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Experts seek to learn from madness

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firemonkee57

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Mar 23, 2009
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On display in a museum in Heidelberg is a curious jacket created by a patient who spent her adult life locked up inside a mental asylum in the late 1800s. Intricately woven patterns and words were sewn from five colors of threads gathered from scraps of hospital gowns by seamstress Agnes Richter, a "common lunatic" in the parlance of her day. In "Agnes's Jacket: A Psychologist's Search for the Meanings of Madness," Gail A. Hornstein, a professor of

psychology at Mount Holyoke College, finds a rich metaphor for the conundrum of madness. She thinks Agnes was stitching a diary of sorts from within her madhouse walls.

Beyond the design that has puzzled art historians for generations is a powerful reminder that the mad may be trying to tell us something. Ms. Hornstein's book battles the assumption within mainstream psychology that they lack insight into their condition. Based on evidence in Europe, where people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia are reclaiming their lives by the tens of thousands, Ms. Hornstein presents a new model for treating those who hear voices and talk back to them.

Their voices, known as auditory hallucinations, are the chief symptom of schizophrenia, a condition affecting 1 percent of the world's population. These oracular observations may be as incomprehensible as the nonsense words in the Heidelberg jacket, but the success stories in Europe have Ms. Hornstein convinced that they should be major source material for psychologists.

"Just because their voices are difficult to decipher does not mean we shouldn't try to make them out," she said in a September interview. "The belief has been that they have no business talking about their voices, but the notion that we have nothing to learn from these people strikes me as very wrong."


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Apotheosis

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"Just because their voices are difficult to decipher does not mean we shouldn't try to make them out," she said in a September interview. "The belief has been that they have no business talking about their voices, but the notion that we have nothing to learn from these people strikes me as very wrong."
How true - Good article - Thank you.
 
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