Copyright © 8-8-2002
Asked Questions Part II
following messages were sent to Rodney St. Michael via mobile-phone
Short Message Service (SMS) through Rodney's Wireless Application
Protocol (WAP) site,
year 2002 is now highlighted as a significant year for schizophrenia
history. A few months ago,
the movie A Beautiful Mind won the Best Picture award, and
people around the world heard the word "schizophrenia" for the
first time. I had a chance
to watch the movie in Manila before I left for Colombo, Sri Lanka
(Ceylon) to train several call center engineers in our new center. "A Beautiful Mind" premiered in Manila on the eve
of my birthday (by coincidence), and it reminded me of my personal
experience with schizophrenia, just as it probably reminded you of your
many people around the world never heard of the word
"schizophrenia" before the movie won several Oscar awards.
Of course, they know this condition already, but they just don't
know it by its scientific name. In
fact, when I was listening to a Manila radio station when the movie was
being promoted, the Disc Jockey would ask the listeners to call in with
the name of Nash's condition to win a prize.
And the first caller said that he was stricken with
before I forget to reply to your queries, I will be describing
schizophrenia in layman's terms and give some guidelines on how to cope
condition can easily be understood by anyone who has worked as a call
center agent. When a customer calls for technical support or customer
service, he or she usually calls to complain about something. Rarely will clients call agents to praise their products or
services, or to show gratitude and appreciation for their work.
So when the agents cover their ears with their headsets, they
constantly hear irate voices making comments, shouting curses, or simply
asking the agent to do so many things that seem overwhelming for the
the same way, most schizophrenics hear voices in their heads.
This is the most obvious symptom of schizophrenia, and they would
usually hear these voices chatting about them, cursing them, or
commanding them to do certain things.
Of course, there are also cases where pleasant voices are heard.
These voices are called "auditory hallucinations."
voices may suddenly come out of nowhere in the teen years or early
twenties, and it causes the schizophrenic to panic or to act bizarrely
as a reaction to these mysterious voices.
This can be compared to how normal radio listeners reacted when
they first heard H.G. Wells' “War of the Worlds” from their radios
in 1938. Since science
fiction radio broadcasts were relatively new back then, the people
thought that it was real. They
panicked, demanded for police assistance, and some were even
hospitalized for shock. Similarly,
schizophrenics may act strangely as a reaction to these voices.
depending on what the voices tell them, they may develop delusions.
As an example, the voices may tell the schizophrenic that he or
she is a prophet, or a messiah, or a Christ, or a Savior of the world. So the schizophrenic develops what psychiatrists call,
"delusions of grandeur."
some schizophrenics also see "visions" or "visual
may see "monsters," "ghosts," "demons,"
"aliens" or other strange imaginary beings.
But some of them see what appear to be pleasant beings such as
"angels", "fairies" or imaginary friends.
are also many types of schizophrenia, including the paranoid type (e.g.
Biblical prophets shouting, "the end is near!"), the catatonic
type (e.g. the Biblical prophet Ezekiel stiff in bed), the childhood
type (e.g. the Biblical prophet Samuel), and the hebephrenic type
(disorganized, incoherent, with unusual or funny facial expressions,
typically depicted in some movies).
A schizophrenic may actually have all these different
characteristics at one point or another, but is classified depending on
the most dominant symptom.
once a person develops schizophrenia, the condition may evolve into
other types of disorders. A
schizophrenic may mellow down and become bi-polar (formerly called manic
depression). Bi-polars may
have symptoms similar to schizophrenia such as hallucinations and
delusions, but the mood swings--switching between mania and
depression--are more apparent. Bi-polars
are potentially very creative due to the numerous ideas flowing through
their heads during periods of mania. And many of the world's leading scientists, writers, and
intellectuals are bi-polars. If
this mania is properly harnessed, then the bi-polar can accomplish great
things. On the other hand,
if the bi-polar doesn't tame it, they can become like mad scientists or
even homeless, carefree wanderers.
addition, if a person has simultaneous symptoms of both schizophrenia
and bi-polar disorder, he or she has schizoaffective disorder.
This occurs when one is bi-polar and has symptoms of
schizophrenia that lasts for at least two weeks without the dominant
prevalence of mood disorders.
course, you will feel these different disorders when the chemicals in
your brain, responsible for your emotions and moods become imbalanced.
So the key then to relieve the symptoms is to balance your mind
and body. And the
philosophy of moderation in everything will help you find this balance.
Interestingly enough, we don't have to re-invent the wheel to
find the answers that we are looking for.
thousand five hundred years ago, a man who had schizoaffective disorder
tried to find a solution to his problem.
His life was full of suffering, and he experimented heavily to
find a cure. Amazingly,
among all the famous historical personalities who had schizophrenia,
bi-polar disorder, or schizoaffective disorder, this man stands out.
Unlike the Jewish schizophrenic Yoshua (Jesus Christ), who still
had strong delusions even to his death, and unlike the Arabian Muhammad
ibnu Abdillah (the Prophet Muhammad), who still had moderate delusions
after he lived to civilize the Arabian world, Siddhartha Gautama (the
Buddha or "Awakened One") was able to tame his delusions.
Christians consider Yoshua to be a god, and while Muslims consider,
Muhammad to be a messenger from God, Buddhists simply consider
Siddhartha to be a teacher, or more appropriately, a physician.
This is because Siddhartha emphasized to his followers that he
was just a man who had something to teach.
And he explained that even his own sayings or advice could not be
trusted. Everyone else has
to test it first to see if it is true.
On that note, his followers improved his basic prescription to
wasn't concerned with religion (even if some people later converted his
teachings to a form of religion, which is Buddhism).
His goal was to develop a prescription for his condition. And this prescription is now known as "The Middle
Way." This path was
eventually improved in some parts of Asia.
And some of Siddhartha's techniques, such as meditation, were
refined and polished. In
Japan, for instance, Zen—a school of meditation--plays a passive, but
influential role in the lives of most Japanese.
And the goal of this path is to achieve a life of balance--never
going to any extreme.
take note that Zen, by itself is not balanced.
You can use it to advance yourself, but too much of it is also
harmful. This is why
although about 85%-90% of all Japanese citizens admit that they are
Buddhist, most of them distance themselves from it on the practical
side. In the long run, it
is best to adapt basic Buddhist practical techniques into your life.
But don't immerse yourself into its present day religious form.
If your family background is Jewish, Christian, or Islamic, you
may attend festivities, ceremonies, or celebrations of your native
religion simply as a social activity.
Never think of it as a religious obligation.
Then simply assimilate secular Buddhist practices into it in a
passive manner. But if you
are secular, you shouldn’t have any problems then.
Zen Buddhism is difficult to understand for most people, especially for those who never had any experience with schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, and schizoaffective disorder. So I will give you some introductory guidelines to help you relieve symptoms such as paranoia, catanoia, hebephrenia, mania, or depression.
do I handle irate clients?" This
is one of the most frequently-asked non-technical questions that my
trainees throw on me. Certainly,
it's tough to absorb all those yelling, screaming, and complaining
voices from call-center clients. In
fact, if the gods had a 24x7 hotline (which many people call as
"prayer"), then many of the gods would end up in the looney
bin. And some of them would
eventually commit hara-kiri (the Japanese "art" of suicide)
after their callers complain about the Mercedes Benz or the Swiss bank
account that they never received.
just like the call-center agent, what can the schizophrenic do about it?
First of all, empathize. When
other people annoy, provoke, or inflict harm on you, try to understand
what they are going through. I
tell my agents, wouldn't you be irritated yourself if your bank
statement is erroneous, or if your credit card contains charges that you
never initiated, or if you receive the wrong merchandise that you
ordered online from the Internet? Or
what if you have problems with your Internet Service Provider, and you
can't get a good connection? Wouldn't
you be upset yourself? Or
what if your email inbox, containing all your important email, suddenly
vanished, without a trace? Wouldn't
you be infuriated yourself?
the same way, people will annoy, provoke, or inflict harm on you because
of many negative critical events that shape their personalities and
their lives. And the more we understand the colorful range of human
personalities that the world has to offer, the more we become at peace
with ourselves and with others. Some people for example, are afflicted with envy,
jealousy, or crab mentality, because of their personal insecurity. These
people, of course, will do anything to drag you down.
Others may be filled with anger, hatred, or racial biases because
of fear. These people are
under-exposed to the world, and they feel threatened.
Certainly, you can watch out for these people, but more
importantly, you should learn to empathize, to compensate for the
negative stimulus that you receive, thereby neutralizing its negative
what if you grow weary of empathizing?
Then what? Simply
someone harms you, you may sue if you really think that it is necessary.
As long as you stay within the boundaries of the law, it's okay.
You may also write your experiences in a journal.
But in any case, you must always be "forgiving" in the
end. You can't heal without
you feel resentment, for example, towards your mother, father, or other
family members, you must liberate yourself from your anger by
"forgiving" them. Even
Jesus, who was conceived out of wedlock (Mat 1:18-19) through a
"virgin" mother didn't want to quickly forgive his parents and
his genetic brothers. He was always irritated at their presence (John 7:5; Luke
8:19-21; Mark 3:31-34; Matt 12:46-50).
And he also never called Mary as "mother."
disrespectfully called her "woman." (John
2:4, John 19:26) In fact,
during one of his psychotic episodes, he said, "do not think that I
came to bring peace on earth. I
did not come to bring peace but a sword! For I came to turn a man against his father, a daughter
against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.
A person’s enemies will be members of his own family."
(Mat 10:34-36) But
the Gnostics, who wrote his story through the Gospels illustrated that
in the end, he learned how to "forgive" (Luke 23:34) even
though it was a bit too late already.
Indeed, "forgiveness" is an important key to healing.
understand that there is no perfect father, mother, doctor, lawyer,
clergyman, teacher, brother, sister, American, Chinese, Japanese,
Briton, Canadian, German, French, Italian, African, South American,
Arabian, Indian, Filipino, or any human being for that matter.
Realize it for yourself, and then "forgive."
if you still have difficulty in "forgiving" others, then try
to remember all the offenses that you did towards other people in the
past. Certainly, you
must have hurt someone in the past, even in just a small way.
Think about how much pain you caused them.
Then realize that you can remedy your situation by
"forgiving" others too.
you have mastered the art of empathy and "forgiveness", start
practicing tolerance. You
may think of life on earth as a "school" where everyone learns
and evolves gradually to a mature state.
If you believe in the afterlife, think about how every human
being must take different "courses" to advance his or her
maturity, just like moving from kindergarten to college, by living one
life after another. If you
fail, you can repeat the "course" by living another life.
Then you move on, and finally, you graduate--reaching
"nirvana." And if
you finally understand that every human being will "graduate"
eventually, then you won't take offense at the harm done by those who
are not mature yet. You
know that eventually, they will all mature.
may also think of the world as a "stage" where everyone just
"acts" out or "plays" their role.
No one then can be considered "good" or "bad"
because they are just performing their role.
In the end, a moral is learned from everyone's
"performance" and all the "actors" or
"actresses" "graduate" from their earthly existence.
if you combine the “school” and “stage” scenario, you’ll end
up with what Buddhists call “The Matrix.”
In this case, the world is a training simulation room—a place
for you to learn. We may
think that many things are real, but they are
only illusions in this
scenario. Your perception
fools you, but it allows you to learn.
the other hand, if you don't believe in the afterlife, you may think of
the world as a continually evolving organism.
Slowly, but surely, it will grow and mature, learning more from
its past mistakes and finding better solutions to solve its problems.
Everyone is a part of this evolutionary process, so why should
you separate others from yourself?
what if empathy, "forgiveness", and tolerance still doesn't
work for you? You may look
deep into yourself and try to examine the real cause of your anger.
When someone mistreats you and you react with anger, it is often
only triggered by that person. The
real cause is deep within you. If
you find out more about yourself, you can figure out the real root cause
of your anger, and you will be able to heal yourself.
course, even all these techniques will be ineffective if your
environment is unusually harsh. For
example, if you live in Washington, D.C. --the city currently recorded
to have one of the highest, if not the highest, murder rate in the
world--then you'll have a tough time practicing empathy,
"forgiveness", and tolerance.
In this case, it will be wise to move somewhere else.
Of course, you may go back and help your "brothers" and
"sisters" in the "hood" once you become stronger.
But if you plan to relocate somewhere within the United States,
be careful about where you go. At
the moment, the U.S. has more incarcerated people than any other country
in the world (with the exception of Rwanda).
And it doesn't have that reputation for nothing. Even then,
always remember that the greatest people in history always came from
very tough environments.
the end, remember to "forgive" and then "forget." As the Confucianist Hong Ying Ming says, “when you understand
human feelings completely, then whatever people may call you, you just
nod.” (Circa 1600 A.D.)