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Saturday, 9 June 2007
Mental illness
Mood:  quizzical
Topic: special needs

Brian, have you ever read any writings by the German mathematician Georg
Cantor. He developed the theory of infinite sets and also did some
philosophical and theological writing. Cantor also suffered from mental
illness. I often wonder if he could have created his theory of infinite
sets if he had been "sane"! And that brings up a good question; What is
normal and what is abnormal. Some of my best friends suffered/suffer from
so called mental illness. They never seemed that strange to me. Society
can be so judgmental. Michel Foucault, the eminent French writer and
philosopher, contends in his book MADNESS AND CIVILIZATION that French
authorities in the 1600's shut away mentally ill people not for therapy
but to police society. Moreover, Thomas Szaz, professor of psychiatry at
Syracuse University, New York, USA has written books entitled THE MYTH OF
written , " There is no such thing as mental illness!"

Hi Mead! I think that mental 'illness' can cover such a wide range of definition that it can not easily be defined. Perhaps the best example of this occurred in my journal, when a fellow busker (Everts) came up
to me in a bar and said,
"It seems like everyone is acting strange in here tonight."
I replied, "That makes you strange."
That made him laugh, and resulted in his writing of a song where the chorus ran, "The strangest man on Earth tonight? Is it you?"
The term "Busker" can cover such a wide range of motivations and diversity. In the end, it results in the negation of the term as a means to isolate generalisation. It is possible to say that a busker seeks reward
from impromptu and random audiences, but no other generalisation will fit. Every busker has an individual motivation.
I think mental illness is a term similar to "Busker". It is possible to say that a mentally ill person is someone who doesn't behave or think in a way the mainsream of a society may class as understandable, but
no generalisation will fit. Every person defined as mentally ill needs to be studied individually. It is possible to put names onto behavioual patterns and a patient might ape these patterns quite well. But that
doesn't get any closer to generalising the term "mental illness". It simply isolates buskers (analogy) who play the guitar and like to play Bruce Springsteen songs (example).
The kind of "mental illness" my journal gleefully embraced was the "derangment of the senses" unveiled by Rimbaud.
What is normal?
A. Something I am not.
What is abnormal?
A. Something I am (preferably).

Now I shall ask you a question:
If John (imagined person) dies, would he be impressed if his epitaph on his tombstone read:
"Here lies John. He was normal." ?
Suppose he were a politician. Suppose a fellow politician should stand before his mourners and say
"I think the greatest tribute I can give John is that he was extraodinarily normal; and all his works were very normal indeed." ?
As recently as the middle of last century it was possible for parents to commit their teenage daughter to a mental institute for pre-marital sex or even for loving a person considered unsuitable. These victims
were sane, but years of incarceration in the institute led to them becoming institutionalised and effectively mentally ill.
I'd care to bet that you (as a psychologist) look at each individual case on its own merit, using guidelines established over the years by the summary of other similar cases experienced by yourself or other
psychologists. There would be no point in there being psychologists if there was no hope of curing a condition, or modifying it.
It seems that thoughts that are advanced or retarded cause the greatest confusions. If you were to show this e mail to a seven year old and ask them (as a friend, not as an authoratorive adult) what they think
about the issue, I'd care to bet they wouldn't understand a word of it. Because of this, they may well look at this mail and then at you and say, "You're mad."
Bringing in one final analogy: anti biotics will kill harmful bacteria, but they may equally kill good bacteria.
Be in touch. keep in touch.

Posted by buskerbrian at 1:02 PM BST

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