AN ALTERNATIVE UNDERSTANDING OF THE NATURE OF MADNESS

Michael Cornwall is a Jungian/Laingian psychotherapist who went through his own intense experience of transformative madness without medication or treatment that formed his vocation. For over 30 years he has specialized in providing psychotherapy for people in psychotic states in medication-free sanctuaries and community settings. He completed his doctoral study of Diabasis House, the Jungian early episode, medication free psychosis sanctuary founded by Michael's mentor, Dr. John Weir Perry. Michael is an Esalen Institute workshop leader and psychology grad school lecturer and CEU trainer on alternative approaches to madness.

He can be reached at his website - "What is Madness?"

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September 23, 2016

I believe the emotions of guilt and shame are culturally induced negative emotional experiences that almost all of us are tragically made to feel from infancy or childhood on. But guilt and shame are not now, nor ever were, hard-wired human emotional necessities.
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June 14, 2016

The stakes are very high when loving parents anxiously sit down across from a child psychiatrist who has completed an ADHD evaluation of their child. All of the parents’ high hopes for their precious child’s well-being and future happiness are pressing on the parent’s heart and mind. The psychiatrist leans to the side, reaches into a drawer, and lifts out a life-size model of a human brain for the parent or parents to see. The little five-year-old sitting on the floor playing stops and looks up at a model of his or her brain as the psychiatrist breaks the bad news. And the question is formed right then in the little boy or little girl’s soul that may haunt the child for the rest of their lives – “Why is there something wrong with my brain?”
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May 15, 2016

When we try to understand why we emotionally suffer, we can look to the ever-growing, reliable knowledge that traumatic, overt emotional wounds of commission can surely cause our emotional suffering via depression, anxiety and even extreme states.
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January 4, 2016

When former NIMH chief Dr. Thomas Insel speaks, people listen. Dr. Insel famously criticized the DSM a couple of years ago for its lack of reliability. He notably broke ranks with the APA by saying there were no bio-markers, blood tests, genetic tests or imaging tests that could verify or establish a DSM diagnosis of schizophrenia, bipolar or schizoaffective disorder. However in a new article he announces research that claims to have found bona-fide physiological markers that identify specific “biotypes” of psychosis. This system could, purportedly, identify a person as possessing a specific biotype of psychosis, instead of a DSM-category diagnosis.
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Categorized in: Adult, Bias, Corruption & Accountability, Blogs, Causation Theories, Childhood Adversity/Trauma, Children and Adolescents, Disorders, Environmental, Featured Blogs, Genetics, Research, Schizophrenia and Psychosis, Schizophrenia and Psychosis, Trauma/Distress | Tagged as: , , , ,

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December 6, 2015

This is my 31st article on MIA and the most personal. It’s about being tender and loving with myself when I’m suffering, and how for me that means being merciful and defiant at the same time. For me to mercifully nurture myself and allow my need for comforting myself to be claimed, I have for long now, first needed to defy the perceptions of others that would say I don’t deserve such loving mercy.
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November 10, 2015

I felt a chill go through my body when I read that the FDA has agreed to review for possible approval in early 2016 a new form of the drug Abilify that contains a microchip sensor capable of sending a message that indicates the exact time a tablet dissolves in the stomach. The message is recorded by a skin patch – along with data such as the person’s body angle and activity patterns – and, according to a press release from Proteus Digital Health, the developer of the device, “this information is recorded and relayed to patients on a mobile phone or other Bluetooth-enabled device, and only with their consent, to their physician and/or their caregivers.”
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October 18, 2015

That was the emphatic response from my grad school psychopathology professor 35 years ago, after I’d stated in her class that anyone could become psychotic given sufficient life stressors, losses and trauma. How many current mental health professionals, especially psychiatrists, also believe they have such strong egos that they never could experience extreme states?
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February 27, 2015

I believe that Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, the past president of the American Psychiatric Association must judge some writers and commenters here on MIA as being “anti-science” and “anarchists.” He has now published at least two articles that, in essence, suggest that critics of the DSM-5 and psychiatry should be silenced.
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October 30, 2014

In this video I share about my lived experience of extreme states, and how that harrowing journey through madness almost fifty years ago sealed my fate. It set me on course for a vocation of being with others in their times of passage through madness, that has lasted for thirty five years now. I recount some of that journey as a therapist and in a brief tutorial, share a central lesson learned about risking to bring an open heart to those in need – to be present with loving receptivity.
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May 17, 2014

Licensed Mental Heath professionals are trained and are required to find out what is wrong with people. Unfortunately, 90 percent of the people who could benefit from professional mental health services, in my opinion, are suffering from feeling something is wrong with them. They already feel bad about themselves, like they are failing in life. Enter the totally well-intentioned mental health professional.
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April 14, 2014

A very gifted and compassionate friend recently said that she feels enslaved to Abilify – that she has tried to taper off it several times but always ends up slipping into an extreme state, no matter how slow she tapers. She said this repeated experience makes her feel like a slave, because she has to go back on the drug to stop the very intense extreme state induced whenever she tries to stop taking it. I have another friend who for years felt painfully anguished until he found his way free of heroin. He stopped using, went through withdrawal and was finally free. Most people who try withdrawing from antipsychotics face professional caregivers who discourage them from doing it. On the other hand, when people detox from heroin, everyone encourages them to go through it, no matter how extreme their behavior or how much pain they go through.
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Categorized in: Adult, Antipsychotics, Blogs, Disorders, Featured Blogs, Non-drug Approaches, Psychiatric Drugs, Recovery/Empowerment, Schizophrenia and Psychosis

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April 3, 2014

The seemingly unstoppable political alliance made up of NAMI, the American Psychiatric Association (which represents 24,000 psychiatrists), the financial lobbying power of the corporate drug industry, and a chorus of fear-mongering politicians, achieved a great political victory this week when president Obama signed the Medicaid DocFix legislation into law.
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March 8, 2014

The safety of our children is a sacred obligation we strive to preserve. Anything or anyone that harms them becomes the object of our distrust and potential wrath. I want to raise the possibility that psychiatry, for all its accomplished …
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Categorized in: Antipsychotics, Bipolar, Blogs, Childhood Adversity/Trauma, Children and Adolescents, Community, DSM, ECT, Genetics, Non-drug Approaches, Psychiatric Drugs, Psychotherapy, Research, Trauma/Distress

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January 3, 2014

Today President Obama stripped everyone who is subjected to forced in-home treatment of their second amendment constitutional rights. The federal law prohibiting the purchasing or possession of a firearm had applied to people who had been involuntarily hospitalized. Not anymore. Now tens of thousands of people under community involuntary commitment in over 40 states, have suddenly lost one of their constitutional rights. Are we the new terrorists?
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December 12, 2013

When Richard Price was a young man, he experienced extreme states for which he was labeled schizophrenic and forcibly ‘treated’ with psychiatric medications, ECT, and insulin shock. He suffered from residual effects from this for the rest of his life. In 1962, Price and Michael Murphy founded the Esalen Institute on the Big Sur coast of Northern California. From its beginning, Esalen worked to create sanctuary for people who, like Price, experienced extreme states. “Esalen was Price’s revenge on the mental hospital!” says Murphy.
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October 29, 2013

In Butte County, California, Law Enforcement and NAMI have recently partnered to provide identification cards for people in the mental health system. The cards reveal the person’s psychiatric diagnosis and current medication prescriptions. This White Card project may be well-intentioned, but it makes me very uncomfortable. I believe it is a form of psychiatric profiling that could be adopted by law enforcement around the United States.
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October 10, 2013

Living in this very complex, demanding, stratified modern society has produced an epidemic of personal alienation. There is often a tragic gulf between our emotional experience and our awareness of it. 1 in 5 Americans are now taking a psychiatric medication. 1 in 4 women are now taking a psychiatric medication. All of those medications suppress, modify, or block emotion.
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Categorized in: Blogs, Featured Blogs, Non-drug Approaches, Psychotherapy, Recovery/Empowerment, Trauma/Distress

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September 7, 2013

Sociologist Harold Garfinkel, in his landmark article “Conditions For a Successful Degradation Ceremony” wrote that “Degradation ceremonies are those concerned with the alteration of total identities.” I first read this liberating article in the 1970’s as I was trying to piece …
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Categorized in: Blogs, Featured Blogs, Rethinking Psychiatry/Medical Model, Uncategorized

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August 2, 2013

The last sentence in a recent New York Times article tells of the police taking a man to get his monthly Haldol injection under the involuntary treatment law. It breaks my heart to see that police-state tactics such as forced Haldol injections are understood to be the only thing that can reach some people. I know it isn’t true.
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July 20, 2013

As a Jungian, and a blogger on Mad In America, I’ve been feeling the need to weigh in a bit from a depth psychology perspective. I rarely read about dreams, or the function of the personal or collective unconscious here. So here goes my attempt to communicate what my friend and mentor John Weir Perry shared with me, from a teaching on understanding dreams that Carl Jung had personally revealed to John in the 1940’s.
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September 25, 2012

I co-led a day long Continuing Education Training with that title last month in Oakland. Almost 100 people attended this first ever in the United States, taxpayer funded CEU training that explored the spiritual dimensions of psychosis. But it wasn’t preaching to the choir of those who are true believers in that possibility, because the majority in attendance were front line professional county mental health staff!
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July 24, 2012

Yana Jacobs and I both served at medication free madness sanctuaries. She at Soteria House and I at I-Ward. In this television interview, Yana shares about the wonderful SAMSHA pilot project, peer respite center she got started in Santa Cruz, …
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July 13, 2012

Do we bring gifts to our family and community that are born of suffering but infused with spirit? Has our madness been in vain, or has it brought us through fiery trials that have meaning we otherwise would have missed for …
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June 16, 2012

“You are not alone.” If you are mad, that is the Icarus Project’s bold promise to you. Every time I read it, it moves me because when I was mad, being alone was the worst aspect of it. Being all …
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June 12, 2012

The experience of hearing voices during madness, or during our “normal” and constant inner conversation that never stops, shows that we use words to attempt to express our underlying emotional state to ourselves and others. We first and foremost are …
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