Posts Tagged ‘Emotion’

Emotions vs Reality and Normality

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Perception of RealityAgain I’ve found myself absorbed by this evening’s programming on BBC4. The second hour’s viewing was the incredibly well researched yet wiltingly safe second of the three-part documentary – Michael Mosley’s The Brain: A Secret History, which looked at the role of emotions in our lives.

However I missed the first 5 minutes in my efforts to recover after the preceding, far more hit-and-miss, anecdotal, emotionally nuclear option of Sectioned. This was a documentary that followed the stories of 3 men: Antony, Andrew and Richard.

Antony had been in and out of hospital for 26 years since a breakdown in 1984. He had a diagnosis of schizophrenia which he disagreed with, but his daughter could attest that without regular anti-psychotic drug injections, his ability to look after himself disintegrated to a worrying level. While the terms of his section insisted he received the injections, he was well enough to protest that they weren’t required. After 5 months with no treatment, he began to slide back towards self-neglect.

Andrew represented the statistic that a particular demographic “at-risk” are men in late-middle age, adjusting to upcoming retirement. He was also the token middle-class story, having had a successful long-term career as a pathologist, despite suffering from bipolar disorder. However this had spiraled out of control as retirement loomed, leading to an unfortunate paranoid incident involving a high-speed chase. His wife was at her wits-end, lost 3 stone and at one stage could see no future other than divorce.

The most tragic case was that of Richard – 34 and since the age of 19, helplessly “mad”, in common parlance. Despite his section, he seemed free to leave the secure unit long enough to get alcohol and drugs, and the team working with him accepted he would always have a drug and alcohol problem. He was happy to confide to camera that the voices in his head that he called his Gods told him to overdose on heroin on Christmas day. As the date loomed and it seemed unlikely he’d be able to get the necessary supplies, he was relieved when the voices told him it would ok if he did it after Christmas. He died: death recorded as accidental overdose. He was funny, optimistic and personable. One can only assume that the unit did their best to stabilise him with prescription drugs, but his death seemed horrifically inevitable.

My background thoughts were around something I read a couple of weeks ago, when launching this blog, about ways to improve your life and get out of a rut. One of the options I read and meant to go back to investigate further was essentially: while your emotions are real to you, they do not necessarily represent impartial reality. That struck a chord with me, and I’m annoyed that I can’t now find the article I was reading. Nevertheless, the impact of emotions on moods, and how we judge their reality will be the subect of the next few posts.