years ago, I experienced amongst anxiety and the unreality-feelings of very severe depression, some olfactory hallucinations.  The olfactory hallucinations were very disturbing and painful to me, partly because nothing about them was ever addressed in any therapy context, and I had no idea what it was I was really experiencing.  I managed to self-manage these experiences whilst I was in psychiatric hospital for nearly two weeks as a so-called voluntary patient, and about five years ago, by re-experiencing olfactory hallucinations with a new understanding, I was able to realize what olfactory hallucinations really were, and how to deal with it.

When I was in psychiatric hospital, along with olfactory hallucinations went a severe burning-sensation in the center of my forehead, which was my suppressed passion and anger coming out, and I had some identity disturbance as well, where I couldn't see my reflection in the mirror, it didn't look like me, or I looked physically distorted.  To be ourselves, and not to have our social, sexual, human, and personal struggles distorted and twisted by psychiatry and mental and social health professionals, is a huge struggle we all face in society as users and survivors of services.

I had a breakthrough in understanding what olfactory hallucinations really were about five years ago, after considering the views of the American psychiatrists Peter Breggin, and especially of Thomas Szasz, who are both critical of their own psychiatric professions.  Peter Breggin prefers to say that people have unusual or strange ideas, rather than the more derogatory description of "bizarre ideation" used by psychiatrists, and I think that psychiatric definitions of mental ill-health symptoms are often collusive and unhelpful to a greater understanding of what those things really are. Drugs that blot out these experiences completely, are not helpful or constructive to cure or healing.

Thomas Szasz has a semantic method of therapy that he uses as a private therapist, which I think is an excellent and socially constructive approach, if used with intelligence, candour, and sensitivity.  This semantic method is about understanding that language is the sea in which we swim, and if you take us out of that sea, we are often lost, because we get into a habit of applying fixed-meanings to what symptoms we are experiencing or describing, and in return, those descriptions get attached to influence how we re-experience those symptoms, and how we interpret and respond to them.

So in effect, we adopt certain psychiatric or personal definitions and terms for our symptoms or experiences, which have sometimes been passed down to us, and which need to be challenged or explored with many other terms considered, for what symptoms we are experiencing.  This might also mean as Wilhelm Reich and others believed, to explore our feelings and emotions, and to realize how they become blocked and repressed by our political and social conditioning.  So a combination of these methods, plus my own unique overview and understanding, are the way I go about understanding and healing myself and others who have so-called mental health problems.

So about five years ago now, I was getting some mild olfactory hallucinations, and I very gently but deeply focused on what I was actually feeling, discarding the surface descriptions and experience of it as a hallucinated smell, and trying to work my way towards the root of what it was I was actually feeling, and what emotions had been suppressed.  What emotions had been blocked, suppressed, and repressed, were anger, revulsion, and disgust, and I was then able to address those feelings in a more positive light without suppressing them.

When I did this, the experience of those things displaced as a nasty smell decreased, and I was able to nip it in the bud before I perpetuated the negative cycle of false or limited descriptions and responses.  This is how I deal with my olfactory hallucinations now, and as with my OCD and auditory hallucinations, I have had to be my own therapist, although this has also helped me to help my friends who have mental ill-health symptoms, to have a greater understanding and healing of themselves.

Synaesthesia means a positive mixing or muddling of the senses, and there's some connection between olfactory hallucinations and synaesthesia on one level.  People who experience synaesthesia, often experience sounds of music as certain shapes, patterns, or colours (and colours that can be visualised, tasted, or smelt), and as a very blissful and beautifully creative experience, many classical composers like Scriabin were synaesthesiacs.

I experience a form of synaesthesia when I listen to jazz, classical, and rock music, and as a musician I play guitar and bass, and what I produce is both created from, and experienced as, certain combinations of shapes and patterns.  These shapes and patterns of chords, rhythms, musical keys and notations, have an abstract logic, and there is a freely constructed creative method to it.

So there is a creative connection with olfactory hallucinations and synaesthesia, although olfactory hallucinations unlike synaesthesia, are on the whole not a pleasant experience.  Literal comparisons between creativity and mental health problems can be dangerous and misleading, although there are some similarities which can add to our healing and understanding.


Violence and Creative Blocks

"Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

I'm interested in to what extent creativity is violent, and how much a high level of creativity uses or requires force.  Some people who appear to be very creative are also very violent.  This is due to creative blocks.  A creative block can occur, when the mind becomes fixated on a feeling or an idea, and what occurs to me is that violence is very deterministic, because it believes that determined actions of violence will come from predicted and determined violent results.

It is much better to focus on freedom, liberty, and equality or democracy, rather than focus on violence and force, whilst it is understandable for people to defend themselves physically if they are under physical attack.

A creative block occurs, when the mind cannot think of new ideas, and when the randomness aspect of creativity takes over the receptiveness and reordering, filtering, and restructuring.  Randomness then becomes fixed and turns into repetition and a suppressed flow of energy, feelings, or ideas, and which can then lead to frustration, aggression, and violence.  This is also how many mental health problems can occur too.  Negative thinking and cynicism can also lead to violence, as people can see no positive way out of a situation, or positive ways to change themselves, a situation, or society.

Some of the films of the director Peter Greenaway are very creative, but also very violent.  However, mental violence, anxiety, and stress, are not conducive to creativity, and the violence in Peter Greenaway's films are coincidental to the creative aspect of them.  One thing his films do show though, is how creative blocks occur, within the context of so-called crimes of passion, oppression, and exploitation.

As people with diagnosed mental health problems, many of us have suffered from bullying and abuse.  We need government polices to tackle these problems, otherwise they will continue, destroying self esteem, creativity, and individual and human potential.  It is important that we don't act out the oppression and violence which has been done upon us, and learn how to overthrow the creative blocks which can lead to aggression and violence, and ruin our own and other people's lives.


Saturday, 1 September 2007

Hearing Voices with Intimacy and Acknowledging Thoughts

I have got to the stage where I regularly talk with, debate, and negotiate with my voices, and which I have been doing for some years now.  Even though I am male, my voices are very female: nurturing, sensitive, and caring, and they talk like women.  Maybe I am a very feminine man, although I think that we all have both masculine and feminine character traits, and that it's unhealthy to have too much of either gender trait.

Like women, my voices like to talk a lot, and very rarely do they let me have any silence.  They sometimes protest if they think I am ignoring them, and they demand some sort of attention or response.  Ignoring the voices is not an option really, as they just get louder if I ignore them.  The voices sometimes ask me if I want some silence, and when I say yes, they then say OK, but then start talking again.  However, I have found some ways of silencing them.

As I have conversed with my voices for a long time, I think that I have achieved a degree of intimacy with them.  This can only be achieved after a person develops a close relationship with the voices.  By intimacy, I mean that I am very close to the voices, and I know when they will say something and can predict what they will say before they have said it.  This usually means, that by doing this, I am more closely having a conversation with my own conscious thoughts, rather than having thoughts which are independent of my consciousness.

Another way of silencing the voices, is by acknowledging my own thoughts which were otherwise to become voices.  This means that I can identify the thoughts as my own before they become voices.  When I think a thought that could become a voice, I say yes to myself out loud and acknowledge my own thought.  Maybe I need to do this affirmation because my thoughts and emotions were not acknowledged by others when I was a child.

I hope this, and my other articles, will help others to understand their own voices.  By developing a close relationship with the voices, and then analysing and understanding the thought patterns and processes behind them, I am slowly but surely getting closer to having more and more control over the voices, or of possibly curing myself of them.  I don't think I want to be cured of the voices entirely though, because if I was entirely cured of the voices I would miss them.  It's better that I develop coping mechanisms and strategies for controlling and silencing them though when the need arises.