Jump to content
Mental Support Community

Mary's Problem


marysc
 Share

Recommended Posts

I want to talk with some others about what happened to me, because I wonder if anybody else has experienced this. A long time ago I had what I thought at the time was a psychotic break, because of the really weird and frightening things that started going through my mind. I went to a psychiatrist one time, but he didn't seem to be able to let me talk about the things I wanted to to about, and ask questions about, so I never went back to him. But it was really tough getting through the experience alone, and my family was very worried about me for awhile. Eventually I got back to normal, even better than normal I might say, but I still want to know more about this kind of experience. Has anybody else done this?

Mary

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Spiritual Emergency,

I was hoping that would capture your attention, and looks like it did. Wow, you spread your fascinating writing all over the Web and then make yourself so hard to correspond with! So I tracked you down to this forum and finally got in touch with you.

OK, the easiest way to explain what I experienced is for you to go to my written description that's already on the Web. I wrote it for a couple of young friends who wanted it for their blogs.

Go to

http://tinyurl.com/nc88zf

Looking forward to hearing from you again!

Mary Newton

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I really like this passage...

After that, I began to study religion in earnest, delving into William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience and progressing through weirdos like Gurdjieff and Ron Hubbard and then anthropologists and philosophers and psychologists to, finally, Carl Jung. And there is where I finally learned that what Jung called the collective unconscious is the source of all mythology. Not only that, but the process of becoming a complete and whole human being, which he called individuation, consists of facing this collective unconscious, experiencing its contents, and then returning to the real world. Only by experiencing both one’s daylight rational side and one’s dark irrational side did one become a whole complete individual. In other words, it dawned on me, Jung was saying you had to go crazy but not stay that way. You had to come back. Jung and all those other famous people, like Goethe and Dante, went crazy, but they were just smart enough to keep their mouths shut and not tell anybody! I was flabbergasted and elated. Not long after that, I found Joseph Campbell’s first book, Hero with a Thousand Faces, where he followed up on these ideas and applied them to mythological heroes and the founders of religions from all over the world and throughout history. They all began by visiting the dark regions of their own psyches and bringing back to the daylight world what they found there. So the real point of religion was not to believe what the heroes said, but to make your own journey to the underworld and bring your own treasure back to the light of day. That was true spirituality.

Still reading...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ahh. It was a better read the second time around.

You do write well Mary and the danger of that is that you can make an experience which was probably very challenging and difficult appear to be rather calm and easily dealt with.

Obviously, you have come through your crisis point and you managed to find many of your own answers. (I remain indebted to the connective wonders of the internet, myself.) I find when I read such stories I am always looking for the starting point. There was some angst, some discontent in your younger years but what seems to have served as the catalyst is what would essentially be called "contemplative practice".

... One day lying on the floor listening to my favorite Verdi aria on the radio, I suddenly got a hint of what religion was really about. From intense pleasure in the music I escalated to ecstatic oneness with the universe, into a mode of existence I instantly recognized as the kind of thing mystics of all faiths wrote about their union with God, or Buddha, or the All, or whatever they called it...

In turn, this seems to have produced for you a very intense shift. At least, that was the impression I got upon reading your account -- that there was a very rapid transition from one set of beliefs concerning reality as "we" know it to an entirely different set of beliefs concerning reality. Have I understood correctly? Is that how it was for you?

Insofar as to whether or not your experience was psychosis... I think some people might call it that. After all, you had disconnected from "this" reality but I'm not sure I feel it would be appropriate to call it psychosis. Perhaps, "awakening" would be a better description.

What I found especially enjoyable about your account was the appearance of an animus figure (remembering that our fathers are typically our first introduction to the masculine) and the presence of an elusive, erethral Self. In your years since, I'm assuming you've come across the work of Grof -- yes?

Perhaps I'll hold off there and give you the opportunity to respond. Meantime, another fellow and I have been discussing "ego death" experiences here: Prodomal Psychosis / Onset of Schizophrenia. I don't know if there might be anything of interest to you in that thread but I mention it in case there is.

~ Namaste

Edited by spiritual_emergency
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Spiritual E,

It appears you and I have corresponded before, is that right? If so, could you give me a hint about what name you were using, if it was different? I've been in contact with numerous others over the years and I need you to jog my memory, if you don't mind.

I've been reading the correspondence between you and Mjolnir with much fascination. So much of what you are saying - both of you - describes my experience too. Please pass my heartfelt sympathy and support along to Mjolnir and tell him how much I admire his courage and intelligence. Tell him I was lucky enough to have a family doctor who would come to my house and give me a shot to knock me out when I reached the end of my endurance, and that the next morning, things were a little better. (Not much, but endurable again.) So my advice would be the same as yours, and what he's contemplating: to have an emergency plan in place if and when he needs it. One man I know of says go to a hotel room use room service while you're incapacitated. Another plan might be for the wife to hold a couple of powerful sleeping pills, to be doled out on urgent request. Or some kind of powerful tranquilizer to be used the same way. Just don't get dependent on it, because some of those drugs are bad news indeed in the long run.

Thanks for your kind comments on my writing style. I'm interested that you say I make my experience sound "rather calm and easily dealt with." I've not heard that before! Subjectively it was far from that; in fact the only thing that kept me from seriously considering suicide was my two young children whose need for a mother outweighed my terror of going insane and being institutionalized.

As for the angst that was my starting point, I suspect it was the brick wall I came up against when, bowing to my husband's wishes to work in my family's business, I let him bring us back to the suffocatingly conventional fundamentalist environment of my childhood -- the small southern town my parents lived in. I had no friends who shared my interests, no outlet for my energies beyond housework and bridge clubs, and no hope of any change in the future. Something had to give, and it did.

As to whether I was "really" psychotic or not, my conclusion now is that I wasn't. I think I learned a very fundamental truth from the psychiatrist I went to: you're not crazy as long as you don't act crazy. Later, in graduate school, I was taught essentially the same thing: you go by the patient's behavior, not by what you suspect is going on in his or her mind, or what other people suspect. Is this patient able to respond rationally to questions, to feed and dress himself, to function normally? Then psychosis is not present. End of story.

But at the time, this question threatened what little stability I was desperately holding onto. I saw the stark dilemma I was in: if I asked for help or complained or admitted the full extent of the frightening things going on in my head, I would most certainly be considered insane, and would rapidly lose control of myself out of frustration. But if I kept my mouth shut and behaved myself, I was sane. My future depended on my choice, and I knew it.

My view now is that transpersonal experiences (as Grof says) like this are common to the human race and are found in all cultures, though they go by many different names. And the names and descriptions we give them are of paramount importance. If I had never read Jung or Campbell, for example, I would have had no name or conceptual scheme for my experience beyond insanity. (Yes, I might have recognized it as an experience like the old mystics had back in the middle ages, but everybody knows they were kooks anyway.) Instead, I identified it, at least tentatively, as Jung's "confrontation with the unconscious" that could lead to Individuation. And this was an entirely different kettle of fish - not insanity, but a natural and potentially beneficial psychological process, however painful and frightening it might be in the short run.

Looking forward to hearing from you again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello Mary. It's late and I'm quite tired so I'm not sure how far I'll get with this post but I'll wade in and see where it takes me...

First of all, I don't believe we've corresponded before. I recognized your story from Gianni's blog because I'd read it before. Hence my statement, "Oh, that Mary from SC.

Meantime, I hope I didn't come across as implying that your experience had been calm and easy to move through. There is an ease in your writing style. I'm also very much aware that a passage can be read in minutes but the experience it refers to usually took place over a much longer time frame. Such things probably do look easier "on paper".

As for the angst that was my starting point, I suspect it was the brick wall I came up against when, bowing to my husband's wishes to work in my family's business, I let him bring us back to the suffocatingly conventional fundamentalist environment of my childhood...

I'm glad you clarified that. I had thought the "starting point" came later but I have a better feeling now for the stifling you must have felt, and how that drove your energies inward.

Meantime, I found myself thinking about your story through the day and hoped you wouldn't mind answering some questions. I'm just going to toss them out there and if there's something you'd rather not answer, feel free to skip over it.

- You speak of the intensity of the thoughts you were having at that time but you don't speak of the content. I suppose I'm curious to know what was coming up for you. What did you see / feel / hear / sense? Those are very personal questions so I can understand if you'd prefer to keep the answers to yourself.

- You mention the value of working while this process was unfolding, noting it was a means of providing distance from your experience (and perhaps some grounding too). I'm curious to know what else you may have found helpful during that time period.

- I understand it was very frightening. I suppose I'm curious to know if it was physically painful too.

- When did you begin to feel comfortable talking about your experience and whom did you talk to about it?

- Setting aside the possibilities of what others might call your experience, what would you call your experience? What kind of "label" or "descriptor" fits best for you?

On that note, it's been a very long day and I have another of the same tomorrow. I'll try to pop back in again tomorrow evening to continue the dialogue.

~ Namaste

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Spiritual E,

- Meantime, I found myself thinking about your story through the day and hoped you wouldn't mind answering some questions. I'm just going to toss them out there and if there's something you'd rather not answer, feel free to skip over it.

I love being asked questions! I want what I write to be clear and understandable, because book publication is what I have in mind.

- When did you begin to feel comfortable talking about your experience and whom did you talk to about it?

I talked to my husband enough to give him a general idea of what had happened to me, but I never found a real live guru who could listen to me without protests and argumentation. For many years I didn't talk much about it at all, though it stood at the crossroads of my life and guided important decisions.

It's only in the last few years that I've become completely comfortable talking. After retirement, I finally had the time to do a lot of sustained reading in the whole area of extraordinary experiences. Through this reading I came to realize how common and varied these experiences are, and how thoroughly they are misunderstood and ignored by psychiatrists and psychologists treating hapless people who trust them to know what they're doing. This has made me realize that my story, and others like it, need to be told and retold to those who will listen. My indignation has finally overcome my reluctance.

- I understand it was very frightening. I suppose I'm curious to know if it was physically painful too.

Not really, in the sense of having a kundalini awakening with mysterious physical symptoms. I had various manifestations of terror, like diarrhea, trembling, sweating and the like. It was the kind of primal terror described by Freud and his cohorts in discussing psychosis. The terror of nonexistence, I suppose, of losing your sanity and ceasing to exist as a conscious human being. My I-who-observes was about to be obliterated by a powerful new reality welling up from the depths of my psyche, and my brain was no longer a safe place to be.

- You speak of the intensity of the thoughts you were having at that time but you don't speak of the content. I suppose I'm curious to know what was coming up for you. What did you see / feel / hear / sense? Those are very personal questions so I can understand if you'd prefer to keep the answers to yourself.

As for the content of my thoughts during the experience, there's no easy way to sum this up. Let me give you an excerpt from the journal I began shortly after the "father" dream that gave me reason hope I might survive. In this journal, I set myself the task of describing as precisely as I could the experience I had had three months earlier:

"The going will be tough from now on, because whatever consciousness I had was like that of a man in the face of some deadly threat to his life, which may sometimes draw near and sometimes retreat but is always in sight. Let's see, it was the first week in January, because I remember thinking, What a way to start the New Year. . . Perhaps at first I had only the feeling of horror, and of coming apart under the pressure of it. The diarrhea was getting worse, but I was no longer nauseated. I knew that the diarrhea was a symptom of terror, and understood at the same moment that diarrhea is always a symptom of terror, of war and concentration camps and forced marches. A loosening of the guts under pressure. And people who have diarrhea and aren't scared just don't know that they're scared. Ahhhhh . . .

"The pendulum began to swing. Back and forth. If this thing is true (which it is, being this moment being written on my body and in my soul) then that thing is true, and this, and that, and back, and forth. The pendulum was not in my mind, my mind was riding on the pendulum. I rode through a dozen science fiction stories. This pendulum. There was a story about a man who inadvertently got jerked forward a few centuries into the future. Life went on here as usual, but all through the background of the story this man rode ineluctable natural forces, back into the past, on into the future, a little further each time, until (oh agony piled on horror) the momentum gathered in his body burst at the beginning of time and created the universe. And the poor fool who wrote this thing thought it was just a figment of his imagination. And so it was. But just let him get on this figment and ride back to the beginning of ... I could not bear to finish this then, and am not sure I can now. The beginning was still before me. I did not know what would happen. But I cursed the day I ever began to read science fiction.

"What was this unspeakable agony? I did not examine it then, as one does not examine the pain that attends a smashed finger. I only know that it came very close to shattering my brain. There is no physical agony that I would not have unhesitatingly chosen in exchange for it. Gladly. Gratefully. The thought of it can make me sweat and tremble sometimes, but I could no more consciously bring it back than I could the pain of the smashed finger. Nor can I any more describe it than I could pain to someone who had never felt it. The agony attended the smashing. My mind was cracking under this pressure which was bearing down on it. If a motor had consciousness and the line leading to it was struck by lightning, this is the way it would feel before it burned out. I was fortunate enough to have a circuit-breaker operate before I was wrecked."

- You mention the value of working while this process was unfolding, noting it was a means of providing distance from your experience (and perhaps some grounding too). I'm curious to know what else you may have found helpful during that time period.

I used a technique that I think these days would be called mindfulness, except that it didn't involve sitting in a lotus position and meditating. Far from it. Instead, I consciously directed my attention outward, preferably to what other people were saying, or to what my hands were doing (like cutting vegetables or making coffee, or dusting furniture in the family furniture store). Best of all was office bookwork, adding up columns of checks on the adding machine and balancing them. Simple repetitive work that didn't require making decisions or dealing with uncertainty. Always smiling first and chatting with people, taking charge of the conversation to divert them from wondering about me and asking questions about how I was feeling and whatnot. Acting 100% normal, with no whining and no displays of self pity.

I know this sounds harsh and a little unnecessary. But think of the alternative: once I started down that poor-pity-me road, there would be no turning back, and I knew where it would end. I would have to talk. But the only person I could afford to talk to was somebody who could sit calmly and let me howl and cry and scream, and then hug me and tell me things were going to be OK if I just held on. The only thing my loving family could do for me was turn me over to the psychiatrist I had been to. My immediate goal was to fight that until my last gasp.

- Setting aside the possibilities of what others might call your experience, what would you call your experience? What kind of "label" or "descriptor" fits best for you?

Spiritual emergence, I think. I wouldn't call it spiritual emergency, as this implies a big foofaraw that attracts the attention of important others.

I like the concepts put forth by Sean Blackwell of bipolar-or-waking-up.

He adapts some Ken Wilbur's ideas and shows a continuum with Spiritual Emergency at one end and Fear-Schizophrenia at the other, with Bipolar in the middle. Some of his ideas are a bit fuzzy, but the main point, the continuum, I think is quite valid. There is simply no hard-and-fast distinction between "spiritual" and "emotional" problems and concerns, even though the two extremes of the continuum may be quite different.

Sorry this is so long, but you asked some tough questions!

M

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Good Evening Mary!

Oh man, have you ever come to the right place. I am impressed by your demonstration of mastery, encouraged by your relative success, and enthused to have you here among us. What you're describing sounds awfully similar to a great number of experiences I've seen, some I have read and others have been shared with me on this forum and in other places. As a matter of fact, not to volunteer her for speech or to write on her behalf, but as I'm sure you've noticed Spiritual E herself has written a great deal about this type of experience, its consequences, its purposes and its utility.

I am in awe to have conversed with and encountered so many people who appear to have been absorbed into this similar state of consciousness, it seems rather atypical for schizophrenia and may indeed be its very own particular sub-brand of psychosis, should I use such a crude and unjustly broad term. I have spoken with several people, one of them my best friend, who are hobbyist researchers of this experience and ultimately seek it out for themselves, because of this and other evidence I believe what we are speaking about can aptly be described as spiritual in nature. It is not my intention to feed or reflect any delusions, but I think for the most part those of us here are blessed with enough power of intelligence to recognize the practicality of the term delusion -under its own jurisdiction in what I like to call the unafflicted reality- while maintaining a dual mentality about the science behind the things we see, feel, and endure.

When I was younger, I always felt like I could almost see through reality, as if it were a heavily tinted veil resting upon the subtext of something impossibly more complex and perhaps more sinister. Ever since I had my own shift, not entirely dissimilar to yours, I have gradually felt more and more in the reverse, like I am seeing this reality through a lens and am standing outside of it in that larger 'subtext'. When I first witnessed what Spiritual E and I have discussed as The place that burns the color from your eyes I went completely mad with mind crippling terror, I felt like I was reluctantly forced to wholly understand something far beyond a human beings capacity to comprehend. It truly felt unfair. I, too, was compelled to find out more, but the more I looked into it, indeed the more I understood, and in turn the more I was wrecked by terror. I did what you did, I built a wall around it and blocked it out, then used my wit and intellect to appear normal for about a year and half now before it resurfaced and I came to this forum.

In conclusion, indeed many of us here have had similar experiences.

Welcome, I feel you will be a valuable asset to our community.

Edited by Mjolnir07
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello Mary, Mjolnir...

It's another late night for me with only a few minutes to respond. There's many different threads I'd like to pick up and run with in what has been said but for now, I'm going with this one...

"The pendulum began to swing. Back and forth. If this thing is true (which it is, being this moment being written on my body and in my soul) then that thing is true, and this, and that, and back, and forth. The pendulum was not in my mind, my mind was riding on the pendulum. I rode through a dozen science fiction stories. This pendulum. There was a story about a man who inadvertently got jerked forward a few centuries into the future. Life went on here as usual, but all through the background of the story this man rode ineluctable natural forces, back into the past, on into the future, a little further each time, until (oh agony piled on horror) the momentum gathered in his body burst at the beginning of time and created the universe. And the poor fool who wrote this thing thought it was just a figment of his imagination. And so it was. But just let him get on this figment and ride back to the beginning of ... I could not bear to finish this then, and am not sure I can now. The beginning was still before me. I did not know what would happen.

To the best of my ability, I wrote my own experience down as it was occurring. It began with these words: In the Beginning. Already, even then, I was referring to those multiple levels of existence and interpretation, both on a personal and collective level.

In spite of my efforts to capture it all, I couldn't. One of these reasons was because this process you describe above was occurring within "The Story". Time was weaving back and forth. It was like playing chess on one of those three-leveled boards except mine had 15 levels. I was here, I was there. I was out in the cosmos. Past. Present. Future. My eyes would close. My eyes would open. These subtlest of actions would occasionally represent profound shifts and insights... "Understandings fall into my head!".

Those parts occurred in the latter part of the experience. Those were the moments when I was out in the cosmos somewhere and any communication between myself and the energy that was with me was entirely wordless.

Meantime, something I was reflecting on in my conversation with Mjolnir was the progression of my own experience. I comfortably define it according to ego states, specifically: ego softening; ego blows; ego collapse/fragmentation; ego death. If I was to define it along traditional psychological/psychiatric labels it might look something like this: Grief --> Trauma --> Fragmentation --> Mystical States of Consciousness.

Regardless of the markers, it required a prolonged stage of healing and integration afterward. This is the phase I would refer to as ego rebuilding.

See also: The Relationship Between Schizophrenia and Mysticism

Music of the Hour: Delerium ~ Flowers Become Screens

Edited by spiritual_emergency
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mjolnir: I am in awe to have conversed with and encountered so many people who appear to have been absorbed into this similar state of consciousness, it seems rather atypical for schizophrenia and may indeed be its very own particular sub-brand of psychosis, should I use such a crude and unjustly broad term.

Yes, and no, I think, Mjolnir. In Perry's work with schizophrenic individuals over a span of 40 years, he identified 10 predominant themes to the "schizophrenic experience". Notably...

• symbols of the center

• death

• return to beginnings

• cosmic conflict

• the threat of the opposite sex

• apotheosis

• sacred marriage

• new birth

• new society, and

• the quadrated world

Source: Psychosis as Purposive: The Far Side of Madness

As we've touched on previously, R.D. Laing also identified a pattern of behavior in the experiences of some people labelled as schizophrenic.

What is entailed then is:

(i) a voyage from outer to inner,

(ii) from life to a kind of death,

(iii) from going forward to going back,

(iv) From temporal movement to temporal standstill,

(v) from mundane time to eonic time,

(vi) from the ego to the self,

(vii) from outside (post-birth) back into the womb of all things (pre-birth),

and then subsequently a return voyage from

(1) inner to outer,

(2) from death to life,

(3) from the movement back to a movement forward once more,

(4) from immortality back to mortality,

(5) from eternity back to time,

(6) from self to a new ego,

(7) from a cosmic fetalization to an existential rebirth.

Source: The Experience of Schizophrenia

Both of the above featured very prominently in my own experience but I've also seen some of them show up as very common features in the experiences of many others who are diagnosed as schizophrenic. So, how rare is rare?

Meantime, to add yet another model to the mix, here's Jung's model of the psyche...

- Persona

- Ego

- Shadow

- Anima/Animus

- Self

See also: Jung's Model of the Psyche

In my own conversations with schizophrenic individuals over the past several years, the one critical aspect I am looking for is evidence of the ego boundaries being breached. Typically, there is a triggering event that kickstarts those events. "Themes" of death can also be a common component but more often, it seems to be the other side of the ego death experience -- the side where it hasn't happened yet and you're terrified that it will. Another theme I tend to see quite consistently is that individuals get stuck in the Shadow. I've also not seen a great deal of expressed content as related to the Anima/Animus and the Self.

I did watch Sean's video that Mary had posted (I've had some interesting conversations with Sean over the years as well Mary, although it's been a while since he and I have chatted). I noted that he had also developed a model which spoke of schizophrenic experiences occurring at "lower" states of consciousness. That model bears some similarity to Grave's model of psychological maturity although I'm not certain if that's the model he borrowed from...

Eight Value Systems / vMemes that have emerged to date and

still exist side-by-side on earth . . .

1 BEIGE
(A-N) based on biological urges/drives; physical senses dictate the state of being

2 PURPLE
(B-O) threatening and full of mysterious powers, spirit beings which must be placated and appeased

3 RED
(C-P) like a jungle where the tough and strong prevail while the weak serve; nature is an adversary

4 BLUE
(D-Q) controlled by a Higher Power that punishes evil and eventually rewards good works and Right living

5 ORANGE
(E-R) full of resources to develop and opportunities to make things better and bring prosperity

6 GREEN
(F-S) the habitat wherein humanity can find love and purposes through affiliation and sharing

7 YELLOW
(A'-N' or G-T) a chaotic organism where change is the norm and uncertainty a usual state of being

8 TURQUOISE
(B'-O' or H-U) a delicately balanced system of interlocking forces in jeopardy in human hands

9 CORAL
(C'-P' or I-V) should tend to be I-oriented, controlling, consolidating - if the pattern to date holds

What people in each world seek out in life . . .

(Goals of "Successful" Living)

1 BEIGE
(A-N) survival; biogenic needs satisfaction; reproduction

2 PURPLE
(B-O) safety/security; protection from harm; family bonds

3 RED
(C-P) power/action; asserting self to dominate others; control

4 BLUE
(D-Q) stability/order; obedience to earn later reward; meaning

5 ORANGE
(E-R) opportunity/success; competing to achieve results; influence

6 GREEN
(F-S) harmony/love; joining together for mutual growth; awareness

7 YELLOW
(A'-N' or G-T) independence/self-worth; fitting a living system; knowing

8 TURQUOISE
(B'-O' or H-U) global community/life force; survival of Earth; consciousness

How "rational" people might deal with such a world . . .

(Coping Systems)

1 BEIGE
(A-N) as natural instincts and reflexes direct; automatic existence

2 PURPLE
(B-O) according to tradition and ritual ways of group; tribal; animistic

3 RED
(C-P) asserting self for dominance, conquest, and power; exploitive; egocentric

4 BLUE
(D-Q) obediently as higher authority and rules direct; absolutist; conforming

5 ORANGE
(E-R) pragmatically to achieve results and get ahead; multiplistic; achievist

6 GREEN
(F-S) responds to human needs; affiliative; relativistic; situational

7 YELLOW
(A'-N' or G-T) build functional niche to do what one chooses; existential; systemic

8 TURQUOISE
(B'-O' or H-U) experiential to join with other like thinkers; holistic; transpersonal

Source: Colors of Thinking

I'm uncomfortable with the idea of imposing a model that speaks of "lower" and "higher" levels although it stands to reason that an individual's maturity level and world view will obviously contribute towards shaping their experience. Where Sean identifies fear as being an indicator that one is coming from a "lower" perspective, I'm not so sure. Fear can be a common and perhaps even necessary part of the experience. So, too, may be some periods of regression. One factor is certain -- it's complicated.

Edited by spiritual_emergency
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mjolnir,

I was so pleased to have you welcome me to the group with such deep understanding. Spiritual E sent me the Prodomal Psychosis / Onset of Schizophrenia thread and I read it with great interest.

"When I first witnessed what Spiritual E and I have discussed as The place that burns the color from your eyes I went completely mad with mind crippling terror, I felt like I was reluctantly forced to wholly understand something far beyond a human beings capacity to comprehend. It truly felt unfair. I, too, was compelled to find out more, but the more I looked into it, indeed the more I understood, and in turn the more I was wrecked by terror. I did what you did, I built a wall around it and blocked it out, then used my wit and intellect to appear normal for about a year and half now before it resurfaced and I came to this forum."

It sounds like you have been through some pretty heavy stuff yourself. I can certainly relate to "the place that burns the color from your eyes," and I too had the feeling I was dealing with something that us poor humans just can't handle very well, especially westerners with their too-rational expectations of what "reality" and "the real world" are supposed to be. That was the point, as I said in my Squirrel paper, where my poor little Presbyterian self just gave up and expired.

As you know, I walled off my experience, yes. But that lasted only about 3 months, at which time I decided to start keeping a journal, and set myself the task of describing, as precisely as I could, what had happened to me. I saw this as my cautious dismantling, brick by brick, of the wall I had erected in my mind to keep me from thinking about the experience and what it meant. I sat at the typewriter and deliberately exposed my trembling and sweating self to the memories and described them as honestly and precisely as I could. I trusted Jung when he said I would begin having dreams and inner experiences that would let me gauge my progress. And sure enough, I did. I dreamed of getting lost and finding a store that sold maps, and of traveling in a tiny vehicle on a twisting road where a barrier blocked my way, and then getting out of the tiny vehicle, picking it up, and running around the barrier. Good dreams with reassuring outcomes!

Since those days I've come to this conclusion: there are two great dangers in the passage to maturity. One is being swallowed up by the outer world -- by becoming nothing but one's persona, or the mask we present to the world ("I'm a mother," "I'm a teacher," "I'm a doctor," etc). The other danger is being swallowed up by the inner world -- what Jung calls the Unconscious -- and becoming nothing but a mouthpiece for its fabulous and frightening ideas and images that can obliterate daylight consciousness.

My task, then, was to keep my balance between the inner and outer worlds, and not let myself, my ego, be completely controlled by either of them. When I began the journal, my vulnerable ego had been nearly obliterated by my powerful inner world. I realized very quickly that I had to work on strengthening my relationship to the outer world, which I had more or less ignored in my preoccupation with weird books and classical music, compounded by my rejection of the stifling world of my childhood that I returned to with my husband. As a result, I was still in the stage of adolescent belly-button watching. Not a good place from which to master the destabilizing contents of one's deep psyche.

So this took a few years. I remember reading about an old Zen master who said "When I was 70, I began to find my footing. When I was 80, I knew where I stood." Something like that. Anyway, I can finally talk and write comfortably about my experience those long years ago, and it's a great relief.

Mary

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Typically, there is a triggering event that kickstarts those events. "Themes" of death can also be a common component but more often, it seems to be the other side of the ego death experience -- the side where it hasn't happened yet and you're terrified that it will. Another theme I tend to see quite consistently is that individuals get stuck in the Shadow. I've also not seen a great deal of expressed content as related to the Anima/Animus and the Self.

When you say the ego-death hasn't happened yet, do you mean you've spoken to schizophrenics who hadn't undergone the ego-death yet? Had most of them already experienced their first psychotic break or already been diagnosed? I'm asking because I've been obsessively trying to gauge when I'm going to have my blow-out. I'm not sure I can count my experience with those parts of my mind because they were a result of having eaten a whole bunch of marijuana. (I'd like to remind any critics here here that this was a once in a lifetime drug-use, hadn't done it before and won't ever do it again.) I'm almost certain that I've been teetering on a break and edging closer every day.

Today while wandering around on my university campus I felt light as the air, as though I were a balloon sort of grazing the ground. I started to think that maybe I was becoming less subject to the laws of gravity and entertained the idea of trying to fly. The entire time I was telling myself that this was delusional thinking and that this is a sure sign that I am getting worse in the head, though telling myself things like this feel less weighty in their impact on my ability to ground myself with reality. When I tell a psych professional about moments like this they basically tell me that as long as I can recognize that these ideas are not real that I'm not going insane. I'm frustrated to convey to them that just because I recognize that they're not real doesn't mean that they don't feel real, but their diagnoses remains the same, I'm worried that I'm not going to achieve the benefit of catching this illness early because every professional I talk to sees that I think I understand what is happening to me and disregards it as common anxiety.

At this point I'm almost excited with anticipation awaiting the moment when I become overwhelmed by what I presently acknowledge as irrational and then cease my battle with it. Partially to see where my mind can take me and partially to see if I am capable of meeting the challenge it will present. Does this mean ego-death is on the horizon? I'm kind of starting to hope so; aside from the anxiety and stress of handling life under an abnormal condition I'm rapidly losing my fear of becoming effectively 'not there'.

Thoughts?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello Mjolnir,

To clarify -- an ego death experience doesn't seem to be a component of every schizophrenic experience although ego collapse, ego-fragmentation, the blurring of boundaries between self and other/the inner world and the outer world does seem to be.

I'm asking because I've been obsessively trying to gauge when I'm going to have my blow-out.

I think it would be ideal if you don't have a blow-out at all as blow-outs can be very difficult to deal with. What I think would be better is if you can gain some insight and perspectives into what's happening for you psychically (meaning, "within your psyche") so that the process itself isn't so frightening and so that you can slow it down. For example, Mary was able to maintain a job and a good degree of daily function through the process. Her earlier reading of a variety of religious texts might have also helped provide a conceptual framework that allowed her to integrate the experience over a long period of time. This is in accordance with the concept of spirtual emergence as opposed to spiritual emergency in which the process becomes a crisis because it's happening so rapidly with no supports in place.

Meantime, I've also noted that there are often triggering events in an individual's life -- Mary can trace hers back to moving back to that small town with its small mind perspective. I can trace mine back to my mother's death, my early childhood and the deaths of those others. It may be helpful for you to reflect upon your own life to see if you can identify a triggering event as well. It may have been your ingestion of marijuana but it may have been something else as well, even a combination of things.

Whatever it is, it's been my experience that these triggering events must be addressed. Mary had to move beyond that small town mindset, I had to emotionally process my abuse and grieve the losses I had experienced.

Mary also addresses an important aspect of recovering from same and that is to re-engage with the outer, masculine, persona-oriented world while keeping one foot in the inner, feminine-soul-oriented world.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mary -- at the point that my own introductory thread became an ongoing conversation it was suggested that the thread be moved into a different space so as to not detract from the introductions that other newcomers were making. A moderator was kind enough to shift my thread into the schizophrenia topic. Would you feel comfortable doing the same? If so, just let a mod know and I'm sure they'll take care of it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mary -- at the point that my own introductory thread became an ongoing conversation it was suggested that the thread be moved into a different space so as to not detract from the introductions that other newcomers were making. A moderator was kind enough to shift my thread into the schizophrenia topic. Would you feel comfortable doing the same? If so, just let a mod know and I'm sure they'll take care of it.

I'd be quite comfortable with this. How do I let a mod know?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Just so you know Mary -- I did ask Irma Jean if she could take care of shifting the topic and she did. (Thank you, Irma Jean.)

Meantime, I am reflecting on all of the above, including my conversations here and my conversations in other places. Sometimes I get very quiet about such things. Often, for a very long time. But that doesn't mean I'm not thinking about, digesting, and learning from what has been shared. I look forward to picking the conversation back up if and when the conversation shifts back in these directions.

~ Namaste

Music of the Hour:

Edited by spiritual_emergency
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Spiritual E - I notice you're interested in the problem of what triggers experiences such as we've had. For the sake of discussion, I'll call such experiences "altered states of consciousness," or ASC, since this is a fairly value-free term that squeezes through the clashing rocks of such labels as "psychosis" or "psychic awakening" and the like.

I've been reading about Kundalini lately and found it fascinating. Currently I'm in "Farther Shores" by Yvonne Kason, a doctor who had a near-death experience (NDE) that turned into a full-fledged spiritual transformation complete with synchronistic phenomena, plus a lifelong interest in others with similar experiences. In time she began to be consulted not only by people who had had NDEs, but also people struggling with ASCs and how to interpret their significance. Not surprisingly, many of them had encountered psychiatrists and other professionals who wanted to convince them they were mentally ill.

To conceptualize these experiences, Dr. Kason finally adopted the philosophy of India, specifically Kundalini yoga, which is a little like the western medical model turned turned on it head. Psychiatry typically sees an ASC as "psychosis" caused by known brain illnesses or (in a pinch) childhood abuse or adult stress, and drugs given to treat it are like "insulin for diabetes." Prognosis is often quite dismal.

Kundalini yoga, on the other hand, typically sees an ASC as the "awakening of Kundalini," or the potential for spiritual transformation inherent in all human beings. Ideally, this awakening of dormant brain functions should come only after careful preparation and study to ease the process, and under the guidance of a wise guru, but unfortunately this is often not the case.

Thus those of us who have to deal with ASCs on our own come to depend on information and guidance we find in books and on the Web and other media, plus the internal resources we manage to summon from the depths of our own psyches. Only the very lucky ones among us manage to find a wise spiritual guide in the flesh.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

mary: Spiritual E - I notice you're interested in the problem of what triggers experiences such as we've had.

Yes, very much so. In my own conversations with others, the overwhelming majority of people can identify something that happened "before" but this event is rarely addressed in any ensuing treatment. Rather, they are given a label of "brain-disordered" and then, medication and usually, nothing but medication. If people do find healing for themselves it's often through their conversations with peers, not professionals.

For the sake of discussion, I'll call such experiences "altered states of consciousness," or ASC, since this is a fairly value-free term that squeezes through the clashing rocks of such labels as "psychosis" or "psychic awakening" and the like.

I think my own experience is one that's very difficult to pigeon-hole. If we look at it one way, we can call it schizophrenia or psychosis -- this is especially so if we consider my family history. If we look at it from other perspectives however, other labels become more appropriate.

I've been reading about Kundalini lately and found it fascinating.

Here's an interesting link in that regard...

Schizophrenia or spiritual crisis? On "raising the kundalini" and its diagnostic classification

Hansen G.

Abstract: Two patients are described who had been diagnosed as schizophrenic, but had actually instead been going through spiritual crises, which in Eastern spiritual tradition are called raising the kundalini. Perhaps this experience is not a disease, but many--especially if not understood by oneself, the nearest relations and the medical profession--cause mental illness. In WHO ICD-10 the experience could be classified as F48.8, disordines neurotici specificati alii. The process falls outside the categories of both normal and psychotic. When allowed to progress to completion this process culminates in deep psychological balance, strength, and maturity.

Source: Kundalini and Diagnostic Considerations

See also: Culture Bound Psychiatric Disorders Associated With Qigong Practice in China

We shouldn't overlook that India was one of the countries in the WHO studies that had a higher rate of recovery from schizophrenia than the West. There are numerous speculations as to why this is so -- stronger family involvement, lack of neuroleptics and imposed hospitalization, less social stigma. Hand in hand with that may be a more receptive tolerance for religious and/or spiritual experiences.

Only the very lucky ones among us manage to find a wise spiritual guide in the flesh.

Is there such a thing? Admittedly, in the aftermath of my own experience I did seek out understanding among those who self-identified as "the spiritually elite". That may have been an error in my own judgement for I soon found that I preferred the company of "schizophrenics" to the "enlightened". In the years since, however, I certainly have come across some essential nuggets of wisdom as delivered up by flesh-and-blood people, some of them living, some of them dead.

~ Namaste

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Spiritual E,

You've brought up a knotty problem. What is "schizophrenia" or "psychosis" or "mental illness" anyway?

I learned in graduate school that there is a very elegant way out of this problem: all these conditions are defined "behaviorally," that is to say, by what the patient is doing, or reported by others to have done in the recent past. When the patient is agitated and claims to be hearing voices or seeing things that others can't see, for example, then this behavior probably means the patient "has" schizophrenia. And if you give the patient a powerful drug that stops these behaviors, then you have demonstrated that the underlying cause of the behaviors problem is a chemical imbalance in the brain; in other words, an illness.

That is the famous medical model of mental illness, which sad to say has never been substantiated by any lab test or other physical measurement, unlike pneumonia or cancer or other conditions we normally think of as illness. The entire construct of "mental illness" is built on assumptions rather than measurable data. One unusually honest researcher pointed out that "chemical imbalances" occur frequently in the brain, for example, from hunger, anger, pleasure, sexual arousal, etc, but none have been reliably associated with diagnoses of "mental illness."

Your own experience is most certainly difficult to pigeon-hole, from a professional standpoint. Like me, you didn't go to a psychiatrist long enough to get yourself properly labeled, and here you are running around acting like you're as sane as anybody else. I have a hunch that any psychiatrist who tried to diagnose you at this point would call it something like a "dissociative reaction" and would deny that you were ever "really" mentally ill in the first place. Rest assured, a proper pigeon-hole would be found for you somewhere!

As to what mental illness "really" is, my mind keeps going back to Joseph Campbell's offhand but jaw-dropping comment:

"What is the difference between a psychotic or LSD experience and a yogic, or a mystical? The plunges are all into the same deep inward sea; of that there can be no doubt. . . . The mystic, endowed with native talents for this sort of thing and following, stage by stage, the instruction of a master, enters the waters and finds he can swim; whereas the schizophrenic, unprepared, unguided, and ungifted, has fallen or has intentionally plunged, and is drowning."

(Joseph Campbell, Myths to Live By)

Taken seriously, this analogy sheds a completely different light on the condition we call "mental illness." The "plunge into the deep inward sea" becomes a primary human experience, like giving birth to a child, or the death of a loved one. People react in various ways to these life-changing experiences, some living up to the challenge and others not. Similarly, the descent into the depths of the psyche, whether involuntary or earnestly sought, demands a response from the experiencer. This response can range from crippling psychosis at one extreme to ecstatic mysticism at the other, and all points in between including a return to relative normality, or "better than normal," which I suspect is the true evolutionary significance of the experience. This has been its function in earlier (and in some ways wiser) cultures than our own.

So from this perspective, you and I both fell into that inward sea involuntarily, but good luck plus just plain gutsy hanging-on kept us away from psychiatrists and gave us the opportunity to construct our life rafts from Jung's writings and whatever scraps of helpful information and advice we could find elsewhere. Thus we made our way back to shore.

Am I right? Is this how it was with you too?

Mary

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why not take it from the other extreme? Normalizing delusions: Not to harp on anyone's religion here, but during the second great awakening one was pretty much not accepted into society unless they had gone through a second (or maybe even a first) baptism in which you "truly felt the power of god flow into you." inside a makeshift tent guided by some evangelist self-proclaimed minister, should you not shake violently on the ground, convulsing in a seizure like stupor, then it was agreed upon that you truly were not experiencing the mighty revelation that is gods great intervention into your life.

I can't recall exactly where, but I seem to remember a documentary some time back that examined brain chemistry during religious experiences, there is a great deal of evidence to support the idea that such things take place in their own unique and identifiable place within the frontal lobe.

The bottom line is insanity isn't experienced by the sane, so how the hell do they know what it is, and why are they the ones who get to label us? Here's a worthy parallel: If you've ever read I am Legend, not the drastically different (though still completely awesome) movie, but the book itself; the plot isn't about a scientist hunting vampires, but about a man who finds himself completely alone in a world where everyone but himself has become something other than human (er, vampires). He treks tirelessly in an effort to find another living human being to relate to, and kills the enemy creatures who are hunting him continuously in an effort to preserve his own life. At the conclusion of the story, they actually trick him into being captured, dressing up a vampire woman to look human and coax him out, then they put him on trial and execute him for serial murder.

The moral of the story is that he wasn't just the last one of his kind, he wasn't questing against a great evil that fell upon the world, he was systematically hunting and killing another race of people because he misunderstood them. They weren't trying to eat him because he was the last food left on earth, they were trying to kill him because they couldn't find another way to stop him from killing them. Hence "I am legend" "I am the monster, I am Grendel". Unbeknownst to him, having locked himself away with what he believed for so long and isolating himself in his own world where the vampires were malignant and destructive, he wasn't there to recognize that they had formed their own civilized society over time and that he was committing himself to a holocaust against the entirety that was the new race of humanity.

To me, psychiatrists are like our protagonist in this story. They think they know, they stick to what they think they know without questioning it, and they hunt us out under the label that we are different without giving us a chance to prove that we are worthy by our own terms and don't need to be so under theirs. What if 90 percent of the world were affected by schizophrenia? It wouldn't be called schizophrenia, would it? No, the 'sane' would be the psychotic ones.

Edited by Mjolnir07
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest ASchwartz

Hello Mjo, Notmary, SE and others,

Sadly, there is such a thing as mental illness when we speak of schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder. There are a couple of factors that place them in the category of mental illness. One of them has to do with the degree to which the illness interferes with the ability to function: hold down a job, relate to other people, etc. It is tragic when a person becomes so lost in their schizophrenia that they cannot find their way out. Before the advent of anti psychotic medications, that is what would happen. In fact, the schoprenia would get progressively worse, with some people ending up in catatonic states.

Just wanted to clarify.

Allan

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...