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Paris Williams spent years as a champion hang glider pilot. He then experienced a mental crisis that could have been labeled psychosis, but he avoided getting diagnosed or “helped” by psychiatry, and instead worked through his experiences on his own. This caused him to get interested in helping others. He became a Ph.D. psychologist and researcher interested in detailed exploration of the experiences of people who underwent psychosis and recovered.
His book, “Rethinking Psychosis,” emerges out of his personal experiences those of others. He asserts that under the right conditions, psychosis can be expected to most commonly result in a positive outcome, an outcome that is something better than the state that existed before the psychosis. This assertion flies in the face of most of what our culture thinks it “knows” about psychosis, but the arguments for it are very well documented. This is not just some romantic notion that psychosis is always a good thing – Williams is clear that it is hazardous under the best of conditions, and likely to lead to major ongoing life difficulties when the focus is just on attempts to suppress the process, as usually happens in developed countries today. But what is critical to note is that these poor outcomes are typically a result of a poor handling of the experience, and not of the nature of the experience itself.
Dr. Williams discusses how the ability to regulate one’s approach to such dilemmas is lost in psychosis, usually in response to a number of stressful experiences, but also how the loss of one’s prior approach has the potential to lead to the emergence of new and healthier ways of being organized, which might later benefit not just the individual but also the wider society. What is needed is a safe way to facilitate the process of reintegration and recovery.