October 10 is World Mental Health Day.
Although there may be a genetic or biological predisposition to acquire the “schizophrenic trait” of expanded experience, it is really only allowed full expression in the willingness to learn about the unconventional. This willingness alone might be enough to acknowledge and engage in the little gateways that reside naturally in the universe to an ever greater and expanding experience.
by Alex Sonnenschein
This is the deal: The word schizophrenia stems from the Greek root words for mind and split/fragment and was originally intended to describe a “fragmented mental condition” or the “splitting of the mind”. The idea was that the “personality loses its unity”, in the words of Bleuler who coined the term.
The flaw in this perspective is one and simple. Think about a numeral system that contains four symbols for its total representation. Bleuler is stating that those four numbers are the definition of a whole system, when in fact a definition of a whole system would have to include infinity (for there are infinite numbers of possible whole numeral systems, from the unary [1 symbol] to the decimal [10 symbols] and beyond, along with infinite combinations of those particular symbols in each system).
Bleuler assumes that his personality – which of course has been construed over many generations of acculturation and reinstated by his peers who had been under the same effect – is the standard for which to evaluate any and all form of thought and behavior. Of course, one has to validate their own personality, no matter what it is and how it has come to be. However, with this approach he is nothing short of stalling the progressive development of culture altogether (perhaps he had already inherited this inclination) when projecting his own need for reassurance as he encountered those sparking novel personalities that suggested such a radical reform for the rigid structure therein established.
Again, I will use the analogy of the numeral systems. Say Bleuler’s initial configuration of thought, his conceptual vocabulary reinforced by a defensive and self-preservational cultural continuity, were analogous to a numeral system composed of the symbols 1, 2, 3, and 4. If, for example, an individual approached him – or another that was on par of this particular mode of operation – and expressed themselves either substituing one of the four symbols (1, 2, 3, 4) for another or adding a new symbol, that would be incomprehensible to the carrier of this particular quadruary system. Here lies the key, instead of simply acknowledging that there is another logical system being used which eludes instant recognition, the conclusion remained that there was misunderstanding, or even worse, dissonance, between each part of the system being presented.
Bleuler states: 124
“Patient” states: 125
Bleuler concludes: Nonsense, lacking in coherence and capacity.
Of course, these statements that I refer to are not only words. They are full concepts. It is not a simple matter of semantics but rather of epistemology. The concepts contrasted might have indeed been similar to each other, but because there was use of an unknown symbol, the best assumption made by Bleuler could only be that that symbol was only really a distortion of one that he himself knew (2 has some characteristics of 5 in its form, but in reality they are entirely different for a user of the decimal system).
One could go further even. The contrasting concepts might be completely disparate. The first case, in which the concepts are somewhat similar, only raises confusion to the keeper of the status quo because of an unknown symbol. This is way less of a nudge to adapt and learn than when an entire foreign concept, built upon symbols either known or otherwise, is introduced.
In this sense, to deny the significance and validity of experience and information (whatever it is, or wherever it is coming from) because it is not recognizable or requires a push to be associated with previous information is hopelessly stagnant and impermissible for a true lover of knowledge.
The point is that folks usually diagnosed with schizophrenia are really only tapping into information that the ordinary citizen has no immediate and empirical access to. In other words, these individuals singled out with schizophrenia see MORE, hear MORE, feel MORE, taste MORE and smell MORE than the so-called “healthy”. Because their range of experience is so greater than what is assumed and postulated by conventional knowledge, communication becomes a struggle when individuals that do not carry the “schizophrenic trait” of expanded experience elect themselves as unbending authorities because of the long maintained status quo, without any willingness to learn from the novel and be part of it. After all, stepping down into an honest and humble position of learning student is really affronting to personal control and power, especially when your experience is apparently much more limited (or inhibited) in comparison to those that are super-sensitive.
This is not really true, however. Although there may be a genetic or biological predisposition to acquire the “schizophrenic trait” of expanded experience, it is really only allowed full expression in the willingness to learn about the unconventional. This willingness alone might be enough to acknowledge and engage in the little gateways that reside naturally in the universe to an ever greater and expanding experience. When folks tap into this unharnessed stream of information, either spontaneously or diligently, their experiences are often brushed away by others as a glitch or malfunction. For those that pursue it deliberately this usually comes off as disrespectful and somewhat disappointing. Those that just happen to manifest the ability usually fall into apathy, depression or withdrawal. The continued repression of the expansion of experience, therefore, leads to misunderstanding, conflict and suffering, only aggravated by the insensitive and immoral judgment that the next glaring step for (at least cultural) evolution is nothing but a disability.
When I use the word super-sensitive I don’t mean to say fragile. We have the custom in our culture to think of a super-sensitive person as someone that is weak and “can’t take” whatever burden another believes to be righteous. I say super-sensitive only because, in fact, the senses (in totality many more than the 5 usually mentioned) are enhanced by many and varying degrees. What causes despondent or aggressive behavior in these super-sensitive individuals is merely the education that we are given and return. There is no appropriate frame in our current cultural model of education from which to acknowledge and curiously examine this new range of experience and allow for it to develop, therefore the instinctual drive to socially bond tends to cause the super-sensitive individual to deny themselves (or others) as the social experience hasn’t taught them how to approach their experience or the relationships between subjects with varying experiences in an inclusive manner.
If at any time you cannot understand what is happening or what is being conveyed and it seems way beyond limits or prudence, please refrain from disregarding or approaching it as erratic nonsense. That is blatant and ignorant arrogance deriving from the notion that intelligence and order of the universe is finite and contained in your tiny experience that is reaffirmed only by other select individuals like yourself that will agree (forcefully or not) to bid your fancies. Acknowledge that you do not understand and that it is YOUR sole responsibility to keep up with the unsolved matter – not through punishment, not through reinforcement, but through continuing learning, free-gifting and free-receiving of constructive meaning. Genuinely acknowledge your confusion as an opportunity to increase your knowledge and not simply to maintain the temporary stability of your survival.
Bottom line: the schizophrenic knows more than you if you are an empiricist. And if you are not, what business have you in medical diagnosis and rehabilitation? I would very much appreciate engaging in serious logical conversation on the matter in hope of developing the logical conversation and understanding between people of different experiences. With all this being said, I grant that I benefited greatly from every single part of my path so far, including stigmatizing, hospitalization, administration of anti-psychotics and so forth. Grateful as I am, I still see space for improvement and am willing to delve further into the details of my experience in the world of so-called Schizophrenia.
Alex Sonnenschein has American and Brazilian dual-citizenship, born and raised in Rio de Janeiro and now living in California. After several years of exploring the varieties of human experience, through geographical and psychological travels he is now off to get his degree in Cultural Anthropology at UC Berkeley. Experiencing Depression since his early teenage years he was eventually diagnosed with Schizophrenia in his early adulthood. His life-long project is to understand and improve the relationships of humans among themselves and as part of their environments, taking into account old and new knowledge that promotes sustainability in its many forms.
If you would like to contact Alex email apsonn @ gmail.com