On Being Mad in Public

Eric Coates
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My mother tells me — I do not remember it myself — that somewhere around two-and-a-half years into a two-and-a-half-year-long period of psychosis, a period of time that I mostly spent intoxicated because that was the only way to make the whole experience bearable, I walked out of the emergency room of the hospital where I was waiting to be treated, crossed into the parking lot, lit a cigarette once I thought I was hidden by the cars (the hospital was on a non-smoking campus), and then thought it might be a good idea to take a piss in the snow since I was hidden by the cars anyway. Apparently some people saw me in the parking lot and reported me to the authorities within, with the result that I was picked up by the local police and put into protective custody for a few hours, until I slept it off and my mother could come and pick me up.

As I say, I have no memory of this. All I can remember now is the part where I was smoking and then pissing. I have no memory at all of being taken into custody or anything after that, not even being taken home by my mother.

This is not the only thing I can’t remember from that period of time, but it is one of the most prominent.

As for the psychosis itself, it was so long and drawn-out and complex that it is hard to sort out the sheer variety of what happened. I will be sitting in my kitchen, having a cigarette in the morning with a cup of coffee to wake up and I will remember something that happened, something that seems totally unnecessary when you look back on it, and I wonder what the point of that particular experience was.

You see, I believe that psychosis actually has a point, and that it can teach you some things that you wouldn’t otherwise have learned. The hard part is to see what that point is a lot of the time, but once you do finally get it, you do get it.

But there are things which resist understanding.

I have no idea, for instance, why murder and violence figure so heavily in the “delusions” I have had. Every time I am psychotic, I become paranoid, believing that people are out to kill me. During this last period of psychosis I became convinced that a local café was in fact the site of the monthly meetings of an organization called the Cannibals’ Club, whose meetings were always on the weekend and to which a very select group of local and regional cannibals would come and have drinks and chat and then consume a human being as the main event. These human victims, I came to believe, were out-of-state young women from our local community college, who wouldn’t be missed like a local would be. I also became obsessed with all the murders that I believed had taken place in my town, and on memorable occasions, I wandered the streets, stopping to look at buildings and pointing out to strangers things like the bars on the basement windows and talking about the prisoners who had been held there. The strange thing is that I managed to sound quite plausible when I was talking about all this.

Now what, you might ask, is the point of this experience? I haven’t learned anything about real violence or murder because of this “delusion.” I haven’t had an epiphany as a result of it. (I already knew that our society had a history of a lot of violence in the past, even if it never took place quite on the scale that I was imagining it — at least not in my town.)

Casting my mind back a little farther, I find little to redeem the experience of walking into the office building of a major metropolitan newspaper and trying to convince the guards that I needed to talk to one of the news editors, because I needed to share with them that the world was being taken over by psychics and they needed to run an article, no, a whole series, on how this was happening and what the consequences were. What was the point of that? What was the point of walking into that police station and explaining that a gang was following me around, and that I needed to be taken into protective custody, only to be shown the door by a crew of more than indifferent cops? What was the point of walking through the streets that time, drunk and yelling at the top of my lungs, so that by the time I got to a location five minutes from my house the cops had already pulled up, and it is probably only the lucky presence of my “mental health counselor” that was enough to save me another trip to the clink?

What was the point? one asks oneself. What was the point?

It is almost as though whoever is planning your life is intent on destroying every last shred of your credibility, so that even at the same time as you are being shown amazing and mystical things and having all sorts of mysteries clarified in your mind, you are also being placed in a position where no one will pay any attention to what you have to say, or if they do, the results of that attention will be negative (such as being locked up). The mysterious and powerful journey you are on is almost invisible to other people.

There is no one present, for instance, when I write. I hear voices, and I am told to go to my computer and sit down and write. Then I have things sort of dictated to me. A moment before I type a word, it comes into my mind exactly as though some outside force is putting it there. I do not actually write any of my own work myself. All I actually do is transcribe what a voice, an impulse, is telling me to transcribe. I have no idea, moments before I write it down, what I am about to say. I have written many essays, poems, and even a novel this way. Yet this is something that I do on my own, and there is no one to verify the mystery of what I am going through. It is not public.

What emerges about me in public is only rarely anything close to the truth of the situation. The convenience store clerk does not know that I just spent three hours listening to a voice dictate a wonderful essay that will be published in a few weeks. All he knows is that I am drunk, once again, and that I will probably remain that way for the foreseeable future. He does not behold the wonders that I see everywhere I go.

The people who ought to know the most about what you are going through turn out to be the very people who know the least — your counselors and your psychiatrist, whom you have to see because you are on Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) and if you do not go and swallow their drugs or allow them to shoot you up then you will be sent back to the state hospital. These people, who seem so full of common sense to the public whenever they are asked to defend their practices, are the very ones who should be listening to you most closely, and yet you often find that they’re not listening to you at all. You can explain what you are going through all day long and they will never understand it, because they never give you credit for representing your experience as it really is happening. All they really see in the end is the hospital admissions and the paperwork and the drug prescriptions, and very little of what you actually say yourself ever enters the record, either the official one or the one in anyone’s head.

About the only time your own voice is actually documented is during court proceedings, which are of course recorded and transcribed, but even then you are constrained by time and the questions that the attorneys ask. If you are like me, however, and you are lucky enough to find an advocate who will put you on the stand and feed you softball questions like, “So just why is it that you don’t believe in ‘mental illness,’ Mr. Coates?” then you will use this moment to speak out loud and clear. I have sat there in the courtroom and lectured them all for half an hour about the non-existence of mental illness, freely quoting from Dr. Szasz, until it seemed that I might actually prevail and the opposing attorney, representing the hospital, got very jittery and flustered and tried to distract everybody from what I’d said by completely changing the subject to something the doctor had said about me and making a very flustered and probably impermissable speech about something the doctor had said about me, when what she actually should have been doing was cross-examining me.

I can understand the point of that experience. It was about teaching me the system, and about never ceasing to resist. In the end, though, speaking out got me nowhere. I was still sentenced to AOT in spite of the fact that I have committed no crimes.

Then there is what people say about you. He’s not right in the head. He’s crazy. Watch out for that guy, he’s nuts. Once the label is put on you it never really goes away. And it seems that everything in your life is conspiring to prove them right: your reputation precedes you or follows along right behind.

Most of the really memorable events of my public life, the kinds of things that people are likely to remember about me, have been, over the past couple dozen years, either terribly funny or terribly embarrassing, depending on how you want to look at it. When you tell someone the story of how you were on your very first psych ward and you were paranoid and you became convinced that a guy who was admitted a little while after you just had a knife smuggled in to him on a food tray and that he was going to try to kill you, and you not only made a scene and accused him of having that intention, but you actually called your attorney and told him that they had you boxed in and they were going to assassinate you, and your attorney actually sent the cops to the psych ward to find out what was going on just in time to witness you being given the option to lower your own pants for the needle or to have the staff do it for you… well, this is either a terribly embarrassing or a terribly funny story to think about, and it is the kind of thing that other people remember. The truth is that I have even done things that I have no idea about, about what exactly I did, because when the people who saw me do it see me again they shake their heads in disbelief and refuse to tell me about it.

To be mad in public is to have to deal with the fact that you are, in the end, kind of powerless over your own fate. You can do your best with what happens, and the miracles you see taking place are usually enough to restore your faith in what’s happening, but there is no denying that you are being bounced around like a ping pong ball at the mercy of an inscrutable God and that you have absolutely no control over the parameters of your experience. I am completely aware that there will always be people to whom I will never be able to explain just what I was going through at the time that I did something, that they will never understand it no matter how much I try to explain. All they can remember is how outrageous it was. There is no way for them to understand that for every time you slip and fall, there is another time when you take a step up the ladder of understanding; that you are actually making progress toward a distant and difficult goal, and that, given a choice, there is no way you would ever go back to what most people would consider a “normal” existence again. You do not actually want to be “normal,” no matter how simpler it may seem. People have no idea how much you have seen.

And so, though people may shake their heads and sort of pity me, the truth is that I pity them even more, because I know that I am the one who is lucky. They will never see what I have seen and they will never have the kind of experiences that I have had and they will never know what it means to have been granted this kind of opportunity to experience all the things that are possible in the world. And that is what leads to the ultimate truth about who I am in public, which is that while I may look and talk and even act like everyone else at times, I am actually a whole different kind of being, and though what they may see comes under the name of a madman, the truth is that I move through the streets like a spy on his way to ferret out all the secrets of the universe.

37 COMMENTS

  1. If you’re going to be a spy, one thing you’ve got to realize is that you don’t want to blow your cover- you’ve probably experienced, many times, what happened when you did. The most important duty of spies is not to get caught, so they can send the information they’ve collected to their agencies.

  2. Congratulations! This is a wonderful, well-written piece and I truly enjoyed reading it. I appreciate your down-to-earth humor, somewhat self-deprecating style. While poignantly describing the degradation and futility of forced/coerced treatment you managed to avoid the minefield of traps that so many of us fall into when recounting stories involving psychiatric fraud and abuse

    Last year or the year before, I can’t remember when, I started to develop some insight into my own daughter’s ‘psychosis’ insofar as she finally made me understand that it wasn’t all awful. In fact, she finds it entertaining at times. At times, the imaginative scenes playing in her mind are often pleasant and even erotic. I can see where such an imagination can really yield benefits while dealing with the daily tedium of being locked up in an institution without access to literature, the arts, sex, romance, humanity, and well, diversity of opinion.

    When contemplating psychiatric fraud and abuse, I need a repertoire emotional responses that is more diverse than anger, anger, anger for my life to have some balance and fun. Humor is the best pill sometimes.

    While I will probably continue to advocate for ending all all force and coercion in the mental health system, or for that matter, any ‘treatment’ which is degrading, humiliating, futile, harmful, even fatal, I would like to see humanity develop greater bandwidth, tolerance, imagination, insight, and less toxic reactivity when fellow human beings display behavior that is outside the narrow confines of ‘normality’

    As David Oaks says, “Normal behavior is killing the planet” . ‘Creative maladjustment is needed to eradicate normal behavior when ‘normal’ behavior is destructive. If we teach our children that ‘conformity and ‘normality’ are the highest ideals to which they must strive we are not giving our children the skills they need to confront and address injustice. It is also not very fun.

    at this point I could use less eye witness reports of psychiatric abuse, less evidence of psychiatric corruption, and stories like this which show humanity at its maddest and brightest.

    Peace

  3. Eric, thanks. Of course one can sympathize with your sincere account. The only quibble that I have is that you seem to grant too much to psychiatry by using terms like “psychosis” and “mad.” You are not “mad” or “psychotic” or “mentally ill.” No one is any one of these things, no matter how much psychiatric myth-makers would have us believe it.

  4. I’d say at work I hide it fairly well. In my cubicle I mutter to myself under my breath about everything happening.

    When I leave work and head to the gym it’s totally different. I pretty much walk around talking to myself while I get workout in. Nobody seems to care that much but I can tell they are snickering. Not a big deal to me because I have like no friends and also I’m in tremendous physical shape. Every week we (my lady and I) go to Zumba class. Other than this I really only go walking around the city for a few hours or stay home and read. Occasionally we go out of town to a play or just site seeing and see where the day leads us.

    I dislike a great deal going grocery shopping so I try to have my lady do this for us. We eat at home almost every day of the year. My job is to pay the household expenses.

  5. I would like people to stop using the term “psychosis”. If someone were demented then there would be no point in talking to them. Psychotherapy can only work with people that are not demented, and 99.5 percent of “Schizophrenics” are not mad.

    There are discreet conditions attached to “schizophrenia”. When “schizophrenics” taper from “medication” they can develop severe and disabling anxiety – this anxiety is not psychosis, and it responds to normal psychotherapy.

    There’s another discreet condition that “Schizophrenics” suffer from – drug induced disability. To get money to survive the “Schizophrenic” has to pretend that it’s “illness” induced disability.

  6. A moment before I type a word, it comes into my mind exactly as though some outside force is putting it there. I do not actually write any of my own work myself. All I actually do is transcribe what a voice, an impulse, is telling me to transcribe.

    This is a common pat of the creative process; you are hooked into the collective unconscious.

    Sounds like your biggest problem is that AOT — you need a good lawyer.

    • The difference between compulsive and free, is the difference between trust and anxiety.
      Symbolic recognitions of a ‘world in denial’ are the loss of freedom to a linguistic structure of consciousness we call the world. Creative is freely given and received, but a miscreative coercion of mind over felt being (heart-knowing) is a kind of ‘murder’ of true for the feeding off of the forms of reality in distorted meanings for self gratification. But it doesn’t feel like that when we want things to stay a certain way and cling onto them and in a sense worship or get identity there. It does feel like a violation of loss, betrayal in rejection or abandonment when our identity does not find support and reinforcement – particularly where we persist in the sense of rightness that is given to who we think we are – and who the grievance now reinforces as a drive to vindicate, defend or survive.
      I listen and feel for what to right. Thinking hardly comes in – excepting as an intuitive sets of clothes in phrasing forms and conveyance of meanings. But I have no sense of compulsion but love’s free willingness in being. If I mistake myself for someone else, I can experience compulsive thinking of triggered defence. I find that such defences always ‘do’ the thing they purport to defend against.
      Unselfconscious joy in life is essentially thoughtless – and the inhibiting of awareness of the flow of being is the development of ‘self-consciousness’ as a sense of ‘control’ in reaction to overflowing or loss of movement. This overlay of management over feared chaos of imbalance is the sense of segregative self. This is the ‘mind’ of ‘outside forces’. In a sense it is the alien ‘voices’ – because it is the filter of a self-denial.
      The sense of control and the sense of subjection are the same force. The ‘self-justified’ sense of ‘right’ is blind to its own making – because it is engaged in its own taking. But if ‘right’ exists only in contrast with ‘wrong’ then again it is the same force in split view. The release from the split-view is seeing it operating in act – and that means freeing up attention from the compulsions of drama – that becomes possible when it is no longer compelling – as if it goes somewhere you need to follow.
      I feel all experience is about relationships and all relationships first are within ourself. The use of relationships as fantasy gratifications is the making of a fantasy self in place of true honouring. Of course everything falls apart – and of course ‘all the king’s men cant put Humpty together again’ but that is the nature of the split view, given identity and investment. If we start to recognize when we hurt ourself in forms that were old habits, we also release investment and grow new habits by living new choices.
      The old habit may be associated with patterns of security. But breaking ‘free’ from what still supports us, without first growing a new sense of support is to reach beyond our capacity to recognize, integrate and appreciate. To hold the balance points calls for being in touch with more of who we are and this means honouring where we are – and therefore all the stepping stones that have brought us here.
      What we deny will come back to ‘sabotage’ us – unless freely released.
      In struggling with self I got nowhere, but in the moment of yielding to learn from the experience of struggle so as to one day be of help or service to others I had not even met – instantly shifted perspective to a miraculous state of being – in which unity of purpose released all sense of conflicted self-struggle.
      This is the true choice that false framing obscures and yet it becomes a choiceless choice, when the futility of self struggle loses appeal. In the ‘mean’ while all sorts of choices appear to push or pull and the lure of the carrot or the avoidance of the stick, operate some sort of reflection or embodiment to what we are currently believing or reacting as true.
      If anything tells me what to do without being in response to my asking, I regard it as worthy of pausing from reaction so as to check in at Heart. ESPECIALLY if masking as a trojan horse – that is in forms designed to pass off as accepted power or protection of self. A true guide never compels – though of course firmness can be an appropriate intonation to the need to pay attention!
      Pretending that the separation never happened is belied by our behaviours and experience. But pausing to bring it to question in the Heart, is a yielding of the separating mind to align in the purpose of the Heart. No one questions their reality. Something has to stir or wake a perspective upon it – and this may be initially experienced fearfully as demonic or threatening.
      I had a choice; either life (God and Everything) is insane, or I am. But in accepting something out of true in myself (rather than insanity as a guilt-invalidation of self) I opened a willingness of curiosity – despite the fear that at that time seemed overpowering to anything I might think, feel or do. Willingness is guided – albeit within a sense of drama – but the core quality of being is a quality of unconflictedness – regardless the ‘symptoms’ or apparent drama.

      The collective denials of consciousness operate archetypal patterns of a broken family constellation running as a mask over the true desire of being. While it ‘runs our sense of self and world’ we only ‘see’ it in ‘others’ ‘aliens’ and estranged realities as a way of not seeing ourself. It is the fear that feels threatened, not the being. Fear of life and fear of love hides behind dramatic diversion and displacement – but who is the stranger when love recognizes itself in another? Fear may seek to interject to who you are – and you may choose to NOT choose it. This as I see it is my part. To not choose what gets in my own way. Willingness for true of being allows life to ‘do’ through me what I know of myself I cannot do. And so I learn I am not ‘of myself the doer’ – of the movement of being and its recognition or fulfilment. This is a great unburdening release in which a more open channel of learning develops – or perhaps un-learning in the conventional sense – because we open to more by (of what is and who we are) releasing filters of belief that no longer serve us. The attempt to force life into limiting thought is insane and of course wholly incapable of being done.

  7. Abou Ben Adhem
    By Leigh Hunt

    Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
    Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
    And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
    Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
    An angel writing in a book of gold:-
    Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
    And to the presence in the room he said,
    ‘What writest thou?’ The vision raised its head
    And with a look made of all sweet accord,
    Answered ‘The names of those who love the Lord.’
    ‘And is mine one?’ said Abou. ‘Nay, not so,’
    Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
    But cheerly still; and said,’I pray thee, then,
    Write me as one that loves his fellow men.’
    The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
    It came again with a great wakening light,
    And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
    And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

  8. What is the point of psychosis? Well, my theory is this: Our world is ruled by a tiny block of people, who dictate a set of norms which “bigly” accommodate their MAMMOTH dysfunctions. You and I are not among those people. And, so we get tortured with psychiatry, unless we get off the grid BEFORE our “leaders” deplete us. Extreme states are really that simple. Bodies MUST NOT withstand any and all social decay. Nor can societies charge into that decay, unobstructed by the people they’ve destroyed. Psychosis is part of the debt we ALL pay to egotism, intolerance, and sloth. Hassling you was a futile attempt to duck that debt. If you won’t solve a problem, nuke the people who call it out. That’s social engineering 101.

  9. At age 15 I developed an overwhelming intense fear of being in public. I was so intensely afraid of doing or saying the WRONG THING that I clammed up and quit talking in high school. During a typical day I barely spoke a dozen words.

    I still get nervous in public. After 25 years in the MI System I feel like a freak though my “symptoms” are gone.

    (Sicker than a dog because I can’t process food any more. I believe long term SSRI use is responsible for my ruined digestive system. People assume my chronic illness is physical–and it is, though it was caused by drugs used to treat the “illness” created by the SSRI used to help my nerves when I went out in public!)

    I became badly frightened after I started laughing in public. For no apparent reason as far as those around me could see. The reason was very obvious to me though. I was running through amusing bits of dialogue in the novel I’m working on. Very “mentally ill.”

    This diagnosis comes from none other than the Mental Health Czar herself. She talks about a woman she saw. She knew she was severely mentally ill. How?

    1. Poor clothing choice. She wore a trench coat that needed ironing.
    2. She wrote in a notebook. The PAPER kind. Horrors! Why couldn’t she text on her smartphone like a normal person?
    3. She laughed to herself for no reason the self appointed Meddler could discern. Maybe the stalked individual thought the Czar looked like a bug eyed idiot. 😛

    The MH Czar yearns to “help” this literary lady become integrated. Though the MI System has a poor track record at integration. Segregation was the word I think Katz actually meant. 😀

  10. Eric, Eric, Eric. It’s so simple, really. But we humans, especially the better-educated, and the more intelligent of us, always seem to want to complicate things. What we call “psychosis”/”psychotic” is a state of mind that is not rational or logical. So, being “not rational or logical”, we can say it’s “illogical”, and “irrational”. With me so far? Good. Now, how do we UNDERSTAND these illogical and irrational states? Well, we can *TRY* to understand them logically and rationally, but we will inevitably fail to understand them logically and rationally, because these states of mind *themselves* are illogical and irrational, remember? So our only hope of understanding them is to understand them illogically and irrationally. But we can’t do that, because we’re not “mad”, or “mental” or “demented”, or whatever. It is only when we begin to understand that so-called “psychosis” can only be understood illogically and irrationally, that we begin to make progress. Trouble is, all those quack shrinks, and cops, and court staff, and agency workers, are mental simpletons. They are ONLY capable of thinking and understaning in ways that THEY consider “logical” and “rational”, and “psychosis” doesn’t fit in those categories. Ultimately, some experiences just don’t make sense. At least not completely. And we ALL need to learn that, and accept that. That’s only logical, and rational. Screw “AOT”!

  11. I found this article fascinating… as always, this was a day I was to learn more by connecting with a human story… and thank Eric Oates for sharing your story 

    In this article, Eric discusses (from his perspective) a universal truth… people only connect with our ‘public’ expression of our internal world… they only see what is expressed or displayed… and often don’t seek to see any more… especially if they find this challenging for whatever reason… maybe it doesn’t suit their purposes, or it challenges their own worldview…

    Eric describes a rich internal world that is who he is… but with which no-one else connects with or understands… they only judge him on his external or public expression of his ‘self’…

    He describes having life-enhancing inner experiences and insights… of knowing he is nourished, challenged and stretched by these experiences… he knows he is lucky to have such experiences… however, people don’t see how much growth and wisdom he develops because of these experiences… they don’t see *him*… only the (perhaps less frequent, less intense) public expressions of his inner world.. of himself…

    Another aspect of this public/private world disconnect that I often notice is how people struggle by comparing their (untidy) inner world with other people’s (shiny & polished) public selves (our ‘backstage’ with others’ ‘front-of-house’)… social media can intensify this… 

    Eric laments people not seeing more of his internal world… the strengths and wisdom that feeds him… but has also found an admirable self-assured acceptance of himself… again, thank you for sharing

    Where are the curious, accepting spaces where we can meet one another… truly meet one another? Do we need more accessible philosophers, and less psychiatrists?

  12. Eric, I can relate to many of your questions. I encountered the devil and demons and aliens and several conspiracies and one very interesting storyline was that I thought I had uncovered the very most evil thing on earth, which in my case was the uncanny realization, that movie-makers nowadays found a very awkward and horrible way to make their series and movies becoming as real as possible by promising poor and desperate homeless people or drug-abusers (in short the most vulnerable ones) money and fame, if they participate in their movies. But all the violence on-screen would be real and these poor people would essentially be used and slaughtered (e. g. for Games of Thrones).

    I think I was processing the feeling of utter injustice and abuse and powerlessness in a very creative way. And it was influenced by all the things I had seen on TV or read somewhere on the Internet or in books. There always was a true core, in that I mean I was dealing with some sort of emotional experience that I had felt myself and I was reliving it in an exaggerated form.

    Maybe you experienced violence (something felt like murder to you or how you would imagine murder) and you sort of externalized it, saw your own vulnerability in others, and wanted to save them and so on… to give you some pseudopsychological babble…

    Anyways, I know how strange and confusing many psychotic experiences feel afterwards, but you know, at least you see what heroic impulses live in your psyche, regarding the saving the prisoners part. And you familiarized yourself with your easy-going a bit rebellious part, where you just had enough of hospital and decided to take a piss and relax smoking a cigarette. Psychosis in my opinion gives you insight on your very raw personality traits by putting you in a complex story where you cannot think straight but very much act on your spontaneous impulses.

    And yes, it also feels like being fooled into displaying your innermost self in ways that feel like mocking and beeing ridiculed. It might often start as something beautiful like an almost spiritual happening, but in the end it often feels like having been abused by a trickery a**hole demon.

    I personally don’t think psychosis is a ‘good’ thing as I see it as a reaction to something painful. Therefore, it has its place and is something like a last resort for your psyche to avoid deeper damage but it is a desperate reaction and subsequently to look for deeper thoroughly ‘good’ meaning is just not leading anywhere. If your wound discharges pus it is a necessary process but the pus is still rather disgusting. Many things in life that ultimately help (like going to toilet e. g. with cramps) are not pleasureable in its nature. I once called psychosis psychological vomitting, everything came out in a bizarre mixture, some parts still recognizable others mixed up totally.

    But we survived, didn’t we?

  13. Virtually everyone goes literally bonkers every night: visualizes themselves in surroundings that physically aren’t there, constructs and plays out intricate fictional scenarios, becomes more or less oblivious to logical inconsistencies in plot, setting, and character.

    Shrinks used to conjecture about the pattern-recognition-enhancing drugs some of us took back in the 60’s, that these were ‘a model’ of what was called ‘mental illness.’ Of course the (usually temporary) sheer overwhelm we’d experience was nothing like whatever ‘mental patients’ appeared to be going through, but that was no barrier to theorizing.

    And there do seem to be common elements to these states of mind. My best guess (matching something I’ve found among the dogmas of a minor psychiatric sect) is that they feature parts of the mind/brain operating independently of one another. Most of the time, what’s working best is the ‘right-hemisphere’ functions: loosely-fitting metaphoric associations, the sense of emotional meanings, wide-angle views with fuzzy detail. Then there are also dreams in which the ‘left-hemisphere’ elements run off & play by themselves: tightly-structured verbal metaphors that unfortunately leave out the whole larger context. Working independently, these functions can achieve results they’d never reach together (and perhaps never should have) — but making sense of these would require a more flexible focus, a merging of viewpoints.

    Which state of mind is optimal… may depend on the kind of situation you’re faced with. For ‘normal life’, conventional ‘waking’ settings. For emergency conditions, full fuzzy functioning! But can you learn to move freely from one to the other?

  14. What you were saying elsewhere about just writing, not necessarily knowing what was generating the words…

    Anybody who [really] writes much is going to approach that mode from time to time. It’s “you”, making the words and thinking the thoughts as you go along… and it’s also (at least on the edges of) something sacred at work beyond the horizon of your ‘normal’ state. People live between Heaven & Earth; we don’t do well if we lose touch with either.

    Try poetry (if you haven’t.) That’s about metaphor & connections, understanding things by the networks of analogy & relation between them. The better you can do that consciously — or at least, consciously negotiate matters between ‘you’ and the processes at work — the less chance of them whacking you unexpectedly.