Open letter from a mother in recovery

The thing we call “Mental Health” system so often clamps its iron jaws around us – disabling not just the person given the diagnosis but also their entire family. The effect can be devastating, and it often takes a decade or more before the people caught in the trap realise its not working for them and they need to find different way.

This is an open letter from a mother who wanted us to share what finding the hearing voices movement has meant to her. It’s pretty much as it first came out at 4am. I’d asked, the previous day, if there was something she would like to share from her experience.

It has been edited – lightly –  to protect identities.

Q. What has finding The Hearing Voices Movement meant for you? 

Meeting you, and other people who live well with voices, liberated me from the tyranny of the story I’d been fed and believed – about illness and leaving it to the professionals – and allowed me to see my daughter as “normal” and capable of recovery. A lot of harm was caused by my own misguided actions and the trauma inflicted on us by the people who were supposed to be helping us.

I felt like my adult daughter’s keeper, the long arm of the law, coercing her into taking the hated prescription drugs, getting her to appointments, calling the ambulance, waiting for hours in rundown waiting rooms for regularly scheduled ten minute appointments where concerns were dismissed, no one seemed to get well, and the only thing on offer were hospital time and drug “adjustments”.

I watched my beautiful daughter restrained, put into isolation, locked up and drugged against her will. I was told that it would prevent her condition from getting worse, becoming permanent. I tried to convince her it was for the best. The doctors wouldn’t speak with me. Nurses gave conflicting information. 

I thought I was fighting for my daughter’s life.

I saw her develop facial tics, lose her hair, put on weight, lose too much weight, then put it on again. I saw her stop menstruating, bleed from her breasts, lose her balance, coordination, develop tremors, shortness of breath, heart palpitations. She wore sweaters in the summer, went barefoot in the cold. She couldn’t cry. She stopped cleaning and looking after herself. She quit school, lost jobs, then stopped trying. She vomited, often. She got pneumonia, drank too much beer, coffee..started chain-smoking. I got conflicting information about drugs and their side-effects from pharmacists and doctors.

It was horrifyingly painful to watch and to endure alongside her.

But I stayed, alongside her, walked with her, swam, shopped, biked with her. Took her on trips, registered her for courses, college, yoga training, dance classes & massage therapy. Helped her put together cvs, helped her look for jobs, drove her to private therapy appointments. Intervened with family, who were often cruel, took her out to dinner, on holidays, helped her fill out forms, she was always losing things, her purse, ID..stuff..buying things she couldn’t afford..

Mostly, I worried.

I took the brunt of my daughter’s anger and the frustration of other family members who held me responsible, blamed me for not taking better care of my daughter, called me a bad, neglectful mother, an overprotective mother. Mostly they abandoned us, or seemed indifferent or unaware or fearful or busy or…..

When I could I researched and sought out help, kept records, there were stacks of books and papers, notes everywhere, lists of phone numbers, potential resources, counselling for me and my husband.

“Trust the professionals,” they said.

I coerced her into expensive specialized private rehabs, twice. She witnessed a suicide at the last one and, when her voices became apparent, they upped her drugs. None of the promised services or aftercare materialized. 

Her voices were never addressed, except as symptoms to be dreaded.

I moved her in and out of apartments, dealt with irate roommates and landlords, covered expenses, replaced things that went missing…on and calamity after another.

I was unable to sleep or focus. I lost weight. I was in severe emotional pain, it felt like a death in the family, the death of a child, but unacknowledged. I became socially isolated, saw no way out of grueling pain and unrelenting grief, a sense of hopelessness, hell on earth.

When I realised I needed support, needed to be part of a support community I was told I couldn’t  join one group.  The reason they gave: “you are not the affected one”.

This all happened at a time in my life when, after a lifetime of taking care of others, I was excited and looking forward to time for myself and for my husband.  I was going through menopause while helping to look after aging parents who became ill, were in and out of hospital, then died. I got angry calls because I wasn’t doing enough for my parents, was being too selfish. My husband had several serious health issues as well…

So I wrote, took pictures, did improv and monologues. I learned to sing and play guitar. I started performing, and jamming and then I met you, and realized that trusting the experts and believing that story of illness and the drug fix was a BIG FUCKING MISTAKE and I wasn’t afraid anymore.

I got my life back.


There is so much untold story here, a lot of sleepless nights, slamming doors, unscheduled rescue flights, drunken brawls, I’m getting stressed out just thinking about it…vitamin therapy, food allergy therapy…you name it, we tried it..and then there was my whole fucked-up stressed-out life before I met my husband, and before my daughter’s first hospitalization. Okay, need to slow down, read my book, try to nod off for a bit..thanks for asking.

After afterthought:

I’m torn about sharing…mostly because I don’t want to risk hurting the people I love (or them hurting me…ouch) but also because I want to focus my attention on the present and all the great progress we’re making now that we’ve left that behind us. I mean, once I realized that people can and do live well with voices and that recovery is possible, the voices ceased to be the problem, and the healing process began. The people who hurt me were likely well-intentioned and/or clueless (I know I was) and I’m not mad anymore but, maybe by sharing my story, others will be encouraged to tell their story, and things will start to here goes..

a mother in recovery.

Posted in Emancipate yourself..., family, Healing, Learning, my story, sh!t is f#cked | Tagged | 5 Comments

Toronto Hearing Voices Group

HV Group Toronto 2016

We start our 7th Year in September 2016. In a new Place.
We’re grateful to Houselink for use allowing us of their space to find our feet, and for offering us a new space to grow…

We’re moving !
More accessible. More More.

805 Bloor St. West

TTC: Christie Station.

You don’t need a referral – because we don’t take them.

What we mean by Hearing Voices
We hear voices you don’t- voices you might think are not there to be heard.

  • 75% Three-in-four humans will hear a voice no one else does at least once- often around challenging life events, llike los sof a loved one
  • 50% of people in long term marriage heard, saw, otherwise sensed eth presence of their deceased spouse 
  • 22% of young people
  • About 10% of all people hear voices regularly
  • Two thirds of people who hear voices never need seek help- they find the experience valuable, useful, even enjoy it o manage to find it help them in their work- eg many writers do.
  • Two thirds of world leaders at the Quebec Conference did 
  • Even 38% of Doctors do it…

In fact, if you don’t then maybe you’re missing out.

As for those who struggle…

  • About 80% have experience adverse experiences like abuse neglect, bullying in their youth
  • A person given a diagnosis of “psychosis” is fifteen times more likely to have been abused as a child than a person with no psychiatric diagnosis.


sh!t is f#ckedThe last two alone suggest how much this Sh!t is f#cked .

…and how much we need find our compassion.

Difficult voices always make sense in context of the life of the person who hears them- so long as we make time and allow ourselves to really listen.

Hearing Voices is not just about “voices…
If you sometimes hear voices, hear other things, see things, smell things, feel things, think things that others don’t and when you try to talk top them about it they get their freak in, then give us a try because we do to.

We talk about “hearing voices” because it’s descriptive of the most common of the kind of experiences that get called names like “psychosis”. I hear voices [you don’t], its that simple.
It also tends to be the one that scares more people shitless so they want to control and treat us like crap because they do.

Why do some people struggle? people who feel disempowered by their experience of voices are often disempowered in other aspects of their life. If we work on those, the voices can change. if we work with our voices, it can get easier to change things in our life we need and want to change.

if you hear voices...If you want to come, come.If you’re only coming because someone else told you to come, then try asking them
“say, have you realised how much you  sound like a ‘command hallucination’?”

We’re totally non medical, non-diagnostic.
We’re a full charter hearing voices group –
for voice hearers
by voice hearers,
of voice hearers.





teh voices are realThe voices are real

The voices are real
– as real as real gets.

We know that you don’t make ’em up
and we know it can be a pain in the ass. 

We also know it can be valuable and funny and sad and insightful and scary and everything else that life can be.

If you’re struggling we can share some stuff that you can try – some is really simple, some bloody hard, some might work for you, some might not.

You can, if you want-  change what you experience.

Tthe hardest thing...he Hardest Thing…

The hardest thing people who hear voices have to deal with…Our Hearing Voices group is one place you can find we don’t treat each other that way…

We choose not to …
use diagnostic or medical language
tell you what’s wrong with you, what to call yourself,  or who you are 

We choose instead … 
to listen
to share what works for us, how we make sense of our own experience
we envision a society that understandsWe envision and enact a society that understands voice hearing, supports the needs of individuals who hear voices and views them as full citizens.
This type of society is not only possible it is already on its way.


We believe all  human experience is meaningful and understandable – if only we make time to listen, and to figure out what it means to us.

We believe the hearing voices approach is emancipatory… 

Emancipatory for people who hear voices…

If I hear voices they are “my” voices: mine bemancipateecause it’s…

  • me who gets to hear them
  • me who gets to choose what they mean to me  
  • me who gets to choose what I do about what they say



Emancipatory for people who support loved ones who who hear voices and emancipatory for workers and clinicians too…

seriously-folksFree yourself from the nonsense that says the people you care about hear voices because they haven’t taken enough tablets,   or had enough chemicals injected into their buttcheeks,
that they cant do anything for themselves, and that that your role is confined to sneaking around their back and checking up on them.

Hearing Voices is not about “mental illness”
Hearing Voices is not about “mental illness” – whatever that is.
It’s not even really about illness.

It is a global emancipatory human rights movement, in 35 countries on all continents…
but mostly it’s about being human.

Heck, Canada even has a voice hearing former Prime Minister on its money…

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I can’t stand up for falling down – Elvis Costello

i cant stand upI can’t stand up for falling down
I can’t stand up for falling down


“I Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down”

I’m the living result
I’m a man who’s been hurt a little too much
And I’ve tasted the bitterness of my own tears
Sadness is all my lonely heart can feelI can’t stand up for falling down
I can’t stand up for falling down

Simple though love is
Still it confused me
Why I’m not loved the way I should be
Now I’ve lived with heartaches
And I’ve roomed with fear
I’ve dealt with despair
And I’ve wrestled with tears

I can’t stand up for falling down
I can’t stand up for falling down

The vow that we made
You broke it in two
But that don’t stop me from loving you

I can’t stand up for falling down
I can’t stand up for falling down

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Retreat! – Sharon Jones




I see you coming from a mile away
And you’re looking real cocky
You think you can keep the sea at bay
But it’s about to get mmm choppy
Play with me and you play with fire
I can make you pay
I’ll burn you up if it’s my desire
Do you hear what I say?
Boy you don’t know what I’m all about
I’ll chew you up and then I’ll spit you out
So if you know what’s good for you

Retreat yeah
Step back boy ’cause you can’t fix crazy
Retreat, Retreat, yeah
Raise your wife at night cause I’m comin’ in blazin’
Retreat, ’cause it’s my way baby
And I don’t care none about the rest of you
That’s what I say baby
And I don’t care if it makes sense to you

Taking you apart is my kind of fun
I count to three and you better run
One, two, three
Here I come

Retreat, yeah

Hell hath no furry like a woman scorned
Retreat retreat
I will make you wish you was never ever born
Retreat, retreat yeah
What a fool you’d be to take me on
Retreat yeah come one
Come on
Retreat, yeah
Hell hath no furry like a woman scorned
Retreat retreat
I will make you wish you was never ever born
Retreat, retreat yeah
What a fool you’d be to take me on
Retreat yeah come one
Come on
Come on
You know you can’t fix things
I’m coming in blazing

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What meditation really is – John Kabat Zinn

John Kabat Zinn shares his ideas on what meditation really is.

I have a lot of different responses to that question…

living you rlife as if it really mattersI would say that meditation is living your life as if it really matters.
and that means you gotta be here for it
with awareness
and a certain degree of kindness
towards one’s self.

and an understanding of
the deep connected-ness
of all life
and all being.

The first foundation
of mindfulness
is the body
so that’s
a wonderful
place to start.

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likely the effects of a particularly powerful psychological trauma…

the effects of a particularly powerful trauma

“may well be the effects of  particularly powerful psychological trauma”

These are the words of Eugene Bleuler when he first coined the term “schizophrenia” as a way of naming and understanding what he had been observing in patients in his care who had already been deemed without hope.

It is interesting how in the hundred years since the institutions of what has come to me termed  “mental health” have ignored and brushed aside the first part of this understanding and taken the second part directly to heart.

One hundred years on, the mercilessly constructed story that so pervades our culture now has it that “particularly sensitive individuals” have become de-human- ised and cast into the zone of non-humans as biologically defective wretched of the earth: “the mentally-ill”. Further, that what they experience is not “particularly powerful trauma” but the effects of their weakness deemed as some biological deficiency.

It is interesting how with only one hundred years of telling it that story has become so powerful that it has come to colonise our understanding of ourselves.  This systematically constructed lofty edifice of lies serves to deny what people like Charcot, Bleuler, Freud, and many others had been bringing to the fore a hundred years and more ago and that research is now demonstrating as undeniable fact.

Life experiences [can] leave us deeply wounded.
If we want to reduce serious mental illness then we must seriously address not just the effects of being wounded by our experiences but of the harm done by institutions institutions of psychiatry and those allied to it have for over a hundred years now, been part of systematically denying and reflecting from that, serving to protect those most culpable and blame those most vulnerable.

Trauma means wound.

Psychological trauma- a term first used by William James only three years before Bleuler incorporated it into his understanding  –  leaves us with Thorns in The Spirit.

The shit that happened is the shit that happened – so long as we continue to deny the harm caused by adverse experiences, we dehumanise those who most need our support and compassion so they can heal.

Bleuer and others intuited it a hundred years ago. We now, and for some time have known, that around 80% of people diagnosed with that cluster of life sentences called “serious mental illness”  have experienced serious adverse experiences in early years.

It is time to stop hiding the truth so we can find more compassionate ways of supporting those who have suffered long enough from the thorns left in their spirit.

Shifting our understanding of trauma away from our current concept of trauma as event – who did what – to an understanding trauma as the effect left within us, can help us be more open to  finding paths to understanding how wounds from any of life’s experiences can affect us.

From there we can begin to better enable and support people to find healing.


Posted in Emancipate yourself..., Trauma | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

American Idiot – Green Day


Don’t want to be an American idiot.
One nation controlled by the media.
Information age of hysteria.
It’s calling out to idiot America.

American Idiot

Don’t wanna be an American idiot.
Don’t want a nation under the new mania
And can you hear the sound of hysteria?
The subliminal mind fuck America.

Welcome to a new kind of tension.
All across the alienation.
Where everything isn’t meant to be okay.
Television dreams of tomorrow.
We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow.
For that’s enough to argue.

Well maybe I’m the faggot America.
I’m not a part of a redneck agenda.
Now everybody do the propaganda.
And sing along to the age of paranoia.

Welcome to a new kind of tension.
All across the alienation.
Where everything isn’t meant to be okay.
Television dreams of tomorrow.
We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow.
For that’s enough to argue.

Don’t want to be an American idiot.
One nation controlled by the media.
Information age of hysteria.
It’s calling out to idiot America.

Welcome to a new kind of tension.
All across the alienation.
Where everything isn’t meant to be okay.
Television dreams of tomorrow.
We’re not the ones who’re meant to follow.
For that’s enough to argue.

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someday we’ll know – new radicals

someday we'll know

I bought a ticket to the end of the rainbow

I watched the stars crash into the sea




Ninety miles outside Chicago
Can’t stop driving
Don’t know why
So many questions
I need an answer
Two years later you’re still on my mind
What ever happened to Amelia Earhart
Who holds the stars up in the sky
Is true love once in a lifetime
Did the captain of the titanic cry

Someday we’ll know
If love can move a mountain
Someday we’ll know
Why the sky is blue
Someday we’ll know
Why I wasn’t meant for you

Does anybody know the way to Atlantis
Or what the wind says when she cries
I’m speeding by the place that I met you
For the ninety seventh time tonight

Someday we’ll know
If love can move a mountain
Someday we’ll know
Why the sky is blue
Someday we’ll know
Why I wasn’t meant for you

Someday we’ll know
Why Sampson loved Delilah
One day I’ll go
Dancing on the moon
Someday you’ll know
That I was the one for you
I bought a ticket to the end of the rainbow
I watched the stars crash into the sea
If I could ask God just one question
Why aren’t you here with me

Someday we’ll know
If love can move a mountain
Someday we’ll know
Why the sky is blue
Someday we’ll know
Why I wasn’t meant for you
Why Sampson loved Delilah
One day I’ll go
Dancing on the moon
Someday you’ll know
That I was the one for you

Seeing you in February was great
Cliches all come true ‘time heals all wounds’
I went to get us our ninth drink
And you ran out the door with another guy
I woke up on the floor with my shoes on
A smile on my face and I didn’t even care

Written by Gregg Alexander, Danielle Brisebois, Debra Holland • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc
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I am amazed by the strength of the human spirit and never give up hope

Lucy Johnstone walks us through a day in her life working as clinical psychologist on a community mental health team in an area of great social depravation.

She explains how, rather than simply hand them a list of symptom to check off, in order to reduce the process to, as John Read says: “picking a name and choosing a colour” they work by listening, seeking to  understand a person’s distress in context of their whole life;  to come up with ways of making sense of their distress as normal response to the life challenges they face; and suggest ways to move forward.

Often it’s easy to understand why a person is struggling, sometimes it’s more complex and takes more time and more of the team to share their perspective before it starts to make sense.

It’s often quite easy to see why someone might be low in mood, or panicky, or hearing voices telling them they are worthless.

Sometimes the reasons are less obvious,…

However it manifests within  an individual, human struggle and distress always makes sense in context of whole life experiences. if only we take time to listen and open our mind to what we might hear, we can understand.

‘Just because somebody says something that doesn’t make sense, that does not mean they’re crazy. It  means we’re not smart enough to understand”
V.J. Ramachandran

Guardian, Fri 31, Oct 2014

Lucy-Johnstone-012I am amazed by the strength of the human spirit and never give up hope

In her job as a clinical psychologist based in an area of high social deprivation, Lucy Johnstone hears some harrowing stories

Lucy Johnstone

Every day as I drive to work, I know I am going to hear some truly harrowing stories.

I’m a clinical psychologist working in a community mental health team. The first task, if it is a Thursday, is making possible the weekly meeting where we take an in-depth look at the reasons for a particular client’s breakdown. We spend about an hour sharing our thoughts, feelings and knowledge of the evidence, and this enables us to summarise our ideas about the possible reasons for the client’s current distress.

A typical person might have been bullied, neglected or abused as a child; subjected to domestic violence as an adult; and now be on benefits and struggling to feed and clothe their children.

It’s often quite easy to see why someone might be low in mood, or panicky, or hearing voices telling them they are worthless. Sometimes the reasons are less obvious, and we arrange to meet again once we know the client better. There are rarely simple solutions, but by checking our ideas with the client, we can usually come up with a tentative explanation that clarifies the meaning of their distress, normalises their reactions, recognises their strengths, and suggests some ways forward.

We are based in an area of high social deprivation, and many people’s difficulties are augmented by long-term unemployment, poverty and lack of resources. Merthyr Tydfil, just up the road, is often cited as having one of the highest rates of anti-depressant prescribing in the UK. It’s an unhelpful stereotype for a close community with many strengths. There’s lots of good work going on: for example, a pioneering mental health project offering a range of walk-in classes and groups has just been set up.

No one in the team stops for lunch, but sharing an open plan office allows for plenty of informal discussion during the day. I can check whether anyone has been in contact with a client who didn’t keep her appointment with me, or give some thoughts about someone else’s client who may be in crisis.

In the afternoon I see clients for individual therapy. Many of them are multiply traumatised, and it can take months for them to build up enough trust to reveal their most terrifying secrets. Demand for therapy far outstrips supply, and there is constant pressure to keep the psychology waiting list within reasonable limits. I am constantly amazed by the strength of the human spirit, and I never give up hope for someone’s recovery.

Clinical psychologists are often sceptical about the language of diagnosis and illness. From my perspective, people haven’t had the misfortune to develop schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or personality disorder in addition to their other struggles. Rather, they are experiencing understandable reactions to their life circumstances. The core role of a clinical psychologist is to promote this kind of sense-making within teams. Some degree of tension between these viewpoints is common in psychiatry. In day-to-day clinical work, the most important thing is to come up with a workable consensus. I’ve found this easier to achieve here than in some previous jobs, and I feel we work well together as a team. Perhaps the local demographics make it more obvious that people generally have pretty good reasons for breaking down. I wish the media, whose reports on mental health are often infuriatingly ill-informed, could grasp these points as well.

Every day as I drive home, I have to find a way of putting the day’s stories behind me. Like most mental health professionals, I find this has become easier with practice. The trick is to maintain the ability to empathise and listen without despairing or becoming overwhelmed yourself. By the time I greet my family, I have usually succeeded in putting the working day to rest.

Lucy Johnstone is the author of A straight talking introduction to psychiatric diagnosis

Original here

Posted in hearing voices, Ideas, life, making sense of "mental illlness", mental illness? or... | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

One-in-three people suffer paranoia induced by researchers with clipboards on subway

third of brits









DrKen PlaceboFrom our Placebo Psychiatry Correspondent

DrKen Placebo


As  my mentor, Dr Stanley Unwin said:
ooH!  Frabjous, frabjous Joy!
Enfoldiwold manifestunfoldywoldy.

Article published in Brexit Journal of Pigeon Pokers:  BJP Article
Telegraph:                                                                                  British population highly paranoid

A crack team of  crack cognitive psychology researchers took a break from torturing pigeons to show us how much they know about an infinitesimally tiny corner of the universe and to demonstrate  the validity of using virtual reality as a valid way to elicit paranoid responses .

Like d’oh! have they never been on facebook? 

The team snagged, like, two-hundred victims and subjected them to immersion in a VR-world that simulated riding on London underground with a bunch of “droogs” n “characters” they’d invented.

Two thirds of victims responded in ways that had them ticking boxes like at ticky-box thing on ticky-box diagnostic questionnaires like some pigeon-in-a-Peter-piper-picked- -peck-of-Paranoic-pokemon-pepper-pig-poke thing.

Hence the headline: “Two Thirds of Brits Paranoid”.
You can watch the price of drug company shares go up with every click on that clicktastic clickbait.

Victims were subject to a barrage of nineteen  “measurement instruments” – questionnaires to you and me – in order for the crack-team of po-faced wise-cracking crack-researchers to determine if people were paranoid, fake paranoid or pigeons – including one that tested for the kind of weird-n-wonky perceptual wibblies known to arise from having been immersed into VR world .

Shame they didn’t include a measuring instrument for testing susceptibility to persecutory thoughts brought about by being observed by an army of clipboards-r-us psychonauts armed with a mountain of of cognitive questionnaires.

Like, that’d never leave you feeling like the people are watching you are a bit too creepy for your liking.

Funny how they spend money on this shit and don’t even give out free pens
– unless, of course they have a drug company’s name on em.

Come on, they din’t even ask folks the most interesting questions, like:

  • Would you feel more creeped out travelling on our fake VR creepster Tube,  or on the real London Underground?
  • Who’s creepier, the dudes in the VR or the researchers asking you these questions?
  • Add your own favourite [here]…

Note: clipboards-r-us is a registered trademark.

Please note we don’t recommend anything, anytime – but certainly don’t recommend riding the subway staring at people with your clipboard and ticking boxes.
…at least not unless you got free stuff to hand out.

“You cant do science on this stuff”- 
Well,  that’s just not true.
We can “do science” on anything.
We just need smarter scientists and smarter researchers.

Paranoia,  here,  is defines as “any unreasonable fear.”
Well let’s see now, how “scientific” is that?

Unreasonable to whom? from what perspective, in what context?
and in context of who’s life experiences?

This is the kind of “science” that relies upon “because I say so”.
In the same way that it used to rely upon “my god is bigger than your god”

That’s not science that’s anti-science – using power to draw a veil of ‘science” to bully people.

“Paranoia” always makes sense from a human experience perspective- it’s jusy that to understand we need look beyond the end of the average researchers nose.

Want a better way to make sense of paranoia?

The image is from a TEDx Talk by Jim Van Os, where he’s illustrating how the list of what are regarded as “symptoms” of a larger “illness” or some other “problem” we call “psychosis” and “paranoia” are actually everyday experiences – and how between one-third and two-thirds of us are experiencing at least one, right now.

His explanation of that kind of experience that we can all have and which gets called “paranoia” makes much more sense than the nebulous nether regions these researchers are poking around in to justify getting more grants so they can go freak more people out on the subway. I suggest they stop poking folks and join these folks.
Jim van Os and his team have a much more useful way to use technology too….…/connecting-to-madness-jim-van-os/

Posted in Crazy World, Emancipate yourself..., Ideas, sh!t is f#cked | Leave a comment