Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
It is impossible to do research into psychic ability and psychics without coming across stories of psychosis. And lurking in the background is a connection to schizophrenia, which is far more common in the families of psychic people than in the population at large. In order to address this issue with any sort of expertise though, I needed a source of information which clarified the topic. Well, now I have it. Cognitive psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman, PhD, is a creativity researcher who wrote an article exploring the link between schizophrenia and highly creative people.
We can use the same information for psychic people because this is basically the same group. Kaufman acknowledges as much, although he uses the euphemisms, “magical thinking” and “unusual perceptive experience” to describe psi. It’s annoying, I know. But at least the data is there.
But there are also documented instances of psychics experiencing psychosis, which are not part of that article and I want to address that as well, because it happens to a very certain type of psychic under some very specific circumstances.
Psychosis and schizophrenia are not the same thing. With Psychosis your self control and self awareness will be lower than that of a person with Schizophrenia. The duration for psychosis is between days and weeks and Schizophrenia occurs for lifetime. From a psychic’s standpoint you can think of it this way: Schizophrenia is an ego so out of control it is creating its own reality. Psychosis is the loss of the protective ego.
Psychics do not get schizophrenia, but they can become psychotic. Got that? Good. Let’s address the issue of schizophrenia. (The article is about creativity. I am picking out passages that directly relate to schizophrenia and psychosis. The links in the quoted area were part of the original article.) Dr. Kaufman writes in his article:
In a recent study reported in Schizophrenia Bulletin, Nelson and Rawlings propose that a mild form of schizophrenia called schizotypy may be positively associated with the experience of flow. Schizophrenia is a debilitating mental illness that affects roughly 1 percent of the population and involves altered states of consciousness and “abnormal” perceptual experiences. Schizotypy, which is a watered-down version of schizophrenia, consists of a constellation of personality traits that are evident to some degree in everyone.
High levels of schizotypy are typically found in relatives of individuals with full fledged schizophrenia. Some researchers have proposed that the genes that underlie schizophrenia may remain in the human gene pool because of the benefits those with schizotypy receive in terms of creativity; those with schizotypy have the genes that that may contribute to creativity without the debilitating genes that would prevent them from achieving their maximum potential.
Research confirms a link between schizotypy and creative achievement. In particular, “positive” schizotypal traits such as unusual perceptual experiences and magical beliefs tend to be elevated in artists, and “negative” schizotypal traits such as physical and social anhedonia (a feeling of emotional emptiness) and introversion tend to be associated with mathematical and scientific creativity. (Of course, there are scientists with positive schizotypal traits and artists with negative schizotypal traits — I’m only talking relative numbers.)
He goes on to say:
Consistent with prior research, they found that their sample of artists scored higher than the average population (based on norm data) on the schizotypal traits of unipolar affective disturbance (depression) and thin boundaries, as well as the personality traits of openness to experience and neuroticism.
Interestingly, they didn’t replicate research showing elevated levels of bipolar mood disorder in artists. As a possible explanation, the researchers point out that their sample consists of mainly contemporary artists. As they point out, “creativity is a construct that varies not only across fields, but also across styles and artistic movements.”
Indeed, clinical psychologist Louis A. Sass notes in his article, “Schizophrenia, Modernism and the ‘Creative Imagination’: On Creativity and Psychopathology,” that most of the prior work on the link between bipolar and artistic creativity has been based on eminent classical artists from earlier periods, particularly the Romantic period. In his book, “Madness and Modernism: Insanity in the Light of Modern Art, Literature and Thought,” Sass further makes the case that modernistic and postmodern artists report psychotic or schizotypal experiences.
And still more:
hese findings are fascinating and beg the question: What mechanism or set of mechanisms account for the association between schizotypy and the experience of flow? The researchers argue that latent inhibition is of particular relevance to understanding this association (also see “Why Daydreamers Are More Creative“).Reduced latent inhibition represents an inability to screen out from awareness stimuli that have previously been tagged as irrelevant. Prior research has shown an association between reduced latent inhibition and psychosis. However, emeritus Professor David R. Hemsley at King’s College, London argues that while this loosening of expectations based on previous experience may cause a disruption in sense of self, this mental process may also confer advantages for creativity. Recent research showing common genetic and neurotransmitter linkages (particularly dopamine) between both schizophrenia and creativity support this association at a biological level.
As the researchers note, the million dollar question is this: What distinguishes the person who, in the Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard‘s phrase, “drowns in possibility” from the person who is able to use his or her reduced latent inhibition in a way that enables heightened levels of creativity?
Some researchers have argued that intelligence and working memory may be factors that protect the individual with creative potential from falling over the edge into madness. Factors such as working memory and high executive functioning (which tend to show activations in the prefrontal cortex of the brain) may enable the individual with reduced latent inhibition to not go mad from the influx of emotions and sensations and make good use of the broad range of novel input. Indeed, researchers have found that the combination of high I.Q. and reduced latent inhibition is associated with creative achievement.
And one more thing:
I reckon that it is this openness to experience aspect (and associated functioning of the dopaminergic neurotransmitter system) that is crucial to understanding the schizotypy/flow connection. Self-reported openness to experience is in fact related to reduced latent inhibition, suggesting that openness to experience is a phenotype that is related to actual information processing.
The idea that a high IQ factors into the ability of psychic people to cope successfully with traits of schizophrenia is not new. This was also suggested by Dean Radin in his book on the science of parapsychology: “The Conscious Universe.” I am also inclined to add that having a high Emotional IQ is also protective.
Perhaps schizophrenia is the product of a brain that lacks the ordinary capacity to filter information, both physical and at the level of pure consciousness. A schizophrenic perhaps deals with this by unconsciously shutting it all down by creating their very own paranoid world to live in. Fear definitely cuts back on the internal flow of information and that may be its purpose in this situation. Psychics, on the other hand, can and do deal with this information flow from a very early age. Therefore it does not generate the overwhelming fear response and there is no need for the ego to shut everything off.
(Update, 6-28-17. This article clearly articulates this idea. Psychics Who Hear Voices Could Be On to Something)
You aren’t psychotic just because you saw a ghost or some other image or had a bad feeling or heard things. Psychosis includes those things, but you have to look at the overall picture.
Psychosis is not an addition to reality, it’s a break from it. If you’re seeing ghosts and they’re talking to you for instance, but otherwise, things are normal, this is probably a psychic experience. An exceptional one, yes, but merely psychic nonetheless. I don’t claim to know all the reasons for why this stuff suddenly occurs, but when I’ve dug into the backgrounds of people who have related these things to me, they were pretty damned psychic to begin with and had other experiences before that were similar at other times in their lives. When I’ve done a bit of peer counseling with these people the main problem was a fear of insanity. When that issue was resolved, it was no longer a problem. A psychotic break is a fear feedback loop that is totally out of control. I would not attempt peer counseling in this situation because serious help and meds are a good idea at this point.
The incidences of psychosis I have read about turned up in situations where individuals were intensely using their psi over long periods of time, typically doing remote viewing; sometimes for years. The people involved were handpicked because they demonstrated exceptional psychic ability and they simply lost their grip on reality.
My opinion on this is that it has to do with how these people perceived authority figures and the idea of authority in general. Most of these people were in service to a government with a strong chain of command; the army for instance. The problem with that is that activities such as remote viewing require a level of self confidence and a sense of self far beyond what these people possessed. In the realm of the inner mind, the normal barriers of the ego and whatever it is in our consciousness that holds reality together disappears and we are open to our most subconscious thoughts, which can manifest as real things in the inner mind. You imagine it, and it’s there instantly. That includes fear, which in turn increases the fear and pretty soon, you have a feedback loop and the resultant psychosis.
The problem is that you only join the army if you believe in authority more than you believe in yourself. And keeping your sanity intact during remote viewing requires that your belief in yourself is stronger than your belief in authority. That is to say, a psychic person who has complete disregard for authority and follows their own path, paying no attention to the counsel of others will be far less likely to cave into any fears that might start developing. They are far better prepared for remote viewing because they can shoo the boogeymen away. The idea of authority is that something external is controlling you, but the inner mind doesn’t work that way. Everything that happens is essentially an inner reflection. Not being afraid of authority is the same thing as not being afraid of monsters under the bed. The ability to deal with one carries over to the other.