Essay—Curing Schizophrenia (41)

Summary—This essay unites cognitive therapy with behavioral therapy (ie. CBT)—and then unites the actuarial science model with the existential philosophy model (ie. AEM)—and finally compares CBT with AEM. The approach argued in this essay represents a combination of the two methods—CBT and AEM—which is being presented as a cure for schizophrenia.

The 1980 movie Brubaker stars Robert Redford who went into a prison as an inmate.  After a time he exposed his true identity as the warden.  I have done the same thing by going into the healthcare system as a patient only to reveal myself as a doctor in that I have identified behaviorism as the cancer of modern medicine.  The Freudian cognitive model makes the ego or consciousness the decisionmaker who must choose between the internal values of the inward id, self or soul and the external authority of the superego or government.  Behaviorism chooses the superego while existentialism chooses the id.

Ontology.  Ontology is a branch of metaphysics that serves to identify the fundamental, distinct dimensions of being that constitute reality.  EF Schumacher (1911-1977) answered the question as to the ontological levels of being in the universe conclusively.  “From a base of matter, man has the power of life like plants, the power of consciousness like animals and self-awareness which is the power of consciousness recoiling upon itself.  Self-awareness opens up unlimited possibilities for learning, formulating and accumulating knowledge.”  Behaviorism only recognizes matter while existentialism recognizes all four ontological dimensions being—matter, life, consciousness and self-awareness.

Cognitive Therapy.  Cognitive therapy is a method that seeks to help patients overcome problems involving dysfunctional cognitive processes.   It was first developed by Aaron Beck in 1965.  Cognitive therapy is mainly used to treat anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.  This includes assisting patients in developing skills that recognize maladaptive thinking.  The therapy sessions involve testing the assumptions that patients make or fail to make.  The therapist addresses patient thinking in order to include the avoidance of stressful situations.  Cognitive therapy is like behavioral therapy given that it highlights specific cognitive problems.  The emphasis here is on altering thinking rather than focusing on visible behavior.  Therapists believe that irrational beliefs or distorted thinking can cause severe problems that include anxiety and depression.  Cognitive therapy teaches people to think more rationally.

Behaviorism and Behavioral Therapy.  Behaviorism is the psychological discipline that supports experimental procedures to study observable behavior.  It dominated psychology for the first half of the 20th century.  Behavioral therapy is based on behaviorism which in turn is based on the belief that the only things real are what we can perceive.  For example, behaviorism asserts that consciousness does not exist because we cannot see it.  BF Skinner (1904-1990) was involved in the formation of both behaviorism and behavioral therapy and had this to say. “Consciousness.  Can we see it?  Measure it?  Pass it around?  Then how is it different than something that does not exist at all?”—which is clearly false in that a person is either conscious or unconscious.  Behavior is the natural outcome of being.  When people are told how to behave, being is short-circuited and they end up choosing behavior over being.  In failing to recognize existentialism, behaviorism has become the standard cognitive model.  Behaviorism formulates models of behavior based on laboratory experiments instead of philosophy.  Behavioral therapy refers to either behavior or the thoughts and feelings associated with it.  Practitioners of behavioral therapy look for specific learned behaviors and how the environment affects them.  Behavioral therapy searches for an objective management of results.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).  CBT combines cognitive therapy and behavioral theory in seeking to assist patients in overcoming dysfunctional thought processes and behavior.  It was also first developed by Beck in 1970.  Therapists work with patients addressing the problems of anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.  CBT is based on problem solving and is action based.  Counsellors help patients formulate strategies that speak to specific problems including cognitive distortions.  Common structures of CBT are focused on the present and are intended to alleviate client susceptibility to symptoms.  Therapists began using behavioral and cognitive therapies that concentrated less on the inner-self of patients and more on behavioral problems.  CBT is a therapeutic approach that seeks to help patients overcome difficulties by changing dysfunctional thinking and bad behavior.  The CBT therapist educates the person as to the nature of his or her particular illness.  The therapist then helps people challenge irrational thoughts and behavior that could lead to anxiety and depression.

Actuarial Science.  An actuary is a person who applies the theories of probability, statistics, mathematics and finance to problems primarily involving insurance, annuities and pensions.  The underlying premise of actuarial science is the probability that events occurring in the past are used to predict the future.  This is also the underlying premise of risk management.  One becomes an actuary by writing a series of exams put on by a society of actuaries.  Individuals without a high school education are advised to first take the general educational development program (GED) before entering the actuarial program.  The first half of the actuarial exams are associate-level and are mathematical in nature.  The first two exams are Calculus and Linear Algebra, and Probability and Statistics.  The second half of the exams are fellowship-level and are qualitative in nature.  The exams are equivalent to university level subjects.  Actuarial science teaches the mind to function smoothly.  As a bonus, it can be studied at one’s own pace.

Existentialism.  Existentialism is the philosophy of existence or being.    It was created by Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) and Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) and others.  While behaviorism treats oneself and others as objects, existentialism treats oneself and others as subjects.  It is the philosophical movement emphasizing individual existence, freedom and choice.  Sartre defined existentialism as the philosophy for which existence precedes essence.  Consider a pen for example.  First came its essence (ie. its design on a drawing board) then came existence.  On the other hand, for human beings, existence precedes essence.  Man arrives on the scene and then creates his essence.  According to existentialism, man has total freedom and total responsibility.  In taking the full weight of the world on himself, man is able to assume an ontologically higher level of being in self-awareness.  Existentialism attacks the problem of being on an ontologically deeper level than behaviorism and behavioral therapy.  In order to better organize thoughts and construct arguments I recommend reading, books like Irrational Man—A Study in Existentialism (1958) by William Barrett, and beginner books on philosophy and science by authors like Donald Palmer and Paul Strathern.  Writing essays is also an excellent source of existential therapy for the self or soul.

Actuarial Science and Existential Philosophy Model (AEM).  The AEM is a scientific and philosophic model that could serve as an addendum to CBT.  The AEM was first developed by Christopher Bek in 2014.  CBT is a horizontal model whereas the AEM is a vertical model.  CBT is ontologically flat while the AEM is ontologically robust.  One can study the AEM on their own without the therapist required by CBT.  The AEM seeks to amend CBT by upgrading cognitive therapy to the actuarial science model—and by upgrading behavioral therapy to the existential philosophy model.  Both cognitive therapy and actuarial science are primarily focused on thinking.  Behavioral therapy focuses on the outer-self (ie. behavior) while existentialism focuses on the inner-self (ie. stream of consciousness and self-awareness).  In addition to curing schizophrenia, a great advantage of actuarial science is that the student would likely be welcomed into a job as an actuary that is generally considered to be the number one ranked career in North America.

Curing Schizophrenia.  The term schizophrenia comes from ancient Greece and means divided mind.  It is a severe mental illness that is characterized by a variety of symptoms including delusions, hearing voices, scattered thoughts, bizarre behavior, social awkwardness, memory loss, limited attention span and failure to plan ahead.  Actuarial science is all about planning ahead.  The Everyman is out of touch with the id but in touch with the superego.  I am in touch with the id but out of touch with the superego.  The schizophrenic is out of touch with both the id and the superego.  I would argue that we live in a completely superegomaniacal society.  Sartre said that “Bad faith is a state of inauthenticity where one attempts to flee from freedom, responsibility and anguish.  It is a paradoxical and therefore ultimately schizophrenic attempt at self-deception.  To live in good faith means to strive for authenticity and to continually be aware of the tendency to slip into bad faith.”  Margaret Atwood said that if the mental illness of the United States is megalomania—that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia.  One might even say that Canada has state-enforced schizophrenia.

Conclusion.  This essay argues that CBT should incorporate the AEM as an addendum to mental healthcare.  CBT requires a therapist while the AEM is self-taught.  People who are not in therapy could also greatly benefit from the AEM.  We can cure schizophrenia by employing CBT and the AEM.  We can then arrive at a higher state of being by realizing self-awareness.