Trying to “get rid of” an experience can be a key part of the problem
Posted Jun 04 2011 12:00am
A key problem in “psychosis” is that people identify part of their experience as being a problem or the enemy, and then imagine they need to get rid of it in order to get well. This puts people at war with themselves, and the state of” war” generates more disturbing experiences that are seen as an worsening of the condition and lead to even more desperate attempts to eliminate the perceived problem.
This is not just true in psychosis, but also in other mental health problems.
A good video showing how an opposite approach, involving acceptance and even embracing of the experience, can be helpful for “panic disorder” is
Another video showing the same approach for generalized anxiety disorder is
When people start doing really well in their lives but still have experiences that the mental health system defines as “psychotic,” some people see this as evidence that the person is “recovered but still experiencing some psychosis.” But a better alternative would be to notice that there was something wrong to begin with in our definition of psychosis; why should we be calling voices “psychosis” if many people can hear voices and do very well?
The Hearing Voices movement, as well as a lot of research showing people in the general population who hear voices and don’t need any sort of help, suggests that we might better see “hearing voices” as just a human variation in experience, which can cause people a lot of trouble, but also can be adjusted to in ways that don’t result in trouble, and it is only the troublesome responses to voices that require some kind of mental health assistance.
Further, when the mental health system defines as “psychosis” or “illness” aspects of experience which could be adjusted to in a healthy way, it actually becomes part of the problem. A key difficulty in voice hearing is people alternating between too much listening to/believing/obeying the voices, and too much focus on fighting with or trying to get rid of the voices. As Eleanor Longden points out in the video of her story , hostility to voices sets up an unhealthy climate within the self. . To the extent the mental health system encourages an excess focus on “control” or “getting rid of” potentially useful human experience, it becomes itself a part of or cause of the disorder.
In the Open Dialogue method, they talk about the psychosis not just being in one person, but being in the network. Unfortunately, all too often the mental health system’s mistaken beliefs and perspectives are a major part of the problem, but we in the mental health system tend not to own the possibility that we may misguided, and then often fail to see the way we may be feeding the fire of the disorder.
Some of you may be interested in this recent news story which outlines Ron Coleman’s alternative approach to voice hearing: Conversations with Ourselves