06 Mar Schizophrenia: What is it really?
People often jokingly describe themselves as “schizo” when they have opposing feelings about a single thing simultaneously, or can’t make up their mind. They think schizophrenia means “split personality,” probably because the origin of the word schizophrenia is schizo, meaning “I split,” and phrene, meaning “mind” in ancient greek. If you have ever met a person suffering with unmedicated schizophrenia, you are well aware that what they are experiencing is far more complicated than ambivalence, (which is what you are experiencing when you can’t make up your mind about something).
Alternatively, people think of schizophrenia as totally mysterious and kind of scary because they have seen some of the more extreme symptoms of a person diagnosed with it.
In an effort to dispel the myth that schizophrenia is simply ambivalence, and to cast some light on the mystery of it, I offer this idea. Schizophrenia: The waking dream state.
First, imagine yourself a dreamer. You are asleep. Your body is almost completely still. Your consciousness is not connected to reality. All your emotions, urges and tensions are expressed as images and sounds in your mind, with no bodily involvement. Reality rarely impinges on the experience. Sometimes, even when it does, it is incorporated into your dream, (like an alarm clock creating a noise coming from some object in your dream). You, the dreamer, are completely separated from reality in the sanctuary of your mind. As a dreamer, you are in a schizophrenic state. Your conscious mind is “split” from the feelings in your body and from reality around you.
Just like sleeping dreamers, people who suffer from schizophrenia most often have bodies that are very still and soft. They do not have a lot of muscle tone Their faces have a mask-like appearance and their conscious minds can be be out of touch with reality. Most of their feelings, meaning, their emotions, urges and tensions, are represented in their minds as images or sounds instead of experienced consciously as coming from their bodies. As a result, those things are experienced as coming from outside of them and intruding on them, or as being outside of themselves so they are experienced as sights or sounds that no one else sees or hears. (Hallucinations).
Schizophrenia would be as if you, the sleeping dreamer, were suddenly awake and perceiving the world around you as you continued to dream, not consciously aware of the emotions, urges or tensions in your body, and still experiencing your dream as if it were real. You would not be consciously aware of your emotions, but the part of your mind (your unconscious) that is connected to the feelings/emotions/urges/tensions in your body would be sending you that information through images, sounds, voices, etc. Just like when you are the sleeping dreamer.
So, as you can see, schizophrenia is not such a mystery after all. It is a “split,” just as you might guess from the word. However, rather than being a split in “personality,” the split occurs between the conscious mind and feelings in the body. This is similar to your experience as a sleeping dreamer, it’s just more extreme and happens while the person is awake.
Why it happens is more mysterious, and there are many differing opinions as to its origin. No time for that in this blog. If you want to understand more, give me a call. We’ll talk.