Schizophrenia: The Positive Perspective : Explorations at the Outer Reaches of Human Experience

Schizophrenia: The Positive Perspective : Explorations at the Outer Reaches of Human Experience

Schizophrenia: The Positive Perspective : Explorations at the Outer Reaches of Human Experience

Schizophrenia: The Positive Perspective : Explorations at the Outer Reaches of Human Experience


This fully revised second edition of Schizophrenia: The Positive Perspective uses biographical sketches and essays to discuss schizophrenia and related conditions, providing advice on methods of coping, routes to growth, recovery and well-being, and how schizophrenia can be viewed in a positive light. It also explores the insights of R.D. Laing and discusses how they can be applied to contemporary ideas and research.

In this expanded edition Peter Chadwick, a previous sufferer, builds on his earlier edition and introduces new topics including:

  • Cannabis smoking and schizophrenia.
  • Psychoanalytic approaches to psychosis and their extension into the spiritual domain.
  • Using cognitive behaviour therapy in the treatment of profound existential distress.
  • How experiences on the edge of madness can be relevant to understanding reality.

Schizophrenia: The Positive Perspective encourages hope, confidence and increased self-esteem in schizophrenia sufferers and raises new questions about how schizophrenia should be evaluated. It is important reading for anyone working with schizophrenic people including psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and other mental health professionals.


In each of us there is a little of all of us.

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799)

Schizophrenia is a uniquely human disorder and therefore studying it does not so much tell us about a set of aberrant processes in a small, categorically different group of people, it tells us about our very humanity. To suffer from schizophrenia is to be human. This is partly because vulnerability to it is associated also with the workings of the creative process, with language, high sensitivity and imaginativeness generally and in many instances with enhanced spiritual sensitivity and empathy. We could not eliminate schizophrenia as we can eliminate smallpox without doing serious and irreversible damage to our species. Sadly it tends to be psychiatric and residential social workers, day centre staff, nurses and community workers who see this vital positive side to the schizophrenia sufferer rather than professionals and laboratory-based researchers in psychiatry and abnormal psychology. When the former speak, as they do, of sufferers’ ‘uncanny sensitivity’, ‘frightening empathy’ and of how sometimes it is possible to have relationships with schizophrenia sufferers that are far deeper than those they have with so-called ‘normal’ people, we are dealing with things that are usually outside of the beam cast by investigators in empirical science.

In this short preface I wish briefly to outline the broad conceptual basis of my approach to this issue and show the theoretical foundations of this text. This preface also will give me a chance to reveal my attitude and stance, to show in which general direction my will is oriented and how I feel emotionally towards this domain of human life.

The research I have pursued on this topic over the last three decades has been done largely within the tradition begun by Meehl (1962, 1973) which argues for a genetic predisposition in the sufferers (‘schizotaxia’) producing the so-called ‘schizotaxic brain’ and which in life and development eventuates in a certain personality organisation, the most common usually referred to as ‘schizotypal personality’. This tradition in Britain (Claridge, 1988, 1990, 1997) sees schizophrenia, like hypertension, as a systemic problem with a genetic basis that eventuates in illness under stress and the stresses induced by a certain lifestyle. The genetic basis for schizophrenia, although complex, is now a field of increasing optimism (Cardno and Gottesman, 2000; Arranz et al., 2000; Riley et al., 2003; Kalidindi and Murray, 2004) and there is no evidence that environmental factors alone can cause the illness in a person genetically unrelated to a schizophrenia sufferer. However, there also is no doubt that nurture contributes to the emergence of this illness (Tienari, 1991; Tienari et al., 1994; Cullberg, 2001) and that modifying the environment to which a sufferer returns is vitally important in preventing relapse (Goldstein et al., 1978; Hogarty and Anderson, 1986; Tarrier et al., 1994). Early intervention with people who are showing signs of the disorder is an integral area of research in which education of families and the public, in what to look for, is important (Birchwood et al., 1992; Birchwood, 2000).

There is now no justification for a return to 1960s attitudes to the effect that ‘families cause schizophrenia’. I suffered a schizoaffective psychotic crisis myself in 1979 and the . . .

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