Schizophrenia: The Positive Perspective : in Search of Dignity for Schizophrenic People

Schizophrenia: The Positive Perspective : in Search of Dignity for Schizophrenic People

Schizophrenia: The Positive Perspective : in Search of Dignity for Schizophrenic People

Schizophrenia: The Positive Perspective : in Search of Dignity for Schizophrenic People


Schizophrenic people are often in the news, usually because of behaviour that alarms and outrages the ordinary citizen. But that isn't the whole story. Those who work closely with schizophrenic patients often report that they seem to have extra perceptions, 'frightening empathy' or 'uncanny sensitivity' alongside the negative aspects of the condition.Peter Chadwick, who has himself suffered from the illness, presents fascinating studies of some schizophrenic-prone people with whom he has worked. Using autobiography, biography and psychometric and experimetnal methods, he reveals areas of enhanced functioning and argues for a much more positive picture of the schizophrenic mind. He raises important questions, such as whether schizophrenia should really be viewed as an illness that we want to eradicate, or does it instead actually endow its sufferers with valuable qualities we should be nurturing?


Most stereotypes and clichés are Kiplingian traps for fools. As anyone at the pen-and-ink end of the communications industry knows: if you can't live, you can't write. As anyone at the 'chalk face' of education can tell you: if you can't do, you can't teach. The same disdain is deserved for the age-old cliché: 'Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad'. A saying more likely to spread prejudice against the seriously mentally ill it is difficult to imagine.

It is quite another thing, however, to claim that madness does not exist. Indeed it resists all efforts to politicise it away and remains one of the greatest and most intractable enigmas of our world. It is also an enigma that deserves recognition and study—and respect in itself as something other than merely a pale shadow of something else.

It is important in appreciating this challenge, however, that first we concede that the human body-mind has limits. There are certain acts: the James Bulger and Dunblane killings; the Holocaust; the Boston Strangler murders that are, for example, so horrific that somehow one cannot feel the feeling that we intuit is appropriate to them. They are 'beyond the outer limits of feeling'. Language too can fail not only mystics but even the most gifted of writers—Oscar Wilde, to take but one example, was speechless on the event of his mother's death (de Profundis, p. 186 in Hart-Davis 1989). But sanity too has its boundaries, the transgression of which is recognised in all cultures (Murphy 1976; World Health Organisation 1973, 1979). This book is about the exploration of that transition zone where sanity can grade as easily into insanity as into supersanity. This is a book, however, about the positive characteristics of people at that boundary and, to be more specific, is centrally about those who actually suffer, or are prone to suffer, that collection of illnesses loosely known as 'schizophrenia'.

Rather than concentrating on those aspects of the psychology and physiology of schizophrenic people that reveal deficits (e.g. Weinberger et al. 1986; Cutting and Murphy 1988; Morice 1990; Braun et al. 1991; Saykin et al. 1991; Baltaxe and Simmons 1995; Wada et al. 1995; Morice

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