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- by Andrew L
I am jealous of doctors. I have also had other mental health problems and I have had a diagnosis of schizophrenia although at places along the line it has been called different names. I also failed the medical course to become a doctor. What I would like to say is that I have a peculiar and complicated position regarding the people who treat me. I have never felt that my needs, wants or "demands" (it's difficult to see mental health professionals being dictated to in any way, shape or form) have been met as completely as I would have liked. I quickly began to be resentful of some of the psychiatric nurses and psychologists who have dealt with my medical case, but it is the doctors who have left me with the most feelings of resentment and envy or jealousy. I shall endeavour to explain why, although I cannot believe I am the only one with envy of the status of doctors. If you live in the Western World, you will surely know that doctors have power, status, money and social clout. I work in pharmacy, and it doesn't take long in any discussion with a pharmacist to realise that there are sometimes complex emotions at play with regard to the higher office of doctors. What Chekhov, the Russian doctor and writer, referred to as the old white tie days of medicine may have gone, but to my mind the medical profession still represents the summit of achievement in many ways. This can lead to an arrogant tone perhaps in doctors, not always a characteristic for sure, and it's not always easy to love these haughty neighbours.
So I am a pharmacist and feel like a fiddler of the second section in that respect, but in my case I also failed medicine - the course to become a doctor - and it has left a permanent mark on me. When mental problems became too much for me I left the medical course four years into it, with a view to returning when well again. Unfortunately this did not happen, and my re-application was turned down, with the numbing words that "being unwell, you would never be able to adequately think of the patient or other person", delivered by the dean of the clinical school. It was a crushing blow to my spirit and I rue never completing the medical course. I cannot look at a doctor without a feeling of inadequacy and failure.
These tortured feelings I have with regards to medics and also with regard to successful people in general, I maintain, manifest as pain in the right side of the neck radiating upwards to the head. In Sahaja Yoga, which is a form of meditation I practise, we say that the right side of the neck or throat (the right vishuddhi) is a chakra, which can be blocked by all sorts of inferiority or superiority complexes. Now, you don't have to accept this, it's not been proven, but in Sahaja Yoga terms one would try to address the problem with "divine vibrations". In my case my right vishuddhi is a definite hassle, a tiresome problem, but not one I have mentioned to doctors. It's an annoying problem but I don't think they could do much, rather like when I suffered from what we in Sahaja Yoga would call a "left vishuddhi" problem. I suffered from feelings of sexual guilt and was vulnerable to the sounds of coughing and traffic and to an extent laughter as well. I was lucky enough to have a long essay entitled An Enduring Case of Schizophrenia on www.voicesforum.org.uk and hopefully in that essay I convey some of the sense of what a decentred, disorderly experience it was and is, in the sense that mental health workers brought little to the table over all these long years. The frustration I feel has not been something that massively engenders feelings of fellowship. In the interplay of feelings and emotions in my relationship to doctors, this problem has had an effect on my right vishuddhi too. Still, with regard to doctors, who are in a big position to help people, I can say that I also bear feelings of goodwill towards them. I have taken part in studies conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry, including one for sufferers of schizophrenia who are "high functioning". This was under Professor Robin Murray and Dr. James MacCabe. I think I'd be able to function still higher if they had anything sensible to say. If I let doctors know about Sahaja Yoga, it is "metaphysical aid", like the witches offer Macbeth in Shakespeare's play. Shri Mataji, the guru of Sahaja Yoga, has Herself said that English doctors are not easy to convince with regards to the benefits of Sahaja Yoga. Sahaja Yoga is not something on offer at public schools to my knowledge. What has been most helpful for my right vishuddhi has been reading the Gleam in the North by D.K. Broster. The book is sadly out of print but one can obtain it second- hand or from libraries. In this Jacobite novel set against a backdrop of the 1745 rebellion amongst the Highland Clans of Scotland against the government forces of England, Ewen Cameron of Ardroy sets out to help his friend and cousin Dr. Archibald Cameron of Lochiel, a Scottish spy (also a medical doctor) who is hiding. It is a medium-sized good read.
Ewen Cameron at one stage inwardly debates whether to steal and read a letter in the possession of a fellow traveller, and thereby risk a stain on his character and reputation but find out Dr. Cameron's position so he can help him avoid capture, or to leave Dr. Cameron to his fate. Ewen Cameron goes out of his way to help Dr. Cameron, even when the good doctor faces execution on the scaffold in London. I understand from a book on famous medical trials that Dr. Cameron had practised in the town of Lochaber before the rebellion. He did not actually take a commission in the Jacobite army but certainly helped them.
The Gleam in the North, and also the other two novels in the Jacobite trilogy afforded me considerable relief of pressure on my right vishuddhi chakra. If you read these books, I'm sure you will pick up the Good Samaritan theme, not just amongst the compatriots and companions. There is also the issue of betrayal and treachery in the last of this trilogy.
There are other novels that I would like to mention in the cause of cleansing the right vishuddhi. Jealousy is the devil of the right vishuddhi. When people say they are jealous, if they ever do, because it is a darker and more secretive emotion, I ask them if they are jealous like lago or jealous like Othello. lago, the villain in Shakespeare's Othello, is a sergeant in the army, and he's been overlooked for promotion. He most likely won't ever become an officer. Othello is the general and he is driven by lago's scheming and dirty tricks to a state of insane jealousy in which he fears that his wife Desdemona is unfaithful.
The green-eyed monster is everywhere in this competitive society. It can even pervade the most intimate relationships. I shall explain what happened to me when I was a young man, eighteen years old and just embarking on a medical course at university. In my gap year I had successfully passed the Cambridge Colleges Exam and gained a scholarship to Selwyn College, but met with a shock when I returned from doing five months voluntary work in India. The young lady I thought was my girlfriend gave me an abrupt response to my advances. She said that we had never been boyfriend and girlfriend and that I had been dreaming, but we could continue as friends. My dream was therefore ended and I was now due for a dose of reality, meted out by this person who was a "friend". In hindsight, for which one does not need a laboratory, perhaps she was jealous, because a friend told me she was upset that she herself did not make it to University. At the time I was too shell-shocked to grasp the significance of this, and I was greatly distressed just by how rude she was being to me. It hurts. Classical music through the night offered a little balm at that time and so did Sahaja Yoga, which I came across in Cambridge after spotting a poster outside the JCR (Junior Common Room).
The first term was bad and I struggled on the course, but the second term was awful. The girl who had after all said she would be my friend - although If I'd been in my right mind I'd have had nothing to do with her - introduced what to me seemed like a further poisoned arrow, another tempting bit of cherry to be maliciously withdrawn, and did not write to me. It seemed like great hostility and animosity. I talked to no one except family or friends, as I was too proud to ask for medical help, and I went down in emotions.
That Easter I felt like taking my own life, but the memory of a photograph I had taken of the girl suddenly appeared in my brain. Now you may not believe in God and you may not rate Sahaja Yoga but when this mental illumination happened I was sitting in my room in front of a picture of Shri Mataji, the guru of Sahaja Yoga. Actually, what I would say to those orthodox voices I hear poo-pooing the idea that Sahaja Yoga saved my life, I can't prove it either. The girl, of whom I had taken a picture on my camera, looked in the words of a psychologist in Chichester to whom I later spoke, like she could pull wings off flies. I remembered that hurtful look in her eye, but I also recalled thinking I could see pain in the girl's eyes as well. Pain about what I didn't know then and I still can't fathom now. She actually came from quite a distant shore, Finland, and at my stage in life she presented me with a problem quite remote and foreign to my experience. It was outside my realm and ability to deal with this. Whether it was just a case of me having an inadequate sense of sexual self, like a callow actor trying to play the part of a lover, I don't know. I do know it hurt. That memory of the photograph saved me, and the nadir of my depression was passed. I went on to complete a degree but another experience - schizophrenia - lay in ambush. What I want to say is that experience in the early days at Cambridge, over the hostile girl, was traumatic and seemed like nothing on earth at the time. I think that for me one of the best features of Shakespeare's Hamlet, the play, is that the way in which Ophelia, Hamlet's girlfriend, goes down to despair, madness and death bears some similarly to what happened in my case. There are some points that are the same. Let me try to pick out some common ground.
Let me give you a summary of the play. Hamlet, the prince, is visited by the ghost of his father. Hamlet the old King, who, in scenes of the utmost brilliance, informs his shocked and amazed son that he has been murdered by his uncle, old Hamlet's brother, the silver tongued Claudius. Claudius has quickly married Gertrude, the old queen and Hamlet's mother. (This web of relationships has psychologists delving deep into their textbooks in itself, with incest and Freudian references adding to the broth). Claudius has an advisor Polonius, a stuffy old man usually, who warns his daughter, the fair Ophelia, that Hamlet's love for her is not to be encouraged. Laertes, her brother, says his favour is "A violet in the youth of primy nature, forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting, the perfume and suppliance of a minute; no more". Under Polonius' direction Ophelia returns Hamlet's letters to him. Hamlet, who is either pretending to be mad or is certainly deeply distressed, spurns Ophelia, brutally, and Ophelia goes mad herself. She dies by drowning in a brook near a willow tree. There's plenty of insanity in the play.
Ophelia's fate is what concerns me most for this essay, but I will just mention what happens in the rest of this powerful play for the sake of completeness. Hamlet internally debates whether to take revenge by killing the new King, Claudius. (Hence the famous soliloquy To Be or Not to Be, which cleverly doubles up in meaning as a speech about whether to commit suicide or not - am I to live or not to live - the sort of multiple meaning in which Shakespeare excels). Hamlet harangues his mother Gertrude for marrying Claudius. Hamlet the old King appears once more to his son, chiding him for his lack of purpose and Hamlet kills Polonius, the Lord Chamberlain, by mistake, behind the arras.
Dangerous and mad. Hamlet is sent to England, where they are all mad anyway, but he escapes on route by sea and returns to Denmark. He sees Ophelia being buried in a churchyard and is challenged to a fencing match by Laertes, Ophelia's brother. Laertes has been scheming with the King to kill Hamlet and the swords are tipped with poison and the drinks poisoned too. By error, Gertrude drinks from a poisoned cup and in the ensuing chaos. Hamlet, the King and Queen and also Laertes I think, are all killed.
It is a wonderful play, not least for being "full of quotes" and therefore something that one can hear and see constantly appearing in English speech and writing in the newspapers for example. It definitely has a life long after it was written. Clive James, the presenter and writer, reads it every year and says a first time reading of Hamlet is something he envies the young. James Joyce's Stephen Daedelus is obsessed with the play in Ulysses and James Joyce also gave ten lectures on Hamlet, in Italian when living in voluntary exile in Italy.
I'd just like to say that I've missed out the Fortinbras subplot from my summary and scenes concerning an invasion of Poland by the Norwegian army, as some productions do too.
Ophelia dies because of Hamlet and it is worth knowing how this happens. Life is full of tricks and how Ophelia dies is one of them, to my mind.
Now, and of course I am not an expert in either psychiatry or in English literature and I also suspect that psychiatrists do not generally have the generosity of spirit to talk to me about Hamlet even if they are "in the know", Ophelia's madness is the genuine article, not like Hamlet's, which is slightly inauthentic. In Kenneth Branagh's film, Ophelia is actually given a hosing by a jet of water, presumably to show how she was treated for her malady as a mentally ill person. In the play, just after the To Be or Not to Be speech (which is Act 3 Scene 1), Ophelia is rebuffed by Hamlet. Letters come into it, in that Hamlet denies ever sending "remembrances" to Ophelia. "No, not I; I never gave you aught". Hamlet also denies ever having loved Ophelia at all at one point. He just plays with Ophelia as a cat plays with a mouse. I loved you, I loved you not. It is a cruel scene, where a crushing blow is delivered, fitting for such a part in the play where matters of life and death are under discussions. Actually Hamlet still has our sympathy because his love for Ophelia was also turned down, by Ophelia acting under the guidance of the old fart Polonius.
In essence I feel for Ophelia, because it is an awfully confusing situation. In my case, even if the girl wasn't my girlfriend, why wasn't she writing to me as a friend? I do have friends in that country, Finland, who have corresponded from time to time. With the girl it felt like a sort of trap, in which I was left just hanging in the air, waiting for something that would never arrive and which never has arrived, twenty-two years later. Ophelia is driven mad and I'd like to just mention one thing that I certainly was never told by doctors and that ties in with a point I try to make in An Enduring Case of Schizophrenia, in connection with coughing. Gertrude the Queen says that Ophelia is "distract" (crazy or mad, says my Shakespeare Glossary by Onions) and "hems" (coughs) and beats her heart and says that there are tricks in the world. This is of interest to me because I maintain that coughing can be a way of hurting or bullying people.
In my case the coughing I felt was more painful because I felt guilty over slight sexual misdemeanours. The mysterious Finnegans Wake by James Joyce is where I find most assistance in this matter, or rather in the criticisms which Joyceans produce from this book. The critics' choice for the best interpretation of the battle of Phoenix Park/Waterloo "sequence" is probably Margot Norris' "The Decentred Universe of Finnegans Wake: A Structuralist Analysis".
I have digressed and want to return to the issue of jealousy, and how lovers can deceive one another because of this disruptive emotion. In Twelfth Night, also by Shakespeare, a trick is played on Malvolio, a steward to the rich countess Olivia. Sending him fake letters, two of the characters play a practical joke and make him believe the countess loves him. This trap or bait for a "woodcock" (a simpleton) does indeed make a "contemplative idiot out of him. They can barely control their laughter. What happens to Malvolio? My details are sketchy but Malvolio ends up chained up in a dark cell. I once read a book on Shakespeare by a psychiatrist at Broadmoor, Dr. Murray Cox, with whom I corresponded, in which he said that this is a description of how the mentally ill were treated in Shakespeare's day. I did a small amount of work as a patient representative on NIMHE, the National Institute of Mental Health in England. The panel I sat on was PSI, psychosocial intervention, and when I mentioned Dr. Cox and his interest in Shakespeare they asked if I could contact him to join us, but sadly. Dr. Cox has passed away. One piece of literature of which I had knowledge whilst at Cambridge was the short poem When We Two Parted by the Romantic poet Lord Byron. Poetry was just about all I could manage in the first two years at Cambridge, as a novel demands a certain degree of concentration I simply did not have. So I found some relief in reading verse. This poem, which is a gem, gives a sense of the suffering in the silence of the mentally ill. I would in a way meet the girl "in silence and tears" if I met her at all. She wouldn't know what had gone on in my mind. Also, I felt she had been deceptive in spirit, and this is like one of the lines of the poem. By the way, one Byron critic pointed out that when We Two Parted is unusual in that, while the normal rhythm of English is almost always upwards in inflexion, this is not the case in this poem. Personally I think that's quite remarkable to be able to see or hear that, and write it too, and worth noting about the whole experience of rejection. It's not an "upwards" kind of thing.
One picks up knowledge of jealousy by reading and experience and so on. A famous case, if we believe the film Amadeus, is that of Mozart, who may have been driven to death by a jealous rival. His later music, which was being produced around the time of the French revolution, is something that I for one really enjoy, and critics will tell you it's a pity he died when he did. Beethoven I understand, was probably aware of what happened to Mozart and the poisonous atmosphere and jealousies of that time. People sometimes say Beethoven occupies a Christ-like position in their lives, but there is something Christ-like about the tragic early end of Mozart. What beautiful music Mozart may have gone on to compose. What more might Jesus have gone on to tell us about the life of the spirit, how to heal people, how to ascend to the Kingdom of God. He might have told us what Shri Mataji is telling us now. Fore me Shri Mataji (see www.sahajayoga.org) represents a continuation of God's presence on earth after Jesus. It's my own fault really if I let myself be nettled by the supercilious or arrogant tone of a person in "authority". "The insolence of office", as Hamlet would say, is so common that one really should be able for it. So I lament the presence of jealousy in my own soul. I've seen jealousy at work, where colleagues start playing nasty tricks on each other, and once, coinciding with an episode of my own "schizophrenia", a lady at work put me down to such an extent that I had a breakdown. She was your genuine workshy, surly sod and I'm sorry I let her outwit me. In pharmacy today - and I am lucky that the doctors, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and my employer have approved of me working - I often see envy at work. There are dispensers who become so jealous and protective of the dispensary and their role in it that anyone else is rebuffed if they try to step into it and help, even at the busiest periods. This selfish approach can be to the detriment of the prescription process and it's a bit of a headache when you have to work with dispensers like that.
On the subject of pharmacy, take a look at the picture on a pack of Boots Tension Headache Relief tablets (paracetamol, codeine phosphate, doxylamine and caffeine are the ingredients). The illustrator has drawn someone holding the right side of their neck. In Sahaja Yoga terms this would be a right vishuddhi catch.
Freud, who spoke of "penis envy" is a figure of great significance in psychiatry. I really don't know much about what he wrote, but when I was ill and heard aggressive voices, his was one of them, and he was urging me to kill myself. I'll always remember that time with a sense of bafflement, as such aggression seems so needless. In Sahaja Yoga, Shri Mataji has been quite forthright in speaking out against Freud, in her public talks and also in her book, Meta Modem Era. Freud is called a "cowardly person", mentioned in the same sense as Sade, and called a "nonsensical person". This would certainly make sense of what happened to me when I felt tortured by Freud during an episode of ill health. Someone said what I wrote in An Enduring Case of Schizophrenia is a little Freudian. I couldn't actually say. James Joyce and his work are often looked at in the light of Freud - the thing is that James Joyce may have just been using Freudian references to given another layer of meaning to his writing, not necessarily because he valued Freud's ideas.
The French word "malin", "maligne" interests me. It appears in two senses - smart and shrewd and also malignant - in the children's language learning guide Muzzy, produced by the BBC. The wicked and scheming courtier Corvax prides himself on being "malin" - which does indeed mean clever. But it also means malign, and a good play on the word is made, which hopefully even a child can understand. The dictionary will also tell you of the medical meaning of malignant. What I say is this, that the word is full of clever sods and their elliptical references.
In India, just after Independence, Shri Mataji, whose father was jailed on several occasions for resistance to the British, says that there were very few real patriots and the country failed to thrive as it should have. Certainly in Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, which is partly political allegory, the author writes that "selfishness and snobbery and hatred" led to the disintegration of the MCC, the Midnight's Children's Conference. It does show how self-interest amongst people, and gifted people in the case of the Midnight's Children, can be to the detriment of the community or nation as a whole.
We say in Sahaja Yoga that right vishuddhi blocks are commonplace in the West. Another point I found really interesting was a comment made by Shri Mataji at a Russian scientific conference on Sahaja Yoga, at which she was a guest speaker. An increasing problems these days is the rising occurrence of Alzheimer's disease, and perhaps, as Shri Mataji speculated, this is due to the characteristic of being overbearing and giving other people a hard time. This is definitely the territory and concern of the right vishuddhi chakra. This idea seemed completely off the wall to me, or even to me you might possibly say, but then no one really knows what causes Alzheimer's disease. Sahaja Yoga does not promise to be a cure for Alzheimer's disease, or a cure for schizophrenia, or a cure for depression, but I certainly have found it to be very useful for problems of the- soul and with an open mind, there's surely no harm in it. One does not want to keep quiet or be kept quiet about such an enormous gift to humanity.
Jealousy and problems of the right vishuddhi are not, it seems to me, problems that we acknowledge honestly enough. Like "hearing voices" or "sexual guilt", it is something that might make you seem foolish to mention. This to me is a shame, but then it does appear to me like just another of those things, another screw that has been left loose or unsafe in the subtle invisible mechanisms within our minds. Society does seem driven by competition but there's a price to be paid for that. As the writer Joseph Conrad says in A Heart of Darkness, if you have kept a normal temperature all your life, you'll never know what a cold or fever is like. I don't think people appreciate what a cold, even Siberian, experience schizophrenia is, and jealousy as an emotion, a private feeling, doesn't have much to recommend itself either.