Monday, December 5, 2022

Comments by greggieboy

Showing 11 of 11 comments.

  • LOL, I played at being the second coming for a while, with the voices I hear, simply as an alternative response to having to constantly reject them.

    The point is that voices made many other connected claims that made no sense in their entirety. One also claimed to be god. Then the devil. Then an evil god. In theory, those can all be true at the same time, I guess, but it didn’t lend credibility to the idea of me being the second coming.

    It was about voices dumping a heavy responsibility on me then making it impossible to live up to let alone keep up with their demands. The idea isn’t independent of the big picture context and progression of the experience.

    There is nothing symbolic about the voices I hear. They have a persistent and systematic approach to undermining my success. There is a structure to the phenomenology, to how it encourages or lends plausibility (not provenance) to particular themes of belief and there is a structure to the stories they engage us in. I tackle this story structure in this video if you are interested to hear more:

  • Yes, I think we can say that the “voices” phenomenon is what it is… an ultimate truth as you put it, even though we do not yet know what it is.

    Beliefs are relevant in that not knowing what ‘it’ is, we have a proliferation of beliefs about what the phenomenon is, how it occurs, what the implications are (which we confuse by asking what does it ‘mean’?).

    For each individual, and culturally, our beliefs about the phenomenon shape our experience of it. As you put it “Beliefs only influence the entity who holds them…” and I would add, if expressed culturally, that means an entire culture… and adjacent cultures with opposing/conflicting/different beliefs. The effect of belief easily spreads beyond the one who holds it, because the resulting behavior/tolerance/acceptance spills over.

    People readily hold inconsistent beliefs about the phenomenon and believing one thing today and another next year is quite ordinary. So beliefs are even more open to updating than scientific ideas, precisely because we lack joined up evidence… and each new experience may update belief.

  • As an engineer who hears voices, one of which claimed to be god, asked me to rewrite the bible and declared me to be the second coming, like it or not… then became an evil god, I take a much more practical and less philosophical view.

    Trigger warning: beliefs are a touchy topic, which does not mean we cannot challenge them.

    The phenomenology I (and most other voice hearers) experience goes beyond ‘voices’. It has ‘supernatural’ (as in not yet explained) qualities (intent, clarity, direction, personality) that provoke the question “How is this happening?”. To which the answer is most likely to be commensurately supernatural… lending plausibility to the idea of an interaction with an ‘other’ entity… and therefore beliefs about what/who is delivering the special effects of the phenomenology. ‘Spirit’ interpretations being very common.

    Plausibility and provenance are not the same thing and we seem to miss the fact that a how question is leading us to what/who answers by INFERENCE, or by what voices claim (which is also without provenance). We easily look to cultural beliefs as a source of ‘evidence’ for our answers, since that brings a level of acceptance (vs acceptable logic), if not always comfort.

    We develop beliefs precisely because we lack evidence with provenance… and people experiencing similar phenomenology reach different who answers in the what = other or ‘spirit’ world theme, based largely on the behavior of the voices we hear. It goes without saying that we do not know what or who the voices are… and when they claim to be god… I take it with a tub of salt, especially when ‘it’ behaves badly and later claims to be the devil, then an evil god.

    In practice, I experience the phenomenology as a given, a presence that is a fait accompli about which I can do nothing. It behaves badly. From which I am more likely to describe the thing as a ‘demon’, because that is common language in our cultures – it is a behavioral descriptor. If it behaves well (really, the mere presence is disrespectful and discounts that interpretation in my book) we might call it an angel, or someone we know… which are simply different hypotheses that only have meaning in beliefs, not fact. We associate angels/demons with an ‘other’ world, which is described in many ways as inferential beliefs proliferate. To bring it back to basics, when someone tells me “it is my grandmother”, I ask, “why don’t we all hear grandma?” – it cannot be that only certain cultures do.

    Some manage to use the idea of “faith” to RATIONALIZE a difficult experience as having value – a spiritual crisis or emergence (which is it?)… a sign of a greater good to come. This is our cognitive bias helping us form an optimistic view of life. We are attributing good to a bad experience based on a belief, without provenance. In fact we are dismissing the evidence, the bad behavior, and describe the bad as good to fit our belief. It is the equivalent of scavenging value from bad experiences, saying “at least I learned xyz”.

    Which is why the opposite happens just as easily. When your culture believes that spirits intervene in our world and that some spirits are evil… then those beliefs easily confirm a person’s worst fears. Instead, the person, healer or tribe simply rationalize why the person is being attacked by an evil spirit. Here in S. Africa as just one example, ‘healers’ will perform rituals to ward the evil spirits off. Or, will cast a spell on an enemy, for a fee of course. Before dismissing this kind of belief system as ‘superstitious’, note that it at least takes the experience at face value… even if it confirms worst fears.

    In practice, our cultural beliefs are a source of support, rather than evidence. When the cultural belief is opposite to the experience, or confirms our worst fears, or expects us to transcend the experience and interpret as good, it aggravates rather than helps the situation.

    So, for the person in an African tribe who believes another tribesman has sought out a healer/witchdoctor to cast a spell against him/her… worst fears are confirmed in the belief system…
    Or, when I am declared the second coming to a god who claims to be evil and backs it up with torturing phenomenology… and my support group believes in a loving god, our beliefs are in conflict…

    We are both trapped in a Catch 22 – people around you cannot help and appealing to voices/spirits/god is an appeal to the abuser, who laughs and mocks, saying “no one will understand”. Neither the casting of spells nor prayer are good options.

    We have more evidence that this phenomenon is harmful than we have to support our wishful beliefs that it brings good. The experience is what it is. When we describe it using the language of beliefs we are adding murkiness not clarity, especially when the belief system gives agency and influence to the phenomenon.
    Calling the experience a spiritual emergence when it is experienced as a crisis… seems little different than blaming a psychiatrist for attaching a diagnostic label that does not gel with the experience.

    We are unlikely to find broad agreement at the level of beliefs. Beliefs are a component of the experience shaped by the phenomenology in quite predictable ways by the questions the phenomenology provokes. Our how answers locate the phenomenon, our what/who answers are inferences from that and our assessments of implications are inferences from inferences… as the quality of the evidence chain decays beliefs proliferate.

    More often than not our beliefs are in conflict with each other. More so when they are about and derived from this wicked phenomenon.

  • ‘Acceptability generally increases when a label catalyzes immediate support experienced as acceptable to the person receiving services’ is almost there. I think we want to know what we can do to improve our experience of life and minimize the consequences of the ‘condition’ as well as catalyze support in doing so.
    We might be able to think about general terms that help people position themselves on a recovery continuum in a way that gives them a sense of agency and progress. In my own version of this idea I use a four box matrix with quality/intensity of experience/distress on one axis; and impact on my story on the other axis… with a Hi | Lo rating on each. The four boxes are rest, rehabilitate, recover and rejuvenate. So, an episode of psychosis say would be Hi on the intensity scale and Lo on the story impact scale and rest is indicated… to get someone into a good space to consider their options. Hi intensity and Hi impact indicates rehabilitation, or that therapeutic work is required to work through issues in the mind. Lo intensity Hi impact shifts the attention to ‘my story’ and recovery in a social context where engaging with others is what brings results. Lo intensity Lo impact indicates the rejuvenation techniques such as mindful appreciation, to bring back enjoyment. The ‘my story’ model I use has five simple themes for self evaluation. Instead of labeling the person this idea is intended to bring attention to the type of effort which will show progress along a path to recovery and connect that to sense of agency. In each of the four R’s we can identify success factors, to talk solutions rather than problems – so much on mental well being is in how we phrase the outcomes we are trying to achieve. Current diagnostic labels tend to box us in to a static concept (supposedly contained/suppressed by an Rx) instead of helping move us along. I talk about it here in the context of hearing voices where we can act to create better experiences and prevent the recurrence of psychosis:

  • I use NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) to create good experiences in the mind and achieve good outcomes in life. The way NLP works is to help people use information to wire the brain for results.

    The brain interprets our world, helps us find actions that we can take to mediate our way in the world; and measures outcomes against expectations. Our expectations are set automatically, unless we deliberately take control of that process. In time we will learn to measure ‘satisfaction’, the ratio of perception/expectation, where a perception that is better than expectation generates positive energy and a positive reward signal progression.

    The brain seeks out predictability, agency and security in the outcomes that we deem possible and plausible for us to achieve. We have to think about the brain in functional terms – how does it help us thrive, individually and as a species? We will learn to measure this epi-genetically – a record of our gene expression.

    The brain is neuroplastic – stimuli change the connections we make. Good ‘flow’ – the progress from stimuli to outcomes is something that we can proactively improve, with the knowledge of a handful of techniques. The question is, how do we learn to measure the critical ‘success’ factors?

  • This is a really interesting article. The idea of creating the conditions for success makes enormous sense.
    I studied Neuro Linguistic Programming in the business world before I began to hear voices. I applied it to myself to create good experiences and achieve good outcomes. I have adapted the basic techniques of NLP and mindfulness in a suite of six simple mind strategies to prevent the recurrence of psychosis and make the need for anti-psychotics unnecessary.

    A basic NLP technique is to interrupt an undesirable train of thought and replace it with another – used to create new ‘programs’ or healthier thinking habits. The interrupt pauses the frame of reference that a stimulus calls up, the replacement deliberately (mindfully) calls up a frame of reference representing a desirable outcome – essentially reframing the train of thought to achieve a different outcome.

    “Voices” tend to exaggerate our perception of problems in themes where they are very busy – our cognitive bias seems to be set by voice behavior, or rather, our emotional response to it… and we ‘see’ situations in a negative light because we project that emotion onto the real world situation.

    Sensitivities often develop around ‘busy’ themes. I mapped mine against my goals – then addressed them systematically in the interrupt/replace, effectively as a form of exposure therapy. I find it best to move toward voice threats to prove them wrong and reset my cognitive bias to the real world, rather than from the emotional response to voice aggression.

    We can apply the same ideas to prevent distress:
    1) I play through the important events in my day in the shower in the morning. I figure out the success factors, minimize the downside potential to discount voice exaggerations of risk and consequences of things going wrong.
    2) I have an emergency plan in case of a severe attack… just HAVING a plan is enough to make the idea inconsequential. At worst I may take two days of tranquilizers – I have had the need only once in 8 years or so. This isn’t ‘relapse’ – it is barely a blip in my story at worst.

    Since voices exaggerate drama and/or try to create the impression of impending drama, we need to work to counter that. Focusing on creating the conditions for success is the best way to do that:
    – in the mind, by owning the reaction/response to voice stimuli (creating good emotions that help us see straight)
    – in life, by shifting the frame to what we want to do to achieve desirable outcomes (the success factors).

    We can form healthy new habits in the mind surprisingly quickly – and we can also create the conditions for success in this endeavor.

  • The same problem exists within the hearing voices movement. People have been disrespected, their experience has been dismissed. Unfortunately that has led to a desire to be seen as ‘normal’, on a ‘diverse’ spectrum – and people often defend experiences that are not pleasant at all and certainly not valuable. To me it removes agency, in much the same way that the bio-medical model does.

    We can employ simple mind strategies to create better experiences in the mind – I use a combination of Neuro Linguistic Programming and mindfulness, techniques I used before I heard voices. They are very successful at preventing psychosis – delusions and extreme states… an ‘alternative reality’ I would not wish on anyone.

  • Surely we go to mental health ‘professionals’ precisely because they have knowledge that we do not – the knowledge gap is what we expect them to fill, in a way that helps us.

    To me, the problem is more that the knowledge provided is such a mismatch to the experience, that it is not relatable and makes no sense to the customer. Worse, there is no ‘accepted’ alternative source.

    As a result, in large part, we don’t feel heard because our description of the experience is dismissed technically, more than paternalistically, I suspect.

  • “Imagine the person in front you is not mentally ill, you’d be curious about how they got hurt” and I would add “or what is going on in their life to make them angry”. Sarah, that sums it up so well.

    The beliefs we have shape our understanding (the evidence we entertain) and the questions we ask. Psychiatrists have been taught to organize ‘symptomatic’ behaviors in particulars ways and use the tool they have – the prescription pad you mention. This is their (professional) belief system limiting care – though I doubt they see it as limiting.

    We can change our expectation of what we get from them – I think you’d get a better outcome for the scenario you paint from chatting to a psychologist, most of whom are trained to help us work through our feelings, often without the need for a diagnostic label. Ordinarily that’s a choice we can make.

    The problem lies in how the system has given psychiatry (the profession, not the individuals) all the power… in defining what mental illness is, in defining who “suffers from” a particular group of behaviors that are “out of range”, in shaping the care plan… and the insurance money mostly flows from that. This power is at it’s worst when psychiatrists are able to force care on people… based on this skewed professional (therefore supported) “understanding”.

    Anger is usually a response to EXTERNAL stimuli/situations in which the person feels helpless or unable to act to achieve a desirable outcome. Our drive system has an outcome in sight, but is frustrated in achieving it. Anger happens when the situation ‘makes no sense’, is ‘outside my control/influence’, is bigger than me… or when something happens against my preferences/will, when I have a right for my preference to be considered, especially if this happens repeatedly. It is a product of something getting in the way of our ability to act and gets worse when we are unable to vent our frustration/anger at the source/cause of it…

    I hear voices – one of which is just an irritating pain in the a&&, an irritation that escalates to anger over a period of about a week or so, by which time I just want to yell and swear at her. So I do. I go outside, find somewhere that I can yell without disturbing others… and pace and yell for a minute… come back inside and get on with my day as if nothing had happened. In time. it has almost become amusing – I laugh at myself having to do this, but it works.

    Anger produces chemicals that require activity (fight or flight) to disperse them. Find a safe space to yell. Recognize that you are doing it only to vent for a minute… the source doesn’t go away (it usually doesn’t, that’s the point), but at least I can acknowledge my emotion and disperse the chemistry that goes with it.

  • Hi Jay, would you care to comment on the relationship between genetics and epigentics in this regard?
    I ‘hear voices’ which to the brain are stimuli that gain significance and steal mindshare. (in fact, the unusual stimuli presented in the phenomenology extend to much more than heard voices) .

    Regardless of their origin, my brain/body produces an emotional reaction, my mind (exec function) tries to respond to that and find an interpretation as it assesses the implications. These transactions are wiring the brain. The competing stimuli (they compete with ordinary, everyday stimuli) change my perception of whatever I am busy with or thinking about because they provoke a reaction/response. Depending on how I interpret them, they change my concept of self and my concept of the world (and my frames of reference that make up my concept of the world).

    I posit that this relationship between my concept of self and how I project myself and my perception of opportunities into the world is what makes up epigenetic expression. I would expect psychosis to affect the expression of my genes, since the anomalous stimuli are enduring and competitive.

    This turns causality on it’s head – I say voices are causing psycho-social issues… and that we may be able to measure it in how our genes are expressed. Which may add to the confusion of genetic studies.

    Your thoughts? Be well, Greg

  • There is a well known practice that already does these things – neuro linguistic programming or NLP for short.
    It’s the information flowing through the active circuits that matters… information (we take it in from our habitats) ignites the circuits. If we can process an input toward a desired outcome, we feel good.
    NLP simply says we can interrupt the flow of information at any time:
    – ask ourselves what we are trying to achieve? (framing the outcome we want)
    – ask ourselves how we might get there…
    … and so on.
    Asking questions changes the information we process.

    The information we take in produces our emotions and trains of thought. Our initial reaction is a given based on our accumulated experience, the train of thought that follows is the part we can shape. NLP encourages focusing this on a desired outcome, deliberately… and make it a habit.

    The brain circuits that are activated are a by product of the information flow, which we can direct ourselves. With practice, we can light up our reward circuits positively… and wire it in as routine.