Jump to content
Mental Support Community

Schizophrenia / Psychosis and the Opposites in the Psyche

Recommended Posts

I wanted to introduce the topic because it touches on some of the areas that Mjolnir and I are discussing. The best intro to the topic that I am aware of is this piece from the interview with John Weir Perry...

Michael O’Callaghan: What does it feel like to go through a "schizophrenic break"?

John Weir Perry: The overall experience is described as falling into a kind of abyss of isolation. This comes about because there is such a discrepancy between the subjective inner world that one has been swept into, and the mundane everyday world outside. There seems to be a total gulf between these two. Of course, this is exactly what happens in our society: the individuals around such a person are bewildered and frightened. They have absolutely no trust in what is going on! So everything is set up negatively, and this gives rise to fear – on both sides.

Michael O’Callaghan: So it starts with a feeling of isolation...

John Weir Perry: Yes. Now the symbolic expression of this is falling into a death – not only a death state, but also a death space – the "afterlife," the "realm of the ancestors," the "land of the dead," the "spirit world." The common experience here is for the person to look about and think that half the people around him are dead too. While in this condition, it's very hard for one to tell if one is really alive or not.

I've been told, by people looking back on the experience, that one thing that stands out most of all, beyond the feeling of isolation, is the perception that everything that comes up is divided into opposites: Good and Bad, God and the Devil, Us and Them, or whatever. It's confusing, it's bewildering, it causes tremendous indecision and a total arrest in motivation in which everything is canceled by its opposite. So both these things are very distressing: the fear that you have died and dropped away from the world of the living, and the fear of conflicting powers, conflicting values and thoughts. It's a very aggravating feeling. This experience of opposites very quickly takes on a rather paranoid form. ...

The thing that I'm particularly interested in here is the clash of opposites. The individual usually has a feeling of intense fear, as he contemplates what seem to him to be the forces of disruption, of chaos, of the Antichrist, of the Communists – whatever the ideology happens to portray as "evil." In any case, these forces are seen as tending to destroy the world, and the "good guys" are those who would try to preserve it.

Source: The Inner Apocalypse

Link to comment
Share on other sites


- Black / White

- Left / Right

- Inner / Outer

- Life / Death

- Masculine / Feminine

- Sun / Moon

- Day / Night

- Good / Evil

- God / Devil

- Light / Dark

- Conscious / Unconscious

- Give / Take

- Order / Chaos

- Material / Spiritual

- Rational / Irrational

- Hard / Soft

- Lead / Follow

- Right / Wrong

- Positive / Negative

- Love / Hate

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The path, according to Jungian thought...

The original state of consciousness is one of unity with the mother -- the Static Feminine. Ego consciousness arises out of this unity and becomes aware of its separation as it moves to the Dynamic Masculine. The next stage of development of the psyche is the transition to the Static Masculine; this transition is marked by a fiery initiation. Next comes a move to the Dynamic Feminine as followed by a watery initiation as the psyche returns once more to the Static Feminine and is "reborn" in those waters.

Those are the four basic archetypes we're looking at here: Masculine and Feminine / Static and Dynamic.

Static Feminine - Positive Qualities

- Organic, undifferentiated wholeness

- Uterus, nature-in-the-round

- Being and self-acceptance

- The Great Mother (Archetype)

Static Feminine - Negative Qualities

- Smothering entanglement

- Inertia, ensnaring and devouring routine

- Stupornous, mere existence

- The Devouring Mother (Archetype)

Dynamic Feminine - Positive Qualities

- Transformation

- "Altered states"

- Imagination and play

- Liminality and "potential space"

- Dionysos, the Dancing Maenad, the Trickster (Archetypes)

Dynamic Feminine - Negative Qualities

- Transformations and altered states leading to chaos, emptiness, despair and death including depression, alcohol and drug intoxication, hysteria, and identity diffusion.

- The Mad Man/Woman (Archetype)

Static Masculine - Positive Qualities

- Order

- Rules and regulations

- Systems of meaning

- Hierarchies of value

- Theories of truth

- Standards

- Persona

- The Great Father (Archetype)

Static Masculine - Negative Qualities

- Inflation

- Willfulness and determination

- Rape, directed violence

- Life-taking technologies

- Disregard for nature and ecology

- The Despot (Archetype)

Dynamic Masculine - Positive Qualities

- Initiative

- Goal-directedness

- Grandiosity

- Linearity

- Technology

- The Dragon-Slaying Hero (Archetype)

Dynamic Masculine - Negative Qualities

- Order, organization for its own sake

- Complacency, rigid expectations

- Dehumanizing righteousness

- Inauthenticity, pettiness

- The Saturnine Senex (bitter, envy ridden old-man) (Archetype)

Source: Gareth Hill ~ Masculine & Feminine: The Natural Flow of Opposites in the Psyche

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Right Brain / Left Brain

... We'll keep this light and uncomplicated. Our brain, like the rest of our anatomy, is made up of two halves, a left brain and a right brain. There's a big fold that goes from front to back in our brain, essentially dividing it into two distinct and separate parts. Well, almost separate. They are connected to each other by a thick cable of nerves at the base of each brain. This sole link between the two giant processors is called the corpus collosum. Think of it as an Ethernet cable or network connection between two incredibly fast and immensely powerful computer processors, each running different programs from the same input.

The main theme to emerge... is that there appear to be two modes of thinking, verbal and nonverbal, represented rather separately in left and right hemispheres respectively and that our education system, as well as science in general, tends to neglect the nonverbal form of intellect. What it comes down to is that modern society discriminates against the right hemisphere.

- Roger Sperry (1973)

Our personality can be thought of as a result of the degree to which these left and right brains interact, or, in some cases, do not interact. It is a simplification to identify "left brain" types who are very analytical and orderly. We likewise certainly know of the artistic, unpredictability and creativity of "right brain" types. But each of us draws upon specific sides of our brain for a variety of daily functions, depending on such things as our age, education and life experiences. The choices of which brain is in control of which situations is what forges our personalities and determines our character.

Experiments show that most children rank highly creative (right brain) before entering school. Because our educational systems place a higher value on left brain skills such as mathematics, logic and language than it does on drawing or using our imagination, only ten percent of these same children will rank highly creative by age 7. By the time we are adults, high creativity remains in only 2 percent of the population.

... Methods have been devised to "shut off" the left brain, allowing the right side to have its say. Creative writing courses often use this method to combat "writer's block." The logical left side is easily bored by lack of input and tends to "doze off" during such activities as meditation (repeating a mantra or word over and over) or in sensory deprivation environments. The right brain is then able to "sneak" into our consciousness, filling our minds with emotional and visual vignettes and freely associated images. All too quickly, though, the left brain will assert itself and dispense with these irrational images, asserting its Spock-like logical dominance and the right brain will have to be content to find expression in dreams.

Source: Bicameral Images Reveal Our Two Selves

See also: The Split Brain Revisited

See also: Jill Bolte Taylor ~ My Stroke of Insight

Link to comment
Share on other sites


In western terms, duality can mean being split in two (also called dichotomy) or existing in one of two forms (e.g. wave or particle, in nuclear physics) or being interchangeable (e.g. points and planes, in some geometric theorems). In eastern philosophy, duality still implies a division into two – but then various differences in meaning emerge.

The eastern concept of duality is applied to subjective things which are divided into opposite halves by a thought process which is considered to be erroneous. The primary emotions previously discussed are excellent examples of this type of duality. Anything else which we very much want to be one way rather than another, also meets the criteria. Importantly, the division does not result in two discrete entities, but rather a continuum from one extreme to the other.

Value neutral opposites like hot and cold, night and day or large and small are not included, though they are sometimes used to illustrate the concept. But they can also become entangled with duality. For example, whether a diamond is large or small could easily be of subjective significance.

The eastern idea that duality is due to a wrong way of thinking, in other words, that it is an illusion, is the largest difference when compared with the various western meanings of the word. In the eastern concept, the reality is the central point where the opposites not only meet, but merge into one.

The impression of divergence in opposite directions from this point is considered to be an illusion, created by the tendency of most human beings to want things to be one way rather than another. According to this eastern view, the sensible approach is to accept the reality of the current state with equanimity. Importantly, that does not mean agreeing or disagreeing with it. Nor does it encourage or discourage attempting to change it. ...

To summarise, eastern duality is certainly a bit of an enigma, but the essence of it is that the continuum between subjective opposites, in the world most of us know best, is apparent rather than real. And the further we travel inward, within the mind, the more everything appears to merge into an unlikely and inexpressible, but nevertheless real, sense of oneness. ...

I want to highlight an important aspect of duality which has been mentioned, but not discussed in any detail. Although the name suggests two separate things, duality is really a continuum. A continuum with a null point at its centre, and projections seeking infinity in opposite directions.

Now, that null point of neutrality, at the centre of duality, could be of interest if you ever decide that you would prefer a less dualistic approach to life. Away from the null point, you always experience hope or fear of some degree – perhaps mainly one of them, perhaps both simultaneously as anxiety, or perhaps an alternation between the two. At the null point, however, there might be peace, perhaps freedom, perhaps… "the sound of one hand clapping".

But how on earth could anyone arrange to position themselves at the null point of any duality – let alone the mother of all dualities, hope and fear? And if we could do that, would it be sufficient to change our dualistic habits? Or might we still reach out in both directions, stretching ourselves on the rack of duality – despite being neatly positioned at its centre?

I think it depends on how you look at it. You could say it would be necessary to be at the null point and also to remain tranquil. Or you could say that if you are really at the null point, then it automatically means you are not reaching out in either direction, so you are already tranquil. Either way, we are clearly looking for a passive sojourn at the null point, if we want to hear (so to speak) the sound of one hand clapping.

But can we do that? We might try to do it, and fail – caught in the grip of duality. We might then try fighting against duality, but all we would achieve by that is to add yet another duality – the duality of "overpowering duality/not overpowering duality". And that will just give us another dose of the sound of two (or more) hands clapping – a sound we know off by heart.

That null point is surely a clue, but apparently it is not the whole answer. And fighting against duality is a natural enough response, but that is not the answer, either. So what can one do? I suggest that freedom from duality is as easy – and as hard – as falling off a log. But not just any log – it is a sticky log.

No, I am not joking. We are very strongly attached to duality, it pervades our minds – even if we have tried and failed to fight our way free of it. We are not only balanced on the log of duality, but we are stuck to it as well. We may want to let go, so that we can fall off it. But we cannot let go, because we are stuck fast – to the very log that blights our lives.

There may be some exceptions, but in general, duality is not something you can let go of, just by trying. It sticks to you like glue. It masquerades as your friend, but it is a false friend. You can probably see that, but still you remain stuck fast. Why can you – your conscious mind – not let go of something which is clearly seen to be utterly false? ...

To whatever extent we fall off that sticky log, some degree of freedom from the great illusion which duality is… happens. It happens to the conscious mind. The conscious mind will not (usually) jump into an entirely unknown sort of freedom. But it can fall in, if it is not too resistant, and if it is moderately lucky.

Source: Duality

See also: Wanterfall Chart

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had a discussion with an anthropologist friend of mine about the power of informational duality unintentionally imposed upon people as a normative structure of thinking. He elaborated that people, as we are taught, tend to think of things as "on or off, up or down, left if not right, east if not west" because this is how the human mind is trained to be most comfortable in its perceptions. I found this article very interesting, because it discusses how a schizophrenic mind interprets information in contrast to an unaffected mind.

Patients with schizophrenia are able to correctly see through an illusion known as the ‘hollow mask’ illusion, probably because their brain disconnects ‘what the eyes see’ from what ‘the brain thinks it is seeing’, according to a joint UK and German study published in the journal NeuroImage. The findings shed light on why cannabis users may also be less deceived by the illusion whilst on the drug.

People with schizophrenia, a mental illness affecting about one per cent of the population, are known to be immune to certain vision illusions. The latest study confirms that patients with schizophrenia are not fooled by the ‘hollow mask’ illusion, and that this may relate to a difference in the way two parts of their brains communicate with each other – the ‘bottom-up’ process of collecting incoming visual information from the eyes, and the ‘top-down’ process of interpreting this information.

Illusions occur when the brain interprets incoming sensory information on the basis of its context and a person’s previous experience, so called top-down processing. Sometimes this process can mean that people’s perception of an object is quite different to reality – a phenomenon often exploited by magicians. The new study, by scientists at the Hannover Medical School in Germany and UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience in the UK, suggests that patients with schizophrenia rely considerably less on top-down processing during perception.

The study used a variation on the three-dimensional ‘hollow mask’ illusion. In this illusion, a hollow mask of a face (pointing inwards, or concave) appears as a normal face (pointing outwards, or convex). During the experiment, 3D normal faces and hollow faces were shown to patients with schizophrenia and control volunteers while they lay inside an fMRI brain scanner, which monitored their brain responses.

As expected, all 16 control volunteers perceived the hollow mask as a normal face – mis-categorising the illusion faces 99 percent of the time. By contrast, all 13 patients with schizophrenia could routinely distinguish between hollow and normal faces, with an average of only six percent mis-categorisation errors for illusion faces.

The results of the brain imaging analysis suggested that in the healthy volunteers, connectivity between two parts of the brain, the parietal cortex involved in top-down control, particularly spatial attention, and the lateral occipital cortex involved in bottom-up processing of visual information, increased when the hollow faces were presented. In the patients with schizophrenia, this connectivity change did not occur. These results suggest that patients with schizophrenia have difficulty coordinating responses between different brain areas, also known as ‘dysconnectivity’, and that this may contribute to their immunity to visual illusions. The research group is now investigating dysconnectivity in schizophrenia further, which will hopefully advance our understanding of this disorder.

Danai Dima, Hannover Medical School, says: “The term ‘schizophrenia’ was coined almost a century ago to mean the splitting of different mental domains, but the idea has now shifted more towards connectivity between brain areas. The prevailing theory is that perception principally comprises three components: firstly, sensory input (bottom-up); secondly, the internal production of concepts (top-down); and thirdly, a control (a ‘censor’ component), which covers interaction between the two first components. Our study provides further evidence of ‘dysconnectivity’ between these components in the brains of people with schizophrenia.”

Dr Jonathan Roiser, UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, says: “Our findings also shed light on studies of visual illusions which have used psychomimetics – drugs that mimic the symptoms of psychosis. Studies using natural or synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the ingredient of cannabis resin responsible for its psychotic-like effects, have found that people under the influence of cannabis are also less deceived by the hollow mask illusion. It may be that THC causes a temporary “disconnection” between brain areas, similar to that seen in patients with schizophrenia, though this hypothesis needs to be tested in further research.”

I strongly encourage anyone who suspects that they are afflicted with schizophrenia to watch this video for the purpose of understanding how our brains function in comparison to others'.


In essence, there are areas of disconnect between the 'left and right' functions of our brains, likewise there are bridged areas which are not present in a non-afflicted brain. There is a science behind these functions which can dictate our dynamic of awareness, thought processes are not actually interrupted, but rather are rerouted through unconventional pathways which force us to feel emotions, undergo thought processes, and make conclusions not normally associated with common perception. Non-afflicted brains are subject to being tricked by their brains into perceiving visual illusions because their brains are forced by a trained duality, they see a mask a both sides. We do not see a mask on both sides because when we see something that is logically incorrect we perceive it as neither correct nor incorrect. See the duality? We just see a friggin' mask, hollow on one side, because, obviously, a mask is hollow on one side. A 'sane' mind, even when aware of the illusion, yet still perceives a convex face on the inside of the mask.

This is merely my speculation, but it seems to me that we tend to see through visual illusions because of our uncanny experiences with duality. An afflicted mind is far more likely to understand a paradox, we could probably grasp the idea that something were on and off at the same time, for example.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello Mjolnir,

Thank you for sharing that. It was something new I'd not heard of before. I'll be sharing it with others. I wanted to read more about it so I searched for the link: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/04/090406102557.htm. There were a few other links there that captured my attention as well.

Your link was very interesting... quite often when I refer to my "experience" I am referring to a six-week period of time that was comparable to falling into another world, a highly mythic and symbolic-laden world. There was a 14 month period preceding that and a fourteen month period afterward before I returned to work, but in the aftermath, there were rare occasions of external visions in combination with an internal process that was still unfolding at a much slower rate than before.

In spite of this, when I watched that video... I see the illusion, the hollow face takes on the contours of a 3D face to me. Would I not have seen it 8 or 9 years ago? I have no idea.

~ Namaste

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...

Continuing with the theme of the opposites in the psyche...

Any conflict constellates the problem of the opposites. Broadly speaking, "the opposites" refers to the ego and the unconscious. This is true whether the conflict is recognized as an internal one or not, since conflicts with other people, especially one's mate, are really externalizations of an unconscious conflict within oneself. Because they are not made conscious, they are acted out on others.

This is called projection, discussed in detail below, in chapter three. But here, let us look at the psychology of conflict.

Whatever attitude exists in consciousness, the opposite is in the unconscious. There is no way to haul this out by force. If we try, it will refuse to come. That is why the process of analysis is unproductive unless there is an active conflict. As long as outer life proceeds relatively smoothly, there is no need to deal with the unconscious. When it doesn't, there's no way to avoid it; we are automatically confronted with the other side.

The classic conflict situation is one in which there is the possibility of, or temptation to, more than one course of action. Theoretically, the options may be many. In practice a conflict is usually between two, each carrying its own chain of consequences.

Perhaps the most painful conflicts are those involving duty or a choice between security and freedom. Such conflicts generate a great deal of inner tension. As long as they are not conscious, the tension manifests as physical symptoms, particularly in the stomach, the back and the neck. Conscious conflict on the other hand, is experienced as moral or ethical tension.

Conflict is a hallmark of neurosis, but conflict is not inevitably neurotic. Life naturally involves the collision between conflicting obligations, incompatible desires. Decisions have to be made. Some degree of conflict is even desirable since without a degree of tension between the ego and the unconscious the flow of life is inhibited. Conflict only becomes neurotic when it settles in and interferes with the way one functions.

... Many minor conflicts are amenable to reason; they yield to a logically satisfying decision. Serious conflicts do not so easily disappear; in fact, they often arise precisely because of a one-sided rational attitude, and thus are more likely to be prolonged than solved by reason alone. Where this is so, it is appropriate to ask, "But what do I want?" This question aims to constellate the function of feeling -- which evaluates what something is worth to us -- since a serious conflict invariably involves a disparity between thinking and feeling. If feeling is not a conscious participant in the conflict, it needs to be introduced. The same may be said for thinking.

Jung's particular contribution to the psychology of conflict was to point out that if a person can hold the tension between the conflicting opposites, then eventually, something will happen in the psyche to effectively resolve the conflict. The outer circumstances may in fact remain the same, but a change takes place within the individual. This change, essentially irrational and unforseeable, appears as a new attitude to both oneself and others; energy previously locked up in a state of indecision is released and movement becomes possible. Jung calls this the transcendent function because what happens, transcends the conflicting opposites.

At that point, is is as if you were to stand on a mountain top watching a raging storm below -- the storm may go on, but you are outside of it: you are to some extent, objective, no longer emotionally involved. There is a sense of peace.


When a choice exists between two incompatible options, the psychological reality is that two separate personalities are involved. These may be thought of as different aspects of oneself or, more formally, as personifications of complexes.

Source: The Survival Papers

See also: The Four Ego Functions: Intuition, Thinking, Sensation, Feeling

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I'd promised nathan I would share a post in regard to the opposites in the psyche. The following is a continuation of post #3 above, from the same author and continues to demonstrate the different and alternate perspectives on psychosis/schizophrenia from a Jungian perspective. My apologies for the delay in sharing.

Tell me all your thoughts on God

And ask her why we're who we are

Tell me all your thoughts on God

'Cause I'm on my way to see her...

Dishwalla - Counting Blue Cars

... Perhaps the most severe manifestation of a fixation on the static masculine/dynamic feminine polarity is acute schizophrenia. When the family system, supported by culture pattern, is dominated by an excess of the static masculine such that the ego's experience of the static feminine is utterly truncated or damaged, the weak and embattled ego is vulnerable to being overwhelmed by an acute schizophrenic process in an effort to find the static feminine.

In such acute schizophrenia of a nonparanoid type, the symbolism of hallucinatory and delusional processes follows the pattern of the dynamic feminine in the image of giving way of the existing static masculine world order, through world cataclysm, chaos, and death, to the birth of a new world. At the center of this new world is the fragmented ego personality in an inflated identification with the Self as a messianic figure...

This new world is a utopian manifestation of the static feminine as the divine goddess of nature. That is, the acute schizophrenic process is an attempt to initiate the ego into the static feminine/dynamic masculine polarity, which has not been sufficiently part of its experience. Acute schizophrenia is perhaps the most vivid illustration of the tendency of the dynamic feminine to move toward rebirth in the static feminine, leading to a new order of selfhood and a new authenticity of purpose. ...

The continuing oscillations of compensatory movement from one pole to the other on the static masculine/dynamic feminine polarity is, for the ego personality identified with the static masculine pole, elementally experienced as a conflict between discipline and control and disorder and impulse. For the ego personality identified with the dynamic feminine pole, the conflict is between perfectionistic expectations and standards, and feelings of unworthiness, self-loathing and despair, accompanied by depression and disorienting affects.

Release from a fixation on the static masculine/dynamic feminine polarity lies in a submission to the watery initiations and a resulting shift to the static feminine/dynamic masculine polarity. For the ego personality dominated by the dynamic masculine-feminine pole, this transformation results from giving up perfectionistic expectations and self-loathing in order to dissolve into a loving acceptance of oneself as one is, reflected in the mirror of the static-feminine side of the Self.

For the ego personality dominated by the static-masculine pole, the watery initiation flows from yielding the security of the static-masculine orientation to the terrifying inner experience of disorientation, potential madness, suicidal fantasies and symbolic death. Rebirth in the static feminine is the joyful experience of wholeness, a reconciliation of the static masculine/feminine opposites, which the static masculine has split in its search for perfection.

Source: Gareth Hill - Masculine & Feminine: The Natural Flow of Opposites in the Psyche

Music of the Hour:

See also: Jung's Model

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...