notes and curl my back to loneliness.” _Maya Angelou.
Truth! Perception? What is Really Perceiving Itself. Inside You?
Thoughts of reference characterized the days after my cathartic moments in front of the mirror on that Sunday morning in 1980. The music album “This is the Moody Blues,” drew me in with a particularly rapturous attention, its haunting lyrics and melodies seemed to be written just for me, with perfect references to my new life situation. Most definitions of such altered perceptions suggest, “Ideas of reference and delusions of reference involve people having a belief or perception that irrelevant, unrelated or innocuous phenomena in the world refer to them directly or have special personal significance; the notion that everything one perceives in the world relates to one's own destiny.”
“I'm just beginning to see, now I'm on my way.
It doesn't matter to me, chasing the clouds away.
Something calls to me.
The trees are drawing me near, I've got to find out why.
Those gentle voices I hear, explain it all with a sigh.
I'm looking at myself, reflections of my mind.
It's just the kind of day to leave myself behind.
So gently swaying through the fairy-land of love, if you could just come with me and see the beauty of. Tuesday afternoon.” _Justin Haywood.
I remember sitting on the grass out front of the house listening to the above song on, you guessed it, Tuesday afternoon. The lyrics seemed exquisitely relevant to this particular Tuesday, as I basked in a new sensory awareness that made my previous work a day concerns seem utterly superfluous. The luxury of just sitting there on the grass could not have held more delight if I’d been sitting in a warm tropical stream listening to the birds of paradise. My whole sense of being alive was transformed it seemed, making my previous feelings for life seem like some sensory desert, where I’d been dying of thirst. It felt like life had not really touched me before this, as if there had been some invisible force field blocking all the sensual vibrancy I now so clearly felt. I remember thinking that I’d just mimicked being alive before these new days, as if I’d been reluctantly drudging through the motions of how I should be. The lyrics of “Melancholy Man,” found particular resonance with my life experience and those secretly held feelings of being special;
“I'm a melancholy man, that's what I am, all the world surrounds me, and my feet are on the ground. I'm a very lonely man, doing what I can, all the world astounds me and I think I understand, that we're going to keep growing, wait and see.
When all the stars are falling down, into the sea and on the ground, and angry voices carry on the wind. A beam of light will fill your head, and you'll remember what's been said by all the good men this world's ever known.
Another man is what you'll see, who looks like you and looks like me, and yet somehow he will not feel the same, his life caught up in misery, he doesn't think like you and me, cause he can't see what you and I can see.” _Mike Pinder.
It felt like this song had been written especially for me, a sad outsider with a paradoxical sense of concern for the future of the human race. I was brought up in the wake of the second world war, the East, West divide and the threat of a nuclear holocaust, yet I’d long felt that we’d already lived through the biblical Armageddon and that the age of Aquarius was already rising on a tide of mass education. Long before this first experience of psychosis I’d held such biblically referenced and spiritual interests without knowing why. Much later I would come to understand the brain’s primitive neural mechanisms of attachment and bonding, of separation distress and music’s uncanny ability to resonate with the frequencies of electro-chemical stimulation of our primary needs. In the years that followed music always played a part in my episodes of euphoric psychosis, even though the seat of its affect is completely hidden from external observation, and beyond the mind’s objective interpretation.
that may acoustically resemble separation DV’s (distress vocalizations) - the
primal cry of being lost or in despair.” (Panksepp, 1998)
I spent the rest of that Tuesday thinking of ways to create a world without money, an equitable utopia of love, happiness, mutual understanding and respect. My conviction of a real spiritual event in front of the mirror grew stronger, as I sought a future purpose for its crystallize its meaning. My sense of certainty was aided by a continuing feeling of wellness and ease, honestly I’d never felt better in my life before this, never felt so self secure. Such feelings of good health would become a warning sign of approaching manic episodes in the following years of coarse, feelings I would come to distrust as symptoms of a brain disease. Yet I always held troubling concerns about this curious early phase of hidden nervous system reactions, in response to a stressful life challenge, an existential trigger? And why during these episodes was always drawn like a bee to honey, towards poignant lyrics in such melodic music like the album, "This is The Moody Blues?" Otherwise known as the existential rock band.
|Our Clockwork Universe Logic?|
Early life events affect the mind boggling complexity of our interconnected brain/body systems in ways our age old cause and effect logic is ill suited to comprehend. Back in 1980 I understood the simple mechanics of cause and effect like everyone else, sensing cause as my prayer to God and its effect as the extraordinary shift in sensations that followed directly. How I wish I’d understood the nature of this false clockwork paradigm back then, the simplistic thinking that is far more rationalized reaction than insightful reasoning. How I wish I’d understood the powerful impression that seeing objects out there in the external world has on our objective, cause and effect reasoning. Perhaps if I’d been brought up in a Buddhist tradition I would have sensed the unspeakable reality within, and not amplified these energies of nervous system affect with the sympathetic resonance of musical vibrations and the electro-chemical frequency stimulated by my compulsive thinking. Alas, in 1980 I knew nothing about the evolved role of my autonomic nervous system's, sympathetic and parasympathetic branches, in unconsciously organizing my behavioral responses to life, including my madness states of mind.
of one resonance system to enlarge & augment through matching the
resonance frequency pattern of another resonance system.” (Schore, 1995)
'I need you!' I said, without the slightest hint of pleading hesitation, a surefooted statement no doubt enabled by my new self-belief, some three days after my cathartic moment.
'I’ll come and pick you up,' I continued with an obvious expectation.
'Ok, I’ll get ready,' was her reply. I put down the phone and reflected on the previous three days. The conversations with a close friend, discussing earnest conversations I’d had with myself about the wonder of my new appreciation for life. My heightened senses had brought such a buzz to my thinking, and an increasingly consuming desire for a purpose to my life beyond the mundane reality of work a day existence. What the buzzing thoughts glossed over though was the inner urge to pick up the phone and call my wife, how the mystical buzz and musical accompaniment sustained an escape from heart felt pain, and the primal challenge of isolation and group exclusion. I drove past the church top blue neon cross with a growing sense of it being my cross, as I headed towards the inner city suburb of Marrickville.
It was late on a Wednesday night when I picked her up, a simple honk of the car horn outside the single fronted terraced house she’d grown up in. Within two minutes we were on our way back to the marital home, with me talking excitedly as I explained all that had taken place since her dramatic exit. Not long after we arrived home the second most potent affect of my new state of being made its presence felt. Sex! In manic states my sexual appetite is unusually high, as is my sustained performance, insipid premature ejaculation problems were suddenly banished, as if I were indeed, a new man. The passion of our re-union after the uncertainty of separation climaxed in a simultaneous orgasm that was as compelling an experience as that moment in front of the mirror. Wow! Wow! Wow! Life just kept getting better, and this night was an absolute first for both of us. Further more, I slept for the first time I could remember since the previous Saturday.
The next day I slipped further into a daydream existence though, as I fed my thirst for these new positive sensations with thoughts about developing a new philosophy of life. I basked again in the experience of a natural world I’d been somehow disconnected from. I spent time working in the front and back gardens, warmed by both the sun and the afterglow of our orgasmic experience, blissfully listening to the birds sing on what felt like a whole new dimension. In the late afternoon my best friend called by to see me and we ended up at his Aunt’s house discussing the religious aspect of my experience again. Over the period of an hour or so I argued strongly for my feelings that we are entering the practical phase of creating the heaven Jesus promised, via the global rise of mass education. I’d spent the afternoon fantasizing about writing a book to re-interpret the new testament, and the lessons from Jesus life, like his early thirst for knowledge. We talked about the everyday experience of happiness and the dilemma of real needs versus superfluous wants, which led to me describing the simultaneous orgasm of the previous night. I was trying to demonstrate the comparative qualities of object derived versus spontaneous organic pleasures and joy, venting my lifelong frustration with the amount of life energy invested in inanimate objects. This led to the most dramatic gesture of my rising mania, as I grabbed a knife and held it out to others while suggesting I could die happy after the experience of the previous night.
The incident with the knife seemed to mark a shift towards irritability though, as my dreamy wistful thinking ran into the constraints of daily reality. The following day I became very concerned about memories of an action that was contradictive of my new found sense of spirituality. Early in our relationship my wife and I had engaged in the abortion of what would have been our first child. Looking back with hindsight I can understand how fatigue from the lack of rest started to ring a negative tone to my constant thinking. The previous concern for spiritual joy shifted towards spiritual guilt and how we could possibly make amends for what we‘d done. I’d been against the abortion that my wife, who was then my girlfriend had been so determined on. I’d wanted to follow a family tradition and get married young, setting up home for the big happy family I secretly yearned for. Alas she was petrified of telling her mother and I conceded it was entirely her choice, her body.
On this particular day though, I was haunted by guilt, frustration and anger, the abortion act epitomizing the sense of loss that had been such a palpable feeling throughout my life. Anger started to tone my thinking, particularly about the secrecy that had surrounded our decision and the don’t talk about it agreement since. I was angry that such an important life decision had been so influenced by childish fears, and if I’d really connected with God, then how could I reconcile my culpability and guilt. Later that night these feelings culminated in me brow beating my wife into disclosing our secret to her mother, during a telephone call. I remember being fixated on being truthful, perhaps feeling it to be some kind of redemption as we reveled our dark secret. As my wife spoke to her mother, admitting that she had been afraid to speak to her about the pregnancy, I wrote on the wall in the second bedroom I used as an office. It was like a Moses and the ten commandments moment, as I wrote on that wall preaching about the purifying affect of recognizing and speaking the truth. Looking back, the rational content, the thoughts and spoken words, are misunderstood by our "I think therefore I am," interpretation of the behaviors of existential concern? Its movement, not mind, which signals the true context, a desire for open approach, by an organism shut down and closed, by traumatic experience.
There was a palpable relief for both of us when this disclosure was greeted with far more acceptance and understanding than expected, confirming my sense of new beginnings. The thirst for a new approach in my life seemed to be seeking a new emotional atmosphere with friends and family, as I continued my daydreams of future purpose. I bought some books about Jesus life, with notions of re-interpreting his story projecting my fumbling interpretation of my own unconscious needs. Away from my self stimulated states of euphoria and their musical enhancement though, hushed toned concern was building amongst immediate family members. The incident with the knife became the focal point of “what’s going on with David,” telephone calls between my wife, her mother and my parents.
Exactly one week after my mystic moment, my parents turned up at our house accompanied by my paternal Grandparents, who were visiting from the UK for only the second time. Enabled by my dreamy manic state I greeted my family with open armed effusiveness, having cast off the weight of my previous reserve. I still remember the extraordinary scene of both my mother and father backing away from me with suspicion in their eyes. Of coarse being manic I was keen to talk about my new experience, wanted to establish a new atmosphere of open hearted freedom between us. Just as in my youth I pursued a dialogue with parents while the woman who had nurtured my childhood sat in the lounge room. I was taken aback by what seemed to be preconceived expectations of what I might do, knowing nothing of the conversations about a knife and the probable exaggerations.
Frustrated and exasperated I walked into the lounge room where I was overcome by the urge to embrace my Grandmother and tell her that she had been the only mother I’d really known. I remember hugging her tight, shocked by the spontaneous intensity of such a heart felt embrace. I remember that for a second at least, time seemed to stand still along with my Grandmother’s heartbeat, and the instant rage my words evoked within my watching mother. Was I not just being open and honest, was this not the very root of my disconnection with life. The chasm that exists between myself and my mother is a generational theme of emotional cut-off, running river like through our lives. Unconsciously I had brought it to a head in that open armed embrace of my Grandmother, the truly heart felt hug that eludes my mother and I. In a perfect world, a family therapist would been present to guide us through the pain that stimulates cut-off reactions, and erects unbreachable walls between family members. “I’ll see you in Hell before I forgive you for this,” she said as I followed her out to the car, while pleading for conversation and a stay of execution. Alas, painful reactions will always overcome a mountain of rationalizations and I was still decades away from the insights that could articulate my need for guidance in that first experience of euphoric disinhibition.
The next day my best friend dropped by on his way home from work and was deeply concerned by the tale of the previous day. He insisted on driving me out to my parents home to manage a reconciliation, and we drove in his Holden Monaro out to the Sydney suburb of St Marys where my parents lived. We’d talked a lot about my experience and a new ease of certainty, assertiveness and heart felt conviction, I had apparently been gifted. His own life history included experiences of the paranormal, echoing similar stories from generations of his family tree. “There’s an energy beyond everyday consciousness, that its best not to meddle with,” he once told me when I scoffed at tales of paranormal experience. Years before we’d shared a house together along with several other friends, often out doing each other with one tall tale story after another. Stories like the long dead old lady who would visit my best friend’s room in the dead of night, causing him to get drunk before bedtime if he was home alone. I’d related my own experience as a six year old, inviting the Devil to come and scare me if he could, always being disappointed that nothing ever appeared from beyond my own imagination. I waited in the car while my friend assured my parents that I was sorry for any upset caused and perhaps my behavior was the understandable result of emotional stress. Family reunion was affected with forgiveness for my bad behavior, although with little enthusiasm for any cause and effect explanation of it. We left with my fathers sound advice to “get him to a doctor,” refueling my frustrations about empathic disconnection within my immediate family.
This hearth and home experience caused an interesting reaction as we drove home which my friend still talks about today. I vaguely remember telling him that I‘d tricked him and was unrepentant about my behavior the previous day. “Suddenly everything went really cold, the atmosphere in the car was like ice and it sent shivers down my spine.” I wish I could remember this moment as vividly as he does, or as vividly as I remember that moment in front of the mirror. It brings to mind the vagaries of human memory, attention and the individual life histories which invest any particular event with a sense of relevance. Discussions between us in the previous days had been focused on the existence of God, with the unspoken acceptance of his evil opposite of coarse. My friend insists that a sudden change came over me in that moment of confession, and his perception of a freezing chill equated with his experiences of the paranormal. I’d scoffed at the idea of a paranormal influence again, insisting that all phenomena can be explained by natural causation, yet I decades away from knowledge of our evolved nervous systems instinctual freeze response.
In the days following my parents visit my thirst for elative sensation and the maintenance of my new state continued, although fatigue and the growing concern of others began to intrude on my mystic sense of certainty and my new found sense of self security. I grew increasingly frustrated with demands to return to work and the every day business of life, with pleas to tone down these all consuming spiritual concerns. Yet I was lost in seeking more references of meaning to give a certainty of direction to my mystical feelings. Work was the last thing on my mind as I sought to enfold new sensations into some kind of transforming actualization, and I wanted it there and then. Frustration boiled over in the middle of the week when I screamed at my wife to “go away,” while I obsessed over the lyrics of The Moody Blues, “Knights in White Satin.” “We are star dust, we are the white knights - words are just metaphors that hint at deeper meaning,” I’d been telling myself. While my mind was thinking my body was swept along by the rhythms of one of the most melodic rock bands in history. I sat with headphones on to envelope myself in the evocative sensations of this magical album, “This is The Moody Blues.” My wife had simply tried to inform me of a business call inquiring about doing some work.
Was there an unconscious motivation involved here as I sought the stimulation of music and its resonance affect? Was I unknowingly seeking a self hypnotic state of trance to maintain my new found feelings of joyous approach, displacing my lifelong feelings of fearful avoidance?
|An Audio Renaissance of Self-Hypnosis?|
Shamanistic practitioners have been using this method for centuries. Breath rate and heart rate are affected by stimulating auditory channels, with rhythmic sounds affecting brain activity. Theta brain waves are affected by auditory stimulus, resulting in altered states of consciousness.” (Adapted from various web sources.)
Recall and contemplate Moshe Feldenkrias comments;
“It is not necessary to lose consciousness to reach this state of complete suggestibility. In the state of complete muscular and vascular relaxation, without any loss of consciousness, one is open to suggestion both from without and within oneself.” (Feldenkrais, 1985). Was I unknowingly engaging in self hypnosis here and maintaining a trance state for the purpose of an auto self suggestion? Like the acting out in my writing on the bedroom wall, is it the behavioral movements, prompted by an unconscious seeking stimulation, which forms the real context of mad behaviors? Was I seeking to maintain a new open state of acceptance to life's sensations, where previously the sensations of actual experience had been avoided by a fearful constriction of my muscular and vascular systems?
Despite the self-absorption, my wife’s distress must have had some impact on me though, as I consented to a doctors visit the next day, although I can’t remember too much detail now. There must have been concern about a suitable doctor, with our relocation to West Ryde only six months prior, we had no connections to medical help in that area. I can’t remember the details but we did not go to see my wife’s lifelong family doctor, probably for the same reason we had not seen him when she was pregnant. We did see a doctor we knew though, a doctor we’d seen for advice on pregnancy and for other minors ills during the previous couple of years. I remember the same ideations of reference plagued me as we approached the doctors office. “We must confess our guilt in ignoring his advice about the abortion,” I’d told myself, urged on by the relief we’d experienced some days before. I must admit he listened very patiently to my over earnest recounting of the previous nine days, simply suggesting that I might need to see a specialist, and he could refer me to one if that was ok?
I remember seeing the title psychiatrist on the referral envelope once we got outside, which led to concerns over various psychiatric remedies for mental illness on the way home. Needless to say I did not sleep that night, becoming even more concerned when I steamed open the envelope and read the words schizophrenia like symptoms on the referral note. By the time my best friend arrived the next afternoon I was fixated on the horrors of electroshock therapy and crucifixion, realization had dawned early that morning, “Jesus Christ! - Its Friday!” I mean, if this was truly a religious experience, a sign from God then what fate awaited me on this Friday afternoon? Had I not indeed prayed to God in my hour of need, in the panic of lonely isolation when attachment needs are so unconsciously keen? Thank God too that I look back now with laughter instead of feelings of shame. That moment of prayer had not felt like a panicked cry for help though, when I’d sat down with such a sense of responsibility and resignation, I’d been determined to accept past failures and change myself, all I wanted was a little help. Perhaps I did get that help without knowing how to deal with it, how to interpret and recognize it? Perhaps I simply had no experience of accepting the felt reality of being, without amplify its affect via the mind?
We set off for a private hospital in the Sydney suburb of Baulkham Hills, my best friend, my wife and me. I was still infused with a spiritual sense of purpose of coarse, still excited by its enabled sense of connection, still needing to trust, to love and be loved. Trust was the principle reason my best friend had taken time off work to support me, as I trusted his advice and his willingness to invest himself in my welfare. Indeed this crisis had brought us really close again, spending hours together like before we were both married, before the subsequent rift caused by the shame of mental illness experience. I remember how he’d made sure to inform the psychiatrist of my fears about ETC, as forcefully as he could before I entered the interview room. “You have schizophrenia and need immediate hospitalization,” the good doctor said, before I found myself being escorted to a locked ward, all within thirty minutes.
I vaguely remember sitting on the edge of a bed as the first injection was administered, so heavily sedated I apparently slept for those first three days. I can’t recall to much about the next two weeks though, only what I was told about early concerns for my continued elative mood and the possibility of ECT. Only one significant memory springs easily to mind, of a day I decided to take a walk beyond the hospital grounds. I remember the incredible tingling of my skin out in the late summer sunshine, it felt like severe sun burn and was the first time I remember being really bewildered by the impact of medication side effects. I confused this strange sensation with my earlier mystic experiences at first, then remember being a bit alarmed by its compounding effect on my strange uncoordinated movements and the persistent and grinding physical fatigue. And I was beginning to hate being locked up, sadly sneaking out for a simple breath of fresh air had only brought me confusion and a first hint of fear.
I remember being spoken to rather harshly and arrogantly by a particularly bossy psych nurse on my return and perhaps the atmosphere of the locked ward began to break through my spellbinding mystical feelings. I think an earnest compliance with whatever I was told set in after that, getting away from that place became a much more sobering concern than any thoughts of spirituality. That first experience of a psychiatric diagnosis came to occupy my thoughts for a couple of decades after 1980. It now seems an ironic precursor to a scene in Sydney Airport some thirty years later, as pre-conceived judgments and a need to do something swamps any kind of empathic meeting or emotional context in such encounter moments. Indeed there never was an empathetic moment between that first psychiatrist and I, even well after the desired remission and remorse had been gained.
There never was any talk or exploration of the circumstantial context to the onset of what the good doctor called my symptoms of schizophrenia. I found it strange that environmental triggers like stress were fully acknowledged by all my psychiatrists, yet in 20 years only one found any time to speak about their circumstantial context. No talk about separation distress or unconscious reactions to existential isolation, no exploration of possible trauma in my life experience. All that seemed to matter to my psychiatrists was symptoms and their remission, in what felt like a dissociated, mechanistic approach. The lack of empathy from my first egg head psychiatrist who had real problems maintaining simple eye contact during our three year relationship, had its long term “what if” effect. The speed of that initial diagnosis which was patently wrong, coupled with intolerable side effects from hit and miss medications, left me wondering about what might have been. A different psychiatrist? A female psychiatrist? A Jungian psychologist? A pastoral counselor? Not because of the crisis resolution of heavy sedation or even the early medication trials, but the rigid doctor patient relationship that offered me little more than thirty minute medication compliance sessions, and zero empathy for continuing chronic side effects.
A Rebound Reaction? A Sense of Defeat & Fearful Dread?
Some three weeks after leaving hospital I was doing my best to abandon all thoughts of spiritual oneness and get on with the daily business of making a living, when another compelling event intervened. I experienced my first panic attack while lying on my back in a confined space tying to renew the electrical wiring on a house. Wedged between damp ground and the flooring timbers of an old California style bungalow, I was suddenly engulfed by feelings of suffocation, and I panicked. This was the beginning of a three month long depression so severe I became housebound, mostly camped underneath bed blankets during daylight hours. I remember being so petrified of the world outside, so ashamed of my delusional ideas during the manic phase and I couldn’t face seeing anyone other than my wife. I remember disconnecting the telephone each time she went to work in the morning and jumping out of my skin at the sound of its ring tone on many an evening, and refusing to speak to anyone who called. I remember thoughts during this period being very narrowly focused around punishing guilt and shame, constantly replaying the most embarrassing moments of delusion ideation over and over in my mind. Just like those scenes of self-flagellation we see in religious movies, I seemed determined to flog myself with punishing feelings of guilt and shame, mercilessly.
Wow! Even now as I try to re-live memories of that first chronic depression and write about them there is a reaction, a dissociation reflex action. There’s a sudden involuntary numbing of awareness as I search for inner sensation and feeling that might discharge through my mind, as the thoughts of an experience interpretation. No thoughts will come though, only numbness and sudden feelings of fatigue as I sense a desire to turn away, to give up this silly notion of writing, “I can’t,” springs to mind. I sense there is much pain down there within the visceral well of body memory, and I’m surprised and shocked anew by an autonomic reaction over which I posses no conscious control whatsoever, “bollocks to the power of positive thinking,” springs up within my self justifying mind. Its been almost two years since I traveled here to Thailand with the rationalized notion of writing a book within six months. I’d followed my heart and intuition thinking I had an idea how this journey would unfold, so much for the mind's rationalizations?
"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." _Steve Jobs
My first attempts to write about my life experience involved ideas of a self help book, telling all I’d learned about the meaning of that word “affect,” and its role in affective disorders like my diagnosed bipolar type 1 disorder. At first, notions of writing like some accredited academic came to mind, with reams of well intentioned advice and how to instructions. Yet when it came to writing such a text, my enthusiasm quickly waned, I was bored and unmoved by my own explanations. Next came the brilliant idea of a fictionalized story, with heaps of two person dialogue to add color and personal meaning. I wrote five chapters of “When Sasiprapha Smiles,” to explain the new theories of our unconscious inter-relations and how such experience affects the brain and nervous systems. This effort got me closer to articulating my inner states, as I wrote about my relationship with a beautiful Thai girlfriend who’s emotional expression retains the purest innate qualities I’ve ever know. Her loss sent me into another psychosis experience some twelve months ago now, although one embraced and from which there has been no depressive rebound. As I write, I’m reminded of Freud’s notion’s of displacement as an ego defense, and my rationalizations of how to approach the writing of this book. A self help book, a fictionalized story of two lovers and their friendships, the experiential integration of acquired knowledge and a slow spiraling approach towards my core feelings.
"Displacement operates in the mind unconsciously and involves emotions, ideas, or wishes being transferred from their original object to a more acceptable substitute. It is most often used to allay anxiety; and can refer to the displacement of aggressive impulses or to the displacement of sexual impulses. Displacement means the transference of physical intensities along an "associative path," so that strongly cathected ideas have their charge displaced onto other, less strongly cathected ones. This process is active in the formation of hysterical or obsessional symptoms, in the dream work, in the production of jokes, and in the transference." _ Sigmund Freud.
Truth! Perception? And Our Consensus of Normality?
The music video clip at the start of this chapter seems to suggest a question about the nature of reality and our common perception of it. Indeed the Moody Blues disbanded, over the fever of clambering excitement their existential lyrics and melodies created. People wanted to know where the creative energy came from and what did the band members know, that average homo-sapien's didn't? In the experience of a psychosis, the mind seems to slip into a kind of dreaming while awake state of perception, a pre-verbal awareness more felt than thought. Perhaps the more ancient layers of the brain are involved with an expanded sensory awareness beyond our socially oriented sense of normality? As all the great prophets, philosophers and writers try to tell us, there is more to the nature of reality, than our everyday awareness can comprehend?
And heaven in a wild flower.
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand.
And eternity in an hour.’ _William Blake.
Which one of us could truly say what our sense of reality would be like without the learned responses of our social upbringing? Our consensus reality? Imagine for a moment, what it might be like to be under a night sky in the desert, with no history of human contact to prepare your experience? How would your sensitive skin and your human brain capacity filter sensory input in this strange situation? Would you be flooded by an awareness, our normal social world defends us from? Get back to normal, people demand of anyone exhibiting odd behavior, yet how certain can we be about the mental health of our societies, consensus of normality?
"Consensus reality is an approach to answering the philosophical question "What is real?" It gives a practical answer: reality is either what exists, or what we can agree seems to exist.
The process has been (perhaps loosely and a bit imprecisely) characterised as "when enough people think something is true, it... takes on a life of its own". The term is usually used disparagingly as by implication it may mean little more than "what a group or culture chooses to believe", and may bear little or no relationship to any "true reality", and, indeed, challenges the notion of "true reality".
The difficulty with the question stems from the concern that human beings do not in fact fully understand or agree upon the nature of knowledge or knowing, and therefore (it is often argued) it is not possible to be certain beyond doubt what is real. Accordingly, this line of logic concludes, we cannot in fact be sure beyond doubt about the nature of reality. We can, however, seek to obtain some form of consensus, with others, of what is real.
We can use this consensus as a pragmatic guide, either on the assumption that it seems to approximate some kind of valid reality, or simply because it is more "practical" than perceived alternatives. Consensus reality therefore refers to the agreed-upon concepts of reality which people in the world, or a culture or group, believe are real (or treat as real), usually based upon their common experiences as they believe them to be; anyone who does not agree with these is sometimes stated to be "in effect... living in a different world."
Throughout history this has also raised a social question: "What shall we make of those who do not agree with consensus realities of others, or of the society they live in?"
Children have sometimes been described or viewed as "inexperienced with consensus reality," although with the expectation that they will come into line with it as they mature. However, the answer is more diverse as regards such people as have been characterised as eccentrics, mentally ill, enlightened or divinely inspired, or evil or demonic in nature. Alternatively, differing viewpoints may simply be put to some kind of "objective" (though the nature of "objectivity" goes to the heart of the relevant questions) test.
Cognitive liberty is the freedom to be the individual's own director of the individual's own consciousness and is fundamentally opposed to enforcement of the culturally accepted reality upon non-conforming individuals. Effects of low cognitive liberty vary from indifference to forced-medication and from social alienation to incarceration to death."
It is the very nature of a self-awareness and understanding, oriented by a perception of external objects, which has so deluded our consensus reality? In euphoric psychosis, I fall into the reality of my own nature, beneath a learned and socialized sense of self. The cognitive capacity upon which we so egotistically pride ourselves upon. is a fundamental dissociation from nature. A dissociation stimulated by our ancient autonomic nervous system, and the part it plays in our states of awareness. Why is it, that in our everyday consensus normality, mental illness is assumed to be "all about the brain?" What happened to our ancient wisdom's about the body?
|Have we gotten lost in Descartes famous error? His classic, "I think therefore I am," statement of modernity.
"Descartes was a great dualist. He thought not only that there were two types of substance, mind and matter, but that there were two types of thinking, two types of bodily movement, even two types of loving; and, sure enough, he believed there were two types of people: ‘the world is largely composed of two types of minds . . .’ It has been said that the world is divided into two types of people, those who divide the world into two types of people, and those who don’t. I am with the second group. The others are too Cartesian in their categorisation, and therefore already too much of the party of the left hemisphere. Nature gave us the dichotomy when she split the brain. Working out what it means is not in itself to dichotomise: it only becomes so in the hands of those who interpret the results with Cartesian rigidity." _Iain McGilchrist.
The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World