ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Filtering the Thinking

Jack Bragen
Thursday December 01, 2016 - 09:06:00 PM

It would be nice if antipsychotic or other medications simply provided accurate thinking, but this is not so. If medicated, a person subject to psychosis still has to work at it to obtain thinking that is mostly not delusional. This is because antipsychotic medications cause parts of the brain to slow down, allowing the potential for rational thought. However, there is no pill that can automatically provide accurate thinking. A person suffering from psychosis must learn or relearn how to think, and must learn to recognize and discard delusions.  

One way to approach this is to look for patterns to the errors. Often an assumption will take root that affects the way thoughts are processed. If you have an assumption that you have psychic ability, for example, (not uncommon among people with psychosis) it can allow almost any thought that occurs to be accepted as truth.  

This is aside from the concept that people have auras and that extrasensory perception may exist. The assumption for someone with psychosis that they are "psychic" is poisonous to recovery.  

An assumption that you are being spied on by the government is also not uncommon. This is aside from the concept that the government does spy on people. The assumption of government spying can allow any situation to be interpreted as a conspiracy of the government. The government is probably busy fighting terrorists and probably isn't highly interested in our lives.  

An assumption of being in contact with extraterrestrials can also wreak havoc. You could have a delusion of being in contact with the E.T.'s, and yet the actual extraterrestrials could be busy with other things and most likely aren't in contact with you at all.  

None of the above are impossible. However, when incorporated as an assumption into the thinking of someone vulnerable to psychosis, assumptions like these, which are delusions, become the basis for entire delusional systems.  

I'm trying to convey that it is easier to recognize delusions and delusional systems if we can track a pattern that they may have.  

When someone is becoming increasingly psychotic, at some point having a delusional system or perhaps more than one delusional system at some point gives way to complete chaos in the mind.  

Certain things promote recovery, aside from medication and trying to fix one's thinking. Communication and contact with other human beings is a great way of developing points of reference, and of syncing your mind with those of others. This doesn't guarantee that you'll know the truth. And yet, your speech and actions are more likely to reflect what is socially considered normal. "Common sense" may not really exist, yet if your beliefs are synced with those of other people, it will render you capable of functioning in society.  

When someone with psychosis isn't medicated, you can't talk him or her back to sanity. Yet, once medicated and returning to reality, it is possible for talking to help.  

In 1990, the movie "Field of Dreams" was being shown at a psychiatric ward where I was staying following a relapse. Somehow that movie brought me out of my delusions, and I was ready to be released very soon afterward. Perhaps it was because I realized, "This is fiction" and yet, "This other thing is reality."  

Watching the movie caused me to relax, and it gave me the idea that I was an acceptable person despite unusual thoughts. The protagonist was at a baseball game, and saw on the billboard the words, "If you build it, they will come." In the movie, at least, the character wasn't judged for having an apparent hallucination. 

Filtering the thinking involves pinpointing the particular thoughts that are creating problems, and deprogramming those thoughts. For this, insight is needed. If meds are too far in excess and block insight, this may not be possible.  

Development of the internal sense, in which you can "see" your thoughts, can take place through journaling. If you write down on a piece of paper what your thoughts are, you can see your thoughts and you can evaluate them.  

Being okay with yourself as someone with a mental illness allows you to deal with the reality of it without the baggage of hating yourself. As persons with mental illness, we are acceptable people, and we should know we are acceptable, regardless of whether non-afflicted, bigoted people hate and/or stereotype us for having a disability that we didn't create.