The other day, @andrarchy and I were having a conversation about mental illness and how it relates to mental transformation. We'll be releasing the footage of that conversation in coming weeks, but there was one quesiton he asked me which I found particularly interesting. Andrew asked me why I thought that it's so common in certain parts of the world to see homeless people who appear to be deranged, schizophrenic, or out of touch with what we normally see as reality. I thought I'd write a little bit to expand on my response.
One of the primary motivations for humans is attention. If you've ever had someone or a group of people deliberately ignore you, then you know how frustrating and even scary it can be. It seems like we all crave, to some extent, being noticed, the eyes and hears of another human being, affirming our existence.
Of course, it's best if the attention is in the form of love and affection, but if you can't get that, then you might start looking for attention in other ways. If that means talking to yourself to try to emulate it, or barking at strangers, or even picking fights, then might be how you respond. Like the superstitious pigeon, your actions get stranger and stranger - until they might even seem not human.
A little help from my friends
When I had my period of mental illness or mental transformation, I was fortunate enough to have friends and family to support me, to listen to my ravings and do their best to help me, though they didn't always know how. Slowly and gently, their efforts and the efforts of a psychotherapist, helped guide me back to a healthy state which was close enough to normality. Going beyond attention, is care, and even patient wisdom.
A downward spiral
For many people, they won't necessarily have attention and care from family and friends. Lacking both of these things - having a constant need to be noticed, and at the same time not having anyone to guide you on the appropriate ways to be noticed, and even being aware that people might just ignore you no matter what, could send you into a downward spiral.
The Stanford prison experiment and identity
If you're not familiar with the Stanford prison experiment, it's definitely a fascinating subject to look into. The short version is, a group of university students were put in a basement in Stanford University, and told they were in prison. Some students became prisoners, and others became guards. The guards and the prisoners both quickly stepped into their roles, with the guards torturing the prisoners, and the prisoners believing that they were in an actual prison.
One lesson we might infer from this experiment is that, identity is based on our environment. How we are treated affects who we think we are, and changes our ideas about what is possible. The students, being locked in a basement, came to believe that it was a real prison. If you were living on the streets, having people ignore you and calling you crazy, would you come to believe it too? If we could take such people out of that situation, treat them with respect and compassion, would they change suddenly, assuming the rule of a socialised human being?
The power of humanity
You might not have the resources or the desire to accept a homeless person into your home, but everyone has the power of compassion, everyone can give a little attention, and everyone has the power to make another person feel human. Don't be afraid to use it.
My name is Kurt Robinson. I grew up in Australia, but now I live in Guadalajara, Jalisco. I write interesting things about voluntaryism, futurism, science fiction, travelling Latin America, and psychedelics. Remember to press follow so you can stay up to date with all the cool shit I post, and follow our podcast where we talk about crazy ideas for open-minded people, here: @paradise-paradox, and like us on Facebook here - The Paradise Paradox
Some other cool posts
Here are some other posts of mine to check out: