the fear of noise


Drunkenness causes more violent death than mental illness- yet we view drunkenness with amusement while we recoil from mental illness with fear. About ten times as many mentally ill people take their own lives as harm others- but suicides do not make the news…

We are more tolerant of some kinds of dangerous behaviour- driving fast, drunkenness- than of the irrationality associated with mental illness.

-Jeremy Laurance, Pure madness: how fear drives the mental health system

It would be easy to extend the list of irrationalities we tolerate, the irrationalities we actively promote…so easy that I ask whoever reads this to give it just a moments thought. Many wise people have wondered whether it is those in psychiatric care who are sick or whether it isn’t society. Perhaps the most valuable thing to do would be to scrap the idea of sickness altogether. Experience is our reality and for some people the general shape of that experience is so divergent from the rest of us, although in many cases it is simply quite a small distance away, that it might be better to simply think in terms of dissonance from shared experience. Here there would be degrees of dissonance, and no one would escape it. In fact, the fact of individuality means we are all already dissonant from one another in some way. Dissonance then isn’t a category like illness… what stigma can be attached to it? This is my experience, is all it is saying, this is reality as I relate to it. And it is a question of reality.

At the same time, therapy becomes about brining dissonance into harmony where it causes distress, fear in the experiencer or isolation. It may even require that those in the mental health system abolish their role of professional. If I wish to know another culture it is not enough that I be a vast reader, that I be a colonialist who draws that culture into my world by forcefully imposing my world’s structures on to it. One has to be immersed in that culture and approach it with a view not simply to understanding it but being enriched by it. It is too often forgotten that people with mental dissonance can teach those of us less dissonant something about the world. A ‘therapeutic relationship’ that remains authoritarian, coercive or cynically disregarding (otherwise known as professionally detached) can’t be called a relationship at all. Or it can; it is an ossified relationship…where as what is required is a living relating.


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