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The Lady Who Lived on the Moon (A Story about Jung, Trauma and Schizophrenia)


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THE LADY WHO LIVED ON THE MOON

Jung's discovery of the religious dimension of unconscious fantasy and its relation to trauma is an interesting part of psychoanalytical history. Jung was especially intrigued by a fantasy one traumatized female patient reported of a whole secret drama where she lived on the moon and tried to save the children from a winged vampire who menaced the land. Jung completely cured this patient of her psychosis and this cure required him to carry an archetypal transference -- an image of her diabolical daimon-lover who was the principal figure in her fairy-tale like fantasy. In the projection of this figure, Jung saw a redemptive "intention" in the psyche which didn't seem to fit the Freudian reduction of such material to sexual wishes or daydreams.

The young woman was 17 years old and catatonic when Jung first saw her. She had had only a rudimentary education, had grown up in a small town nearby, and had not trace of mythological knowledge. Two years earlier she had been seduced by her older brother, a doctor, and further abused by a schoolmate. These traumatic events had fragmented her psyche and she had withdrawn into complete isolation -- her only relationship being with a vicious watchdog which belonged to a neighboring family. The brother, in desperation, brought her to Jung and gave him carte blanche to do everything that was humanely possible to help her -- despite the obvious risks of suicide. By the time Jung saw her she was completely mute, refused food and heard voices. Jung describes her first appearance:

her hands were cold and bluish, she had livid patches on her face and dilated feebly reacting pupils. I lodged her in a sanatorium nearby, and from there, she was brought to me every day for an hour's consultation. After weeks of effort I succeeded by dint of constantly repeated questions, in getting her to whisper a few words at the end of every session. The moment she started to speak, her pupils contracted, the livid patches on her face disappeared, soon her hands grew warm and assumed their normal color. Finally, she began -- with endless blockings at first -- to talk and to tell me the content of her psychosis. She now related to me a long and elaborate myth, a description of her life on the moon, where she played the role of a female savior for the moon people. The classical connection of the moon with "lunacy" was as unknown to her as the numerous other mythological motifs in her story
.

Here is the fantasy she finally told Jung:

... she had lived on the moon. The moon, it seemed, was inhabited, but at first she had seen only men. They had once taken her with them and deposited her in a sub-lunar dwelling where their children and wives were kept. For on the high mountains of the moon there lived a vampire who kidnapped and killed the women and children, so that the moon people were threatened with extinction. That was the reason for the sub-lunar existence of the feminine half of the population.

My patient made up her mind to do something for the moon people, and planned to destroy the vampire. After long preparations, she waited for the vampire on the platform of a tower that had been erected for this purpose. After a number of nights she at last saw the monster approaching from afar, winging his way toward her like a great black bird. She took her long sacrificial knife, concealed it in her gown, and waited for the vampire's arrival. Suddenly he stood before her. He had several pairs of wings. His face and entire body were covered by them, so that she could see nothing but his feathers. Wonder-struck, she was seized by curiosity to find out what he really looked like. She approached, hand on the knife. Suddenly the wings opened and a man of unearthly beauty stood before her. He enclosed her in his winged arms with an iron grip, so that she could no longer wield the knife. In any case she was so spellbound by the vampire's look that she would not have been capable of striking. He raised her from the platform and flew off with her.

After telling Jung her story, the patient was able to speak again without inhibition but having betrayed her secret, she suddenly realized she could no longer go back to the moon, whereupon she became violently insane again and had to be re-hospitalized. After a two-month interval, she could be moved back to the sanatorium and was able to resume her sessions. Slowly, reported Jung, she began to see that life on earth was unavoidable. "Desperately, she fought against this conclusion and its consequences," once again giving in to her daimon and being sent back to the sanitorium. 'Why should I return to earth,' she wondered, 'this world is not beautiful, but the moon is beautiful and life there is rich in meaning...'

Once this patient had resigned herself to her fate of entering this world for good, so to speak, she took a job as a nurse in a sanitorium where it turned out that she carried around a concealed revolver. A young doctor there made a pass at her and she shot him. In her last interview with Jung, she handed him the loaded gun, telling him to his amazement, "I would have shot you down if you had failed me!" After the excitement about the shooting had subsided (the doctor survived), she returned to her native town, married, had several children, and for more than thirty years thereafter kept Jung informed by letter about the state of her health, which continued to be excellent.

In the Moon-Lady's redemptive fantasy, then, Jung thought he had glimpsed a deeper understanding of how the psyche tries to heal itself after unbearable trauma. Could it be, Jung wondered, that this truly mythic story was simply a disguised sexual daydream as Freud thought? Was the feathered body of the winged daimon for example, a possible stand-in for the brother whose naked body had perhaps been revealed for the first time to the patient on the occasion of her violation? Or did this figure with its "numinous" power stand for something more? Did it perhaps represent a part of the patient's self-care system that had come to the rescue here -- that had cast a spell over her, encased her in a world of "lunacy" in order to protect her from being injured again, i.e., in order to keep her from ever trusting anyone again?

These were the kind of teleological intuitions that Jung had about such material. The psyche seemed to be making use of "historical layers" of the unconscious in order to give form to or "outpicture" otherwise unbearable suffering -- suffering that had no expression except in mythopoetic form.

The wisdom of Jung's intuition here can be apprehended from a slightly different angle if we consider the frequent relationship between religion and trauma. In a book called God is a Trauma, Greg Mogenson makes the interesting point that we tend to experience and propitiate traumatic events as if they were divine, and that we do this, to use Winnicot's language, because a trauma is an event whose overwhelming pain cannot be experienced within the area of omnipotence. Says Morgenson:

Whatever we cannot inhabit psychologically, we propitiate with religious responses. It is not just that God is unknowable and unimaginable: it is that we reach for God most earnestly when imagination fails us... to stand before an event for which we have no metaphors is to stand in the tabernacle of the Lord.

And yet, says Morgenson, the slow evolution of symbolic metaphors seems to be the only way severe trauma can be healed.

Overwhelming events, events which cannot be incorporated into the life we have imagined for ourselves, cause the soul to bend back on itself, to commit "incest" with itself, and to revert to heretical modes of the primary principle. Like the festering process which removes the sliver from a wound, the traumatized imagination works and re-works its metaphors until the events which have "pierced" it can be viewed in a more benign fashion. The traumatized soul is a theologizing soul.

Source: The Inner World of Trauma: Archetypal Defenses of the Personal Spirit

The following piece of music was shared with me by a young woman who had a diagnosis of schizophrenia and DID along with a history of trauma. She related very strongly to a male figure who had a vampiric form. I would call the same a negative animus figure and assign it a shadow category rather than purely one of the animus.

Music of the Hour:

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi SpiritualEmergency,

I do not mean to sound critical but I must point out to you that this post is an example of what I have been saying. The whole thing is intellectual and has nothing to do with the hear and now reality of living and living with any of these disorders. Where are you in all of this???

Allan

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Allan... you just don't seem to "get" me, do you? I promise not to take it personally but I think it's a good thing we never had to work together as therapist and client. It would have increased my sense of isolation and feeling not understood.

Meantime, there is a link from the Jung Topic in the psychotherapy forum - where some of us are discussing trauma, the ego, the shadow, psychotic content, etc. -- back to this particular post which was posted here because it deals specifically with schizophrenia in particular and not psychotherapy in general.

I know. I didn't answer any of your questions. That's because even if I did, I don't think you'd be able to hear my answers.

~ Namaste

Music of the Hour:

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Allan, many sufferers of schizophrenia (the here and now), actually have an interest in reading studies such as this one, for some people it helps them to view their problems in another light.

For example if your dog died i could say "I'm so sorry your dog has passed away", or i could post extracts and quotes from a study about the souls of animals (eg: the weight difference studies before and after death indicating the weight of a 'soul'), the point of which is everyone finds their own 'conclusion' or meaning from the post (it is indirect rather than direct).

Ten people can say "I'm sorry about your dog, [your schizophrenia]", few take the time to follow the other route (as SE does)

I hope i haven't caused any offence Allan (or misunderstood either of you)..

Thanks for the study i found it rather interesting..:)

Edited by Guy Out There
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Thank you Guy. I'm pleased to know that you enjoyed that. Many people who have experienced psychosis do find it beneficial to have the opportunity to "view" the experiences of others if only because it helps to "normalize" their own. In this particular instance however, what we're also seeing is the connection made between the "image" and the real life events that produced the fragmentation. It's been my experience that these triggering events tend to be overlooked and even, dismissed as meaningless, but I know a number of people who have found it helpful to find a safe space where they can work to review and resolve the trauma.

Meantime, I'm certain I'd shared this already but just in case I hadn't...

... Metaphor helps to create a bridge between the “ordinary” world and the trauma world...

Due to the highly sensitive nature of the subject matter, a traumatized individual who is using metaphors is not likely to be able to acknowledge that this is what he or she is doing. ... For the listener to insist on immediately translating the metaphors into what they may represent will likely provoke further emotional upset for the narrator, considering that the reason metaphors were chosen to begin with was that they were less emotionally threatening terms of expression. Furthermore, to automatically write off what the individual is trying to express as being false, or delusional, is counter-productive to the individual’s recovery process because it acts as an obstacle to communication.

Source: The Role of Metaphor

In this young woman's case we can easily spot the triggering event -- the seduction by her brother as followed by her abuse by her classmate. Trauma always has a very personal quality to it, which is why what one individual finds traumatic, another might not. Certainly, among the many individuals I've spoken with over the years, those who identify trauma as playing a role in their breakdown identity the triggering event(s) of grave importance to them.

Note also how she responded years later when another doctor attempted to seduce her. It seems to be helpful to be able to recognize one's own individual triggers -- both as a means of recovering from trauma and possibly, minimizing or eliminating future psychotic episodes.

~ Namaste

Edited by spiritual_emergency
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Guest ASchwartz

Spiritual-emergency and Guy,

You are probably correct that we would not have worked well together as therapist/patient. That is probably due to the fact that I would have wanted you to focus on reality instead of delusional ways of thinking. I am all to familiar with the "intellectual defense" that is unconsciously used by some.

Guy,

I do not agree with you. First, Spiritual is discussing Jung and, unless I have misread, and that is possible, there is no study, only Jung's theories.

Guy, Spiritual and everyone:

In my experience, it is more helpful to be genuine as opposed to intellectual.

For example, Guy, you are very, very genuine when you talk about yourself and your struggles with psychiatrists and therapists. It is real. It gives me a real sense of who you are, how you feel and what you struggle with. I have no such experience with Spiritual.

Do you see what I mean? Guy, you show your real self in the other forums while Spiritual, you do not.

Spiritual, who are you? What do you struggle with? What things have happened to you?

Allan:confused:

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Allan, spiritual_emergency did tell us, in depth, about her experience of psychosis and what she learned from it, in her introductory thread:

Schizophrenia, Psychosis and Recovery (especially the last page)

I think she is now sharing with us the theory surrounding this way of viewing mental illness - which is in the DSM-IV-TR as "Spiritual or religious problem" - in case it will help others.

Edited by Luna-
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Allan, see Luna's post above for a link to SE's personal story.

I am one of the ones Spiritual Emergency is helping with her posts. This method is about taking the content of delusions, dreams, fantasies, transferences, etc, and unraveling the story they tell so the person CAN relate these events to reality, and can heal and have a functioning self to relate to reality with. There are many approaches to healing, and this one is quite valuable to some of us.

It hurts my feelings to dismiss this as intellectualization. I'm well aware that it is not for everyone. :o

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Allan,

I'm not an admin here and I'm not interested in being one, but if I was, I'd create a forum in the Schizophrenia topic expressly for you to dump all your criticisms, demands, insults and biases into so that quite possibly, the people who were interested in having a conversation could have one without your continual interruptions, judgements and derailments.

That is probably due to the fact that I would have wanted you to focus on reality instead of delusional ways of thinking.

Yes Allan. And this is why I would have fired you. In the meantime, the therapy I did receive was somehow, able to help me mend, get me back on my feet, get me back in the workforce, help hold my marriage together, retain my friendships and forge new ones and help me to help others. All without hospitals, medications or doctors. Yet this is the therapy that you will dismiss as "delusional".

you show your real self in the other forums while Spiritual, you do not.

You have been given ample opportunity to read my posts, read my history, etc. You have chosen not to Allan. That was your choice. Don't ask me to be responsible for your choices or behavior because I won't.

There. I'm glad we understand each other. Now, if you don't mind, I'm going to get back to my conversations.

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My apologies if anyone was uncomfortable with me putting my foot down. Carrying on...

Luna: I think she is now sharing with us the theory surrounding this way of viewing mental illness - which is in the DSM-IV-TR as "Spiritual or religious problem" - in case it will help others.

Hello Luna. Probably with every post I make I am showing you what a fragmentation crisis can look like, different methods for dealing with that degree of crisis and even, different degrees of interpretation.

My first blog was titled "Spiritual Emergency" and was actually taken from the title of Perry's book: Trials of the Visionary Mind: Spiritual Emergency and the Renewal Process. Later, because of a default setting in the blogging software, the title of my blog became associated with me and I simply went with it.

Perry likely borrowed the term "Spiritual Emergency" from Grof, and Lukoff, in turn, did the same. There certainly are aspects of my experience that correspond with Grof's definitions of a Spiritual Emergency as well as Lukoff's diagnostic criteria. Lukoff, incidentally, has a fairly extensive website that offers CE credit for professionals wishing to better understand what a "spiritual emergency" is. For any who are interested, they can find it here: Spiritual Competency

Here's a bit I wrote up previously as related to potential labels for my experience...

... More than a year passed before I stumbled across the Jungian inspired work of John Weir Perry and finally had a name, a framework I could comprehend that explained to me, what had happened with me. Perry calls it “the psychotic-visionary episode”. Since then, I've discovered other names too: spiritual emergency, post-traumatic-stress-disorder with psychotic features, the night sea journey, dark night of the soul, the alchemical process, shamanism, gnosis, mysticism, individuation, self-actualization, ego death, kundalini awakening, the hero's journey. Some people of course, call it schizophrenia – a label I’ve outright rejected if only because insanity is the only sane response to an utterly insane situation.

Source: PTSD, Psychosis and Story as a Vehicle of Healing

Meantime, an interview and conversation highlighting Kalsched's work can be found here:

- An Interview With Donald Kalsched

- Rue Harrison: Beyond the Known Territory

[As an addendum: If these conversations cannot continue here I am also reasonably active at psychcentral.com and beyondsz.com.]

Edited by spiritual_emergency
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An excerpt from my own experience that shares some common ground with the above...

tucked away.

One of the critical differences between that woman's "therapeutic" experience and my own was the presence of a "positive" animus via the presence of Gallagher, the "man" who became my therapist. I suspect Jung fulfilled a similar role for "The Lady Who Lived on the Moon". Unlike the Moon Lady however, I was not swept away by the "terrifying angel" (a composite of both positive and negative animus) and, in fact, recognized his admonitions of love to be both malignant and dangerous.

If we relate this story back to my earlier childhood experiences we will also see the presence of a negative male and a positive male. Those who are especially astute may have also noticed a similarity between the male I called Gallagher and my adoptive father.

Music of the Hour: Gallagher's Song (Our Lady Peace ~ Thief)

See also: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

Edited by spiritual_emergency
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lol. Yes, Luna -- I'm sure you do. As for 'Gallagher'... He was just what the doctor ordered. It was very odd how that relationship developed between he and 'Tess" because it was very much like any relationship would develop with 'Tess' being somewhat reticient but very open and wounded and Gallagher finally realizing that she was in a very serious state of "severe phuckedupedness". And so, even though he was not trained as a therapist, he consented to be hers because he was the only one she would talk to.

tucked away.

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Guest ASchwartz

Spiritual.

Well, Spiritual, now you have shown some real you. Clearly you are angry with me. It was not my intention to provoke you but, I must say, this feels more real to me than all the theories.

Don't get me wrong, if therapy you had was helpful then I am pleased. At the same time, I believe its important for you to look at the effect you have on others when you intellecualize. Its distancing and I cannot seem to get that across to you. The reason may be that you have been very hurt in the past (I did read your posts), and protect yourself from people by intellectualizing. My guess is that you do struggle with fragmentation and preventing that from happening.

I will repeat what I have said before: I am not criticizing you. I am point out or my observations. If you dismiss this as criticism and dump it then you do not gain anything.

By the way, why is it that you are not taking any medications? You seem to feel offended by the use of the term "delusions." Why? Also, I agree with you about metaphors but, are delusional thoughts metaphors?

Allan:)

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Allan, the purpose of my posts above was to demonstrate the links between fragmented states of consciousness and other forms of lived experience. Please don't presume they were shared for your benefit. If people can begin to see those connections -- and I'm not going to hold my breath that all people can -- it may help those who have gone through such experiences begin to understand why they did and just as important, help them identify where they need to focus their therapeutic efforts. Perry sums it up as follows...

Although the imagery is of a general, archetypal nature (“imagery that pertains to all men and all times”), it also symbolizes the key issues of the individual undergoing the crisis. Therefore, once lived through on this mythic plane, and once the process of withdrawal nears its end, the images must be linked to specific problems of daily life. Thus, the archetypal affect-images await a reconnection to their natural context: to the personal psychological complexes (which tend to be externally projected).

Source: The Far Side of Madness

Certainly, by the time I emerged from that experience several weeks later, I understood very precisely where I had to do my work.

Meantime -- we're not going to connect Allan. That's the truth of the matter. I think I might have enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the value of psychotherapy with you but I most certainly have not enjoyed our limited interactions to date.

My own expectations in such situations are that I expect civility. I don't anticipate having any difficulty with that. If you do, I suggest you take a few minutes to center yourself and return to the conversation when you feel better. Aside from that, I'd prefer that yet another topic not be derailed so that we can address your concerns that people are not talking in the manner you think they should about the subject matter you think they should.

By the way, why is it that you are not taking any medications?

Why would it be necessary that I take medications Allan? While I recognize that some people identify them as enormously helpful, I seemed to come through my experience without them. I'm hardly alone in that. There is a great deal of evidence that demonstrates many people recover without medication. If I was not functioning well in my daily life, perhaps it would be something I should consider. As it is, I seem to be functioning fine.

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Irma Jean: Allan, you and I had a misunderstanding once here about my desire to connect with others through metaphors.

I have said elsewhere that the universal language of schizophrenia is metaphor. In part, this is surely because it's also the language of the deeper psyche and this is part of what emerges once the egoic barriers come down.

Meantime, a great deal of what serves to make such an experience much worse than it has to be and greatly increases the burden of isolation an individual is under, is our manner of communication with people in these deep crisis states. To borrow once more from Perry...

The terror of psychosis–and the terrifying treatments to which the “mental patient” is subjected–remains a source of bafflement to the outsider and a source of frustration to many practitioners in the mental health field. Although the literature is fraught with descriptions of symptoms, diagnoses, theories, and methods of treatment, few researchers address the patient as an equal. Rare, indeed, is the practitioner who has come to view psychosis as a strange sign of health: as an attempt to heal or as a stage in a developmental process that transports the subject beyond sickness or health and into a positive transformation of the self. ...

Perry’s work in traditional psychiatric settings led him to conclude that those in the thrall of an acute psychotic episode are rarely listened to or met on the level of their visionary state of consciousness. Instead, every imaginable way to silence the patients–to ignore and to disapprove of their nonrational language and experience–was called into play, thereby increasing their sense of isolation, alienation, and so-called madness.

Source: The Far Side of Madness

What I shared of my own experience and what we see in the Moon Lady's experience had a deeper underlying purpose -- this was part of the reason Jung maintained that schizophrenia was an attempt at self-healing. Of course, in our culture, it's very rare that people actually have that opportunity and we're certainly not set up to support them through such a process, except in isolated pockets of existence.

In the discussion "Can A Mind Be Well" I highlighted three very successful treatment programs that relied on various forms of talk therapy. Somehow, those people were figuring out how to communicate with individuals in these deep crisis states and that therapy was producing recovery rates in the range of 85%, even among those who received no medication at all.

I'll tell you what happens to the people who are silenced, who receive those subtle and not so subtle messages of disapproval... they stop talking to the people who presumably are there to help them. But they do and will talk to people who they feel will understand. And talking makes an enormous difference so if we actually want to help people, it might help if we learn to speak their language.

Meantime, in terms of sharing... gads, I've been doing that since I arrived. There are basically two reasons why I do so. 1: If I share what helped me that might help someone else. But 2: I'm also looking for others who have had experiences similar to my own. That requires that I share some of the details of my own experience so others can see if there is any common ground. I am still learning from that experience in a multitude of ways and it helps me to be able to talk with others who can relate.

I can see how some may intellectualize to keep others at a distance, but there may also be a different perspective about this and maybe one that applies more to SE?

Aside from any desire to control what schizophrenics say, do, think, believe, etc., what kind of message are we sending when we suggest that schizophrenics are too stupid to be able to reflect upon, explore, research, share, and learn from their own experience? Is there some kind of "standard" schizophrenic conversation that all others must be measured against? Can we really only talk about hospitals, medication and stigma? Is that really the rule? Is that really the stereotype? Be assured, I'm not referring to you Irma Jean. I'm expressing my frustration with some of the limitations and concepts that get expressed. Some of the best, deepest, and most philosophical conversations I've ever had have been with people who are considered to be schizophrenic. They are some of my very favorite kinds of conversations. I learn a great deal from them and I actively seek them out. That doesn't mean I can always find them. Or that if I do, someone won't come along and insist that I shouldn't be having them.

~ Namaste

Edited by spiritual_emergency
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Also of relevence to this particular discussion. I believe I've referred to this in previous topics but I've not actually shared it.

Schizophrenia and PTSD Connection

The psychiatric establishment is about to experience an earthquake that will shake its intellectual foundations. When it has absorbed the juddering contents of the latest edition of one of its leading journals, Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, it will have to rethink many of its most cherished assumptions. Not since the publication of RD Laing's book Sanity, Madness and the Family, in 1964, has there been such a significant challenge to their contention that genes are the main cause of schizophrenia and that drugs should be the automatic treatment of choice.

With his colleagues, guest editor John Read (whose name I shall use as a generic term for this body of evidence), a leading New Zealand psychologist, slays these sacred biological cows. The fact that some two-thirds of people diagnosed as schizophrenic have suffered physical or sexual abuse is shown to be a major, if not the major, cause of the illness. Proving the connection between the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia, Read shows that many schizophrenic symptoms are directly caused by trauma.

The cornerstone of Read's tectonic plate-shifting evidence is the 40 studies that reveal childhood or adulthood sexual or physical abuse in the history of the majority of psychiatric patients. A review of 13 studies of schizophrenics found rates varying from 51% at the lowest to 97% at the highest.

Source: The Guardian

That's not to suggest that all people who experience psychosis or schizophrenia have undergone some form of physical or sexual abuse. It merely reinforces the link between trauma and schizophrenia.

See also: John Read: Models of Madness

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People are different and cope differently with the complicated process we call life. Some people intellectualize. Sometimes too much; sometimes just enough. Often times not enough.

I know and understand Allan's concern. There are a terribly large amount of people who are in pain and escape from that pain via intellectualization. But mostly, you can't resolve the structures that cause repetative pain via distancing in this fashion. You have to enter the pain and deal with it until it dissolves of its own accord. So - to the point. SE - you are very much intellectual. But this does not necessarily mean that you are "intellectualizing" in the manner that Allan most likely fears (e.g., as a means of avoidance). I see you being intensely curious, and a cerebral sort. Detached, but not uncomfortable with that state of being. You certainly write well and appear quite lucid indeed. No "word salad" here. If you are comfortable with you then there is no problem to solve here.

You've written a bunch about a connection between psychosis and trauma, so you might appreciate the following:

The best functional therapy for this today is called prolonged exposure therapy - it involves helping the PTSD patient to tell the story of the trauma in explicit and repetative detail in a safe environment. Over time the voltage of the trauma tends to drain away.

We are just beginning to understand the neurological underpinnings of how this process works. Please see my article on Memory Reconsolidation. In a nutshell, it turns out that emotional aspects of memory are not fixed once laid down as is commonly thought. Instead, each time they are remembered, there is a weakening of the trace - a temporary dissolving of the trace. If left undisturbed, the trace will resolidify in a few hours after the remembering has occurred. But if you get in there when the dissoving process is fresh, you have an opportunity to interfere with the re-solidification process - basically via the same methods that can be used to interfere with the storage of long term memory in the first place. Some folks up north in Canada have used various drugs to present the interference conditions and have reported very positive rates of patient "recovery" (e.g., symptoms are markedly reduced). Here is an interview with a therapist, Bruce Ecker, who believes that he is able to produce this sort of rapid trauma relief without drugs. And I expect, one of these days, the EMDR people (transcript) will discover reconsolidation and claim it as their mechanism of action.

A few more thoughts. Schizophrenia is not a unified condition. Rather there are probably a number of different conditions that share common symptoms. You see this made reference to in discussions of positive and negative symptoms, and different sorts of schizophrenia (e.g., paranoid, etc.). Some schizophrenia associated psychosis is probably more "organic" than others. There are other situations, like DID, which present as psychotic and often functionally are psychotic (by "singles" standards). To my knowledge there is not a discernable organic problem that accounts for DID, and while trauma is undoubtably associated with the condition, John Kihlstrom argues that there is no real relationship between trauma and repressed memories or dissociation - that whatever accounts for dissociation is something else we have not yet come to grips with. So - there is a lot we don't know yet.

=> if there is a mythic layer happening here, there is also an organic one too. The system has many layers and modules and is very complex. You can put levers in in different places and get movement.

Medications often help people with these states we call psychosis. They are not all bad. They do come with their side effects, and they are absolutely pushed by profit motivated multi-national companies, sometimes in unsavory ways. There are few public resources today available to help people so the most "efficient" treatments tend to get promoted. They are not the best from everyone's perspective, but in their own way they are the best. This Jung/interior angle is not promoted as a viable treatment in public policy because it fails on economic grounds (always was only for rich people), and as you say (and Allan illustrates, inadvertantly), the culture does not value psychotic experience. It wants to minimize it and sees it as fantasy without message. Where am I going - I guess to say that if this works for you (and I see that it does), then that is great, and it is really extra great that you are taking the time to draw all this out because that has an educational function for other people this might benefit. However, it is not for everyone, and for some people (as Allan correctly points out) it can be a hinderance more than a help.

Okay - rambling now. I'll stop here.

Mark

Edited by Mark
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Mark: I see you being intensely curious, and a cerebral sort. Detached, but not uncomfortable with that state of being.

It was very necessary Mark. I had to be willing to learn from what Life had presented me. No one else was going to do it for me and my own options for professional care were limited to some degree, as are most everyone else's.

Meantime, I'm well aware of how I will be received if I were to walk into an environment and say, "I had an experience that some people call schizophrenia and I've never been hospitalized, medicated or received formal therapy." If I don't back my words and my experience up with some hard data, my message -- that "schizophrenia and/or psychosis" is not a death sentence, that psychotherapy worked well for me and may work well for others, that people can recover without medication (and with medication too) -- that message doesn't get through.

If people don't want to hear my message to start with -- and there are many who don't -- they will seek to quash that message through whatever means they have at their disposal. If they are a professional, they might attempt to use their professional standing as a means of doing so. If they are someone like a moderator... I might expect to see my posts deleted or some other form of containment, harassment, even stalking behavior. The latter came to me compliments of a psychiatrist. I've often felt it was necessary to point out it was never the "schizophrenics" who did such things. Needless to say, that psychiatrist did not find themselves displayed upon my "Prized Professional's" shelf.

There is more I'd like to address in your post and will, as time permits. For now... the requirements of daily living take precedence.

~ Namaste

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I'll tell you what happens to the people who are silenced, who receive those subtle and not so subtle messages of disapproval... they stop talking to the people who presumably are there to help them. But they do and will talk to people who they feel will understand. And talking makes an enormous difference so if we actually want to help people, it might help if we learn to speak their language.

And even if we don't understand their metaphors, just listening can help too. I learned this while we (staff) were taking a group of patients to the beach once, a 40-minute walk. I was walking next to a man in active psychosis who was explaining something to me which I didn't understand very much of, partly because I could not understand his metaphor (from a different culture than my own) and partly because of his strong indigenous-language accent. But he talked and talked and I nodded, (hoping I was nodding at the right times!) Afterwards a colleague (his pdoc) mentioned to me how this man had been all enthusiastic about a nurse who had really listened to him and understood! It astounded me, as I hadn't done anything but listen, with very little understanding at all.

When I was psychotic in hospital from lithium toxicity the staff were very punitive towards me as I kept trying to escape to find help. I firmly believed I was dying from liver and kidney failure and I had run away the night before because I believed they were poisoning me through the IV. I was confined to a cot bed with a security guard next to me, to keep me in it, and pushed and shouted at, while the psychosis was at its worst. I was very weak and uncoordinated from the toxicity to my body and brain, so the yelling only served to confirm my fears. Once the psychosis had cleared after my lithium level had dropped I remembered well how I had received no kindness or re-assurance. They need not have even understood any of my content but it would have helped greatly had they just listened and comforted me, as I was strongly afraid and wanted to talk to my children before I died. I got the "mad = bad" treatment. It was all very hurtful and frightening.

Anyway that was not about speaking the language of metaphor, merely about me learning that simply listening to a psychotic person helps.

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Luna-: When I was psychotic in hospital from lithium toxicity the staff were very punitive towards me as I kept trying to escape to find help. I firmly believed I was dying from liver and kidney failure and I had run away the night before because I believed they were poisoning me through the IV. I was confined to a cot bed with a security guard next to me, to keep me in it, and pushed and shouted at, while the psychosis was at its worst. I was very weak and uncoordinated from the toxicity to my body and brain, so the yelling only served to confirm my fears.

I got lucky Luna. In a thousand different ways...

The Fellow Traveler was someone I met in the process of my breakdown. I was a stranger in a strange land there and although many were kind, he was -- above all others -- the kindest. For at least a few days, when I was at the absolute peak of my terror and psychosis, his was the only "human" voice I had in my life. This man was a stranger who went out of his way to create a space of safety for me. He took time away from his work, his life, his wife and his children, to spend it with me. He allowed me to be an utterly broken human being in his presence without having to apologize for it.

There were a few occasions where we chatted -- about what, I have absolutely no recollection now. With the exception of a few phrases, I can't remember. I couldn't even remember the next day. I just remember that I was terrified and he made me feel safe. At a time when I was more wounded than I'd ever been in my life, I knew I could trust him.

People like that, they do not do what they do for the praise of friends or strangers. They don't do it so they can pat themselves on the back and tell themselves what a good person they are. They do it because they are intimately engaged with the dance of their own humanity. They do it out of compassion, mercy, and kindness. There is no way to repay that kind of debt, except to pass the kindness on.

Source: The Gift of the Fellow Traveler

When we are talking about psychosis we often find ourselves talking about neurochemistry but we shouldn't overlook that neurochemistry is highly sensitive to environment. Our neurochemistry can be altered simply by the way others interact with us, and likewise, we have the power to affect theirs in the same manner. Perry touches on this too...

... there must be a connecting link with another human being (and not necessarily a link with a “professional”): one that instills warmth and trust. This will allow a forward progression of the inner-imagery (remi-niscent of Jung’s statement that a schizophrenic is no longer schizophrenic when he feels understood by someone else). Therefore, “analysis” seems (at least, at this stage) secondary to the basic human consideration of kindness.

Source: Psychosis as Purposive

Music of the Hour: Big Calm (The Gift of the Fellow Traveler)

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Mark: You've written a bunch about a connection between psychosis and trauma, so you might appreciate the following:

The best functional therapy for this today is called prolonged exposure therapy - it involves helping the PTSD patient to tell the story of the trauma in explicit and repetative detail in a safe environment. Over time the voltage of the trauma tends to drain away.

One sec, I'll be right back... Found it:

The great soul-centred psychiatrist Jung cured his schizophrenic patients with psychotherapy alone, since only in this personal and painstaking way could he unearth the personal story, in which was embedded the trauma, or crisis which had originally triggered the schizophrenic disintegration.

Source: Maureen Roberts: The Soul (Psyche) in Crisis

The first person I told my story to was Gallagher. He was the only one who could possibly understand it. Since then, I've told it or portions of it, many, many, many times over. There were times, in that first year, I even found myself repeating it out loud to no one in particular except me.

Meantime, one very simple tool I have often recommended to others is the use of a timeline. Part of the value in using a timeline is it imposes a linear framework upon an experience which is anything but linear. But it also allowed me to clearly see that the crisis that had occurred in my "adult-present" shared a number of key characteristics with the crisis that had occurred in my "childhood-past".

On my own timeline, the first significant event (what I call the first significant ego blow) occurred with my mother's death. It was then that the fear began creeping in and I couldn't figure out where it was coming from, it made no rational sense to me whatsoever. In hindsight, I think what happened was that my childhood experiences got put away very well (a wise decision at the time) but some part of me remained aware of them and it was that part that recognized the replication of environment. It was that part that began whispering, "Danger! Danger!" but it was my "rational" mind that looked around and said, "I can't see it. " I couldn't see it because everything that might have allowed me to recognize it was under lock and key. Because I couldn't see it or make rational sense of it, I remained in that environment.

Meantime, I suspect that from that point forward, my body started pumping out mass amounts of adrenaline and cortisol as part of its own danger warning system but again, my oh-so-rational mind stepped in to say, "There is no danger here". That part of me that knew however, that part I was so divorced from, was sending signals in my dreams as well, which by then, had become nightmares. It was also sending signals via poetry, music, prose -- the language of metaphor. And still, I stayed put.

Many months later, recalling how violently I shook through portions of that experience, I would find Peter Levine's website and found much there that was of value.

See also: Peter Levine: Nature's Lessons in Healing Trauma

Music of the Hour:

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