Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Is This New Age Thinking or "Unusual Thought Content"?

The line between New Age thinking and psychological instability has always been a bit of a gray area. Philosophies that can be embraced by one individual are rejected and ridiculed by another. What one person sees as strength and faith is viewed by another as weakness and delusion.

Psychiatry and New Age Beliefs from The Management of Mental Disorders, Volume 2: Handbook for the Schizophrenic Disorders.

In the manual a list is given of questions that should be asked by health care workers to diagnose "unusual thought content", which in turn was to be regarded as indicative of "schizophrenia".

The list of questions is as follows:

1. "Have you been receiving any special messages from people or from the way things are arranged around you?"
2. "Have you seen any references to yourself on TV or in the newspapers?"
3. "Can anyone read your mind?"
4. "Do you have a special relationship with God?"
5. "Is anything like electricity, X-rays or radio waves affecting you?"
6. "Are thoughts put into your head that are not your own?"
7. "Have you felt that you were under the control of another person or force?"

It adds, that "if the individual reports any odd ideas/delusions" the following questions should be asked:

1. "How often do you think about (use individual's description)?"
2. "Have you told anyone about these experiences? How do you explain the things that have been happening (specify)?"

Above the questions is a list of the kinds of beliefs that should be regarded as "odd"/deluded/bizarre ideas requiring an increase in antipsychotic medication:
"Unusual beliefs in psychic powers, spirits, UFOs or unrealistic beliefs in one's own abilities"

The New Age religion can be summarized in the list of Harper-Collins' "Aquarian Series", published in the 1990s:

1. An Introduction to Graphology
2. Colour Therapy
3. Dowsing
4. How to develop your ESP
5. Incense and Candle Burning
6. Invisibility
7. Levitation
8. The Power of Chi
9. Meditation: the Inner Way
10. Practical Visualisation
11. Understanding Astral Projection
12. Understanding Astrology
13. Understanding Auras
14. Understanding the Chakras
15. Understanding Crystals
16. Understanding Dreams
17. Understanding the I Ching
18. Understanding Numerology
19. Understanding Palmistry
20. Understanding Reincarnation
21. Understanding Runes
22. Understanding Tarot

If these titles are read and believed, they would produce a complex belief system that would satisfy the most careful and rigorous psychiatric evaluation as indicative of "schizophrenia", according to widely accepted textbooks, as well as The Manual of Mental Disorders, Vol2: Handbook for the Schizophrenic Disorders.

Wow - So according to the "Management of Mental Disorders" manual, do we medicate the Buddhist monks and Zen masters, or just watch them closely until they have a psychotic episode?

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