Science getting in the way of cure

The day program that Chris attended for two years denied the existence of all causes of psychosis, except in the case of street drugs. Periodically, someone connected with the local hospital or with the social services network would speak to the bi-weekly meeting of family and patients about the evils of pot and other recreational drugs. This enraged one of the mothers, who, barely holding back tears, objected to the constant focus on pot, which her daughter had never used.

Over the course of time that I attended these meetings, I began to feel that the interest of the wider medical/social welfare community in patients in the program verged on voyeurism and/or profiteering. It seemed like every two weeks a new “guest” was introduced at the meeting who was a researcher, or someone involved in drug prevention programs, or a visiting doctor from another treatment program. We were just lab rats, to be studied for someone else’s scientific interest. Where was the individual in all of this, to say nothing of the cure?

In the focus on cure, as opposed to science, little progress has been made by many. More than a hundred years ago, Daniel Paul Schreber, addressed his psychiatrist: “There would then be no need to cast any shadow upon your person and only the mild reproach would perhaps remain that you, like so many doctors, could not completely resist the temptation of using a patient in your care as an object for scientific experiments apart from the real purpose of cure, when by chance matters of the highest scientific interest arose.”
Daniel Paul Schreber, “Memoirs of My Nervous Illness,” New York Review Books Classics (January 31, 2000)

Fleetingly improvised men

Despite the benefits that I had observed in Chris from the assemblage point shift, Chris continued to present a poor clinical image at his day program. In early June 2006 at our monthly meeting, I argued the never-ending medication point once again with Dr. ‘L’ in the presence of Ian and Chris. I was getting that “please, dear” look from Ian, but I persisted.

Suddenly, in the midst of our discussion, Dr. ‘L’ did exactly as I expected he would that day. He was determined to demonstrate to us why Chris’s medication needed to be raised. He focused his gaze on a point near the window where Chris’s gaze was wandering, and asked quietly and with evident dramatic flourish, “Chris, what do you see?”

“Uh, someone over there near the window.”

“Surprise, surprise,” I thought sarcastically. Chris was seeing people in the room who weren’t us. He was hallucinating. Instead of the term “hallucination” I like the term that Daniel Paul Schreber used to describe people populating the corners of his gaze. He called them “fleetingly improvised men.” To Schreber, these were “souls, temporarily given human shape by divine miracle”.

Dr. ‘L’ had caught Chris in the act, and waved this around as proof positive that he needed to have his medication increased. I knew Dr ‘L’ would pull this trick and I was prepared, sort of. Chris had warned us before our meeting that Dr. ‘L’ wanted to raise the medication. I would have preferred to ignore Chris’s wandering eye, but it was rather obvious. So, instead, I said, “Yes, Dr. ‘L’, but in the bi-weekly meetings with the other families involved in the program, it has been said that we shouldn’t pay undue attention to voices. Therefore we haven’t. Of course he hears voices and sees things. Isn’t that what schizophrenia is all about? It’s not for academic interest that we talk about voices in the bi-weekly meetings in the first place. The drugs haven’t prevented the voices, have they, so what good are they in Chris’s case?” What I would have loved to add, but did not, was that two years in Dr ‘L’s day program hadn’t fixed the voices either.

Alas, as I also predicted, we allowed Dr. ‘L’ to raise one of his two medications from 200 mg to 300 mg. Chris, after all, was acting more skittish than we had usually seen him in Dr. ‘L’s presence. It was hard to deny it, but the medications wouldn’t fix it. We were stuck in this clinical program for better or worse and it was now a question of humoring Dr. ‘L’ until we could execute a graceful exit strategy from the program and the stupid medications.

Daniel Paul Schreber, “Memoirs of My Nervous Illness,” New York Review Books Classics (January 31, 2000)

The assemblage point

I became an avid follower of the anthropologist Carlos Castaneda and the German high court judge Daniel Paul Schreber after stumbling upon the concept of the assemblage point while researching light and color therapy early in the new year, 2006.

The assemblage point is familiar to fans of Carlos Castaneda and the shaman Don Juan Matus. Yet, despite the many hours of instruction that Castaneda received from Don Juan, he remained unclear as to what exactly the assemblage point was and where it was located. From Don Juan he learned that it was a hairy, luminous egg-shaped cocoon located about an arm’s length away from the body and linked to the energy at our disposal. A warrior’s energy, according to Don Juan, is always a consequence of a shift in his assemblage point. “Any movement of the assemblage point means a movement away from excessive concern with the individual self.”

In 1900, Daniel Paul Schreber, who was thought to be suffering from dementia praecox (the old term for schizophrenia) wrote to Dr. Flechsig, his psychiatrist, about what appears to be the assemblage point, although he calls it the soul. “The human soul is contained in the nerves of the body, about their physical nature I, as a layman, cannot say more than that they are extraordinarily delicate structures—comparable to the finest filaments—and that the total mental life of a human rests on their excitability by external impressions. Vibrations are thereby caused in the nerves which produce the sensations of pleasure and pain in a manner which cannot be further explained, they are able to retain the memory of impressions received (the human memory) and have also the power of moving the muscles in the body which they inhabit into any manifest activity by exertion of their will power.”