ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Mindfulness to Address Psychosis

Jack Bragen
Friday March 02, 2018 - 11:04:00 AM

In this week's column, I am taking a break from national events and offering some escapism in the form of meditation hints. Maybe next week I will be back to talking about the jeopardy we mentally ill, and everyone else, are facing due to the current political and social climate. Meanwhile, here come some methods that might make you feel a bit better, and that might, along with conventional treatment, help create clearer thinking. 

Human beings don't actually live in "reality." People live apart from truth, in their projection of what they believe to be the truth. Any person is capable of a "delusion," not just people diagnosed with mental illness. 

By my opinion, someone becomes "psychotic" at the point where the thinking is, firstly, split off from what most people believe, secondly, in conflict with the data from the five physical senses, and thirdly, causes you to be a danger to yourself or others, or gravely disabled.  

Concerning who is in touch with "reality" and who isn't, don't try to answer that. Instead, get your thinking at least partly synced to that of others. Also, there are other things you can do to improve the thinking. 

Psychotic delusions are remotely analogous to a computer virus affecting the mind. You can learn to identify delusions before they multiply. The prerequisite is usually being medicated. 

Medication slows down the thoughts to the extent that you may be able to identify delusions. When the thoughts are too many and too fast, you don't have a chance to evaluate the accuracy of the thoughts. Medication to treat psychosis, unfortunately, slows down everything. Yet, for some of us, it is a necessary horribleness. 

There are exercises you can do to extract delusions. There are exercises you can do to alleviate, to an extent, emotional and physical pain, in their various forms. 

The first step that I suggest is merely to acknowledge that some of your beliefs may be delusions. The next step is the realization that you could be emotionally attached to some of the delusions, while on the other hand, that some of your delusions could make you scared. 

The hope for something better is a big yearning in people. It is a strong enough force within the mind that it can increase the susceptibility to some types of delusions. 

Fear is another powerful force within us that can increase the likelihood of delusions. Additionally, delusions may increase at times when we feel a lack of hope, or possibly a difficulty accepting ourselves. 


If we practice meditation, it can lead to the ability to be happy right now, without the need to hope for something that we believe will be better. Meditation can also alleviate some of our anxiety and fear. And it can also allow us to sidestep the all too common emotional barrier that blocks accepting ourselves just as we are. 

Meditation to accomplish the above can involve years of practice. However, it begins with recognizing areas in the mind that need "work." I am talking about "inner work" which is an intangible, and yet it exists. 

If you see a therapist, one who knows her or his "stuff," they may be able to help with some of our more difficult emotions. If the emotional component of a delusion is lessened, we will be able to recognize and discard delusions without as much resistance to the process. 

The work of recognizing a delusion could be helped by means of "reality checking," which usually involves asking someone who you know fairly well, if, to them a thought seems real, if it seems paranoid, or if it seems unrealistic and false. 

If we are able to inventory the thoughts, accomplished by writing the thoughts on paper (not on a computer--also, the writing tablet or notebook should not be left just anywhere, where someone else could pick it up and read it)--it is a great step number two. 

Step number three is to develop a method that is pre-prepared to use when it is needed, to deprogram or negate possible delusions. This type of development, unfortunately, can take years of practice. 

In the short term, much can be done toward improving how you process thoughts. Writing down thoughts, again, is very useful. When you see an idea on paper and not just in your head, it is a lot easier to evaluate it. The simple acknowledgment, that your mind is capable of an error, is another important step. 

You should realize that there are numerous advantages in life to having clear and accurate thinking. Clear thinking includes, among many other things, that you acknowledge and correct mistakes. These mistakes could be at the level of an incorrect thought, or could have progressed to the point of jeopardizing life circumstances. Whatever stage the error is in, the acknowledgment of the error matters. 

Basic clarity of thought should not be taken for granted. It is usually an acquired skill, and not one that we were born with. If you can think clearly, this will help you in almost any pursuit in life. Thinking clearly and speaking truthfully are superior skills compared to an exceptional ability to lie to people and be believed. 

For someone with a mental illness, clear thinking isn't out of reach, but it may take longer to develop. In doing many projects or things, it helps to have a clear assessment of what is required, and a realistic assessment of one's abilities and one's limitations.