Philosophy And Mental Illness

I think, therefore I am” ~ Renee Descartes (1640)

It is a delightful summer day and you are strolling in the field. In a clearing to your right you see a cherry tree, the red fruit of the soil peeping from under the lavish green foliage. You stroll up to it. You touch it, feeling the uneven bark under your fingertips. You can hear the breeze stirring the leaves, and the smell of the foods grown from the ground. You take a cherry and pop it in your mouth, enjoying the sweet taste as it surges over your tongue.

Does It Exist?

At the same time, does the cherry tree exist? You can see it, hear it, feel it, smell and taste its foods grown from the ground – but this is insufficient. You may be daydreaming, or sleeping and having an especially vivid dream. How might you know?

You wouldn’t. All our knowledge of the world and “actuality” is received by our five faculties (I leave aside any examination of an “intuition”). These faculties are our only association with the world outside our selves. An unseeing individual has no visual contact with the outside world; someone with an extreme cold has little taste or olfactory contact with the outside world. Also these faculties are fundamentally biochemical machines intended to send data to our cerebrum. Case in point, the eyes gather and center reflected light onto the retina (at the back of the eye). Receptors in the retina change over this light into electrical charges (this power is generated by chemicals in the receptors). These electrical charges are then let go along a system of nerve cells to the brain. The brain, an exceptionally complex mass of interconnected nerve cells, investigates these driving forces – their quality, their rate, their pattern and recurrence – and produces an interior picture based upon them. It is this mind-created picture that we “see”. It is a similar case with the impression of touch. Receptors in our skin are invigorated by physical contact and produce electrical impulses that are sent to the mind – what we “feel” is the aftereffect of the cerebrum’s examination of these driving forces. The same routine is followed for taste, smell and hearing.

All In Our Head

So the tree that we saw, felt, listened to, inhaled and tasted isn’t really “out there” on the planet – it is in our brains. All the more accurately, it is the brain’s picture or impression of the tree developed from the electrical charges it gets from our faculties. At whatever point our mind gained this specific pattern of driving forces from the faculties, it might build a picture of a tree – color, shape, emanation, taste, touch and sound – whether a tree was really there or not.

There is little disagreement in saying that our brains might be fooled. We can hinder the paths of the electrical impulses as they pass from the sense receptors to the mind – this is the situation with local anesthesia, where a patient can look as his appendix is removed without agony. Then again we can interfere specifically with the brain’s evaluation of the sense-driving electrical charges – a drunken individual is mindful that he has fallen over, yet it doesn’t hurt (until the following day). Also, we don’t require liquor or pills for this misdirection to happen – eventually, the vast majority of us have accepted, although rather quickly, that we’ve seen or heard or felt something that has turned out not to be there.

Our Brains – Cheated

There is little doubt that our brains might be cheated. We can obstruct the pathway of the electrical impulses as they pass from the sense receptors to the mind – this is the situation with local anesthesia, where a patient can look as his appendix is taken out without pain. Then again we can meddle with the brains’ analysis of the sense-driving forces – a tipsy individual is mindful that he has fallen over, yet it doesn’t hurt (until the following day!). Furthermore, we don’t require liquor or medications for this trick to happen – sooner or later, the greater part of us have accepted, rather quickly, that we’ve seen or heard or felt something that has turned out to not be there.

It was this kind of thinking that brought Descartes to address the presence of a world outside our selves. In light of current science, Descartes is addressing the presence of a world outside our brains (our physical sensations, for example, feeling eager or having a throbbing leg are additionally controlled by our senses). In these terms, our bodies are acknowledged as a major aspect of the outside world. In the event that all we see, listen, touch, feel and taste in the outside world is just a representation in our brains, and this representation is dependent upon data from our senses, and these senses could be misled, so we can not ever be sure that the outside world indeed exists. Descartes talked of the likelihood of us being mesmerized by an evil presence that is deceiving us into accepting we are moving around in a world with plants, houses, other individuals and so on when actually we’re locked in a cell some place. The film ”The Matrix” gives one possible interpretation of this phenomena.

We Cannot Know

So we can’t know whether the outside world exists – it could all be in our brains. All things considered, would we be able to realize that anything exists? Thankfully, yes. We might be sure our thoughts exist. How? Since we think them. There appears to be no chance that we could be beguiled about our thoughts existing – in the precise act of having a thought, that thought exists. The thoughts may be dependent upon illusory data from the senses, but they are still genuine, because they exist. It is troublesome to imagine tricking somebody into accepting they have thoughts when, actually, they don’t. You have to have thoughts to be tricked.

So it is fairly safe to say that our thoughts doubtlessly exist. Descartes proceeded onward from this “rock of sureness” and proceeded to “prove” the presence of the outside world. Sadly, this further “proof” is exceptionally suspect and depends on the idea of a beneficent and all-compelling God – but then, Descartes was composing for the Catholic Church. Most cutting-edge rationalists discount this augmentation of his hypothesis, yet they do still acknowledge his prior thinking – “I think therefore I am” has stood the test of time. Descartes’ quote is perhaps more accurately stated as “There are thoughts” – only in light of the fact that I encounter ideas doesn’t mean they are mine! As well, this isn’t as memorable as the first iteration.

What has this got to do with mental illness? Actually, if the outside world doesn’t exist and all we have is musings, then (conceivably) the world is whatever we think it to be. I’m not saying we can change things drastically. It might require a considerable measure of exertion to “make” a thought-world where trees can talk and individuals fly by flapping their arms – for this to be “genuine” one might need to communicate and interact continually and reliably with trees and individuals as if they could do these things. Rather, I am discussing how our thoughts and feelings can “color” our knowledge of the outside world (I am utilizing the expressions “thoughts” and enthusiastic “feelings” reciprocally here). Discouraged individuals (i.e. individuals with discouraged or depressed thoughts) encounter the world distinctively differently than others. They see colors less vividly, sustenance can appear tasteless and repulsive, and harmless everyday circumstances can seem debilitating. They anticipate awful outcomes from actions and occasions where others see just benefit. A depressed person’s world is altogether different than a happy person’s, yet to an onlooker they will appear one and the same. An individual with depressive thoughts who is looking to show signs of improvement has three game-plans open to him.

Treatment Modalities

1. The Medical Model

First, he can acknowledge the “medical model” of emotional sickness and sorrow. This model sees the mind (rightly) as a complex neurochemical structure, and hypothesizes that despondency and other mental ailments are due to imperfections or break downs in this framework. The mind, when inspected anatomically, is comprised of a large number of different cells, each of which is in turn made out of more diminutive structures. The point when these structures are inspected in turn, they are found to be comprised of chemicals (as is all physical matter). The medical model accordingly presumes that it is an imperfection or failing of these chemicals that unfavorably influence the brains cells, heading in turn to the breaking down of the mind and at last a “failing” of thinking – depression or other mental illness.

On this model, the blueprint is clear – correct the malfunctioning of the cerebrum. This is carried out utilizing drugs that enter the mind and interfere with the cell’s structure and working. This all bodes well, but unfortunately there is an immense difference between theory and practice. Medical science simply does not know enough about the mind at present. There are various diverse cell types, various distinctive chemicals in and around these cells, and various diverse communications and associations between each one cell and the others. No test has been created that shows which chemicals/cells/connections are failing. The best that the researchers can do is make an informed guess as to those chemicals/cells/connections that appear to be likely inadequate, and pick drugs that follow up on these. The initial suppositions (dependent upon medications that were found in the 1950’s – by accident!) are still the primary focus of exploration today. The outcome is foreseeable – a growing number of diverse medications that appear to work at certain times and not at others and have reactions (on the grounds that they are likewise influencing healthy cells). This is bound to remain the case for a long time to come.

2. Change The Outside World

A second blueprint for the depressed individual is to change the outside world, i.e. their circumstances. This bodes well. Assuming that you are feeling depressed on the grounds that you loathe your employment or your relationship, then transform it. In the event that you feel discouraged in light of the fact that you’re overweight, then eat less. Obviously, this is somewhat flippant. Assuming that it were that simple to do, individuals would do what needs to be done. Furthermore it must be recognized that misery regularly saps the will and desire to change these very sorts of circumstances. Further, there are numerous circumstances that can’t be changed by our own particular activities – the departure of a friend or family member, neediness, bad health, war, starvation and so forth. The outside world can be exceptionally impervious to change.

3. Stop Having Depressing Thoughts

The third strategy takes a leaf out of Descartes’ book. We are what we think – a depressed individual is nothing more than somebody with depressed ideas. In the event that they quit having depressed ideas, then the depression vanishes. It is conceivable for individuals to be upbeat, or in any event content, even in the worst of circumstances. The greater part of us have known individuals face up to unpalatable and troubling occasions with flexibility and even cheerfulness. We say they are “naturally happy” or are “positive individuals.” One can likewise say that they think “upbeat ideas” or think “positive thoughts.”

Maybe they were born that way. On the other hand maybe they learned to think like that as they grew up (I accept this as more probable). Either way, however, they delight in life to a greater measure than many of us. But this needn’t be the situation – assuming that we can figure out how to think a little more like them, figure out how to think in a more pleasant, positive way. It appears to be doubtful that depressed individuals are “born like that”, in the same way that it is farfetched that upbeat individuals are born like that. Even the wackiest specialist will hesitate to diagnose a child as depressed. Little babies can’t think as we do – and they can’t have depressed thoughts. As they develop, their reasoning capabilities are affected by their parents, peers and siblings. Examples of thought are created, methods for considering, with every individual having their own particular specific methods, unique to them. When adulthood is achieved, these patterns are prone to be ingrained in us, to the point where we’re not even mindful of them – we naturally process circumstances, occasions, and cooperation with others in terms of these thought patterns. The thoughts we really think (and are mindful of) are the effects of this handling. Consequently, if this handling is “situated wrong” (e.g. assuming that it always processes thoughts that are depressive), then mental issues are liable to follow.

This is the essential hypothesis upon which are based the cognitive treatments for mental issues. With the prompting and direction of the specialist, a person is taught to inspect his or her reasoning patterns, hunting down maladaptive and inconvenient methods of thinking. This is not a simple job – the patterns are normally “programmed” (like a habit) and the person is liable to be ignorant of them at first. A critical task for the specialist is to explain these “broken” patterns. These can then be made understood to the individual, and the first steps taken towards testing these methods of thinking. The point of the cognitive therapies is to minimize or eliminate entirely the recognized flawed patterns, and for the person to take in more varied and supportive methods for thinking in their place. A fruitful treatment can change a persons life forever – when an individual no longer naturally thinks depressive thoughts, they are protected from getting depressed later on.

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