Awakening and the Mental Health Machine

Dan Latner, modified 1 Month ago.

Awakening and the Mental Health Machine

Posts: 20 Join Date: 3/17/21 Recent Posts
Talking about this, even to people who are into awakening and spirituality, gets me a bit defensive
I understand that these "experiences" can trigger psychosis or cause people to behave in ways that warrant involuntary commitment.
That does not apply to my scenario. From my perspective, this is not a grey area. 100% that was a "spiritual experience", and the only thing I did wrong was try to report it to a scientist. 

Basic outline:
-Sat first Goenka Vipassana retreat in 2017. Essentially zero "experiences". My mind raced the whole time. But, I liked something about it and afterwards felt more responsive less reactive. 
- Listened to a podcast about meditating with ADD. I realized "that's me!" and got diagnosed. I started dexedrine and did no further research.
- Served a Goenka retreat in 2018. Almost every time I meditated I felt hot and sweaty. The teacher told me it was anger. I was like "ok, bro"
- I tasked the teacher if he thought dexedrine was cheating, and said, "I'm not sure I follow. Are you retarded?"

- Summer 2020. There's a pandemic in my city and I'm spending a lot of time alone. In the before times I was a tourguide and staying this still feels weird. 
- I try to get my house and life together. I spend all day everyday cleaning and organizing and start realizing I have very little continuity of self over time. For example, I'll make a schedule for the week, then Tuesday will come and I'll read "clean kitchen", and think "F*ck you schedule, you can't tell me what to do".

- After over 100 days of not touching a human, I go camping with a friend who's been on a similar path. Meditation, ADD meds, psychedelics... but he's into therapy and I'm not. I see he is happier. I decide to try psychology.
- I read "scattered minds" by Gabor Mate and realize I am the embodiment of ADD. 
- Too much to explain here, but this is a classic "ADD epiphany". I start to experience the world and myself differently. I have psychological breakthroughs and catharsis. I sob for the first time in my adult life (I was 34) and dumped a bunch of trauma. I get super dysregulated and dysfunctional, but call on a friend to help me ride it out. Zero suicidal ideation, zero thoughts of self-harm or violence. Just a grown man overwhelmed to find out he is partially retarded.

- I go over to a different friend's house. During a conversation, this thing happens. 
- "oh dang! my nervous system can do this? That is hilarious - just like Buddha said. Ok well... I should probably tell someone that we have created a bunch of religions based on brain farts, and that we're probably locking people away in institutions for not being able to ride these out smoothly. Who can I talk to about this?
- I call a friend I met at vipassana.. He tells me "blah blah blah, maybe stream entry". I literally never knew what we were playing around with.
- Now it seems more A+P in almost every way, but at the time, I googled "stream entry" and the 3 fetters were exactly the thoughts I was having, like EXACTLY, and when it happened I thought "this is 25-30%", so I'm like "ok, stream entry".

- Knowing I was sounding weird, I spent a full day gathering supporting evidence before I tried to reach out for a brain scan. I found about a dozen articles by folks like Sam Harris and Rick Hanson, then call some people I think might know neuroscientists.
- A doctor tells me "yeah, these things happen, there's no labs like you're looking for, just chill". Against the advice of my friend who was with me, my younger brother, with a history of mental health issues, filled in an involuntary commitment form full of demonstrable lies. 

-The cops showed up while I was meditating with a friend. They said "You seem totally fine. We still have to take you in, but don't even worry about packing your bag, you'll be out in 2 hours max. You're fine. We do this all the time - you are clearly ok."
- I arrive at the hospital totally optimistic and trusting. My computer is confiscated and I get horribly abused and gaslit for nearly 24 hours until I say "nevermind, it was religious, not neurological".

- Then I tried to follow up for a year. I tried to show them Cheetah House and the EPRC. I tried to reason with them. I tried to tell them "I came in feeling happy and trusting, and left feeling traumatized." And they said, "well, that's just your subjective opinion, we followed protocol". As if subjectivity has nothing to do with mental health.

------

I'm extremely frustrated by this. Anyone on this side of the table can say "yeah, consciousness is weird. Spiritual experiences and mental health have a lot of overlaps". And it seems the mainstream, governmentally endorsed view "Spirituality does not exist". Look how many DSM diagnoses have "religious blah blah blah" as a symptom. 

It seems to me like a game of doublethink whack-a-mole, where we're allowed to go on retreat or smoke DMT to have these experiences, and you have psychiatrists like Mark Epstein and Dan Siegel writing about dissolving into light or whatever....but if you tell a mainstream psychiatrist: "Athiest neuroscientist Sam Harris says that certain experiences are properly called "spiritual". Even Dawkins talks about "mystical states" - he just doesnt' acknowledge their truth-value. That's what I had. I was secular and thought it was interesting, I tried to get  brainscan."

They can just lock you up and torment you. It's terrible. I guarantee the system is full of people like me who accidentally stumbled into attainments, then got locked away and pummeled with iatrogenisis. 

I was fine before I went to the hospital. Now, not so much. 
I'm baffled every day that forums like this exist in the same world as the Cuckoo's nest I just failed to fly over. 
If I ever saw a headline that said "awakening vs psychosis", I'd have thought "well, obviously psychosis, since awakening doesn't exist"
And now I learn it does, and it seems like those Buddhists actually knew about it all along! Kudos to Daniel and Willoughby the other folks at the EPRC and Cheetah house etc, but it kind fo seems to me like spiritual folk have been sitting around, smiling "as it is, as it is, god's will", while innocent people are rotting away in asylums or getting pumped full of chemicals.

Who is steering this thing? 

Am I seeing this clearly? I'm not pushing spirituality on anybody, but this glitch in our healthcare system is literally the dumbest problem I have seen in 35 years and 45 countries. 

Does this sort of thing happen to everyone? Like, I am I supposed to accept this to progress? Am I creating this with my mind? If I ignore it does it stop?

I see from a Karmic point of view it's all unfolding how it should and we're paying for past deeds... but on a mundane level, as we sit here discussing formless states and Samatha, mainstream mental health is literally torturing people for getting happy. 
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Awakening and the Mental Health Machine

Posts: 2064 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Hi Dan, it sounds like a traumatic experience. I'm sorry you had to go through that. Unlike what some find it convenient to maintain, I don’t think there is a clean line separating “spiritual experience” from “psychosis”, so it mostly comes down to accidents of circumstance - where you were, who you spoke to, how they reacted etc. I can empathize with the feelings of anger and injustice, and the rage against the system, but that is a very deep rabbit hole from what I’ve seen. If it was me I would try to put it behind me and focus on maintaining a consistent practice to figure out what’s really going on in the mind underneath it all. I know that’s easier said than done and I don’t mean to minimize your trauma, but I think that would be the best way forward if at all possible. Best wishes, George
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J W, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Awakening and the Mental Health Machine

Posts: 521 Join Date: 2/11/20 Recent Posts
That fucking sucks what you had to go through and yes you are absolutely right. I've personally felt the blunt end of it but not necessarily to the extent you have.

IMHO this vast abyss of a gap in healthcare and understanding of mental health is a very large part of the reason why society seems dead set on hurling itself down into this giant rabbit hole of if its own creation.

And yes props to Dan and others for their work on this. I don't know the answers. But yes like George says, focus on yourself. If you've had SE or even if you're on the path at all, believe it or not you're doing pretty good. Being able to recognize this massive hypocrisy can be really helpful.
​​​​​​​hope this helps. Best wishes to you.
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J W, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Awakening and the Mental Health Machine

Posts: 521 Join Date: 2/11/20 Recent Posts
"Am I seeing this clearly? I'm not pushing spirituality on anybody, but this glitch in our healthcare system is literally the dumbest problem I have seen in 35 years and 45 countries. 

Does this sort of thing happen to everyone? Like, I am I supposed to accept this to progress? Am I creating this with my mind? If I ignore it does it stop?"

Not to diminish anything you are saying, but things are actually really messed up in many many countries, and have always been. It's not a single issue thing here. That's not meant to gaslight in any way, but yes, acceptance is the path, and in my opinion acceptance does not mean complacency.
Dan Latner, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Awakening and the Mental Health Machine

Posts: 20 Join Date: 3/17/21 Recent Posts
Thanks George and JW.

Good tips all around. Thank you for the camaraderie.

I am struggling with holding all this -  The personal trauma and the thought of other people suffering so dumbly.  I have been kind of holding myself to "fixing the system". What can I say?  A combo of hanging on to post A+P enthusiasm, ADD tendencies to save the world, and a genuine desire to help solve a problem. It's rattling me too much though so I need to put it down.

JW - I am 99.9% sure I don't have Stream Entry. I thought I did at the time because that was what my friend said and I just looked at the fetters and was like yup yup yup that makes sense. When I read MCTB and some other stuff,  I realized A&P is a much better diagnosis. Still a positive shift from before.

Not gaslighting or diminishing at all. I've lived in Cambodia and Sri Lanka and worked in a bunch of developing countries. I know this isn't the worst problem in the world. 

It was just so nightmarish to be in there with scientific sources, and trying to explain "hey, I am ONLY here because I tried to get a brain scan".
And they said "No, its in your head".
And I said "yeah, exactly... what are the biomarkers?"
And they said "What you are talking about doesn't exist"

My hospital reports say - calm, good eye contact, friendly, not violent, cooperative. 
The accusation of insanty was ; "The patient believes he had an spiritual experience".

And then when I insisted that was an appropriate name for what happened- Grandiose!

Did I feel like I saw behind the fabric of reality? I sure did!
Did I tell them that? Hell no! I told them "this was a strong subjective experience". 

Just plain frustrating.
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Awakening and the Mental Health Machine

Posts: 2064 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
You've got a big heart, but you need to deal with your own suffering before worrying too much about other people's ...

Nisargadatta 
​​​​​​​Q:  Is there no salvation for the world?
M:  Which world do you want to save? The world of your own projection? Save it yourself. My world? Show me my world and I shall deal with it. I am not aware of any world separate from myself, which I am free to save or not to save. What business have you with saving the world, when all the world needs is to be saved from you? Get out of the picture and see whether there is anything left to save. 
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J W, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Awakening and the Mental Health Machine

Posts: 521 Join Date: 2/11/20 Recent Posts
Whether SE or not, doesn't matter in the long run.  But you will drive yourself actual crazy trying to 'fix the system' on your own. It needs fixing for sure but it's a group effort and a lifelong effort, one that's very incremental. 
Dan Latner, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Awakening and the Mental Health Machine

Posts: 20 Join Date: 3/17/21 Recent Posts
J W
Whether SE or not, doesn't matter in the long run.  But you will drive yourself actual crazy trying to 'fix the system' on your own. It needs fixing for sure but it's a group effort and a lifelong effort, one that's very incremental. 

100%
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Stefan R, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Awakening and the Mental Health Machine

Posts: 176 Join Date: 3/28/21 Recent Posts
As a psychologist in training, this kind of stuff makes me sick. And I'm 99% certain you were only handled by psychiatrists in this case. They tend to have a distinct lack of client/patient focus. Their noses are buried so deep in the DSM-5 and medication prescription notepad that they couldn't tell their asshole from their earhole a lot of the time. Of course, there are some lovely ones too. It's just heartbreaking to hear because this is unnecessary trauma. 

I'm not sure which country this took place in, but it's so strange hearing stories about when people get One-Flew-Over-The-Cuckoo-Nest'd. And it really shows how our realities function. Psychiatrists are so used to dealing with the worst of the worst (from a psychological disorder perspective) that when a relatively healthy, albeit, slightly confused or perhaps spiritually inclined person comes to them, they immediately overlay their past conditioned responses onto this poor person. Of course, they're well-intentioned, "do no harm" etc... It's still heartbreaking to hear. 

In either case, there is really nothing to do. Transpersonal psychology and exploration of mystical states in psychology are generally laughed at because they cannot be rationalised. Keep in mind as well, that psychology as a rigorous science of the mind has only started taking emotions seriously in the last 10-15 years. Think about that for a second, and you might understand why mystical/transpersonal stuff is generally ignored. Why is this? Well, it's a young science, and a very naive science. It completely ignores phenomenological research because it's messy -- which is like saying you only want to read books where you know the hero is going to win in the end no matter what. Pure self-fulfilling prophecy. 

And I talk to my colleagues all the time. I tell them, "what's the use of telling your client to go running to improve their mood if you've never done it yourself? A journal article can tell you all the benefits. But what about the costs from a person-centred perspective? Can you really rationally explain that little twinge of 'Nah I don't feel like it today'-type laziness? Can you actually feel that sit with it, and then empathise with a client effectively to help overcome this common obstacle?" Psychology is a wacky field because, in regular fields of medicine/health work, a doctor isn't a better cancer doctor because he's had cancer. But a psychologist is generally a better psychologist if they've been through some stuff (serious psychological disorders notwithstanding). The field, in general, will have to start re-opening to phenomenology to bridge the gap between the statistical data and the real-life felt emotions/thoughts/behaviours of the clients they treat. And I think something along the lines of meditation will be a critical component of it. 

Fundamentally, this is just good intentions gone haywire. People in the helping professions generally go into that line of work to help others, truly. However, one can smoother others with their good intentions. Or their conditioning may take over. Plus, there are such things as enabling and dependence. As a species we're constantly treading a fine line between too much and too little, never quite getting it right on a systems or society level. Oh well, better luck next millennium I guess :/
Olivier S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Awakening and the Mental Health Machine

Posts: 742 Join Date: 4/27/19 Recent Posts
Hey Stefan,

That's funny, and really cool to see psychologists in the training doing serious meditation practice and developing perspectives like yours - it bodes well for the next generation of mental health professionals, and I wish I had had someone like this to talk to when I went to see psychologists as a dark nighting teenager :p The psychologists were pretty good actually, but the psychiatrist was the worst... A pitiful look on his face, ready to pop out drug prescriptions... emoticon

Again, I'm sure your interests and the EPRC agenda converge and could potentially intersect somehow. The idea is to recognize that what you describe is sadly a correct depiction of the situation, and to try to change that situation by using existing qualitative and quantitative tools to transform the DSM and ICD, basically, so that those who can only see through these diagnostic codes will at least have something in their grid that fits with emergent phenomena, and can then refer patients to people/clinicians who actually have a clue as to what's going on with spiritual patients. You, perhaps, when you start your work as a psychologist. Of course this is only one way to go about this, the top-down, change institutions themselves kind of way :p But it's one important aspect of steering things towards a healthier balance...

Best,

​​​​​​​O
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Stefan R, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Awakening and the Mental Health Machine

Posts: 176 Join Date: 3/28/21 Recent Posts
Thank you, my friend. That's the general plan. 

In reality, all mental health professionals ARE actually trained for spiritual stuff. Say you have a person of a certain ethnicity presenting with symptoms of Schizophrenia and so it may be part of a religious ceremony, etc... So in those cases, mental health professionals are actually pretty nice and understanding. The problem is, there's no transdiagnostic way of determining this. And the OP is a prime example of this. So, we do have the mental frameworks to deal with this stuff, but it needs to be radically expanded to include all people. 

I'll check out the EPRC. One day I'd love to do research, but for now, I'd really like to just help people on the ground level. 
shargrol, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Awakening and the Mental Health Machine

Posts: 1620 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
I don't know if folks are aware of this, but the founder of this website is working on updating diagnosis/treatment of meditation-influenced distruptions/extreme experiences. See: https://theeprc.org/ The Emergent Phenomenology Research Consortium (EPRC) is a multidisciplinary, multinational alliance of researchers, clinicians, and patrons who share a vision of bringing scientific methods and clinical sensibilities to the rigorous, ethical, ontologically-agnostic study of emergent phenomena.Emergent PhenomenaFor the moment, and perhaps until we have something better, we use the neutral term “emergent phenomena” to describe a range of effects and experiences, both potentially beneficial and challenging, that would often be referred to as “spiritual”, “mystical”, “energetic”, “magical”, etc. in less scientific and less clinical contexts.Emergent practices, therapies, and other circumstances likely to yield emergent phenomena, such as meditation, psychedelics, yoga, prayer, and many others are scaling rapidly in many societies, yet clinical medicine and mental health have failed to keep pace with these increasingly popular activities and reports of their diverse effects.


​​​​​​​P.S. thanks for the reference to "scattered minds" by Gabor Mate --- I'm finding the online chapters very interesting and I think I'm going to read the book.
Olivier S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Awakening and the Mental Health Machine

Posts: 742 Join Date: 4/27/19 Recent Posts
Dear Dan Latner,

Really sorry to hear what happened to you. That really, really sucks. I agree that both psychiatry AND traditional meditation lineages need a serious upgrade about all this... I hope you have people you can talk to. I would actually advise reaching out to Daniel Ingram about this if in need of talking, but know he is currently very, very busy... Alternatively I know some people who you could talk about this with if in need.

Now, about your desire to change this... As Shargrol mentioned, tthe EPRC are trying to transform this absurd state of affair by getting institutional recognition through great research work. Some of the programmed studies actually involve talking with people who have had experiences like yours in order to get a good sense of how those who present at health institutions with spiritual experiences/emergent phenomena are actually diagnosed, how they are treated, what management strategies are proposed if any, and what the outcomes of going to see a doctor when you have experiences like these are... Obviously, stories like yours point directly to the heart of the problem. Yours would be a great testimony to include in those studies.

So, if you are interested, you could reach out to info@theeprc.org

Sending best wishes,

Olivier
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Angel Roberto Puente, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Awakening and the Mental Health Machine

Posts: 281 Join Date: 5/5/19 Recent Posts
Hello Dan,   
      What happened to you can happen to anybody that has an experience that takes them out of the accepted linear form of thinking. It could have happened to me at one point in my experience the only difference is that I never spoke to anybody about what had happened and used my college studies in psychology to weather the effects. Even in the 60's, there were researchers that were ahead of the curve.      
     The point of view one takes when facing the many unaccustomed revelations that occur during meditation makes a difference in my opinion. I accepted the Zen view when I started practicing formally; whatever you “see” is no big deal, stress technique and stick to the object of concentration. Straight back, relaxed breathing and everything else is a distraction. You see it then it's gone, just like everything else. I'm not arguing for the validity of this approach. I'm just saying it worked for me.      
     I have a lot of faith in the work being done in settings such as the EPRC. One of the results I'm hoping for is that a modern framework for the many mind states that are encountered during meditation will be made. The archaic terms used, that have meanings lost in time that nobody can agree on, have to be superseded. These mind states do not need religious connotations to be valid. In fact, a clear understanding of what precedes these mind states, and their effects on our view of life will illuminate religion. In a sense, it will put the horse in front of the cart again.
​​​​​​​     So, welcome to the forum Dan, this is a safe space. Crazy is the new normal here.
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terry, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Awakening and the Mental Health Machine

Posts: 1770 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
dexedrine...really, dude, are you retarded?  ADD is better treated by just sitting...all that bs about mediation causing psychosis is part of the machine...your mental illness feeds the maw of late capitalism, therefore it will be maximized for profit....at least until you catch on, and then you will be suppressed and marginalized...they have it down to a science, the computers do it, no humans are responsible..the system is artificially intelligent......

there is very little positive to be said about the american health care system, especially the mental health division...in the hospital, the joke was that in medical school the total incompetents, and they are legion, are steered into pathology or psychiatry where they "can't hurt anybody"...in practice, american mental health first responders are the police, as you have discovered (try being mentally ill and black in the ghetto, they won't bother with a hospital or treatment, they'll just beat your black ass and blame you for it)...that this is the result of ignorance and incompetence, well, just look at the american covid response, drives us health care workers crazy, everywhere you look is criminal stupidity, like antivaxers with nazi slogans attacking vaccination clinics...I'd suggest you move to europe but europeans have their horror stories as well...

end times, bra...

only thing we can do is end suffering...

t



The Soul has Bandaged moments (360)
Emily Dickinson - 1830-1886

​​​​​​​
The Soul has Bandaged moments –
When too appalled to stir –
She feels some ghastly Fright come up
And stop to look at her –

Salute her, with long fingers –
Caress her freezing hair –
Sip, Goblin, from the very lips
The Lover – hovered – o’er –
Unworthy, that a thought so mean
Accost a Theme – so – fair ­–

The soul has moments of escape –
When bursting all the doors –
She dances like a Bomb, abroad,
And swings opon the Hours,

As do the Bee – delirious borne –
Long Dungeoned from his Rose –
Touch Liberty – then know no more,
But Noon, and Paradise –

The Soul’s retaken moments –
When, Felon led along,
With shackles on the plumed feet,
And staples, in the song,

The Horror welcomes her, again,
These, are not brayed of Tongue –
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terry, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Awakening and the Mental Health Machine

Posts: 1770 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts
a little perspective...


whipping used to be the main treatment for schizophrenia

the guys who invented electroconvulsive therapy and frontal lobotomies got nobel prizes...

all over the world political dissidents have been institutionalized for "insanity"...

now we give them drugs...
​​​​​​​

crazy, huh...

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