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15 Truths About Schizophrenia Many People May Not Know

15 Truths About Schizophrenia Many People May Not Know

You Can Help A Schizophrenic

    “An individual having unusual difficulties in coping with his environment struggles and kicks up the dust, as it were. I have used the figure of a fish caught on a hook: his gyrations must look peculiar to other fish that don’t understand the circumstances; but his splashes are not his affliction, they are his effort to get rid of his affliction and as every fisherman knows these efforts may succeed.” –Karl Menninger

    One per cent of the US population has “schizophrenia,” a term referring to a “mental illness” in which people interpret reality “abnormally.” I am using quotation marks to signify that these words contain much that is controversial. It is the medical profession and the related pharmaceutical industry that defines people in this way to be better able to control or treat them. In the extreme case, if a person is “harmful to self or others,” as judged by a doctor, they can be involuntarily incarcerated in a mental hospital. Life in mental hospitals has been accurately portrayed in the popular movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Malidoma Some, a shaman and cultural bridge to the west from an African tribe, was shocked when he visited a fellow student who was placed in one. In Some’s tribe, a person showing signs of what we call “mental illness” would be trained to be a healer. The more appropriate term might be “spiritual emergency” and “spiritual emergence”.

    My Experience As a Paranoid Schizophrenic

    Here is my experience of being a “paranoid schizophrenic;” how I managed to break the cycle of hospitalizations and how I learned what it was like to be stigmatized. In the late ’60’s, I found my Ph.D. program in microbiology to be boring in comparison to the new emerging counterculture. I was involved with alternative schools, radical politics and experimented with psychedelics. Those experiments revealed darker sides of experience with such force that I became aware of realities I was unable to comprehend. When I was interviewed by a psychiatrist, he recommended I sign in to a mental hospital. He was an authority, and I saw no alternatives, so I signed in. It was there I made my decision to drop out of the Ph.D. program. I got out of the hospital a month or two later, but continued to have episodes that brought me back over a period of ten years, until I decided not to go to this extreme ever again.

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    I stopped taking the medications, did not participate in outreach, got an apprenticeship with an artist (which created a new identity for me) and saw an excellent psychologist who pointed out the origin and cause of my problems. She gave me tools that finally helped me out of that mess. In between those hospitalizations, I applied for about twenty jobs and was unsuccessful in landing one, even though employment was not so scarce in those days. There was no freedom of information act then, and I did not have access to my personal file from the university. Being suspicious, I had the file sent to a friend, pretending that I was applying for a job with him. “Don was a campus goodie-goodie”. “Don was brilliant but remote”. These were the “recommendations” from my professors. I felt that this behavior was immoral. Why didn’t they just tell me that they could not give me a recommendation? My adviser claimed that I could never be a teacher—that I should consider working in laboratories instead. Since “schizophrenia” is so widespread, yet so misunderstood, I am listing what a sufferer might want based on my experiences, and also from a landmark publication, Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia: Why people sometimes hear voices, believe things that others find strange, or appear out of touch with reality …and what can help.

    1. They want to be treated like anyone else—as human beings with basic human rights

    Freedom, clean air, water and food, and a decent place to live.

    2. They do not want to be judged, pitied or given sympathy

    They want to be understood, with compassion and empathy.

    3. They want to develop a shared understanding of what’s going on and how their behavior affects others involved

    4. They want to be treated with respect, kindness and support

    They want to be accepted—to be loved and supported, and have their views and opinions heard.

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    5. They want others to authentically share their own perceptions and experiences of life with them

    Use “I” statements instead of projecting. Rather than saying: “You are acting crazy”, say: “I feel that your behavior is inappropriate because . . .”

    6. They do not want to be labeled or stigmatized

    They want people to realize that “psychotic” experience is continuous with ordinary experience and is part of the human condition, not an “illness.” They do not want to be considered “ill,” but as unique. They do not want to be thought of as “stuck with an affliction for life.” To be crazy in this insane world is the new normal.

    7. They want regular communication with others

    They want to be able to express how they are feeling. They do not want to be told that their beliefs or perceptions are wrong or imaginary. Instead, they prefer to hear that the other person sees things differently.

    8. They want help (sometimes not treatment but guidance) in order to take responsibility for their behaviors and for their lives

    They do not want to be told what to do, especially by professionals. They do want to develop a shared understanding and description of their problems and hear suggestions on what might help.

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    9. They want an advocate on their behalf, if needed, to mediate between them and mental health staff

    10. They want help in regaining their independence after a crisis

    And they want this help to be at choice and not forced.

    11. They want help in remembering the fun things in life

    They want a partner to go out with and do ordinary things.

    12. They want to be given the opportunity to explain how they understand their experiences and how friends and family might help

    13. They do not want to be identified as their problems

    They want to be seen as a person who is not totally at fault for having them.

    14. They don’t want to be isolated

    They want to meet with others with similar experiences in self-help groups and other settings to feel less alone and learn about what can help.

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    15. They want to take control of their recovery and achieve their hopes and dreams

    Since the incidence of “schizophrenia” is so high, many people have friends and relatives who carry this label. But these types of problems know no boundaries. Many famous successful people have suffered, too. The movie, A Beautiful Mind, tells the story of John Nash, the Nobel Prize winning mathematician, who died recently in a car accident. The football player for the Green Bay Packers, Lionel Drawbridge, also suffered with the “illness.” Musicians known to have it include Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac, Jim Gordon with the Beach Boys and Alice Cooper and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. And take note of a renowned artist who was second in line to Andy Warhol, Yayoi Kusama, “Princess of Polka Dots”, who’s been living in a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo since 1977. She recently was featured in the Tate Gallery. Now that you know how common this affliction is, and how you can be of help when you encounter it, I hope you will act on the ideas and spread the word of what “schizophrenia” really is and what it is not.

    Featured photo credit: A man with schizophrenia/http://healthy1st.net/ via healthy1st.net

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    Last Updated on January 15, 2019

    How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

    How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

    Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

    In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

    Step right up, don’t be shy!

    Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

    The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

    Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

    Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
    So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

    A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

    Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

    Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

    When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

    Culturally Conditioned

    We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

    I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

    The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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    Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

    Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

    Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

    1. Broadens Your Network

    After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

    2. Improves Your Communication Skills

    I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

    Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

    3. Continually Learning

    So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

    Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

    4. Increases Self Confidence

    Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

    Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

    So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

    How to Talk to Strangers

    Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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    1. Say Hello

    Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

    Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

    Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

    2. Ask About Them

    Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

    You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

    As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

    3. Just Do It

    One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

    When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

    Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

    4. Don’t Take It Personal

    One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

    When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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    5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

    I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

    One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

    6. Detach

    A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

    Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

    7. Share Your Stories

    Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

    To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

    So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

    8. Give a Compliment

    Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

    When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

    9. Relax Your Body Language

    If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

    When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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    If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

    10. Practice, Practice, Practice

    Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

    Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

    After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

    The Bottom Line

    As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

    There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

    Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

    Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

    More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

    Reference

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