Sunday, October 5, 2014



The word, SCHIZOPHRENIA, was coined in 1910 by the Swiss psychiatrist, Paul Eugen Blueler.  It was derived from the Greek words ‘schizo’ meaning ‘split,' and ‘phren’ meaning ‘mind.According to the medicos, SCHIZOPHRENIA is not at all like Robert Louis Stevenson’s, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, the publication of which did much to popularize the concept of ‘split mind.’

Though people suffering from schizophrenia hear voices (hallucinations) and harbor strange beliefs (delusions), which seem from keeping with their normal selves, they do not suddenly change into a different unrecognizable person (that is, according to the medicos).

According to the medics and academics, the notion of exhibiting a split personality by those suffering from schizophrenia is a myth.  But is it really?  A myth, that is?  I think not.
(From my blog, OUR DOPPELGANGER SELVES:  AN ESSAY ON DOUBLE IDENTITIES, posted January 25, 2013.)

I still think not.

A doppelganger is literally, in German, a double goer.  An alterity is an otherness, a real self in contrast to another self.  A doppelganger is from fictional, usually a look-alike, a shadow-like self, a harbinger of bad luck, including death.  An alterity is a phenomenological entity, one much in contrast to our self-constructed coping identities as we make our way through day-to-day life.

I think that people with schizophrenia have double identities. Schizophrenia, as many other diagnosed mental illnesses, is determined by the patient exhibiting a certain series of particular behaviors over an assigned period of time.  For sufferers of schizophrenia, these psychotic behaviors include positive symptoms (for example, hallucinations and delusions) and negative symptoms (for example, presenting flat behaviors in social situations, and an apparent lack of pleasure in everyday activities).

The people with whom I am most familiar and having schizophrenia do, indeed, exhibit these positive and negative symptoms, but not every day.  On days where the intake of caffeine, alcohol, and street drugs are absent, these people, even though they have schizophrenia, are not distinguishable from the rest of the hoi polloi.  When these positive and/or negative symptoms do exist, these same people seem to be completely different from their normal selves, to the point of being unrecognizable, not necessarily in their physical presence, but for sure in their social presence.

One client in particular comes to mind.  On a good day, one that is free from either positive or negative symptoms, he seems fully functional.  Socially, he is a treat during lunchtime conversation and academically he is able to discuss the connotation of both language and behavior in the context of his own illness.

On a bad day, one that he has indulged in nicotine or caffeine, he is not healthy.  He is not himself.  On those days his alterity, his other self is clearly distinguishable from his real self.  (I’ll not get into which self is his real self as opposed to his other self actually being his real self, that alterity of which I am writing.)

On a bad day he is often grinning over the conversations he is having with those auditory hallucinations that seem to randomly amuse him.  On a bad day he can be heard talking and swearing to himself in disgust, but on further inspection, is determinedly arguing with other forces having other voices.  On a bad day he has not showered nor changed his clothing, clearly resembling a street cadge rather than a regular consumer.  On a bad day it is not uncommon for him to turn on me (or anyone), manifested by yelling obscenities and wild accusations about interfering with his mind, stealing his powers, and selling poetry freshly etched from his mind.

On a good day my client lifts weights, consumes Nicorette gum, drinks Adam's Ale, and eats healthy foodstuffs.  On a good day my client shaves and showers and is crisply dressed.

On a bad day my client is a sloth, chain smokes cigarettes, guzzles a gallon of coffee, then consumes of all the booze he can afford, often followed by the use of street drugs, or whatever else is available.

On a good day my client is the thoughtful and compassionate Dr. Jekyll.  On a bad day my client is the raving and dangerous Mr. Hyde.

Hmmm …

I am thinking all of us have Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde within ourselves.  I am thinking we are all, our very own doppelganger selves, donning different alterities to suit our moods (pun intended), presenting double and more personae along our personal life continuum.

For the purposes of this essay, suffice it shall be to suggest that doppelganger and alterity are synonyms.  Suffice it shall also be that we are constantly constructing identities in order to cope with every conflict we suffer. To live is to suffer (the skinny of Zen), and as long as we are alive and reasonably alert, we will encounter personal suffering and therefore construct mechanisms for coping with such suffering.  Generally speaking, these constructs will include the enactment of other-selves, presenting behaviors that are peculiar and in quite in contrast to those of our real selves.

To bring such an abstract hypothesis to ground level, I shall now offer some concrete examples.
I sometimes behave as if I am two (or more) selves.  My real self wants to run every day, lift weights every day, eat healthy foods, read loads, and behave in academic fashion.  My other (busker) self wants to lie on the couch and watch television dramas, eat hot dogs at lunch, strum a guitar, or pencil someone’s portrait, and behave in street fashion.  

These contrasted selves of mine are in constant competition for control.  It could be that (and this may be a stretch) that my real self is the prudent self, concerned about my future; whereas, my busker self simply wants to be momentarily indulged.  It could be that my real self is Dr. Jekyll, and that my busker self is Mr. Hyde.

Why am I so conflicted?  Why am I inconsistent in my behaviors?  Do I have a self- control problem? And if I do, is my self-control problem really just conflict between my real self and my busker self?  Can my life struggles be simply reduced to being the conflict between my long-sighted Dr. Jekyll self, and my short-sighted Mr. Hyde self?

Both selves are vulnerable, but it seems my busker self is much more vulnerable than my real self. 
My real self likes alcohol, but only the odd glass of bourbon (mixed with ice and Coca-Cola), or the occasional beer whilst I barbeque.  My busker self will drink American decafs all day long, and is prone to party and on summer evenings drink pails of beer given the circumstance of the weather being warm and the customers being munificent.

In short, I can easily be pulled in either direction, that of my real self and that of my busker self.  However saying thus, I have not been assigned with a mental illness.  Not surprisingly, I can engineer my environment such that I can rationally control my real and other self-indulgences.    

Those diagnosed with schizophrenia are not so in control and that is, I think, the significant difference between people having and people not having schizophrenia.  For ninety-nine percent of us, Dr. Jekyll is hard at work and in command.  For the other one percent of us, Mr. Hyde is on the street and out of control.

I believe whether we are accursed or not with schizophrenia, we are all along a continuum of behaviors, and I am suggesting we are all subject to developing our certain alterities, including especially our doppelganger selves.  The Spartan and self-denied indulgences of our Dr. Jekyll selves are always in constant conflict with the impulsion of our Mr. Hyde selves. To put it another way, our Dr. Jekyll heuristics are quite the contrast to the hedonistic appetite of our Mr. Hyde. 

Back to busking. 

RICHARD and LANCINE allowing me the indulgence of PORTRAIT BUSKING

I consider my busking to be a hobbyhorse.  But could it be that busking is really my stalking horse, really just a socially appropriate subterfuge to express my real self? 

Hmmm …

And could it be that the hallucinatory and delusional selves of those with schizophrenia are, too, hobby and stalking horses, really just socially inappropriate, unfettered dreams unfolding from their real selves?

Factoid:  When I busk I wool-gather.  My wool-gathering dreams have included kicking someone's ass who has crossed me in the driving lane.  I've dreamed of dangerous liaisons with delicious sylphs, and I've dreamed of crossing the Rubicon with voluptuous Amazons.  I've been in cowboy costume and I've been a Bobby Dylan wannabee.

Yes ... my busking is my stalking horse, my constructed social subterfuge, fettering my dreams that continue to unfold from my real self.

Hmmm ...


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