Doubt and Deliverance

It’s bound to happen, the crisis of confidence. In fact, I think I have spent most of my life in and out of some sort of crisis of confidence. Doubt is a play thing of whatever might be called the devil and distraction.

My personal doubt is characterized by the prickly feeling of something having gone terribly wrong. Perhaps I made a mistake? Of course, I tell myself, everyone makes mistakes.

Sometimes I look around and wonder what it must be like to not have to think about things outside of the immediate realm of one’s day.

It has been said that the path to inner peace is in a freedom from guilt, fear, and the tuggings of the world and what may happen or not happen in it. It’s true that we have no idea and, for most of us, very little control over what does and does not occur. It is best to simply accept that it will most likely be some combination of good, bad, wrenching and triumphant.

However, it seems to me that people really ought to care more. I understand that they do and that some people care very much and spend their live’s energies in caring.

More people need to care more.

(Who am I to think I know anything about what people ought to care about? Well, the way I see it, people’s not caring is affecting the world I live in and it causes me a great deal of hopelessness to see the ways that people do not seem to care so much about what is happening and what has happened and what will likely happen if they do not begin to care more. )

This morning, driving to work, I was thinking about words I had written, on the topic of trauma, and wondering if seeing our world change so violently, so garishly, and with so much lavish destruction and construction has been a collective natural disaster of some sort, stunning us all into the quiet and abject terror of knowing that the world can and does end, that humans can and do wreck it.

I think sometimes, about what an actual grown-up might say to this preoccupation of mine, the fate of the world, the integrity of our story. “Get over it, it’s always been this way.”

There have always been people who tried to stop terrible things from happening, people that were concerned with terrible things happening.

(Note regarding writing about psychosis: I have thought a lot lately about how truly difficult it will be to write about what was going through my mind at during peak and pivotal months. While I was careful to keep my reality well-cordoned from consensus reality, stowed for navigational purposes, it still became a little haphazard under the pressure of ideas and feelings and facts and fictions and all the ways they can collide. The experience definitely became a bit fractious. However, I remember most every bit quite clearly, except for the parts I can’t remember, which are muddled between shots and pills and bland walls, long halls. It wasn’t pacing. It was meditating. It was movement, it was hoping to find someone to talk to about anything. I do remember that quite clearly. It’s a bit of a curse of and a blessing to not be able to forget the details. One day, I am going to spend days and days and weeks writing the details as poems. That’s really the only way, poems and stories, only in those forms can the vast triumph/tragedy/triumph be captured. I have spent decades bounding back and forth between triumphant hope and a sense of tragedy.)

Doubt and deliverance.

Adjunct Note #1:

“…as I was writing this, thinking about 10/6 and Portland and phone numbers, a dear friend from Pdx. called me. October 6th is his birthday and I hadn’t talked to him in 8 years.”

Adjunct Occurence #2:

In the dream that he had
there was rain
and he  mentioned police
with big bushy beards
speaking in some sort of brogue
that he did not understand

He was led to a castle
and they all knew his name
and the clapped when it was spoken out loud

He was taken to clean himself up and found his hands were covered in tar and moss
he scrubbed and he scrubbed
til the sink filled with mud
and skin on his hands was

And in his palm he found
A mirror a lens a window of sorts
and he said that he saw the wonders of the world
in a house with green shutters.
“It’s where my soulmate lives,” he says. “It’s painted a pale sort of yellow. There are steps to the door and an awning.”

He smiled and I felt sad for a minute thinking how hard it can be to find home

But we sleep and we dream and we try, because what else is there to do. We kick and we scream and we run and we cry, somewhere off into the blue.

Adjunct Note #3:

Today at the edge of the woods I held aloft a stick, waved it in a circle.

Laughing, I said:
“Watch! It will make wind!”

Of course, it did. The leaves shuddered and lifted, blew.

This was a coincidence, a little bit of luck, fortunate timing in a show for a child who still might believe in the possibility of a magical world.

“How’d you do that?”

“All you have to do is think about the trees as having a field of electricity around them, and then you can make wind.” I smiled, “Actually, all you have to do is move the air. That’s all wind is, air that has been stirred up by something or another. That breeze could’ve come from this stick, or it could’ve come from the highway.”

It is amazing to me, to think about the connections of the world and the ways that we, as humans, are a part of everything that surrounds us.

It is also a little overwhelming.

Adjunct Note #4:


It has been well established (by so many poems and verses, scientists and theologians)that human beings are deeply connected to the world, and to one another. I don’t think very many people could reasonably argue otherwise for very long. Nobody who has ever felt peace in nature or held a child could tell you that we (as a species) are not affected by our interactions with the world. (Similarly, nobody who has ever been harmed or seen harm being done walks away unaffected, autonomous to their experience – though some, under pressure, do compartmentalize, dissociate as a way to exist.)

In my thinking about psychosis, as a person who has done her fair share of existing in that headspace/heartspace/mindspace/worldspace/story, it is fairly clear that there are a few different drivers involved and that there are a lot of variables in each  individual’s unique experience.

One thing that is very persistent in my mind as I consider these ideas is the fact that, while environment and social history are acknowledged as variables impacting one’s experience of “psychosis,” many of the theories posit “psychosis” as some form of reactionary intrapersonal process, a manifestation of a mind/heart conflicted and with profound wounds, unmet needs.

The approach of psychosis (when will we get a new word for the process? I have suggested “reckoning” and sometimes use it) as a self- transforming/preserving/destroying/clarifying process does hold a lot of validity in my mind and this is reinforced not only by long-standing research (for example, the impressive bibliography provided by Williams), but also through my own qualitative experience and anecdotal evidence offered up by those who, in their way, have been there.

In my own writings from the-edge-of-the-midst-of-it-all, I maintained that what I was doing was indulging in an alternate way of thinking about/experiencing myself and the world, because my “real life” had become untenable and irreconcilable.

However, in my culminate experience and in the experiences of many people, the role of spirit came to be very central. The variable meanings associated with the word “spiritual” could run the proverbial gamut, from internal disequilibrium caused by value conflicts, to a perceived disconnection between self, world, and meaning to a full-blown crisis of hope/faith…to the profound sense that one is deeply and transcendently (in either direction, ascent or descent) communing with gods, the multiverse, and everything it may contain?

I don’t like the idea that my mind-blowingly illuminating, wrecking and delivering, deeply spiritual and largely reasonable, contextually-aware “psychosis” of recent years could be reduxed to the manifestations of a desperate mind in a fit of over-compensation, concilliatory imaginary salvation.

I definitely do think that protracted existential/emotional crisis can be a driving force in the development a full-blown reckoning with what, to some, feels very much like falling into the whole entire universe. However, I like to think that perhaps there is a greater rhyme and reason in the proclivity that some seem to have in finding themselves akin to reluctant demigods in a world written in synchronicity and signal, seemingly divine orchestration.

I suppose at this point, the bigger question comes tumbling out:

Are people who experience psychosis, or who are identified as being on “the psychotic spectrum,” somehow more sensitive to the mechanisms of universal world?

Here’s another question: Are the sometimes haphazard manifest fumblings of idea and purpose often associated with “psychosis” the result of our traumatized cultureminds trying to reconcile the enormous force of a sudden universal metaconsciousness impacting our minds/hearts, brains and bodies?

In my thinking, if those on the so-called psychotic spectrum are more sensitive (perhaps in ways involving the autonomic nervous system, perhaps in ways involving cognitive processing and sensory attenuation?) to universal forces and consciousness (a sensitivity that, alone, could create severance from a sense of cohesive consensus reality, e.g. many people do report that they’ve “always felt different,” etc. etc.)…well, then how precisely is that a “disease” or even a problem?

(Insert entire canon of literature on social control, subjectivity, market-driven fascism, etc.)

Here’s a question: Because we are a species and many species carry traits that correspond with elements in the environment, is it possible that some people are more sensitive to universal forces for a reason?

If that may be the case, isn’t the pathologizing and forceful repression of seeking/experiencing grace in one’s own way a really deep and wounding insult to humanity?

(Note: I always appreciate the acknowledgment that it’s not all hallelujah and sunshine, that “the elevator goes both ways” and that some aspects of spiritual crisis can be hellish.)

I have often been aware that my thinking and my writing about things of a spiritual nature could be easily pathologized (and has been pathologized) as being “psychotic.” There is some cruel (il)logical mechanism at play that changes the meaning of our experience, actually strips the meaning of our experience, and makes it into something that must be erased, medicated, resolved and not spoken of.

Does pathologizing clumsy, unbridled, exploratory human spirituality change our understanding of what it is to be human?

Adjunct Note #5:

Faith on September 26, 2012 at 12:34 pm said:

I was just re-reading:

…and thinking about how these considerations fit into paradigms that, ultimately, need to honor an individual’s right to make their own meaning of their experiences, while acknowledging that sometimes the crisis is in the meaning making process and that people sometimes need (whatever comforting and helpful support they may determine they need) in figuring out what exactly is going on with their minds/hearts/world.

There is, in my mind, a lot of danger in ideas that seek to define other people’s experiences. So, while it eases conceptual isolation for me to think, “Hey! Maybe what happened to me is something that happens to lots of people!” and to consider the hows and whys of it, it doesn’t sit quite well with me to think about generalizing my understood cause for my experiences to the deeply personal experiences of other people.

There is no clear answer, but it does seem that there are some definite factors and themes. The ways that they may play out in individual experience and meaning-making is as infinite as the universe itself.

Most days, I actually wish that I could forget this whole issue of metauniversal spiritual mechanics and subjective experiences of psychosis, because the implications are so vast and troubling.

However, in my own situation, it proves to be a persistent belief, logically sound in many ways if considered in light of physical science, myth, and time-honored archetypal phenomena.

It seems like the rhetoric of spirituality has shifted to mean a conceptual peace/acceptance/okayness with the world and one’s place in it. My thinking about spirituality is more oriented toward thinking about the ways that we are actually connected to the world (nature, people, symbol, signal, etc.), the meaning we make of these connections and how that meaning impacts our participation in our lives.

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