What happens if we listen to psychosis and other forms of mental anguish?

Knowing what I know now about outcomes for people labeled with schizophrenia, or people experiencing delusions, who are listened to, who are not told their delusions are crazy or wrong–that many of these people who are taken seriously recover, I often wonder what would have happened had someone listened to my delusions. If it had not been assumed I was crazy–if I had not been coerced into believing I was crazy. What would have happened if I was taken seriously? I will never know, but there is plenty of evidence that had I been listened to and had my psychotic thinking been explored with respect I may have never entered the world of psychiatric care as we now know it. I again remind you of Soteria House.

Below is a story of a woman, not terribly different than me. In fact we shared a common delusion. We were both to be the mother of the second coming of Christ. She was 18, I was 19. She was listened to by a kind clinician and released from the hospital vastly improved. I was belittled, and humiliated and drugged into a stupor. The rest is history.

Here is a large part of the story as told by Al Seibert, Ph.D on the wonderful website Succesful Schizophrenia:

When I was a staff psychologist at a neuropsychiatric institute in 1965, I conducted an experimental interview with an 18-year-old woman diagnosed as “acute paranoid schizophrenic.” I’d been influenced by the writings of Carl Jung, Thomas Szasz, and Ayn Rand, and was puzzled about methods for training psychiatric residents that are unreported in the literature. I prepared for the interview by asking myself questions. I wondered what would happen if I listened to the woman as a friend, avoided letting my mind diagnose her, and questioned her to see if there was a link between events in her life and her feelings of self-esteem. My interview with her was followed by her quick remission.This account raises important questions about:

1. the powerful influence of the interviewer’s mind set and way of relating to patients perceived as “schizophrenic,”

2. aspects of psychiatric training and practices that have never been researched,

3. why psychiatrists misrepresent what is scientifically known about “schizophrenia,” and

4. why the psychiatric literature is silent about the personality characteristics of people who fully recover from their so-called “schizophrenia” and the processes by which they recover.

One morning the head nurse of the locked ward reported the admission of an 18-year-old woman. The psychiatric resident who admitted her the previous evening said “Molly’s parents brought her in. They told us Molly claims God talked to her. My provisional diagnosis is that she is a paranoid schizophrenic. She is very withdrawn. She won’t talk to me or the nurses.”

For several weeks the morning reports about Molly were the same. She would not participate in any ward activities. She would not talk to the nurses, her case worker, or her doctor. The nurses couldn’t get her to comb her hair or put on make-up.

Because of her withdrawal and lack of response to staff efforts, the supervising psychiatrist, David Bostian, told the resident in charge of Molly to begin plans to commit her to Ypsilanti State Hospital. Bostian said the university hospital was a teaching facility, not one that could hold patients who need long-term treatment. The staff consensus was that she was so severely paranoid schizophrenic she would probably spend the rest of her life in the back ward.

I decided that since she was headed for the “snake pit,” this was an opportunity to interview a psychiatric patient in a way very different from how I’d been trained in my clinical psychology program. I asked Molly’s doctor, a third-year resident, for permission to administer some psychological tests and interview her before she was transferred to the state hospital. The resident said I could try, although she expected nothing to come of my efforts.

I contacted the head nurse and arranged to meet with Molly the next morning in the ward dining room. At home that evening I prepared myself for the interview with Molly by reflecting on a cluster of the following four issues and concerns:

1. After reading The Myth of Mental Illness by Thomas Szasz(1961), I began to notice that the only time I saw “mental illness” in anyone was when I was at the hospital wearing my long white coat, working as a psychologist. When I was outside the hospital I never thought of anything people said as “sick,” no matter how outrageous their words or actions. I found it interesting that my perception of “mental illness” in people was so situationally influenced.

2. I’d been puzzled about an unresearched, unreported aspect of the way psychiatric residents talked to newly admitted mental patients. At our institute the psychiatric residents were required to convince each of their patients that they were “mentally ill.” I was present in the office of a resident, for example, during a shouting match with a patient….

….As I prepared myself for my interview with Molly the next day, I developed four questions for myself:

1. What would happen if I just listen to her and don’t allow my mind to put any psychiatric labels on her?

2. What would happen if I talk to her believing that she could turn out to be my best friend?

3. What would happen if I accept everything she reports about herself as being the truth?

4. What would happen if I question her to find out if there’s a link between her self-esteem, the workings of her mind, and the way that others have been treating her?…..

….I felt a rapport with her and felt that I could start a conversation. It went like this:

A.S.: “Molly?…(she looks up at me)…I am curious about something. Why are you here in a psychiatric hospital?”

Molly: “God spoke to me and said I was going to give birth to the second Savior.”

A.S.: “That may be, but why are you here in this hospital.?”

Molly: (startled, puzzled) “Well, that’s crazy talk.”

A.S.: “According to whom?”

Molly: “What?”

A.S.: “Did you decide when God spoke to you that you were crazy?”

Molly: “Oh. No. They told me I was crazy.”

A.S.: “Do you believe you are crazy?”

Molly: “No, but I am, aren’t I.” (dejected)

A.S.: “If you will put that in the form of a question, I’ll answer you.”

Molly: (slightly puzzled, pauses to think) “Do you think I am crazy?”

A.S.: “No.”

Molly: “But that couldn’t have happened, could it?”

A.S.: “As far as I am concerned, you are the only person who knows what happens in your mind. Did it seem real at the time?”

Molly: “Oh yes!”

A.S.: “Tell me what you did after God spoke to you.”

Molly: “What do you mean?”

A.S.: “Did you start knitting booties and sweaters and things?”

Molly: (laughs) “No, but I did pack my clothes and wait by the door several times.”

A.S.: “Why?”

Molly: “I felt like I would be taken someplace.”

A.S.: “It wasn’t where you expected, was it!”

Molly: (laughing) “No!”

A.S.: “One thing I’m curious about.”

Molly: “What?”

A.S.: “Why is it that of all women in the world, God chose you to be the mother of the second Savior?”

Molly: (breaks into a big grin) “You know, I’ve been trying to figure that out myself!”

A.S.: “I’m curious. What things happened in your life before God spoke to you?”

It took about 30 minutes to draw out her story. Molly was an only child who had tried unsuccessfully to earn love and praise from her parents. They only gave her a little love once in a while, just enough to give her hope she could get more. She voluntarily did many things around the house such as cooking and cleaning. Her father had been a musician so she joined the school orchestra. She thought this would please him. She practiced hard and the day she was promoted to first chair in the clarinet section, she ran home from school to tell her father. She expected him to be very proud of her, but his reaction was to smash her clarinet across the kitchen table and tell her, “You’ll never amount to anything.”

After graduation from high school, Molly entered nursing school. She chose nursing because she believed that in the hospital the patients would appreciate the nice things she would do for them. She was eager and excited about her first clinical assignment, but it turned into a shattering experience. The two women patients she was assigned to criticized her. She couldn’t do anything right for them. She felt “like the world fell in.” She ran away from school and took a bus to the town where her high school boyfriend was in college. She went to see him, but he told her to go home and write to him. He said they could still be friends, but he wanted to date other girls.

A.S.: “How did you feel after that?”

Molly: “Awful lonely.”

A.S.: “So your dad and mom didn’t love you, the patients were critical and didn’t like you, and your boyfriend just wanted to be friends. That made you feel very sad and lonely.”

Molly: (head down, dejected) “Yes, there didn’t seem to be anyone in the whole world who cared for me at all.”

A.S.: “And then God spoke to you.”

Molly: “Yes.” (quietly)

A.S.: “How did you feel after God gave you the good news?”

Molly: (looks up, smiles warmly at me) “I felt like the most special person in the whole world.”

A.S.: “That’s a nice feeling, isn’t it?”

Molly: “Yes, it is.”

(The kitchen crew came into the dining room to set up for lunch.)

A.S.: “I must go now.”

Molly: “Please don’t tell them what we’ve been talking about. No one seems to understand.”

A.S.: “I know what you mean. I promise not to tell if you won’t.”

Molly: “I promise.”

Two days later I was walking through the locked ward to see another patient. When Molly saw me she walked over and stopped me by putting her hand on my arm. “I’ve been thinking about what we talked about,” she said. “I’ve been wondering. Do you think I imagined God’s voice to make myself feel better?”

She surprised me. I didn’t intend to do therapy, but she seemed to see the connection. I paused. I thought to myself “maybe so, but if there is an old-fashioned God who does things like this, then He is watching! I didn’t care what the other doctors and nurses do, I am not going to give her a rough time. I am going to be her friend!” I shrugged my shoulders. I said, “perhaps” and smiled at her. She smiled back with good eye contact, then turned and walked away.

At staff rounds the head nurse reported a dramatic improvement in Molly. She was now a cheerful, talkative teen-ager. She spoke easily with her doctor, the nurses, and other patients. She started participating in patient activities. She brushed and combed her hair, put on make-up, and asked for nicer looking dresses.

At rounds a week later Dr. Bostian described her amazing recovery as “a case of spontaneous remission.” The plans to commit her were dropped. A few days later she was transferred to the open ward and she did so well the doctors and nurses expected her to be discharged soon. I left the hospital soon after, so I was not able to follow-up. What would have happened to her if I had not taken time to listen to her with an open mind and affirm her reality? The psychiatric staff’s prediction that she was destined to spend many years in the back ward of the state hospital would, most likely, have been validated.

I don’t know exactly what was going on with me at the time of my psychosis. The circumstances leading to my disturbed thinking may have been very different than Molly’s, but I know that how I was treated in the hospital was incredibly disrespectful and humiliating, much like she was being treated before Seibert interviewed her. One psychiatrist scoffed at me when I told him God had spoken to me. I, too, was threatened with state institutionalization if I didn’t admit I was permanently damaged and didn’t agree to a life-time on meds. I remember the impact it had on me. I felt scalded and deeply ashamed. I exited that hospital with my spirit shattered. I had been an outgoing, confident socializer. I left emotionally immobilized and so insecure that I had difficulty conversing with anyone for a long time after that. A painful insecurity left me stumbling over words and feeling hideously on display for all to see how sick I was. I felt marked, branded for the severely fundamentally flawed person that I was. That mark has stayed with me for two decades. It was not apparent to anyone else for much of those years that anything was wrong with me. I had a full career as a social worker. But I never again felt whole. I never again felt unbranded, normal or healthy. I can’t say I’ve completely recovered from it. I am, just now, beginning to recover as I take my life back from psychiatry. My self-esteem has reached heights I never thought it could in just the last two and a half years since I began to question psychiatry and how I was treated.

We don’t know what happened to Molly. She may have gone back into an oppressive situation and relapsed. She may not have had another clinician who treated her respectfully. That is what happened to me. I was continually told I was sick by everyone who had any influence on me–family and doctors–and needed to comply with oppressive and disrespectful treatment. My prognosis as told to me was poor. And so I remained in the psychiatric system. But as Soteria House shows people who are encouraged to heal and believe they are not crazy do heal and move on to have successful lives. The tragedy is that the vast majority of people who have a psychosis or anguishing mental event are not given the opportunity to work through it. Drugs halt any natural process of recovery and freeze people in a static hell from which few are lucky enough to extract themselves. Emotional, psychological, and spiritual growth is slowed to a snails pace. Clearly some people do extract themselves sometimes and it is because of the incredible flexible nature of our psyches and spirits that some people are able to do this. But too many are not. I do not know what graced me to be able to extract myself from the lies I was fed. I feel lucky, but otherwise no different from the millions of people who are not able to do so. I did in the end have friends and family who supported me and believed in me but not until I had proved that I could function to some extent through the drug haze–many people cannot function through the drug haze. Somehow, I achieved some credibility and now no one is telling me I can’t do it. My current psychiatrist, my therapist, my neuropsychologist, my husband, family and friends all believe I can live without drugs.

How did I get here? I never gave up and I’m blessed with a fighting spirit. I never did completely accept my pronounced fate. I always doubted in some deep recess of my mind that I was incurable and fundamentally impaired. I did not completely, without a doubt, accept my diagnosis and I did not accept that the quality of life I led on drugs was all I would ever have. I continued to dream of a better life. And now I am beginning to live it. Many people’s dreams are permanently squashed and they die never experiencing a sense of well-being. This is an outrage. This is why I harbor anger and resentment. I see my fellow sufferers trapped with no one to help them. At this point my anger is slowly changing to a passion that propels me forward. I don’t actually believe that every bit of anger must be extinguished. It must just be transformed to compassion and love. And then I hope it will be a furious power for change. Perhaps it already is.

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28 thoughts on “What happens if we listen to psychosis and other forms of mental anguish?

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  1. Duane: “I have read that it is as high as 70%….But, even if that’s the case, it leaves 30% of these episodes to have causes other than abuse….”

    I totally agree with you, Duane, nutrition, allergies etc. do play a role. Nevertheless, IMO, whenever they’re the cause, and the only one, of crisis, crisis is not psychological. It’s physiological. It’s a somatic, real illness, an allergy for instance. And it should be dx’ed as such.

    Hammersley and Read’s meta-study is one that came out with the figures you mention. About 70% of the individuals whose cases they reviewed, had a story of physical, often sexual, abuse. Which their study left out of consideration is psychological abuse, that doesn’t need to come along with physical abuse, but absolutely can stand alone (I was never physically abused, barely ever experienced a going-over but once during the whole of my growing-up). While it can be just as devastating as physical abuse. So, I’d say, the remaining about 30% of crisis do not necessarily have to be caused primarily by nutritional factors altogether. Some of them certainly are. But, as mentioned above, if so, they should never get dx’ed a psychological/existential/spiritual/whatever crisis, as this clearly represents a misdiagnosis in such cases.

    When it comes to psychological crisis, I see nutritional factors more as triggers than the cause. It’s quite simple 101 logic to me, that things like caffeine or sugar easily can make a person who is out of themselves with confusion, fear, anger, etc., because of psychological issues, even more out of themselves. And it’s absolutely mind-boggling to me, how little consideration this is given in the mh system. Just recently, a friend told me about visiting someone at one of the “better” psych wards in this country: “We had such a nice cosy afternoon. They even served coffee and doughnuts.” Coffee and doughnuts…

  2. That posting was really something. Why were we all treated that way. Why, Why, Why. It is so sad to be given a label of being MAD and then to be locked up emotionally with tablets.

    Isn’t it said, that when people go through traumas – they turn to God for help and can become quite religious. Whatever our history, God was always there to be our saviour, all forgiving and accepting. No wonder our pschosis involved God – a form of escapism

    Isn’t it also important that when coming off tablets that one explores those experiences that led to the so-called breakdown. The thoughts and flashbacks of the past will come back to haunt us as they have with me, so it is very important to explore the past before one completely comes off tablets.

    Life is still going on, it is thanks to blogs like this to re-educate us. We are humans beings that have been hurt by the system. It is good to share and listen to like-minded people. Thanks again for your blog.

  3. OH, and I agree wholly — if you treat a person like they are sick, and there is no cure but take these drugs, the person quickly comes to believe (and is encouraged to do so) that they are very sick and will never get well, and so does not really work hard to tell the doctor how the drugs hurt. After all, the doctor knows best, right?

  4. oh Dear Aunty,
    I’m so sorry,
    I completely misunderstood your post and did not understand you were a “patient” yourself! I thought you worked on the wards….

    I’m really sorry. YES, we are completely on the same page!

    and yes, they convince us that there is something profoundly wrong with us…

    forgive me my misunderstanding…I get a bit hardcore on here from time to time…

    I’m a big equal rights advocate and I can get over excited about silly stuff from time to time…

  5. I guess I misspoke. What I meant was that, in my own memory of when I was in a psych ward, in college, the entire time I was thinking, “What is so very wrong with me that I have ended up here?” Here and now, I can tell you that that was the wrong question to have been asking myself. But at the time I believed that there was something deeply wrong with me–knew it to a certainty even. And some of my doctors very much reinforced my belief that I had done something wrong, or that I actually was something wrong.

    I agree with you. I know for a fact that being in a psych ward doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with you. (And, when you examine it, what is “wrong”? What would that even look like in a person? But that’s another issue.) But, again in my experience, I felt that the act of being committed proved that I was unalterably, irreversibly, and completely damaged. Talking to doctors who treated me like a person–with kindness, with respect–helped assuage that feeling, and talking to those who talked to me like I imagined someone would talk to a crazy person, well, made me feel crazy.

    I think we’re on the same page here? Or, well, I agree with your points, and I hope I’ve clarified what I meant. I really did get a lot out of this post, and I look forward to reading more. Lately, I’ve been blogging from the journal I kept in the ward, so I’ve kind of been reliving that experience and trying to think through why it was as simultaneously comforting and difficult as it was.

  6. welcome Aunty Christ,
    thanks for visiting…
    I’d like to say, I don’t agree that there is always something “wrong” with the “patients,” just because we are in the psych ward.

    Imagining there is something “wrong” with us other than being a human being that struggles as all human beings struggle is where things first start to go wrong…

    it may seem like semantics…and perhaps for you that is all it is—my intention is not to offend, it’s clear you are open to considering the reality of people who have been mistreated, but it’s not simply semantics for many people and that is why there is so much psychiatric abuse. People with psychiatric labels are routinely stripped of their human and civil rights because we are not considered to be fully human.

    I don’t imagine you’ve read enough of the blog to know that I’m also a social worker who worked in mental health for 12 years. I worked almost exclusively with the so-called “seriously mentally ill.”

    All I ever saw were suffering human beings being called patients and consumers being numbed out of reality on drugs, never given the opportunity to process and heal…while all my “normal” friends and colleagues suffered too, but escaped labeling and disgrace while getting to deal with their problems in humane ways with their civil rights intact.

  7. I must thank David Rochester for pointing this blog out to me. What a lovely story. I agree that patient interaction tends (in my limited experience) to have better results than doctor-patient visits. I think that, with only a few exceptions, the doctors in my ward made it a point to make you, the patient, realize that this was not a conversation between equals. When you, the patient, already know that there’s something wrong with you, obviously, since you’re in a psych ward, and are feeling kind of bad about your situation in general, being talked down to (which is, let’s face it, never fun) can destroy you. And yet, I saw many patients who, intentionally or not, led by example–just by being a person who others wanted to emulate. Focusing on being a good parent, or talking kindly with others, for example, but never explicitly saying, “And you have been doing it wrong all this time. You need to change.”

    It’s odd that so many doctors don’t see that their manner does their patients more harm than good. I think they have an extremely difficult job, regardless, but just being able to see patients as fellow human beings would be a fine start.

  8. This was a very moving essay for me. My whole perspective on life changed when my belt was taken away from me, and I was put behind two locked doors. For decades I could not trust any of my thoughts, let alone talk about them. I felt totally alone because what was dear to me I could not share and had to deny. Being numbed out with the medication, I was not able to figure things out.

    I never felt right until I was able to share with kindered spirits–people I met in self-help groups like AA and Recovery, Inc. The people there really listened. They did not judge. They did not interpret, and say did you take your meds today. One major problem with the medical professional today is that they do not have the time to listen. When I could have used someone to listen to me for hours, I was only given 5-10 minutes with my doctor or even less. I felt like I was not worth the time. I think we have a need to be listened to on a deep, caring way. It seems what we get is someone who only observes our body. They look to see if we can keep our tounges in our mouths most of the time. Or if we shake or have ticks. They check to see if we are talking too slow or too fast. They do not seem to care about how we really feel.

    All medical people want us to just be alive and be able to take care of our daily needs. They do not want us to reach for our potential. The doctor I see for my bad back would be happy if I just sat around all day. But I want to run stair races, participate in indoor rowing competitions, and walk across the Grand Canyon again.

    Thank you so much for the great stuff on your blog.
    Jim S

  9. thanks Carol,
    I felt kind of stupid with the initial response I gave, realizing I didn’t really know what I was talking about…

    thanks for the clarification and just as a side note I’ve read Man’s Search for Meaning and thing that Viktor Frankl is awesome…

  10. Hi,

    Just to explain better phenomenology which; is hard enough to say and harder to spell is not a type of therapy. I didn’t know what it meant until a few weeks ago. It is the study of phenomena (from Greek, meaning “that which appears”) and how it appears from a first person perspective. As applied to psychiatry it just means that the MD or therapist would value learning how you experience your situation. In other words they would listen and not judge. It is their perpective so to speak, the lenses they look out of. It isn’t a technique. They would want to know what you think about what is happening to you, just like the interview above that is so lovely.

    Frankl does have a type of therapy called logotherapy which is founded on the belief that we are mind, body and spirit and they cannot be separated. His therapy rates the spirit (noos) of a person the very core of the person. So yes connecting with your spiritualuity (which can never die or be sick) is essential in healing. How people think of “spirituality” is of course unique to the person. It is not religiosity necessarily. A lot of folks automatically assume spirituality means religion. To some it does of course.

    So anyway I am loving the stuff I’m learning about and hope this explains that p word better.

    Blessings. Carol

  11. Thanks for this beautiful story from Seibert. When I was committed (illegally and I have the papers to prove it though of course all commitments are illegal in the end), my first roommate was a woman who told me she was pregnant with Jesus’ baby. I responded that Jesus must really love her to get her pregnant. At the time, having never been in a psych hospital I confess I partly did this because she was much bigger and stronger than me and I was afraid as I was going to be sleeping in a room with a closed door with a woman deemed by the courts to be dangerous. Anyway, the most sadistic mental health technician there came in to verbally harass us the next morning. After he left she told me he was going to take her to have an abortion as he of course had been threatening her with such. I told her that I was sure god was very powerful and wouldn’t let such a thing happen. Later, when I was in a haldol stupor I remember asking her to please not leave me. She sat in the stiff hard chair between our prison like beds and didn’t leave. I was enormously comforted by seeing her face. Finally when the pshrink came in to check on me, she was forced to leave my side. I can’t remember her name but her bit of kindness saved my life and I hope she’s okay. I came away wondering what possible danger her thinking she was pregnant with Jesus’ baby could have been to anyone. The last I saw her, armed two armed law enforcement officers were taking her off the ward.

  12. Duane…
    you know I think we are all one…body/mind/spirit

    sometimes it’s important to look at different aspects separately…that doesn’t mean I stop eating super healthy food and living a good healthy value driven life!!

    Everything comes together and is, but we can’t consider everything all the time.

  13. Gianna,

    I don’t meant to make so many comments on this….In fact, I’m anxious to read what others have to say….

    It occurs to me however, that in my opinion these episodes are often induced by past injury/hurts/pain/trauma/abuse, etc…..but, not always….and not neccesarily alone….

    As you know, I am a firm believer in the role nutrients play in the brain, and the role such things as toxins play in all of this also….Stress can induce nutrional deficiencies….and once the brain is low in these areas….delusional thoughts can take place….Also, exposure to toxins (including recreational/psych drugs)….same thing…

    In other words, I think these momentary episodes can be caused by a host of things….You mentioned in a previous post (a couple of days ago)….that abuse plays a role in psychosis….I have read that it is as high as 70%….But, even if that’s the case, it leaves 30% of these episodes to have causes other than abuse….

    I think abuse can be subtle, and there is also trauma…maybe not from the family of origin, or sometimes unrecognized for years as a possible cause….Stress on the psyche….I think that a person can feel so badly – be so injured inside that such thoughts/feelings take place….as a way to protect the self….to survive….It’s all for a reason I think….Again, an opporunity to learn….

    Canabis, along with experimentation with drugs for the first time….All kinds of things in the mix….with the possible “cause”….

    I stand by my previous statement however…..Finding the root cause….and listening….really listening….and learning from such an experience…allows for growth, and moving on….

    None of us are trapped in a state of where we were back when….Each of us has the opportunity to move forward…to grow….

    This is the single most troubling thing in my mind about conventional psychiatry, DSM, etc….It attempts to limit the life experience….label it, and can leave a person feeling stuck…

    There’s no such thing….for someone willing to move forward, move beyond….no such restraint on the human spirit….

    Didn’t mean to ramble….or put up so many comments…Just thought the physiological needed to be mentioned….It’s in the mix I believe.


  14. That interview was very moving, and the points well taken. Who decides what is mental illness? The moment that judgment is made, the relationship between clinican and client is inalterable.

  15. well, not that I understand the discipline of phenomenology in any profound way, it does seem that a phenomenological perspective would be a good place to start….I don’t think it’s necessarily always enough though, although I can’t say that for certain…

    it seems that a transpersonal perspective of some sort in addition would very often be helpful if not essential in helping people through…I suppose it would depend greatly on the individual too.

    Certainly it is with various spiritual texts from all sorts of religions that I’ve come to understand myself and how I experience myself in the world. It is also why I don’t believe I will ever have the sorts of delusions I had as a 19 year old girl again either. I have a spiritual foundation I did not have at the time.

  16. Thank you for sharing your own personal experience with “delusions.” I hope your courage will invite others to do so as well. I have been studying Viktor Frankl’s ideas and phenomenology which is the study of experiences or phenomena from a subjective perpective. Interest in phenomenology has been virtualy wiped out by psychoanalytic theory, cognitivism and the DSM diagnosis books which started out with 106 pages and have expanded to 886 pages. Scientific psychiatry needs concepts that are objective and phenomenology is subjective. More and more human experiences are being labeled as pathological and treatable by the pharmaceutical industry. Students are learning to memorize the DSM and don’t know the DSM represents the “best effort” in understanding rather than the “ground truth.” In depth interviewing and really getting to understand a person and their experience has often been replaced with DSM checklists which of course can lead to error in diagnosis and a dehumanizing experience for the consumer. I was excited to find that a mainstream journal the Schizophrenic Bulletin vol. 33 no. 1 2007 devoted their issue to seven articles on Phenonomemology and Psychiatry for the 21st Century which is accessible online for free. Various articles suggest that we need to take another good look at subjective experiences to gain helpful perspectives and new hypotheses. One article is by a British psychologist who experienced a psychosis in 1979 and used his subjective understanding of the event to heal himself and find personal meaning in an otherwise traumatic time. I really hope you can get a dialogue going with people who have experienced such events to share what they felt and what meaning they may have derived from it. I loved the interviewing technique by Al Seibert PhD in your article. It seemed like love and acceptance are the key to helping people find their own awswers rather than labels and resulting damaged self-esteem. I think we can all relate to how much better it is to have authority figures (parents, doctors etc.) have positive expectations of us so that we live up to them rather than scaring us to death.

  17. Gianna.

    I agree.

    The problem is that we don’t see these delusions as opportunities….

    If we spent time with people who had them….to try to understand what it was they were thinking/feeling….it would go a long way to seeing them as opporunities for growth….

    Finding out what these “dreams” were all about….what was going on inside that caused the need for these dreams to surface….what pain/conflict/trauma, etc was left unresolved….what needs to take place to help the person move beyond the state of confusion/disorientation…by dealing with what’s underneath the surface…..

    But, there needs to be no shame involved in having had these thoughts/emotions….There are reasons for them…And, a person can move beyond them….and into a sense of peace, and not return to them….

    This is the untold story – People can become delusional, and then move on, and live healthy lives….It happens all the time.


  18. once again I agree with you, but I also think believing you’re going to give birth to the second coming of christ is indeed a delusion…

    I do believe that it is possible to get real authentic guidance from the divine, however you understand it…though of course I don’t believe that George Bush is anything other than delusional if he believes his presidency was directed….

    my belief when one is delusional with spiritual content is that they have to clear out what is truly a conduit to the divine…clear it out and develop discernment…

    and I’ve met people who have done just that.

    when I speak of the divine I am very secular about it…in my mind it’s the universes energy of life that speaks through each and every one of us if we are clear.

    when we are psychotic we are being spoken to, but we are far from clear.

  19. just one afterthought, about the ‘delusions’ about God…
    there is a whole history of men who believe God appoints them to be different things for Jesus and the second coming…this is not an unusual behavior in our society, in fact a huge part of our society is built on it….in fact, GWBush believes that ‘the father’ wanted him to go to war…lots of times men believe God tells them to do
    violent things…and so many times they don’t get labeled as delusional, in fact, often times they have others believe in them….and even create churches..But women were never suppose to do such things, you know.

  20. Gianna,

    My great-grandmother, Amalie Zanetti was placed in a “hospital”, and spent the last six years of her life there – passed away in one of these places….

    Her crime?

    She began to place her silverware in boxes….wrap up the pieces and hide them….Then, she became confused/disoriented and started telling people that someone was “stealing” her silverware…

    Her neighbors and others couldn’t have such a thing going on….to be so falsely accused…

    It cost her the rest of her life –

    Surely, we can do better….But, somehow we seem not to be able to reach such a level….

    To begin to want to understand – To reach out to people when they are under anquish….when they’ve reach the point of crisis, and need others to love them.


  21. Hi Karen,
    what you say is true and women have been victims for different and sexist reasons then men…

    and yes, I’m a feminist and interested in such things. For example many more women then men are given ECT.

    but the above happens to men too…I know plenty of men who have had their human rights violated at the hands of psychiatry too…

    it is, of course, no surprise that a patriarchal controlling psychiatric system would also be a tool to further oppress women in general though, as well.

  22. This happens to SO many women and is a pattern throughout history. Did you know that women were put in mental hospitals when they broke social rules of the time?
    At one time, women who wanted to be doctors was a case
    of hysteria. A woman who sold furniture at a time when women were to not make any financial decisions landed
    her in the hospital. Did you know that the guy who created
    the ‘term’ schizophrenia’ didn’t UNDERSTAND his patient?
    Did you know that men created this mental health system
    in a time when they were ‘authorities’ over people but
    had no experience of raising children, being a ‘loving’ parent, and EMOTIONS themselves were considered
    childish and not in the definition of Man? Did you know that
    women’s situation and children who aren’t validated for their experiences and then grow up get ‘lost’ because
    so much of their experiences are denied by ‘authorities’ who never had those experiences or count them, yet
    in other situations those feelings are counted. If you don’t understand yourself it is because nobody has been listening to you, perhaps for a very long time.
    I could go on…..but know that there is no definition for a ‘normal’ person and there is no definition for ‘mental order’ so until there is…you can feel safe that mental illness
    is a racket that allowed creative men to make words up to put to experiences they didn’t understand. I know the gender branches of this root now allow women to be the authorities and men to also be the ‘victims’, but know that
    the first photographs of the ‘mentally ill’ after the camera
    was created were of poor women and how they dressed
    was part of the perception at the time of mental illness.
    hope I didn’t write way too much. I advocate for women’s history and women need to know their history so this stops. It will take women organizing as a group against
    this to stop it. Let me know if you are interested.

  23. Gianna,

    Very brave of you to put your own personal “delusion” on your site…

    I have long-believed these “delusions” to be dream states of sorts…. Had you told someone you had a “dream” that this was going to happen to you…the other person might have been able to find great beauty in such a dream…you would have been able to do so also…

    But, because you were “awake”….your “dream” was dismissed….and you were discounted…. interesting that you had such close connection to the story of the birth of the Christ…and felt God was calling you in such a close and personal way… I find it fascinating…..

    Thanks for sharing the story,


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