Sunday, 6 July 2008

Altered Perceptions

My current motivation is in grey areas and the gaps in between. Where does the line lay between normal and abnormal and at what point can we consider ourselves sane, infact who in their right mind would call themselves sane?

It is my intention to explore how distinct perceptions exist for different people and the effect of passing from one subjective 'reality' to another. Areas of interest include experiences of psychosis or addiction. Moments where a persons perceptions are somehow radically changed and they feel and see the world differently than before. Where people have experienced new or altered 'realities'.

Can Artists bridge the gaps between subjective existences and/or challenge and emphasise the distinctions between personal points of view?

Aims and Intentions:
- To make a body of work that explores altered perceptions.
- I hope to help the viewer to see and feel how another person experiences life.
- Ultimately, for the viewer to experience a new or different 'reality'.
- I hope to achieve an unbiased and non judgmental image by talking to people with mental health problems and practitioners, from primary care to psychiatry.
- To challenge oppressive and discriminatory views.
- To encourage us to confront our own opinions and find empathy.

I would like to hear from people who want to talk about their own experiences.

Please check back soon, I will be updating this page and adding new information soon...



Saturday, 5 July 2008

Words from Rob...

A few insightful and helpful words from Rob Van Beek, an artist - who also happens to be a manic depressive. I'd like to say thankyou to Rob for taking the time to put his thoughts down in writing...

"Discussing mental health opens up a whole range of issues about which there are a range of beliefs. I don't want to go over these.

The one area that I will say something about is the thing that is most relevant to me as an artist.

I have often had changes of belief due to my bi-polar disorder. In extreme circumstances I have believed things that were delusional.

There is an interesting philosophical question here about aesthetic beliefs or convictions when one is manic etc. If you are delusional does it follow that your aesthetic responses are mistaken or out of character too?

I have tended to find that manic experiences can have a strong aesthetic character and that even during depressive periods my basic aesthetic interests and dispositions remain the same.

This is what I sometimes think of a the 'Sane Beauty' thesis. We tend to think of facts and states of affairs as 'objective' and value judgments as 'subjective'. As one becomes more delusional I find ithe situation is reversed. Facts and states of affairs become more fluid, aesthetic properties like sensual, formal or symbolic properties become more solid and real.

I've thought about this a bit over the years. I think our aesthetic interest in the world is functional in infancy and in our early life. If the world did not appear interesting and attractive to newborn kids they wouldn't develop as rapidly as they do. Language, conceptualisation etc. comes later.

I think what might be going on is that as the bi-polar disorder takes hold then progressively less sophisticated behaviours are affected. First it is certain social skills that are affected, then conceptual coherence, ultimately perception, as you begin to hallucinate.

It think aesthetics are an indispensable part of the life of people (and some other animals). They orientate us towards the world, encourage personal discovery. They are all the more important for being a rather 'primitive' and therefore core part of us. They are part of what defines us as individuals.

So, a few weeks ago I was held under the Mental Health Act on an acute ward. Have I experienced anything to change this overall picture?

I have often had to struggle with mood swings over the years but they are always slightly different. This one accelerated very quickly. It was my first hospitalisation for 18 years. The ward was chaotic and frightening. I was put on Haloperadol. My whole being shrank. But within days I was beginning to recover.

Now it is a few weeks down the line. I went through a bad patch of restlessness and anxiety. But now I'm 95% there. I'm a bit more anxious than usual but its okay. The weather is fine. I go to the pub in the evening with my partner and smoke a cigar. I go to the studio. I mess about on artreview. Basically life is good. I have come through one nasty episode. Lessons have been learnt.

What has been brought home to me is how quickly and how profoundly can we loose our normal conceptual grip on the world. But I think that only confirms what I knew before.

I suppose I see the mind and the brain in broadly materialist way. I'm happy to call what I have a disorder. I have an excellent relationship with my psychiatrist.

The important thing for me is to get on with living and appreciating life.

Hope that's of some use ROB"

Friday, 4 July 2008

comments so far

laura-marie said...13 March 2008 17:57
Wishing you all the best with this project.


anonymous said...15 March 2008 15:03
I have 'suffered' with 'mental illness' - and i put those words in parentheses because they are labels and nothing else. They do not accurately describe the shift in perception that occurs when what i like to think of as a spiritual crisis occurs - a crisis of spirit.

For me, 'mental illness' is an upsurge of energy from deep within the psyche that leads to changes within the mind (including changes in brain chemistry). This energy is the boundless energy of spirit that struggles to be freed.

When we are shaken up, whether through pressurising ourselves in some way, or being pressurised from the outside (eg, an abusive relationship), this energy quite literally comes to the surface. It does so because there is something we are missing, some lesson we need to learn, some part of ourselves that needs healing. The energy pops up and says 'deal with me'.

Most people are 'unbalanced' by this upsurge; very very few are prepared for it in any way. When i say unbalanced, i mean that changes happen within the psyche that occur faster and faster as the energy makes itself known. Thus begins the shift in perception, the shift that leads to forces of thought and feeling being swung in all directions.

(Interestingly enough, there exists a school of thought that personifies unbalanced forces as 'demons')

This shift can be violent as it begins to manifest itself through the personality. Sometimes it is permanent too.

Perceptions become full of synchronicities; everything links up. It is almost as though the person going through the shift is suddenly clearly seeing the cosmic web of life; it is only that the fractured ego misinterprets many of the signs and synchronicities as being dangerous or worrying.

Ultimately, if the shift is permanent, the ego struggles with the weight of the energy that is continually being unleashed from within the psyche. It buckles and fragments.

But this is a simplification, and i cannot speak for those whose view of 'mental illness' is different. In fact the only thing i would say for certain is that such shifts in perception are wholly subjective and cannot be classified. There are as many different realities as there are people.

My view is coloured by the fact that my shift in perception was not permanent. Therefore i still see it as an anomaly, rather than a naturalistic state of being.

There are of course those who see it differently.

To me such 'illnesses' are opportunities for healing some part of the Self. If they are permanent or recurring then there is clearly more healing to be done.

But there are those who embrace their shifts in perception, and i would argue that this embrace, on some level, is absolutely necessary if personal evolution is to occur and therefore healing.

To those on heavy medication, who are frightened of their condition, who 'slip in and out' i offer heart and strength.

It IS frightening, i know; i have been there, but ultimately the higher self is always present, a silent observer. If you find yourself in states where you are 'normal' (be it due to medication or anything else), then practice things you like. Practice the things that help and please you, that make you feel good.

Giving, loving, or simple earthly things such as painting and singing. Be with people who nourish you.


charles olsen said...10 April 2008 06:53
Hi Amy, I look forward to seeing how this develops! Nice reading what Sophie and 'anonymous' wrote as well. Best wishes


anonymous said...14 April 2008 10:31

Hi Amy

I just wanted to see what you were going to do with the theme. I've spent time in an institution, so its something that interests me, and I like what you've done so far. I was put on medication for something in 2006, and I went psychotic, seeing and hearing things.

I had never had problems of this kind before, so when I started believing I was being followed by devil worshippers who wanted me to join or they were going to sacrifice me, the things I heard and saw seemed quite real to me. I didn't know this kind of thing could happen to 'normal' people.

And after the doctors took me off the stimulating medication I didn't stop thinking the things I had been thinking. Five months later my life was in ruins because I kept on trying to run away and hide because I thought I was going to get killed. So I eventually took myself to an institution for two months to deal with the trauma and now I'm on meds for life.

That was almost two years ago. Its been a struggle, but I'm fine now. I was insane, and I came back. So there's one for your collection. One of those things you're not supposed to talk about.


anonymous said...16 May 2008 10:12
What is the point of looking if focus has become difficult, and you cannot see the whole picture anymore anyway.

Is there any point going anywhere when it feels like you are walking on sponge and pushing your way through marshmallows. Your head is in a tube and the sound is dulled and hollow, like when you put a couple of pint glasses on your ears and the whooshing sound that comes when you lift them up and down. it's not quite so romantic as shells making the sound of the sea.

What about when it's not like that ...and everything is so loud that you barely dare move because footsteps are like thunder and even the softest sound deefens - and silence is the loudest noise ever. Everything feels so intense that even a gentle touch feels like the roughest grade of sandpaper, like it might graze the skin or remove it completely.

Choices, choices, what comes next, what to do, what then... go forward, backwards or am I moving laterally. Does it make a difference or even any sense.

And then the house, is it a home or your very own prison, it is has no bars and you are absolutely allowed to leave, if you wanted, if you could? But the real prison is your head - it's in your head .

Natural speed - must go fast - even as I write this I must go fast... high energy - might be good - might be bad, can't stop anyway. Must go fast, must keep going - keep talking, walking, working...

Hyperactive, buzzing - have to keep moving and talking so much so that it would take a conscious effort to let other people get a word in edgeways. Mostly it just comes out as crap. It can't be stopped it's not like lying, it's just talking for the sake of it - to fill every space. Not the silence though, just the thinking space.

I want to be silent, the person who sits on the perifery and listen and learn. But I am the person talking over you. I want to listen but it's impossible for me to stop talking to allow that space to exist.

None of this happens because I am an ignorant person or because I am unkind, I just run on such an exteme level of energy that I find it difficult to see or hear.

Yet sometimes I just stare into space..... don't do anything..... no energy..... feel weak.
Divised a way to float passed times of hyper energy.... Just stare and float, stare and float - don't think, just stare and float.


Wednesday, 19 March 2008

My name is Sophie and I whole heartedly support Amy's project. I feel that to gain insight into individuals experiences and emotions will only enhance others understanding, and hopefully open peoples minds.

I am a qualified Humanistic Existential Counsellor/Psychotherapist. In simpler terms I do not direct, interpret or analyse my clients but work on building a trusting relationship for them to feel safe in talking through their issues at their pace and together we are able to get a new perspective, clarity, closure or answers to their issues.

Mental Health is something that should be addressed by all as it effects us all. We will all suffer at some point or another from what life has to throw at us. Amy's project aims to explore experiences and to broaden peoples perceptions of what mental health is.

If we can work together to explore and understand mental health, mental illness, depression, lifes struggles, one's suffering or what ever else you'd like to call it then perhaps together we can start to change the stigma and labels often attatched and help people realise they are not alone in their suffering, maybe by other people realising it is nothing to be ashamed of and that it is more common than perhaps they thought, then maybe, just maybe some people will seek help that may previously of suffered in silence.

I am giving my services to this worthwhile project, as an objective advisor to Amy.
I would also be happy to listen to your contributions of your own experiences of mental health suffering, whether it is your own experience or as a family, friend or partner of someone who has or is currently suffering.

I previously worked for the NHS Secondary Health Care as a psychotherapist working with more complex mental health issues. I worked long term with clients presenting a multitude of issues from depression, abuse, attempted suicide, Bipolar, psychosis, eating disorders, anxiety, panic attacks,self esteem, relationships to name a few.

I am a lecturer at South East Essex college teaching Counselling & Psychotherapy to the next generation of counsellors and helping professionals. I also run a small private practice. I would be happy to see anyone that would like to contribute to Amy's project.

Please feel free to get in touch. If, while contributing to this project, you find you need to talk to someone about the issues it brings up, please leave your email address and I will contact you personally as soon as possible.

I hope this project provokes deep thought, encouragement, insight, awareness and change in one's perception. Thank you for your time,
Sophie Pinney

'That which does not kill us makes us stronger.'
Friedrich Nietzsche