“Want to feel better? Take a pill.
Want to get it right? Face the truth.”
FBI Psychiatrist to Agent Don Epps on the series “Numb3rs”
Messages off the T.V. just for psychiatrists. This piece is about the meaning of two very different points of view on the same geometrical shape; the Box.
(It is no accident that I named one of my blogs using this shape)
In the world we live in, in this time and in this place, all centres (the nexus) of meaning have two possible outcomes and all boxes have four sides. Boxes can be protective packages or claustrophobic containers. The difference in the same shape of things (like boxes) depends upon the principles used by both those INSIDE the box, and those OUTSIDE the box.
What do I mean by the nexus of meaning?
This is something many of the psychiatrists and psychiatrized don't really understand. In this example, a box is a box right?
Well, not really. Let me give you another very concrete example so that you can see it and hear it better.
If you and I are having a discussion about something, the first thing we tend to assume is that we are talking about the same thing.
Suppose the subject being talked about is an apple. We both visualize out of our own experience, what it is we are talking about as we understand it, don't we? But, what if we, in our training, were taught that an orange is an apple?
If I say ''apple'' then I mean apple but YOU may visualize an orange when you hear the same word. So, if I don't describe in more concrete terms what I MEAN by an "apple" you and I will keep to our own understanding. It is unlikely that I would describe an apple, as I would assume that it is so obvious that we both already know and I would also feel very patronizing to do so. In fact, it is unlikely that I would even consider the idea that anyone does NOT know what an apple actually is.
How do we usually discover, if ever, that we and the dysfunctional other are talking from different premises of belief and actually we are not communicating at all?
Let’s continue to use this simple problem of apple identification as the example.
One day, the psychiatrist who is determined to save me, whether I want his brand of ‘saving’ or not, decides that he and his patient should continue their sanity spot check chat on his coffee break.
(I know. I know. I can see all of you psychiatrized just rolling your eyes over this and saying,” Come ON lady. Get real. What psychiatrist would ever relate to a patient like that?” It’s my fantasy example for purposes of demonstration only so don’t you all get bent out of shape.)
Off go the great doctor and his poor, confused patient to the cafeteria for the coffee break together, where both pull out a brown bag for a snack. “Oh,” says the doctor, trying to sound chummy, “What did you bring for a snack today?”
“An apple,” she tells him.
“What a coincidence,” he says, “So did I.”
They then reach into their two bags and both pull out their apples.
Epiphany! All has suddenly become clear to Schizo Sally.
Unfortunately, the doctor remains quite puzzled. Of course, he does not communicate this directly to Sally as he doesn’t want to confuse poor Sally any more than she already is. Instead, he wonders to himself, “Why on earth would she think that onion was an apple? She must have some deep seated need to deny her own lack of understanding no matter how obvious it is to me. I think I should talk over this fascinating case with a large group of my colleagues. Maybe if we speculate about it long enough in a big enough groupthink session, we might be able to find a way to help poor Sally with her Fruit Identity Delusion.” (FID)
Of course to Sally, he just says, (while smirking slightly) “Well. That’s a very interesting apple you have there. Did you notice though that it looks quite different from mine”?
“Why yes,” answers Schizo Sal, “I finally see it looks quite different to both of us.”
Breakthrough! They both think to themselves simultaneously. Perhaps there is hope for change after all. Both smiling at the thought, Sally bites into her apple and the doctor begins to peel his own.
On the other side of this nexus of meaning, in which we are using the same WORDS, but do not mean the same thing, you sit and listen to me certain that you know an orange is an apple. Since that is obvious to you too, you don't explain it further or describe it either. Both of us believe, at least for some period of time, that we are talking about the same thing and communicating well. Before too long though, it becomes apparent that we really aren't communicating about the same thing at all; at least, we aren't understanding the meaning in the same way.
Now, if you want to see INTENT to create chaos and confusion by someone, you need to look past the two people talking about the apple, while believing they mean the same thing, to the individual who taught the child (secretly) that an orange was an apple.
Suppose that person who did the teaching was fully aware that he was creating confusion for the child and everyone else involved? Suppose he did that because he (secretly) enjoyed the rush of power he felt by knowing he was controlling everyone else's perception of reality by doing it. Would knowing that about him change your perception and the way you understood what was happening with everyone else involved?
Think about it. Then think about your judgements of the child who was taught an orange was an apple and didn't question that teaching because he or she could so no reason for the adult to teach him something that was all wrong. Now think about that child growing up, and still believing it, and perhaps becoming a psychiatrist in an honest and heartfelt attempt, filled to the brim with good intentions and motivation, to explain to those lost "others" the true meaning and nature of an apple. He would be certain he understood it better than those poor misguided others who were so obviously confused whenever he tried to explain it to them; the poor things. He would notice that some of them even believed that they understood the nature of an apple BETTER than he! Imagine! The grandiosity of them.
What manifests as reality in the world IS a matter of "perspective." To assume certain people have cornered the market on universal truth and therefore, should be granted the power to IMPOSE their truth on others is a very scary business, especially when you are one of those "Others" upon whom it is being imposed, and seeing beyond the assumptions being used as the foundation of those judgements.
If we decided we both had a problem with this lack of understanding, we might decide to explore our mutual confusion and get to the root of the problem.
If, however, one of us always assumed ourselves to be right and the 'sane' one, and the other to be wrong and the 'insane' one, the chances that we would ever learn the truth about the real source of the problem would be slim to none.
If the sure one was then given concrete power also over the one who saw things differently, a permanent imbalance of power would be created between the two and equality, the right and the obligation to Self control, freedom of thought and speech, would soon disappear. In such a case, the one that believed oranges were apples would soon rule the world. An alternate reality has now been born; a reality which is alien to the one we knew before. It is a political reality which promotes and supports the unconscious state as the desirable one.
Sanity and insanity, a split perception of one reality, used to defend positions and beliefs, and to control those "Others' who don't share them, is basically a human construct. It is often used to justify a ''them'' and ''us'' mentality. It actually CREATES what it invents itself and then needs to control. What it really controls though is the collective fears of humanity which do not then get questioned, faced or dealt with in any way that brings real resolution for all.
That very small difference at the outset of communication, at the source or the nexus of meaning, can create a growing and complex chaos which completely obfuscates reality. To take a closer look at this problem and the power of what Robert Jay Lifton, M.D. calls "Loaded Language," please read his article posted here under Titled:
...meaning the same thing. That mutual reality begins to 'split' the instant we begin to project our own separate visualizations of an apple into the same word used to name it.
What I have learned from my own experience is that it is not really anything complex that dysfunctional humans don't understand. It is most often the simple and the obvious. It also does not matter WHO the dysfunctional one is, or the role they play. Whether it's family members, workplaces, school groups or mental health pros themselves, the problem is the dysfunctional system itself, and in dysfunction, "insanity" is an equal opportunity possibility.
Here is a concise definition of the difference between the two identical shapes, the ''boxes'' by which we define ourselves and others; the "boxes" in which we pack up our psycho-spiritual ''apples.''
The Box that Disintegrates and Disempowers: creates chaos, power struggles, claustrophobia and confusion.
The Box offers those inside it a choice; that of individuality OR belonging to the whole. The four side of this box are built of these principles:
1. Choosing to accept being controlled by others
2. Choosing to be the one doing the controlling.
3. Choosing to be an individual without regard for the rest of humanity as a group
4. Choosing to have concern ONLY for others without equal concern for oneself.
The Box that Integrates and Empowers: creates individuality and belonging.
(Notice I said ‘and’ here and not ‘or.’)
The four sides of the protective box are these:
1. To choose giving up the attempt to control others
2. Blocking the attempts of others to control you.
3. To place a high value on our individuality and self control apart from others
4. To place an equally high value on the rest of humanity’s right to do the same while being a member ourselves of THAT same group.
The first one is frequently presented as a ‘choice’ between presumed opposites; between two ways of being, with nothing outside the choice being offered. That choice, being promoted as reality is just an illusion. The second set of choices stated is the same shape of reality but this one empowers the individual AND respects the right of others to be personally empowered in the same way.
Both of these boxes have four sides but one of them is roomy comfortable empowering and protective and the other is confining, controlling, chaotic and disempowering. As with all things of opposite meaning, it is not the fact that we are in a box that matters; it is of WHAT the box is constructed. That is the only part over which we have any real control, either from inside it, or from outside it. We have to be able to see that control before we can use it well.