Unusual Beliefs and Mental Well-Being


He stared at the sun with one eye for as long as he could bear, secretively cast horoscopes and performed countless experiments in the alchemical arts. Writing over a million words in spidery script, he strove obsessively to crack prophetic codes predicting the end of the world which he believed were hidden in ancient scripture, and used a novel form of math of his own creation to interpret the esoteric meaning of the texts. In his youth, he sometimes wished his stepfather dead and his mother too: in a rage he threatened to burn their house down around them. Sometimes he wished himself dead. In his thirties his hair was already gray, falling to his shoulders and usually uncombed. He stayed in his chambers for days at a time, careless of food. Colleagues learned to leave him undisturbed at meals and to step around diagrams he scratched with a stick in the gravel walkways. They described him as silent and alienated, with flopping socks and broken-down shoes.

* * * * *

She was certain that she had been abducted by aliens who had implanted her with a chip that they used to monitor her thoughts and activities. Annoyed by this invasion of her privacy, she fashioned a hat made of tin foil which, she believed, disrupted the link between the monitoring device and the alien observers. This strategy seemed to work; everything was fine when she wore the cap indoors, but stepping outside, everyone looked and made fun of her and told her to her face that she was crazy. She increasingly became reclusive and withdrawn from the world.

* * * * *

Losing himself in philosophical and mystical monologues, he would make bizarre, fanciful leaps of the imagination. A short uncouth figure, stout, unshaven, not overly clean… he walked in with a frayed notebook under his arm. He was miserably poor. Asked what he wanted, he said a pittance to live on so that he might pursue his research. And the notebook? It was filled with math theorems, of a like never seen before. He claimed they had come to him in dreams through the agency of the goddess Namagiri who wrote the equations on his tongue. “An equation,” he said, “has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God.”

* * * * *

Though addicted to opium and alcohol, and reduced to wandering the street in search of food, he dressed like a dandy and generated endless schemes and bizarre plans to bring himself wealth and fame. Meanwhile, though hardly read or understood by anyone, he devoted heroic energies to his writing, probing the foundations of semiotics, cosmology, logic and mathematics and general philosophy.

* * * * *

He believed in the rationality and self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, staunchly opposed regulation of derivatives trading and credit default swaps, and had total confidence in the self-correcting power of free markets and mortgage lending.

* * * * *

Sensing that he had come to a crucial junction in his life and undergoing a spiritual crisis in the summer before leaving home for university, he started reading an off-beat book of scripture and prayed. Later, he described what happened: it was like the top of his head came off, and he was filled with what felt like warm light and an affective kind of intelligence. He was convinced that the book was true. He would go to university as a religious person; he believed that a personal God had heard and answered his prayers.

* * * * *

Unusual beliefs? Deluded people? Paranoid or psychotic reaction to irrational and unsubstantiated fears, to transitional, uncertain, stress-filled moments in life? Do we know for certain which beliefs and actions are normal, unusual, and harmful?

And if we were to be confronted by one of these individuals and situations, how would we respond? Shame that she is a member of the family? Embarrassed because he’s a friend? Do we call 911? Try to talk them out of their beliefs? Appeal to reason, evidence, common sense, one’s own story, by calling forth our own values and convictions? Should we refer them to mental health teams? Later, do we nod our heads knowingly, sympathetically, when we learn that they have been diagnosed with a mental illness, hospitalized, medicated, eventually put on disability?

The long-haired, unkempt, reclusive alchemist who obsessed over Biblical apocalyptic prophesy? Isaac Newton, posthumously extolled as the archetypical figure of the Advent of the Age of Reason.

The mystic on whose dreaming tongue a Hindu goddess inscribed fantastic equations? His named was Srinivasa Ramanujan, the Indian genius whose extraordinary contributions revolutionized 20th and 21st century mathematics.

The opium addicted, mania-fueled, melancholic food-stealing dandy who obsessively wrote philosophical tomes to a phantom and uncomprehending audience? C.S. Peirce, now revered as one of the greatest philosophers of the 19th-20th centuries.

The staunch believer in the self-correcting power of free markets and mortgage lending who presided over the collapse of the American economy in 2007-8? Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve.

The university-bound kid with the weird scriptures and goofy religious experience? Me at age seventeen.

Who’s deluded? Who’s possessed with unusual beliefs? And whose beliefs, if expressed and put into practice publicly, actually cause the greatest harm? Are unusual beliefs and attendant behaviors always unwarranted and meaningless? Who gets to decide what is abnormal or normal, and based upon what kind of evidence, really?

I’ve been thinking a lot about these questions and their consequences. It’s hard going there; it’s difficult for me, anyway, because when I slow down long enough to consider them—to really open up my heart and mind to other people and their beliefs—it can trigger some real confusion and a realization of just how often, culturally, we can look away from, defer and avoid tragedy and isolation, loss and despair, poverty and hubris. It’s no wonder we don’t feel brave enough, patient enough, or sane enough ourselves to deal with it all sometimes. And thus we push them—the people and the questions—out of our minds, get on with life, and pass them on to professionals to deal with.

But let’s think about this. Consider the vignettes of unusual beliefs I shared with you earlier. Consider the Hopi Indians of the American Southwest who practice the Snake Antelope Dance to this day. In their world, it is perfectly acceptable and reasonable for an individual to dance with rattlesnakes in his mouth at designated times and in ritual settings because of a worldview, a landscape and beliefs where these serpents are viewed as messengers to the gods—divine beings who live in the San Francisco Mountains to the west of Hopi mesa-top villages and who hold the power to send or withhold life-giving rain.

By virtue of priestly authority, a Roman Catholic priest presides over the transubstantiation of the elements of bread and wine into the Real Presence of the body and blood of Christ. To those who believe, who grow up Catholic, and in homes and families where these activities take place and are accepted as eminently plausible, such beliefs and rituals make sense. The same can be said of Ramanujan, the Indian math genius—in his strictly observant Hindu home, there was nothing improbable about a Hindu goddess appearing in his dreams and writing math theorems on his tongue.

These things make sense to those who believe because of what students of religion call “plausibility structures.” That is, beliefs and practices make sense because they are taught from birth in the home, affirmed by parents, neighbours and other adult authorities, and upheld by churches, temples, synagogues, scriptures, history, hymn singing, religious buildings and institutional bureaucracies. Plausibility structures are not confined to religion and to what someone may think is irrational beliefs. Worldviews are also conferred and upheld by the plausibility structures of university education, academic degrees, secular ideologies, and professional cultures and standards. Alan Greenspan’s “master of the universe” view of rational self-interest, de-regulation and the self-correcting power of free markets made eminent sense to him because he was surrounded by people who shared his belief, hailed him as an economic sage and doted on his every word—until the economy collapsed. Then he confessed to being “distressed” and in a “state of shocked disbelief.” His plausibility structure was crumbling. Too bad for us, and a little too late.

Soviet psychiatrists, abetted by the machinery of the State, forcibly hospitalized and chemically lobotomized thousands of Soviet dissident citizens in the 70s and 80s despite the outrage of many in the West. Why? Because of the plausibility structure of Marxist-Leninist workers’ utopia and its so-called scientific materialism. Anyone who dissented from this, from the logic of history, who jeopardized their happiness, their careers and family, had to be crazy—and thus they were diagnosed by compliant psychiatrists with “paranoia” and something called “sluggish schizophrenia,” the symptoms of which included “reform delusions,” “perseverance,” “projects for the benefit of mankind,” and “the struggle for truth.” Unusual beliefs indeed! Lock ‘em up in a hospital and drug the nonsense out of them!

Viewed from the outside, the beliefs of Hopi snake dancers, the Hindu mathematician Ramanujan, Alan Greenspan, and Roman Catholics may look unusual indeed. Bill Maher, the comic and social critic, said that a Catholic “has to be schizophrenic to go about life normally for six days a week, only on the seventh to go to church and believe that when drinking the communion wine one is drinking the blood of a 2000-year-old space god.” And before I get too smug about it, while Unitarian principles and practices may seem totally plausible to me, fundamentalist Christians may see us a neo-pagan, earth-worshipping satanic cult. Martin Luther King Jr. decided he couldn’t be a Unitarian because we are “too sentimental concerning human nature” and that we “leaned to false optimism.”

To be frank, I see little essential difference between the Mormon, Sikh, and Orthodox Jewish practice of wearing religious undergarments, of men in turbans, fezzes and yarmulkes, nuns in habits and women in hijabs, or of individuals who don tinfoil caps to disrupt attempts to read their private thoughts, and those clad in Brooks Brothers suits, Boss and Gucci designer clothes and underwear, who drive around in BMWs and Benzes. Each expresses deeply held needs, values and beliefs supported by personal experience, social context, economic class, and plausibility structure. Each comports himself in ways that align with a worldview he embraces and others would, on principle, avoid. Each dresses distinctively in order to remind herself of who she is and that which she finds meaningful in life—what they fear, what they welcome, in order to deal with the uncertainties, needs, trials, indignities, and pleasures of living in a complex world.

I can imagine that belief in alien abduction could be an understandable response to traumas like extended viewings of Fox News, or being shipped off to boarding and residential schools, or being plopped down in the lap of a terrifying stranger with a long white beard, dressed in a ridiculous red outfit who keeps laughing “ho, ho ho!” over and over.

I can well imagine that paranoia could be an understandable response if I was a young man, especially of colour, between the ages of 18-30, who, when he steps out into streets studded with surveillance cameras, knows—knows in ways undreamt of by others—that he is of special, prejudicial interest to those policemen who keep looking at him as they cruise by.

And speaking of race: black and Asian people, according to one report from the UK, and working class Mexican women in the US, are all 50% more likely to be diagnosed as paranoid and schizophrenic than are whites. If you are in a social position characterized by powerlessness and the threat of victimization, if you are poor and living alone in a substandard housing, it may be functional to imagine you are being followed and oppressed. It may be functional to believe and hope that you have a messianic solution to the problems of the world you face day-in-day-out—for you see the Alan Greenspans in charge of the world, and know it’s going to take more power to change things than what you possess alone.

You can see where I am going with this. What was improbable, and what’s most important for me in the story of Ramanujan, the Indian mathematician, is that G. H. Hardy, a Cambridge University math professor, didn’t dismiss Ramanujan as a demented crank. Hardy actually read Ramanujan’s unsolicited letters from India filled with fantastic, unprecedented equations, and invited the young, self-taught customs clerk from Madras to England, to Cambridge.

That is, he listened—he did not try to argue Ramanujan out of his unusual beliefs; instead, he listened and learned and marveled. He patiently sat with Ramanujan for days and months to decipher and make meaning of his theorems. He helped Ramanujan, the devout Hindu, to cope with living in a strange European city by finding ingredients and shops that could cater to his unusual, strictly vegetarian diet, and to track down out-of-the-way places where Ramanujan could continue his ritual practices and worship.

But then, perhaps, it took someone like Hardy, a closeted homosexual, a committed atheist and someone who came from a lower middle class background, to appreciate and not dismiss Ramanujan’s fantastic story. They were both outsiders in a world of High Anglicanism, aristocratic privilege, and sexual respectability.

Let me repeat this: Hardy accepted Ramanujan’s reality and helped him to live with it.

A growing body of research and practice is showing that the most effective, humane and mutually transformative way to help someone deal with unusual beliefs and experiences is not to deny, argue, institutionalize or drug them out of their perceived reality. Rather, it is to invite the person to talk about their beliefs and experiences, and actively listen without judging them or trying to modify their beliefs. Find out about their reality, and then look for ways to help them cope more effectively with things as they perceive them.


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.


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  1. Better Call Saul Brother Chuck McGill Suffers From RF Radiation (EHS) Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity https://www.rfsafe.com/better-call-saul-brother-chuck-mcgill-suffers-rf-radiation-ehs-electromagnetic-hypersensitivity/

    This story just reminded me of that, in the TV series people help him out instead of turning him over to psychiatry to be disposed of. The producers were daring portraying the story and psychiatry like that in the face of political correctness.

    Better Call Saul , 2 seasons are on Netflix now. https://www.netflix.com/title/80021955

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  2. Dr. Epperson,


    “A growing body of research and practice is showing that the most effective, humane and mutually transformative way to help someone deal with unusual beliefs and experiences is not to deny, argue, institutionalize or drug them out of their perceived reality. Rather, it is to invite the person to talk about their beliefs and experiences, and actively listen without judging them or trying to modify their beliefs. Find out about their reality, and then look for ways to help them cope more effectively with things as they perceive them.”

    was the basis of Harold Searles’ approach to helping severely distressed delusional people at Chestnut Lodge in the 1950s/60s/70s… he said that unless the therapist could enter the regressed / severely distressed person’s worldview, and see things through their eyes rather than imposing their own viewpoints on that person, that a therapeutic relationship would not develop between the two.

    Searles wrote about this in books like “Collected Papers on Schizophrenia and Related Subjects”… in papers like, “Four Phases of Patient-Therapist Interaction in Psychotherapy of Chronic Schizophrenia”:


    I have also summarized these phases for less-disturbed people here:


    The most developmentally early of these phases, and the one in which it is most important not to impinge if internalization of a potentially helping outsider is to occur, is the “out of contact” phase.

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    • Matt,
      On a CBT level I know that I’m “in my head” when I’m preoccupied. When I’m not preoccupied, is when the solutions become available to me.

      (Having said this I mix with people that are very understanding of all types of “lunacy”- but appear quite “normal” at the same time).

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        • That would mean those people I’ve met, that can’t remember why they are upset aren’t real. Still, I have to agree with this comment. “A growing body of research and practice is showing that the most effective, humane and mutually transformative way to help someone deal with unusual beliefs and experiences is not to deny, argue, institutionalize or drug them out of their perceived reality. Rather, it is to invite the person to talk about their beliefs and experiences, and actively listen without judging them or trying to modify their beliefs. Find out about their reality, and then look for ways to help them cope more effectively with things as they perceive them.” However, this concept has expand itself into actual medical care and not stayed in the virtual reality it belongs in. It’s become the new “paradigm” shift in medical care. Why has psychology allowed itself to be used to bias decisions in medical care? As soon as you get injured, you will understand!

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  3. Great Article Reverend,

    I believe the Chemical Imbalance in the Brain requiring chemical regulation to be a very big delusion.

    I told Experts at King’s College London that this was nonsense in 1980 – but I was forced to take “medication” and become a longterm “sick person”.

    But I made long term substantiable recovery in 1984 as a result of stopping the “medication” and moving to Psychotherapy. So the Experts were – wrong.

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  4. This is good, it is the most profound insight, everything you question, is right to question. The struggle is how deep insight is perceived. Generally profound insight is seen as insane because it generates anxiety- the most profound insight is channeled through the unconscious. It is given as a gift but it can be more prolific if you follow tried and tested paths, like Theravada or japa mantra’s such as: OM MANI PADME HUM.

    Zen Koans help too and realising that language is generally hopeless to understand, at this level, what is going on. Steven you have reached quite a deep mindset- I don’t know why, but I want to say: let go. Don’t think anymore

    U go well now and shine on

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    Closing Down the Case on January 6 2017 when it was Still Open On January 13 2017.


    On Fri, 13 Jan, 2017 at 15:13,
    @yahoo.co.uk> wrote:
    Dear Ms (D)

    Thank you for replying.

    Please do contact me by email.

    The main sticking point in this whole process is the November 8 1986 Handwritten Adverse Drug Reaction Warning Request Letter, and the avoided acknowledgement of this.

    I did NOT ask for the removal of the November 24 1986 Irish Record Summary (as the ICO claim) – my GP Surgery had stated in writing on October 16 2014 (with supportive attachments) that they had removed this Southern Irish Record Summary.

    I had always asked for the Amendment of the 1986 Southern Irish Record Summary – because under examination against background evidence the 1986 Southern Irish Record Summary would be identifiable – as ‘unreliable’.

    To straighten my records anyway, I would need the cooperation of the Information Commissioners Office.

    Thanks again for your help.

    Yours Sincerely


    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    On Fri, 13 Jan, 2017 at 13:47, Ms ( D.)

    Dear Mr (Me)

    Thank you for your email. Please accept my apology for not getting in contact with you earlier. I have not been in the office.

    I have recently received additional information from the ICO which I am currently reviewing. I am to provide you with a decision next week. Would you prefer to receive the decision by email to avoid any delay?

    Kind regards

    Ms D.
    Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

    T: 0300 xxxx.
    E: D.
    W: http://www.ombudsman.org.uk

    From: Me
    Sent: 13 January 2017 12:59
    To:Ms [email protected]>
    Subject: Requesting Update on my Case (Ref No xxxxx3807 – Me)

    Dear Ms D,

    I have been told you are the person to contact regarding my Complaint to the Ombudsman.

    Would you please provide me with an update on how my Case (Ref. No. ×××××3807) is progressing.

    Thank you for reading this.

    Yours Sincerely


    On Fri, 3 Feb 2017 at 15:08, Phso Enquiries

    Dear Mr (Me) thank you for speaking with me today. As requested, I am only too pleased to send you this email which confirms the points we discussed.

    1. You have asked for all correspondence to be sent by email and not, by Royal Mail.

    2. Our IT system is now marked to reflect this.

    3. You confirmed you had not received our letter, dated 6 January 2017.

    4. I will arrange for a copy to be sent to you by email.

    5. The letter, from the Caseworker, dated 8 January 2017, says ‘we have carefully considered the information you provided and have decided to take no further action on your complaint’.

    6. The reason for (5) was: we found no failings in how the ICO has handled your complaint about how the Practice handled your information.

    Please contact me, if you have any further queries about this email, or the services we provide.

    Mr (B) – Customer Services Officer

    Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman

    Tel: 0345 xxxxx Fax: 0300xxx
    1569xxxxx (1569 is the main number)

    [email protected]


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  6. “A growing body of research and practice is showing that the most effective, humane and mutually transformative way to help someone deal with unusual beliefs and experiences is not to deny, argue, institutionalize or drug them out of their perceived reality. Rather, it is to invite the person to talk about their beliefs and experiences, and actively listen without judging them or trying to modify their beliefs. Find out about their reality, and then look for ways to help them cope more effectively with things as they perceive them.”

    Thank God for this, change is desperately needed. My concerns of the abuse of my child were met with “denial, arguing, and attempts at drugging me out of my perceived reality.” Thankfully some disgusted nurses finally handed over the medical evidence of the child abuse and when this resulted in the psychiatrist wanting to drug my child, instead of calling the police or CPS and reporting the crime, I knew it was time to run.

    I had no idea I was living in a world controlled by pedophiles back in 2001. Now I, and the millions now researching into Pizzagate and Pedogate online, all know our government officials are controlled with pedophilia. And given that “the prevalence of childhood trauma exposure within borderline personality disorder patients has been evidenced to be as high as 92% (Yen et al., 2002). Within individuals diagnosed with psychotic or affective disorders, it reaches 82% (Larsson et al., 2012).” It does appear those who claim to be the “legitimate” thought police, the psychiatrists and psychologists, are the biggest child abuse silencers, torturers, and murderers of all.

    I do so hope the psychological and psychiatric industries will some day get out of the business of silencing child abuse victims and their concerned parents, while empowering the child molesters, since apparently pedophiles now rule the earth. Congratulations to the psychologists and psychiatrists who empowered the child molesters and made this sick reality possible.

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  7. hi steven – great article. thank you. i’m interested in asking you if you knew yr experience as a young man was a spiritual crisis at the time? or did that awareness, that name for what had happened to you come later? many thanks – karen adler

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  8. The staff spends so much time in the state “hospital” where I work insisting that the “patients” who are delusional need to have reality-based conversations. It’s written into their master treatment plan. The staff spends so much time telling people that they are wrong. The staff spends so much time remembering and writing down every little tidbit of conversation or every little statement that proves that a person is delusional. And then the staff go around talking about the “chemical imbalance, broken brain, it’s in the genes” stuff and I have to wonder who the truly delusional people are.

    When I was admitted to this very “hospital” the staff claimed that I was lying about and being delusional concerning being a hospital chaplain. Of course they had to eat crow when a social worker who worked there and was a friend of mine confirmed my claim. And then we had the case of an older woman who was delusional when she claimed to have a master’s degree in political science. She actually had a doctorate in political science. Perhaps she knew better than to outright claim the truth because she would never be believed. We all know that “mental patients” can never be hospital chaplains or have doctorates in political science. So much of this boils down to a power trip with the staff thinking that they’re so much better than the “patients” they’re supposed to be working with to achieve wellness and healing.

    Your last paragraph is wonderful. You learn so much more about people when you quit fighting with them and just listen deeply to what they have to say.

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    • I had a friend in the system. Despite her MI diagnosis and being drugged to the gills, she managed to get a master’s in library science and work as a librarian for over 20 years! Because of all those “safe and effective treatments” her condition kept deteriorating till she couldn’t work and kept winding up on the psych ward. (At least she was retirement age then.)

      Like any friend, I visited her. While I was there she said, “I get so sick of people who think mentally ill means mentally retarded.”

      Now I know the term “mentally ill” is a misnomer. But when you look at Carol’s situation you realize even being a “good consumer” who takes your pills exactly as told and believes in your innate inferiority to the rest of humanity (this belief is called insight) does not protect you from abuse. Some psych workers have it in for you if you’re smart or well-educated. They don’t use the word “uppity” but you wonder if they think it. Maybe they can use it as a new symptom to classify and reclassify dozens of times to invent numerous new imaginary diseases to pad the DSM6. That thing’ll be longer than the Harry Potter series!

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      • Yes, I’ve seen all kinds of interesting dynamics work in the relationships between staff and the “patients” on units. As a patient don’t you dare show yourself to be better educated or more intelligent than the staff running the unit because you will pay the price in many small but very subtle ways. I experienced it myself as a “patient”. If you are labeled with a diagnosis and have been in any psych unit you automatically become lower than anyone else.

        It saddens me that your friend bought into all the lies that the system perpetrates on people.

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        • She was an intelligent woman. At least as smart as me; for I too bought into the system’s lies.

          One of the worst things about my MI diagnosis is that it made me regard all my thoughts and feelings with paranoia.

          I became a hypochondriac and feared my own psyche more than anything in the world around me. I would sit around analyzing all my symptoms and defects (thoughts and emotions.) I hated who I was and feared my identity. This often led to my desire for suicide because I felt I owed it to humanity–“normals” who were truly human.

          I took great pains to clinically detach myself from all my thoughts and feelings; this led to some staff praising me for “good insight.” I became the nearest thing you could find to a real-life Vulcan from the Star Trek series. The drugs helped numb my emotions to.

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          • One of the things that the system tries to teach us as “patients” is that you can’t rely on your own intelligence and intuition to guide yourself through life. You must always rely on someone else but never, never yourself. And as you point out so eloquently this leads to fearing our very own selves. I believe that this is one of the most destructive things that the system does to us.

            But, you made it out of the system!

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      • I returned once to an inpatient unit I had been a “frequent flyer” on. I went to visit a friend who was currently inpatient. The staff all remembered me vividly, not all fondly, and expressed astonishment at how well I looked. I wasn’t even off meds or out of the system yet at that point but it was clear that was the first time they saw me as a fellow human like themselves.

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  9. thank you for a wonderful article to put things into perspective…if only the ‘experts’ would listen and stop trying to put everyone into a narrow definition of normal and treating everything else as if it were pathological…

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  10. Dr. Epperson, I appreciate your article. As a fundamentalist Christian I have always thought that Unitarians were naturalists rather than witches. From what little I know about your church the only behavior I consider irrational is your regular church attendance. If what you believe is true–God is non-existent or weak and irrelevant–why not worship him/her/it on the golf course on Sundays? Or simply play golf?

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    • So I spent a number of years attending a Unitarian church as a child and teen. I don’t think Unitarians believe what you think they believe. I have certainly never heard one say they think god is non-existent or weak or irrelevant. In Sunday School we were taught that there were multiple paths to religious salvation, and we learned about Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism specifically. In many areas of the US, outside of the liberal cities, a Unitarian service is indistinguishable from a regular Christian church service, save for being slightly more inclusive of other beliefs.


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      • “Broad and inclusive” certainly doesn’t describe Christian fundamentalists, and I’ve spent much of my life in what is described as the bible belt of the US south. My sense of the Unitarian Universalist Church jives more with that Reverent Epperson describes. From what I’ve heard, and I’ve engaged in political actions with Unitarians, the Unitarians are more open to progressive ideas than most other faiths. I’ve heard of them welcoming atheists and members of Wicce into their congregations, something you are not likely to get elsewhere. Sure, they ‘believe in the existence of a higher power’, but there are others among us who believe in extraterrestrials as well.

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        • I agree with you. I do not consider my religious beliefs to be broad or inclusive.

          However I have nothing against people who practice other faiths or atheists.

          For all I know there may be extraterrestrials too. Nothing in the Bible rules out their existence. Some of my fellow believers get angry when I say this though.

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        • My direct personal experience attending the Unitarian-Universalist Church here in my small New England hometown, is that whatever they *CLAIM* to believe is just that. They “talk the talk”, but they do *NOT* “walk the walk”. They’re pretty much just a bunch of delusional, self-righteous hypocrits, like most every other X-tian Church…. Heck, pretty much like most people! LOL ~B./

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  11. I enjoyed this article. Based on my personal experiences, I agree with one essay I read a while back, in which the writer identified the 3 key components at the core of psychiatry: force, fraud, and coercion.

    Psychiatric force can take many forms, but forcing people/”patients” to accept the “experts” view of reality is one major form of psychiatric force. In my own life, I’ve been called first a patholigcal liar because I told the truth about my background, and then I was labeled with “delusions of grandeur.” I thought about it, and the problem is that psychiatrists aren’t simply an enforcement arm of society (which they are, of course), but rather they have their own (limited, dogmatic, self-serving) ideology and “reality” that they–the ‘experts’ with $$$ and power granted to them by the state–gleefully force on those of us who end up in their clutches.

    Not to turn all Marxist and everything, but let’s also talk social class in this situation. If you’re upper class and you think you’re Jesus, you might end up in a posh hospital. The staff will fawn over you. The drugs won’t be as terrible as what they give the commoners.

    Now, if you’re anywhere from poor to working class, maybe even somewhere in the middle class, its party over. Rich people are eccentric (sometimes Bipolar I); the masses are Schizophrenic, often with additional problems (personality disorders, substance abuse disorders, etc.).

    I do think “professionals” sometimes help people. Thing is, genuinely helping the disressed requires open communication, honesty, trust, and a more egalitarian sort of relationship than what 99+/-% of us will find in mental health, inc. Whether its “severe depression” or believing that one is Jesus, human kindness and genuine, open conversation with someone who cares can clear a way forward towards wholeness and growth. Thing is…having a real talk with “patients,” especially those who are female, ugly, old, unemployed, poor or working class, or minorities, is not something most ‘experts’–from the counselors up to the psychiatrists–are all that interested in. For most of us, genuine “help” will only come from non-experts who retain enough compassion and humanity to take the time to have a real talk now and then.

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    • This right here, you nailed it.

      ” Not to turn all Marxist and everything, but let’s also talk social class in this situation. If you’re upper class and you think you’re Jesus, you might end up in a posh hospital. The staff will fawn over you. The drugs won’t be as terrible as what they give the commoners.

      Now, if you’re anywhere from poor to working class, maybe even somewhere in the middle class, its party over. Rich people are eccentric (sometimes Bipolar I); the masses are Schizophrenic, often with additional problems (personality disorders, substance abuse disorders, etc.). ”

      Speaking of class, I haven’t seen anyone bring up the elephant in the room yet, but I saw the viral video of the doctor refusing to get off the United plane, eventually running back on chanting “I have to go home” and “They will kill me” over and over while clinging to a pole at the back of the plane and the first thing I thought to myself was thank god this happened to a doctor and not one of us regular peons. The framing in the media would be so much different. If I did that, it would have been likely branded as “mentally ill woman refuses to leave airplane, becomes delusional”.

      My fiance and I recently ended up at our doctors with the same illness. He is a highly paid and respected professional, I am on disability. With the *exact same symptoms*, his doctor sent him to a surgeon with orders to get a CT scan on the way. My doctor didn’t even examine me, dismissed my symptoms as fibromyalgia and sent me home. I don’t even pretend we live in the same reality.

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      • Your description of what happened to you at your doctor’s office, as compared to what happened to your fiancé, reminds me of what I witnessed with my roommate numerous times. He experienced very terrible symptoms where he lost control of his muscles and had seizures. This happened more than once. We would go to the ER and everything would be just fine until they learned that he had been in the system. Automatically they would become cold and distant and tell him to make an appointment with his psychiatrist the next day and would not do any further work for him. I think it was the psych drugs that he religiously took that affected him but he wouldn’t consider any thing of the sort.

        Once during one of these trips to the ER they called a psychiatrist and I sat and watched him try to convince my roommate that he was “bi-polar”. When I’d finally had enough to make me want to vomit I interrupted and told the psychiatrist off. I was so angry I nearly spit. Of course, the psychiatrist never knew that I also had a history in the system. If he had he probably would have ignored me. As it was, he stopped his spiel about being “bi-polar” and quickly sent us on our way.

        It really is disgusting, to say the least. We cannot get good, proper, and decent health care because of our backgrounds.

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        • In our case, we suspect it’s a mix of several factors:

          1. They don’t know his mental health history.
          2. He has excellent private insurance, I have Medicare
          3. He owns a penis and women are traditionally undertreated compared to men.

          However, I have received this type of treatment, dismissal of physical symptoms as psychosomatic, often enough to have a deep distrust of the medical system in all its forms at this point.

          Once, years ago, when my ex-boyfriend and I were dealing with a rather nasty bedbug infestation at home, a doctor on a psych unit suggested my bites were psychosomatic and rather than give me medication to stop the itching, he increased the dose on my antipsychotic and told me bed bugs had been eradicated. This was in 2008. Well, anyone who has seen the news in the past few years knows that isn’t the case. My own outpatient shrink didn’t even stand up for me and I had actually taken a live bed bug into her office in an empty prescription bottle, so she knew I wasn’t imagining it!

          I’m sorry for what happened to your friend, Stephen. I’m also sorry I’m not in the least bit surprised.

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          • I agree totally with you in your deep distrust of the medical system. Any doctor, no matter what her or his specialty, must prove to me beforehand that they are worth enough to treat me. I don’t necessarily accept something just because a doctor said it. I worked too long in hospitals to have much respect for doctors in general. I saw doctors make horrible mistakes and then lie about it and the rest of the hospital staff were expected to support the lie so the doctor wouldn’t have to face consequences. It’s not just psychiatrists who are unreliable and deceptive. Doctors are part of a guild that will do anything to protect those within it, at all costs. Consequently about 100,000 people lose their lives every year to doctors’ mistakes. And yet how many are prosecuted and brought to justice? Sorry that I got on my soapbox here but doctors are just not my favorite group of people after I worked around hem a number of years.

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  12. As far as I’m concerned we should all have the right to our own version of reality as long as it doesn’t cause direct harm to another person. Some of the most gifted and talented people in history would today be considered mentally ill.

    Some beliefs I personally have that would probably be viewed as “delusional thinking” would be:
    1. The US government was involved with the 911 attacks.
    2. The assassination of JFK was a conspiracy and it’s even possible Oswald wasn’t even involved.
    3. The NSA and CIA are actively spying on almost all Americans in violation of the 4th amendment.
    4. Much of what we know about history is bullshit and lets remember, it’s the victors of wars who write history; not the losers.
    5. The Mental Health Field and everything about it is in fact delusional thinking, a total fraud that has absolutely no benefit to those who it purports to help but only to the so called “professionals” or big pharma.

    One time I told a counselor I thought the MHS was a total crock, she put in my file that I was delusional.

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    • I agree with you WoundedSoul74. I don’t believe what you believe, but I agree you don’t deserve to be locked up or drugged for them when you have done no wrong.

      Psychopharmacy doesn’t exist solely to promote their own power. They also exist to serve the NAMI mommies and folks like creepy Pete by punishing their hapless relatives for embarrassing and irritating them by acting “weird.” They also “protect” the public from “dangerous” bag ladies who have the audacity to choose a homeless lifestyle and talk to themselves out loud in public. Obviously the old lady is hiding a pistol in her battered old handbag and wants to go on a shooting spree!

      Quick lock her up! Drug her up. Fry her brain.

      For her own good of course.

      Only no one cares about her good at all. As far as the old woman herself is concerned, no one would give a hoot if she killed herself or curled up and died alone in the snow.

      The hypocrisy of all these do-gooders pushing psychiatry everywhere is sickening. No one is actually fooled by their charade of compassion and crocodile tears. Especially not those they “help.”

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      • Did you know that choosing a nomadic lifestyle is listed in the DSM as a sign of sociopathy/ASPD? The only reason they want that lady off the street is because it looks bad on the jurisdiction she’s in – it’s “uncivilized”. The homeless guy panhandling at our local interstate ramp *always* has a book shoved up to his face. I’ll bet that man is better read than most Americans. And yet, society considers him a blight on the neighborhood.

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  13. I want to thank everyone who responded to this article; I’m sorry for the late reply–but here it goes.
    +For an excellent, insightful and sympathetic film about unusual beliefs–see “Man Facing Southeast” by Argentinian film maker Elesio Subiela https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvvUYPkoljA But watch it with a friend; it doesn’t have a Hollywood ending.
    +Thanks Matt, for reference to Chestnut Hill. I am aware of this story, but was more immediately inspired and informed by the recent work of Tamasin Knight and her work: “Beyond Belief: Alternative Ways of Working with Delusions, Obsessions and Unusual Experiences.” And keep up with your good work!–I really value it.
    +Fiachra–we have a lot of work to do to disenthrall society of the chemical imbalance delusion; there’s been important movement on this front lately, even within the bastions of the psych establishment. Tide’s turning!
    +Misfitxxx–you keep shining on as well; you hear me?!
    +Dreampainter/Karen–is was a “spiritual crisis.” I was about to leave home, family and go off to university on the other side of the continent. Who was I going to be when I got there? Did I really believe in the worldview I’d grown up with? I thought about this in the summer, tackled the sources of my religious community so that I could say yes, or no to them with integrity, and then ended up having a mind blowing experience. I have interpreted what happened to that younger self differently over time and with experience; but I have never discounted the reality and strength of what happened to me then forty-five years ago. Thanks for asking.
    +Stephen Gilbert–what you described happens way too much. Who are the real experts if not those with lived experience? Instead of collaborative listening and learning; it’s all one way and patronizing–what a waste!
    +FeelinDiscouraged/kindred spirit/Frank Blankenship–I can’t speak for all Unitarians, but for the most part it goes like this: we trace our roots back 500 years to radical Protestant religious humanists. Over time, our faith tradition has developed from those origins into a religion that welcomes all comers–no matter if you believe in god or not. We hold in common a dedication to creating a religious community where we support one another in deepening our spiritual and ethical lives, in our advocacy for social justice and in a reverence for nature and all life. So chucking it all and going off to play golf just isn’t in the cards. We’re in for the long haul as a religion. Thanks for the questions and commentary. (For a brief sketch see http://www.uua.org/beliefs/what-we-believe/principles)

    and yes, I think that class is a big elephant in the room. Glad to see a recent “Guardian” article by MIA blogger Jay Watts who brings this up. It’s a worth reading and sharing. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/12/is-mental-illness-real-google-answer
    cheers, Steven

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    • just wanted to mention that being paranoid delusional that you have to wear a tinfoil hat to ward off the aliens is rooted in fear.
      Being religiously observant is sometimes rooted in fear but more often (I believe) rooted in belief of an additional aspect to life beyond the physical and has nothing to do with fear at all.
      There’s no point in romanticizing the fear of paranoid delusions because people who have them want them to stop. They are great learning experiences but nobody wants to live their life that way.

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  14. Nice argumentation and good links in the comment section, thanks. 🙂
    But two points to the last paragraph of the main article:
    1. If there is scientific evidence for that, i would like to have citations, to use in anti-psychiatry.
    2. It is certainly often correct that the truth alienates the inner children and a bond has to be formed, but the main goal is to preserve the life of the body and the spiritual development of the soul, that started to exist with the body and has never lost a body before.
    Therefore, i personally, describe my world views whenever i can and certainly try to argue against harmful notions like suicide.
    E.g. technophobia like “tinfoil hat” (the prevalence of this joke is interesting), i would maybe counter with an anecdote of my own, when (for a short time) biting on the hairgimmik of a girl helped against these negative thoughts.
    Mind you, i mainly have experience in “schizophrenia”, others like the mentioned BPD might differ.

    Thanks again and good luck. 🙂

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  15. Is a worldwide belief a truth? If something works for a society and the masses, is it then the way it is “supposed” to be?
    We can look back and to the present that beliefs are not to be trusted, even if those beliefs are in the majority.
    Or especially if they are the majority?
    Why are we so bothered by people straying from the norm?

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