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Henrik Unné

Any advice for my book?

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I am working on a book about the role of philosophy in forming men´s psychologies. I have started the writing. So far I have written about 27 pages, roughly half of chapter 1. I estimate that the finished book will be at least 300 pages. I have the ambition of writing a book that will be read by, primarily, mental health professionals. The book will take my own psychosis as being an example that bad philosophic ideas can, in exteme cases, cause psychoses. That will be a pretty dramatic illustration of the power of philosophy (albeit a negative one). The ultimate lesson of the book will be that volition and philosophy are the 2 factors that, fundamentally, determine the course of every man´s life.

I have a pretty good idea of how the book will be structured. I wonder if the rest of you here on the Forum would comment on whether my planned structure is sound, and if it can be improved?

My basic idea is to start the book with a challenge to the reader. I will tell the reader, that I was afflicted by schizophrenia when I was a teenager, and that I believe that the cause of my psychosis was primarily the bad philosophic ideas that I was taught during childhood. I will say that many readers may find that idea implausible. I will then tell the reader that they can read the first chapter of the book, which will be a detailed account of my life, but without any philosophic commentary, and I will challenge the reader to try to explain the genesis of my psychosis, by whatever theories that *he* currently believes in. I do not think that the conventional theories provide a very good explanation for the genesis of psychoses, and that the reader, therefore will have trouble explaining my psychosis with the conventional theories. I will then state that after the first chapter, I will explain how bad philosophy, in my opinion, caused my psychosis. I will state that after reading my book, the reader who believes in conventional theories of the causes of psychoses, will, hopefully, find that my hypothesis explains the concrete circumstances of my life and my psychosis, better than the conventional theories.

This way, I hope to make my hypothesis at least plausible, by means of induction. If you want some idea of how I intend to do this, you can read my essay, that is posted here in the Psychology section "The Causes of My Schizophrenia".

Here is my current plan for what chapters the book will have:

1) A factual account of the events in my life, including the development of my psychosis.

2) and 3) An account of my mental life during the period that I was schizophrenic, essentially a detailed account of the fantasy worlds that I lived in at the time. Chapter 2 will be an account of my fantasies during the acute phase of my psychosis, and during my recovery up until the time that I discovered Objectivism. Chapter 3 will be an account of my fantasies after I discovered Objectivism. I still spent a lot of time lost in my fantasies after I discovered Objectivism, but the fantasies became much more abstract and "philosophical".

4) A presentation of my hypothesis that bad philosophical ideas were the basic cause of my psychosis. This chapter will be an expansion of my essay "The Causes of My Schizophrenia".

5) My view of myself. This will be an evaluation of my own life so far. I believe that my view of myself is important if the reader wants to understand my psychology.

6) My view of other men. I think that my view of other men is important, if the reader wants to understand my psychology. This essay will be similar to my essay "The Moral Status of the Typical Average Man", which I have posted in the Psychology section.

7) A presentation of my speculation that the level of different men´s working intelligences is cause almost exclusively by volition. This chapter will be similar to my essay "An Hypothesis About Intelligence". I wish to include this speculation in my book, because I am keen to emphasize how much of a key role volition plays in mens´ lives.

8) A summing up of how volition and philosophy operated to determine the course of my life. This will be a concretization of how volition and philosophy are the 2 fundamental determinants of the course of every man´s life.

9) A theoretical explanation of how volition and philosophy determine the course of every man´s life. This will sum up the lesson of this book, that volition and philosophy are the 2 fundamental determinants of the course of every man´s life.

What do you think of my chapter plan for the book? Does anyone have any ideas on how the chapter plan can be improved?

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If you want to have mental health professionals and scholars read your book, I suggest being not just familiar but thoroughly fluent with prevailing theories in the profession before offering your hypotheses. If you wish to write a book about your experiences, tracking your thought processes and your psychological changes over the course of your life, that would require much less research. In terms of proposing a theory and defending it, I want to very strongly encourage you to do the requisite research. There may already be parts of your theory in the literature. There may be objections of a scientific, not philosophical, nature that you should be aware of and address, without which many will not take you seriously.

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Henrik, you have outlined a very ambitious project. If your goal is to have the book read primarily by mental health professionals, I unfortunately think you are facing a very uphill battle.

On a practical level, mental health professionals have endless materials to read and not a lot of spare time to read what already exists. Your book needs to stand out from all that exists out there. A 300 page book is too long. I'd shoot for 100-150 pages, and make your focus much simpler.

Philosophically, Objectivism is neither very well known nor understood in the mental health field. You would have to make as part of your task explaining the philosophy. Others have already written relatively brief synopses, and those were books in themselves. You are biting off a huge amount in this undertaking. While you might not be overwhelmed by it, your readers likely will be.

Also, you say that conventional theories don't really provide a good explanation of the genesis of psychosis. I'm not sure what theories you are referring to, but there is extremely powerful evidence that the majority of cases of schizophrenia, and psychosis more broadly, are due to genetic causes and a related brain disease. You simply cannot dismiss this evidence and be taken seriously by anyone in the mental health field.

I would not include a chapter on your view of the typical, average man. Many typical, average men are in the mental health field, and I doubt any of them has a particular interest in learning your contempt for them. Plus, I'm not sure how that is relevant to your theme that philosophical ideas can cause psychosis.

In regard to your theme, there certainly are non-genetic bases for psychosis. For example, prisoners in gulags and concentration camps developed psychosis in reaction to the severe trauma they experienced, as have others who have gone through repeated and/or horrifying psychological traumas in a variety of other contexts. However, what caused their psychoses was not the ideas they held, but the experiences they had. Those experiences shattered their sense of the world, others, and themselves. Many may have come to hold irrational ideas as a result of trauma, but that's after the fact, not before it.

More to the point, your experience of psychosis is unique, and I strongly suspect that the number of cases in which a psychosis was caused by irrational philosophy is quite rare (and certainly difficult to prove). Furthermore, as we have discussed several times in various threads, what they called psychosis when you were diagnosed is very likely not the same thing as what psychosis is considered today. The shift in definition and understanding of psychosis is something you cannot ignore if you are going to write a book about it.

Henrik, I have stated before that I appreciate your openness about your life and thoughts about these issues. I don't agree with a lot of what you have to say, but I have no desire to discourage you from saying it. I will say that, unfortunately, what comes across in the discussions of your ideas in various threads is an entrenched unwillingness to consider evidence to the contrary of what you think.

For instance, you are convinced that those in the mental health field don't understand the causes of psychosis--your primary thesis for the book. I don't know how else to say it, but this is just simply wrong. Indeed, not long ago, the American Psychological Association had a major report on Schizophrenia that covered virtually all aspects of it. It is a long, thorough, and very good report. Have you read it? If not, I suggest you do.

But more important than that is that I think you have something to offer, Henrik. You do have a unique perspective and what you have to say could be heard by others. However, based on what I have seen of your essays and exchanges with myself and others here on THE FORUM, I'm not sure this will happen.

As I said, I don't want to discourage you from writing your book. However, I really believe you should re-think your approach and structure. I think many people would be interested to hear your story, as "case studies" are interesting for a lot of reasons. Some might be interested in your view of the role of philosophy in mental illness, but explaining this will be a tough thing to do and "sell" people on. I doubt anyone will be interested in your contempt for the majority of humanity. Nor will you be taken seriously if you flat out reject all the evidence that exists about the various causes of psychosis without being informed as to what that evidence is.

In short, if you want to be taken seriously, you have to treat the subject seriously. This means doing the requisite research, as well as showing rational respect for those who have studied this subject for many years and have produced important insights and discoveries. For what it's worth...

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Henrik - I suggest that you look up Jonathan Rosman's writings/tapes. I don't know if they're available through the AR bookstore. At least at one time he thought there might be a connection between (some) psychoses and bad epistemology, and had at least one lecture on that subject.

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Also, you say that conventional theories don't really provide a good explanation of the genesis of psychosis. I'm not sure what theories you are referring to, but there is extremely powerful evidence that the majority of cases of schizophrenia, and psychosis more broadly, are due to genetic causes and a related brain disease. You simply cannot dismiss this evidence and be taken seriously by anyone in the mental health field.

In short, if you want to be taken seriously, you have to treat the subject seriously. This means doing the requisite research, as well as showing rational respect for those who have studied this subject for many years and have produced important insights and discoveries. For what it's worth...

Thank you for your feedback, Scott.

I do not say that bad philosophy is the cause of nearly *all* pschoses. It may very well be the case that it is only a rare cause of psychoses. Perhaps it is only the unusual individual who thinks a lot about abstract ideas when young, who can be so seriously "damaged" by bad abstract ideas, that he becomes psychotic. If fact, I believe that the reasont that so many people can live with the altruist ethics that they accept, is the fact that they do not think through the logical implications of altruism. I accepted altruism when I was young, and I did enough thinking to see some of the implications of being a consistent altruist. But I was not independent enough to reject altruism, when I saw those implications. I paid dearly for that.

Maybe you are right that psychologists and psychiatrists have at least a decent understanding of the causes of psychoses. I was under the impression that there is almost universal agreement today that the cause of psychosis is "biological", and that the cure is medication. However, I think that there are often "deeper" causes than the biological ones, that bring about the changes in the chemistry of the psychotic´s brain. My hypothesis is that in my case, bad ideas, and perhaps some traumatic experiences (e.g. my misery while at the boarding school), brought about physical changes in my brain, and that that is the reason that I responded to medications. I do think that the mind (i.e. the thoughts that a person has) can have a physical effect on the brain.

At any rate, I am pretty certain that most psychologists and psychiatrists today, outside of Objectivism, are quite unaware of the crucial role of ideas in forming men´s psychologies in general. I hope that my book can help change that.

I will consider making my book shorter, and excising the chapters on my view of the statistically average men, and of the role of volition in intelligence (which is just speculation anyway, but in my opinion interesting speculation). Of course the shorter and less ambitious the book, the less time it will take to write it, which may be another advantage.

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Henrik, you have outlined a very ambitious project. If your goal is to have the book read primarily by mental health professionals, I unfortunately think you are facing a very uphill battle.

On a practical level, mental health professionals have endless materials to read and not a lot of spare time to read what already exists. Your book needs to stand out from all that exists out there. A 300 page book is too long. I'd shoot for 100-150 pages, and make your focus much simpler.

I suppose that the main selling point for my book, in regard to mental health professionals, is the fact that I am probably an unusually articulate recovered psychotic. I plan to include a long account of the exact content of my consciousness while I was schizophrenic, and how that content changed over time, while I was recovering from the schizophrenia. An interesting observation is that I still spent a lot of time lost in my fantasies after I discovered Objectivism (that was probably due to my psychosis having permanently altered the physical state of my brain, so that I "could not help it"). But my fantasies became much more abstract, and even philosophical, after I learned the philosophy of Objectivism.

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I suppose that the main selling point for my book, in regard to mental health professionals, is the fact that I am probably an unusually articulate recovered psychotic. I plan to include a long account of the exact content of my consciousness while I was schizophrenic, and how that content changed over time, while I was recovering from the schizophrenia.

I think that's a really good idea, Henrik. Your ability to draw connections between the ideas you held and the related conscious states you experienced would be quite unique. You could use the account of your conscious contents (and mental state) as a vehicle for illustrating your thesis.

(I should say that I'm not a writer and so don't know if a professional would think my advice is sound or not. I'm primarily going off the kinds of writing in psychology that has stuck with me and others, including my students. For instance, Love's Executioner by Irvin Yalom is a very good example of blending clinical case studies with compelling, entertaining, and thought-provoking prose. The reader is drawn into the story of Yalom and his patients. So, it might be worth considering making your book less academic and more "story-like," if that makes sense. Perhaps it could be presented as almost a mystery story in which you, over the course of your life, start piecing together the clues of what led to your mental state and ultimately identify the culprit. Anyway, just food for thought. I wish you well in the endeavor!)

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You also might consider reading some of Oliver Sack's books. He's a physician who's dealt with some interesting and unusual cases and has a talent for writing about them. At least one of his books was made into a powerfully emotional movie, Awakenings.

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I suppose that the main selling point for my book, in regard to mental health professionals, is the fact that I am probably an unusually articulate recovered psychotic. I plan to include a long account of the exact content of my consciousness while I was schizophrenic, and how that content changed over time, while I was recovering from the schizophrenia.

I think that's a really good idea, Henrik. Your ability to draw connections between the ideas you held and the related conscious states you experienced would be quite unique. You could use the account of your conscious contents (and mental state) as a vehicle for illustrating your thesis.

(I should say that I'm not a writer and so don't know if a professional would think my advice is sound or not. I'm primarily going off the kinds of writing in psychology that has stuck with me and others, including my students. For instance, Love's Executioner by Irvin Yalom is a very good example of blending clinical case studies with compelling, entertaining, and thought-provoking prose. The reader is drawn into the story of Yalom and his patients. So, it might be worth considering making your book less academic and more "story-like," if that makes sense. Perhaps it could be presented as almost a mystery story in which you, over the course of your life, start piecing together the clues of what led to your mental state and ultimately identify the culprit. Anyway, just food for thought. I wish you well in the endeavor!)

Thanks for the advice and encouragement. I do not think that I have the ability to present my life story as a mystery. I have already written something like half of the first chapter (of course it is only a draft). The first chapter is like an autobiography, starting from my earlist memories as a small child. So I present my life story in a strictly chronological fashion. I think that doing so will give the readers, who may be professional psychologists and psychiatrists, to "read in" why I became psychotic, as I relate how it happened, according to the theories that they already believe in. Then, when I in chapter 4 present my hypothesis about the ways in which bad philosophy played a major role in bringing about my psychosis, they can judge independently which theory, their own or mine, seems most effective at explaining what happened.

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