The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'schizophrenia'
Youth subcultures, as many middle-aged former teenagers have lamented, aren't what they used to be. In the old days, you see, you had to make your choices (or have them made for you by which class you had been born into and, in the light of this, what would get you camaraderie and what would get you beaten up), and stick with them. You were either a Mod or a Rocker, or a Punk or a Grebo or something, and you would live (and, in some cases, die) by that; you wore the uniform, listened to the music, and had little tolerance for other subcultures; if you fancied the other side's soundtrack or sartorial style, you would keep it to yourself, or else. But kids these days (kids these days...!) treat subculture as if it were a supermarket, or perhaps Noel Fielding's dressing-up chest; the entire back-catalogue of young cool is there for the taking and the mashing up, with elements going in and out of style by the season, to be worn as accessories. Beyond the dress-up element, the default becomes a globalised homogenate, a sort of international Brooklyn/Berlin/Harajuku of skinny jeans/
folkbeards/vividly coloured sunglasses/patterned fabrics worn by the international Hipster, and, more intensely and urgently, by their adolescent precursor, the Scene Kid. Subcultural music, meanwhile, is a post-ironic soup of the last few decades of influences, refracted through the prisms of trend blogs (drum machines, hazy synths, skronky/choppy guitars, That Krautrock Drum Beat, and so on). Parties are inevitably called “raves”, whether or not they bear any similarity to MDMA-fuelled bacchanales around the M25 circa 1987. Increasingly, the content of the subculture becomes interchangeable, and the process of performing a subculture becomes the subculture; almost like a masked ball, or a postmodern reënactment society for the youth tribes of the 20th century.
But once one goes beyond the idea of a subculture as being based around fashion or music, things sometimes start to get much more unusual. One case in point is the Tulpamancy subculture; which, could be summed up in three words as “extreme imaginary friends”. Tulpamancers essentially invent imaginary friends and believe in them really hard, to the point of voluntarily inducing dissociative personalities in themselves, hiving off one part of their minds to be another, autonomous, personality, with whom they can interact.
The term tulpa is a Tibetan word meaning a sentient being created from pure thought; the practice crossed over from Tibetan mysticism into the Western occult/esoteric fringe in the early 20th century (the explorer Alexandra David-Neel was one pioneer), but the modern version owes more to internet “geek” subcultures; it started amongst Bronies (dudes who are really into My Little Pony, which may be either a repudiation of gender dichotomies or the ontological equivalent of a frat-bro panty raid on the idea of “girl”, or both or neither), before spreading to other branches of “geek” culture/fandom.
Tulpas remained the preserve of occultists until 2009, when the subject appeared on the discussion boards of 4chan. A few anonymous members started to experiment with creating tulpas. Things snowballed in 2012 when adult fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic – known as “bronies” to anyone who's been near a computer for the past three years – caught on. They created a new forum on Reddit and crafted tulpas based on their favourite characters from the show.
In the cross-pollinating fields of the internet, it wasn’t long before tulpamancy also started to attract manga and fantasy fans. “My tulpa is called Jasmine,” says Ele. “She’s a human but from an alternative reality where she can do magic. I created her a dozen years ago for a fantasy series I write and then made her into a tulpa.”Being a fandom subculture, there are, of course, plenty of drawings (of varying levels of execution) depicting tulpas; one probably would not be too surprised to find that many look either like anime bishonen with fox ears/snouts and/or variants on Hot Topic Darkling. Because, of course, that's what one's magical alter-ego looks like in fandom.
As for the creation of, and interaction with, these tulpas, an entire methodology has evolved for bringing them into being, and interacting with them. Tulpamancers don't so much consciously think up their spirit critters, but rather mentally create a wonderland, imagine themselves in it, and let them come up from their subconscious and meet them. From then on, they practice imagining them, allowing them to become clearer, and ultimately being able to hallucinate them in everyday reality, which is where the fun starts:
While voice is the most common way tulpas communicate with their hosts, tulpamancers can learn to stroke their tulpa’s fur, feel their breath on their neck and even experience sexual contact.
Tulpas soon get curious about their host’s body; some want to experience life as a “meatperson”. Indulgent hosts then use a practice called “switching”, which allows their tulpa to possess their body while they watch from the ringside of consciousness.This, of course, sounds a lot like disassociative personality disorder, something not generally seen as desirable. Some tulpamancers, though, have turned that claim on its head; rather than dissociation being a disorder, or a symptom of one, what if it could be a way of self-medicating or coping What if, in other words, the optimal number of personalities in one body is, in some circumstance, greater than 1?
Koomer’s case is rare, and for Veissière “schizophrenia [could be understood as]… an incapacitating example of ‘involuntary Tulpas’", therefore, by forming positive relationships with their symptoms, sufferers can start to recover. It's an idea shared by the “Hearing Voices Movement”, who challenge the medical models of schizophrenia and suggest that pathologisation aggravates symptoms. “My schizophrenia manifested itself by having many thoughts and ideas all conflicting and shouting at me,” says Logan, who wanted his last name withheld. “Turning them into tulpas gave those thoughts a face and allowed them to be sorted out in a way that made sense.”
Alternative operating system of the day: LoseThos. It was written from scratch over nine years, runs on a PC (in ring 0), and has a just-in-time compiler for a vaguely C-like language it uses; the inspirations were the Commodore 64 (whose flat memory map and easy accessibility to the bare metal made it eminently hackable) and the voice of God speaking to its creator (who, by his own admission, is schizophrenic) through random number generators.
There's a MetaFilter thread about it, which the creator has joined (under the name “losethos”), weighing in with technical descriptions of its implementation, justifications for design decisions (in which the kinds of insights about “elegance” and solutions which “smell right” that seasoned programmers have and quasi-theological justifications based on mystical revelation are often inextricably intertwined) and stream-of-consciousness revelations from the God who speaks through random numbers. A few choice quotes:
I wanted to make a souped-up, modern 64-bit, C64 so teenagers could do what I did in high school. I had the book Mapping the C64 and I had hours of fun poking and proding around with all the internals of the operationg system for cheap thrills. I wanted to let people control the hardware directly. I wanted something simple, to get your head around. LoseThos is two orders of magnitude simpler than Linux. LoseThos is 135,000 lines of code including my compiler. It is 100% self contained and complete. When I got Linux, I was disappointed because I thought "open source" meant I would have fun messing with the code. Linux tries to support so many architectures and has a main frame operating system, that it's too complex. LoseThos is way way way simpler. Plus it has many innovative ideas. It is not ASCII source code, for example.
Photorealism is graphic and panders to base nature of humans. 640x480 is innocent. How many of you are horrified by modern games, longing for a more innocent time?As well as numerous revelations from God (whose favourite animals are apparently bears and elephants, and whose favourite band is The Beatles):
The hardest thing in evolution was getting monkey mothers to hold their babies for nursing.
God's favorite thing on TV is soap operas. Read the Bible. ROFLMAO. God likes the Beverly Hillbillies. God said Shakespeare had a vile heart. He said Christian rock was "musical privation". Good word. I like the word "Ambrosial". Go look it up. :-) I'm smug.
A biologist and a sociologist have put forward a new theory of brain development and mental disorders. Crespi and Badcock's theory posits a spectrum running between autism and related social dysfunctions on one side and schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder on the other, with the struggle between maternal and paternal genes in the womb determining where the child's neurology will fall on this axis:
Dr. Crespi and Dr. Badcock propose that an evolutionary tug of war between genes from the father’s sperm and the mother’s egg can, in effect, tip brain development in one of two ways. A strong bias toward the father pushes a developing brain along the autistic spectrum, toward a fascination with objects, patterns, mechanical systems, at the expense of social development. A bias toward the mother moves the growing brain along what the researchers call the psychotic spectrum, toward hypersensitivity to mood, their own and others’. This, according to the theory, increases a child’s risk of developing schizophrenia later on, as well as mood problems like bipolar disorder and depression.
It was Dr. Badcock who noticed that some problems associated with autism, like a failure to meet another’s gaze, are direct contrasts to those found in people with schizophrenia, who often believe they are being watched. Where children with autism appear blind to others’ thinking and intentions, people with schizophrenia see intention and meaning everywhere, in their delusions. The idea expands on the “extreme male brain” theory of autism proposed by Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen of Cambridge.
“Think of the grandiosity in schizophrenia, how some people think that they are Jesus, or Napoleon, or omnipotent,” Dr. Crespi said, “and then contrast this with the underdeveloped sense of self in autism. Autistic kids often talk about themselves in the third person.”
The BBC has an article on the relationship between schizophrenia and artistic inspiration, by a photographer suffering from schizophrenia:
The symptoms feed me the tools to become creative. I seem to be thinking all the time and the psychosis is not necessarily destructive. The experience of a hallucination can often be recalled in the creation of artwork or poetry, for example.
But the problem is expressing what I see or hear because strong cognitive difficulties - such as memory loss, disorganized thoughts, difficulty concentrating and completing tasks - impair my ability to enhance and capture my true creative potential.
Unfortunately psychiatry leans far more towards controlling schizophrenia, rather than showing understanding towards a patient's true needs and potential capabilities.
A new art exhibit is causing controversy in Paris; the Plancher de Jeannot (Jeannot's Floorboards) consists of the floor of a Pyreneean farmhouse, into which its schizophrenic inhabitant carved increasingly disturbed rants:
Jeannot moved his bed to the dining room, next to the stairs, and began carving the oak floor: 'Religion has invented machines for commanding the brain of people and animals and with an invention for seeing our vision through the retina uses us to do ill (...) the church after using Hitler to kill the Jews wanted to invent a trial to take power (...) we Jean Paule are innocent we have neither killed nor destroyed nor hurt others it's religion that uses electronic machines to command the brain.'The Plancher de Jeannot have gone on display at the Bibliotheque François Mitterrand in Paris, amidst much controversy; once the exhibition is finished, they will be donated to a psychiatric hospital in Paris. Some photographs are here amd here.
Nash Baldwin, a Californian doctor, is using virtual reality to simulate schizophrenia, allowing those close to schizophrenic patients to know what their loved ones are experiencing:
Things change, as you approach them, but the shift is subtle. A poster suddenly shifts to contain obscenities; a single word in a newspaper headline suddenly becomes the only word you see. A bookshelf seems to contain nothing but volumes about fascism. And most disturbing to me, a bathroom mirror which contains your reflection becomes, when you come closer, a bloody death mask. The man in the mirror is actually a model, but the hallucination is based on the testimony of a schizophrenic who stopped shaving, because when he looked in the mirror, he'd see his corpse staring back at him. (And when you get close enough to the sink, you hear the strains of bagpipes -- because this is the music the man heard too, when he glimpsed his own death.)
Short term, Baldwin's goal is to build up a library of hallucinations, so that the experience of individual patients can be recreated with fairly accurate specificity. The practical applications, however, are still somewhat inchoate. "Is there any therapeutic use for this?" Baldwin asks rhetorically. "We have no idea, it hasn't been tried.... it's worth a shot." He's also pondering the idea of putting non-schizophrenics through the experience, while they're hooked up to an MRI imaging system, to see if hallucinations affect the same areas of the brain as a schizophrenic, during an episode.
(via bOING bOING)
Journal of a Schizophrenic, a lucid first-person account of one person experiencing (and later playing pool with) a "voice" in his head and having delusions of persecution at work.
Me: Jesus H. Christ, I need to see a shrink.
It: That's not necessary. We could play some pool, and talk. Not out loud, please.
Me: .... Are you really there? Prove it - tell me something I don't know.
It: That's not how it works. We share the same physical body, we have the same hippocampus, the same brain; the same memories. We think differently, act differently.
Me: Then how can we play a game of pool?
It: It will be very difficult. Set up the table, take a shot, and then step back. I promise that I will step back after the game.
Me: No way. This is insane.
Sometimes, I confess, I do miss the voice. I suppose it's difficult to have a more meaningful metaphysical conversation than with someone in your own head. And true: I don't have very many friends; I spend very little time with my family; I've never had a girlfriend or a boyfriend. But the thing is, I wouldn't have it any other way. I live in my books, through my writing, and because of my ideas. While I am often alone, I am very rarely lonely.
Mental health groups protest Gollum, who, they say, perpetuates negative stereotypes of people suffering from schizophrenia. Umm, yeah.
Tonight I went to see Spider, David Cronenberg's most recent film, about a mentally ill man recently released from decades in an asylum, finding himself near his childhood home and coming to terms with old memories, and whether or not his father murdered his mother. The main character, Ralph Fiennes, plays an almost silent role, mumbling incoherently to himself, scrawling illegibly in a notebook, skulking about and performing various seemingly irrational actions; soon the film shows him literally visiting the scenes of his childhood (as they are in his mind), invisibly lurking in the background as the dramas play themselves out; the film all falls together in the end, with his quirks all taking on new meanings. The film is set in the bleak working-class London of kitchen-sink films (the photography and sets emphasise the coldness and bleakness very well; the traditional English wallpaper is just one of the details), only rather than literal-minded socialist-realist homily we get a more internal, psychological film. This film is a break from Cronenberg's usual plastic sex-horror, having virtually no special effects in the traditional sense (unless one counts clever quirks of casting).
I'd recommend it. Probably not an ideal date movie, or the thing to see if you're suicidally depressed, but it's a very good portrayal of mental illness. (It'd probably be on my list of Best Schizophrenia Films of All Time, alongside Angels of the Universe.)
A recent interview with Phil Spector (who came out of seclusion to produce the new album for next-Oasis-candidates Starsailor) in which he talks about his psychological problems.
"I take medication for schizophrenia, but I wouldn't say I'm schizophrenic. But I have a bipolar personality, which is strange. I'm my own worst enemy. I have devils inside that fight me."
And the Graun has a brief biography of the gun-toting studio genius.
(What is it about music producers and guns? First Joe Meek went berzerk in the '60s, then Martin Hannett started shooting telephones, and now Phil Spector's gun-waving antics have come to a tragic denoument.)
Is schizophrenia a byproduct of the evolution of human intelligence? A new theory suggests this. I wonder whether in some situations some forms of schizophrenia could have been adaptive to genetic fitness (i.e., making the afflicted a fitter chieftain/prophet/leader), with current forms being a throwback to this.