Rethinking Madness by Paris Williams

Has anybody read this book? It is very informative and offers an alternative to the medical model for beliefs about schizophrenia. He debunks the brain chemistry imbalance myth, and instead suggests that trauma, especially childhood trauma can be a contributing factor in causing psychosis. He also believes that many people can recover fully from schizophrenia.

1 Like

Childhood trauma is the reason for psychoanalysis. Does he mention that?

No, he doesn’t really write too much about psychoanalysis.

childhood trauma, definitely.
recovery? maybe we’ll always have the scars,
and can hide them, or keep digging them wider and wider,

supernatural twist on childhood trauma being the cause:
i was put into the dark bedroom to cry out my tantrums.
the demons answered my screams in the darkness,
came out of the walls to comfort me, entertain me,
make me part of their world. i really never came back.

another book by a pdoc way outside the mainstream
who made alot more sense to me than current thinking,
was this, remember finding this on some low shelf
in a huge public library, like the powers that be
really didn’t want you to find it…:

(had these notes printed,
sitting in my place,
when i was locked up in a psych hospital;
\had someone read them to me
and i wrote this stuff down on paper
in the phone booth on the psych ward.
read it back to my dr and nurses.
they listened patiently,
then said “fine, those are your beliefs”
and were completely unmoved,
surprisingly to me at the time…

Trials of the visionary mind -

i know that most of the psychiatry field is way off when it comes to understanding psychotics. Shamans are right at the top of the field. But this is a book in print by a psychiatrist, except this guy understands almost like a shaman.

I like to stay far ahead of the psychiatrists - most have no way to get a handle on me, and as the years go by, I begin to feel invincible - 39 years old and still free, haven’t been caught for being crazy in america! But then I run into a book like this and it humbles me because I realize I can be handled, i’m just lucky most people don’t get it. (now i’m telling everyone about this guy but i’ve already reconfigured my psychoses as best I can to maintain the invincibility of my irrationality.)

this is the first psychiatrist-theory that rings true for me. See what you think…

He started studying first-episode psychoses in the 1950’s; the book was written in the 90’s. He just listens to people!
He says they aren’t schizophrenic, they are having “visionary experiences” that last 40 days and should be listened to.

He says treat them his way with no meds and there is only an 8 percent relapse rate. Give them just meds and none of his therapy and you get a 75% relapse rate.

He gets to publish books like this but they’re swept under the rug by the “financial powers that be”;
this one was deep inside a university library, and i’d never seen it before though I research psychoses voraciously.

Actually his theory of the psychotic episode is remarkably similar to my theory of “what is evil”, except I say energy gates go down and the demon world comes out; he says energy goes down and then the “psyche”, the “collective unconscious” comes out. (same thing I guess)
and how do you get the psyche to come “inside out” like that?
Span discrepant worlds. Like your family wants you to be “all nice” but there’s nastier stuff just below the surface,
or you change from one dominant culture to another (or I create psychoses on purpose by reading different topics back to back and thinking about the relation between them, or riding the subway and picturing a deep jungle all around me, or reading astrophysics while riding the nyc subway);

the aztec civilization says all existence (collective unconscious?) is born out of “duality”, their highest god being ometeotl, or “mr and mrs two”, who live in omeyoacan, or “place two”.

I would definitely want my doctor to be familiar with these modern but little known theories.
Here are a few quotes from the book…

"yet in the view I am presenting a quite different species of symbols (other than rational) is at play in the acute episode, not belonging to the realm of rational functioning. Mythic symbols have in this condition supplanted the usual linguistic ones, and are being used to express images heavily laden with energythereby arresting the person’s full attention. In the normative state these images tend to build up their own pyramiding hierarchies of structure towards a unitary whole, centered and balancing the opposites, finally embracing most of the vital issues of emotional living. There are, then, two hierarchic structures: the ego’s rational system of concepts and feelings growing to ever higher levels of abstractions and unification; and the unconscious’s non-rational system of meaning and values of ever deepening levels of imagery and unification. The higher and the deeper levels of symbols are counterparts of eachother. Each creates its own experience of realness, its own different realities. The disadvantage of the nonrational systems is that they are not granted recognition and validation by our culture and viewed as representing a different reality, but only a defective one.

"this model of the acute episode - in which the “fantasy” reveals forms that are not derived from outside but that express the contents of the deep psyche - offers a clear picture of a certain type of concretization diferent from that of the formal thought disorder of the later stages. It concerns what is done with the ideation, rather than the form of its expression. There is no lack of abstraction, but it takes the shape of mythic images from depth, rather than from the level of the rational mind’s abstract concepts. The concretizing is found to consist of two persistent tendencies: one is to identify with the most favored of the mythic figures that make their appearance in the visionary process; the other is to project the unfavored ones out into the surrounding world. Instead of speaking of a vision or the felt presence of a divine personage, the individual becomes it; one is then the second coming of christ or is the virgin mother or the love goddess. On the unfavored side, rather than recognizing the threat of an overturning of one’s system of beliefs and values from within, one is the victim of enemy agents or of cia sleuths lurking outside the window.

"these two features, the tendency to identify and to project, are responsible for the impression of insanity in this process. This effect is most unfortunate for the fate of the acute process itself: when it is viewed as psychopathology it is thwarted from attaining its goals, while if it were more aptly recognized as spiritual in essence much damage could be averted. For instance, if the need to reconstruct one’s world image within becomes a mission to change the outer world, one of two eventualities can occur: if the person is highly gifted and charismatic he or she might be given a glowing reception as a leader of reforms; if not so endowed, he or she might be consigned to the degrading status of a disqualified outcast. When invalidated, one is seen as an invalid. A society that is religious - in the sense of living by its myth and attending to its demands - tends to value its visionaries and regard them as posessed by the spirit. A culture that is dedicated to secular and materialistic guidelines devalues such persons to the point of extrusion from the participation granted to the “normal” people.

"the concretization does not follow the lines of the formal thought disorder, but concerns instead the way of relating to the mythic images. These symbolic configurations are highly dynamic and can thus be very inflating. In our kind of culture it is healthier to take them on the symbolic level of understanding and apply them to one’s inner life. If one is more than usually gifted, they might be accepted as having value for the culture, providing creative or spiritual contributions.

"during my four decades of observing the acute first episode, I have been guided by the view that it is not a question of impairment or damage but rather a shift in energy. When a person finds herself in a state of acute distress, in circumstances that have assailed her most sensitive vulnerabilities, her psyche may have stirred into an imperative need to reorganize the self. The deepest levels of the psychic organism are activated, and in consequence they draw vast amounts of energy to themselves and away from the higher levels. The whole field of awareness becomes flooded with archaic forms, the myth-styled images that are the natural contents of those deep levels. This condition represents not a flight from outer reality, as a device to retreat from unbearable fears, but a state of being overwhelmed by inner psychic events. The sense of reality shifts from outer to inner, and she finds herself immersed in a mythic world totally out of keeping with the consensual one. If circumstances are favorable at this point, the psyche may embark upon its reorganizaional process in its own customary fashion, yet so uncustomary to our usual expectations.

"in this framework, therefor, the higher functions are not seen as defective or impaired, but robbed of their energy. Even the physical organism is deprived of its usual level of performance: motivations to care for it drop away, as nourishment and sleep are given less heed. Remarkably, the behavior resembles the preparations for inducing altered states of consciousness by ritual fasting and sleep deprivation. The picture is of an almost brutal demand on the part of the deep psyche that all the reserves of the organism be commandeered to support its urgent processes. It is not that the entire organism is operating at a lower level of performance, but that one part only is functioning at such a high pitch of energy that all the other functions become deprived of it. Ronald fischer prefers the term “hyperphrenia” for this “high arousal state”.


"the suggestion I propose, then, is that in cases of acute episode of visionary experience we must be open to any of several possibilities:

  1. The persons might be capable of leadership in religion, social reform, or the arts or sciences and their potential contribution to society is making its first appearance in a “psychotic” turmoil, the righ potentials of which are being seen at first only as expressions of symbolic imagery.
  2. Ther persons might be caught up in an inner process of self-reorganization, activated with the intent of releasing hidden potentials for living an increasingly fruitful life of caring relationships and careful work.
  3. The persons might be in the throes of a disintegrative process that will lead gradually into the downhill course and chronicity of true “schizophrenia” after six months.

"the first group needs to be left alone by psychiatry and consigned to other forms of retreat where the visions can be tolerated, accepted, and appreciated for their actual value, and thus allowed to do their own work in nature’s way. The second group needs to be handled sensitively without the negative impact of “labelling” and without their identifying with the status of “patienthood” in a hospital setting, but rather with a stay in a non-hospital setting where the psychic process can be encouraged by an openly receptive attitude to the inner process and where medication would be unneccesary or held at bare minimum. The third group, because of the impoverished state of our knowledge at present, needs medication early to prevent damage to brain functioning and undue chronicity, as well as referral to a half way house or board-and-care housing.


" to preserve the spirit in which the episode could be most fruitfully handled, at diabasis a message was clearly spoken to each new client upon admission to the community: “this is not a disease, illness, or psychopathology. It is a rich inner experience in a visionary state that may be turbulent and scary at times, sometimes nightmarish and sometimes sublime, yet that’s all tending to move toward a goal that is favorable for a better life. We’re here to help you through it.”


"for most psychiatrists the difficulty is that the psyche’s way of expressing itself is so unusual that we find ourselves having to speak in an entirely unaccustomed language and frame of thought. In the alternative view, the concept of the “acute psychosis” is that, when we speak of a self-healing process, we do not mean that the faults to be healed are these unusual expressions of the devices the psyche uses to attain its goals. Instead, the problems needing solution are in the limitations of the personality prevailing before the episode; the psyche is trying to break free of constrictions, from a markedly negative self-image, a rather impoverished world-outlook, and an unsuitable cultural set. The upheaval takes place in those persons whose nature cannot tolerate such limitations. The visionary devices set in motion by the psyche therefor do not constitue the disorder or pathology. In the turmoil the psyche’s process is not what needs healing, but rather, the healing is acomplished by the “psychotic” process itself. The way we regard the distrubance, then, determines how it is going to fare, whether toward success or faiure.


"interpreting any such image is not quite to the point; it is more helpful to encourage the expectation that the image will keep unfolding its meaning as it participates in an ongoing process, especially in a very active “acute psychosis”. For example, when someone enters upon the episode feeling that she is dying and that she is back at the beginning of time, I see the death image as almost always signifying the death of the limited state of being, of the previous state of the ego, or of the insufficient personality. It is an appaling experience to undergo when it actually is a “death trip”. The expression is no mere simile or figure of speech; it is an actual coming to the end of something and not knowing what is ahead. One only knows that one is simply losing many familiar ways to which one has become accustomed, having no idea what is going to appear to replace them. Hence the experience really is like death, but it concerns the self-image, and hand-in-hand with that it becomes also the death of the world image.


"a most eloquent expression of this issue is made by theodore roszak in “where the wasteland ends”:

“to be mad, as the world judges, is to be trapped in a narrow and lonely reality. To be sane, as the world judges, is to be trapped in a reality no less narrow, but heavily populated. But there is also the higher sanity, which is neither the going concensus nor the latest compensatory excess. Its health is freedom from all traps; its sign is the knowledge of many realities. All realities are real: but the (higher) sanity’s reality is vaster, more curious, more vivdly experienced in all sectors, and more judiciously oredered.”

  • so that’s enough typing - you get the idea. There is more, on why a psychosis is 40-days long for example. And alot on the cosmic center, the psychic center, and it’s call for renewal and prevention of destruction. I thought it was so unusual a tone in psychiatry that it was worth typing up and posting.


1 Like

If it was just trauma, then so many people could be helped and cured. If mental health facilities were places where calm and uplifting environments were utilized. Not a bunch of padded rooms that look like prison cells. I don’t know how much the concept that it’s a brain imbalance or a hereditary illness has helped people suffering from these issues. Saying it’s a biological disease makes it sound like a cancer or some kind of pathogen that makes people get sicker and sicker.

I know someone whose been through a lot of trauma, and I can’t tell because he says half of the stuff he knows he makes up and half of the stuff he just says as if it’s true. Maybe half to get a reaction. But the stuff he’ll be talking about will make me feel uncomfortable.

I don’t latch onto delusions like that, but with my mom and other people-there’s a firm hold in their beliefs and they won’t let them go. Isn’t that a sign a poor coping skill for trauma? That’s the thing it mirrors trauma, but it’s different. Schizophrenia is not trauma related. Or are people making it to be bigger than it is, feeding off the negativity and darkness like a bad reality tv show?? I do think a major part of the recovery and prevention from schizophrenia has to do with not exposing someone to trauma.

1 Like

If it is childhood trauma, then how did I end up with it? I have a very kind and fairly stable family who hardly ever even raised their voice to me.

1 Like

It doesn’t necessarily have to be family abuse. It could also be a trauma like a house fire. Also, doing drugs can lead to it.

He’s a psychologist, so he isn’t so indebted to the pharmaceutical industry.

1 Like

Well I fit both. I had a near death experience and I was molested as a child, but schizophrenia runs in my family. I was diagnosed with a purely organic case, I was destined to be schizophrenic, I had the typical age of onset, all of that stuff.

I don’t believe in recovery without medication…that’s dangerous, the last thing we need is schizophrenics waiting to get better, not taking any meds…it doesn’t happen, that’s what I have been told in the classroom.

I think some authors just can’t compete with the overwhelming efficacy reports of antipsychotics. Clearly there are dopamine, serotonin and glutamate imbalances, or they drugs wouldnt work. I have taken honors upper division psych classes for three semesters and I have not heard a peep about alternative medicine getting any real status in the psychological community or APA.

I did hear about St. John’s wort being used with mild efficacy in treating depression, but that’s really it.

All in all, these books are probably detrimental to our well-being…there is a reason that antipsychotics are the go-to for treatment…they’re proven to work in studies before getting FDA approval.

I just think it’s nice to hear other opinions, but they’re often just going backwards and repeating the words of Freud and Jung.

hey the problem with those fda approved studies is it’s a black box theory of brain mind.
no idea what the drugs do, they say it seems to help people.
no proof of a chemical balance, all we are doing i think is sedating people,
and “just waiting” to get better; sedating never worked for me,
i push my mind toward madness; story above is about people that just push themselves the other way,
they don’t sit around waiting to get better, and they don’t just take drugs and wait to get better,
they drive their mental plasticity to where they want it to be.
that may or may not be consensual reality.

what they tell you in the classroom isn’t all there is for most people,
only for the camarilla who don’t really care about knowledge, who
only care about the opinion of those who have the resources you envy.

status in psychological community or APA not what we need,

we need a more open understanding of the purpose an placement of mind.

the overwhelming efficacy of the drugs is that after people get tired of being sedated,
we come off them, and we go back to our original selves.

not a chemical imbalance, cause when you take the drugs the body fights it,
quickly does up-regulating so that within a few days the drugs no longer have much effect,
and when you come off them the brain quickly down-regulates again, and you get back to the place you were before,
the “balanced” state that your brain remembers to come back to.
when i saw that i realized there’s no chemical imbalance,

when the pdoc pushes the meds across his desk toward me,
i say i’ll take em
\when you can explain how they are supposed to work
and what they are supposed to do,
which of course they can’t.

and so i push them back toward his side of the desk.


That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his own agenda. Psychologists are not adverse to wanting money and are going to push for non drug solutions so as to get more clients and make more money. Once they can prescribe themselves as part of treating then they won’t be so keen to rubbish medication.
Or put simply if psychologists replace psychiatrists then more money going into the pockets of psychologists.

All the scientific evidence suggests that its inaccurate and extreme to discount either approach - the psychological or the psychiatric approach (i.e. medications).

At the medical school that I live close to (one of the best in the country according to most rankings) - they teach both approaches for optimal outcomes. Its not “Either/or” its both.

And yes - both sides have their biases and their agendas (of course - the pharma industry has a lot, lot more money than the psychologists so that is the dialog that tends to dominate in this country / North America).

At the core - I think people in both professions really want to help people and are doing the best given their biases and knowledge.

The psychological approach does seem to get minimized so its good to read about it:


I don’t discount psychology . I agree it has a role to play. However i do get fed up with the simplistic psychiatry=bad psychology= good rhetoric pushed by those in the anti psychiatry camp.
I am just not sure of how power struggles between some psychiatrists and psychologists helps those with severe mental illness.

1 Like

Thanks for the article, @SzAdmin.