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The peculiarity of the book is that it is
written by two people affected by schizophrenic delusions, Stuart Emmons and
Craig Geiser, and it also contains a commentary by two psychotherapists, Kaplan
and Harrow. It is an enlightening read for anybody who knows or works with
people affected by schizophrenia, because it offers an insight into the
difficulties that schizophrenic patients might encounter throughout their
Students of psychology and psychiatry,
researchers, therapists and philosophers with an interest in mental illness
might also benefit from reading this book, which contains first-hand detailed
information about the phenomenon of schizophrenic delusions. One can hope to
get a better picture of what the content of delusions might be, why delusional
episodes occur, and how they relate to the rest of the patient's cognitive
life, though the contributions of the psychotherapists are not always helpful
in this respect.
Stuart and Craig tell the story of how they came to suffer from
schizophrenia and how they reacted to the different stages of their illness. We
hear about their adjustment to life in a mental institution and about the loss
of contact with the outside world. But we also learn about their attempt to
move back with their families, regain their jobs, and take some control of
their delusional experiences. These first person accounts are accompanied by
Craig's drawings and Stuart's poems, a good example of how art can serve as a
powerful means for expressing one's feelings during episodes of mental illness
and for reaching out to others when more standards means of communication seem
The account of Steve's and Craig's experiences is always interesting
and informative, and often moving. Their description of the stage in their
lives when they started hospitalization is striking. Their social interaction
with doctors, other patients and members of their families and their reaction
to medication contribute to their partially acknowledging that they are
mentally ill. To give you an idea of how their stories are told, I selected two
significant passages from their accounts of what happened after entering the
My first two days I felt I was on a spaceship because it seemed as
though the floor was vibrating and moving. I felt as though this E.T. being had
entered my body. This doctor had come into the ward to talk to me. My mind
figured out the reason this doctor was so heavy was because he was wearing a
space suit. And he made me enter this room which seemed as if it was air
] I was confined to this lock-up area with one other patient.
Sam was this elderly man who was confined to a wheel chair. This man was able
to channel evil people from my earlier hospitalization in 1978 to the room that
we occupied. (Craig's story, page 131-2)
I finally realized that I was in a mental hospital. I told the nurses
and a man who was with them that I was being persecuted because of the game and
that I was suffering because of everyone else's ethnocentrism. They took notes.
Soon I was brought back to the day room again. Then I was taken to a
psychiatrist's office. I was utterly drained. I could hardly talk. [
] I saw a
tree through a window, about 60 feet behind him. Trees still seemed special to
me. I said there was a tree behind him. He said that there was no tree behind
him. I knew he thought that I meant that there was a tree behind him in that
very room. But I was too tired to explain what I had seen. It seemed that I was
misunderstood no matter what I did. (Stuart's story, page 19)
As you can see from the passages above, at
that stage of their illness, Craig and Stuart tended to view others as hostile
towards them and to interpret most events in the light of their delusions.
These fascinating stories and artworks are analysed by the two
psychotherapists, who aim to show how the individual experiences of Craig and
Stuart fit with the symptomatic patterns to be found in other schizophrenic
subjects. In their comments, Kaplan and Harrow attempt to identify the possible
psychodynamic causes of delusions and the specific events or thoughts that
might trigger them.
The intermissions of the psychotherapists are at times useful to put
the stories in a more general context, but do not seem to add significantly to
the narration. The interpretation of the two patients' thoughts and actions are
often forced and repetitive. For instance, the therapists attempt to draw
connections between the patients' behaviour and the relationship with their
parents, connections that seem highly speculative given the limited information
available to the reader.
© 2002 Lisa Bortolotti
Lisa Bortolotti studied philosophy
in Bologna (Italy), London and Oxford (UK) before starting her PhD at the Australian
National University in Canberra. Her main interests are in philosophy of mind,
philosophy of psychology, rationality, mental illness and animal cognition.
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