A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Did I Make A Mistake?

Karen left a comment on my last blog entry informing me that Brendan was probably a sociopath and not a psychopath.  The research I did before I posted my last three blogs indicated that the line between being a psychopath and being a sociopath is blurred.  They both are classified as Anti-Social Personalities.  There are some differences, but then sometimes psychopaths have sociopathic tendencies and visa versa.  Brendan may have been either.  In any case, psychopath or sociopath, both are mentally ill.  That's the most important point I can make.

How do you treat the mentally ill that are prone to violence and deception?  With compassion and organized support.  You don't label them as hopeless.  You make room for them in the society.  Maybe you even set up communal environments for holistic treatment.  You identify the problem as early as possible, in childhood preferably, and get those children the help they so desperately need.  It's very possible that sociopaths as well as psychopaths have abnormalities in their brains.  Perhaps they are born with it or they develop the abnormalities through environmental factors, particularly abuse of one sort or another.  I say don't rule out treatments such as medication and therapy.  Don't give up on people because you feel threatened and repulsed by them, especially when they are handicapped.

Pema Chodron has said many times that we are all in the same boat, which is one way of saying that we are one people.  How a tribe treats one of their own who has mental illness says many things about the tribe itself.  For some tribes, their mentally ill become shamans, for others perhaps great warriors, so sometimes they find their place within the group.  But in other tribes the mentally ill are abused, even made scape goats, often locked up.  It's easy to justify that behavior when you label someone as violent and disruptive to the tribe.  And so there came into being the crime and punishment philosophy and approach.  This philosophy and approach has been around for a long, long time.  Adam and Eve committed a crime against God and so were cast out of Eden.  And then came Cain who murdered his brother Abel.  Generation after generation, all the way up to Jesus.

What's extraordinary about Jesus is that he not only challenged this eye for an eye mentality, he infused compassion into his message.  People turn a blind idea to it so often, but there's no way around it -- Jesus said "Love your enemies."  What's not to understand here?  And who did Jesus hang out with?  Probably a few psycho/sociopaths amongst other people who were judged by society and who were suffering because of it.  Some people were moved by his message and followed him, others were deeply threatened.  Jesus was tested to the limit.  He was one person who had to walk the walk and not just rely on empty words.  He was killed for preaching mercy.  On the cross he said at least two things:  "God forgive them for they know not what they do." and "God, why have you forsaken me?" Even on the cross he still had mercy in  his soul and yet he was suffering so much.  He was still human and not a god, which is why his story is so poignant.  There's no doubt in my mind that he was a very good man. In a lot of ways he was a very ambitious man.  He wasn't looking for material wealth or status.  What he wanted was to move people's souls to get them to be the very best they could be.  That's real power, that's spiritual power.

And before Jesus, there was Buddha who expelled himself out of a man made Eden to seek the truth and to find a way to end suffering for all beings.  Again, he didn't say that he was seeking to end suffering for the "good" people and not the "bad" people, but for all people.  He did this through compassion and this compassion flowered alongside wisdom and he became enlightened.  He taught people to love themselves and all others, regardless of what they did or didn't do.  I wonder what Buddha thought about the very sick and violent people he met.  I imagine that his compassion was so great as to include them in his heart.  Compassion started out as the practice of his life, but I believe after he woke up he no longer had to practice, he just was always compassionate, it had become his way of being.

Am I wrong to try and follow the Buddha and Jesus?  Was I wrong to try and love a person that they would have tried to love, too?  Shouldn't their examples mean something to us in our everyday lives?  I know deeply and personally that it is very difficult to love someone who, in a sense, works to block intimacy, which includes love and compassion.  More than that, who might be hardwired to be a difficult person to co-exist with.  I know what extreme fear feels like.  I also know how fear distorts the truth too many times.  And it's the truth that I care about.  My fear and my resentment were the natural result of having been abused repeatedly, but to remain in that state, that would have been a mistake.

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