Saturday, November 25, 2006

Writings of Schizophrenics

Sometimes when I’m falling asleep or waking up, but am neither asleep nor awake, I “hear” other people’s conversations and “see” people in unfamiliar surroundings. The places are always commonplace – a dim corner bar, a laundromat, somebody’s kitchen – and the words are always mundane. “If he doesn’t show up before long I’m going to phone Jane.” “Typical, isn’t it? What do you say we call a cab?” “I don’t believe in using softener.” “Don’t forget your jacket.” “We’re almost out of coffee.”

What distinguishes these perceptions from dreams is their
“presence”, their real life quality, and the sense that I hear the words as clearly as if I’d tapped into a phone line or picked up a phone on a busy party line in the days when there were party lines.

Another thing which distinguishes these perceptions from dreams is that I’m never involved in them emotionally or as a participant. I’m in my bed, and the people I’m hearing are somewhere else. The dialogues have no personal significance, and the people are always strangers to me, and people I would be unlikely to meet.

Finally, the mundane and completely uninteresting nature of the conversations distinguishes them from dreams or imagination. Nothing significant comes to me during my involuntary eavesdropping. Everything is trivial.

I’m now persuaded that at those times I am overhearing real life conversations and seeing things that are actually taking place in other people’s lives. But why do I tune in to these conversations at all, and what selects the particular ones I hear?

I don’t know the answer, but this leads into the question, why do schizophrenics hear the things they hear, which “sane” people don’t hear?

I was baby-sitting for my psychiatrist friend in Fort Lauderdale years ago when I came across a book containing the writings of schizophrenics. As I read what various men and women suffering from schizophrenia had written about their experiences, I began to feel very strongly that these people were not fantasizing, not just hallucinating words and visions created by their own brains, but were actually perceiving realities outside themselves. What they reported was related to “reality” as much as any eyewitness police report, no matter how bizarre it might seem. But their schizophrenic experiences were so different from their “sane” experiences that they couldn’t even tell about them using standard language. In an effort to describe the indescribable they invented vocabulary and improvised strange expressions which made them seem even more “insane”. But if the reader viewed their communications as a struggle to describe real but frighteningly unfamiliar experiences, the writings made a certain amount of sense.

The schizophrenic experiences I read about resemble the reception of a short wave radio which is bringing in several stations instead of only one station. Sometimes the radio jumps among several different stations, so that one can’t make much sense of the broadcasts, while sometimes it plays several stations at the same time, resulting in total mishmash.

I was led to the conclusion that individual, separate beings are created by some form of insulation. Without insulation, in the sense that an electric wire is insulated, there would be no individual consciousnesses, but instead just undifferentiated primal Source.

The human insulation, or filter, is not so strong as to prevent us from occasionally sensing things beyond the physical senses of our bodies, things at a distance, things in others’ minds, things in the future . . . but it is effective enough to keep us from being defenselessly open to the endless sea of consciousness and losing our identity as a separate entity. Without insulation, an individual’s consciousness would become swamped and she would no longer be able to distinguish her “own” thoughts and perceptions from the sea of data around her . . . and I might have to listen to boring conversations from the laundromat or corner bar twenty-four hours a day.


  1. I, too, get "messages" when I am waking in the morning. They're usually helpful information such as how to repair something or how to deal with a situation.

  2. In Douglas Adams' book "The long dark teatime of the soul", Dirk Gently visits a private mental home in which similar phenomena occur, including one inmate who speaks everything that Dustin Hoffman is saying in realtime.

    My own experience of hypnagogic and hypnopompic experiences (which is which?) is different, especially when listening to the radio, which helps me determine when I have lost awakeness. Distortions of consciousness rapidly bring about improvisations on the music or talking until some other strange fascinating world unfolds, the unfettered dream. When I awaken from sleep, it's another matter.