Hearing Voices Articles

The Surest Path to Mental Clarity

by Alan Fitzpatrick

Nov. 22, 2012

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Mental turmoil

All of us experience moments of mental turmoil in our lives; it comes naturally and inevitably as a result of day to day living. No one is exempt from ups and downs in our relationships with family, co-workers, spouses, and people in the world at large. Mental turmoil also arises with events in our physical surroundings: a car that breaks down at a critical moment, a water line that bursts, or a bank payment discovered to be missed.

Stress from these conflicts may be unsettling in the moment, yet most of us find that once we have dealt with the immediate problems, the mental turmoil is alleviated and we are able to move on with living; our mind returns to some degree of serenity and clarity.

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Shattered mind

However, there's another condition of mental turmoil that exists for some of us that is far more anguishing than the travails previously mentioned. It is a chaotic mental condition in which our mind appears to be permanently shattered, our previous mental clarity only a memory.

We become aware that our mind, our waking consciousness, our inner world, is no longer whole but is broken and divided, much as described by the existential psychiatrist R.D. Laing as "a mind more or less tenuously linked to a body, as two or more selves." [1]

It can appear that our inner world - which we once felt that we singularly inhabited - has become a battleground of competing alien voices and identities, previously unknown to us. Intrusive and obsessive thoughts and imagery can come to dominate the screen of our consciousness with regularity; we are unable to exert any control over the chaos, and at times, barely maintain our grip on sanity.

Finding oneself in this unfortunate situation is truly the dark night of the soul - a moment of despair that permeates the very core of one’s being. What are you to do when you feel that you no longer own your own mind? Who can you turn to for advice or help, when your mental wholeness has been shattered and there seems to be no way to regain it?

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The professionals

If you turn to the mental health field, you’ll find that it's inhabited by professional psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists and counselors - each promoting an array of confusing and often contradictory diagnoses and treatments. Some identify your mental problem as acute stress disorder, bipolar condition, dissociation identity disorder, or paranoid personality disorder leading to schizophrenia, as stated in the current DSM-IV Code. [2]

Other approaches choose to bypass the mind-disorder diagnosis altogether and move directly to treatment: a variety of exotic medications to treat what are believed to be brain chemistry imbalances; or cognitive behavioral therapy to alter your "learned behavior disability." Both of these approaches reject your need to understand your affliction, in favor of simply treating the symptoms. Summed up, you can take your pick of diagnoses and treatments for your "problem."

All approaches are valid within their own paradigms, but outside of that, there is little agreement about anything else. Basically, your choice of treatment is framed by your ability to hope that the one you choose will work for you, bounded by how much money you’re able to spend.

The facts are, that regardless of whatever treatment you chose, no approach talks about cure - because no one really knows what the cure for mental disorder is, much less the cause. Each approach is really nothing more than a "working hypothesis", and treatment is no better than trial and error, with a cure rate of less than fifty percent.

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Adjustment?

So what do all therapies have in common? The lowest common denominator, the name of the game, whichever therapy you choose, is eventually to learn to live with your condition, meaning to alleviate your "symptoms" to some degree, so that life is infinitesimally more palatable than before, if possible.

Ironically, the hope of a cure and of regaining a whole mind is itself a victim of modern psychological thought, because in the various approaches stated you will not find the concept "wholeness of state of mind." In fact, several approaches deny that the mind even exists, saying we are just a bundle of physiological-behavioral reflexes.

So if no therapy exists that promises permanent cure, no method is known that will work for sure, and no cause is even known for your condition, what, if anything, is left? Simply, the patient is advised to learn to adjust to living with a fractured mind as the best case scenario.

One can medicate oneself to a point where the intrusive thoughts and thought-forms are drowned out of the foreground of consciousness, but they still remain in the background. Countless case-study testimonies of medicated individuals provide evidence that this is as good as this approach can get. But is this not condemning you to a life sentence of daily waking misery, if the intrusions and the fragmentation are still there?

And when you read the possible side-effects of today’s psychotropic drugs, is it not possible that they can make your situation more than infinitesimally worse? Are the significant risks of drug therapies commensurate with the limited benefits to be obtained?

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A cure

I don’t believe that learning to live with your mental problems should be the inevitable answer. It is simply not acceptable to take medication the rest of your life without ever regaining your mental clarity. Common sense says that if mind were originally whole and then became fractured - then it is possible that that mind can be whole once again, if the cause of what fractured it can be removed.

We know that the only way to convincingly cure the effects on an infected splinter in our finger is to remove it, not learn to live with a festering condition. I believe likewise with the troubled mind: to aim at removing the cause of the disruption, while setting our sights on regaining the state of mental freedom we once previously possessed.

I know that such a goal is entirely possible, not from theory or someone else’s empirical evidence, but from personal experience. I have been there. I have had a fractured mentality, and I found the ways and means to heal myself without psychotherapy, behavior modification, or a lifetime of psychiatric drugs.

First and foremost, however, I believe that you have to want to heal your mind, as I did. No one can help you, nor can you help yourself, if you do not have to desire to do so. You have to aspire for real and permanent change, and make a commitment to yourself to be willing to take steps to work at it by working on yourself.

Having made this commitment, then the question, what do we do next?

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Point of reference

In the past when we were mentally whole we did not have all the internal chaos, the cluttering and clamoring voices. I believe we must find a point of reference to begin the work of recovering this mental clarity. A point of reference is needed because of the confusing plurality of voices, thoughts, urges and moods that are clamoring within, each one speaking "I".

Finding a point of reference within our mind is the act of identifying that part of our self that is most real, as opposed to everything else posing as our real self. What is most real has to be discovered and identified as the deep-down survival urge that every person has; it is the true self that wishes for wholeness.

The survival ego, I’ll call it, is that part of our self that is the victim of the clamor and confusion we are experiencing. It is the voice within that is being drowned out by the others. It is that part of our self that desires to be whole once again, and by which all other thoughts, egos, or voices can be measured. It is the voice or urge by which we hope to reclaim our mental interior.

There is only one survival ego, and finding or recognizing it comes from observing the battle going on within our mind. We notice that other voices, thought-patterns, and intrusive imagery are, in fact, what has inundated our mental world and crowded out our interior survival voice.

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Identifying voices

Once we identify the survival urge or voice as our more real self, we can begin the process of rejecting thoughts or voices which are not our own. We deny our ownership of them. This of course is at odds with modern psychology, which would reject the idea that thoughts we experience could be from external sources.

However, nearly everyone will agree that some thoughts, thinking patterns, voices, urges, can get a person into trouble, meaning that ultimately they trouble the real self or survival ego. The urge to drink alcohol can result in a DUI or worse, and nowhere will this discernment become more evident than if you're sitting in a jail cell attempting to recall what got you into trouble.

Soon after graduating from college I worked as a psychological counselor in a state penitentiary. There I met many inmates who had paid dearly with years of their life for momentarily following the calling of thoughts - of lust, greed or anger - that resulted in rape, robbery, violence, or even murder. They were the first to tell me they had succumbed to intrusive thinking, which only in retrospect could they see had brought them trouble; and that if only they had listened to their voice of reason and conscience, they wouldn’t be where they were today.

We should be cautious of claiming all thoughts or voices in our head as our own. Some 12-step groups have included this under the label of "stinking thinking" - negative thinking that gets us into trouble and is not beneficial to our real self.

Richard Rose - master psychologist and Zen teacher - laid this out plainly in a lecture: "I’m talking about voices; you actually have a voice talking inside you, an argument going on, two sides of a question. This happens with everything you do. The voice that says do it and the voice that says don’t." [3] So one of these voices is obviously more real than the other.

Native-American Indian culture has recognized that not all thoughts are our own, or beneficial to the host. Beau Washington, a practicing Cherokee psychological counselor calls such divisive thought patterns "Coyote" or "Trickster thoughts," saying, "Trickster thoughts are misleading because they fool us into believing things that seem true." He adds, "These kinds of Tricksters are not talked about. They are sly and hide in one’s mind, and they start to bring a person down." [4]

Consequently, in the beginning of observing your thoughts, you have to identify firsthand what is not the voice of your true inner self.

When it comes to method - the ways and means we are going to employ to bring about lasting change - we are going to begin at ground zero, with no postulations in advance other than our wish to find mental clarity and wholeness. This is unlike modern psychology which postulates what the problem might be, and then creates through additive means what the therapy should be.

We begin with the understanding that we don't know where our mental clarity has gone, nor how to regain it - but we're willing to examine everything about our current state of mind, looking for clues as to what is troubling us. Since we can’t think or talk our way to mental clarity, it make sense in the beginning just to see whether we can identify factors that are offending or fracturing it, with the idea of eventually removing those factors.

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Rejecting voices

In other words, we employ a system of moving away from what are found to be untrue or false voices - recognized as negative, fragmenting influences on our minds. If we are troubled by obsessive thoughts urging us to gamble, drink, use drugs, or look at porn - to cure ourselves from these obsessive behaviors we first need to deal with the obsessive thoughts.

This is a no-nonsense, common sense method of purifying the thought processes, as is detailed in The Albigen Papers [5] by Richard Rose, whom I knew and worked with. It is the system that worked for me, which helped me to regain my sanity. It is a subtractive rather than an additive psychology. As Rose stated in a talk, "You are sorting garbage. You retreat, you step backward, you don’t postulate and attack face-on ... You step away by studying stuff [within yourself] and rejecting ... It is the only process you can follow." [6]

According to Rose, the Albigen System was designed for the spiritual seeker who is looking for Truth but does not know how to find it. Since one does not know what Truth or God is, the only sure path is to back away from what is found in oneself to be untruth: lies, false ego, or as Rose plainly put it, garbage. However, there are many parallels between the search for mental clarity and the search for one’s ultimate definition, and the same ways and means can be appled to both. Both require honesty with oneself, commitment, and a willingness to work.

If "Certain things destroy mental clarity," [7] as Rose stated in a lecture, then dealing with those "things" by removing them, as we would do with a festering splinter, can ultimately return us to mental clarity and wholeness of mind, and beyond.

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Spirituality

I can recall a conversation I had with Rose during a walk we took before he gave a lecture on spirituality in Cleveland, Ohio. Rose turned to me and said, "Al, I know that you’ve been to the bottom of the barrel," addressing my dire state of mind at the time. "If you can climb your way out it, and get your head on straight, one day you’ll be able to pursue spirituality or anything you want to."

Rose was saying that the methods of achieving both philosophic self-definition and psychological clarity are one and the same. Employing the ways and means to remove all that was a negative influence on my mind was how I went about "getting my head on straight," as Rose called it. The result was discovering what I thought I had lost forever: my wholeness of mind and mental clarity.

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Footnotes

(Click the footnote number or use the Back button to return to the text.)

1.)
Laing, R.D., The Divided Self, Penguin Books, 1965, Baltimore, Maryland, page 1.
2.)
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition.
3.)
Rose, Richard, The Reality of Thought, lecture in Columbus, Ohio April 5, 1977.*
4.)
Washington, Beau, Deadly Tricksters, Indian Country Today, Vol. 2, Issue 40, October 24, 2012, page 45. [article]
5.)
Rose, Richard, The Albigen Papers, Rose Publications, McMechen, West Virginia, 1973.
6.)
Rose, Richard, Obstacles, lecture in Cleveland, Ohio on November 12, 1974.*
7.)
Rose, Richard, Relative and Absolute, lecture in Columbus, Ohio on May 11, 1978.*
*
Richard Rose lecture transcriptions are available here: selfdefinition.org/rose/

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Feedback

Reader's comment:

Would you please go more deeply into how to actually deal with the obsessions? For example, a music jingle repeated in my mind; I do not like it and it annoys me, so obviously it is not "I" doing this; but nonetheless it repeats itself. So I need to recognize that and then turn away from it. Another example is feelings of guilt: I am not starting those either. Or ruminations about past and future that go on and on. All of these are not me; they are triggered by "mind parasites" and they all need to be dealt with, one by one, constantly. I hope at some point they will all subside. So I would like you to explain to me and others how to do it.

Author's response:

Thanks for your comments. Yes, I intended this first article to be introductory, and certainly intend to explain in more depth the different types of obsessions and how to deal with them, as well as methods to free oneself. (Some of that is already in print in my book "Sex Connection", available at Rose Publications: richardroseteachings.com, which deals with the same subject material.)

I had to chuckle about your comment on the music jingle. It seems when I'm tired or distracted, a certain bit of a Fleetwood Mac piece gets some "air" time, which is annoying, and reminds me I'm mentally on automatic. I don't think this kind of thing is necessarily entity-inspired. There seems to be some body mechanicalness, part of our programmed robot nature (Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Rose) that is residual, depending on how much we allow ourself to slip into it; i.e., Gurdjieff's reference to a state of "waking sleep".

Several good techniques work and all function at confronting the jingle etc., and are based on viewing the offending item as part of the view, part of our external mind. For example, Ramana Maharshi says to "continually keep the mind turned within, and ask yourself in the form of a mental question 'Who is it that is in bondage?'" (from Maharshi's Words of Grace). Gurdjieff-Ouspensky talk about "waking up" and "self-observing" (In Search of the Miraculous.) Han Shan, Zen teacher from the 15th century China is adamant about negating the thought by cutting it off, back to the point where it arises (Practice of Zen, by Garma Chang). Rose advises to meditate and "attack the mind," and ask yourself "Where did that thought come from?" and "What is the source of that thought?" (Psychology of the Observer).

Rose also advises that in the case where the intruding thought seems to take on a life of its own, to mentally repeat the words "I Am, I Am" - to turn away from the obsessive thought by bringing the mind to a new line of self-affirming thought. However, he says that ultimately "all thoughts are projections" from another dimension.

All of these suggestions have the power to work for us because it seems that the Designer of the human mind wrote the mental program such that thinking is linear, and you really can't think of two thoughts at once, but rather one following the other. So we have the ability, if we choose, to switch the train onto a different track - but that takes constant self-awareness.

I borrow from something I remember I was told as a kid in boy scouts in Canada, "Be prepared; be vigilant." I think they had something else in mind besides self-observing but I like the advice.


Alan Fitzpatrick is the author of The Sex Connection, A Study of Desire, Seduction and Compulsion. Information is available Here.

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