4/7/13 questions and discussion
1-why do so many people dislike their jobs?7/3
2-do nonprofits do better than for profits at helping people?3
3-does religious faith have any relevance for the modern world except as a means for the powerful to manipulate the masses?4
4-without vision do people perish?5
6-what is the difference between behavior we collectively think of as abnormal/undesirable and mental illness?7/5
7-what do we have to do in order to evolve successfully?6
8-are there standards by which humor can go too far or how do we evaluate it?7/3
9-how can we encourage creativity?3
10-is it beneficial for similar thinkers to use an infinite feedback loop?5
11-is faster better?2
what is the difference between behavior we collectively think of as deviant and mental illness?
Greg: current events have me considering this question [Boston Marathon bomber, 20 grade school kids/teacher shot, theater in Colorado shot up]. Just what is a diagnosable illness and what is just deviant? It comes up with bombings and mass shootings. How bad does behavior have to be to be considered mental illness? Is intending to harm enough? In general it comes down to self awareness, organization. Mentally ill behavior tends to be more impulsive. Organization implies the greater use of a kind of logic. I say this is true in general. The joy of a soft science like psychology is how it changes over time.
Molly: you mentioned "in the field." Is this yours?
Greg: I'm in an applied field, yes. And I originally studied criminal psychology in college.
Tor: the definition of a healthy person is to be in harmony with one's environment. This is considered therapeutic in eastern cultures. As long as harmony exists, no threat is perceived. Disease becomes disharmony with environment. Medical doctors want the organic, an organ responsible, like the brain. There are indeed changes that happen in a brain with schizophrenia. For people who do bizarre and dangerous things like serial murder there is in fact something different with their brains. We're left agape at Boston, 9/11, etc. There is then something to do with politics and mental illness. I was responsible for evaluating health projects for poor kids. The mental cases were dealt with by social workers, nurses. Doctors avoided addressing it because they said "it's not organic." These non-organic mentally ill then all end up in jail. Often those illnesses were a survival thing for existing in bad neighborhoods. Here in the US we exhibit a form of insanity for a few who think children are safer if greater access to guns is permitted. Is our society going mad?
Art: the mentally ill are pathetic, they can be depressed, and typically can't take care of themselves. They can't function in society. There's a lot of crazy primate behavior that is dangerous to others. The only people allowed to speak the truth are the jesters, the coyotes. Real issues are never discussed. The jokers are helpful. The man in Wisconsin who recently killed his three daughters, his behavior occurred in a culture that is tolerant generally of excessive violence. Bullying is far too much tolerated. So this man who killed his girls is not acting inside a vacuum. Only when it gets catastrophic is it dealt with. That said, America is one of the best, healthiest cultures on earth.
Molly: it used to be worse here.
Art: I agree, it's not predominant and it is getting better. I recognize two kinds of insanity: drooling mental illness and egotistically based mental illness.
Molly: as to the murderer dad: the decision had to be made: guilty or not guilty by reason of insanity. There could be no in-between. I am an adult child of a mentally ill mom, I myself am bi-polar. In the next decades this discussion will be very different. Many who don't normally appear insane can go into rage and be very destructive, very crazy. Those who are mentally ill are in reality more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators. It's great we have various therapies for helping. I've always thought the discussion about this is really boiled down to recidivism. Pedophiles are at 98% chance of re-committing their crimes, theus making it more important to be severe in separating them from freedom.
Mike: through the 1950s our mental institutions were filling up nicely. AFter the late 60s the supreme court said much of this was unconstitutional. Private businesses thought they could treat these people. Then it became known that these clients weren't being good in public -- they were in fact living on the street. That threatened property values and became a problem. We've been back and forth about this. The violence of late, starting with Columbine where the police immediately called followed their training and awaited orders before entering the school. This was the wrong answer because the killing went on while they waited. It destroyed much of that police force, caused lots of pain for that police department. Jon often says here that we're all connected; the insanity we see in our world is not unconnected from us. It's the sea we swim in. We dance around these definitions. Problems I think arise primarily in the interpretation of behavior and clever, skillful attorneys' manipulations of data.
Rachel: we've focused here so far on the criminal law viewpoint, but we ought look elsewhere. There's a stigma around mental illness, we don't require treatment until we decide harm has been done. Putting people in boxes, labeling them may make us more comfortable but can actually distance us from effectively dealing with this question. Mental illness doesn't mean "insane."
Molly: what is "insane," then?
Rachel: a detachment from consequences.
Greg: is insanity even used? Legally?
Rachel: it's important to understand that its' not always about harmfulness it can also be about quality of life for the mentally ill.
Eric: what if that dad hadn't done what he did? Would he still be mentally ill?
Rachel: that's what's hard. Unless we can be sure of potential harmfulness we must wait and see. We ought to change, undo the stigma of mental illness. The shooter at the grade school's mom tried to get him help but it may also be true that she refused to be fully proactive because she feared being stigmatized.
Molly: my favorite book is The Gift of Fear. The author lays out the escalation of violence. Work like this will help us better spot precursors of serious problems.
Greg: as to the idea of collective insanity, we do have collective perceptions. Crime rates have gone down dramatically over the past several decades, yet most Americans think it's growing (media caused/enabled?). "If it bleeds it leads." Norway has government sponsored media, making them less susceptible to airing stories primarily in order to get people to watch and earn them money. When the gap between our reality and our expectations become wide enough, it's then we'll push for change. Criminally speaking it's tricky because is it mis-wiring or mental illness/something intangible? All serial killing requires sexual energy, that we know, for example, but is that hardwired behavior? I agree with Rachel that more often than not we're only interested in helping victims, not perpetrators. If those who are either hard wired or nurtured into dangerous behavior are taught the skills necessary for successful living, they can make it. We have organizations who intend this, but there are not enough. Our perceptions kick in because we feel connected.
Siva: T. Leary said a psychologically healthy life was turning on, tuning in, drop out.