Psychosis is sensory perceptions and abnormal thinking experienced by an individual struggling with a schizophrenia spectrum or other psychotic-based disorder. Reminder! We are not here to judge you or label you. We are here to help you manage these symptoms with resources and support.
How Does Someone Even Get This Disorder?
There is no clear indicator of how an individual develops the symptoms of schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders. Researchers suggest that it could be anything from genetics to psychological or environmental factors. It’s also important to note that it manifests in the late teens, 20’s and even early 30’s and affects both men and women.
What Do Sensory Perceptions and Abnormal Thinking Mean?
Sensory perceptions, or hallucinations, are perception-like experiences that occur without an external stimulus. They can occur as things you vividly and clearly hear, see, smell and even touch. Sometimes they happen throughout the day but research suggests that they mostly occur before you fall asleep or as you are waking up. Delusions, or abnormal thinking, are fixed beliefs that are not amenable to change despite conflicting evidence. One might believe they are being harmed or harassed, or that a celebrity is in love with them. They might even believe they have superior abilities, wealth, or fame. Additionally, we have disorganized speech (incoherence), abnormal motor behavior (catatonia) and negative symptoms (similar to depressive symptoms) that also fall under this category. Also, none of these symptoms and behaviors are induced by a substance or medical condition; it is all happening in the individual’s perceptions.
What is Schizophrenia?
Everything I have covered, is in reference to very extreme or severe measures. If you feel like any of this information applies to you, reach out to your therapist. We can have an open conversation about the symptoms and if they are an area of concern or valid/caused by your current diagnosis. Now that you have this foundation, you’re probably wondering…what is schizophrenia then? This is a diagnosis that is given to an individual that experiences at least two of the five behaviors (delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, abnormal motor behavior, and negative symptoms) and that it is affecting at least two important areas of their life (like school and relationships). Schizophrenia is one of 10+ disorders that have psychosis as a symptom. For example, the list of schizophrenia spectrum and other psychotic-based disorders and disorders that have psychotic features include:
Okay, you’re probably thinking…this is deep stuff but how do we help someone struggling with this? With unconditional positive regard, patience, and medication management. Also, with psychoeducation, therapeutic services, group counseling, and even hospitalization. (This isonly in order to ensure the safety of the individual and others). We as therapists, case managers, clinical directors, family, and friends are there for those that are struggling with this complex disorder. Psychologists still research this diagnosis so that one day we can provide more support necessary to stabilizing or helping those struggling to manage these psychotic-based symptoms and disorders.
For some, “depression” is a scary word that carries a connotation of weakness and shame. For others, it’s a warm blanket to withdraw into over and over again despite knowing the suffocating ramifications. We may be fearful of it, comfortable with it, or just sick of it. Whatever the case, depression on some level is probably part of the reason that brought us to Barn Life. Though some may argue with this, depression is not simply biological or inherent. Your life experiences molded you and created it as a reaction. Of course, some therapists and psychiatrists may have made you feel you are helpless to the monster “Depression,” and that you must live with it.
Years of Internalized Low Self-Worth
It would be easier to tell you to rely on medication*. Or to just accept this is who you are and you’ll have a lifelong struggle. However, that’s simply not based in truth and does you a great disservice. Depression is years of internalized low self-worth. The degree to which someone is conscious of their self-worth varies. Some of us are extremely aware of the hateful thoughts that run through our minds toward ourselves and others. On the other hand, some of us have fallen into disconnected behavioral patterns that numb and keep it out of awareness. We don’t engage in self-endangering or self-imploding behaviors when we are truly connected to our value. We feel proud of who we are, living out our life with meaning.
Reshaping Negative Belief Systems
What drives those behaviors? Belief systems. Negative belief systems are ingrained in us from external forces – caregivers, upbringing, other people’s thoughts, failures, traumatic events, and so forth. Beliefs like “I will never be loved, I am stupid, I am never good enough, I will never amount to anything”. Reshaping these beliefs into adaptive truths such as, “I am enough,” “my life has purpose,” “I deserve happiness,” “I deserve to love and be loved,” are much more difficult. They require us to work from the INSIDE OUT. We will not change these beliefs simply by engaging in behavioral changes or hearing from others you’re worthy and lovable. We need to spend intimate time with ourselves adapting our thoughts. Furthermore, we need to decide who we want to be in alignment with our values. This takes great intention and putting away distractions including seeking validation from others.
How We Choose to Engage with Life
Depression may a part of a bipolar diagnosis or the aftermath of our mania. If so, reflect on what the words are that swirl in your mind during those low periods. Is it telling yourself you’re shameful for your actions? Is it feeling like a lost cause, feeling like you can’t ever do things right or that you’re doing enough? What thoughts fuel the desire to shrink from the world? Remember that our choices send strong messages to ourselves and others. Every day we have an opportunity to change how we internally speak to ourselves, how we treat ourselves and our bodies, how we treat others.
Remember that depressive symptoms result from beliefs, choices, and behaviors – overall how you live and interact with your life. You cannot control life’s circumstances. There will be depressing events and relationships in your life. How you choose to engage with them will make a difference.
*Please note Barn Life honors client choice in seeking medication for intervention and does not devalue the effectiveness of this for some clients (in conjuction with therapy).
Have you ever thought, I would like to be a little less crazy? Or, I would like to be a little more tolerant of ignorance, or I would like to stop drinking so much. Or, I would like to begin learning Aikido. Get into better physical and spiritual shape. Or, I wish I could make better choices so I could live a life I love instead of this inherited life that has me at the end of my rope. Why is it so damn hard to make these desires a reality? What is stopping us?
The desire to improve one’s future seems a common drive for most people. Removing shortcomings and replacing them with our visions for a better future and a better self. To become something. Something more! Yet, despite these desires, here we sit, the same as always. We may think, all I have is this broken-down body and a mind that is as stubborn as a bull. How can I manifest real transformation when I have no money for Aikido classes or even a gym membership? Or maybe we are “genetically predispositioned” to drink and eat too much. Or maybe we were just born crazy as hell and no matter what we do, the same bat shit crazy nonsense happens to us. Maybe I was abused and neglected and do not know how to form close bonds with others. How do I change that? How does one transform oneself into something else?
Starting at the Beginning
Lean in close. It begins with thoughts. Yes, that is correct. Thoughts are where this all begins. They cost nothing. They are yours for the taking. They require little training and they are highly suggestible. Thoughts shape everything around you and give form to ideas. Put simply, thoughts make stuff real. But how? Recent scientific study into the human genome in the past 20 years has revealed something astonishing. We can alter our genes with our minds. Did you hear what you just read? We can alter our genes with our minds!
Ok, so what are genes again? Genes are the blueprints you inherited from your parents. And up until recently, conventional wisdom and science suggested that you are stuck with whatever you get. Like a bad hand in poker. However, this is incorrect. Even if you are “genetically predispositioned” for this and that, you can change all that by thinking. Not only that, but you can change it remarkably fast. Our minds and how we direct our minds can unlock genetic sequences we cannot even comprehend, yet.
Altering Genes Through Our Thoughts and Environment
Research has proven the placebo effect. People with cancer or other afflictions think they received a cure even though in truth they have not. However, because of their strong conviction and belief, they cure themselves. People who walk on fire and do not burn. Those who lift up cars to save small children trapped underneath. People who handle poisonous snakes and get bit yet do not die. These are astonishing examples of mind over matter.
Epigenetics is one way to view this process of transformation. This is a new form of genetics where we focus on altering genes through our thoughts and environment. Instead of messing with the sequence of genes, we instead work with what we have. Genes determine so much. But those genes only know what to do because you direct them. When you decide you are worthless and do not deserve happiness, some genes turn on and some genes turn off. As a result, all the proteins and building blocks for worthlessness and depression are produced. If you believe you are fat and will always be fat, certain genes are alerted and make that reality so. If you believe you are mentally ill then genes begin the work of making that a reality for you.
Shaping Our Destinies
However, it works to your advantage as well. Using nothing more than thoughts, you can tell your genes exactly what you want. And they will respond as if you were ordering food from a menu. We are not victims of the past or some genetic garbage we got from someone else. Rather, we are great creators and mighty shapers of destiny. We conjure our lives from thought and our genetics respond making all that we think…a reality.
Transformation is a process of changing something. This week let’s identify what we want to change about ourselves. One or two things. Start small. By week’s end, we will see how much we have altered our genetic code. The proof will be in the quality of the reality we make for ourselves.
In my years as a clinical therapist and program director, I have encountered many Poseidon problems. Clients express that they feel over-possessed by the unpredictable waters within them, overcome by the surfacing and powerful waves of buried emotions. Why is my anger not going away and why do I sabotage my relationships? Why don’t I feel like I am ever enough? When questions like these arise, we can look to the archetypal figure of Poseidon for further understanding.
More than any other Greek deity, Poseidon shows us the extreme implications of vengeance and emotional intensities. On the one hand, we see a figure who carries our ships across the seas to our destinations. This is to suggest that our emotions are the ebbing, flowing waters that carry our dreams and goals. However, on the other hand, sometimes our emotions get the best of us. The shifting movement of our oceans can possess us for years or even lifetimes. A Poseidon problem resembles temperamental kingship.
Interaction with Other Elements
Poseidon, like the sea itself, ever moves in interaction with the other element. Waters can be stirred, lifted, powerful and unpredictable. As ruler of the seas, Poseidon commands the deep and wide range of our emotional waters. A Poseidon man or Poseidon father can be relentlessly powerful in stormy emotions. At other times he is tranquil, softening edges of hard and rigid surfaces, lapping, soothing, rocking gently those that he loves in his massive embrace.
For example, when our efforts are reliant upon the Poseidon figure, we allow emotions to rule motivations. Of course, this can be quite meaningful. A Poseidon father likely shows great empathy for his children. There is a tremendous amount of passion and squishy moments to be had by watery feelings. But when the king is ruled by the seas of his emotions, his wrath and many unsustainable goals are sentenced to the bottoms of the ocean only to hurl themselves upon the shores soaking the dry land we stand upon.
Our Own Relationship with Emotion
A Poseidon character is the kingly character of the reactive psyche. He is not the rightful ruler of our inner world because he lacks the vantage point of Olympus. Where Zeus may have seen from above with clarity, Poseidon gets salt in his eyes. In fact, Poseidon loses and is humiliated in many instances before Zeus and the other gods. His power cannot win out for the throne. When emotions lead one, there are foreseeable problems. We cannot expect a healthy treatment program if it is so. At least not if we want healthy outcomes for our psychological and spiritual health.
For us today we can look to his nature as a kind of barometer of our own masculine relationship with emotion itself. For example, we may be out of touch with the Poseidon role. That is, we do not rule over emotions with some masculine energy. If so, we may deal with the natural occurrences of water damage. Should we fail to tame or address our waters, perhaps the solid ground in our lives will wash away. We may fail to recognize the Poseidon energy when it swells and thrashes against our boats and shores. It is our destiny, then, to play out his mythology in our lifetime. The trick is to see his role and work with awareness of the seas for to be the sea is to suffer greatly.
Today we begin a new series on images of healthy parent models. It’s no real stretch to suggest that how we were parented influences who we become. From Freud to now, psychology has been dominated in large part by the reconciliation of childhood experiences with presenting problems in adult life. After all, is it not the inner child we hail supreme in psychotherapy? And why? Of course, these formative years mold the ego through modeling of the environment. Naturally, mother and father provide our first real images of how one engaged with emotion, relationships, responsibilities, beliefs, and life itself. To one degree or another, our work at Barn Life is about bringing out of these models. We explore how we have taken them into adult life: what worked, what didn’t, what motivates, and what destroys.
Substantiating Our Best Selves
From wounding to winning, the parent models we had present to us our best efforts and our worst limitation. If, for example, we rely too heavily on our strengths we may never know the meaning of failure. As Winnicott once wrote, we would be best set up for a healthy individual life with a good enough mother and a good enough father… too good and we never find our interiority, too bad and we find only the survivalist within. Adopted in childhood, these external figures formed how we find motivation, nurture, and relationships to our own goals both as the clinician and the client. The resources we acquire to substantiate our best selves as we will explore rely heavily on the images we hold of how to self parent.
Archetypal Images of Masculine and Feminine Figures
There is a problem with simply processing what was formative from our parents. Specifically, we may never reconcile these images to the whole. Without corrective experiences of a healthier nature, we battle out the same inadequacies of our ancestors. In this effort, I want to use this series to explore universal images of masculinity and femininity in order to open up the conversation about the inner parent model. We will explore the missing links of the psyche in what may be underdeveloped and what may be over-relied upon. In an effort to bring us closer to the organizing principles of mothering and fathering we will be spending the next several weeks exploring archetypal images of masculine and feminine figures in myth and fairytale. These figures help us to better understand the nature of our own unique experiences. Additionally, we find new voices of motivation, nurture, acceptance, and effort.
A Deeper World of Exploration
For our first week, I want to draw special attention to the way we draw on our learned models. How do we confront obstacles? Conflict? Inadequacy? Failure? Stress? What beliefs do we hold about what we deserve? As we will see in coming weeks these structures resemble the personified images of mythic and fairytale figures. These learned models are doorways to a deeper world of exploration. With the intention of an expanding imaginal life, we will work to make more conscious who is among us as the voice of father and mother inside and out and who we might long to meet in the pantheon
I stood upon a high place
And saw, below, many devils
And carousing in sin.
One looked up, grinning,
And said: “Comrade! Brother!”
The Center of Consciousness
Undoubtedly you have heard of the third eye chakra. In large part, we might say the third eye is the dominantly favored center of consciousness for us westerners. Since the scientific revolution, humankind in the west began to reduce our concept of wonder, mystery, divine, and imagination to the measurable and mathematical. For example, what once was the mysterious magic of divine wonders became the arrangement of chemical structures. Chemistry, mathematics, and the clustering of ideas are products of western psychology. Here, one can attribute these rationalistic virtues to the mind itself. While artistry flows through intuition, sciences generally strive for calculation. What does this have to do with the third eye and mental health?
The Eye of the Mind
To be blunt: everything! Our mythological structures and sciences work like a lens over the eye of the mind. For example, if we are primed with the narrative that all things can be solved, what then becomes of the journey? I say one of the great problems we all have today is the many predicted outcomes that dictate our experiences before the journeys themselves. When, for example, our motive is resolution rather than revelation our aim is to no longer experience the surprise of life, wonder dies as predictable systems darken our peripheral vision. The third eye chakra is all about these tensions.
A Tremendous Shadow
If one does not release the tension behind the eyebrows, strive for execution, and follow the unconscious mythologies of the sciences, the soulful unfolding of a meaningful life may fall under a tremendous shadow. Longing, an innate and necessary messenger of the soul, may instead grow perverse. The adventuring and intimate seeker may consider longing to be a precursor to failure rather than an opening into meaning. The third eye is all about mystery. It draws in the images and intuitive fluctuations of the unconscious. When in talk therapy we ask a client open-ended questions, we are supporting them to look with the third eye at the material unresolved. One might ask, are we seeking to reduce another’s experience down or to open their experiences up?
A Balanced Third Eye
Of course, there is room for both in the balanced third eye. In fact, without balance, one may experience, on the one hand, an overactive third eye. Here, images and intuitions are un-grounding and often disassociating from the presenting moment. At great extremes, we call this psychosis. On the other hand, without an intuitive and reception gaze through the mind’s eye, one may experience a rigid, concrete, obtuse, stubborn, perfectionistic, judgment and even tyrannical attitude toward one’s self-concept, ideas about the past, others, and more.
The Role of the Cameraman
In short, the third eye chakra is a significant center of consciousness. For our purposes, as we engage and develop healthy psychological and somatic relationships between the chakras, we want to generate some awareness around the condition of the third eye. Often, we require the turning of the third eye down and in as we have been to engage with the subtle body of a psycho-sensual world below. As the camera lens, one must work on the role of the cameraman. Where do we turn our attention and, as with any eye, are we taking in the light?
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