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.
Because I never did believe in the DSM paradigm of mental illness, or desired to look at myself or others through the lens of the medical model, a search for a better way to serve people was driving me all the time. It still is.
I know many very fine people and friends who operate from that medical perspective, but it never seemed to effectively account for the mysteries of human emotional suffering and madness that I know about personally and that I witness in others. The requisite clinical gaze of a detached medical, diagnostic based approach, diffuses the human warmth that I believe we all need when we are in emotional pain and distress.
Science in the form of psychiatric theory suffers from a failure of imagination it seems to me. The Psychiatric approach of applied neuroscience, boils down the complexity and mystery of human existence into a pathologizing formulaic equation that leaves too many questions unanswered.
So in this video I call on the creative theories and ideas of Carl Jung to legitimize my belief that there are things that go bump in the night, and that love-infused grace sometimes comes unbidden.
But much more than Jungian theory informs my saying that love is the healing balm that can’t be prescribed or blocked by convention, if we dare to share it more openly. My own trauma laden life was saved and healed by the presence of love.
Some of the people I served during their hellish and wildly ecstatic mad days, were protected in intentional madness sanctuaries where tangibly available compassion was the standard of care we provided.
For years after the sanctuaries closed in the 1980’s, I also went as a therapist to be with people in extreme states on the streets of our urban wasteland. I had lived on the streets too when my life was torn apart with madness.
Some people in extreme states still come see me – or I go see them.
I hope I’ll still be spending time with people in extreme states when I’m ninety if I live that long. I also hope that others offer me their loving receptivity when I may need it.
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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.