Mental Illness and the Human Psyche: Part 3

As has been proffered by history’s greatest minds for thousands of years, a way of balance seems the best course of action for any therapeutic process. To delve into the psyche of another fully individual and equally mysterious human being is one of the mind’s most fascinating undertakings. Whether it be in the arms of a lover, or in the office of a therapist, or perhaps in the confession box of the church; there lies the ultimate need to retain the balance between the individual unconscious and psychic aspect, and the external communitive factors of our existence. In the therapist’s office, there remains the ancient remnants of archaic and occult ritual; in which the shamanic presence (represented by the clinician) becomes the patient in question (to as much as an extent as would be helpful) so that he may not only understand him, but also provide guidance and help for him on his journey through life and the infinite number of possibilities he may face therein. Achieving a psychic state which enables a completely non-judgmental, open and vulnerable environment is key to the success of any treatment, coupled by the admission of the doctor that in reality, he knows as little or less about the patient than the patient does himself; for all his medical knowledge and experience can never prepare him fully for an exploration of another individual. Thus, the process does not become one of a sole treatment of a problem, as a cardiologist would treat a patient’s heart, but instead a pursuit of the most noble of virtues: truth. Both the patient and the clinician are in the pursuit of not only helping the patient but understanding him; so that he may unlock his own capacity to individualize and shape his own psyche. This is one aspect of humanistic psychology which is extremely useful; their focus on the integration and self reliance of the individual enables the patient to begin, often for the first time to truly explore the depths of his own being and consciousness.

An approach which encompasses the best of all the schools would be best for any patient. While simultaneously adjusting the treatment to each individual and seeking to understand them openly and ungrudgingly; the clinician is placed in a perilous position. That of the maintainer of the balance between the mutual transference between himself and the patient, and the necessary distance between each of them so that each of their individualities do not amalgamate into a newly born pathology. Interestingly, the pursuit of balance as a concept has pervaded many of the most striking and fundamental philosophies of the world since (as I openly hypothesize) the birth of human consciousness. The “religious function” (Carl G. Jung The Undiscovered Self) is one that is fundamental and undeniably present in the human psyche; so much so that the transference of this function has occurred onto non-otherworldly presences, these being ideologies and certain philosophies and ideas which pervade the masses of the state. The ideal therapy then lies in close proximity to the teachings of oriental philosophy; which at its core is thus: observe and pay attention to the illusory nature of human life with an open mind, and follow the wordless knowledge which may arise as a consequence. Now, the nuances and various interpretations of eastern philosophy may be debatable, but at its core it is capable of developing the individual beyond the limitations of the state and of the individual’s culture. To become frameless, illusion less, and meditative are the processes by which Buddhism proudly stands, so that the participants may achieve the goal of “Nirvana”. Unfortunately, as a species we have a habit of taking things much too literally, so the idea of Nirvana has become much more of a powerful presence than that of Nirvana itself; and for this reason the interpreted and underlying truths of Nirvana, enlightenment, satori, or grace; all of which are re-discovered aspects of the same phenomenon throughout history, will be explained. The successful process of therapy is in fact the process of enlightening and individually integrating the student/patient in question, only we in the west refuse to take on this view. There lies a general psychological resistance to the call of individuation and initiation into fully enlightened life (which in truth is just “liberation from the chains of the self” Allan Watts The Book) because of the reliance on the state as a reflection of the process which supresses individuality. The Western State, in placing reason and scientific enquiry on a pedestal has repressed the religious function, which is essentially that which allows the exploration of the human psyche. Instead of philosophies and religions which are a way of life, what we pertain to have now is solely an intellectual and scientific affair. The reduction of all psychic functions to the interaction of the physical brain and the outside world has left us in a position in which we have no where to go, and no one to believe. It was very true when Nietzsche said, “God is dead, see his blood on our hands…” (Frederic Nietzsche Thus Spoke Zarathustra) Though God may be dead, the religious psychic function of man is not. And for this reason, the ultimate therapy (and therapist) must learn the art of balancing and knowing exactly when and how to treat the patient in the moment, so that the discoveries made are mutually spontaneous and effective. The connection between certain aspects of the Buddha-nature and the responsibilities of the therapist are strikingly similar when viewed from an objective point. Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) for all intents and purposes might have just been the best therapist of all time; along with Jesus, Mohammed and all other prophetic heroes who star in the humanity’s greatest mythologies. The hero’s journey (as laid out in Joseph Campbell’s work The Hero With A Thousand Faces) is one that we all undertake every day, on whatever scale may apply to us at the time. The descent into the unconscious, and the return to the waking world with new knowledge or object which creates an advantage in waking life against the tragedy of existence, at its root is the same mode of behaviour as say, moving to a new house, or getting a new job. All the normal aspects of life are dramatized and represented in a mythological format so that it may be copied and integrated on a mass scale by humanity.

If the ultimate therapy would be the maintenance of balance between the external non psychic, and the internal intra-psychic aspects of the world, then there remains one question. What is it that destabilizes the balance in our lives so that we must seek the help of another to re-achieve it? It is at this point that we depart from the realm of science and logical thought, and into the strange land of creative conjecture.

The idea of balance is no stranger to exposure and discussion around philosophical dinner tables and among pseudo intellectual friends, and there remains much which is unclear about the nature of balance in of itself. But there is one universal symbol which describes its intuitive nature perfectly, that of Yin and Yang. The simple elegance of the Taoist Yin and Yang is that which makes it so special, and it is the participation in the illusion of opposites that is hypothesized here as the heart of all of what we call “mental illness.” This is because of the metaphysical reality that the only way for something to have power over oneself is if it becomes real to that person. The assumption that there is an individual or self to be mentally ill at all is the source of what is perceived as illness. The truth, which evades many philosophers, theologians and scientists alike is quite plain, save for the fact that we are searching for something in a bright room with a lantern. That which we seek, the solution to all our problems and the unlocking of our consciousness remains unequivocally the same, but we (as is part of the human condition) look for it in a way that further complicates things; it doesn’t look at things in the way that they truly are. The art of “getting in one’s own head” is one that has been mastered by humanity, and the illusion of opposites is the source of there even being the capability of getting lost in one’s head. Assumption is the key to the ego’s existence, and the ego’s existence is what unlocks the way to the possibility of mental illness. Assumption of one’s own concrete existence, that one is anything more than a manifestation of the universal consciousness, or indeed more than nature as a force in of itself, is the enabling force behind all of our neuroses, moral quandaries, and inquiries into existence. Consciousness in of itself; to know that we know, is the cycle of Samsara (The Bhagavat Ghita) on which all of man is trapped. The human condition is the precursor to its own existence and is the illusion which allows one to become aware of there being any illusion at all. Like a mirror, the human psyche expresses and reflects existence in a manner in which it may itself be observed. And so the stories of the fall of humanity, being that of Adam and Eve, or the initial stages of Siddhartha Gautama’s myth, are reflections of the birth of consciousness, which to this day remains locked within the sacred keep of the unconscious mind. The only thing which makes me have anxiety for example, is the assumption (deeply ingrained in my psyche by familial, cultural, and archetypal influences) that there exists a ME which may be anxious at all. That there is indeed a self, one which experiences and controls my life from a separate standpoint located somewhere in my brain, or perhaps my heart, or perhaps my soul, is an illusion. The interpretations of the truth of this fundamental illusion, which is one of perception, are varied in innumerable and magical ways, but there remains the constance of its presence.

The self illusion, which pervades all of humanity is what allows us to be conscious of the presence of our neuroses, or the presence of any individual existence at all in the form of one’s idea of I. A fish is not aware of the evil it commits by incestuous relations, nor the presence of any pathology which might cause him to eat a poisonous form of food, or jump head first into the way of an oncoming shark; he is simply aware, but not of his awareness. Nature of herself is also not a separate entity which humanity can conquer; it is only an extension of the organism of existence, which includes all the earth, and all the Universe. But the assumption that man can be, in some special and specific way; separate from his environment, and indeed from himself is what leads to this epidemic of estrangement and confusion that we see in our culture today. The initial experience of experiencing is what allows us to know there is an experience at all, and from this fundamental standpoint, the rest of the human psyche grows and persists like a tree. The roots being the unconscious, the canopy being the unaware and aggrandized ego; and in the center, the point with which the tree becomes the ground, there lies awareness: consciousness in of itself. From here all our neuroses, unconscious or conscious, light or dark, Yin or Yang, arise and grow into the earth and into the sky. And thus, we come full circle. The peak of humanity, rising high above the ground in a sense of self and individuation, looks to the sun and the stars so that they may be reached and explored. The roots are the base, which connect consciousness with the Universe in such a fundamental way that it is mysterious and dark, there being no light to penetrate its depths. In it lies the creepy crawlies, the awful things that eat away at the leaves of the trees and suffer and live in a hellish dark. As aforementioned in the introduction of this work, the human psyche has the simultaneous gift and curse of reaching into both these realms, where the source of our true nature, and self realization remains the center and trunk of the world-tree; in the phenomenon of consciousness.

Ending with a grain of salt, one must acknowledge that the latter third of this work is philosophical conjecture; but in the realm of psychology, the lines between conjecture and science become blurred and there is no way to clear them (that we know of currently). Mental illness is; along with the science of psychology, a relatively new and fresh idea and is one that fascinates our culture more and more as time passes. And though there be few determined and certain causes for the mental illness of our age, there remains still those who would dare to delve into the unconscious, to uncover the secrets and knowledge therein. Perhaps one day there will be an amalgamative therapy, a method which can truly achieve the goal of the mental clinician; to encourage, heal, and enlighten the patient’s own consciousness, but until then, the individual remains responsible for his own truth. What that truth may be, is to be discovered by none other than the individual, and with some wit and courage, the process to the discovery of this truth may be achieved, in so much as there may be the existence of any individual at all.

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