Friday, 11 July 2008

Thinking Allowed: Hearing Voices

The Radio 4 programme, Thinking Allowed, linked on the Intervoicewebsite, looked at new sociological research on hearing voices. Theprogramme started off with an extract from Woman's Hour, of a womanwho heard the negative voice of her stepfather, who died when she was three.

Julie Arthur-Kirby was the guest speaker on the ThinkingAllowed programme, and senior lecturer, in the department of socialand psychological science, at Edgehill University, and author of apaper called Natural Body, Social Mind,: An Experience of VoiceHearing. I thought it was an excellent programme, which said many things whichI had discovered from my own experiences, observations, and findings,and had written about in my articles. I agree with the speaker, JulieKirby, that people in supportive social environments, experience supportive voices, whereas people in disruptive or unsupportive environments, experience disruptive and unsupportive voices. I now live in a supportive environment, and I hear positive and supportive female voices (mostly when and where I want to hear them), but if mycircumstances ever changed for the worse, or a bad or negative event triggered me, it could very easily bring the negative and intrusive voices back.

It was also mentioned in the programme, that the negative voices canchange to positive voices, if the person's social circumstances changed, and as they meet new people, and then the voices take upon the characteristic of those new people. This has been very true for me, as I have internalised the positive and supportive voices, of female psychotherapists, I have had therapeutic relationships with in the past, and who were both very good to me.

I'm glad it was mentioned in the programme, that voices can be caused by or due to over-socialisation. This often occurs, when psychiatric-diagnosed people, are forced to socialise against our consent or will, and when our privacy is violated and invaded. Social interaction is very important, but it's also important that it isn't forced upon us, and that our privacy is also safeguarded, respected,and protected.

Speaking in Tongues, Mumbling Out Loud, and Incoherent Speech (Part III)

As a psychiatric-diagnosed person, I realise that all kinds of different people, have all kinds of different responses towards myself and other diagnosed people. There are also some common trends and behaviours amongst non psychiatric-diagnosed people though, especially where mentalism is concerned.

There are some people in society, who will try to provoke mad, irrational, and disruptive responses in psychiatric diagnosed people, by acting provocative and crazy, and because they have issues with their own mental health problems, and which remain unexplored and unresolved. I also find that many people in authority, have communication problems and personality disorders, in that they can't enter into any kind of mutual discussion and debate, are very easily irritated, and lose their concentration very quickly.

Some people will also project their communication problems, onto psychiatric diagnosed people, to say we have a communication problem,and that we can't conform to normal, mutual, or structured conversation, when the communication problems are theirs and not ours. These people usually have problems with their own identity, and with integrating into society in some way.

In my previous two articles on incoherent speech, I looked at the nature of such speech and language in context to the social and interpersonal causes or influences. I feel it's important here, to again mention that incoherent speech is not a disruptive thing, which is trying to fragment, destroy, or divide mutual conversation, although it is usually a response to some conflict and fragmentation by others, in that it seeks a wider or a mutual consensus.

When psychiatric-diagnosed people, make what seem like strange statements, this is to a great extent, because they are imagining a statement, that would be referred back to their thoughts or commentsabout something. They are also imagining a statement, of something referred back to them in agreement or recognition, and which again, is part of a common consensus. The consensus in society, of ordinary everyday speech, then becomes internalised within the person, who then releases this, in order to experience and externalise it.

I was also saying, in my first article on incoherent speech, that psychiatric-diagnosed people often talk seemingly incoherently, as a way of avoiding the rational thought-control of the voices or of other people, because if the psychiatric-diagnosed person speaks in meaningless statements, this can disrupt the voices rational dominance and control, and fragment or distract the voices from the conscious mind.

I realise that for some people reading this, they may think that therefore psychiatric-diagnosed people, are opposed to all rational thought-control, as in the context of normal relating, or transactions, and everyday conversation and speech. This was not what I was saying, because I was referring specifically to hearing negative and/or intrusive voices, and talking about very negative and critical one-sided inquisition.

There may be some psychiatric-diagnosed people, who are indeed opposed to all rational thought-control by other people socially, and that has to be taken into consideration, and realised that there are all kinds of reasons why they are like that, but that in many ways, it is a reasonable stance to take. On the other hand, most diagnosed-people, are not opposed to actual rational free-thinking and communication,and very much value the importance of rational thinking and logic, in context to sound thought and communication, and in context to safe and sound mental health.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

This Voice (poem)

Oh, this voice
Would sound like a miraculous mountain
Of truth and wisdom.
Like an evolving sphere of conscious continuum
If only you could hear this voice.
Like a band practise at it best,
And like an unteachable test,
A message of determination and choice,
If only you could hear this voice

A resume of the book "Stigma - Notes on the management of spoiled identity" by Erving Goffman

Erving Goffman defines stigma as something which extensively discredits and disqualifies the individual from social acceptance and limits life-chances. Overall and throughout, he reviews some popular work on stigma, and then at the end of the book clarifies the relation of stigma to the subject matter of deviance.

He begins by explaining that the Greeks originated the term stigma to refer to bodily signs which were cut or burnt into the body, and which were designed to expose something unusual or bad about the person, that a religious term stigma was then used to describe blemishes upon the flesh claimed to be from holy grace, and that then a medical term stigma was used to describe bodily symptoms of physical disorder. Now in the present day, the term stigma is used much in the original sense, but to refer to the stigma itself rather than to bodily signs of it.

He says that there are demands made upon a person by others through ritual interaction, but that these demands become righteously presented demands. He also says that these demands are made in effect, meaning that we don't realise what these demands are until they are looked back upon in retrospect. He therefore makes a distinction between what he calls a virtual identity and an actual social identity, meaning that the virtual is what is imagined or unconsciously anticipated, and that the actual is what is actually revealed and realised about the person. In this way, he describes stigma as a special kind of relationship between attribute and stereotype, and with a discrepancy between a persons virtual and actual identity.

A stigma is something which discredits a person from normal everyday acceptance, and he describes it as something which only looks at a part of a person, rather than looking at the whole person. A stigma regards a person as not quite human by definition, can rationalise an animosity based upon social class, and create a whole range of imperfections based upon the original one. He also says that a stigma can involve double-standards, of an expectation or demand made about another person that does not apply to the person themselves who is making the demand.

He talks about a gestalt of disability, meaning that the stigmatised person who has a failing in one area might be automatically assumed by others that he is disabled in other unrelated areas, and he describes how a split may occur between self and self-demands, with the self turning against itself in not accepting itself as others may not accept it.

He then says that having a stigma can make a person very self-conscious about what others are thinking, by having to calculate the impression he or she is making. He says that minor feats of ability of the stigmatised can be seen as extraordinary things by the non-stigmatised (or normals), and that minor failings can be seen as part of stigmatised differentness. He says that a show of emotion can be held back by ex-psychiatric patients, as the person may be afraid that this may be taken as a sign of his disability, and that he may feel exposed because some people may have a morbid curiosity about his condition.

He also says of the psychiatric patient that whilst hospitalised, and while he is with adult members of his own family, that he is faced with being treated tactfully as if he were sane when there is known to be some doubt, even though he may not have any; or he is treated as insane, when he knows this is not just.

He then talks about the own and the wise. The own means those who have the same stigma, and the wise are those who have become knowledgeable about stigmatisation, and to some extent share the burden of the stigma, and who are friends, relatives, or representatives of the stigmatised; and he talks about group formation of the own and the wise, mentioning that the wise must not only be offered but also accepted by the own. Representative groups may differ or even be at competition with each other on the matter of management by the own or by the wise.

Moral career

is described as when the stigmatised adopts the standpoint of the normal, acquires the identity beliefs of the wider society, and has a general idea of what it would be like to posses a particular stigma. The stigmatised learns that he has a particular stigma, and this time the consequence of possessing it. The timing and interplay of these two initial phases form important patterns, and establish the foundation for later development and distinguishing among the moral careers available.

A turning point of a moral career, or a radical reorganising of ones past, is when the stigmatised accepts his own group of stigmatised people as full-fledged human beings, removes his own prejudices from the past, and questions the prejudices of his pre-stigma acquaintances.

In the chapter on information control and personal identity, he says of social information, that it is about the more or less abiding characteristics of a person, as opposed to the moods, feelings, or intents that he might have a particular moment, that it is conveyed by the very person it is about, and conveyed through bodily expression in the immediate presence of those who receive the expression. Some signs that convey social information may be frequently and steadily available, and routinely sought and received, and these signs he calls symbols.

Prestige symbols can be contrasted to stigma symbols, namely, signs which are especially effective in drawing attention to a debasing identity discrepancy, breaking up what would otherwise be a coherent and overall picture with a consequent reduction in our valuation of the individual. By intention or in effect the ex-mental patient conceals information about his real social identity, receiving and accepting treatment based upon false assumptions concerning himself.

Gffman describes three phases in the learning process of the stigmatised as: 1. Learning the normal point of view and learning that he is disqualified according to it. 2. The next phase consists of his learning to cope with the way others treat the kind of person he can be shown to be. 3. Learning to pass (i.e. hiding or concealing social and personal information about a disability).

He says that what are routine for normals can be difficult situations in managing information to the stigmatised, and that a person with a secret failing must be alive to the social situation as a scanner of possibilities, and is therefore likely to be alienated from the simpler world of which those around him apparently dwell.

Goffman uses a threefold typology of social identity (what can be actually known about the person from their abiding characteristics), personal identity (documentation or group of facts known about the person), and ego identity (that which the individual feels about stigma and its management).

He writes that identity ambivalence (to his own group) might be felt by the stigmatised when he sees his own acting in a stereotypical way, flamboyantly or pitifully acting out, and that he may feel normal in comparison to those more stigmatised than him.

He also says that professionals will help out, sometimes of telling how they handled a difficult situation, and he goes on to describe what he calls professional presentations. He says that a disclosure etiquette develops, meaning that the stigmatised is told to reveal discrediting information about himself in a matter-of-fact way, at an appropriate time, and calmly. (Breaking the ice and humour may also be used by the stigmatised to disclose information about a disability.)

He says that advise about personal conduct sometimes stimulates the individual into becoming a critic of the social scene, an observer of human relations. The stigmatised can become 'situation conscious' while normals present are spontaneously involved within the situation itself constituting for these normals a background of unattended matters.

Professionals in their presentations both encourage the stigmatised person to be a part of his own group and different, whilst also (contradictorily) encouraging him or her to identify with normals and the wider society they constitute. Of these professional presentations are warnings against attempting to pass (hide stigma) completely, and against fully accepting as his own the negative attitudes of others around him. The stigmatised individual is also warned against minstrelisation (foolishly acting out bad qualities imputed to him) and normification (pretending to be very normal).

He says that an 'adjustment model' is presented and that the individual is told he must not be ashamed of his difference and try not to conceal it. And because normals have their troubles too, the stigmatised individual should not feel bitter, resentful, or self-pitying. A cheerful, outgoing manner should be cultivated. Normals really mean no harm; when they do, it is because they don't know any better. Normals should therefore be tactfully helped to act nicely. Snubs, slights, and untactful remarks should not be answered in kind, but the normal must be re-educated, point for point, and with delicacy showing that in spite of appearances the stigmatised individual is a fully human being. The stigmatised are to be gentlemanly and not to push their luck; they should not test the limits of the acceptance shown them, nor make it the basis for still further demands.

The tolerance of normals is advocated as part of a bargain of which is the 'adjustment model', but which is really a one-sided agreement. The nature of a 'good adjustment' requires that the stigmatised individual cheerfully and un-self-cosnciously accept himself as essentially the same as normals. Since the good adjustment line is presented by those who take the standpoint of the wider society, one must ask what the following of it by the stigmatised means to normals. It means that the unfairness and pain of having to carry a stigma will never be presented to them; it means that normals will not have to admit to themselves how limited their tactfulness and tolerance is; and it means that normals can remain relatively uncontaminated by intimate contact with the stigmatised, relatively unthreatened in their identity beliefs.

Of the difference encouraged by professionals, Goffman says that this differentness itself derives from society, and that before a difference can matter much, it must be conceptualised collectively by the society as a whole. Thus, even while the stigmatised individual is told that he is a human being like everyone else, he is being told that it would be unwise to pass or let down his own stigmatised group. In brief, he is told that he is like everyone else and that he isn't. The individual is also asked to regard the acceptance normals have of him as if it is complete acceptance when it isn't. Thus a phantom acceptance is allowed to provide the basis for a phantom normalcy.

On deviation Goffman looks at ordinary deviations, saying that the playing of the stigmatised role and normal are both required to be accepted as part of ones own and the wider society. He then goes on to look at deviations in high and lower society as groups, except for the group-isolate individual who remains isolated. He points out that whilst there are iatrogenic treatments which can cause illnesses, so there are iatrogenic labels which students create in order to study people.