Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bending Without Breaking

By Patricia Lefave, Labeled, D.D. (P)

"Evidence without context is ambiguous at best."
Gil Grissom, C.S.I.

A "Message Off the T.V., Just For You!"
"So is context, or concepts, apart from concrete evidence."
Patricia Lefave, D.D. (P)

I agree that socio-political context matters. Concrete details also matter. I dislike "diagnosed conditions" since as soon as a label is applied, the relationship problems seem to magically disappear, then the parameters of diagnosis is fixed (immovable) and the problem has successfully been proclaimed to be within the identified patient. We then get the sustained development of denial in the group, or other person in the relationship, which is reinforced by the diagnostic label given to the I.P. When we talk about "changes and belief systems," exactly WHICH changes and belief systems? we are referring to, matters the most. Life isn't an abstraction.

Fear of powerlessness has a great deal to do with the development of psycho-spiritual illness. Some fears may be groundless on the concrete level. Others are not. Some authorities abuse power on a regular basis. Scapegoating exists. Locus's of control are external and internal, not either/or. No (human) is an island. Sometimes what may be perceived by others as "learned helplessness" is really just resignation, the result of coercion, pressure, fear, or indifference. Often "assertive" is confused with "aggressive." Sometimes it is deliberately so.

In Canada, we now have the "Assertive Community Treatment Team," like P.A.C.T. in the U.S. "Assertive" means the police are called to pick people up and drag them protesting to the hospital for being "non-compliant" with their "medication." That seems "aggressive" to me. It seems especially aggressive to me if the "patient" starts to be described for the public as the "suspect" and is dragged in fear for the "help" they need in handcuffs. To call this routine a "medical" intervention seems like quite a stretch to me. The comparison to "diabetes" loses something in practice.

In many families, assertive is routinely defined as aggression if it comes from the scapegoat, and aggression is defined as "help" if it comes from the aggressor and his/her supporters. Often, no debate with the "authority figure is EVER "allowed." Dysfunctional families tend to communicate in platitudes, delivered in absolute terms. We all look for a "middle way" we often cannot see, as it has never been modeled for us. That way is centered between Self restraint and Self protection. Most people, who get caught in the "patient" role, are missing one or the other. Assertive people know how to make "I" statements much more often than "you" statements.

A mental health professional I have come to know has stated, "As a scientist, ethics are vital." I have heard a lot of talking about ethics while seeing a serious lack of them in practice. Writing speeches about ethics does not make one ethical; it makes one a speech writer. I would like to see an end to the defining of human thought and behaviour as "disease processes syndromes, and disorders." The definition tends to create helplessness and resignation. (If you can't talk to a disease, you can't get rid of it either.)

What causes "paranoia" is living with other humans. Talking about human problems in the lingo of disease process, suggests to vulnerable people that they should give up on resolution and just blame their bodies instead. Ideas of illness with biological causes was created by "medicine" in the first place, so it is not surprising that many patients repeat what they have been told by experts, over and over. "Good patients must agree with the doctor to be pathologically "sick"- not psycho-spiritually sick, because the doctor is the "authority" who must not be questioned.

There is a saying, "The Gods first drive mad those they love." God definitely must love me, yet I have not yet psychiatrists for God, though I suspect they would like me to think of them that way. The dominant views anywhere are also accepted as the "norm". We are taught not to question the "norm" if we want to belong to the group which defines the "norm." Some of us don't want to belong to that group, as hard as that may be for the members of it to understand that.

We must tolerate different viewpoints, which means we must not force our views on others, nor allow them to force theirs on us. When I work for someone I recognize that ultimately, the choice to run their business the way they choose, ethical or not belongs to them. My choice is to do whatever I can ethically accept, or leave. These are sometimes hard choices. Some people will not debate anything, for any reason. The idea that "wider society" is often wrong and the individual right is often true, though rarely accepted as truth. There must always be a first person who recognizes something the group does not see.

The desire to share for mutual benefit is both self validating AND altruistic. In a well centred person they aren't really opposites. Human beings tend to be 85% followers. It is very hard to crawl out on the proverbial limb for fear it will be cut off. I have found many in the mental health profession who consider themselves to be "special" and many have felt they must act in some way to let me know they are sure they understand my experience better than I do.

It is true that in psychosis the individual concretizes processes that are abstract. It is also true that psychiatry often hears concrete facts as abstract metaphor simply because that is the way they were taught to hear certain concepts. The error in psychiatry is often the failure to accept or understand the truth the patient told in the first place; a truth that is constantly invalidated by others who have arrived at "reality" by means of group consensus. Psychosis is like being disconnected from concrete reality, often because there are so many "versions" of it, it is impossible to stay connected. It is the mad search for the concepts which will allow us to reconnect by matching them to our experience. Most often, the attempt to reintegrate is invalidated by psychiatry which declares the whole process to be meaningless, justifying the use of drugging to stop the process.

The reason we get "messages" everywhere is because we are in a hyper aware state, and are drawn to the concepts behind the concrete details, in a search for resolution.
The concrete context in which it is presented is basically irrelevant, but the utterances of psychosis are like talking in one's sleep. I may dream I am "Miss Universe!" I may even say it aloud. But it doesn't mean I actually think that I am Miss Universe. Like dream content, we have no control over what pops out of our mouths in psychosis. Then difference is the added chaos of being awake at the same time. We are experiencing the symbolic meaning of our real experience, on a deeper, more universal level. It is only the form in which it is being presented that is symbolic. The conceptual meaning is often dead on accurate. Once we are labeled, however, the mental health profession, in general, tends to hear ALL metaphors originating with us, whether we are psychotic or not, as meaningless, and part of "illness".

Some professionals looking for reform of the system have mentioned the idea of the need to share insight. I agree. The difference is; when you are a mental health professional who is doing it, it is not automatically considered to be part of a pathological process. It usually is for us. It's like being invisible as the people we actually are. Personally, I don't need to feel "special"; I just want to unload "inferior" or "defective," from the diagnostics, and focus on equality of worth. Often, failures in "reality testing" occur when the tester, bases his tests on a faulty premise. E.g.: "dipsomania" These failures occur in humanity as a whole and are not limited to one group which is evaluated by another group which grants itself a sort of "diplomatic immunity" from perceiving error in itself.

Sometimes changes in systems DO occur as a result of increased awareness, or new information. Delusions of grandeur are sometimes declared to be present in those who challenge the status quo as they sometimes cause those in positions of authority to feel uncomfortable, insecure or threatened. Failure to reflect upon or criticize long held beliefs are very common, especially in those who are certain of their understanding, and feel the need to talk others out of their questioning of the standard paradigm.

We are all happy as clams when we see the solution to our problem and resolution is achieved at last. The euphoria doesn't last, but the truth which is stable does. We then sometimes work to share the solutions and resolutions with others. When it works, it validates us as individuals, whether anyone else validates our perception or not. Then we share because we see ourselves as a part of the whole, as well as, completely separate and unique. We no longer NEED to be heard to be validated. We WANT to be heard for both our own sake as well as the sakes of others at the same time. It is no longer an either/or question, or choice. Both transcend the conflict. It means I speak openly but, in doing so; I have to be prepared to have what I say rejected or ignored, by others. I also have to know myself well enough not to NEED validation from others, nor to be overwhelmed by the needs of others, and to remain stable regardless of the judgments of others about what I say.

I have had to be able to bend, sometimes like an mental acrobat, but not break.

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