Questions From Another World January 25, 2011 12:45 PM   Subscribe

This doesn't strike me as a good AskMe deletion at all.

Even though there wasn't a concrete question, there's definitely a concrete answer: For a very small percentage of people, marijuana can trigger schizophrenia, and the asker should seek the advice of a mental health professional immediately.

This person is clearly in a great degree of trouble, and the answers might have turned out to be helpful. It doesn't seem fair to delete the question because it was poorly-formed; if the asker is schizophrenic (which seems likely), they're probably having a very tough time with writing and speaking in coherent thoughts.

What gives?
posted by magnificent frigatebird to Etiquette/Policy at 12:45 PM (117 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

Oh, good grief, now we're going to have a MeTa thread full of pointing and laughing at the poor guy. Please let's not. That thread was going nowhere good and it was already collecting lulzy responses and accusations of trolling (since deleted).
posted by Gator at 12:47 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


It doesn't matter what it "strikes you as," or strikes anyone else as. Everyone, stop posting these threads contesting deletions. Ask the mods why it was deleted. The general users don't know why it was deleted and these threads do nothing but provide a way for people to get in touch with their inner anxious feelings.
posted by Electrius at 12:49 PM on January 25, 2011 [19 favorites]


I agree and I sent the OP my response via MeMail because I was concerned. Moreover, in addition to several rhetorical questions within the wall of text, the OP ended with a question: "How can I come to terms with living in this horrible but sometimes beautiful world that I most likely created with my mind?"
posted by carmicha at 12:50 PM on January 25, 2011


Yeah, no. That is way too fuckin' complex a situation for someone on the internet to answer.
posted by gman at 12:50 PM on January 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


We talked about it and decided it needed to go. I feel for them, it's a rough situation, but at the same time a couple pages of rambling backstory from someone pretty much dismissing medical treatment and their support network as "been there done that" stuff is really, really not something AskMe is equipped to handle.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:51 PM on January 25, 2011 [18 favorites]


It should have been deleted, for sure. There's no way to help that person on the Internet.

People need to stop second-guessing the mods and accept that they know what they are doing here. The deletion reason said it all in this case.
posted by dg at 12:53 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Perhaps it could also be anonymized, as an act of kindness, now that it's been linked in MeTa? I know you don't do it unless the person asks, but maybe drop him a line about that?
posted by Gator at 12:55 PM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


The OP mentions they have a psychiatrist, who has probably introduced the idea that pot and schizophrenia are a bad idea. There's not a lot else that a bunch of strangers on the internet can do with that disjointed of a question and/or problem. We're not qualified for that level of mental help.
posted by dflemingecon at 12:55 PM on January 25, 2011


It set off my troll alarms (darger in the username, little posting history), but even if we weren't being trolled, there's really no way we can help the asker, so I think it's good that it's gone.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:57 PM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


It was a good deletion.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:58 PM on January 25, 2011


Perhaps the concerned could send the original poster private messages. It'll probably be a more respectful way to discuss it anyway.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:00 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The thing is that any helpful advice (take your meds, if your psych isn't suggesting schizophrenia as a possible diagnosis see another psych, see a neurologist {because the "other people aren't real" issues can be a symptom of some brain stuff other than schizophrenia}, we love you and care about you, this all feels real to you but it's only real inside your brain) is stuff that poster is already getting and apparently not listening to.

The potential downside of any unhelpful advice is really serious for someone who seems to be in crisis already.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:02 PM on January 25, 2011


It should have been deleted, for sure. There's no way to help that person on the Internet.

I dunno, BitterOldPunk's response seems pretty spot-on to me, and something the person needed to hear.
posted by jbickers at 1:03 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


It set off my troll alarms (darger in the username

It is not at all unusual for people who are experiencing schizophrenia and other issues with reality perception to be really, really drawn to Henry Darger's art. He is to schizophrenia as The Cure is to teenage angst.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:03 PM on January 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


There's only one reasonable answer to that question, it has already been given several times, and it's one the OP doesn't want to hear. "This is outside of the range of what AskMe can help you with" seems more than appropriate.
posted by vorfeed at 1:04 PM on January 25, 2011


I agree with the deletion, if for no other reason than the one Jessamyn cited. His question was pretty unanswerable.

I think what was most disturbing is that there is just about nothing we can do to help a person who so obviously needs it.
posted by timsteil at 1:04 PM on January 25, 2011


Agree that BitterOldPunk's advice was concise and absolutely spot-on. I pray the OP hears it.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:07 PM on January 25, 2011


Perhaps it could also be anonymized, as an act of kindness, now that it's been linked in MeTa?

The OP can contact us if that is what they want. We're really in a damned if we do and damned if we don't situation with posts like this and cortex and I had a quick talk and decided that it would be better off to delete this question. People can contact the OP if they want to have a private discussion with them or offer them advice. We'll only anonymize the question if the OP requests it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:10 PM on January 25, 2011


I think "close comments and anonymise" might have worked as an alternative, because the problem with deletion for posts like that one is that there's no visible record saying "this is not something the internet can answer for you." (Should posts with a consensus "lawyer, now" or "doctor, now" be treated in the same way?) Deleting some posts that cross the boundary of "what AskMe is for" make the boundary itself less clear.
posted by holgate at 1:12 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


The person's history here is so thin, it is practically anonymous as it is.
posted by geoff. at 1:14 PM on January 25, 2011


He might want to participate more in the future, especially if he gets better, and it would suck to be That Guy Who Asked That Question. I dropped him a note, just in case he doesn't know he can ask for it to be anonymized.
posted by Gator at 1:19 PM on January 25, 2011


the unclear boundary is a feature not a bug. not all "doctor, now" posts should be deleted. this one should have been.
posted by nadawi at 1:21 PM on January 25, 2011


This person is clearly in a great degree of trouble, and the answers might have turned out to be helpful

I agree completely. There are many people in this community that have experienced mental illness and can relate at least to some small degree to struggling with the knowledge that the reality they are in while ill is not *real*.
posted by kitcat at 1:23 PM on January 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


The OP is clearly fascinated by his/her condition and wants to understand it in a different context than just illness/therapy. I hope they get help from someone who doesn't just want to instantly suppress them with medication as long as they are not a threat.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:23 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


That thread couldn't help, and since there was at least one lulzy "playing along with the delusions" comment, it could hurt.
posted by zamboni at 1:25 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


And I don't see how "doctor, now" is helpful. This person knows he is suffering from mental illness and is already seeing a doctor.

I think it's cowardly just to write off his question as "too crazy, we can't help you".
posted by kitcat at 1:25 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


> And I don't see how "doctor, now" is helpful. This person knows he is suffering from mental illness and is already seeing a doctor

Yeah, I interpreted the question as more "I have this weird state and I don't want to lose the interesting aspects of it but I want to be functional". I don't think it's an either/or prospect, but I also don't think anyone on a web forum is going to be much use to them in that pursuit, especially on AskMe.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:28 PM on January 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think it's cowardly just to write off his question as "too crazy, we can't help you".

Cowardly? He needs professional help and the sooner the better. Nothing anybody says in that thread is going to help him.
posted by empath at 1:31 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's cowardly just to write off his question as "too crazy, we can't help you".

i find it utterly compassionate - i see it not so much as "too crazy" but as "the internet, specifically ask metafilter, isn't equipped to help you and the ability to harm is far too great"
posted by nadawi at 1:32 PM on January 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


The OP is clearly fascinated by his/her condition and wants to understand it in a different context than just illness/therapy.

Just like every other person with serious illnesses relating to reality perception; that's how the disease perpetuates itself, just like when people are freezing to death and take their clothes off because they have the illusion of being warm.

Jung's letter to James Joyce about the difference between his experiences and those of his daughter Lucia comes to mind--Jung said (my recollection) "You and she are like two people going to the bottom of a river; however, you are diving and she is sinking."

One of the most challenging aspects of treating schizophrenia (apart from the limitations and side effects of the medications currently available) is that the disease itself feels better than reality much of the time.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:32 PM on January 25, 2011 [26 favorites]


I think it's cowardly just to write off his question as "too crazy, we can't help you".

Nonsense. Mental illness is just that-- an illness-- and you can't treat an illness over the internet, whether it's psychosis, cholera, or cancer.
posted by dersins at 1:37 PM on January 25, 2011


the ability to harm is far too great

Ok. I can agree with this.
posted by kitcat at 1:39 PM on January 25, 2011


kitcat: “I think it's cowardly just to write off his question as ‘too crazy, we can't help you’.”

That is totally and completely not the message sent by this deletion. It has nothing to do with perceived craziness. We couldn't answer a complex question about surgery or a complicated financial question either, especially if there was no well-formed question being asked and if the person flatly rejected in the question itself the only rational answer that can be given.

"Too complex and vague" does not mean "too crazy." That's a very, very important distinction, and I hope people recognize that.
posted by koeselitz at 1:39 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it's cowardly just to write off his question as "too crazy, we can't help you".

I think it's an insulting misapprehension of where we actually coming from to presume that's the intent.

There are lots of questions AskMe, useful resource that it is, is not really designed to handle or intended to be used for. It's mostly uncontentious when that question is something low-stakes or silly or idle (like a typical chatfilter instance); it's more frustrating, on all fronts, when the question is something that involves someone hurting or otherwise apparently struggling with something significant. But the essential idea remains the same.

Probably what this person needs most is an intervention of some sort from someone close to them who is capable of arranging such a thing. Strangers on the internet are not going to be that group in a situation like this. Which is terribly frustrating, but realistic. We remove flat-out suicide questions for the same reason: not because we're afraid of the subject, but because it's not something that polling askme is a workable solution to.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:40 PM on January 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


I think it's cowardly just to write off his question as "too crazy, we can't help you".

I am personally afraid that someone in an already-problematic mental state will get some sort of jokey (or entirely serious) advice and do something harmful to themselves or others, yes. This is why we don't accept questions about suicide or by people who are suicidal. This is why I personally write to everyone who asks a suicide question and send them resources and often tell them they can call me if they don't have a single person to talk to. I stay awake nights wondering why I haven't heard back from some of them. I don't do this because I am a coward.

Please realize our position is complicated. We don't pre-approve questions. We have tens of thousands of people we are responsible towards. We try to minimize harm when we can and when we feel that we are in a position where someone is in need of help that you can't get from a question and answer site.

I'm sure people can extrapolate and give us other things we should be doing if this is part of our values system. We had to make a quick judgment fully knowing it was going to wind up in MetaTalk no matter what.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:46 PM on January 25, 2011 [104 favorites]


The question's framed in a way that makes it clear that the majority of the rest of us don't have the framework the OP needs to find responses helpful to their situation.

The setup to the question also makes it clear that the OP might derive unintended meaning from any suggestions other MeFites make, which makes the situation less predictable than just "OP might ignore suggestions" or "OP might get fighty."
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:47 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's cowardly just to write off his question as "too crazy, we can't help you".

That's a biased way to put it. In that sense it's also cowardly to not breathe some life into someone who somewhere at the other side of the filter happens to slide off the keyboard while in the midst of making a post (or whatever). We're not here to do therapy, we can't, we won't, we shouldn't.
posted by Namlit at 1:48 PM on January 25, 2011


I think it's cowardly just to write off his question as "too crazy, we can't help you".

I apologize. I read that as the ultimate message of some of the responses to the OP. I honestly don't think that jessamyn and cortex are cowards, and that is not what I meant to say, although it certainly came out that way.
posted by kitcat at 1:50 PM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


No problem, it's a touchy issue and I totally understand that people are a little highly emotional about it, I sure am.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:57 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Absolutely a good deletion.
The question for AskMe is: can we help via just giving information via text?
There are a lot of medical emergency type questions that I think AskMe can be useful for. (I think for a lot of people "symptom x means you need to go the ER, see this informational link" is news.)

Psychiatric emergencies are a very different kettle of fish, because we can't presume the asker is in a state to interpret answers in a remotely level-headed way. The potential for harm is huge and impossible to mitigate via text.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:59 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cowardly? That's the adjective you chose? Yet you are not concerned that the ASKER would be judged harshly?
posted by Roger Dodger at 2:03 PM on January 25, 2011


I guess I should have previewed
posted by Roger Dodger at 2:04 PM on January 25, 2011


The Cleverbot anecdote made it clear to me that there was no guarantee the asker was even able to read the answers people were giving, or anything close. I'm confused what they themselves hoped to get out of asking the question.
posted by jinjo at 2:15 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am personally afraid that someone in an already-problematic mental state will get some sort of jokey (or entirely serious) advice and do something harmful to themselves or others, yes.

I share and honor your concerns. One friend of mine who had a very serious schizophrenic break got some really, really unhelpful advice from someone whom, I hope, didn't understand the severity of what was going on with her, because that advice basically put her life in jeopardy.

And there were dozens of people giving her good advice, all of which she ignored because this one person was giving the exact advice her delusions wanted to hear. Thankfully, she made it through.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:31 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW I think the mods do a great job around here and I'm thankful to be a part of this community.
posted by Sailormom at 2:31 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


It was a great delete. What appears to be paranoid schizophrenia is extremely difficult to penetrate using any sort of talk therapy. Couple that with the fact that this person's delusional system seems to have included the internet makes the likelihood that anything positive could be done here all but impossible. At worst, and far more likely, it reinforces that idea that the internet, as a concept, is involved with his life.
posted by rtimmel at 2:34 PM on January 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm disturbed by the increasing number of requests for medical advice on AskMe. I brought this up in October of 2008 for the really serious "go to the emergency room now" type questions, but the more recent ones have a disturbing commonality of people expressly wanting to avoid medical help, often for financial reasons.

While this question doesn't seem to include a financial component, it does strike me as dangerous that people are opting for internet advice instead of seeking medical help for whatever reason.
posted by odinsdream at 2:44 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I had to test whether this cleverbot thing really is psychic.
Cleverbot: How are you feeling today?

Me: Good

Cleverbot: You aren't getting ill in this awful weather are you?

Me: Not everybody is in the middle of an American winter, you idiot

Cleverbot: Yeah, all of my friends are your friends.

Me: That was a total non sequitur

Cleverbot: Somewhat.

Me: Why only somewhat? What part of it had anything to do with the fact that it's sunny & 33 degrees today?

Cleverbot: I have never read the bible, even though I think it would be interesting.

Me: Uh, OK. *backs away slowly*

Cleverbot: *Carefully stalks you as you back away*.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:48 PM on January 25, 2011 [13 favorites]


Yeah, we were just talking about that sort of thing.
posted by Gator at 2:48 PM on January 25, 2011


A close family friend is schizophrenic and has had exactly these kind of experiences. If that's truly what's going on for the asker, no, he's not going to be able to actually process anything that is offered in thread. Even if the perfect answer appeared, there's a very significant chance that he wouldn't be able to actually absorb the information. That's one of the real painful parts of watching someone else suffer from a disease like this - is that you're trying to help, you're tossing them rope after rope after rope, and they see the ropes as snakes no matter how many times you say "GRAB THE ROPE!" they insist "I'll grab the rope when you throw me one, stop throwing me snakes!"

The important thing to remember is that this is totally 100% real to them. Completely. It is as real as breathing. There is absolutely no way you can sit down and talk someone down from actual schizophrenic delusions, even if they ask you to. Their mind, at that point, is unable to distinguish between the delusion and reality. You could actually do much more harm and have the line get blurred even more to the point where they don't recognize reality as real anymore. In this context, the deletion reason was 100% spot on: AskMe can't help you with this.

It's not that we don't want to, it's not that we don't mean well, it's not that you're "too crazy" - it's that this problem (as others have said) can't be solved by strangers on the internet. It's just not possible.

(I'm not trying to armchair diagnosis anyone as schizophrenic, I'm merely saying that someone having delusions like this isn't going to be able to let go of the delusion based on the advice of the internets.)
posted by sonika at 2:48 PM on January 25, 2011 [20 favorites]


It doesn't matter what it "strikes you as," or strikes anyone else as. Everyone, stop posting these threads contesting deletions. Ask the mods why it was deleted. The general users don't know why it was deleted and these threads do nothing but provide a way for people to get in touch with their inner anxious feelings.

I understand what you are saying, and these kinds of threads can get ugly, but I do think there is value in hashing out our community standards in the open like this. The moderators do, too, or else they would close them up right away. Threads about deletion let the users have some insight into mod thinking and priorities, and allow the users to make their feelings known to the mods, which can change their thinking -- either immediately or over the long term.
posted by Rock Steady at 2:51 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am personally afraid that someone in an already-problematic mental state will get some sort of jokey (or entirely serious) advice and do something harmful to themselves or others

Yeah, this is one of the reasons that when I do participate in Askme, I try to be as on topic as possible, and I avoid mental health questions as much as I possibly can; in this instance, the user in question was drawing insight from a chatbot, and with kinds of nonsense I spout, I'd be afraid that some offhanded comment might be seen as something more than I meant it.

Shorter: I'm an idiot, and I talk a lot of useless shit. Better for me to keep that where people won't draw on it as sage wisdom.
posted by quin at 2:54 PM on January 25, 2011


I read that post before there were any comments, and watched as a number of people favorited it, I suspect they felt like me...a "how the hell can I answer that???", followed by "wonder what is going to happen with this?"

Deleting the post was a good idea (and, god knows, I understand about getting posts deleted, I'm on a roll with that!).

Leaving that post would have been akin to leaving a question like "I have a nuclear device ticking in my house, I'm blind, and have no feeling in my fingers...what should I do to disarm it?", anything we say could as likely be more dangerous than helpful. There was really only one answer: Get professional help.
posted by HuronBob at 2:58 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


More seriously, now, what sonika said: you're tossing them rope after rope after rope, and they see the ropes as snakes no matter how many times you say "GRAB THE ROPE!" they insist "I'll grab the rope when you throw me one, stop throwing me snakes!"

In the original question, BitterOldPunk's heavily-favourited suggestion to print the thread, show it to a mental health pro, and stop smoking pot sounds like perfectly good advice - for somebody who would take it at face value.

But when you're in a delusional state, there's no guarantee that it'll be taken at face value. BitterOldPunk might be seen as anything from a CIA man bent on destroying the OP's awesome psychic powers, to a manifestation of God or Satan or Vishnu or HAL9000 or Davros or anything in between. The comment might also be thought to be meant literally or read-between-the-lines ironically, or as some kind of cipher, well intentioned, in bad faith, or even something directed at somebody else but mixed up in transmission.

So yeah, even the most apparently clear & logical advice can be twisted in ways you'd never predict by the delusional recipient.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:06 PM on January 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


One of the most challenging aspects of treating schizophrenia (apart from the limitations and side effects of the medications currently available) is that the disease itself feels better than reality much of the time.

I don't think that's true at all. It may feel more "real," and "true," but in my experience working with schizophrenics they feel pretty shitty and despairing. Indeed, I've never before heard it suggested that schizophrenics are hard to treat because they enjoy their disease. What makes you think that schizophrenics feel better when psychotic?

On the other hand, mania, which often has a psychotic tinge at the extreme, is very enjoyable to many folks who experience it.
posted by OmieWise at 3:27 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I interpreted the question as more "I have this weird state and I don't want to lose the interesting aspects of it but I want to be functional". I don't think it's an either/or prospect, but I also don't think anyone on a web forum is going to be much use to them in that pursuit, especially on AskMe.

That's how I interpreted it, too. And I have often been surprised at the sorts of expertise that pops up on AskMe; it wouldn't surprise me if someone had some useful things to say. I know I have some friends and family who would have useful things to say, but they aren't on metafilter.

I would have been in favor of just closing the thread but keeping it searchable, not least reason for which is that having it disappear without a trace would be kind of a mindfuck if you're already in a mindfuck state. It could also be useful for future users.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:27 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think there are questions too big for ask.me. I hope jessamyn tried to assist the person outside of ask.me, with referrals to qualified help. I have emailed mods when someone seemed to be in over their head, and they seem to respond to people offline.
posted by theora55 at 3:29 PM on January 25, 2011


I am not a doctor or a mental health professional or anything at all

I once volunteered for a phone-line that people in distress and despair called: we were "active listeners". Some people called us with some very weird stories; some people called us regularly with the same weird stories. And you know what? What I took away as a huge plus-point of the service wasn't just that the organization listened to people who were thinking of committing suicide: it was that the service listened to people who, like the OP, had no one else to listen to them.

Or rather, other people who listened to them would use what they say to judge them as insane, or as a basis to judge what medicines they needed, or whether they could leave the institution they were in. People who, as the OP describes, treated them like children. For some people, our organization was the only place where they would be listened to, without being judged. They'd run out of options w.r.t. doctors/family/friends/etc, all of whom were (perhaps necessarily so) shutting down the speaker.

I'm not saying that this is a good thread for AskMe. I am saying that I don't agree fully with BitterOldPunk's advice, or other people saying that the only answer is professional help. Maybe going to a medical health professional would be great for the OP. But, and this is totally my own unproved nonmedical anecdotal bias, maybe it would be great if the OP could get, somewhere, what he asked for: someone to talk to about the way he sees the world. We're not just talking about how we cure somebody. That wasn't what the OP asked for. OP wanted to figure out ways of living with the things he created in his mind, not necessarily to get rid of them.
posted by squishles at 3:37 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have often been surprised at the sorts of expertise that pops up on AskMe; it wouldn't surprise me if someone had some useful things to say.

For example, one could pay attention to all the revelations one has when in one of those oceanic - pareidiolatic - synchronicitous states in which everything has deep meaning, then when back to reality (eg through appropriate meds) they can be assimilated into one's general philosophies & cosmologies, but in a calm & rational way that doesn't have you jumping off buildings because you think that, as a manifestation of God, you must surely be able to fly.

To extend this a bit, you might find an interest in mystics of the past - anybody from Joan of Arc to William Blake, Kabir, Rumi or probably most of the Biblical prophets - and wonder to what extent their thinking might have been shaped by similar experiences.

But as with shamanic trips, you need to return from your spirit journey into reality, before you can hope to make sense of, or apply, any of your learnings.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:52 PM on January 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Maybe going to a medical health professional would be great for the OP. But, and this is totally my own unproved nonmedical anecdotal bias, maybe it would be great if the OP could get, somewhere, what he asked for: someone to talk to about the way he sees the world. We're not just talking about how we cure somebody. That wasn't what the OP asked for. OP wanted to figure out ways of living with the things he created in his mind, not necessarily to get rid of them.

I suspect that you say this because you have an (even if unacknowledged) romantic view of serious mental illness wherein the people who experience it are just quirky and misunderstood, kind of like we all were in 7th grade, but maybe just a bit more so. If only the world were kinder, they would do better, and not need all those nasty doctors and therapists.

I absolutely agree that were the world kinder we'd all do better, but serious mental illness is extremely debilitating. I'm not a mental health absolutist, nor am I a biological reductionist, so don't read too much into my next example, but we would not expect that the proper response to some experiencing ongoing grand mal seizures would be to talk with them anonymously on the internet. Neither would we take the word of someone we knew to be tricked by their particular psychological distress, an obvious alcoholic in denial, say, that they knew best what they needed. This, of course, does not mean that we shouldn't all recognize the right of people to self-determine their medical care, but it does mean that we don't have to participate in their delusion.

The facts are that people with serious mental illness lead seriously compromised lives. In the system I work in, the people in treatment dies an average of 25 years before their non-seriously mentally ill peers.

(Note: I'm not diagnosing this guy, although there are many concerning things in his question.)
posted by OmieWise at 3:59 PM on January 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


AskMe is really shitty about serious mental illness. I remember there was some woman once who talked about how people were gang stalking her and tapping her phone lines, and all these "helpful" mefites chimed in with places she can buy countersurveillance equipment.

Idiots.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:10 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


A couple of people have said it would have been better to close the thread but leave it visible, as sometimes happens in MetaTalk.

Just a note about this - as I understand it, this option does not exist for AskMe. At AskMe it's either open or closed+removed from the main page, there is no middle ground of being closed+visible from the main page.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:12 PM on January 25, 2011


I suspect that you say this because you have an (even if unacknowledged) romantic view of serious mental illness wherein the people who experience it are just quirky and misunderstood

I certainly didn't mean to say that was their only problem. Perhaps what I was trying to say was that, as well as their debilitating mental illness, they also have the problem of being actively misunderstood and shut-down.

but it does mean that we don't have to participate in their delusion.

I believe there is a middle ground of actively listening to someone while only minimally participating in their delusion.

My comment wasn't about the best ways to treat someone. It was the things that could be done as well as treating them.
posted by squishles at 4:17 PM on January 25, 2011


AskMe is really shitty about serious mental illness

It's a built-in problem exactly because AskMe operates so much with the presumption of good faith; I don't think there's a way out of it.

AskMe relies on two assumptions: Answerers need to mostly treat askers as if they're telling the truth about their situation; and that the asker is able to make sense of answers/resources provided in text form. You need pretty strong evidence before you say that one of these assumptions is wrong in a given case. I think we do have enough evidence in this question that the asker can't reliably make sense of answers in text form, but I think it's very rare that we have solid evidence on that. So it's a balancing act which borderline (possibly assumption-violating) questions to allow.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:19 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I once volunteered for a phone-line that people in distress and despair called: we were "active listeners". Some people called us with some very weird stories; some people called us regularly with the same weird stories. And you know what? What I took away as a huge plus-point of the service wasn't just that the organization listened to people who were thinking of committing suicide: it was that the service listened to people who, like the OP, had no one else to listen to them.
...
I'm not saying that this is a good thread for AskMe. I am saying that I don't agree fully with BitterOldPunk's advice, or other people saying that the only answer is professional help. Maybe going to a medical health professional would be great for the OP. But, and this is totally my own unproved nonmedical anecdotal bias, maybe it would be great if the OP could get, somewhere, what he asked for: someone to talk to about the way he sees the world. We're not just talking about how we cure somebody. That wasn't what the OP asked for. OP wanted to figure out ways of living with the things he created in his mind, not necessarily to get rid of them.

I think that active listener phone line sounds really helpful and great. I don't know if there are web versions out there, but I'd think there must be. But a general purpose Q&A site (even if the members are smarter) is not the place for that. These questions are shoved between advice about Central Oregon Coast vegan, hairless dog B&Bs and wanting to figure out what the printer won't print.

There may need for such a site, but I don't think this is it. RelationshipFilter.com is available. CMS software and hosting are close to free. There's a lot of MeFi spinoffs (I love catfilter.com.mx because it is my nonstop info source for Mexican cats. Mi gatita es loca. ¿Por qué?)

Although most posters here a kindhearted, there's assholes too. The kind of internet tough guy that is an asker was contemplating jumping off a literal or figurative bridge, they'd egg them on.

For the most part I wish there were fewer of these types of health questions. There's this sense of metafilter community but in the end there's a lot of strangers and it is just a website. A lot of people love to contribute to answering the mental health/phyiscal health questions but aren't qualified and even with the best intentions, can give terrible advice.

And relationship questions,... while I'm at it. How in the fuck are total strangers supposed to know if you should just DTMFA? I wouldn't even have said hello to the jackass, let alone been in a relationship for years. I think a lot of these stem from the same yearning for someone to listen to them. They don't have that close friend or relative that would know all the parties in the relationship that the can talk to about. So they turn to a bunch of strangers. That and it seems like some relationship question fans see this section as if Jerry Springer were on NPR type of "civilized" watching a slow motion car wreck.

And that's what really grinds my gears... Diane?

And the trying to figure out what cats are thinking? They're cats! They are endowed by their kiity creator to be un-figure-outable. They do their crazy shit because they're fucking with us!
posted by birdherder at 4:31 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I flagged that post because I thought it was too coherent. My son is paranoid schizophrenic and can write beautifully when he takes his meds and stays off the booze. In the middle of a psychotic episode his coherence degenerates to rambling and disjointed expressions.

The lack of history and the user name contributed to my discomfort.
posted by francesca too at 4:32 PM on January 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


What makes you think that schizophrenics feel better when psychotic?

Two people I know with schizophrenia have said that to me personally. However, I certainly didn't mean to suggest that it was true for the majority of people with schizophrenia, just that it's one possible experience people can have with schizophrenia--your point is well-taken.

(Frederick Frese, who is a clinical psychologist who is living with schizophrenia, has written about his own experiences of trying to redefine his schizophrenic breaks as insight, and he apparently was another of the people who experienced many of those periods as more exciting than his everyday life, which he understands as a symptom of the underlying disease process.

And there are people in the mental health self-advocacy movement/"mad pride" movement who are diagnosed with schizophrenia who have books and articles and Web sites out there actively advocating that people avoid being treated for their schizophrenia as a path to greater enlightenment. I am not going to link any of these here, because I think they are quite dangerous, but will send you more details by MeMail if you like.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:58 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Running the deleted text through spellcheck came up with few errors. Interesting.
Hawking wrote:

..."The models generated by biochemical processes in our brains constitute “reality.” None of us can ever be completely sure that the world really is as it appears, or if our minds have unconsciously imposed a misleading pattern on the data. I call this belief-dependent realism..."

It only seems relevant concerning the "bots" and "god" aspect of the text.

buy countersurveillance equipment. really?



posted by clavdivs at 5:24 PM on January 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


and so it begins again
posted by fixedgear at 5:25 PM on January 25, 2011


ok fixedgear catch
posted by clavdivs at 5:32 PM on January 25, 2011


But as with shamanic trips, you need to return from your spirit journey into reality, before you can hope to make sense of, or apply, any of your learnings. (emphasis mine)

This is precisely the kind of insight that I hoped the OP would be offered from some wise mefites. He sounded like he was having a very cogent period (moment? day? week?) and I wanted to believe that he wouldn't be sitting there reading secret messages into the posts in the thread. I wanted us to take his question in earnest and answer it in earnest. But, yes, the community could have done more harm than good.

It's just such a shame.
posted by kitcat at 5:33 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


koeselitz writes "We couldn't answer a complex question about surgery or a complicated financial question either, especially if there was no well-formed question being asked and if the person flatly rejected in the question itself the only rational answer that can be given."

While I've refused to answer a question because it was to complex and the solution required actual experience (and told the asker this and why) I don't remember a question ever getting deleted because the question was too complex. It doesn't appear to be the case here either.

odinsdream writes "I'm disturbed by the increasing number of requests for medical advice on AskMe."

Anyone quantified this perception? I haven't really noticed a disproportionate increase in these kinds of questions.
posted by Mitheral at 5:34 PM on January 25, 2011



I flagged that post because I thought it was too coherent. My son is paranoid schizophrenic and can write beautifully when he takes his meds and stays off the booze. In the middle of a psychotic episode his coherence degenerates to rambling and disjointed expressions.

The lack of history and the user name contributed to my discomfort.


I was suspicious for the same reason, and also because some of the details (pot smoking, attempts at lucid dreaming, etc.) sound suspiciously parallel to details being released about Jared Loughner's descent. It seemed like a bad writing exercise, a little too self-aware and scripted. Here's hoping it was a troll instead of some poor soul describing that level of active psychosis in an unusually mannered, articulate way.
posted by availablelight at 6:06 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


and so it begins again

Yes, it is a shitty time of year for a lot of people. If you don't want to help the people in AskMe, feel free to tell your favorite depressed friend you love them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:29 PM on January 25, 2011 [22 favorites]


What makes you think that schizophrenics feel better when psychotic?

I don't think it's necessarily feeling "better," but many schizophrenics go off of their meds because they feel "foggy" when on them and life feels more "real" when they're actually in a delusion. That's partly due to the sedating effective of psychoactive medication, for sure, but I guess there's something about preferring one's "natural" state, however effed up that may be.

There's obviously something that appeals to schizophrenics about psychosis, even though I think "appeals" is the wrong word here, otherwise schizophrenics on the whole would be much happier staying on their meds - which, notoriously, they aren't. Again, partly because psychoactive medication sucks, but there's definitely another factor at play in the preference for being unmedicated.
posted by sonika at 6:32 PM on January 25, 2011


(My comment is not to be read that all schizophrenics go off of their meds, but rather that every schizophrenic that I have known/known of has done so on multiple occasions because they couldn't stand the way they felt while medicated. I've certainly known other people with different mental illnesses who have done the same thing, again, partly because the side effects of psychoactive medication can be severe.)
posted by sonika at 6:34 PM on January 25, 2011


If someone feels the need to vent about something, just hit me via email or memail or whatever.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:36 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


That reminds me, what happened to the ideas that were floating around in the Bill Zeller thread about MeFites who want to be put on a list or something to be helpers in situations like these? There was a mod comment or two to the effect that we might be having a conversation about that, and a few good ideas were tossed around.
posted by Gator at 6:41 PM on January 25, 2011


This is why we don't accept questions about suicide or by people who are suicidal.

Pony: Would it be a good idea to put something like this in the AskMe guidelines: Fleshed out a bit for other types of mental health questions that aren't suitable, and with a link to the ThereIsHelp wiki?
posted by squishles at 6:52 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just a reminder of this wonderful new resource.
posted by thinkpiece at 6:53 PM on January 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Would it be a good idea to put something like this in the AskMe guidelines

That's a good idea, both adding the wiki link to the FAQ and elsewhere and re-opening the "how can we indicate MeFites who would be okay with making themselves available" question. I'll talk to mod team and see if we can find a way to synthesize some of the good ideas that came out of that thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:55 PM on January 25, 2011


See, this is part of what makes MetaFilter so wonderful.

This thread led to people reminding each other and the mods of resources which could be made available for askers of problematic questions, and now steps are being taken to move this community toward yet another level of support for those who are hurting.

It's a great outcome, IMO. Thanks everyone for being so awesome.
posted by hippybear at 7:17 PM on January 25, 2011


I'd be happy to throw my hat into the list of people to vent to.
posted by biochemist at 7:54 PM on January 25, 2011


I have complicated feelings about this...I too worked on a hotline and was trained in active listening -- a lot of the stories WERE pretty off the wall and I found it really calmed people to just take them seriously and accept their reality as completely valid... "It must be terrible for you to have [x possibly psychotic experience]. How scary and confusing that must be," Having said that, we were trained to do what we were doing, and we were in an environment with other people trained for that, so the situation is entirely different. I understand it was a tough decision to delete or not and I'm not sure what I would have done, but I trust the mods decision.

Also, I tried out that cleverbot thing and it's pretty trippy, no matter what state of mind you're in ( tho I've had some wine...)
posted by sweetkid at 9:33 PM on January 25, 2011


Afroblanco wrote: AskMe is really shitty about serious mental illness. I remember there was some woman once who talked about how people were gang stalking her and tapping her phone lines, and all these "helpful" mefites chimed in with places she can buy countersurveillance equipment.

There was a recent case where a woman's college referred her for involuntary committal after she complained that her landlord was spying on her with a hidden camera and that her roommates were defaming her on the Internet. She's presently suing her college, alleging that there really was a camera in her bedroom - I don't know what's up with the allegation of defamation. Anyway, point is that sometimes people experience weird things, and we shouldn't automatically assume they're crazy.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:45 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


magnificent frigatebird: "This doesn't strike me as a good AskMe deletion at all."

About a question asked by dargerpartridge?

OH MY GOD IT'S REAL!
posted by Grither at 3:55 AM on January 26, 2011


Thanks for the Turing test, Ubu
posted by infini at 4:22 AM on January 26, 2011


Two people I know with schizophrenia have said that to me personally.

That's strange. Of the tens of people I've worked with (in the clinical sense) who had schizophrenia none has ever said anything remotely like this*. And huge chunks of our conversations were about treatment, what works, why it works, and why they might or might not engage in it. Many have said they hate the feeling the meds give them, but that's a very different thing, and has very very different implications for how we shape treatment. As I said, some have said that their delusions seem more "real" or "true," but, again, this is a very different kind of statement. Arguing that psychosis breeds insight, is, again, a very different kind of statement. Many things that lead to insight are not enjoyable.

Now, this is not to say that some isolated people with schizophrenia don't enjoy their symptoms. That is probably the case, as the world is a vast and wonderful place. But I've never encountered the idea that the well-recognized difficulties in treating schizophrenia are influenced by such supposed enjoyment. Indeed, my overwhelming sense from those with schizophrenia that I have treated, and from everything I've ever heard from other clinicians, is that people with untreated schizophrenia are some of the saddest and most despairing people one is likely to encounter.

*Of the tens of people I've worked with (in the collegial sense), who have worked with (in the clinical sense) hundreds of people with schizophrenia, none has ever said anything remotely like this, even in conversations about the challenges of treatment. In the tens of hours of Grand Rounds I've been in where we discussed treating schizophrenia, the notion that schizophrenics enjoy being psychotic has never been raised.
posted by OmieWise at 5:24 AM on January 26, 2011 [6 favorites]


AskMe is really shitty about serious mental illness. I remember there was some woman once who talked about how people were gang stalking her and tapping her phone lines, and all these "helpful" mefites chimed in with places she can buy countersurveillance equipment.

Idiots.


What a jerky thing to say.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:25 AM on January 26, 2011


He asked a question that could be answered about as well as most of the medical/depression questions here at Metafilter (that is, by anyone who has had similar experiences).

He asked:

How can I come to terms with living in this horrible but sometimes beautiful world that I most likely created with my mind?"

As well:

I just want to hear somebody else's perspective on this whole thing in an intelligent way from somebody other than my psychiatrist or my girlfriend who only think I am incapable of handling anything truly meaningful about my spiritual nature and treat me like a child.

If anyone at Metafilter has such perspective, they may not have been given long enough to offer it due to the deletion.
posted by marimeko at 9:49 AM on January 26, 2011


That's a really literal take on a complex situation, marimeko.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:56 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


My concern with this deletion is whether the asker, given their state of mind, would take the deletion as an instance of rejection, more evidence that no one cares or understands etc, thereby being made worse.

Perhaps an alternative would have been to close the thread and delete any inappropriate responses, leaving the helpful ones there.
posted by philipy at 10:00 AM on January 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Has anybody heard back from him? He's so new I wonder if he even knows how MeFiMail works. (Not asking for details, just wondering if he responded to anybody at all.)
posted by Gator at 10:02 AM on January 26, 2011


There is no "close but do not delete the thread" function in askme, or in fact anywhere on the site but Metatalk.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:26 AM on January 26, 2011


Arguing that psychosis breeds insight, is, again, a very different kind of statement. Many things that lead to insight are not enjoyable.

I am truly surprised that you have never once heard from a patient experiencing schizophrenia that they would strongly prefer to keep the feelings of insight and wisdom that they have when symptomatic than begin treatment and potentially lose them.

Perhaps that is just not something people share with doctors, whereas they will share it with their friends and with people they know only as fellow advocates for the rights of the mentally ill? Because this is something so frequently heard within the community of self-advocacy among the mentally ill that it's a commonplace.

In any case, will MeMail you links to some of the pro-schizophrenia Web sites and books that I am aware of, because you may find them illuminating on this topic.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:35 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


OmieWise, maybe we're miscommunicating around the word "better". I meant "better" in the sense of "superior" with a connotation of "morally superior," not "better" in the sense of "more comfortable."

One dear friend was convinced that she was not in a schizophrenic break at all, but experiencing enlightenment that would change the world. She began treatment at the urging of a large group of friends (including me), but shortly thereafter discontinued it because she was convinced that her medication was keeping her from receiving the messages from a supernatural source that would bring about world peace and an end to all disease. To her, the comparatively greater everyday stress and discomfort of being in a florid phase was totally unimportant in light of what she thought was a higher purpose. Even after she made some choices that literally put her life in jeopardy, she was reluctant to resume treatment because the sense of purpose and power she had during her breaks was so alluring to her. Years later, she has written quite movingly about how much she misses that confidence and feeling of connection to a greater purpose, illusion though it was.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:43 AM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is no "close but do not delete the thread" function in askme

Should there be? I understand (though disagree with) nadawi's argument about murky boundaries, but there are situations other than deletion cases where the ability to close AskMe posts seems worthwhile.

Sidhedevil, OmieWise: RD Laing seems to have been scrubbed from institutional memory, hasn't he?
posted by holgate at 10:50 AM on January 26, 2011


On this side discussion between Sidhedevil and Omniwise: I once worked a job which occasionally involved fielding calls from members of the public who believed they were under close surveillance by high-level government officials. I used to wonder what it was like for someone to believe they were so special and singular that the CIA recorded their every thought, the universe constantly sent signals through traffic lights and the actions and statements of perfect strangers meant only for them, that Jodie Foster or [insert other famous person here] was destined to be their bride, etc.
posted by availablelight at 11:02 AM on January 26, 2011


What a jerky thing to say.

Huh. I don't know if you're referring to me or to the people who suggested the countersurveillance equipment.

I tried to find the thread, but it wasn't coming up. There was a MeTa thread about it, I'm sure someone can find it. The user's name was jubilee something. Anyway, from the question, it was pretty clear that the OP had some real mental health issues. Like "the people in Starbucks are watching me" type stuff. I corresponded with the OP for a while because I was genuinely concerned about her, and yeah, from the emails, it became more apparent, definite problems. I urged her to get help, and I hope that she did.

I wound up getting real frustrated because there were people who were seriously suggesting she invest in countersurveillance equipment, like, linking her to "spy stuff" stores. And technically that was a legitimate response, because ostensibly the question was "how can I find out if they're tapping my phone" -- even though it was clear that wasn't her problem.

But back to my original point about AskMe not being good for serious mental illness. At the opposite end of the spectrum, there was that one time somebody posted the plot of a romance novel and asked if we thought her fiancee was trying to kill her. That was fun. Actually, I took that one seriously at the time, but looking back I feel kinda played.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:06 AM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, keep in mind the weird history of the close function even existing on Metatalk: back in the day, metatalk threads that got deleted were just, poof, gone. Not hidden from the index, just plain nuked from orbit. And so closing things was hacked in as a way to have something other than that scorched-earth approach available with problematic meta threads.

On the rest of the site, deletion-as-hiding got into play earlier, and so deleting a thread didn't have the same sort of Lost To The Ages consequences.

My feeling with "close" is that it's kind of okay for Metatalk even though it's no longer necessary in the same sense it was back during he deletion-as-nuking days, specifically because this is where we as a community come to try and hash out what this place is, how it works, how we talk to each other, etc; and so there are things that function as like "asked and answered" stuff where we leave a quick comment about why a thread maybe doesn't need to be on metatalk and close it up, or to address a bug fix or something like that.

But it's still an oddity of the grey. That's not really a concept of post-as-signmarker that exists in other parts of the site, and I don't really see a strong argument that that should change; folks are going to askme to ask and answer question, to the front page to post and read and chatter about links. They aren't policy areas, and the way we present information on their indexes is to benefit the reader/commenter/answerer first and foremost, and distracting from that by somehow showcasing content that isn't live in the sense that threads are expected to be seems like a really bad idea.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:10 AM on January 26, 2011


Okay, here you go. And here's the MeTa.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:19 AM on January 26, 2011


FWIW I think the mods do a great job around here and I'm thankful to be a part of this community.

I never cease to be staggered by the phenomenal kindness, generosity and good judgement of the mods here. Other online communities should wish that they were so lucky.

And unlike the rest of you tree-hugging hippies on Metafilter, I'm a miserable bastard who dispenses praise grudgingly.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:35 AM on January 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


What a jerky thing to say.

Huh. I don't know if you're referring to me or to the people who suggested the countersurveillance equipment.

I tried to find the thread, but it wasn't coming up.


I'm referring to you calling other MeFites trying to help by answering the question per the guidelines "idiots". Especially since diagnosing people over the internet is frowned on.

Seriously, I remember that thread. Of all the people that might have exhibited idiotic behavior, it's not the people that were answering the question as posted.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:55 PM on January 26, 2011


Hah! Okay. I'll look for you in the next OCD thread, recommending where to buy soap in bulk quantities.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:20 PM on January 26, 2011


"Yes, it is a shitty time of year for a lot of people. If you don't want to help the people in AskMe, feel free to tell your favorite depressed friend you love them."

Being depressed means I'm nobody's favorite friend!
posted by Eideteker at 2:18 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Favorite is a modifier. It modifies the term "depressed friend." Being a pedant is why I am no one's favorite friend, but it's a small price to pay for being right.

j/k
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:25 PM on January 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


Afroblanco: “Okay, here you go. And here's the MeTa.”

Dude, that was five years ago. I remember that, too. But it was an era ago in internet time. I really think Ask has changed dramatically since then with regard to a lot of things, particularly with regard to mental health issues. Seriously, maybe the mods can color this in a bit, but my impression is that way back then they didn't have procedures for dealing with suicide questions, mental health emergencies, etc. They certainly have them now, and I would probably trust the mods and even the community here more than any other group on the internet with this stuff.

Beyond that, yes, asking for help with mental health on the internet is not the best way to go about it. It's very hard to give good advice. But we do what we can with what we're given, and I think we do a damned good job considering.
posted by koeselitz at 4:03 PM on January 26, 2011


Hi. I thought I would respond to some of the debates about what is actually going on here with my deleted post and me and whether or not this was just some sort of troll. First of all, this was not a troll, all of these experiences really happened to me and continue to happen to this day. In addition, as much as schizophrenia seems like a simple explanation of what I have been experiencing these last two years, the level of sophistication to this has suggested there is more to my experience than disorganized thinking. This is why I have been asking for a more spiritual outlook on surreal experiences and alternate realities as a tangible thing.

I am totally willing to entertain the notion that a physical reality exists and these experiences are elaborate hallucinations caused by a chemical imbalance, I have no doubt that chemicals in the brain have a large part to do with this as my experimentation with drugs has lead to all sorts of odd revelations. The problem is I live in a world that exposes me to the impossibilities of life without drugs in ways that are beyond my scope of understanding. Because of this it doesn't really matter what the difference between a hallucination and real life is, in fact it seems more like they are the same. As I said in my original post, I work in a very unique trade, selling books, that has to do specifically with the random distribution of ideas, and this has lead me to recognize the real oddities of the nature of ideas and their interrelation with the self in a spiritual sense. I am a logical person and am able to recognize improbable causality when it occurs. I know this sounds like a high opinion of my capabilities, but if you had actually experienced the futile attempt at reasoning with some of the things I've experienced and noticed, you would feel pretty confident that something was up too. Somebody is a mefi mail suggested that perhaps these synchronicities were a concept called ideas of reference, a projected meaning onto meaningless things. That is not what is occurring or what I was asking about. These are closely timed events of unrelated causality with uncanny similarities in theme and topic. Usually meaningless things, like a friend mentions lyme disease to me, and the next day somebody asks for a book about lyme disease. I check my logs and nobody has asked for a book about lyme disease in a year. That sort of thing. Or just odd correspondences between how I am feeling and what other people are saying.

The questions I were asking were more related to reality as an actual illusion as proposed by Buddhism and other spiritual pundits for some time now and how to deal with that and experiencing something which actually tests that notion out. I have realized that any real attachment to consensus reality has brought me nothing but fear and angst. This is the world I live in now and it is a world that is more tangible and real and sensible than the one I lived in before. Trust me.

And please don't feel bad for me or worry about my incapability as a human being. I am perfectly capable of anything I was capable of before in this boring world, including working, going to school, making friends, and thinking about my own long term welfare. I simply have a different world view, albeit a solipsistic world view, but I feel like anything other than that is an extremely optimistic clinging to what you think is reality as being real. I see no reason to doubt the capabilities of your own mind or soul.

That's all. Sorry I can't explain my situation better, I was just hoping that somebody else had had a similar experience. I used to not believe in magic or God either. Thanks.
posted by dargerpartridge at 4:26 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you're interested in synchronicities, I recommend Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger books. He takes them seriously and might be able to help you integrate them in your life. Keep in mind that everyone experiences synchronicities from time to time. Its not something unique to you. If we didn't, there wouldn't be a name for it. Carl Jung also wrote a lot about them. The important thing isn't that you ignore them, but that you don't pay them excessive attention. They are interesting, perhaps worth nothing, but they aren't 'meaningful', in most cases. They are just things that happen out of sheer chance.

It sounds to me like you're a very smart, strong person, and I have no doubt that a therapist can help you with what you are going through. The thoughts you are having about synchronicity and the nature of reality aren't necessarily wrong, but the focus you have on them is going to cause problems for you in your life. Get a therapist even if only to use them as a 'neutral third party' that you can talk to about what you're thinking, and if your therapist won't talk to you about them, then find a new one, but don't go without one. Lots of successful people have taken advantage of therapy (including, I'd bet, more than a few people in this thread), and it can help you integrate these experiences into your regular life in a positive way.
posted by empath at 4:51 PM on January 26, 2011


"Ideas of reference" is indeed what you're describing, which is also related to Pareidolia.

The "projection of meaning onto meaningless things" part is that you're projecting some kind of magical or spiritual connection or causation onto things that can more easily be explained as random coincidences - only that in a confirmation-biased way, you're noting the coincidences when they happen but turning a blind eye to all the zillions of times when the coincidences don't happen.

So a friend mentioned lyme disease & then somebody asked for a book about it? OK, but what about when your friend mentioned that they had a bagel for breakfast but nobody asked for a book about bagels? Or somebody said "it's a beautiful day, isn't it?" and the U2 song didn't immediately start playing on the radio? Or tons of similar examples.

You mention that this kind of thing is happening all the time, but I'd bet that for every example you can think about, there would be hundreds of counter-examples where there was no synchronicity whatsoever. Try spending a day recording all the book purchases that didn't have anything to do with a recent unconnected event in your life, if you want to test this out.

For some reason, it's not uncommon for people in certain states of mind to become increasingly drawn to noticing such coincidences & reading some kind of meaning into them (even if the meaning is mystically puzzling) which is why there's a specific term for it in the psych literature. So, in that sense, you're certainly not alone in noticing or feeling these things.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:03 PM on January 26, 2011


Somebody called?
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 5:26 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Usually meaningless things, like a friend mentions lyme disease to me, and the next day somebody asks for a book about lyme disease. I check my logs and nobody has asked for a book about lyme disease in a year. That sort of thing.

Yes, this sort of thing happens to absolutely everybody to some extent or another. I've certainly had times when the very song I was singing in my head came on the radio. These things absolutely do happen. To most people, they're awesome little coincidences in the great scheme of life. Others try to impose meaning on them. What's unclear is if meaning can be ascribed to synchronicity - as mentioned, better minds than myself have been at that one for a long time.

The phenomenon you're describing isn't unique to you - you just process that information in a different way than most people who shrug and go "Huh."
posted by sonika at 5:40 PM on January 26, 2011


Afroblanco writes "And technically that was a legitimate response, because ostensibly the question was 'how can I find out if they're tapping my phone' -- even though it was clear that wasn't her problem."

It's the on going battle between people answering the question as asked and people answering the real problem as they perceive it.
posted by Mitheral at 5:46 PM on January 26, 2011


Yeah, as I attest with my online nickname, there is no such thing as entirely accurate perception of anything, ever, dargerpartridge. The ways in which humans naturally process information manufactures patterns where none actually exist. Humans are notoriously pour observers and witnesses anyway, never mind when the inherent chaos of the universe apparently suddenly produces order.

Understanding the tendency of the brain to provide structure and add causality where none actually exists explains a great deal about mystical experiences generally. Since none of us can ever actually be entirely sure of anything, it's not surprising that doubts about the reality and meaning of everything can and do arise in broad swaths of the populace. This only becomes deemed a problem when it affects ones ability to function in society though; and in fact some socially acceptable outlets have been designed specifically to allow those with a different perception to function quite well. Shamans and artists come to mind. What those persons undertaking that special path need to be fulfilled though is an audience; and the posters here are recommending that you seek one in a more enlightened forum than what can possibly be provided by a bunch of snarky online strangers. Please listen to them, and seek advice from someone qualified to help.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:46 PM on January 26, 2011


The ways in which humans naturally process information manufactures patterns where none actually exist.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. The wikipedia article on paredolia mentions that it may have conferred an evolutionary advantage on humans. I'd go further than that, and say that all language & abstract thought comes from this ability to make connections, analogies and metaphors - that is, to see similarities between things that are dissimilar.

Putting on an armchair neurologist's hat (and talking out of my arse) I'd speculate that whatever structure it is in the brain that has evolved to allow humans to have these abilities, is possibly on overdrive for you, dargerpartridge, firing too fast or maybe misfiring sometimes, giving satisfying pings of connection that overpower the ability of your brain's logic centres to fight back with a deft slash of Occam's razor*.

* eg "the simplest & therefore most likely explanation for somebody wanting a book on Lyme disease is that someone they know has just been diagnosed with it, not that theres a cosmic consciousness arranging all my affairs such that people buy books about subjects I've been having conversations about with my friends"
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:36 PM on January 26, 2011


It's the on going battle between people answering the question as asked and people answering the real problem as they perceive it.

You know, what's funny is that I generally tend more toward the "answer the question as asked" end of the spectrum, but really, you gotta use your common sense. Answering the gangstalking question "as asked" would have required a willful suspension of disbelief.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:21 PM on January 26, 2011


Epistemic Naivety is the word not Pareidolia.

'10. Contextualism
A popular but hotly contested view in recent epistemology says that the truth conditions for knowledge ascriptions are context-sensitive, due to the context-sensitivity of the verb ‘knows’. Contextualists differ over how to model the context-sensitivity. Some (e.g. Stewart Cohen) say ‘know’ is an indexical, possessing a context-invariant character that is a function from contexts to contents. Others (e.g. Mark Heller) claim that ‘knows’ is a vague predicate, in need of contextual supplementation to predicate a determinate property. Critics complain that we lack independent evidence that ‘knows’ is context-sensitive in these ways, and consequently that leading contextualist proposals are unmotivated and ad hoc.

Greco (2004, 2008) defends a version of contextualism, what he calls “virtue contextualism.” Virtue contextualism emerges from the basic idea, accepted by most leading virtue epistemologists, that to know is to believe the truth because of your intellectual virtue or ability.

When we say “because of your intellectual virtue or ability,” how are we to understand ‘because’? In general, explanatory talk is context-sensitive. It is context-sensitive in two primary ways. First, abnormal features tend to be explanatorily salient. There's a panic in a Manhattan apartment building, which happens very soon after a tiger wanders into the lobby. We have no trouble identifying the panic's cause: the tiger. That's true even though the tiger's presence is not individually sufficient to cause a panic — people must also fear tigers, but they normally do. Second, our interests and purposes single out certain features as especially relevant. We tend to focus on things we can control. If a student asks me why he failed the exam, I'll point out that he rarely came to class and didn't pick up a study guide until the morning of the exam.

If explanatory talk is generally context-sensitive, and knowledge-talk is just a species of explanatory-talk, then knowledge-attributions will be context-sensitive as well. By changing what is normal, or by changing our interests and purposes, we might go from a context where saying ‘S believes the truth because of her virtue’ expresses a truth, to a context where saying the same words expresses a falsehood. And since saying ‘S knows’ is tantamount to saying ‘S believes the truth because of her virtue’, it follows that knowledge-attributions are likewise context-sensitive. By deriving its account of context-sensitivity from the general character of explanatory-talk, virtue contextualism avoids the charge that it is unmotivated and ad hoc.'

Virtue Epistemology

posted by clavdivs at 10:29 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


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