The Myth of Mental Illness - Part II

Written by Sam Vaknin

Continued from page 1

Mental health professionals prefer to talk about an impairment of a "person's perception or understanding of reality". They hold a "guilty but mentally ill" verdict to be contradiction in terms. All "mentally-ill" people operate within a (usually coherent) worldview, with consistent internal logic, and rules of right and wrong (ethics). Yet, these rarely conform torepparttar way most people perceiverepparttar 126194 world. The mentally-ill, therefore, cannot be guilty because s/he has a tenuous grasp on reality.

Yet, experience teaches us that a criminal maybe mentally ill even as s/he maintains a perfect reality test and thus is held criminally responsible (Jeffrey Dahmer comes to mind). The "perception and understanding of reality", in other words, can and does co-exist even withrepparttar 126195 severest forms of mental illness.

This makes it even more difficult to comprehend what is meant by "mental disease". If some mentally ill maintain a grasp on reality, know right from wrong, can anticipaterepparttar 126196 outcomes of their actions, are not subject to irresistible impulses (the official position ofrepparttar 126197 American Psychiatric Association) - in what way do they differ from us, "normal" folks?

This is whyrepparttar 126198 insanity defense often sits ill with mental health pathologies deemed socially "acceptable" and "normal" - such as religion or love.

Considerrepparttar 126199 following case:

A mother bashesrepparttar 126200 skulls of her three sons. Two of them die. She claims to have acted on instructions she had received from God. She is found not guilty by reason of insanity. The jury determined that she "did not know right from wrong duringrepparttar 126201 killings."

But why exactly was she judged insane?

Her belief inrepparttar 126202 existence of God - a being with inordinate and inhuman attributes - may be irrational.

But it does not constitute insanity inrepparttar 126203 strictest sense because it conforms to social and cultural creeds and codes of conduct in her milieu. Billions of people faithfully subscribe torepparttar 126204 same ideas, adhere torepparttar 126205 same transcendental rules, observerepparttar 126206 same mystical rituals, and claim to go throughrepparttar 126207 same experiences. This shared psychosis is so widespread that it can no longer be deemed pathological, statistically speaking.

She claimed that God has spoken to her.

As do numerous other people. Behavior that is considered psychotic (paranoid-schizophrenic) in other contexts is lauded and admired in religious circles. Hearing voices and seeing visions - auditory and visual delusions - are considered rank manifestations of righteousness and sanctity.

Perhaps it wasrepparttar 126208 content of her hallucinations that proved her insane?

She claimed that God had instructed her to kill her boys. Surely, God would not ordain such evil?

Alas,repparttar 126209 Old and New Testaments both contain examples of God's appetite for human sacrifice. Abraham was ordered by God to sacrifice Isaac, his beloved son (though this savage command was rescinded atrepparttar 126210 last moment). Jesus,repparttar 126211 son of God himself, was crucified to atone forrepparttar 126212 sins of humanity.

A divine injunction to slay one's offspring would sit well withrepparttar 126213 Holy Scriptures andrepparttar 126214 Apocrypha as well as with millennia-old Judeo-Christian traditions of martyrdom and sacrifice.

Her actions were wrong and incommensurate with both human and divine (or natural) laws.

Yes, but they were perfectly in accord with a literal interpretation of certain divinely-inspired texts, millennial scriptures, apocalyptic thought systems, and fundamentalist religious ideologies (such asrepparttar 126215 ones espousingrepparttar 126216 imminence of "rupture"). Unless one declares these doctrines and writings insane, her actions are not.

we are forced torepparttar 126217 conclusion thatrepparttar 126218 murderous mother is perfectly sane. Her frame of reference is different to ours. Hence, her definitions of right and wrong are idiosyncratic. To her, killing her babies wasrepparttar 126219 right thing to do and in conformity with valued teachings and her own epiphany. Her grasp of reality -repparttar 126220 immediate and later consequences of her actions - was never impaired.

It would seem that sanity and insanity are relative terms, dependent on frames of cultural and social reference, and statistically defined. There isn't - and, in principle, can never emerge - an "objective", medical, scientific test to determine mental health or disease unequivocally.

VIII. Adaptation and Insanity - (correspondence with Paul Shirley, MSW)

"Normal" people adapt to their environment - both human and natural.

"Abnormal" ones try to adapt their environment - both human and natural - to their idiosyncratic needs/profile.

If they succeed, their environment, both human (society) and natural is pathologized.

Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory Bellaonline, and Suite101 .

Visit Sam's Web site at

Intuition - Part I

Written by Sam Vaknin

Continued from page 1

Artists - especially performing artists (like musicians) - often describe their interpretation of an artwork (e.g., a musical piece) in terms of this type of intuition. Many mathematicians and physicists (following a kind of Pythagorean tradition) use emergent intuitions in solving general nonlinear equations (by guessingrepparttar approximants) or partial differential equations.

Henri Poincaret insisted (in a presentation torepparttar 126193 Psychological Society of Paris, 1901) that even simple mathematical operations require an "intuition of mathematical order" without which no creativity in mathematics is possible. He described how some of his creative work occurred to him out ofrepparttar 126194 blue and without any preparation,repparttar 126195 result of emergent intuitions. These intuitions had "the characteristics of brevity, suddenness and immediate certainty... Most striking at first is this appearance of sudden illumination, a manifest sign of long, unconscious prior work. The role of this unconscious work in mathematical invention appears to me incontestable, and traces of it would be found in other cases where it is less evident."

Subjectively, emergent intuitions are indistinguishable from insights. Yet insight is more "cognitive" and structured and concerned with objective learning and knowledge. It is a novel reaction or solution, based on already acquired responses and skills, to new stimuli and challenges. Still, a strong emotional (e.g., aesthetic) correlate usually exists in both insight and emergent intuition.

Intuition and insight are strong elements in creativity,repparttar 126196 human response to an ever changing environment. They are shock inducers and destabilizers. Their aim is to moverepparttar 126197 organism from one established equilibrium torepparttar 126198 next and thus better prepare it to cope with new possibilities, challenges, and experiences. Both insight and intuition are inrepparttar 126199 realm ofrepparttar 126200 unconscious,repparttar 126201 simple, andrepparttar 126202 mentally disordered. Hencerepparttar 126203 great importance of obtaining insights and integrating them in psychoanalysis - an equilibrium altering therapy.

IC. Ideal Intuitions

The third type of intuition isrepparttar 126204 "ideal intuition". These are thoughts and feelings that precede any intellectual analysis and underlie it. Moral ideals and rules may be such intuitions (see "Morality - a State of Mind?"). Mathematical and logical axioms and basic rules of inference ("necessary truths") may also turn out to be intuitions. These moral, mathematical, and logical self-evident conventions do not relate torepparttar 126205 world. They are elements ofrepparttar 126206 languages we use to describerepparttar 126207 world (or ofrepparttar 126208 codes that regulate our conduct in it). It follows that these a-priori languages and codes are nothing butrepparttar 126209 set of our embedded ideal intuitions.

Asrepparttar 126210 Rationalists realized, ideal intuitions (a class of undeniable, self-evident truths and principles) can be accessed by our intellect. Rationalism is concerned with intuitions - though only with those intuitions available to reason and intellect. Sometimes,repparttar 126211 boundary between intuition and deductive reasoning is blurred as they both yieldrepparttar 126212 same results. Moreover, intuitions can be combined to yield metaphysical or philosophical systems. Descartes applied ideal intuitions (e.g., reason) to his eidetic intuitions to yield his metaphysics. Husserl, Twardowki, even Bolzano didrepparttar 126213 same in developingrepparttar 126214 philosophical school of Phenomenology.

Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory Bellaonline, and Suite101 .

Visit Sam's Web site at

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