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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2011 > Mar > Mar 3

Re: 'Abductees Need To See A Psychiatrist'

From: Gerald O'Connell <goc.nul>
Date: Thu, 3 Mar 2011 13:16:55 +0000
Archived: Thu, 03 Mar 2011 16:42:54 -0500
Subject: Re: 'Abductees Need To See A Psychiatrist'

>From: Jerome Clark <jkclark.nul>
>To: <post.nul>
>Date: Wed, 2 Mar 2011 14:52:54 -0600
>Subject: Re: 'Abductees Need To See A Psychiatrist'

>Without judging the quality of mental-health care as a general
>proposition (surely one size does not fit all), I turn to the
>fundamental issue, which is the reception of unconventional

>At one time extraordinary experiences, variously interpreted or
>explained, were accepted as things that, whatever their ultimate
>meaning, could at least _happen_ to a normal individual. When
>with the coming of the Enlightenment elites decided otherwise,
>the experiences were medicalized, largely because Serious
>Thinkers couldn't find another cubbyhole hole to cram them into.
>Not, of course, that there isn't genuine mental illness, but as
>is clear by now, it does not work as a broad explanation for all
>non-consensus experiential claims.

>In our time, a body of empirical work establishes that even the
>most fantastic experiential claims cannot automatically be
>correlated with psychological disorder. Obviously, word of these
>studies has not always filtered down to the average working
>mental-health professional. To a scoffing public, of course,
>anybody who speaks of having non-consensus experience is, to use
>the non-clinical term, nuts. (It is also true, no doubt, that -
>just as you can be mentally ill and lots of other things at the
>same time - you can have psychiatric problems along with "real"
>non-consensus perceptions. Human beings are not simple.)

>There is progress, though. We're learning, for example, that
>even the classic you-must-be-crazy experience - of hearing
>voices in one's head - is not ipso facto evidence of mental
>pathology. Those interested in the specifics of this seemingly
>remarkable finding ought to read Daniel B. Smith's Muses,
>Madmen, and Prophets: Rethinking the History, Science, and
>Meaning of Auditory Hallucination (Penguin, 2007). For the
>broader issues, there's Cardena et al., eds. Varieties of
>Anomalous Experience: Examining the Scientific Evidence
>(American Psychological Association, 2000). The chapter on
>abductions argues that no single theory, prominently including
>mental disorder, explains that experience.

>In short, if you believe you've encountered otherworldly forces,
>you need not necessarily rush to a shrink's office. But then
>that's something that shouldn't be news to anybody on this List.

Hi Jerry,

You make some very pertinent points here. This touches on some
issues that I've been close to over the years and which I think
are rarely well-understood.

In the first place our whole concept of mental illness is highly
problematic, and the analogue with physical illness is very
inconsistent. In general, I think it is worth noting that people
are often only classified as mentally ill when they become a
source of inconvenience to others around them (one may reflect
here upon the societal inconvenience of those who insist on an
objective reality underlying experiences they have had that
ought to be 'impossible' in terms of consensus reality). We are
reluctant to accept that mental illness can be viewed as exactly
analogous to physical illness insofar as it exists on an
extended spectrum, running from mild/un-noticed all the way
through to severe/terminal. At the mildest end we all have
little irrational phobias (whether we admit to them or not),
just as we are subject to slight colds and minor infections. At
the same time, because there is a history of, and continuation
of, draconian social sanctions against those at the more severe
end of the mental illness spectrum, there is a background of
fear resulting in a discourse and vocabulary around the
phenomenon that is far from helpful: in your own, measured, post
I count 'nuts', 'crazy' and 'shrink' as examples, and there are
many more that we could think of.

Against this background we might pause to consider whether
pathological models, sane/insane dichotomies and health/illness
polarities are of any real utility at all in assessing your
useful catch-all 'otherworldly forces'. My own suggestion is
that we will make more and better progress in our understanding
if we can work outside these assumptions in order to gather data
and analyse it. The references you give bear out that
suggestion.  I would argue that, until we can come to terms with
the prosaic ubiquity of mental illness, the entire concept is
dangerously misleading.

The real issue we face here is that of an ontology for these
otherworldly forces (I find that I'm growing to like the
phrase!). They pose a radical challenge to our concept of
reality, and we are unlikely to be able to meet that challenge
if we burden our thought, however unthinkingly, with the
apparatus of a pathological model that is inconsistent and ill-


Gerald O'Connell

Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast



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