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PSI AND PSYCHIATRY - THE NEED FOR RESTRUCTURING BASIC CONCEPTS

Parapsychology research 1972. Psi, Science and Society

Montague Ullman (Maimonides Medical Center)

Parapsychological data cannot be absorbed into the mainstream of science through any additive strategy. We seem to be dealing with a situation where we are called upon to go beyond an examination of the data in their continuity with related fields of investigation and make the more strenuous effort of resolving their apparent discontinuity. To do this will in all likelihood involve a "paradigm shift". of the kind described by Kuhn. We are faced then with two tasks. The task of examining the continuities is addressed to the question of how our available knowledge helps us understand parapsychological data. The task of examining the discontinuities is addressed to the question of how our parapsychological data can help us develop a more profound understanding of what we now regard as our store of available knowledge.

An illustrative example of the problem occurs in the field of psychiatry. For some time now it has been known that psi data impinge in some way upon psychopathological processes and are apt to be encountered in the course of the psychotherapeutic endeavor. Freud in a tentative way and Jung in a more all-out sense were the forerunners of a handful of analysts who sought to identify the areas of congruence -- i.e., the continuities between psi events and the psychodynamics of the therapeutic situation. This led to an appreciation of the role of anxiety, need, interest, and more specifically transferential and countertransferential factors in eliciting psi responses.

We can add to our understanding of the continuities experimentally by examining the nature of central processing once paranormal information impinges upon the central nervous system. Sinclair, and later Warcorner, made important and similar observations on the kinds of changes that occur in the course of the paranormal transmission of images. The fragmentation of the ESP stimulus describcd by both authors has also been noted in some of our pilot dream studies of telepathic transmission. The possible relationship of these effects to the studies of Evans on the fragmentation of the stabilized retinal image suggests possible similarities and continuities between ESP and visual perceptual processes.

More is obviously needed than the establishment of psychological continuities at the level of meaning and motivation, and structural continuities at the level of central nervous system processing. We are still left with the tantalizingly difficult task of corning to terms with the discontinuities. These discontinuities surface as events transcending spatial and temporal limitations. Considering this challenge just within the field of psychiatry itself, it seems to me more and more apparent that any accommodation of paranormal data will involve the elaboration of a radically different conceptual base for our understandig of psychopathological syndromes.

If we limit our discussion to just two such syndromes, namely the schizophrenic and manic-depressive psychoses, we may have to reconceptualize our understanding of both of these psychoses in terms of the spatial and temporal aspects of character organization. There has been some tendency in recent years to merge the two psychoses, but I think that symptomatically, temperamentally, and perhaps constitutionally they remain distinctive. The  manic-depressive maintains affective ties to the world, but cannot modulate them. The schizophrenic deploys his affective capacities in the service of maintaining distance between himself and the world. The schizophrenic is future-oriented in terms of his unrelenting vulnerability to unpredictable threats to and assaults upon his isolation. The manic-depressive is past-oriented in the depressive phase, relating in terms of past failures, and present-oriented in the manic phase, relating in terms of a sense of unreal successes.

Time plays a different role for each in still another way. Magical thinking and omnipotence of thought play a key role for the schizophrenic. Normal processes, extending in time, have to be bypassed to arrive at magical solutions. Real time, in a sense, doesn't exist for the schizophrenic. This is in contrast to the manic-depressive for whom tine is either retarded or accelerated, depending on the phasic variation he is experiencing. In the depressive phase, there is a severe limitation in the contextual field and time is retarded. In the manic phase, there is a tremendous expanse in the contextual field and time is accelerated. In the depressive phase the past overshadows the present and the future, and in the manic phase the present overshadows both the past and the future. Is this difference in orientation reflected in differences in ESP performance? Would precognition be more apt to be associated with schizophrenia, telepathy or clairvoyance with the manic psychosis, and retrocognition with the depressive psychosis? Would other but equally consistent relationships obtain where compensatory abilities might play a role -- i.e., the schizophrenic sensing things paranormally in the present in connection with his excessive vigilance concerning the future?

Space can be thought of as content, as context, and in a certain sense as encompassing the qualities of palpa­bility, endurance, and sameness in contrast to the qualities of impalpability, elusiveness, and change associated with the concept of time. In this sense the schizophrenic is time-oriented -- the changing aspects of reality are more important to him than the enduring ones, since it is change and not sameness or familiarity that evokes vigilance operations. For the manic-depressive it is space, context, and sameness, that dominate over time and change, since the manic-depressive does invest himself in his human context but unfortunately as an expression of the fantasy either that it cannot change or that it is changing too fast for him to keep up with.

This differential weighting of space and time in the two syndromes might provide potential clues for further research efforts. Might it not be better to seek effects in the psychological realm with schizoid individuals and psychokinetic effects with those closer to the manic-depressive end of the spectrum (and here I would include hysterics)? In the first case we are testing the limits of the schizophrenic's omnipotence of thought, his need to know in the service of vigilance operations, and his preoccupation with the temporal or changing aspects of reality. In the second case we are testing the limits of the the individual whose interaction with the world is much more invested in space, context, bodily and motoric involvement.

I have not yet engaged in any systematic study, but I have developed the clinical impression that from a psychopathological point of view good ESP performers as encountered in clinical situation are on the schizoid side. I haven't had the opportunity to study sufficient PK performers, but I would offer the speculation that they fall within the manic-depressive or hysteric syndromes.