Journaling about my issues with metaphysics and psychoanalysis were paramount in my recovery from schizoaffective disorder. I have gone to talk therapy for 1h/week for the past 4 years and after my third year of therapy I began writing in a metacognitive journal where I have psychoanalyzed myself and learned a great deal about my psyche and everything else in my life. During episodes and other points in my life there were many traumatic experiences from the past that affected me in the present that I needed to face and analyze. There have also been normal life experiences that have been new to me which I have written about and have hashed out to gain a better understanding of or make better decisions regarding them. Talk therapy was an important tool for coming to terms with the experiences I was most afraid of facing. I started at a point where I didn’t want to speak even the slightest of sentences and progressed to being able to talk frankly about any of my experiences in my life. I don’t always share experiences with others but being able to face them on my own has been immensely beneficial. I know the only way I can improve is being honest with myself about my experiences because the past is ingrained in my mind and if I lie about it to myself I’ll never truly understand the reasons and ways trauma is currently affecting me. When I haven’t accurately addressed a past issue it has had a way of still affecting me. I know when I’ve found mistakes I’ve made or areas I could have done better I only need to share this information with myself. Once I developed the ability to freely analyze my experiences I started working with the meaning I had surrounding them and the meaning they had within my life. I discovered I have to find the truth that makes me function as well as I can because ultimately my goal has been to function at my optimal levels. In any well functioning mind there’s a balance of eliminating rigidity in thought and developing mental flexibility but also in having some set of parameters from which to work. The best minds are able to accordingly adapt to the particular set of circumstances they are working within or change situations to their advantage. Many times mental rigidity constrained my thinking and for a while I worked to liberate myself from as many delusional and restricting thoughts as I possibly could. This was extremely helpful and improved my mind’s functionality, but another important facet of metaphysics was determining situations where I needed to create constraints. During earlier years I felt extremely confined and regimented from having been told what to do so frequently and also from having a cognitive impairment that limited the fluidity of my thought. Having a cognitive impairment was distressing because I could see how well the people surrounding me were able to function but didn’t understand why I didn’t have the same functionality in thought. Cognitive impairment made it almost impossible for me to process language in conversation at particular points throughout the day and it was very distressing to be putting forth my best effort to ingest information and simply not being able to do it. I would ask people to repeat themselves multiple times because the message they were saying simply wasn’t connecting with the processing area of my mind and I was still unable to ingest the information. People thought I was dumb and frequently made derisive comments about my intelligence for a variety of reasons, some being their own insecurity. In High School I had a 3.66 GPA without studying much at all for the vast majority of the 4 years I was in school. I was definitely smart but had difficulty processing information and also had difficulty communicating. I simply paid attention in class and memorized the lectures which tells me part of my processing disability had to do with social anxiety. There was no social anxiety present during a lecture, but obviously in a social situation there was and I had social trauma from a middle school experience where I was picked on daily for about a year and a half straight. I looked forward to tests because it was easier to process information on paper as opposed to listening in conversation. My communication difficulties were a result of thought blocking and racing thoughts which are symptoms of cognitive impairment. Sometimes I strived as hard as I could to comprise the words to express my thoughts but simply failed to do so because I had racing thoughts. Racing thoughts was an overload of too many thoughts successively flashing into my mind then being replaced by the next thought. My conscious mind would grasp a snippet of the racing thought, but it was replaced by a different thought before I could actually grasp it with my conscious mind and turn it into something useful. There were usually several thoughts passing by my conscious mind at once and there was too much information to make use of any of it during these times. Other times I just had thought blocking which seemed like a physical impediment which denied me access to the language processing function of my mind. Ironically enough I was in Honors English during high school and also became an English major in college and had a 3.0 when I was in better health, but still passed all my English classes and existentialism class during my first episode. This combination of being unable to process language and create language felt extremely restricting because it created distance between myself and others due to my inability to communicate effectively. The pain of being restricted by cognitive impairment from earlier years was awful. During my first episode I was in a psychology class that interviewed a young adult with down syndrome who was expressing his disappointment in not being made to function as well as everyone else and he was crying. I started crying because this resonated so strongly with my own experience and from that moment forward I tried to liberate my mind as much as possible. During these earlier years of liberation I never realized my goal is to optimize my functionality, and as Alfred Hitchcock expresses in “The Birds” too much freedom is actually detrimental, which in my case it was. I had eliminated all my social customs and norms, and parameters for functionally interacting within society and for a while I was very socially awkward. A part of my therapy was reconstructing a reality that was socially acceptable but also gave me a sense of freedom. I like acting in accordance with each particular situation’s requirements and prefer to be as free thinking as I can, but I came to understand there are certain parameters and rules within social settings that are useful to utilize. Knowing and understanding them is helpful because it has helped me understand when I’m free to break certain parameters or social rules which I have done frequently but also when I need to take heed of them. My change of focus from liberality to functionality was the greatest improvement in my therapeutic goals and has been very empowering. I am currently functioning at much higher levels than I could have ever possibly imagined doing so before having schizoaffective disorder and am still persistently working in my journal to improve my functionality. Thoughts in my metacognitive journal have usually addressed past issues. While writing my memoir I was able to hash out all my most traumatic experiences which was a useful layout to work from. After identifying these experiences I then asked myself how are they currently affecting me and making me feel and influencing my life. Once this was established I found thoughts I could write in my journal that refuted past delusions that were restricting, created parameters that would help me socialize better, or addressed irrational fears I have had and completely eliminate them. I wrote thoughts that gave me confidence or showed me instances where I experienced the thing or situation I was afraid of and I did well. The most powerful thoughts written were ones that addressed fears from trauma and refuted them with empirical knowledge of how I had already faced my fear and overcame it. I also write social insights which give me a better sense of how to interact, precepts for life, insights into finding better ways to think and communicate, and most importantly I use my journal to identify the things I am afraid of. One of the most difficult parts of trauma is being afraid of something and not knowing what exactly it is so having a journal has cleared space in my mind to write about a fear and analyze that particular fear. Once it’s on paper it’s been easier to work with and I’ve been able to delve deeper into the issue. I’ve also found writing thoughts in my journal has cleared space in my mind for more thoughts and it also somehow makes those thoughts permanently accessible within my mind even though they are written down and no longer in the forefront of my mind. I was able to eliminate past fears mostly through exposure therapy. I subjected myself to my fears in small dosages and then analyzed the experiences through reflection, and recorded my findings in my journal. I found what worked and what I needed to improve upon and determined what I needed to do to function better in certain situations, most of this being socialization. The most useful part of exposure therapy was reflecting upon the exposure experience and determining how well I had done in certain areas, and where and how I could improve in others. This empirical knowledge of success in situations I was previously afraid of, completely eliminated a lot of fears for me. When faced with a new fear I currently reflect upon situations after episodes where I functioned well during the experiences I am currently having difficulty with, and use my successes to my advantage. It’s important the experiences I use to build my confidence have been after episodes for me because I consider myself a different person before and after the episodes. When the experience used is after the episode it’s telling me the trauma from the episode is no longer having an effect on me whereas if it was before it’s irrelevant because I was functioning differently before I developed the illness as opposed to after. Identifying areas to improve upon is also useful because once I’ve identified them I’ve been able to create plans or figure out ways to interact that will navigate or eliminate the problem I’ve been facing. Sometimes I have precise thoughts to address particular issues, but there have been other times where I have had to search and determine reasons I am having issues. When I’ve had to search my psyche to determine what has been bothering me I usually use probing thoughts which are based on my best guess of what the pith of the matter is. I’ve developed these hypotheses from understanding what my most traumatic experiences have been and assessing how the memory of those past experiences could be transcending into current experiences and affecting my life. After writing these thoughts I have assessed how I have felt afterwards. Self-assessment has been a critical facet of determining whether a thought written in my journal is working or is detrimental. When I have found a thought I have written hasn’t helped my mind to function better I have crossed it out to neutralize it and when I have found one that works I’ve left it. © The Author(s) 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center. All rights reserved. For permissions, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Schizophrenia Bulletin – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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