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writing for godot


Written by William M Erlbaum   
Tuesday, 02 January 2018 03:55
Psychiatry has failed to provide any evidence of the actual existence of hallucinations as that concept is defined.  It is circular reasoning to employ their existence to reify the existence of psychoses and then to employ psychoses to reify that of hallucinations.  Meanwhile, big pharma take in billions of dollars each year, marketing drugs to "treat" hallucinations.  See Irving Kirsch, THE EMPEROR'S NEW DRUGS.


The concept of "hallucinations" has been defined in a number of ways, including: "a sensory experience of something that does not exist outside the mind"; "an experience in which you see, hear, feel, or smell something that does not exist"; " a perception of visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or gustatory stimuli in the absence of any external objects or events and with a compelling sense of their reality"; "a sensation or sensory perception that a person experiences in the absence of a relevant external stimulus"; "something that someone sees or imagines that is not really there"; "the perception of an object or event (in any of the 5 senses) in the absence of an external stimulus"; and "sensations that appear to be real but are created within the mind. Examples include seeing things that are not there, hearing voices or other sounds, experiencing body sensations like crawling feelings on the skin, or smelling odors that are not there".

At bottom, then, hallucinations refer to experiences that seem real but are created by and within the mind and have no existence outside of the mind.

But do hallucinations actually exist?

Getting right into the thick of it, suppose a person experiences visual floaters and flashes, which, according to ophthalmology, occur in some older people and accompany vitreous contraction.  ["The vitreous is a clear, gel-like substance (think of a jellyfish) that fills about 80 percent of the inside of the eyeball"]. When that happens, neither the person's ophthalmologist, nor anybody else, experiences that person's floaters and flashes, although that person experiences them, and they are not hallucinations.  They have a demonstrable organic basis. They are a part of the person's experience, of the person's consciousness, something in the person's mind if you will, but the floaters and flashes do not exist outside of the mind.

Seeing floaters and flashes is a disturbing experience. If there were no such field as ophthalmology and no such concept as vitreous contraction, it might be suggested that it is an hallucination and that the person affected suffers from a mental disorder like schizophrenia or such.  While the rendering of such a diagnosis could not be excluded, it would be gratuitous, a non sequitur.

Likewise, my report that I heard my mother today - she died in 1977, or tasted the icing on the cake that was not present in the room, should not result in a finding that I have experienced an hallucination, because it could not reasonably be concluded that either my mother's voice, or the taste of the icing on the cake, was created by and within my mind and had not existed outside of my mind, as the definition of hallucination requires.  Extrinsic to my mind and in the real world of people, events, and objects, I would have had to have been taught the concept of "mother" and to have been introduced to my mother.  I would have had to have learned about voices and to have originally heard my mother's voice, learned the meaning of "icing" and of "cake", been introduced to the taste of icing, and to have remembered all of that, in order to have heard my mother today or to have tasted the icing.
Just as the physics principle, "the relativity of simultaneity", explains our perception "now" of a black hole originating in the remote past in a distant quasar 13 billion light years away (long since extinct), so my present, real time hearing of my long-deceased mother, or the taste of the icing on the cake not present in the room, did not originate in my mind, but presumably came from other times and places - therefor an experience failing to meet the required element of the definition of hallucination, that the experience be created within the mind and lack an external stimulus or referent.
Likewise, even terrifying experiences do not qualify as hallucinations, psychiatry having neglected to demonstrate that they lack an origin outside the beholder's mind, in the imagery provided by prior life events carried to the present by explicit or subliminal memories of that imagery.  Imagination is not hallucination.  What is lacking is a showing that those experiences fit the definition of hallucinations, painful, fearful,or disturbing as they may be.

The essence of my position is that ALL hallucinations are a figment of psychiatry, a myth.  Absent psychiatric evidence to the contrary, they are conceptually like all other experiences; there are not two kinds of experiences - hallucinatory and non-hallucinatory, and they do not originate in the mind but originate in the imagery provided by prior experiences in the real world and should not be differentiated from other experiences.  In content, each experience is uniquely different from all other experiences, may be coped with in different ways, may engender different behaviors, and thus may be experienced by the actor and by witnesses in different ways.
By way of illustration, the sexual encounter of an adolescent boy with a female resulting in a nocturnal emission, is a “real” experience even though there is nobody present but the youth himself alone in his bed, clad in his wet pajamas, during the entire episode, just as hearing my dead mother is a “real” experience; likewise tasting the icing on the cake that is not there; likewise seeing the extinct quasar - all of these are members of the single class of things called EXPERIENCES, and none of these provide a legitimate occasion for pathologizing human experiences, even though some experiences are quite upsetting and engender behavior that is disturbing to observers.

Noting, again, that by definition hallucinations require that they be created by and within the mind and have no external stimulus or referent outside of the mind, and coupling that with the lack of psychiatric evidence that any experiences have ever fulfilled those conditions, we are left with the reality that the existence of hallucinations has not been established.  The use of technical psychiatric jargon, buzzwords, or other word magic fails to bridge that gap.  The shortfall is one of substance and not one of form.  Psychiatric verbigeration which seeks to pathologize human upset and disturbing behavior, only begs the question and constitutes tendentiousness.

The question [Why I heard my dead mother today?], or [Why I tasted the icing on the absent cake?] presents an interesting subject for analysis and investigation.  Absent psychiatric evidence, however, invoking the concept of hallucination, remains a figment of psychiatric wishful thinking, introduces intellectual contamination, and gratuitously employs mythology to support the existence of schizophrenia or the like.  See Thomas S. Szasz, SCHIZOPHRENIA: THE SACRED SYMBOL OF PSYCHIATRY.  As with the spurious use in physics of luminiferous ether, that of the fantasized existence of hallucination, only muddies the waters.
-Adjunct Professor of Law, Brooklyn Law School;
-Justice, New York State Supreme Court (retired) your social media marketing partner

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