Wellness Bulletin

Everything is Connected: Autism, Schizophrenia, Depression, Mania, Bipolar Disorder, Politics and the World

 Guideline V

Avoid superstition and speculation.  But realize that some superstitious beliefs can actually give you a motivational boost and a healing hand.


Just as love is dual-natured, superstition can also either destroy you or heal you.  If you believe, for instance, that Friday, the 13th, is an unlucky day, then it will produce negative effects on your thoughts and actions.  On the other hand, if you believe that it is a lucky day, then it will naturally have positive effects.  In the same way, if you think that you are becoming sicker and sicker as the days go by, then you are asking for a self-fulfilling prophecy.  But if you believe that you are getting better everyday, then the power of self-suggestion can aid you to your recovery.

This is sometimes evident when you pray for healing, regardless of what religion you belong to.  For instance, the use of repetitive words, guided by prayer beads, in many different religions, is known to relax the mind and move it away from stressful thoughts.

So when you encounter superstitious situations, try to turn around any negative situation into something positive.  For instance, when I first arrived in Sri Lanka, it was about midnight.  And it was more than an hour’s drive from the airport to my hotel at the Hilton in Colombo. So when I arrived at the front desk of the Hilton, I was naturally tired.  The bellboy brought my luggage up to my room, and to my complete surprise, my room was 1306 at the 13th floor.  It certainly felt strange to be in a foreign land in the 13th floor of a hotel, but I thought that it would be ridiculous to be superstitious at that point.  So, I decided to stay for the night in that room.  I found out later that the architect of the hotel was Japanese.  And the Japanese aren’t superstitious about the number 13.  Of course, I decided the next day to move to another room, where I got a better view of the Indian Ocean, but if I entertained superstitious thoughts that night, I probably would have freaked out.  In the end, my work in Colombo became successful “thanks” in part to my lucky room at the Hilton.

It is also important to note that some beliefs are beneficial for some people but not for others.  For example, I asked Sir Arthur Clark a debatable question before I had lunch with him in Colombo, together with my co-workers.  (Incidentally, Sir Arthur is the British physicist and science-fiction writer who invented the communication satellite, authored 2001: A Space Odyssey, and appeared as a 3-D Hologram “ghost” at the Comdex Exhibition on November 13, 2001 to demonstrate this new visual communication technology.)

"Do you believe in the after life?" I asked him.

"No, I don't," he said bluntly.

“I thought that one of your books, Childhood's End, suggested that your existence continues after death,” rebutted Dr. Smile (not his real name), one of our associates.

"Well, " Sir Arthur said, "it's a fictional book.  The opinions expressed in that book are not necessarily the opinions of the author."

While Dr. Smile, an educator, seemed enthusiastic about the prospects of life after death.  Sir Arthur frowned on it.  For some people who might think in simpler terms, the belief in an afterlife would probably be beneficial since it gives them hope.  But for others, who think in a complex manner, the afterlife brings an infinite number of theories and possibilities—many of which are negative, including the infinite reincarnation theory and the video-game theory.  So in Sir Arthur’s case, it is obviously better not to believe in an afterlife.  Otherwise, you will just lose your mind. It is for this reason that the Buddhists believe in Nirvana, which extinguishes this torturous superstitious belief.

Certainly, the superstitions of religion cause tremendous damage throughout the world.  Or at the very least, it limits human potential and growth because of the hypnotic suggestions of many clergymen.  For example, as the year 2000 approached, numerous date-setting Christian sects prophesied the second coming of Jesus before the new millennium started.  Consequently, some people committed suicide when it failed to come true. 

In South Korea for instance, about 20,000 Christians joined a gathering in 1992 to be "raptured" up to heaven before the supposed end of the world.  Many of them quit their jobs and sold their property.  Moreover, some Christian women had abortions to help them become lighter when they float up in the air to meet Jesus.

And in 1993, a Russian "prophetess" named Maria Devi Christos along with her 144,000 followers, believed that the world would end that year.  Consequently, Russian authorities sent about one third of them to jail or to psychiatric wards to prevent mass suicide.

In that same year, the Branch Davidians (a renegade Seventh-Day Adventist Christian group) perished in Waco, Texas, USA, believing that the world was coming to an end.  They collected firearms to prepare themselves for the Apocalypse.  And when the American authorities attempted to serve them warrants for firearms violations, the Branch Davidians killed four of the government agents.  Finally, after a 51-day siege, the Branch Davidian compound ended up in a blazing inferno that killed dozens of people, including seventeen children.

And in 2000, Ugandan priests of a Catholic apocalyptic sect burned 470 of their followers.  It was later found out that the priests mass murdered at least 430 other people, adding up to a total death count of at least 900 victims.

Of course, this is just recent history--the tip of the iceberg.  There are dozens of history books out there that tell the story of millions of murdered victims, slaughtered by European Catholic clergymen over the centuries because of their superstitious religious beliefs.

It is very obvious that religious superstition is very harmful to the individual and to society as a whole.  But many people today often overlook medical and scientific superstition.  For instance, a trip to some of the museums that display psychiatric exhibits in Europe and North America today would reveal horrific torture instruments and contraptions that would make you wonder about the sanity of Western doctors.  Centuries ago, Western doctors believed that mental illness was caused by "bad blood" or even devil possession. 

So, to "cure" the patient, they built different types of machines and instruments.  For instance, they developed drills that bore through the patient’s skull to let the "bad blood" out.  They also had small, vertical cages that could tightly fit one standing person.  Doctors would imprison their patients in these slim cages for days to "cure" them, so the patient had to sleep standing up.

Many of the other types of contraptions used by the doctors resemble the medieval torture machines used in the Inquisition.  The arms and legs of the patient were bound to these machines in very devious and torturous ways.  And it is best for you to see the machines for yourselves because to see is to believe.  But if you don't have the guts to see these machines, you may check out the milder versions of these instruments and contraptions in exhibits such as the one displayed in St. Joseph’s State hospital in Missouri.

It makes you wonder, is the doctor more insane than the patient?

Later, of course, in the late 19th century to the mid 20th century, Western doctors developed the surgical procedure called lobotomy ("lobe cutting").  Through several experiments done by psychiatrists to dogs and chimpanzees, they observed that by damaging certain portions of the brain, you could stop the violent behavior of one-third of psychotic patients.  In the beginning, only a few patients were given this "treatment."  But after World War II, when mental hospitals ballooned with patients, tens of thousands of people around the world were lobotomized.  Walter Freeman, an American physician, pushed for the validity of this practice, and performed many of the lobotomies himself.  He would get an ice-pick and perforate the patient's skin, tissues, skull and meninges with a single plunge of a hammer, under local anesthesia. Later, governments around the world would use it against political opponents, children displaying bad behavior, and families trying to get rid of their misbehaving relatives. 

But the use of this procedure eventually declined.  In 1947, the U.S. conducted an evaluation study of lobotomy called the Columbia-Greystone project.  It failed to provide evidence of the effectiveness of lobotomies.  And as the years went by, most doctors stopped using this procedure since it caused irreversible brain damage to the patient, who became a living “vegetable. “

It makes you wonder, are these doctors really thinking people?

Moreover, during the 1930s and 1940s, electroshock therapy (electrocution) was also used as a "treatment" for many mentally-ill patients.  But just like lobotomy, the brain damage caused by electrocuting the patient to produce epileptic seizures eventually surfaced.  So its use declined over time, and some U.S. states and countries eventually banned the practice of electroshock therapy.

It makes you wonder, are psychiatrists pretending to be Dr. Frankenstein?  Would an electric chair for death-row prisoners be more suitable to make their "treatment" more effective?

Nowadays, of course, psychiatrists prefer to use neuroleptic drugs to treat their patients.   These drugs are derivatives of phenothiazine, an insecticide discovered in 1883.  And over the years, different types of neuroleptics were developed, including but not limited to chlorpromazine (Thorazine), clozapine, and risperidone (risperdal).  Many of these variations were produced by grafting or substituting different chemical side chains onto the head of the original phenothiazine triple-ring structure.

And since neuroleptics and phenothiazines have similar chemical structures and share the same mechanism of action, which attacks and destroys the nervous system of the organism it is exposed to, much of the effects of neuroleptic drugs can be demonstrated by spraying a can of insecticide on a cockroach.  Try to buy a can of bug spray from your local supermarket and spray it on a roach.  Observe that it will shake and shake like someone who has Parkinson's disease.  The roach, of course, may escape, and it may manage to live and misbehave in your kitchen for several days.  Perhaps it might even chew your tea bags containing caffeine--an alkaloid known to be medicinal in moderate amounts since it stimulates the nervous system. Or maybe, the roach might even crawl into your refrigerator, searching for droplets of fermented beverages containing ethyl alcohol--a medicinal substance scientifically proven to prevent dementia when consumed in low dosages. But of course, if you spot the roach again, try to corner it. And if you spray it long enough with your can of insecticide, it will eventually develop what psychiatrists call Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome, where the muscles of the organism become stiff and its nervous system completely breaks apart.  Eventually, of course, the organism, or roach, will die. 

It makes you wonder, could military nerve gas be a more effective treatment for schizophrenia?  Do doctors want to help you, or are you pests that they want to kill?  Aren't Michael J. Fox and Muhammad Ali trying to stop Parkinson's disease?  Then why are psychiatrists trying to induce it?  Could Robert Redford, playing his role in the movie, The Horse Whisperer, do a better job than the doctors?

And if you developed a new product and called it “Rodney’s Rat Poison,” could you get U.S. FDA approval for it and sell it to milk US$ 2,703 per year from the mentally ill just like the patients who are hooked on Janssen’s Risperdal?

It makes you wonder, do doctors and pharmaceutical companies want to treat you, or do they really just want your money?

To answer all these questions, you have to refer to Guideline I.  Meditate on this guideline.  And realize that you cannot get well unless you answer these questions with the first guideline.  So if you developed tardive dyskenesia and your whole body is now twitching and wiggling, like Michael J. Fox, because you were forced by the U.S. government to take neuroleptics via a court order, then meditate on Guideline I.  Otherwise, you’ll become worse.

Anyway, Michael is still a Lucky Man.  And the same thing goes for you!  You are quite fortunate not to belong to the future generation of mentally ill patients who might be forced by the U.S. government to undergo Gottesman’s Icelandic dream of gene therapy.  Otherwise, you might end up with offspring that resembles a cross between a monkey and a Tasmanian Tiger, as a “side effect.”

Lastly, you need to also watch out for humorous con-artists disguised as legitimate businessmen, who sell certain health products.  For instance, Japanese businessman Genta Ogami sold slimming tea from the Banaba-tree through a network-marketing scheme in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Japan, several months ago.  And as part of his business practices, he would ask his employees to recite his “Messiah’s Creed” and to treat him like a god.   He even made a Filipino movie that depicted him as someone who will “save” the world from the “evil” white man.  Of course, as his supporters said, he never really believed in all that superstition.  He was just a clever con-artist and businessman who wanted to have some fun at the same time.

It makes you wonder, are people like Ogami evil con-men, or are they just creative professors, teaching you about the funny things that humans do? 

In the end, even if you should generally avoid superstition, you shouldn’t take this guideline too seriously.  If you keep analyzing, evaluating, and judging every situation, on whether it is superstitious or not, you will end up going back to square one!  For instance, if you think that by applying acupressure on your lower earlobes to relieve some symptoms of mental illness is okay for you, then go ahead.  Pinching your lower ear, where earrings are inserted, does no harm.  In ancient China, this was one of the numerous ways by which they treated mental illness.

Actually, the Chinese believe in the healing art of acupuncture.  They push tiny needles through your skin to contact certain nerve endings that stimulate your nervous system to produce a reaction in the mind-body connection.  It seems to mimic a mini lobotomy, but it is not harmful since the Chinese have been practicing it for thousands of years.  And although the U.S. National Institute of Health acknowledged its usefulness in 1997 for chemotherapy patients, no serious scientific study has been done yet for conditions like schizophrenia.   This is obviously an area where Western neuroscientists might want to investigate and explore further.

So, remember to avoid superstition, but don’t overdo it.  As Hong Ying Ming says, “it is better to be deceived by people than to be on the lookout for deception.  This is a warning against paranoia.”