An insightful excerpt from psychologist Peter Chadwick’s chapter from an excellent new academic book on the science of persecutory delusions. Chadwick is a clinical psychologist and leading psychosis researcher who has experienced madness first hand.
When looking at Hopper’s forlorn paintings one has the feeling that no moment in life need be wasted. Hopper captures a barman putting a glass or cup on a shelf; a women looking at her nails, another woman lost in thought in a cafe. Little things, things one wouldn’t normally notice or think about, let alone render on canvas, are there to be appreciated.
Some of the experiential moments which built the network of emotionally charged ideas that mediated my own psychosis were trivial in themselves. A remark from my mother; an insult from a bully at school; a strange expression on a shop assistant’s face. But all were eventually collected up, knitted together and turned into a delusional web of thoughts and feelings that in the end drove me to multiple suicide attempts that very nearly succeeded in killing me.
In madness, no moment of one’s existence seems to be wasted; it is if one’s whole life, and the depths of one’s very being in selective perspective, have been made magically clear in their awful and portentous significance. One’s past comes hauntingly back, in a kind of near-death experience while one is physically fully alive. ‘This is what’s it’s all been leading up to!’ I remember often thinking in the blazing hot, mad hot summer of 1979.
Chadwick also wrote a powerful 2006 article that recounted his experience of madness – weaving his insights as a scientifically inclined psychologist and his considerable literary powers into a piece that stands out as unusually powerful amid the typically arid academic literature.