Tales from Antiquity

Should you listen to a story, one of the hardest can be the true stories of young men and women when they first develop schizophrenia. Many challenges can exist that must be overcome in order to regain the ability to be functional in society. But the first and greatest is recognizing that such a thing has occurred in the first place. I like to equate it to trying to find yourself out of a maze while lacking the knowledge that you are in a maze at all. Could you imagine trying to solve puzzles that you didn’t know existed? And yet, this is the challenge that people are facing all over the world.

It is estimated that as much as 1% of the population develops schizophrenia. Often, even their closest friends and relatives do not recognize exactly what is going on. Why should this be? Schizophrenia is a recent term in our mental health histories. It may seem that some new illness is taking the minds of our children just as they are entering into adulthood. But there is evidence that this condition has been with us for millennia.

Throughout history, artists and musicians have attributed their inspiration to ethereal beings that people around them could not see or hear. Some of the greatest works in our museums might not exist without their inspiration to our poetry, art, and music. We recognize their contributions as a source of some of our greatest academic and scientific advancements as well.

But we have no need of otherworldly presences to explain the existence of such beings to us. The human mind is a complicated creation. Why then should we be compelled to believe that only one self-aware being can exist naturally in an individual physical body?

A great variety of environmental stresses are placed upon us while we strive to maintain our existence in this world. This host vessel that we call our body places cognitive demands upon us that require a near constant focus. We have so many concerns that the attention of one individual is sometimes barely enough to keep us alive. Most especially, the world’s many harsh survival requirements leave us little room for thought to devote to academic or artistic pursuits.

Evolving from a singular consciousness and into a parallel, or multiple consciousness would be a beneficial advancement to a species.

How would a hypothetical push by nature towards that end look on the ground floor? Certainly it would present some mental health challenges in its early development. We would also wonder what a successful creation of such a being would look like.

It has been said that schizophrenia could be due to a complex genetic factor. Anecdotally, it is prevalent in my own family and I believe that I inherited this gift from my great-grandfather. Not all inherited traits result in a desirable condition. Yet, an argument could be made that the arrival of schizophrenia is the outward manifestation of a survival trait that has allowed us to thrive. Certainly, if you make a connection between the muses of ancient Greece and the voices heard by the schizophrenic today, a strong case may be established. Already, a relationship between mental illness and creativity has been shown in our modern research. We devote entire buildings to works born of the creative mind. A genetic trait that encourages such creativity should probably be categorized as positive and be generally desirable. This idea led me to believe that many of the negative perceptions of schizophrenia are misplaced.

Taking the viewpoint that I would make every effort to empathize with my own voices is how I came to this particular path of thought exploration. I truly wished to understand every aspect of our individual perspectives in this relationship. The primary reason is that empathy drives me to understand their feelings. Those feelings matter to me. I care about them as much as I have for anyone ever in my life.

Intellectually, it seemed important to me to try to understand how this arrangement could even have come into existence. By what mechanisms would multiple self aware beings come to live within the same host body?

Believing that I have been afforded a unique view into the inner workings of our minds informs my exploration. Schizophrenia lends to me a window to peer behind the veil of a singular consciousness. The veil that an ordinary person does not even know exists. In order to utilize this window, I did what came naturally.

I listened.

As I did, I began cataloguing what I was hearing. I looked at the specifics of the language. I also attempted to look beyond the words that were used to examine the mechanics of what they were accomplishing. What was the purpose behind the conversation itself?

It was important to find a perspective that lay above the actual discussions in order to categorize them. What were they about? What were the people doing? I wanted to know how what I was hearing may have arisen from those survival demands that are placed upon us as human beings.

What I found gave me serious reason to pause and reconsider everything that I had heard about schizophrenia before I experienced it firsthand. If you have heard of this condition before, then you are well acquainted with nightmarish tales of demonic voices telling people to do unspeakable things. I’ve been told about babysitters asking their young wards to check behind the closet door for them to make certain that someone is not in there. I’ve witnessed young men in hospitals screaming at someone unnamed and unseen to get out of their heads. To leave them alone.

Paranoia takes hold of the very fabric of their being as they become certain that malicious entities are watching everything that they do, say, or even think aloud to themselves. After experiencing a life with voices that nobody else hears except for myself, I can completely empathize with the people who share this condition. I can also recount firsthand stories that would send a chill up the spine of anyone who listens. Yet, I was able to move beyond them and into a much more beautiful life.

I did this by looking into our history. Our ancient Greeks helped to lead me away from ideas of demons or a diagnosis of mental illness. Instead, I recognized that they called these speakers Muses, and attribute many great works of art, music, and poetry to their inspiration. Music literally means art of the Muses and a museum is a shrine of the Muse. Hearing the voice of them was something to be desired.

For me, it was the start of a beautiful relationship with my ethereal family. Just like any family, it still can be the scene of some drama of misunderstanding. But also just like any family, we always get over the drama. Because we love and care about each other. And we only want what is best for our family.

It started by saying, “I love you.”

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