An Illness, or Risky Experimentation?


When deciding how to organize treatment for “psychosis” we face a crucial question.  Should we defer to mainstream views and assume that “psychotic” experiences must be part of an illness?  Or should we stay open to the possibility that the confusion and distress we witness may be resulting, not from something wrong with the brain, but from people experimenting with sometimes extreme strategies to cope with difficulties in their lives?  And that possibly the confusion and distress we see is created when people experiment with strategies that may backfire in ways they do not understand at the time?

In this post I will be making the case that psychosis is often more of the latter.  To illustrate, I will focus specifically on what can happen when people experiment with the competing strategies of skepticism and faith.

Being skeptical, or alternatively having faith, are both examples of strategies people use effectively at different points in daily life.  But like a lot of strategies, they can also backfire.

Black and white illustration of a flying origami bird with a giant realistic bird for a shadowSkepticism involves being able to encounter evidence for something, yet not believe it.  So we might read about something in the newspaper, or hear about it from others, or even see something with our own eyes, but yet not believe it is real or at least not be sure it is real.

This is a very helpful strategy when we are exposed to misinformation or partial information, or to sensory illusions or dreams, etc.  Of course, it’s not so helpful at many other times, such as when someone is telling us the truth, and we fail to believe them or to act on it in time.  Then skepticism backfires.

Faith it seems is an opposite strategy.  Faith involves our ability to believe something in the absence of evidence or even when exposed to evidence that the belief is wrong.  So we might hold onto a belief that our partner is loyal to us even when confronted by evidence that suggests they are cheating, or hold onto a belief that our business will succeed even when the initial financial reports are dismal.

This is a very helpful strategy say when our partner really is loyal and when it only appeared that they were cheating, or when our business idea is sound but is just slow in becoming profitable.  It isn’t so helpful when our partner really is cheating, or when our business idea is hopelessly flawed.

What I’m proposing is that there’s always a tension in our lives between these two strategies, which are designed to meet opposing yet equally valid needs.

One the one hand, we have a need to need to be able to question our beliefs and to be open to disconfirming evidence, so we can avoid continuing to believe what is not true.

On the opposite side, we often have a need to hold on to beliefs in things that are true—even in the face of apparently disconfirming evidence.

But because they are opposites, a dilemma arises.  How are we to know when and where to focus on having faith, and when and where to instead practice skepticism?  Certainly there are “sources” we might turn to which would tell us, or habits we could follow, but when and where should we have faith in those sources and habits, and when and where should we be skeptical?

One proposed solution to this dilemma might be to define mental health as having just a moderate amount of each:  a moderate amount of trust or faith in the media and in other people and in our senses, combined with a moderate amount of skepticism about each of those things.

But I would argue that it’s more complex.  Some situations call for more extreme or radical forms of faith, and/or of skepticism.  We need to be more extreme to find the truth in some situations that are tricky or where a lot of deceitful evidence may be present.  Such situations may exist either for some natural reason, or due to the functioning of a misguided culture or a conspiracy, or all of the above.

For example, imagine the situation of a person who is being told by everyone they know, and by the media, and by mental health professionals, that their depression is due to a lack of serotonin in their brain.  To handle that situation well, this person might have to have very strong faith in their intuition that the depression is more a reaction to life events and psychological processes, and to maintain a very firm skepticism about all the social pressure to believe in the chemical story.

One thing I hope you notice in the above example is that there is an interplay between faith and skepticism.  To strongly hold faith in some belief, we need to develop strong skepticism about the evidence that contradicts the belief.  At the same time, to be strongly skeptical of some evidence, we need strong faith or trust that we can be OK while disregarding the evidence.  That gets harder to do when the stakes get higher.  An example illustrating such a difficulty was a study where many people would refuse to drink from a beverage labeled cyanide, even after they had been told by the researchers that the label had been applied just to test their reaction to it.  It seems they weren’t quite able to doubt or be skeptical about the label when their life was at risk if they were wrong!

As we proceed in life, we are constantly comparing evidence from our own experience with opinions and evidence offered by others in our social world, and then developing ideas about what to believe in and what to be skeptical about.  At times, this process can lead us down an unhelpful path, where we get stuck in beliefs in things that aren’t true and being skeptical about things that are true.  To get in touch with what is really going on we might need to radically question what we had been believing, and to develop some new belief and then hold onto it even in the face of pressure inside ourselves and from others to revert to a prior point of view.  The ability to make such changes in our understanding, or paradigm shifts, could be framed as a kind of superpower.  It’s an ability, a feature of our minds, not a defect.

But these same abilities can also lead us into a lot of trouble.  They must be used with great discretion to avoid catastrophe.  Without that, we might be doubting everything and lost in uncertainty when we might better be following previous ways of thinking, and we might be holding firmly onto radically new conclusions that we would better off questioning.

One curious fact is that psychosis first occurs disproportionately in people who are in their late teens or early adulthood.  A possible explanation for this is that this is because the ability to have radical skepticism and radical doubt first develops at this time of life.  Just as many types of young mammals go out seeking their own territory at a certain age, humans at a certain developmental stage develop an ability to have an independent point of view, an ability to possibly see things very differently than how everyone else is seeing things.

But a problem can be that these abilities typically emerge when the person does not yet have the judgment to use them wisely.  Traditional tales like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice illustrate this kind of situation, where a useful power becomes a big problem when someone does not know how to use it correctly or to stop it.

In thinking about this I’m drawing from my own journey.  As a child, I was abused at home and extensively bullied at school, plus I was gay and my community didn’t like that.  This led me to have a sense that I was an inferior person, and others around me seemed happy to confirm that.

But there was still part of me that wanted to believe I was OK, or even great!  To shift to seeing things that way I had to deeply question a great deal of what I had previously experienced and learned from my interactions with others.  So questioning is what I did; but once I started questioning so much of what I had learned and of what my identity had been, it wasn’t obvious to me where I should stop.

We are often told that schizophrenia is an illness where people lose their sense of self, and their sense of a stable world.  But I don’t think we talk enough about how such a breakdown can be a strategy like it was for me, an attempt to break free of a sense of self and world that feels or perhaps is inadequate.

One question worth asking is, what happens to our mind when we radically question everything?

It seems we lose our ground, we lose our stability.  We can’t trust the media, we can’t trust other people, we can’t trust our memories or our senses.  Everything is in doubt.

Where are we then?

A sort of nowhere place, in a great void or question mark or cloud of unknowing.  Tumbling in an abyss.

And in a sense, we also seem to be everywhere, because now anything seems possible, anything might be what is “really happening.”  Including anything threatening.

Bertrand Russell stated that “Skepticism, while logically impeccable, is psychologically impossible, and there is an element of frivolous insincerity in any philosophy which pretends to accept it.”

Because the loss of a definite world and of an intersubjective sense of reality due to extreme skepticism can be so intolerable or impossible, it’s a common reaction to then go to the opposite extreme, where we grasp at something to believe to give us stability.

But then the danger is that we might grab too firmly, and have faith in the wrong things.

We know that in addition to lacking a sense of self and world, people diagnosed with psychotic disorders often have excessively firm ideas about themselves and the world.

Paul Lysaker once asked someone with a fixed belief why he held onto it so strongly.  He answered, “it keeps the vacuum from sucking away my brain.”  It seems he was afraid of that emptiness we can encounter when we question everything.

Experimenting with radical forms of skepticism and faith can also lead to inner divisions, conflict, and confusion.  People might become skeptical of their own thoughts for example, and start wondering, are those thoughts being put there by someone else?  Or skepticism might lead to such a lack of clarity about what to do that when voices emerge that do propose a clear direction, the person might put radical faith in them and act on them without further consideration.

But now let’s consider how the mainstream mental health system typically interacts with people who are struggling with these dynamics.

It essentially tells people to be radically skeptical of their own mind and subjective reality, of their own process of skepticism and faith, and to frame what is unique in their point of view as just “mental illness.”  They are pushed to use drugs to reduce the intensity of their independent thinking.  And they are asked to radically trust the professionals and others around them to have the correct point of view, even when that strongly contradicts the person’s own perceptions.

This isn’t balanced.  It asks people to be mentally passive and to give up on the possibility that their own mental process might be headed toward important truths even when those thoughts and perceptions contradict the viewpoint of others around them.  There’s something healthy about resisting the demand for such a surrender of any faith in oneself!

The emerging dialogical approach, fortunately, is quite different.  It doesn’t ask people to have extreme skepticism toward their own unique point of view, and such faith in the view of others.  Instead it embraces uncertainty and polyphony, which includes the notion that the truth is usually too complex to be held entirely in any one way of viewing it.  So there is skepticism about the notion that any person or voice or point of view has a lock on the truth, while also faith that each voice or way of looking at things has some value.

I believe that when mental health professionals take a more balanced or dialogical approach, then people they are attempting to help have a better chance to find a new balance for themselves.  With such support, the whole process of going mad has a better chance of becoming something more like a renewal process, or a process of revolution that has a chance of leading to something better, as illustrated below:

We should not be surprised when sometimes young people lose faith in the views of the world they have grown up with and inherited, and with the sense of meaning that they have developed up until that point.  There may be something in those views or that sense of meaning that they just can’t stomach anymore, or they may start sensing and believing in the existence of things others don’t acknowledge.  They leave a shared intersubjective world, or simply don’t believe in it anymore.

They then enter a middle stage, where they may be exploring extremes and often bouncing between opposite strategies.  Radical skepticism may have them in some way lacking a sense of self or a coherent map of the world and, alternatively, radical faith may have them hanging rigidly onto a fixed sense of self and of the world even when that doesn’t work well for them.

At this stage, they may seem lost, and “mentally ill,” and those around them may feel their only hope is to convince the person that they are ill and that they should suppress their own views and surrender to the viewpoint of others.  But if this happens, the renewal process is aborted, and the person is left with a sense of having a defective mind.

The saying “when you are going through hell, keep going!” applies here.  When we interrupt a person’s radical experimentation and attempt to reimpose an old order, or to have the person frame their own process of breaking away from that order as nothing but illness, people end up in a disabled state.  Professionals and family members might hope the person could just go back to being like they were before, but there may be no going back.  Instead, the effort to stop the process leaves the person stuck in something like a calm place—in hell.

I suspect one of the reasons why psychosis may then so often “reoccur” is that being stuck in this way eventually becomes intolerable, and the person’s mind again makes a break for freedom—resulting in more chaos.

What is important though is that there is another option.  With the right kind of encouragement and support, a person can keep the process of experimentation going, and then often work through their confusion and find a new balance, at a third stage, a stage of return.

In this new balance, they retain their new ability to be radically skeptical of established views and to have radical faith in their own ideas, but they also become able to use some discernment about when and where to invoke these strategies or superpowers.  They learn to balance the possible value of breaking away from established views, with the possible value of going along with them and thinking more conventionally.  One way of putting this is that they learn to bring their “mad” views into dialogue with more conventional views, a dialogue in which those mad views are still valued, but not overvalued.

This is the return stage of the hero’s journey, where the person comes back to their community typically bearing gifts that resulted from the journey.  These gifts can be new understandings and views that may benefit themselves and possibly that can be shared with and revitalize their community.

And our society does very much need to be revitalized!  Sadly, what passes for sanity in our society is often not very sane.  I’m always reminding people of what my friend David Oaks says, that “normal people are destroying the planet.” And while the process of experimenting with radically different views is dangerous, and often leads to distress and unhelpful views and confusion, it is a critically important process for “questioning normality” that we suppress at our peril.

The better option is to recognize the value of the process, but also find ways to avoid its pitfalls, by keeping the experimentation and the dialogue going till we find something better.  One thing that would facilitate this would be creating widespread recognition that it is a process of experimentation, and not an “illness” that needs to be eliminated.


Note:  This post is based on a talk given at the ISPS International Conference in Perugia earlier this month.  ISPS conferences explore new ways of understanding and approaching experiences seen as “psychosis.”  The next ISPS-US conference, November 4-6, 2022, will be a hybrid, with options to attend online or in person in Sacramento CA.  Discounts for people with lived experience, and some scholarships, are available.  Early Bird prices end 10/4/22.  For more information or to register, go to this link.


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. Ron, as soon as the party walks into the office of any kind of a therapist and opens their mouth to speak, they are selling themselves out, setting themselves up to be treated as suffering from an illness.

    What they needed to have done instead is some self inventory and then begun the search for political comrades, people who want to change objective things about the world.


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    • Hi Joshua,

      I agree with you that we all need those comrades, people who will join with us in changing things about the world that need changing!

      But unlike you I also see value in people talking about their minds and emotions, and even paying people to help them sort out that kind of stuff when they are especially troubled. I have found it helpful to go to a therapist, and I work as a therapist and it seems to help some people. I agree that it doesn’t help to frame the problem as an illness, but just seeing that our minds and emotions can be tricky and we can use some help with them is enough to justify having something like therapy at times.

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      • You talk to the people who are your comrades, the ones whom you fight shoulder to shoulder with at the barricades.

        Paris, 1871

        And so you think there is value in talking to a psychotherapist, and a government licensed therapist no less. Well what are their qualifications? And what are your qualifications?

        Were you there in 1954 with Võ Nguyên Giáp, as he cut the airstrip and then disregarded the Chinese advisors and turned Dien Bien Phu into a siege campaign?

        Are you a member of the Irish Republican Army?

        Do you have flattened knuckles and knife and bullet scars?

        No, then what can you possible offer your clients except being someone who hears everything they say as evidence of defective thinking?


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        • Hi Joshua,

          My sense is that everyone’s thinking is defective to some extent, my own included, we all have only parts of the truth, and are mistaken in some ways.

          There’s a Zen saying I heard once, “Open mouth – already a mistake!”

          At the same time, there often are truths worth fighting for – even while it might be unclear where any “barricades” should be.

          I see value in dialogue, in people talking things through. In my view at least, it isn’t all about fighting, a lot of it is developing the discernment to have a sense of what battles are worth fighting and how. It’s OK if I can’t convince you of that, but I just want to be clear about how I see it.

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          • But why is the therapist someone whom anyone should ever disclose their affairs to?

            In a civilized society the approved way of redressing wrongs is the Civil Court. And to advance a case there you will probably want a lawyer. The therapist is not a lawyer. They do not even have a law degree. And therapist client privilege is much weaker than attorney client privilege. The attorney knows how to build a case, the therapist doesn’t.


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          • “And therapist client privilege is much weaker than attorney client privilege.”

            Which possibly explains why the State was prepared to fuking destroy me for complaining about the release of my medical records by their ‘confidential informant’ at the Private Clinic where reports are prepared for the Courts.

            That really is quite a resource when you think about it. Give the psychologist with a Masters degree a call and she will give you all the information you want about a certain Member of Parliament or the wealthiest man in the country….. because she has ‘public sector immunity’ and they will “edit” reality which is justified to protect their unlawful ‘source’.

            Seems a little unfair when the potential to corrupt the Courts is clearly present, and it is a fundamental breach of their duties to the justice system but ……… these are people with a Machiavellian attitude towards their work.

            Putting the questions police would like answers to in the hands of ‘mental health professionals’ and looking the other way while they extract the answers seems somehow …… justified. It would be called something else if they didn’t have the status of “Outpatients”. Dr Selwyn Leeks use of an ECT machine on the testicles of teenage boys considered ‘treatment’ by definition.

            Oh, and the ‘clients’ at the Private Clinic doing the legal medico reports? They don’t have a right to know their medical records are being compromised and released should anyone want to know what’s contained therein? Oh that’s right, they will accept the word of the criminal releasing the files that they aren’t doing a lot of it….. mainly because that reality suits their needs…. for now.

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      • Ron,
        A now classic text, and it explains this better than I’ve seen anywhere else.

        They explain that psychiatry and psychotherapy convert your experience of injustice into a medial problem and a self-improvement project.

        And isn’t this already obvious?

        And their ability to do this is based on what power they have over you.


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  2. “There’s something healthy about resisting the demand for such a surrender of any faith in oneself!”

    And there’s something truly disgusting – and possibly satanic – about a group of scientific fraud based, DSM “bible” billing, lunatics … who believe demanding “surrender of any faith in oneself!” … is mandatory, “help.”

    I, for one, had to choose faith and belief in myself … after my psychiatrist chose to declare my entire life to be “a credible fictional story.”

    Sorry, but those who disrespect their own clients enough to “demand for … a surrender of any faith in oneself!” Honestly, I think such self proclaimed “helpers,” must be controlled by Satan.

    I never understood your back story, Ron … until now. You and my son have a lot in common, thus I hope you will understand why loving moms stand against child abuse, and the industries that systemically cover up such crimes, by DSM design.

    If you can’t bill for a systemic problem, then the problem doesn’t exist? No! The problem of child abuse does exist … even though no “mental health” worker may EVER bill ANY health insurance company to properly help a child abuse survivor EVER.

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    • I agree with you that the DSM does a very poor job of framing the problems caused by abuse, and the link you included touches on many of the problems. But I don’t think that prevents any mental health worker from ever being able to provide adequate help to survivors of abuse: there are lots of therapists I think who just find a code to bill in the DSM, and then they ignore the DSM and focus on doing what is needed to facilitate healing. Of course there are also lots of people in the mental health profession who are doing lots of things wrong, but it seems to me it’s a bit mixed.
      One other point: while I agree with you it’s terrible for mental health workers to ask people to give up all faith in the integrity of their own minds, I think it can be helpful to do something along those lines that is more limited, and that is to ask people to consider the possibility that they might be making some mistakes, to maybe have less faith that they have everything figured out correctly. This is easier when the mental health workers have a dialogical approach, because then the mental health workers are also modeling that kind of uncertainty about their own views, and everyone can join in being human and fallible.

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      • Ron, the issue is not specifically what is considered abuse. It is what is considered normal and mandated. It is the nature of the middle-class family, people having children so that they can use them to give themselves an adult identity, and then finding the child to be defective.

        Maybe the parents are driving the child to the doctor. With adults it is schizophrenia. With adolescents it is bipolar. With younger children it is autism. Maybe the parents are driving the child to the doctor. But may the child is not exposed to white coats until they are old enough to be driving themselves, but it still amounts to a secularization of Original Sin.


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  3. Ron, I think if I had sessions with you I would come home feeling greatly uplifted and at ease.

    However, you would not cure my illness with your fine words. I too have fine words and my schizophrenia spits on my go at curing myself.

    There is a problem in using words like depression or schizophrenia if we do not acknowledge that there are as many different kinds and severities of depressions and schitzophrenias as there are individuals who have them. My illness is SEVERE. People may not believe it since I am erudite. But that would be to credit intelligence as a cure for craziness whereas I think intelligence is more likely to cause madness, but clever people like to think that learning educative lessons innoculates them against becoming an fool, something the mad are deemed to be.

    Where was I? Oh yes, severity of conditions. I have schizophrenic pals who only have minimal delusions or hallucinations and these almost annihilate them, and I have schizophrenic chums with terrible onslaughts of delusions and hallucinations who fair okay. My severe hallucinations are a form of relentless all day torture. If it is me doing that to myself why on earth would I? And for twenty harrowing dreadful years? No! I am not at fault for what has become of me.

    I DO like your faith and skepticism model though. I think it is beautiful. But not “for” me. Someone else. Though do keep developing it.

    Imagine a hallucination of a second sun. You look up in the sky and there it is. Faith has not put that very very real hallucination there. A hallucination feels exactly like the reality of the solar disc. A person is not skeptical of the sun, or needing more faith in the sun. Some “realities” are unquestionable. So it is for me with my severe schizophrenia. I feel a tactile touch and it feels as real as the solar disc is real and the moon and the stars. I do not skittishly work on having faith in such phenomena, nor doubt, nor skepticism. The reality is given to me as a “given”. My torment is “given”, I do not use it as a coping strategy. It is not at all like the willed decision to stop eating as a strategy in anorexia. Some person hallucinating on LSD does not “use” the hallucination of a gigantic singing beach ball as a coping strategy.

    To be fair you might have inroads in the realm of delusions as coping strategies. For instance I am convinced that a “being” inflicts the hallucinations of tactile sense upon me. Perhaps my colouring in book coping mechanism unconsciously chose a “being” to be my nemesis, and chose it with rash certainty. I am trying to put more skeptism into my delusion but it feels to me like building another delusion out of bits of normal, a clunky unfamiliar narrative is what I try to superimpose over my habitual assumption. I believe agnosia is a real thing, just like an LSD tripper thinks they are normal, and the agnosia around psychosis often prevents a person with psychosis from knowing they are.

    I shall say no more, mostly because I like what you are offering. I like your way of keeping up with the mess that psychosis often leaves in its wake.

    Imagine two groups. One group has depression for vague reasons. The other group has depression and they are being beaten up by a domineering family member. My schizophrenia is like this second group. It is no good treating just the coping strategies in depression without attending to the tyranny that non stop hallucinations are. And because hallucinations are like LSD hallucinations but never endingly so, and because they feel as “real” as the solar disc beaming in the sky, they are impossible to fix. Alls you can do is apply comfort. It is like epilepsy or chronic pain. The wish is for euthanasia.

    I do not want to seem churlish. Your plan is genius. Do keep on with it. Will it help severe psychosis? I am not sure.

    I have a lovely nurse and he brings me medication. He sits for a while on my green chair and asks me innocuous homey questions. We pass the time like this and then he is gone. Take away the medication and JUST have him come round to chat to me while I am trying to do embroidery, medication free, which is something I shall be free of soon enough, and his simple ordinary companionship IS my medicine and IS my therapy. His inability to foist any cure on my incurable hallucinations is his more or less bravely saying…

    “I cannot help you”.

    How I love it when people just BE with me in my own lonely helplessness like that.

    It’s like being a solitary Martian on Mars and discovering….

    another Martian.

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    • Dreams Ron. I want to talk about dreams. Not nocturnal sleep dreams but ambitions, sense of purpose, sense of being a gift bearer returning to the hostile tribe, sense of mission. We all need dreams. Over many centuries our little dreams have been local and unthreatening as proposals to “change”. Bystanders either like the little dream or walk away. But since the instituting of the global internet suddenly a person’s tidy local dream can be backed up by a massive online army, all braying for instant complience with the dream’s proposed changes. This turns the little dream into an instant nightmare for the many, many, many online who prefer their own little dream. So what used to be “a good idea” or “a healing dream” that a person wants to see prolifferate and prosper and become a force of goodness for anyone soon seems a coerced nightmare for everyone, since the internet artificially draws in that “army” crowd factor. Soon the dainty little dream of one person gets beaten down lest it “spread” like a “bad dream”. This huge global state of fright is occurring now to EVERYONE who gazes at social media and sees a million different competing dreams. The sense of being imperilled by nightmare “dream crushers” or armies of “dream mockers” is a fear related to the way the internet’s “reach” has turned people into tooled up “dream defending” militaristic generals with comments like ammo.

      It becomes impossible after a while to settle back down into the realization our forefathers had, that a little local dream is an essential thing that needs encouraged and is seldom harmful. To be human is to dream deeply of how to improve life. But due to the way hatred is amplified by the internet all of our different little dreams get deemed “threatening”.

      No dream is ever very threatening. Dreams are a medicinal soother. We are inclined to want to share our own unique little dream, since dreams make us happy and since happiness is shared. But because humanity now shares dreams all over the globe because of the internet, such that a dream can be in Moscow and Vanauatu and Trinidad in a click, this generates thousands of potential supporters or thousands of potential haters to our each little dream. In time we become defensive stompers on any one else’s dream, as if flattening specific weeds in a wild flower meadow.
      But none of that violent crack down on competing dreams is necessary. The world is vast. Over 24 thousand miles in circumference. You can have your wonderful dream and I can have my wonderful dream.

      What I am saying is that having a heartfelt dream every day is powerfully healing. Bullying is something quite different. People bully due to fear, fear of an army of haters on social media who will not tolerate their little local inspired dream. A dream is a vision. Bullying is a force that can swamp that vision. As a force it is not the dream. What I mean is that ALL dreams are mostly innocuous and healing, even politically extreme dreams. Dreams help us feel balanced. But bullying a dream onto others or foisting it or demanding that the dream be the only dream taken seriously is erosive of “free choice”. Without “free choice” a human cannot access a feeling of caring and compassion and love.
      The way the internet itself has become a montrous big bully of anyone’s tiny little bright spark heartfelt vision IS the problem and not the multifarious dreams themselves.

      The cripple always sees the extent to how indoctrinated an an army is becoming on the pinnacle moment of societal change, because the cripple cannot wave a flag nor follow the protests and marchers and so the cripple looks like the enemy, even though they have done nothing wrong. Attacked for having done nothing wrong, the cripple becomes a sudden mirror to the utopianites.

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    • You bring up a lot of points and I won’t address them all, but maybe a few of them.

      I agree with you that there are as many different forms of mental problems as there are people, and just knowing the DSM category of your problem is very limited information! And I agree with you that having intelligence is little defense against madness, it can happen to the most intelligent.

      You bring up the problem of things “feeling real.” A big problem in the mind is when to believe our feelings, and when to be skeptical of them, and to see them as just feelings that may have no relationship to reality. A key skill is learning to be open to and accept all our feelings while developing the discernment to only be persuaded by them when there is good evidence for their accuracy. So we might “feel we are being watched” – that’s just a feeling, we still need to figure out if it is likely related to a situation where we are actively being watched, or maybe just a feeling of strong self consciousness that we can learn to understand and soothe.

      Minds are of course much trickier and more complex than anyone is able to articulate in a blog post. I think people are not to blame for getting tricked by their minds, but they always have opportunities to learn how to recover from being tricked. One book I would suggest that can help with this is Relating to Voices using Compassion Focused Therapy: A Self-help Companion by Charlie Heriot-Maitland & Eleanor Longden, see

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      • Thankyou Ron for your response.

        Can you feel you are being watched? I say you cannot.

        You can feel a feeling like scared.

        Then the analytical thinking mind scans around in the environment for a logical reason, such as an assumption of being watched. Being watched is a behaviour.

        To say…

        “I feel THAT I am being watched”

        is not a feeling but a thought. Feelings are close to thinking but they are not quite the same thing. Our feelings are interior states like fear or sadness or joy. To use a feeling to begin an outward action requires executive thinking. Decision about how to act and why. You may feel scared and then your thought tells you a valid or preposterous reason why. And sometimes the mind reverses over your feeling by telling you that you should not feel scared, but that mind instruction is not the raw feeling either.
        Feeling an authentic feeling like “scared” is always reliable and true. The logic or thought or reason that your mind comes up with by way of an explanation, like being watched, may be bananas and quite crazy. It may have no basis in reality. There is an “isness” to feeling a raw feeling that is like the reflex upon touching a hot stove or a block of ice. Your feeling is nobody elses and ought not to be judged by a critic, even an internal mind critic. Feeling a feeling is an inward state and not an outward behaviour. Thinking prompts the outward acts of behaviour, based on the mind’s assumption about being watched.

        Well, that is how I have come to regard this topic. My way of seeing is not to everyone’s taste. Though maybe we ought to celebrate having a mix of many philosophies. I could prattle on but my intellect is slumped in slovenly torpidity from being lazy at this point in time. And I am more interested in befriending than arm wrestling. The angels often humorously say to me…
        “What do you want? You can be right…
        or you can be love”.

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        • I get what you are saying about how “feeling that I am being watched” is not proper use of the term “feeling” even though it is a common way of talking. (And it’s not that much different from saying that something “feels real” as “real” is also not a feeling.)

          Someone might also say “I strongly sense (or intuit) that I am being watched” or “I just know I am being watched” – it kind of means the same thing. It’s interesting that if we start questioning some of what we sense as real, if we decide that our sense of reality may be unreliable, that brings into question other things we might sense as real, and there may be a question as to where we should stop, or if we should stop, in that process of questioning!

          I’m certainly not offering any fixed answer to these questions, just suggesting people and societies can find a lived answer to them, an answer they go with until it is time for a change, a renewal. I do hope you find something that works for you, I believe it is possible!

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  4. There is not a single word of “body” in this article.

    I do not necessarily disagree what is being said here and there is something to admire about the breakdown of the mind but unfortunately without a body (at least in this life), there is no mind.

    So it is important to note skepticism or faith or lack of them, one must actually believe one thing and use that as grounding – the corporeal! The body is much more richer than the mind and can pull us to the ground when we fly away!

    The reason we lose our minds is we lost connection to the corporeal which is often communicating with us much earlier before we go poof!

    Just my opinion. I do not have a link to support – would that be a faith? (-:

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    • It’s certainly interesting to think about the role of the body in madness, and the role of being out of touch with the body, but I don’t think it is simple. Often being in touch with the body is a good thing, but the body is also where a lot of trauma memories live, and people can feel trapped inside trauma inside the body, and want to get out of that. Going to other spaces, other worlds, can be an escape from that, but as you say, we can then get so out there we lose our minds, and getting back to our body can be necessary.

      I think there’s some value though to be found in getting out of our body and out of our minds, though only realized once we also come back – it’s the dialogue between going out and coming back that has perhaps the most value.

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      • Ron, we are a society governed by a body of laws, and these include civil court precedents. But far too often these laws only help parents and the powerful to abuse those who do not have power.

        What does the psychotherapist do to ameliorate this?

        Here through legal and legislative activism Jeff Anderson stands up for victims:

        His efforts have recovered billions of dollars on behalf of survivors, and he has bankrupted Catholic dioceses.

        A lot of this comes down to lifting statues of limitations. These are tracked here:

        CHILD USA CEO Marci Hamilton on SOL Reform

        And now one case where family conflict was brought into the court room was Rachel Channing, Morristown New Jersey

        New Jersey student who sued parents returns home

        The parents did not like Rachel’s boyfriend, and so they said they were not going to pay for her college or high school.

        So she ended up living with the family of a friend. And the father, an attorney, was the one who encouraged a lawsuit. The attorney who handled this Tanya Helfand was a family lawyer. And there are things in New Jersey law which made it more likely that this lawsuit would succeed, like a requirement for paying the child’s college costs after divorce and beyond the age of 18. But these parents were not divorced.

        The Family Law section of the ABA watched this suit extremely closely as it could have changed a lot of things. But the suit failed badly, the judge was so ridiculous, and of course the jury never saw any evidence, and Rachel ended up having to do a Mea Culpa in the court room.

        The father, a former police chief was accustomed to getting drunk and extremely inappropriate with Rachel. And the money the parents spent on their legal defense was vastly more than what Rachel wanted, just high school and a college she had already won a scholarship for.

        Okay, this case is over, but the issue is far from over.

        But I ask you Ron, what help does the psychotherapist offer, and do they even try to follow case law? And so isn’t the psychotherapist just conning the client by even getting them into the office and disclosing their personal affairs, so that it can be turned into a self-improvement project?


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        • A psychotherapist, whatever their value, is not an attorney and is not required or expected to follow case law. It does not follow that a psychotherapist is conning anyone, though clearly some of them are doing so. Many people report improvements in their lives following therapy. How do you account for such people? Are you simply dismissing them as dupes because they don’t fit into your preferred narrative of reality?

          I’m not a big fan of psychotherapy, especially when it serves as a handmaiden to the DSM and the psychiatric “mental health” drug-and-pray paradigm, which much of it does these days. But there have always been people with a particular ability to listen and be present for others who are seeking to make sense of their lives. Not too many attorneys are any good at this, but some of them are, too. So are some friends and acquaintances, doctors, dress makers, etc. Just by the odds, I’d say more than a few therapists must fall into the category of people who are good at listening and can help people sort out what direction they want to go with their lives. Just because YOU don’t value that kind of assistance doesn’t mean it’s not helpful to anyone.

          I think it’s important we not fall into the trap of deciding what is right for other people. That’s the biggest problem with psychiatry, when it comes right down to it. It tries to force its views and actions onto other people without any concern for whether or not these things are actually of any assistance. I hope you will see that viewpoint and stop trying to tell everyone else what their experiences are supposed to be, instead of letting them decide for themselves.

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          • “the DSM and the psychiatric “mental health” drug-and-pray paradigm”

            Standing at the alter in front of the Big Pill lol

            “I think it’s important we not fall into the trap of deciding what is right for other people.”

            Now there’s some good advice. If I want to leave someone who is prepared to plunge a large carving knife into my chest because I said “no”, it might be best that ‘mental health services’ keep their noses out of it and NOT feel there is a need to arbitrarily detain and torture me.

            A functioning individual who had a hard time at work, gets through it with assistance of a good psychiatrist, and some average therapists, comes across a vicious abuser who feels that the money I was compensated with actually belongs to her, and will unlawfully release my medical records to her husband (a Shock Doc) to extract that money with electricity. That failed in my instance though I’m certain I wasn’t the only one with whom they tried. The vulnerable tend to be targets for such parasites.

            My refusal to remove my sign (see Jeff Foxworthy re the shark bite suit…. hold on to my sign [“i’m stupid”] coz I wouldn’t want to loose it) and have the ‘treatment’ upsetting for the clinic psychologist who was Shang-Hai ing ‘clients’ from the private clinic once they had been ‘paid out’. Nice bread and butter jobs……

            Point being that I was ready to return to work, and as result of the need to check if my decision to leave my wife for attempting to kill me was ‘rational’, I haven’t worked a day since….. in 11 years. Never a single day off because of ‘psychological issues’ in the previous 30 years. Nothing until smeared with the stink of mental health services. Nor seen my family because of the need of the hospital who did the job for ‘them’ to “fucking destroy” anyone with a valid complaint…. confirmed in the unredacted documents which are concealed via delays and obstruction of justice

            I suppose the disposability of humans was made very clear to me in the E.D. Euthanasia Laws with after the fact due process, and “edited” legal narratives for those bleeding heart liberals and advocates who don’t have the stomach for it.

            Did you hear the laws in China have the potential for human rights abuses? A bit like their ‘potential for damage to reputation and meaningful relationships’ when they turn up at your home with Police and ‘detain’ you in front of your family for your ‘potential illness’ which tends to appear with the injection of enough anti psychotics to lay an elephant out for a month.

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          • Not being an attorney, a psychotherapist is not required to follow case law.

            But if they could still get away with it they would still be telling people that they are fantasizing when they talk about childhood sexual molestation.

            Today that could violate mandatory reporting.

            And if they pooh pooh legal redress, they could be interpreted as giving legal advice, bad legal advice.

            A lot of what psychotherapists used to do is no longer legally tenable. So they are effected by case law. Probably they are kept abreast of it by their insurance carriers.

            But are they conning clients? Well when the client ends up in the office, what are they believing they will find? I would say that it is that the therapist somehow knows a great deal that they do not, and that the client’s own thinking can be corrected.

            But the premise of this expectation is unfounded. Usually it will have been the client who has lived life further out on the margins. They know more how to live when your legitimacy is under attack. The therapist, on the other hand, is a licensed member of a respected profession, so I would say that it is unlikely that they could know anything of benefit to the client.

            Now sometimes in the administration of the affairs of juveniles, therapists will get called in to be the decision makers. And I am not challenging this. I do not see it the same as just advertising for psychotherapy clients.

            For the same reason that I am objecting to psychotherapy, I also raise objections to Philosophical Counseling. This later diverges from the ideas of Freud, as it did when both Sigmund Freud and Edmond Husserl were both students of Franz Brentano.

            What I question in it is that these fee charging counselors are not actually comrades, but they want you to disclose your affairs to them.

            Okay, but I have never suggested that talk therapy be outlawed, merely that we no longer allow or government to license it. Adults should be able to talk to and give money to whom every they wish.

            Guys pay prostitutes do listen to them. This is known as “emotional work”. I am sure that many find it beneficial and I am not pooh poohing them.


            But I still think it best if you can build or join a group of comrades who are fighting for the same objectives as you are. And it is from these comrades that you learn the most, and it us with these comrades that you would likely most want to talk about yourself and your own affairs.

            Then your issues are not seen as pathology, but rather as collective injustice which people are working to redress.

            Political action often draws diverse comrades:


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          • I think you are still making unfounded generalizations, as if you can read the mind of all therapists, and as if all therapists have the same thoughts and intentions. This is obviously untrue. I think it’s possible to make generalizations about psychology/therapy as an industry, but individuals have different experiences and individual therapists are a VERY diverse group.

            I’m not making apologies for the horrible state of affairs that exists today. I’m just saying that you can’t know what every therapist is thinking or intending, nor can you judge the experiences of those who employ them as being invalid or unhelpful based only on your own subjective opinions.

            I am wondering – do YOU personally have experience with therapy?

            I’m also with you on political action being necessary, and I hope we can get organized enough to make it happen.

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  5. p.s.

    ….not that angels pontificate over comments and demand everyone be love. To make no demands is often the loveliest thing. Angels are undemanding, and even the “free choice” to be loving is regarded as a “choice” that can be politely declined according to the angels.

    Some people cannot rustle up any love, many for understandable valid reasons.

    For the angels anything goes except these three things…child abuse, bullying, cruelty.

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  6. “If the Party could thrust its hand into the past and say of this or that event “it never happpened”,—that, surely, was more terrifying than mere torture and death” Orwell 1984

    “Or do they say, “He is possessed”? Nay, he has brought them the Truth, but most of them hate the Truth.” Holy Quran Surah al Mu’minun ayat 70

    I live in a place where the State is “editing” legal narratives to make what they prefer to be the truth, fact. They remove the human rights abuses of public officers and replace that version with their ‘due process’ preferred truth, and then viciously attack anyone who disagrees with them. In some cases having little ‘accidents’ with their ‘problems’.

    Sure I understand your skepticism on my truth (I’ve heard the “they wouldn’t do that” and “It never happened” justifications on many occasions) but do you think it might be best to check the facts first? What were the consequences of neglecting that duty? ewwwww ugly. I note they stopped counting with Dr Harold Shipman at just over 200. Police being the only people in town who didn’t know what he was doing. (I had a police officer tell me “It might be best I don’t know about that” when I explained how to harvest the morphine for the ‘job’)

    Okay, so Police retrieved the documents proving the arbitrary detention and torture before sending out the “edited” reality, and then I turn up with the ‘unedited’ version??? (to a lawyer who tells me “I thought you were mad, but you’ve got the proof”).

    Hypocrites abound when the State prefers a truth, and ‘advocates’ and ‘doctors’ are prepared to conspire to ensure that this is the only reality available. They will even utter with known forged documents rather than admit to the truth….. because their methods of arbitrarily detaining and torturing citizens (and “editing” them out of existence in the Emergency Dept should they dare complain and have the proof. We do have Euthanasia laws and ‘after the fact due process’ document “editing” services) is “not in the public interest”. An obvious cover to use ‘hospitals’ as places to conceal human rights abuses, and didn’t those who wrote the Conventions know it. Police providing the questions, and ‘doctors’ the chemical koshes and electricity to loosen the tongue (ala Frantz Fanons “elegant method of overcoming ‘resistance'”)

    See, in my ‘faith’ ‘we’ believe that someone is always watching over us. The people concealing their vile conduct disguised as ‘medicine’ (easily done by making anyone you want to torture and kidnap into an “Outpatient” and calling police to ‘assist’) are actually the delusional ones. Which I’m sure they found out after they were so rudely interrupted when trying to execute their plan for an ‘unintended negative outcome’ in the E.D. Thinking that either no one was watching, or that those who were would support their breach of the commandment though shalt not kill…. except when it is convenient to do so, for the sake of a preferred “edited” truth.

    Noah was mad until it started to rain.

    I’m glad that someone took the time to ‘spot’ what ‘they’ were going to do to me for speaking the truth and not being a ‘patient’ before they ‘spiked’ me and subjected me to an ‘acute stress reaction’ and some vicious gaslighting. Because the criminally negligent public officers who have ‘alternative methods’ available to assist in their cover ups would have seen me dead, and the Coroner rubber stamping the ‘unintended negative outcome’ in the E.D.

    Sometimes not being skeptical is a choice best made while those who would threaten and intimidate your family do what it is they feel a need to do. The proverbial ‘blind eye’.

    But I take your point Mr Unger. My only means of survival was to become ‘someone else’…. to reinvent myself as the abuse I was subjected to by the State (“we’ll fucking destroy you” was the comment from the Public servant who ‘investigated’ the matters when I tried to complain about the offending) became increasingly unbearable (mock executions by Police, threats to rape my grandchildren ….. yeah yeah, I know “they wouldn’t do that” and “It never happened”. Hi to Martha Mitchell)

    They DID do that, and they simply concealed the motive for doing that by retrieving my medical records from me. Which brought a whole new meaning to the comment by our Fuhrer that “we’re all in it together” during covid lockdowns.

    Man plans, God laughs.

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  7. My experiences of psychosis are nothing that I regret. I regret surrendering to treatment more than the experiences. Were their risks? Absolutely. Did I learn something? Absolutely.

    I have seen a world of colors and found value in looking at fellow human beings are people who are all on this planet in 3 day spans of time, if only they have drinking water. My perspective on mental illness has changed completely. I am not insane, I am a sane human being who has the potential to swing anywhere on the spectrum of cognitive embodiment from body ⥨ (self-other) to self ⥨ (body-other). Homeostasis is (self/body) ⥨ other. But this world requires us to be (self/external body) ⥨ (internal body-other) because we wear clothes and we groom ourselves. I think of this as nurture state, with the nature state supporting reproduction largely to the exclusion of everything else.

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