“It took me a long time to figure out that my delusions of grandeur were elaborate labyrinths hiding some terrible pain. Once I figured that out it took me even longer to learn how to use my delusions to built new spaces in the reality around me that other people could feel comfortable stepping into…”
Here’s a link to the journal (http://www.passingthroughjournal.com/) and the text below:
Your Way of Life is Totally Over
By Sascha Altman DuBrul
It took me a long time to figure out that my delusions of grandeur were elaborate labyrinths hiding some terrible pain.
Once I figured that out it took me even longer to learn how to use my delusions to built new spaces in the reality around me that other people could feel comfortable stepping into.
Or step into other people’s delusions of grandeur.
There is some kind of trick that involves dancing between worlds, holding both (or multiple) world’s dear, taking the right lessons and beautiful pieces with you, not getting too lost, making maps to the other side, knowing when to step back and forth, and who to talk to about it and when to just keep your mouth shut.
Now it’s all these years later and it’s like I see the psychic architecture around me when I squint my eyes right. I see other people’s delusions of grandeur and how I walk around them all day, in the form of skyscrapers and bridges and tunnels and all this concrete. I let myself get carried away in the intensity of star filled skies and crowds of people and the layers of history below these streets, all the dead people and their stories and all of the mystery out in the universe. I want to feel connected, I want to be a part of the grandeur, I want to play my part in the universal song. But one thing that’s crystal clear at this point:
The line between grandeur and delusion is usually power. Poor people get locked up in psych wards and rich people build their visions of how the world should be. And we’re all walking around with the psychic scraps of the powerful people’s culture in our heads.
In 2016 I work on a state run team of healers on the island of Manhattan, we go to people’s homes who are said to be struggling with psychosis, people that the state is concerned will hurt themselves or others. Yesterday I stepped into the mind of someone who thought the NSA was coming to kill him: everything was black tinted windows and significant sets of conspiracy numbers, powerful forces that were angry with him and coming to take his life. He was 19.
We sat in his dark, half-barracked mother’s apartment and it was my job was to try and help him or assess if he should be forced to go to the hospital and drugged.
And you know what? This guy felt like family to me, like one of my extended mad tribe. There was nothing scary about the way he talked or his hair trigger paranoid responses that were like little linguistic landmines in the room. I knew this territory. I knew this sleep deprivation that makes a little story so important while the rest of the world insignificantly fades away. I knew this secret because I’ve explored my own version so much I do it in my sleep now.
There was so much to say to this guy I kept to myself. But I couldn’t keep from feeling the joy of recognition and the knowledge that while most trained clinicians would say this guy has a serious mental illness, I know he has the keys to change the locks on the mental health system, and it’s my job to figure out how we do it together.
When I was 21 and just leaving an Earth First! road blockade at Warner Creek, and recently had been working in the Lacondon Jungle with the Zapatistas and riding freight trains all over Mexico and the south, I metJessica Erica Hahn and her friend Dan Nelson in a freight train yard in Eugene, Oregon and we rode a freight train to Oakland together through the Cascadia National Forest, standing on top of a grain car feeling the freest I’ve ever felt in the world. I will never forget it. Jessica and I have hardly seen each other since (that was 20 years ago!) but she asked me to write something really short for her online zine so I did and it’s here. I wrote about the mental health work I’m doing now and the dangerous power of big visions.
ps The title is a line from an Alice Donut Song