Sunday, 20 September 2009

The Differences, and Uniqueness of Diagnosed and Non-Diagnosed Mad People

It is very important, to explain, feel, and understand, the differences, between diagnosed, and non-diagnosed mad people, and the ways that so-called sane people respond to these differences and uniqueness. In my experience, of most so-called ordinary people these days, they do not have prejudices about people with mental health problems - they are for some reason or another, a bit sceptical and mistrustful of psychiatrists - although in some ways, they just lack some vital and important information, about mental health problems.

The knowledge and information, about mental health problems, is not taught much in schools and society, because, although mental health problems are due to both biological and social factors, the social and environmental causes of mental health problems, would be in a way a criticism of the system, and some aspects of society, and the system and society would have to change, which for all kinds of reasons, they don’t want to progress or change, in that respect or area.

In context to the differences and uniqueness, of people with, or diagnosed with mental health problems, so-called sane society, is still in some ways very sadistic and cruel, towards people with mental health problems, and in terms of the treatment of people with mental health problems, psychologically with so-called sane people, we are still very much stuck in the past with this.

A big part of the problem, with the way that so-called sane people relate to diagnosed and non-diagnosed mad people, is that society likes to sometimes sweep us under the carpet, in psychiatric hospitals, along with marginalisation and ghettoisation, and in some ways completely separate themselves from us, because this is a way of covering up and hiding their own mental health problems, which for all kinds of reasons, they find hard to connect to, relate, and empathise with people with overt mental health problems.

There is also, some jealousy and ignorance, about the uniqueness of people with mental health problems, and the fact that, whilst people with mental health problems, are not all reformers or radicals, it is very true, that one way or another, that what in some ways drives and motivates people with mental health problems, is that they very much want to - and indeed do - transform, and transcend reality subjectively, and that this is a big part of the pain and dissatisfaction, with the current nature of society and/or the world, that people with mental health problems, in one way or another, need some social stability, but also want to create some objective social change.

Clearly, there are some people, with mental health problems, who cannot transform their experiences, and transcend reality, but they do try one way or another, and whilst so-called sane society, sees this as either weakness, or a unrealistic or inappropriate response, it is obviously, in many ways valid, and no different in a way, from what drives many people who have made major contributions, towards changing society for the better.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

My Mum's Funeral, and Post Funeral Thoughts, Feelings, and Responses

On the 18th of September 2009, at 3.00pm, I attended my mum's funeral, with her partner Bill who drove us there and back, and with my mum's friends Gwen and Joy, who came with us. All of my relatives and family, were very kind and supportive, especially my older brother. I was helped the most by talking with my mum's partner, Bill's friend, Danny, who attended, and who I afterwards chatted with for nearly an hour. For some reason, at that time, it seemed easier in a way, talking to someone outside the family, about the experience and after thoughts of my mum's funeral, and Danny spoke about his father's funeral, and we shared and exchanged those and other experiences.

I am glad that I attended my mum's funeral, I learnt some new things about my mum from some of her friends, and from her younger sister - my aunt Pauline's speech, and her latter conversations with me - the ceremony and event helped me to accept and understand her loss a bit better, and to bring my thoughts and emotions out more - and together - into some kind of more open, shared, and more connected or integrated social and personal perspective. I don't think I will ever forget my mum's funeral, and it was in some ways conducive to a healing experience, but the closure of the event, is also a big weight off of my and Bill's shoulders and minds.

Certain things I experienced, during the funeral ceremony and event, were very revealing and significant for me, and which along with the rest of this article, are very important for me to share with others.

My mum's partner Bill, had told me a couple of days before, that the funeral, was there for me to say goodbye to my mum, rather than her saying goodbye to me. However, I got a very strong sense and feeling at the funeral, that she had and was saying goodbye to me, as well as me to her, and during the last and third song we played (one of her favourite songs, I will always love You, by Whitney Housten), at some stage, the context and emphasis shifted, from the sadness we all felt at her loss, to the sadness she must have felt, before, and when she took her life, knowing that she loved us, and would never see us again. I realised this clearer, understood and empathised with my mum more, and can now see how this is an important part of the grieving process.

It was very important, for me to realise this, that my mum's sadness too was realised and acknowledged, and that it mattered as well. Otherwise, our sadness and grief, would have been in some ways a very selfish thing, if we did not also remember, and be conscious and aware of my mum's sadness, which was of equal consideration, relevance, and importance. It was important, relevant, and crucial to me, that all our emotions and sadness - including my mum's - were valid, and in a way, that we all expressed and/or shared all of our emotions and sadness together. This is an important area of spirituality, and mental, emotional, and social connectedness and sharing, which is not at odds with either an atheist or religious and/or spiritualist understanding and perspective.

Whilst I had been weeping a bit, during the first and second songs (Only You by The Flying Pickets, and All Kinds of Everything by Dana), the third song, really touched and moved me, because the lyrics of the Whitney Housten song made me again realise, the very strong love my mum had for me, and which I will miss the most - although in a way, the positive influence of which - also continues to live in my heart and mind. Indeed, my mum's younger sister, my aunt Pauline, said the day after, that the Whitney Housten song, was my mum talking to us, and that was how I experienced it too. During this song, and walking out from the building, I cried heavily, and then my brother hugged me with one arm, and Bill put his hand upon me. It was important for me to cry publicly in a way, because this was healthy and out in the open, but then I needed to sit in Bill's car, and cry alone or privately for a bit too.

After my mum's funeral, me and Bill went home for a while, and then we went round Bill's sister Doris's, and stayed until quite late. Me, Doris, and Bill, at some stage got on to the subject of spirituality, and Doris and Bill told me about the beliefs of spiritualism, which they hold, pertaining to an after-life. I felt it was very important here, to explain to Doris, where I stood on that perspective, understanding, and interpretation, and the kind of agnosticism I hold, and which my mum more or less held, and which was in a way very similar.

I explained to Doris, that the kind of agnosticism that I hold, does not exist as a purely middle and neutral area and ground, but which oscillates or shifts, and in some ways simultaneously operates, between atheism, and spirituality/spiritualism/belief in an after-life. I find that I need to take both possibilities, perspectives, understandings, and interpretations, into consideration. In my ways of experiencing and understanding things, the atheistic, and the spiritual, divine, or mystical, are in some ways both valid ways of coping and understanding things.

There are times when I need to consider, accept, and understand, that there is no after-life, mystical/natural law, and/or God, because it is important for some reasons, I shall further explain, to consider that possibility and reality, in order to come to terms, cope, and give a different kind of vital meaning to life - especially in context to the physical and material loss, of a loved one - which in some ways takes some initial primacy, and importance, over the overall spiritual, religious, divine, or mystical.

The spiritual perspective and understanding, is also in one way or another, very important and relevant, and as a dialectical agnostic, I have to consider that it might or could be, real and true in some way or other, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. Indeed, the spiritual and/or religious view and understanding, or at least part of that - whether it is true or not - has or can have some important, vital, meaning, and is an important integrative part of our understanding of the psychological, personal, and social awareness, knowledge, and human understanding, as indeed the atheist and/or humanist view and understanding, can have some relevance and importance to the spiritual and/or religious.

However, the physical and material loss of a loved one, still has to be taken into consideration, and dealt with, both in combination with the spiritual, and as a completely separate thing. All of these things, are one way or another, very relevant and important.

In a way, my own experience, understanding, and approach to all of this, was again very similar to my mum. There were times on the odd occasion, when my mum would say, that she believed in an after-life and spirit world, and that you can receive messages from those who have passed on - and she obviously believed in that up to a point, or on one level - because she used to attend the spiritualist church now and then, although she also went there for friendship, company, and support. There were also times, when my mum would quite firmly, and clearly tell me, that there wasn't an after-life and/or God, and she told me not to believe any of the strong spiritualist beliefs, of her partner Bill.

All in all, I think the atheist and/or humanist, and the spiritual, divine, or mystical understandings and approaches, are both in some ways, very important and relevant, and in that way me and my mum, held some clear similarities of dialectical and diverse understanding, scepticism, and open-mindedness.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Hearing Voices - The Real Joan of Arc

I saw a Channel 4 programme about The Real Joan of Arc, and it explained how Joan of Arc, a young peasant woman who grew up poor, powerless, friendless, and illiterate, heard voices which she believed or claimed were from God, and that the content of these voices fulfilled a cultural and religious myth at the time, of a prophesy that a peasant girl would through divine intervention lead the monarchy into a successful war against the English occupation of France. Hearing voices were part of the local rural oral tradition, of spreading knowledge and understanding by word of mouth, especially amongst the largely illiterate peasant community, and her voices were seen as fulfilling a prophesy and myth, which was legitimised by the powers of the French Catholic Monarchy and State.

Joan of Arc led the French into a successful war against English occupation, but was finally executed by the Church and State, because she refused to give up her status as an authority on military matters, because her identity or relationship with the King was getting too close for status, and because she claimed that her voices came straight to her from God, and not through the authorities of the religious hierarchy, authority, and State. Whilst the content-meaning of her voices were initially legitimised by the religious, cultural, social, local and national mythological powers and meanings of that place and time, she was then thrown into disrepute and defamed, because her voices were then seen by the religious authorities as resulting from a satanic angel that was giving her instructions of deception and defiance against their social power, political and religious authority and status.

Some of those outdated myths and superstitions gladly no longer exist in society, but some of the old social and cultural myths might continue, or replace the old myths, such as that "men are strong, and women are weak", that "traditional relationships or marriages are about love", that there is such a thing as "care in the community", or that "we are living in a modern or sane society that understands, supports, relates or communicates with other people in an emotionally open, knowledgeable, or mentally healthy manner".

Such outdated or anachronistic myths are enforced and upheld by all kinds of people, including the religious and political establishment, and by some psychotherapists or others who see mental illness as existing within individuals or families, and not within the society at large. Although in virtually every town or area there now exits a mental health unit, Mental Health in structural and educational terms is seen as such a small or insignificant aspect of society, and no one is much bothered or aware of it, until they, a friend, partner, or relative, has direct experience of the mental health system. Whilst the World Health Organisation tells us that mental illness in society is on the increase, due to job insecurity, and the chaotic stresses and fast technological pace of present society, there still seems very little awareness or concern for the mental health of society at large, and no one questions much whether or not we are living in a sane society or a sane world.

Hearing voices or the content-meaning or if, would then would be accepted or frowned upon, according to who or what would want to legitimise or accept the outdated myths or repressive ideologies within our culture and society, and whether what we are trying to communicate and express is understood or rejected in relation to it. Due to our social and cultural environments, there may be a discrepancy of what is accepted in terms of the meaning-content of hearing voices, according to the current outdated roles and myths in culture and society, and in terms of people's life-experiences, past and present situations, and the many ways we relate to others in different social roles or identities, and different contexts or situations. Even though there may be direct similarities, our voice hearing experiences are not linked to things like the styles or methods of creative literary culture, nor to other people's creative or educational aspirations, but are seen as separate from the society at large. We are not in a new or modern society, in terms of new relationships, political reforms, and so on, we are merely in a transitional stage, and so many of the old myths still remain.

Thus, much psychiatry may support current religious, cultural, and social myths of a place or time, such as the current views of the church, extreme ends of the political establishment, and patriarchal relationships or power, and because most psychiatrists are part of a self-serving or subdivided establishment and the majority are male. Psychiatry in reality therefore discriminatorily labels as an illness anything which exposes or goes against that, whilst legitimising anything which supports its own ideological, mythological, or patriarchal position. In rhetoric and style, much psychiatry appears to be democratic, supporting social diversity and equal rights, or defending the freedom and equal rights of women, but in method and structure, it often does the opposite.

In style and mythological content, Joan of Arc was empowered and elevated by the male powers of the time, who legitimised the content of her voices as coming from God, but in reality, she was used as an instrument of unrestrained warfare, persecuted, and executed by the male authority she'd made a pact with, and with the result of turning her into an ironic martyr or emblem for other mythological representations and mystification of her experiences, aspirations, educational, social, and economic life-struggles, and of poor and uneducated women at large who may also hear voices. The psychiatric illness model, as a model, might very well be helpful to some people who experience voices, in order to control or negate the negative experiences of it, although the coercion and forced medication is questionable, and especially if the issues raised in terms of the interpersonal, social, and cultural causes or influences, are being denied by psychiatrists, who in matters of interpersonal, social, and cultural matters, often have an outdate or philistine mentality, which supports the interpersonal, social, and cultural control-mechanisms or behaviours of whatever current or outdated social or cultural myth prevails.

For my Local Mistress

I am the millions and multitudes,
That bow down to you and worship you.
I am democracy, and humility, and pride,
For I have internalised the dominatrix,
But remain submissive in my arrogance and splendour.
Many women trample upon me,
With their hearts in their boots,
But you give me a handshake with a warm smile,
With your intermittent continuity,
And pert dancing eyes.
For like me, you are many,
Yet we remain as lowly creatures and divine beings,
Of individuality, solidarity, and uniqueness.
From star to star,
From glove to glove,
From filtering imagination to reaffirmation,
I charm the subtle and carefree ghost,
Of materialised and returned interconnection.

Creativity and Learning

I'm very interested in creativity, and which I believe is a knowable and conscious process, and very central to good and sound knowledge, wisdom, and learning. When I asked a friend his definition of creativity, he said that to him it means not being stuck down to one routine, but having a choice and variety of different activities. Another friend described creativity as being able to see things from different perspectives.

Both these definitions are very important to learning and education, and should both be a part of our schooling and education system. Whilst it's conventional to think that if we learn, then we can be creative, I believe that if we are creative, then we can learn more constructively and effectively.

My friend Luke described my friend Bill's artwork as starting from randomness and random colours and shapes, and that Bill then makes faces and images out of the random shapes, and merges the whole thing into a coherent and yet still remaining somewhat abstract picture.

I do indeed believe that randomness is a very important part of creativity, as is having a variety of activities, and seeing things from different perspectives. Some people on the Left of politics say that whilst they admit that certain individuals can be very creative, they say that it's better if we are all equal, and then we can be strong and creative together, and without having someone else's power and control over us.

I agree with this in a way, and want to focus on everybody's creativity, and do not want to be elitist and focus on just so-called gifted individuals. This is why I want to see more creative teaching and learning in schools, and not least because the peak of creativity can start at a young age, as well as sometimes developing later on in life intellectually, and which is why creative learning and teaching in adult education are very important too.

What occurs to me, is that some people who teach don't see creativity as important to learning, and the creative fields such as music and the arts, are sometimes separated from academic and intellectual development and activity, as are sometimes religion or spirituality, but which are also creative to varying degrees.

One other aspect of creativity, apart from randomness, is the reordering and restructuring of things. I see this as political as well as intellectual, and which is why I want to see liberal, social, and radical reform in society. The reordering and restructuring of society is in itself creative, and is very important to produce and create creative, individual, and human potential.

Another important aspect of creativity is emptiness, openness, and receptivity of mind, as well as having critical abilities and faculties. Prayer, meditation, and relaxation, enable a person to be more receptive, and to temporarily empty our minds, so we see things fresh and new again, and with new inspiration and ideas.

A great deal of learning, is about creating a frame of mind and environment where a person or group can have receptivity, randomness, and restructuring and reordering of processed information, in order to focus and concentrate on details, notes, and key concepts and phrases. This is what the education system should be teaching, and not bombarding the mind with masses of information, and using old and outdated methods of pure dictation, and which are not conducive to effective and creative learning.

I hope this article is read by our politicians, and that they will try to achieve a more creative learning environment for our children, and for our society at large.

Diagnosed Schizophrenia and Belief and Intention Interpretation

A friend of mine recently emailed me three articles written by academics, based upon tests and trials of diagnosed schizophrenics, and from the perspective of using ToM (theory of mind) analysis. I didn't like the articles very much because they seemed to be saying that diagnosed schizophrenia stems from a lower kind of consciousness, and I find that very psychiatric, mentalist, and simply not true. Diagnosed schizophrenia, like human nature, has both lower and higher levels of awareness to it, simultaneously, and at different intervals. I also didn't like the way the articles talked about so-called delusions, as if they are entirely false belief systems. So-called delusions can be based upon facts and experiences, even though they may not be literally true in the ordinary sense or on a surface level.

Also, for example, the first article mentioned that supposedly people with diagnosed schizophrenia have great problems with interpreting their own and other people's intentions, but it didn't mention that other groups can also have great problems with this such as science, religion, and especially psychiatry.

This view that people with diagnosed schizophrenia have a special great difficulty in understanding their own and other people's intentions, mitigates the fact that oppression and repression can suppress intention interpretation, or deprive people of seeing things as they really are, especially if they are marginalized, socially isolated, and not integrated into society.

I think it is a very common, dangerous, and pernicious belief and ideology in psychiatry, social work, and mental health, that people with mental health problems have a special and great problem with understanding their own and other people's intentions. It also takes away choice and freewill, because if you assume that a person doesn't have any awareness of their own intentions, then you can very easily deprive them of the freedom and rights to express their choices and intentions. If you assume that diagnosed schizophrenics have a problem understanding other people's intentions, then you can also justify bullying, terrorism, and oppression and suppress any criticism or protest that the person may have about those things.

The view that diagnosed schizophrenics have a great difficulty in understanding other people's beliefs, assumes that everyone must or should have the same belief systems. What of the Conservative, Liberal, and Labour parties? Do they have great difficulty in understanding each other's belief systems? Of course not, they just hold different ideological opinions and which separate them as different parties. To say that a person doesn't understand other people's beliefs, is to want to proselytize them and impose one person or groups values upon another person or group, when we can agree to differ, or part ways in our beliefs and thinking. If everyone believed the same thing it could amount to totalitarianism. Also, not understanding someone else's beliefs, can mean not agreeing with a false consensus, and making that inference about it that it is just not understanding someone else's beliefs, can be a way of suppressing radicalism or individualism of any sort.

The view that diagnosed schizophrenics have great difficulty in understanding other people's intentions is simply not true, as many people with mental health problems (including myself) are very good at identifying the prejudices and intentions of other people. Not least, this includes an awareness of things like double-effect. Double effect means that there can be both an effect and a cause of an action. For example, someone might carry out harmful and destructive actions, with good intentions, even though this has bad or harmful results and consequences. In this way, the person or persons justify the harmful act or actions. On the other hand, a person can carry out bad or harmful intentions and actions even though the result is good (this is what psychiatry does).

I don't believe that people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia have a great problem with understanding their own or other people's intentions. It's a matter of human nature and human error, and doesn't specially or specifically apply to any isolated minority or oppressed group in society.

I disagree with one of the first statements in the articles that hallucinations are perceptions that occur with the absence of external stimuli. I think that is completely false and nonsense, because hallucinations can be based upon things like traumatic events, being abused, and upon external stimuli of some sort such as loud noises, forced images, or stress. It's not my experience of hearing voices that there's no external stimuli, and certainly not the view of the Hearing Voices Network.

I also find the view that schizophrenics have delusions that people are lying to them or out to harm them ridiculous. Who says that people are not lying to them or out to harm them? It depends on your view of human nature. Maybe biological and social psychiatry has a very idealistic and utopian idea of human nature, but in my opinion human beings can lie and can be very harmful, and because there can be marginalisation and discrimination and some people are used and abused as non-participants in the system.

Different Approaches to Knowledge

There are different types of knowledge and approaches to knowledge. The main approach used by social and mental health professionals, is not genuinely experimental, collective, nor individual, but is demonstrative knowledge, based upon abstract findings or one-sided learnt theory.

Any learnt or invented theory can be proved correct, if the subject, patient, or client, is oppressed and/or threatened enough to conform to it. Just because a subject, patient, or client conforms to a demonstrated theory and instructions, it doesn't mean that the theory is accurate or true. It just proves that people will become compliant and agreeable if enough oppression or coercion is inflicted or enforced upon them.

If a patient or client doesn't wish to conform to demonstrative knowledge, violence, and coercion, and chooses to become unpredictable, random, and unexpected, then he or she can be labelled as uncooperative, irrational, and psychotic.

Demonstrative knowledge is robotic, whereas truly individual approaches, encourage free-thinking, and an experimental approach which encourages genuine interaction, and learning with and from the patient or client. Genuine collective knowledge also includes personal perspectives and a diversity of approaches and opinions.

For Ronnie Laing (A Song)

Just to make some kind of connection,
To share the language of poetry and song.
Your ideas of family madness analysis,
Were taken up by the Police state,
But it's the double-bind of abusive power relations which are wrong.

You said there was a split
Of the self, and not in social sub class systems.
Descartes would have had a fit
Delirious with the metaphysics of symptoms.

Oh Ronnie, you come to me in my sleeping dreams,
Drunk, homeless, and abandoned by your family.
Oh Ronnie, you tell me to carry on your good work,
And you send me subliminal messages of information.

Mysterious energies download data to my mind,
And like the film Superman Returns says,
The celestial beings see through my eyes,
And I see through their eyes.
You see through my eyes Ronnie,
But by you I am not star struck, possessed, or blind.

Oh Ronnie, maybe you are my spirit guide,
Or a tourist through the universe, and beyond the great divides.
I have my own findings and ideas, and know that if you're still alive,
That you would support me,
As you were a good Samaritan for me and my kind.