From “Recovery” to “Transformation and Recovery”


Going mad involves breaking away from, or losing touch with, group norms and ideas about reality. This routinely leads many to even extreme levels of distress and disability, so I am among those who continue to think that promoting whatever might help people “recover” from this distress and disability is vitally important.

That’s why I get involved in projects like producing the upcoming webinar, “Recovery-Oriented Cognitive Therapy: Resiliency, Recovery, & Flourishing,” that will happen on 12/12/17. In this webinar, Paul Grant and Ellen Inverso will present approaches they have researched and developed that can often help even severely “institutionalized” people return to an active, “sane” life. If only more professionals could learn and practice these methods, we’d have many fewer people permanently disconnected from productive lives, or permanently alienated from society.

But is being productive and connected to the group norms of our society really the highest goal we should be talking about?

I think it’s more complex than that.

One way of understanding psychosis is that it often comes out of what some call “efforts at adaptation” — that is, psychosis results from efforts (consciously, or more often not consciously) to transform oneself and one’s mind in a way that might resolve problems that were not getting solved within one’s previous “sane” way of being in the world.

So I think we might better talk about what is needed as “transformation and recovery.”

Just “recovering” one’s previous way of functioning is not so likely to work, because usually something wasn’t working prior to the psychosis. It was that which set off the psychosis, and if that isn’t changed, any “recovery” may not be worth much, as the problems, and so the need to transform, will likely still be present, and will tend to cause other problems or even set off another psychotic episode.

What are the problems that cause people to need to enter a process of transformation? A damaged sense of identity caused by trauma can be one of them. But sometimes the problems are more cultural, the person is more sensitive than most to cultural contradictions and conflicts, and needs to reconcile some of those to go on. Or they might be something else, perhaps even something more biological — for example psychosis is more common after brain damage, and it might be that the person needs to transform in some way to deal with the way their brain is functioning differently.

The key thing to understand is that psychosis involves not just a defect in the person, but an attempt to reorganize to address problems. Like any attempt to reorganize, success is not guaranteed, and some attempts to reorganize may cause way more problems than they solve, but people can also learn from failures if they are given the space to sort things out. (Those of you more interested in how psychosis can be understood as an attempt to solve problems, and how that relates to trauma, spirituality and creativity, might be interested in a recording of a talk I gave on that, available at this link.)

Of course, a lot of people will say it is “romanticizing madness” to point out any connection between psychosis and creativity.

I do see a lot of difference between being lost in psychosis and being successfully creative, but I think we also need to avoid “awfulizing psychosis” as we do when we fail to notice what’s common between psychosis and creativity. Successful creativity, like psychosis, involves a process of pulling away from the “normal,” of experimenting with various sorts of transformation, and then of bringing something back, or “recovering.” It’s just that when the person does this without needing obvious help, the parallel with psychosis is often not obvious. And when people are experimenting only with more superficial forms of transformation, they are less likely to get lost in any important way, and so it may then be much easier to manage any “recovery.”

Support for the notion that creativity is facilitated by social disconnection came recently in a study reported on in this Newsweek article. That shouldn’t be too surprising: it’s hard to come up with anything really new when one is also following the path of “the herd.” But being successful with one’s creativity also involves that social reconnection or recovery piece.

So I think the bigger picture is that people need to be both given the space to disconnect from the established order, and to reconnect in a way that allows them to bring something back from their process of transformation. This would accomplish two objectives:

• It would allow people some space to experiment with the deep changes they might need to make to resolve the problems that pushed them into psychosis, rather than trying to immediately pull them back to their previous mindset that was likely not working for them, and

• It would benefit our society as a whole, as culture would be enriched by allowing people support as they went into the creative process in a deeper way

Will Hall, on his show Madness Radio, routinely asks the question, “What does it mean to be called crazy in a crazy world?”

I recently read the preface to Will’s book Outside Mental Health: Voices and Visions of Madness and I noticed that in his writing there he answered a related question, which could be stated as, “What does it mean to recover when the world is mad?”

Here’s what he wrote:

“The stronger I became in reality, and the more I became capable and my “functioning” improved, the more something unexpected happened. My altered states and different mental experiences that got called “psychosis” did not go away. They became more real. I found more and more reason to believe in the truth of my “symptoms.” I wasn’t recovering from “madness.” Something far more mysterious was happening. The hospitals and the threat of my label have faded. Today I am less isolated, more in control, and less terrified than I was that day when a team of doctors gathered around a consulting table to pronounce me schizophrenic. But my most “florid” symptoms of that time, my unusual beliefs, my conversations with voices, my paranoia, my contemplation of suicide, my silent inward withdrawal, my perception of prophetic omens… all of that remains. Professionals made their case for my severe mental illness diagnosis by presenting symptoms as evidence, but that evidence is all still part of me today, even as I live outside any psychiatric care or treatment. I am doing something completely different from what medical and mass media narratives say I should be doing: I am regaining my wellbeing  in the world while at the same time losing touch more and more with “reality.” My madness is leading me somewhere that is more real than what everyone seems to say is real. I’m leaving behind not just the doctors’ diagnosis, but also the mechanistic, soulless, and “objective” reality that gave rise to it. I have begun to arrive somewhere very far outside mental health indeed.


“TODAY I WILL MEET SOMEONE FOR THE FIRST TIME. I make breakfast, and last night’s dream rings in my imagination: I was with my brother, we were playing together outside.


“As I recall the strange atmosphere of the dream, I break a single egg into a bowl, and look down. I see two yolks there, fused together, both from the same shell.  I arrive at my counseling office, and the woman I meet says why she has come to see me. She tells me her birth was traumatic. She tells me that her twin sister died when she was born, and, she says, her sister is still haunting her.  Psychiatrists haven’t helped; they labeled her delusional. I sit listening to this anguished woman talk about her twin sister. I recall the dream about my brother from the night before, and I remember the egg I broke this morning. I know that it is only the habit of what we call “real” that makes us think there are two people in this room, instead of there being one person here, meeting themselves for the first time.”

I very much share with Will his aversion to the “soulless objective reality” that is so often accepted without question in our culture, though sometimes I slip into that cultural trance anyway.

But then I get reminders that there is more to look at, more to consider. An example: just before I read the above excerpt, my partner remarked, while cracking an egg, that it had a double yolk! Sure I could take that as “just a coincidence” but I could also take it as a direct message, from “the universe,” that I should be paying attention to Will’s words and recalling that there is more to existence than the often lifeless theories we often use to conceptualize it.

This brings me to another possible meaning for the term “recovery.” It could be used to mean not just recovery of our connection to the people and ways of thinking that are considered “sane” within our culture, but also as possibly meaning “recovering” our connection to vital elements that are left out of our culture!

So “transformation and recovery” can mean transforming in a way that allows for connection to those missing elements. In my way of thinking, people like Will Hall are models for how it is possible to “recover” in both ways at once: to connect well with both “conventional reality” and with elements that are usually left out. This of course is the traditional role of the shaman, the person who moves between worlds.

I’m not suggesting that everyone who experiences psychosis will want to be something like a cultural pioneer, a prophet, or a shaman. Many will be only too happy to make whatever minimal changes they must make in themselves to simply return to conventional society, aiming only at very conventional notions of success! But for others, a psychotic episode is just an initiation into questioning socially constructed realities and seeing other possibilities. Success for them is defined not as staying anchored in “this world” or way of looking at things, but in traveling to other worlds or views, coming back to this one to share and connect, then traveling again, etc. I hope we eventually create a mental health system which can understand and embrace this process, a mental health system open not just to recovery, but also to transformation and appreciative of the importance of that in our collective life.


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. Thanks for this. I have been trying to get across to the psychologist that I see that this is how I understand the reasons for my original psychotic breakdown and subsequent hospitalisation – as a result of being torn between two social worlds with conflicting beliefs and values. To his credit he does seem to see what I mean on a human level, but then doesn’t seem to have much to offer in the way of help that really connects with what I am saying. Reading something like this helps me to hang onto a point of view that is important to me. I find it difficult to do this when the story of ‘psychosis as personal tragedy requiring lifelong treatment’ holds such sway in society. To think that there may actually be something positive in the experience is quite encouraging, even though nobody who has been through it would want to say that it is a pleasant or easy thing to experience. I often think of myself in terms of how I am not like most people, and that that is a problem I need to overcome, but in other ways it can be a strength. For example I find it hard to take sides, which can be a problem for me because sometimes in life you need to take a stand, but at the same time there is something good in being willing to see things from more than one point of view.

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    • I resonate with what you are saying, highfellow! I like you sometimes wish I were more like others in some ways, but then at other times I really appreciate my differences. If I can remember that my differences have value even when I am wishing they weren’t there, and also remember that there might be value in the way others are even when I am feeling happy to be different from them, then maybe I can find some kind of balance. (Of course too much balance or moderation isn’t good either, as in the old saying, everything in moderation, including moderation!)

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  2. Will Hall says, “What does it mean to be called crazy in a crazy world?” Similarly you’ve got, “Insanity — a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.” The ‘definition’ attributed to R. D. Laing. If Laing never actually defined “schizophrenia” in this fashion, he came close enough to doing so on numerous occasions. If it is an “insane” world, perhaps it is the mad who are in the van garde when it comes to “treating” (i.e. changing behavior) the “insanity” of that world, or, to put it another way, of “treating” ‘sane insanity’ with their own brand of ‘insane sanity’. Anyway, thanks for posting, even if I don’t fully concur about everything therein, I find this post interesting, and worthy of serious note.

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  3. I especially appreciate Ron’s term (and warning) that he calls “awfulizing” psychosis. (Link doesn’t work, BTW). As highfellow points out, “psychosis as personal tragedy requiring lifelong treatment’ is the popular view, the medicalized view, and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy if adopted. I liked reading Will Hall’s explanation of what recovery is like for him. It sounds about right; a foot in each world.

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  4. “But sometimes the problems are more cultural, the person is more sensitive than most to cultural contradictions and conflicts, and needs to reconcile some of those to go on.” This was largely what happened to me, I was defamed as “psychotic” for knowing there was something really wrong with 9/11/2001 right after that event, for knowing that event would take us to the brink of WWIII (which seems to be where we are now), for being disgusted by psychologically, psychiatrically, and religiously denied pedophilia (a problem which does actually exist), for believing in the Holy Spirit, and for believing it was time to start researching eschatology.

    It appears my concerns in 2001 are concerns millions online share now, and my societal concerns were seemingly “prophetic,” as opposed to “psychotic.” Many today question the official 9/11/2001 narrative, many today see that the never ending wars against “terror” that resulted from that event are immoral and fiscally irresponsible, many today agree that a NWO controlled by globalist, fiscally irresponsible, war mongering and profiteering, “luciferian pedophile banksters” is unwise. My “mental health professionals” lacked insight, foresight, and intelligence.

    “What does it mean to be called crazy in a crazy world?” We do live in a crazy and sick world, which is currently controlled by the wrong people, unfortunately. But as a bankers’ child, who has a business degree in addition to an art degree, of course I would have more “insight” into the larger problems in our world, than would hypocritical, Holy Spirit blaspheming people who worship from a scientifically invalid DSM “bible.” I just had no idea how insanely stupid and ungodly unethical today’s en mass pedophilia covering up “mental health professionals” really were in 2001. I didn’t know covering up pedophilia was the number one actual function of today’s “mental health industry,” although of course this is your primary function even according to your own medical literature.

    But attempting to murder all the creative, “insightful,” and intelligent people is not actually wise, “mental health professionals.” And, of course, as soon as my child largely healed from the child abuse and got 100% on his state standardized tests, I got a call from a school social worker, not congratulating me, but instead she wanted to get her grubby little hands on my child. That’s when I knew it was time to switch him to private school.

    We live in a crazy world, and the craziest people of all are today’s DSM deluded “mental health professionals” who want to defame, torture, and murder the most insightful and intelligent in our society. They are the enemies within who are attacking families and children. Please wake up, neither you nor the fiscally irresponsible, war mongering and profiteering, pedophile banksters, who fiscally irresponsibly create the money you worship out of thin air, are intelligent enough to rule this entire world. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” so a one world monetary system and a one world religion are dumb ideas.

    You are the “lacking in insight” people with “delusions of grandeur,” who need to be medicated, not us “canaries in the coal mine.” Wake up, please, “take the red pill.” Stop destroying families. Mind your own business. Live and let live. Treat others as you’d like to be treated. Any of this sound familiar? Pardon my disgust at today’s intrusive, unrepentant, pedophilia profiteering and covering up, so called “mental health professionals,” and the disgusting banksters they worship.

    “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” or worse, that the so called “good men” create a multi billion dollar, primarily pedophilia covering up, scientifically fraudulent, iatrogenic illness creating, “mental health industry.”

    This country needs to start arresting the pedophiles instead of turning millions of child abuse victims, and their legitimately concerned mothers, into the “mentally ill” with the psychiatric drugs. Shame on all those who utilize “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.” Shame on the pedophiles and the pedophilia covering up and profiteering “mental health professionals” and religions of the United States and world, who did not have the foresight to realize that covering child abuse on a massive scale also functions to empower the pedophiles.

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    • Hi Someone Else: I share your disgust for those who cover up pedophilia and the damage caused by it, for example those like NIMH who still pretend to not know that childhood trauma and abuse is a possible cause of psychosis down the road. But I don’t share your conclusion that everyone involved in mental health is part of the cover up, because I know quite a few people who are involved in that field who work to increase awareness of the problem. Of course, many of those have been abused themselves, and so they carry that fire, that sense of outrage, that doesn’t let them be easily shut up.

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      • Ron, I didn’t say “that everyone involved in mental health is part of the cover up,” at least not intentionally. I know there are good and bad people in all professions. However, when “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).”

        And we know that the DSM treatment recommendations for “borderline” and the “psychotic or affective disorders,” which call for combining the antidepressants and/or antipsychotics. Treatment recommendations which can create both the negative and positive symptoms of “schizophrenia,” via neuroleptic induced deficit syndrome and antidepressant and/or antipsychotic induced anticholinergic toxidrome. Neither of which, known psychiatric drug induced illness, is listed in the DSM.

        This results in millions of child abuse victims being, intentionally or unintentionally, misdiagnosed and turned into the “psychotic or affective disorder” and “borderline” patients with the psychiatric drugs.

        The DSM should include both NIDS and anticholinergic toxidrome, to prevent all these intentional, or more likely unintentional, misdiagnoses. But this flaw in the DSM does result in a majority of those working within the “mental health” industry, likely unintentionally, being apart of this “cover up” of child abuse on a massive scale.

        Psychiatrists cannot tell the difference between “psychosis” caused by anticholinergic toxidrome from “psychosis” caused by “bipolar” or “schizophrenia.” Psychiatrists cannot tell the difference between “apathy” or “tiredness” caused by NIDS from “apathy” or “tiredness” caused by “schizophrenia.” And since they want to get paid, they will always misdiagnose the adverse effects of their “wonder drugs” as one of their billable DSM disorders.

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        • In order to practice or encourage/enforce psychiatry you must be deceitful or deceived yourself.

          Most people are the latter. It doesn’t help that 90% of those brain dead idiots are functional illiterates who refuse to read ANYTHING. Gave up talking or trying to reason with them long ago.

          “Robert Whitaker only wrote Mad In America and Anatomy of an Epidemic to become a billionaire and wallow in luxury.”

          Whatever. If you make a statement like that you show that not only are you too lazy and unmotivated to read anything but cookbooks/frothy romances, but you’re pretty clueless that the vast majority of successful writers keep their day jobs, are supported by others, or earn money indirectly through speaking engagements, consulting, ghost writing, etc.

          None of these sheeple question how many psychiatrists are obsessed with making millions even if it involves maiming, defaming, or killing people. I guess they imagine they all work pro bono or something!

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  5. Thank you Ron for this wonderful article. I deeply resonate with what you are saying. This perspective gives me hope, as I try to understand, and to be a force for life in an extremely painful pattern in my own family.
    Thank you too, folks at MIA, for being a beacon of light in a very dark place. Knowing that there are perspectives of real hope in this arena has given me an abiding sense of support.

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  6. Ron

    Good blog. However, I believe the way that you articulated the process of “transformation” and “recovery” comes across as being only attached to the individual going through their period of madness ABSTRACTED from their subsequent interactions with the material world around them.

    You said: “Just “recovering” one’s previous way of functioning is not so likely to work, because usually something wasn’t working prior to the psychosis. It was that which set off the psychosis, and if that isn’t changed, any “recovery” may not be worth much, as the problems, and so the need to transform, will likely still be present, and will tend to cause other problems or even set off another psychotic episode….Success for them is defined not as staying anchored in “this world” or way of looking at things, but in traveling to other worlds or views, coming back to this one to share and connect, then traveling again, etc.”

    Where is the concept of the individual (along with others in their social group) “transforming” the material world around them that is not meeting their needs and/or that is causing them harm or some form of trauma?

    I believe we transform ourselves as we attempt to transform the world around us.

    So when an individual going through a period of “madness” (followed by a “successful recovery”) reengages with the world around them, this will usually necessitate learning something about the nature of their original problems and finding new ways to deal with them. This may involve new cognitive and behavioral adaptations which INCLUDES attempting to change the people and the environment around them. This might also involve leaving one’s toxic surroundings and moving to a new chosen environment.

    This is all another way of describing the following dialectical process: “In order to know the world (in a deep going way) we must be actively involved in changing it, and in order to change the world (in a deep going way) we must know it better.”


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    • Hi Richard, I would agree that my focus was limited, and there’s a whole lot more that could be written about the roles people can take on in changing the world and society once they have gone through changes. You got off to a good start in talking about that.

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  7. Hi Ron,
    thank you for the interesting food for thought. I’ve been struggling last night and today after reading this multiple times, trying to figure out what I think. You’ve packed so much in here, maybe I’ll just throw out some thoughts. I don’t know how organized they’ll be…
    1) As long as we are talking about non-medication induced ‘psychosis’, which I assume you are…in my wife’s case…I just don’t see much evidence of psychosis in her even though, supposedly, people with d.i.d. typically are ‘psychotic.’ I even looked up the definitions to make sure I understood the term. I almost wonder if psychosis is in the eye of the beholder. Since I learned to see things from her point of view, the various manifestations of her d.i.d. made sense to me; hence, I didn’t think she was psychotic. She kind of jokes that something is wrong with me for NOT thinking she was crazy. It doesn’t mean she didn’t have trauma issues, attachment issues, etc. But what I observed made sense in light of her past experience.
    2) The Rip Van Winkle effect. I talk about this on my blog. When the other girls (‘alters’) joined us, they had essentially been ‘frozen in time’. Initially their frame of reference was from over 40 years ago. On top of that, their maturation had also frozen. And so I kind of took the attitude that I had to help them ‘catch up’ with things and I also had to help them ‘grow up’, but again, from their perspective it all made sense even though I had girls who viewed themselves anywhere from 1 year old to 8 years or so… So, again, no psychosis, just how dissociation works in a trauma victim and I met them ‘where they were’ and then helped them move forward in healing and maturation.
    3) As for ‘transforming’…me personally, I’ve actually moved the other direction. Having grown up a Christian, I desperately tried to live in ‘2 worlds’ but I just never seemed able to figure it out. So I happily moved to that ‘soulless objective reality’ where I don’t expect help from a god who never showed up. Since I was on my own, it allowed me to unleash my creativity to help my wife through all the things her d.i.d. has thrown at us. I think before I used my faith as a crutch and kept begging for help. Now I understand I AM the help my wife needs, and so I either figure it out, or it won’t happen, because she has made it clear to me that she wants and needs my help.

    But as for her, she still considers herself a Christian, living in ‘2 worlds’ and I see no need to disabuse her of that. I fully admit I could be, and wish I were, wrong…
    4) One thing helping my wife taught me is that ‘arguing’ over whose reality is correct is meaningless and even counterproductive especially to a person who was severely traumatized as a child. For years she told me I was the one ‘with issues.’ And even once she realized she had ‘issues’ the trauma, dissociation, rip van winkle effect, among other issues, trapped her in a matrix that she couldn’t see past. And so I chose to enter her ‘matrix’. Our private lives are dominated by the little girls who want a daddy to care for, protect and love them. Originally they saw themselves as 8 distinct individuals because of the depth of dissociation. I didn’t demand they accept my reality of them being one woman, my wife. I walked with them in theirs, and slowly as they healed and the dissociation dissolved, their reality began to morph from the trauma paradigm that was forged and trapped in the past, to one more reflective of their current lives and one that is definitely more healthy and includes them as a group.

    Anyway, sometimes I wonder if psychosis is…I don’t know…overused as a label/symptom. I know when I validate the things the various girls tell me rather than try to argue with them over perceptions and such, I could often see that such validation released them from the stranglehold that the past had on them and allowed them to move forward. People want to be heard! And ‘psychosis’ from my perspective often seems to be an excuse for ‘the non-psychotic’ to ignore what is being said by those in distress.

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  8. I like the idea of “mental illness” actually being what Glasser called creative symptoming. It makes sense that in addition to trauma and angst many of us are highly creative. Creativity is a positive trait, but overusing it as a coping mechanism (not consciously) can lead to an inability to function in the world as we know it.

    The way neuroleptics “work” is by destroying creativity along with other cognitive functions that make us human.

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    • To say that antipsychotics destroy creativity is definitely right from my experience. When I am able to, I can be quite creative, and I have various tech / craft projects which I work on at times. But a lot more of the time I am just ‘knocked out’ – in a really dull state of mind where I can’t find the motivation or creative energy to get on with stuff like that.

      In Bessel van der Kolk’s book ‘The body keeps the score’, I read that antipsychotics can actually inhibit recovery from trauma by suppressing ‘motivation, curiosity, and play’. These are precisely the qualities you would think somebody might need to move on in their lives and find their way to something new. My feeling is that while they can be effective in keeping down distressing thoughts and emotions, because they have such a blanket effect they also have the effect of keeping people stuck with the same problems over long periods of time. This has certainly been the case with me – I have been troubled by essentially the same issues which I go over in my head obsessively again and again for around 17 years now. I know that I need to move on and resolve things somehow, but I am fairly sure that part of what makes it difficult for me to do this is the dulling effect of the medication.

      Ages ago, I was reading out the product label of the antipsychotics I was on to a friend, and I got to the bit where it said ‘supresses paranoid thoughts’. Her reply was ‘how does the drug know which are the paranoid thoughts and which are the other ones’? This is a fair point I think.

      Personally, I think that every person responsible for prescribing this class of medications should have to take them for a few weeks as part of their training, as I think that professionals really don’t understand how unpleasant it is to take them for a long period of time.

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      • We know that antipsychotics work by suppressing dopamine, and we also know that dopamine is the brain transmitter most associated with anticipating something. That means it is associated with both hopes and fears, so suppressing it will suppress motivation along with things like grandiosity and paranoia. (Of course it gets complex, since some people who were overcome by paranoia might be more motivated to do everyday things once they are less paranoid, etc.)

        Richard Bentall reported the way they tell it a drug has antipsychotic properties in a rat. You train the rat to anticipate that if it hears a certain bell, it will be shocked unless it moves to another spot. Then if you give it a drug that has antipsychotic properties, it will quit responding to the bell (in anticipation of the shock) though it will still respond to the shock itself.

        I think if more people were aware of what these drugs do, they would be used much less frequently, in lower doses, and for more limited periods of time.

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      • Thank you for stating some great points here. I believe that the blanket effect is what is responsible for so few people being able to recover and move on with their lives. I think that your friend was very perceptive in asking how the drugs know paranoid thoughts from other thoughts. I think I will use her question on some of the psychiatrists I work with and see what they say. In fact, I can hardly wait to use it on some of them. It will be interesting to see what kind of nonsense they come up with in trying to answer me. I never cease to be amazed at their creativity in making up responses when they know that they’re obviously trapped. I wonder what a paranoid thought looks like………

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        • Thanks. Another one you could try out is – “if the voices which some psychotic people hear are ‘not real’ because they are ‘just in their head’, then what about the voice that you think to yourself with – is that ‘real’ or ‘imagined’?”

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          • Are our thoughts “real or imagined?” That’s a good one!

            How about the answer that they are “really imagined?” Because imagination is itself a real thing!

            I do think there is such a thing as believing voices have a reality that they don’t have – like believing that voices belong to real people that can kill one’s whole family if one disobeys a command. But the opposite belief, that voices have no kind of reality at all and don’t provide any useful information at all, is also very unhelpful.

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          • “if the voices which some psychotic people hear are ‘not real’ because they are ‘just in their head’, then what about the voice that you think to yourself with – is that ‘real’ or ‘imagined’?” All my “mental health professionals” believed one’s personal thoughts were “psychosis.” Of course, this all encompassing theology would mean all thinking people are “psychotic,” which is rather absurd, although no doubt very profitable for the psychiatrists.

            “I do think there is such a thing as believing voices have a reality that they don’t have – like believing that voices belong to real people that can kill one’s whole family if one disobeys a command. But the opposite belief, that voices have no kind of reality at all and don’t provide any useful information at all, is also very unhelpful.”

            Do we have definitive proof there is no such thing as telepathy? I know most people don’t believe in it, but some do, I think. And I have read about supposed technology that can put “voices” into others’ heads, I don’t know if that actually exists or not, but it may. Well, actually, since the antipsychotics can create psychosis and seemingly put others’ voices in one’s head, that means the antipsychotics could be a form of such a technology. Who knows?

            You are absolutely correct about the latter sentence however. The entire time I was suffering from anticholinergic toxidrome induced “psychosis,” I had the “voices” of the people who raped my child in my head, incessantly bragging about their crime. Sad as it is to say, I was actually somewhat relieved to find the medical evidence of the abuse of my child in his medical records, once my family’s medical records were finally handed over by decent and disgusted nurses. At least it gave some credibility to the psychotomimetic “voices.”

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          • Yes that’s pretty much how I see it. Having people trying to persuade me that ‘the voices aren’t real’ isn’t helpful because usually they feel that once that’s settled, the question is closed and there is nothing more to be said. This means I don’t get to talk about my – very real – experience of hearing distressing voices in a way that helps me make sense of what is happening, or resolve the equally real underlying issues that the voices stem from.

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          • Hi Someone Else, I agree with you that we don’t have proof that telepathy doesn’t exist, so it always could be possible that it exists and a real person could be using it to communicate threats! But what we know for sure is unhelpful is believing that a voice belongs to someone external who can and will carry out threats, in the case when that is actually not true. Quite a few people have experienced being intimidated by threatening voices, and only once they learned to “call the bluff” of the voices were they able to regain control over their lives.

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          • Maybe I should stay out of this conversation, but there is another way to view those voices. I fully engaged my wife’s voices. I met them where they were. If they had needs, I met them. If needed, I made amends to them. I treated them as if they were a new part of my wife that I had the privilege to discover, and one by one each of them decided they liked the life I was offering them, and all of them at this point have securely attached to me and become a vital part of my marriage and family life.

            Ron, I never ‘called the bluff’ of my wife’s voices. I validated them even the angry, vitriolic ones and offered them a relationship with myself, without strings or ulterior motives. “Unconditional love” might be a good term. And the transformation in all of them has been pretty astounding.

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          • Hi Sam, I was referring to voice hearers themselves “calling the bluff” of threatening voices that pretend to be able to do big harm if the voice hearer does not comply. That can often be important to help the voice hearer. Relationship, compassion, love, that stuff is all needed too – and it’s easier for the voice hearer to offer that once they aren’t terrorized by the voices!

            In some ways, working with voices is like working with children, or just other family members in general. Both boundaries and love are needed.

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  9. Forgive me and so on and so forth but I am compelled to comment.

    Thoughts are hallucinations. Thoughts are comprised of words, images and emotions. In all combination and in limitless contexts.

    Thoughts are not real. When people make the mistake of believing that their thoughts are real — or that other peoples’ thoughts are real — they risk stumbling into an hallucinatory state known as delusional. A delusion is not an hallucination. A delusion is the narrative of a chosen-set of hallucinations.

    An old man tells people he is going to carry a piano up a mountain. To demonstrate a point. Don’t ask me what point he intended to demonstrate. I haven’t a clue. No-one has.

    Even still, in order for you to even know about the old man that said he was going to carry a piano up a mountain, the very notion had to be hallucinated — by the old man. And then by others, and me. And now you. And the old man did carry a piano up the mountain. It was a real act, a vital act. And for a while it was all the old man spoke about. And then he died. And the piano fell apart and decayed. And then was not to be seen. The words fade. The hallucinations are all in flux. All of them.

    I was asked, Will you come to the Recovery House? I hesitated for some time. What if I went to the Recovery House, and then relapsed? Would that even be possible? If we name something after a process, does that guarantee the nominated process?

    As it turned out, I went to the Recovery House and relapsed. As did others. In fact, more people were relapsing in the Recovery House than they were recovering. No wonder then people began to ask if it wouldn’t be more transparent to rename the Recovery House, the Relapse House.

    Recovery is a chosen-set of hallucinations. Otherwise know as a delusion.

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    • Rasselas.redux – I wanted to say mainly that your post was funny and made me laugh.

      Also that I said the thing about ‘are thoughts real?’ as a way of maybe holding in check people who are too willing to tell people that their experiences ‘aren’t real’ without having ever thought about existential questions like this that are actually quite a live issue for people who hear voices. It definitely made my psychologist stop and think for a moment when I asked him.

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  10. Another thought I had about this article is that the process you describe sounds a bit like adolescence. In our teenage years people also go through a period when the worldview we inherit from our families starts to break down and be replaced by our own individual one. Also I think many people’s experience of ‘psychosis’ begins in adolescence. I wonder if anyone has done any studies which make this connection explicitly?

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    • I’ve felt the same way, namely, that much “psychosis” has to do with a less than completely successful transition from adolescence to adulthood. Although current stats state maybe 1/3 of lifelong so called “mental illness” began by age 14. The majority of cases, it seems, start about the age of 18, 19, 20, and 21, or thereabouts, just when one is on the cusp between adolescence and adulthood. I don’t even think you have to do a lot of studies to make the connection. I believe all you’d have to do is get the average age when most people, given a severely affected label, experience their first psychotic break.

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        • Or, hopefully, one’s adolescent type responses could develop into adult responses? I wouldn’t say that the tension that develops from negotiating “between different social realities” ever goes away. We could also be talking about some kind of ‘natural defense mechanism’ being mistaken for a “mental disorder”, but that is that.

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  11. Ron Unger wrote, “Going mad involves breaking away from, or losing touch with, group norms and ideas about reality.”

    Again, this is predicated on the idea that there is this ~mental illness~ or ~psychological crises~, and “Transformation and Recovery” is simply a continuation of the idea that the survivor has to change and that the survivor has a problem.

    We must reject all Psychotherapy and Recovery, even if linked with the idea of transformation.

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  12. I think we are more likely to be able to come together and do well when we are open to the idea that we all have problems and probably need to change in some ways. So that includes the mental health system, families, social systems, and individuals, including but not limited to those who are diagnosed.

    And it does certainly often help to talk about it. Psychotherapy is just one way to talk, not always necessary, but can be helpful in my opinion. I can certainly understand wanting to ban bad psychotherapy, but I can’t see a reason to want to ban all of it!

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    • I think it’s important to draw a line between psychiatry and “psychotherapy” — the latter being a generic term (however ill-named)for just about any form of counseling, the former being a system of repression and social control disguised as medicine.

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  13. As always, in the search to uphold some illusion of “madness” and BS notions of broken brains, the practical facts have been omitted.

    Experiences of psychosis, can be caused by lack of sleep, dehydration, lack of proper nutrition, including B vitamins, being on a ventilator, an adverse drug event including to psych drugs and weed, exposure to toxins and some 60 real medical diseases. I shutter to think of the number of people’s whose lives have been ruined because the causal agents of psychosis have been so completely pathologized as some woo-woo experience. Like everything else about psychiatry, its bloody criminal.

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  14. Ron Unger wrote: “I think we are more likely to be able to come together and do well when we are open to the idea that we all have problems and probably need to change in some ways.”

    Ron, you are completely off base saying that other people have problems and need to change. What is true is that the practice of psychotherapy is wrong because it is profiting from the suffering of others. The sooner we can put psychotherapists our of business, the better.

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    • Hi Tireless, am I correct in hearing that you believe there are problems with my views and so I need to change, but yours are definitely without any problem and no one should ask you to consider changing anything about them? Just asking. (Unfortunately, many mental health workers come on with the attitude that they are “sane” and don’t need to change, while the other is “insane” and does need to change: maybe you are just trying to turn that upside down, but I think the opposite of one mistake is often just another mistake.)

      Regarding your assertion that “psychotherapy is wrong because it is profiting from the suffering of others” – are you asserting it is wrong for anyone to be paid anything to try to assist people who are having psychological distress, because that would be “profiting?” Are you also opposed to anyone being paid to assist people who are having physical distress, like a doctor attending to a broken arm? Where do you draw the line at what is unacceptable “profiting?”

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      • Shockingly, until now, I missed the extent of the problem the “mad” movement poses to the world.
        While the rest of us are trying to stop the “mental illness/mad” DSM fraud in an attempt to protect the public health and safety, this groups insistence on being “mad” with no evidence and despite a ever growing mountain of evidence to the contrary, the rest of the world is paying and will continue to pay for their unsubstantiated claims.

        Psychiatry must love the “mad movement”.

        If I understand Tireless correctly, the issue with ALL helping professions is that they are profiting UNDER THE GUISE that there is something fundamentally WRONG with people who think, feel, believe or experience anything that can be pathologized for profit.

        Who does and does not participate in pathologizing people is determined on a case by case basis. Psychologist are typically much less dangerous to the public health and safety and the vast majority at DTD and MIA are ethical, trustworthy people speaking out against the fraud.

        The “mad” movement, however is a serious problem that has been and will continue to be used to block progress and perpetuate continued harm to anyone in social, spiritual and real medical crisis. Its time we took a long hard look at it with our eyes wide open.

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        • We are a very heterogeneous group with radically different, even opposing goals. This is a bigger challenge than the strength of our Common Enemy.

          Part of the problem is there are many entrances to the Dungeon of Psychiatry. We need to appreciate not all psychiatric survivors share the same set of problems.

          For example, some were carefree eccentrics who got locked up for partying too hard. Others were already suffering horribly. We came to the shrinks hoping to end the suffering. Big mistake!

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  15. tireless fighter i love your clarity and agree with you completely. the psychologists are just less well paid psychiatrists who went to school for a shorter period. when push comes to shove they will have u locked up for your own good of course. meanwhile condoning and supporting the psychiatrists they revere no challenge no boat rocking no advocacy because they agree there is something wrong with you that needs fixing

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  16. Here are 3 techniques:

    1. Use the “leaks” the enemy has already provided. Articles from the APA journal are a good start.

    2. Subvert the enemy propaganda. For example, deface the NAMI insignia or some other brand to make it look like a skull and crossbones and put “Let them die with their rights off!” beneath.

    3. Employ social media, blogs, eletters, blogtalkradio, and vimeo. Television is a lost cause.

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  17. In my post I mentioned the webinar, “Recovery-Oriented Cognitive Therapy: Resiliency, Recovery & Flourishing” presented by Paul Grant and his team. The recording of that is now available at

    I think it’s worth watching! They are advocating for a very humanistic approach, and talk about the need to change the whole culture around mental health treatment, and some practical ways to get a start on that. One thing they comment on is how “quiet” treatment centers become when the emphasis is on suppressing “pathology” and how they should and can be very lively when the emphasis shifts to how to help people more toward their aspirations.

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