As awareness spreads about there being something wrong with existing approaches to “psychosis” aka “madness,” interest grows in exploring what to do instead…This conference promises to stand out in terms of the variety of voices, perspectives, approaches and traditions that it will bring together to focus on the deeper issue of how helpers can best understand and interact with those experiencing what is called psychosis. … [click on title to read and view more]
By Ron Unger
If human beings were meant to be entirely stable entities, then “stabilizing” them would be an entirely good thing; a target for mental health treatment that all could agree on. But it’s way more complex than that: healthy humans are constantly moving and changing. They have a complex mix of stability and instability that is hard to pin down.
All this relates to one of my favorite subjects, the intersection of creativity and madness.
It is a curious fact that people seen as “psychotic” or “schizophrenic” may show sometimes more creativity, and sometimes less creativity, than “normals.” … [click on title to read and view more]
by Ron Unger
This sounds like a weird question – everyone knows that psychosis is often very disabling, and antipsychotic drugs are widely recognized for their effects in reducing psychosis in at least most people, and most often taking effect in just a few days. And when people become psychotic again, it’s often understood that it’s because they “weren’t taking their meds.”
But what if it’s trickier than that? What if “antipsychotic” drugs make things better in the short term, but make long term problems worse? How would we even know? … [click on title to read and view more]
I was recently talking with a young man about his anxiety, which he experiences as extreme. When I asked him what the anxiety was about, he didn’t know. When I suggested that we become curious about it and explore what it might be about, he told me that it was so extreme, it must be “biochemical.” This meant to him that the anxiety could not be understood in a psychological way, but had to be dealt with as part of his “illness.”
I acknowledged to him that anxiety certainly involves biochemistry, but suggested that there are also experiences and interpretations of experience that trigger the biochemistry into action. For example, if he experienced someone pointing a firearm in his direction, he would likely experience an intense biochemical process within his body, but the experience would not be “just biochemical.”
If people are going to understand themselves and work through emotional problems, it is essential that they get curious about their experiences and reflect on what might be triggering them. Sometimes such curiosity or reflection results in getting valuable messages from those experiences, or at other times, it involves identifying a mistake that triggered the emotional experience, which then allows for resolution. To use the simple example of the threat perceived from the firearm, one might either take quick action to avoid being shot, or in another situation perhaps observe more carefully and notice a movie is being filmed and that the firearm being pointed is just a prop.
Rather than viewing voices (and visions) as the product of psychiatric illnesses, the authors, and the voice hearers and family members whose stories are told in the book, find ways of making sense of them in terms of what is going on in the child’s life. Factors such as conflict, bullying, grieving, abuse, and not being able to relate to particular emotions are all found to be possible triggers for voices, and learning how to deal with these issues successfully is found to be related to voices fading away or at least becoming innocuous.
It is not always clear what sort of experiences are best called “psychosis” and seen as bad, or what kinds of experiences are best called “spirituality” and seen as good. Instead it seems there is a realm of experience that is outside of our cultural norm, that we might call mystery, where people have experiences that are challenging, with a possibility of being seen as either bad or good, and of resulting in life outcomes that may be either bad or good in the conventional sense.
It has become apparent that huge numbers of people are receiving more medication, over longer periods of time, than what is optimal for their long term mental health.(Whitaker, 2010) What are the factors in the current mental health system that biases it toward greater use of medication than what is optimal? It is important that all of these areas be identified, since efforts to achieve medication optimization are likely to achieve only partial success at best if significant areas of bias remain unchallenged.