Wednesday, August 10, 2011

St George & The Dragon - Spiritual or Psychotic Experience?

I was nervous of coarse as I waited for my turn, the young singer song writer was in session at the moment. We’d talked about being courteous and cooperative in front of the Judge, about playing the norm’s game.
‘Yeah but that lawyer of mine is a bitch man! - She’s in on it with my parents and that fucking witch doctor psychiatrist.’

Like many creative people he could throw a temper tantrum like a hurt two year old, when challenged by the emotional dynamics of relating. Left alone to his own unfathomable process though he could join words together like a magician, a real witch doctor. Another beguiling poem or a beautiful love song.

‘People don’t understand man! - They just want us to be normal, square fucking pegs in square fucking holes.’ Jason had complained loud and often over the last two days.

‘You don’t want to be in here for weeks, locked away from your music, away from your studio, do you? - Play the game man!’ He’d agreed and I wondered just how rebellious and defiant he would be in front of the judge, that ultimate authority figure. Would he slip unconsciously into compliance posture and sit quietly that shy constriction that perhaps is the counterforce to his creative mind? "Hmm! Perhaps I’m projecting here," I thought. My own fears about speaking up for myself, about taking action when push comes to shove? “Projection! - Where else can we come from, we barely have a sense of what stimulates our own self, let alone anyone else‘s.”

I walked out to the high walled courtyard again, muscular tensions and mental agitation easing as the open space triggered implicit body memories of feeling safe during my childhood. A quick skyward glance at the clear blue sky, on another bright Australian day in good old Sydney town. A second look spotted a single white cloud though, and its curious yet familiar shape.

“Jesus! Leave me alone will you!” I thought, cursing the memory of doodling that same shape, over and over again two weeks ago. The cloud’s appearance is coincidental of coarse? A single cloud in a clear blue sky, its shape a meaningless coincidence? Surely just an emotive association for my grandiose thoughts, my deep need to feel special, to feel loved and wanted.

The previous five weeks of mania had been triggered by another lost relationship. In therapist training for family counseling, we read that loss and separation is a pivotal human experience. Loss certainly pivots me, tips me straight into the mystical, magical and some would say spiritual realm of experience. Of coarse in our objective, industrialized and over stressed first world order thinking, I’m just sick.

Surely my bipolar mania is a disease, a simple chemical imbalance like a viral infection? It can’t be about my attachment needs and absolutely nothing to do with heightened senses or any deeper resonance with the background fabric of a universe I‘m embedded in.

‘Your pathetic not prophetic!’ My oldest son had told me when I started reading the Book of Revelations again.
‘The messiah syndrome,’ he said with a laugh, ‘what a joke!’
‘This stuff has always been inside me son, long before my first manic episode, I’ve told you about the out of body experience when I was twelve.’
‘Sure and the mystery of the elevator that should have killed you before I was born. - So what? - You’ve lost insight Dad, you’ve lost your sense of objectivity.’

He accepted the medical model of brain disease completely, thinking the analogy to cancer or diabetes was perfectly reasonable. No spiritual crisis or breakthrough for my university educated son, just like the psychiatrist he believed in logic and an objective rationality.
‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,’ I told him.
‘Entertaining sure Dad, yet just superstitious nonsense,’ he replied.
‘Well Moses warned against worshiping false idols son, perhaps he meant false ideas and our shallow, surface sense of objectivity?’
‘Jesus! Dad, let go of this religious crap will ya! - Its not mystical or spiritual and certainly not fucking meaningful! - Its psychotic! Its mental illness!’

I tried to explain, feelings of being immersed in an unconscious reactivity, rationalized as a sense of objectivity within the mind. I’d talked about counselor training and the crisis telephone work I’d done. Told him that the more conscious we become, the more aware of how unconscious we were. A head shake signaled that being conscious was little more than waking up in the morning, as far as he was concerned.

How could I explain my desire to experience mania unaided, as a need to better understand it. I was being selfish, embarrassing him and the family, why couldn’t I just manage this manic episode like I had all the rest, in the last decade?
‘Your not interested in trying to understand me, you just need to manage a situation here,’ I’d told him last night.

Change and growth take place when a person has risked himself and dares
to become involved with experimenting with his own life. _H Otto

Here in the high walled enclosure of St George Hospital I thought about the brain and its electro-chemical activity, “who can say what the mind really is.” I shook my head at the cloud, thinking about systems theory and sympathetic resonance, “you can’t affect the weather, you dumb fuck.” Thoughts about phenomenology passed through my mind though, and how we suppress our total sensory awareness in any given moment.

I thought about my son’s remarks on psychosis, “perspective eh son? How wide, how deep or high? How much do we really know about objectivity and our reactive, unconscious motivations?”
“If the brain is basically electro-chemical, surely every thought is a metaphor?” I thought. The father’s of psychotherapy came to mind, Freud, Jung, Adler and Wilhelm Reich. They all had their breaks with everyday objectivity, in exploring the depths of the human soul.

I thought about the young psychiatrist who’d sectioned me for the first time in my life. “Hmm! Higher education and an assumption you can know life before you’ve lived it?” Metaphors? St George and the Dragon? Jake Sully as Toruk Makto, Rider of Last Shadow? Mystery, imagination, spiritual ecstasy and the emotional heights of psychotic experience? Who can say which is which and what is just mental illness.

I spotted Jason as he came back into the recreation room, “my turn to face judgment,” the thought triggering memories about the book of revelations. “The last judgment?” I think it’s a prophecy, a metaphor about generations to come. A time when self awareness has risen to such heights, we won’t unconsciously judge each other. “Here come the judge,” I thought as I followed my legal counsel towards the star chamber.