|What is, A Lucid Dream & A Nightmare Psychosis?|
A waking Dream or waking Nightmare?
"The best way to describe having a psychotic episode is like a waking nightmare, where things are crazy, bizarre, frightening, confusing. With schizophrenia, you have delusions and hallucinations and disordered thinking.
Like, I was on the roof of the Yale Law School, and I was saying, "Someone's infiltrated our copies of the legal cases. We've got to case the joint. I don't believe in joints, but they do hold your body together" -- so, loosely associated words and phrases.
But, experientially, the -- the feeling is utter terror." _Elyn Saks, author, "The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness." (see: here)
Is Elyn Saks predominately negative and Western worldview of psychosis an objective fact or a subjective opinion energized by a personal/cultural fear of madness, and a lingering ignorance of the reality of its organic process? Are psychotic episodes the product of a mysterious brain disease, or are they generated by a profound dis-ease, within the body? A profound dis-ease which can stimulate a profound psychic pain subjectively represented within the mind, by nightmarish sensations and images, yet can also stimulate a psychic balm represented by glorious sensations of oneness and images and feelings of love. Is there a positive aspect to psychotic episodes? And why do so many claim its like a waking dream or nightmare?
Is REM state dreaming a proto-type of waking consciousness?
Can this, evolutionarily older brain mechanism shed light on the organic nature of psychosis and origin of our minds, subjective experience? Does a personal/cultural fear of the raw power of instincts as the roots of our human emotions and intelligence, promote a socialized denial of our own existential reality? Please consider;
The Dream? A Container of Existential Reality?
Why do both the negative and positive experiences of psychosis feel like a waking dream or nightmare? Why is the dreaming state, considered the very crucible of Madness? Consider Jaak Panksepp’s brilliant, “Affective Neuroscience – The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions,” and a chapter entitled;
“Sleep, Arousal, and Mythmaking in the Brain:
Shakespeare proposed one possible function of sleep when he suggested that it “knits up the raveled sleeve of care.” Each day our lives cycle through the master routines of sleeping, dreaming, and waking.
Although we do not know for sure what the various sleep stages do for us, aside from alleviating tiredness, we do know about the brain mechanisms that generate these states.
All of the executive structures are quite deep in the brain, some in the lower brain stem. To the best of our knowledge, however, the most influential mechanisms for slow wave sleep (SWS) are higher in the brain than the active waking mechanisms, while the executive mechanisms for REM sleep are the lowest of the three.
Thus, we are forced to contemplate the strange possibility that the basic dream generators are more ancient in brain evolution that are the generators of our waking consciousness.
The brain goes through various “state shifts” during both waking and sleep. Surprisingly, it has been more difficult for scientists to agree on the types of discrete states of waking consciousness than on those that occur during sleep. EEG clearly discriminates three global vigilance states of the nervous system–waking, SWS, and dreaming or REM sleep.
Some people have also thought that dreaming is the crucible of madness. Many have suggested that schizophrenia reflects the release of dreaming processes into the waking state. Schizophrenics do not exhibit any more REM than normal folks, except during the evening before a “schizophrenic break,” when REM is in fact elevated. There seem to be two distinct worlds within our minds, like matter and antimatter, worlds that are often 180 degrees out of phase with each other.
The electrical activity in the brain stem during dreaming is the mirror image of waking–the ability of certain brain areas to modulate the activity of others during waking changes from excitation to inhibition during REM. In other words, areas of the brain that facilitate behaviors in waking now inhibit those same behaviors. Many believe that if we understand this topsy-turvy reversal of the ruling potentials in the brain, we will better understand the nature of everyday mental realities, as well as the nature of minds that are overcome by madness.
Perhaps what is now the REM state was the original form of waking consciousness in early brain evolution, when “emotionality” was more important than reason in the competition for resources.”
Selected excerpts from “Affective Neuroscience – The Foundations of Human and Animal Emotions.”
Certainly in my own experience the dream like state of a euphoric mania, enabled me to overcome a highly defensive muscular posture, and approach others openly instead of in a self-defeating all to wary of threat, attempts at social engagement. Defeated by the unconscious signals to others about my fearful inner state, and kept in this unconscious pattern by signals to my own brain-nervous system, from my habitual muscular bracing. My birth trauma conditioned postural attitude to life?
The dream state feeling of euphoric mania, acted as a container for an existential reality of innate fear-terror, which threatens to annihilate the conscious mind in any normal waking approach. Any normal conscious awareness which has not been conditioned by experience, to deal with this brutal aspect of our existential reality. In our modern world of assured survival, the ancient rituals of a young man's right of passage have been been largely forgotten. Yet teaching the young man to face the reality of a life eats life survival, and its real-life possibility of shear terror, were once a vital experience for survival. What ancient trace memories are sometimes contained within our nightly dreams and nightmares?
Why do we dream? And what is Psychosis?
"Strange psychotic symptoms explained.
Our observations of hundreds of depressed patients had confirmed that excessive worry puts huge stress on the REM sleep mechanism. This led us to hypothesise that schizophrenia develops in those particularly imaginative, highly sensitive people who become so stressed that the REM sleep discharge mechanism cannot take the strain, and so their ability to separate waking reality from the metaphorical reality of the dream world (where the metaphors themselves seem totally real), becomes impaired. When they wake up, they cannot properly switch out of the REM state and become stuck in it.
Naturally their thinking is then predominantly driven from the right hemisphere, the part of the brain most active in metaphorical pattern matching and dreaming. Many of their bodily behaviours could be expected to derive from those found in normal dreaming. In other words, the left hemisphere’s role, which is normally to analyse and organise reality in a rational way, and is predominantly in charge during wakefulness, has been usurped. The delicate working partnership of the brain’s hemispheres has shattered.
This, to our minds, provides a plausible way of explaining the wide variety of psychotic symptoms. The phenomenon of ‘word salad’ – the loosening of meaningful associations between words and phrases that results in people talking in a stream of apparent nonsense – is just what one might expect if the left hemisphere of the brain were to be out of sync with the metaphorical mind of the right hemisphere, as the latter would continue to generate associations without waiting for the left hemisphere to check them out and articulate them.
Catatonia, where patients can stand, sit or lie motionless for long periods in strange postures, oblivious to pain, is what the body also does during REM state dreaming, when the anti-gravity muscles are paralysed. Indeed, resistance to pain is often observed among schizophrenic patients and is even more marked during severe episodes. This is easily understood when we realise that, in dreaming also, cut off from all sensation, we experience no physical pain. That, too, is a REM state phenomenon (and is why hypnotised people can have major surgery painlessly without anaesthetic, as we have discussed).
Hearing voices is entirely predictable from our theory too. Talking is primarily a left hemisphere activity, whereas right hemisphere activity is mainly concerned with processing pattern matching and tagging emotions to those patterns to prompt action. We don’t talk when the right hemisphere is dominant during dreaming in REM sleep, although talking whilst in slow-wave sleep is common (but the content rarely seems to make sense to the awake mind.) However, during a psychotic episode, if the person were in the REM state awake, there would still be some logical activity and thinking taking place in the left hemisphere.
But, because the REM state is not anticipating any input from the left hemisphere, it has to interpret those thoughts metaphorically and comes up with the image of alien voices, which can seem to be commenting on the person’s every move, or haranguing them or giving ‘instructions’. (It might be expected that such thoughts would often be critical because the left hemisphere would, to some degree, still be able to analyse what was going on and ‘logically’ know that the behaviour is not normal.) This could further be interpreted metaphorically by the right hemisphere as being spied upon, or being persecuted, or that aliens are inside their head or that they are being followed everywhere by strange ‘rays’ that know everything they are doing. (Neurophysiological evidence confirms that, when schizophrenic people are hearing voices, the speech centres in the left neocortex are activated. And other researchers have observed and filmed REM activity when patients hear voices.)
The visual hallucinations or delusions associated with psychosis are also totally characteristic of the dream state, the function of which is to generate such hallucinatory realities. Neuroscientists have shown the same neuronal pathways are activated in psychotic episodes. Whilst dreaming we all believe completely in the reality of our dreams, just as the schizophrenic person believes in their reality.
Creativity and mental illness.
It has long been suggested that there is a connection between creativity and mental illness. Certainly, people prone to schizophrenia tend to come from creative families. And even if they themselves are not productively creative, then high rates of creativity are found among their siblings and other relatives.
Furthermore, creative people tend to be more sensitive to the emotional environment around them and are less robust in withstanding hostility, intolerance or criticism. Indeed, the higher the level of emotional criticism within the family context, the higher the rate of schizophrenic and depressive relapses. When people go into a psychotic REM trance due to emotional arousal any criticism may well be acting like a post-hypnotic suggestion, compounding the condition." © Copyright Joe Griffin, Ivan Tyrrell and Human Givens Publishing Ltd. 2007." From: Born to Psychosis, an online memoir of my own experiences with psychotic episodes.
From the creator of the royal road to the unconscious?
"A dream, then, is a psychosis, with all the absurdities, delusions and illusions of a psychosis. A psychosis of short duration, no doubt, harmless, even entrusted with a useful function, introduced with the subjects's consent and terminated by an act of will. None the less it is a psychosis, and we learn from it that even so deep-going an alteration of mental life as this can be undone and can give place to normal function. Is it too bold, then, to hope that it must also be possible to submit the dreaded spontaneous illnesses of mental life to our influence and bring about their cure." _Sigmund Freud.
A culture of Denial? In our view of Psychosis & Madness?
Throughout this blog, I have endevoured to present readers with information from leading scientists which questions an orthodox medical model of a brain disease process, in the stimulation of the kind of euphoric psychosis I've experienced, as bipolar type 1's, mania feuled altered states of mind. My recent posts have been an attempt to further coalesce my own understanding through writing here, and to make apparent the kind of self-education reading which has allowed me to transform my own fearful ignorance and avoidance of my body's dis-eased sensations, into a sense-of-myself which no longer requires a medication prop.
Discovering the physiological foundations (see: Mental Illness - Psychological & Physiological?) of my experiences of psychosis, has allowed me to understand the need of its dream-like state, as an aid to approaching an existential reality; "experientially, the -- the feeling is utter terror," which threatens to destory the conscious state of being we hold so precious? Yet if we could truthfully face up to the evolutionary nature of our conscious mind and our much vaunted intelligence, would that help us to relieve the profound states of dis-ease and conscious self-doubt, we increasingly label as a form of mental illness? Please consider;
"In truth, we avoid nature’s harsher reality like the plague whenever she demands a stress response, in the real-life reality of the lived moment? We don’t like real-life distress and we recoil from it, in the double-bind trap of nature’s instincts for survival and our socialized denial of instinctual motivation.
Watch the audience recoil reaction in this great BBC TV series, as the surface image of a beautiful face is removed to reveal the reality of evolution beneath the pleasing image?
Its an odd paradox of the human condition, that we are happy to accept our evolved nature when it saves our life, and the word instinct is fine. We are happy to accept positive sensations and feelings in consideration of the word evolution, yet quickly turn towards denial when negative sensations, feelings and "acted out" behaviors are stimulated by that same word? In our socialized consensus reality of normal and acceptable behavior though, anything abnormal is diagnosed as Illness and definitely not Instinct?
"In fact, the word instinct is rarely found in modern psychological literature. Rather it is purged and replaced with terms such as drives, motivations and needs. While instincts are still routinely drawn upon to explain animal behaviors, we have somehow lost sight of how many human behavior patterns (though modifiable) are primal, automatic, universal and predictable. (p, 231)" _Peter Levine, PhD. "In an Unspoken Voice."
Consider this explanation of our evolved nature from The Child Trauma Academy.
"Humans are Special:
Communication between one human and another is the hallmark of our species. Communication was the critical capacity required for survival during the thousands of generations of our evolution. Naked, slow, weak, and without biological armor or weapons, humans survived by living and hunting in groups. Interdependent individuals created a strong, flexible, and adaptive "whole" -- the band, the clan, the tribe.
While physically separate and self-aware, individual humans are linked by the invisible bonds of sensation, perception, and communication into larger biological units, or groups. One individual may belong to many groups -- a couple, a family, and a working group. Each group has a unique set of tasks and a set of rewards for its members. The integrity and function of the group is formed, maintained, and changed by social interaction.
The human brain developed remarkable biological apparatus dedicated specifically to social perception and communication, verbal and non-verbal. These underlying biological properties are continually at play in all human interactions -- sensing, processing, perceiving, storing, and acting on signals from other humans. All human interactions are governed by core principles of communication that are the product of neurobiological processes shaped by thousands of years of evolutionary pressures.
Through the evolutionary process, the remarkable expressive communication capacity of the face was further refined. In fact, facial expression became the most important of all social communication instruments. What else has the capacity to both reflect the internal emotional state of the individual and elicit a specific emotional and social response? The various faces we make can express the full range of human emotions.
Beware of Strangers & Anything New?
During their development, each person creates a catalogue of familiar faces and stores these as templates for familiar/safe. In these familiar faces, the infant and child learn the non-verbal language of the group as surely as they learn the verbal language. An unfamiliar face will elicit a low-level alarm response in any individual. All new faces are judged to be threatening until proven otherwise.
Two factors provoke this reaction. First, the brain's information matching process is very conservative. All novel situations and new information are judged to be threatening until proven otherwise. The second specific reason that new faces elicit a low-level alarm is that the human brain evolved in a world where, for thousands of generations, the major threats to any individual were other humans.
A new person, a new face in the typical interaction from our history meant that there were other humans around competing for the same water, fruits, game, and cave. This new person was as likely to attack as he was to decide to affiliate or cooperate. Across generations, wariness to new individuals, new groups, and new ideas was selected and built into the circuits of the human brain's alarm response." From The Child Trauma Academy.
Yet in the Western world today, it is this unconscious hard-wired wariness, which is habitually denied in our daily "I think therefore I am," social rituals of acceptable behavior. A consensus denial which causes us to unknowingly scan and diagnose others, in a mind reading fashion, rather than recognize the unconscious language of the body.
Yet beyond the daily headline drama, I firmly believe that we have reached a crucial point in so-called history, “that ever present moment,” for which we use the metaphor “eternal.” We are emerging into a dawning realization as we begin to face the reality within, where all our perceptions are actually created? The body/brain as a holistic and creative sense-of-self, or Plato’s cave and our overwhelmingly unconscious, organic motivations?
Step back for a moment and look at the big picture, of a Western world now financially and morally bankrupt, and in dire need of a new vision to light the way forward? Just as in the past, it will come from that ancient tribe who are born to psychosis, the kind of sensitive souls Greek mythology gave names like Cassandra? In a dreamlike dramatization of meaning & the human condition? Consider;
From: Born to Psychosis an online memoir of my experience with psychosis and something of a dissertation chapter, of its interpretation.
For those interested in reading more of Jaak Panksepp's views on the human condition;
"Sleep, Arousal, and Mythmaking in the Brain:
What a strange thing, this dreaming process, that has now been the focus of more scientific inquiry than any other intrinsic mechanism of the brain. In terms of the EEG, it looks like a waking state, but in terms of behavior it looks like flaccid paralysis. When neuronal action potentials are analyzed during the three states of vigilance (sleeping, dreaming, and waking), we generally get a picture of waking activity as accompanied by a great deal of spontaneous neural activity, with only some cells being silent, waiting for the right environmental stimulus to come along.
Before certain critical experiments were done, it was assumed that the waking state was sustained by the bombardment of the brain by incoming stimuli from the senses and that sleep ensued only when stimulation from environment was sufficiently diminished.
During REM sleep, most of the brain exhibits slightly more neuronal activity than during waking, with storms of intense activity sweeping through certain areas of the brain. However, many neurons that are most active during waking cease firing completely during REM.
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The AFFECT of Neuroception, in Mental Illness?
Mental Illness - Its Metabolic Energy Shifts?
Madness & the Chaotic Energies of The Trauma Trap?
Mental Illness & The Face - - Heart Connection?
Mental Illness - Psychological & Physiological?
Discovering a Paradigm Shift in Mental Health?
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