What is termed “madness” or “mental illness” is for some the only means for expression of their being lost and confused in a world which has caused them deep hurt and pain. Such is not disease, but behavior with metaphorical meaning. People receive mixed messages throughout life and are placed into situations where they feel damned, regardless of the options they choose. They seek to break out from a reality that only causes them distress. The development of hallucinations and delusions can be metaphors for the very real demons they have encountered in a disordered society.
The inner mind, the voice within us, becomes ampliﬁed and “possessed” with the demons coming forward from the trauma and distress which has been encountered. Rebellion against the system of everyday life becomes self-destructive as the person seeks to send a message to the world of their distress. This message, nevertheless, remains unheard. Each coping mechanism previously employed has failed to bring them out of the unlivable situation that is their life. However, the catharsis of this pain and grief can proceed in one of two directions: either producing misery and existential death, or becoming transformative.
Through the pain and struggle, and the breaking out of the “typical reality,” one can journey along various modes of altered consciousness. Many deemed “mad” speak of the supernatural. They have often made every attempt to reach out and create meaning. Being helped by a loving, supportive network is ideal—to help one navigate through this state of confusion and the various realms of altered consciousness. A move towards rebuilding and reconstructing a life of meaning can occur, enabling them to emerge into a recovery—one that gives them valuable insight about human nature, who they really are, and the reality of the impermanence of this life and the world around us. They will ﬁnd that suffering is inevitable, and that within that suffering is the state of the world mired in greed and attachment. These “mentally ill” have accomplished a rare task — they have completely detached. But this detachment is only from the typical standards of the world. They often remain haunted by the visions of their previous life.
They cannot escape that life, and thus they become anxious and paranoid that something or someone will pull them back to that painful existence.
At times, rage comes forward as the reaction to challenges, but who would not be outraged if their voice were suppressed and they became the scapegoat for the problems of their families or those around them? Those denoted as “mad,” feeling always alone, depart to a world where they remain apart from people, yet may create “beings” to engage with, who give them comfort and solace. This is really the end of their search, to simply be accepted and loved.
But here, too, lies a problem, for when their lives have been devoid of love and they suddenly “receive” unconditional love, it becomes like an overwhelming ﬁre that consumes them. They have never been loved, so how can they respond to an outpouring of love?
When all some know was that oppression and coercion was said to be because “we love you,” when oftentimes “love” really was only about control, how can they then understand genuine love? Once again, the confusion sets in. To reach the “mentally ill” person, we cannot overwhelm. Our sincerity will not be enough, for their trust has been shattered time and time again. It is only through entering their world for what it is, by “joining in” and learning to speak the language of madness, that we ourselves can begin to understand the experience of these individuals. It is only by this joining in that the person may have the chance for the journey known as “madness” to reach a transformative movement towards discovery.