ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Data Corruption

Jack Bragen
Friday April 08, 2016 - 04:02:00 PM

A few delusions can do a lot of damage. No, I'm not talking of something you can see, like a wrecked car, a physical injury, or an overdrawn bank account--although these things can certainly take place. I'm talking about damage to the software that makes the human mind work.  

Paranoid and other delusions are usually created by brain malfunctions that doctors believe have physical causes. Medication provides relief from the worst of the overt symptoms for many of the afflicted. It works by means of changing the brain chemistry, which changes how the brain processes information. 

Medication can get one's mind into the ballpark of correct thought. Medication makes correct thought possible, but it is not an assurance of that. I find that while on medication, I still need to do a lot of work, cognitive work that is, to keep myself thinking with a good level of accuracy. Call it mental discipline; call it cognitive exercises, whatever you want to call it, it is necessary for me to correct errors in thought on a regular basis.  

In computer terminology, there is the term "data corruption." This refers to computer errors not created by viruses. Data corruption could, some of the time, be caused by a worn out hard drive (which is magnetic and has moving parts), by misreading a CD or DVD (dirt or a scratch on the surface of the DVD or CD can cause this), or, a computer error can come from other causes.  

However, I am stealing the term data corruption and using it to describe what happens in the mind of a mentally ill person.  

Generally speaking of people, there is no rule that says our thinking is going to be accurate, mentally ill or not. The ones with accurate thinking are usually those who are able to reflect a lot, and to do some form of correction of errors. Such a person is likely considered to have a scientific mind. Zen practitioners are more likely to think accurately because they have trained their minds to work better. Doctors and scientists have been trained in "the scientific method" and this can be used as a mental set of tools that can produce clearer thinking.  

The human brain, because of the fact that it is a biological thing and because of the magnitude of information that it must process, is always going to have some level of error.  

When the human brain is ill, especially with a disease such as schizophrenia, by definition, there will be a lot of processing that is not accurate. I am fortunate that I have learned ways of thinking more clearly than I have in my past. This progress did not come quickly or easily.  

I have to periodically identify and negate delusions in a way vaguely analogous to someone pulling weeds in a garden. I did not have this ability very much when I was in my twenties, although at the time I thought I did.  

Would it be accurate to say either you have clarity or you don't? Not necessarily. If someone sincerely wants better thinking, he or she can work toward that. If you have schizophrenia or a similar condition, it doesn't mean that you ought to give up on your mind. You can be mentally ill and in treatment, and you can have a very good mind. Achieving that is more of a feat compared to someone who is unimpaired and who has been given advantages, such as high level college courses and the opportunity to interact with academic people.  

If you are mentally ill, don't give up. Things can be accomplished or achieved if you do the necessary work.