Psychological Assessment and Review

As yet, I believe nobody in the Catholic press has reviewed what Russell Brand would describe as my 'booky-wook', not even Damian Thompson who is, I presume, too busy promoting his own. That's probably a good thing, because of its adult content and the style of the book itself. If I were a Catholic journalist, an ambition that is now further away than ever it was, I wouldn't want to touch it with a barge pole.

However, one person, at least (though it is likely that one commenter has 'multiple personalities') has already suggested that ten years ago, when the book was written, that I was 'nuts' or that I still am 'nuts'. I should like to tell this commentator that I have not written any such thing in any such style before the writing of '33' nor ever since this writing episode, ten years ago and nor do I have any intention to do so. I believe that to do so could be spiritually dangerous. For evidence of this, see Vassula Ryden.

For his benefit, if for nobody else's, I would like to make a defence not of the book itself but of the format of it, since this is what disturbs at least one reader and his multiple personalities the most. I have not made the claim, nor asserted in any way, that this book is definitively a conversation with Our Lord Jesus Christ. That is for others to decide. Let us imagine, however, that I did assert this. How would such a claim stand up to objective scrutiny?

The first objection to be raised is that a writing event that took place ten years ago is more likely to be evidence of some form of mental illness. It so happens that at the time of writing I was taking anti-depressives and was in a state of deep depression. So the vulnerable mental condition of the author cannot be disputed.

The writer, there is no doubt, at an early stage of his writing endeavour, believes he is having a conversation with some 'being' other than himself. However, just because the writer believes this, does not make it objectively true. The writer could, for instance, be totally deluded or indulging some kind of fantasy. This is, indeed, the most likely cause of the style which is known as 'automatic writing'. Therefore, the writer, it should be assumed, is undergoing, at the age of 25, some form of 'madness'.

What form of madness would this be? Has the writer developed a friendly alter-ego which he has developed and called 'G' which we presume stands for that which we call 'God'? The objection to the writer's claim - unless he is writing fiction deliberately - is that he is 'nuts'. The first mental illness we would investigate would be some form of schizophrenia. Indeed, there are multiple personalities evident in the work.

In order to determine the veracity of this claim - that the author is experiencing the effects of schizophrenia, we need to assert that there exists a psychological state which is to be known as 'the norm' or 'normal'. Can this be done? To suggest that there exists a 'norm' would suggest there exists a psychological state which is objective, stable and fixed, despite the vicissitudes of a person's life - their worries, anxieties and personal flaws. Since we need, in order to diagnose some form of acute madness or personality disorder, we cannot make an arbitrary decision. A diagnosis must be made on objective grounds.

Of the two characters or personalities that are manifested in the work, it appears that one, 'L', is unhappy with the tension that exists in his life between his sexual orientation and his religious faith. He is also unhappy because he is grieving the loss of a woman with whom he separated at University. His emotional state is storm-tossed and his behaviour highly erratic. It is evident that he masturbates a great deal and is deeply unhappy, isolated and feels terribly alone. 'L' is looking for answers to the fundamental issues affecting his life. In 'G', he discovers answers that enable him to resolve some incredibly deep rooted conflicts that are evident in his life.

For his part, of the two personalities expressed in the work, the personality 'G' claims divinity. This personality says, 'I am God'. This personality also identifies himself as the 'Conscience' of the writer. In contrast to the erratic, psychologically distressed, 'L', personality 'G' exhibits notable signs of compassion for personality 'L'. Personality 'G' also, however, takes personality 'L' to task on some very serious moral failing evident in personality 'L'. 'L' accepts the truth of his moral failings following the accusation of 'G' of betrayal and selfishness. While these accusations are blunt, 'G's assertions of moral failure by 'L' are followed by and preceded by words of consolation, understanding and love - a pattern that runs throughout the document.

'L', on the other hand, does not claim divinity. 'G' tells 'L' categorically that 'L' is a prolific 'sinner', but reassures him of the constant love that 'G' has for 'L'. 'L' accepts his moral failure and decides to place trust in the personality 'G', believing this personality to be divine, and seeks further help from 'G'.

If we put to one side the personality 'G's claim of divinity, because we are approaching this matter with objective scepticism, personality 'G' consistently provides 'L' with sound advice and a degree of wisdom that 'L' lacks. This dialogue between 'L' and 'G' enables the 'L' to work through some deep emotional wounds which he had previously been unable to resolve, which, if it could be summarised, amounts to the need for 'L' to lay down his life, forget himself and serve others. Insodoing, 'L' is promised happiness. These kinds of teachings are evident in the holy texts to which the author has been exposed since his conversion to the Catholic Faith in 2001.

Therefore, we now reconvene with, not an objection but a question. Since we view this book from the experience of one who does not believe in the supernatural, but one who works in the psychological field, it cannot be stated positively or negatively that this is an encounter between the author and God. Of the two personalities that are manifested in the work, however, it can be objectively stated that one personality 'L', is deeply flawed and extremely disturbed - at times - even hysterical. The other personality manifested in the book, 'G', on the other hand, appears, despite the assertion that he is divine, to be benign, caring, loving, peaceful, compassionate an at times incredibly tender towards the personality 'L'.

Of the 'split personality' disorders, can we discover a disorder in which one personality is 'all at sea', whereas another personality manifests some form of virtue or wisdom that strikes the other as being alien to it, if welcome? Is what we are seeing here a 'Dr Jeckal and Mr Hyde' disorder?

Throughout the writing encounter, as well as personalities being manfested in 'L' and 'G', there appears to be some form of 'battle of wills' going on. The will of personality 'G' is for personality 'L' to become more like 'G'. Personality 'G' identifies himself as Saviour, God, Love, Compassion, Incarnate Wisdom, Goodness Itself and Jesus Christ and describes the result of the dialogue taking place between the two personalities as being the result of a state of 'perpetual prayer'.

The author is obviously one who already prays, but the nature of the dialogue between the two personalities is notably intense. In fact, the two personalities, who at first appear as strangers, grow in relationship with one another. Between personality 'G' and personality 'L' a steadfast bond appears to grow that strikes the reader as being one of trust, friendship, intimacy and even perhaps some kind of 'love affair'. 'G', having described 'L' as the 'apple of his eye' and making notable exclamations of love for 'L', appears to draw from 'L' such exclamations as 'my Lord and my God!' and 'my God and my love'.

Therefore, we find in the author's claim that this is a divine encounter a curious element which is unusual in the field of psychology. The result of the dialogue that takes place between the two personalities are manifestly and evidently positive. From the personality discourse, the personality 'L' receives consolation and almost consistent love and support from the personality 'G'. From reading the manuscript, the psychological conflicts caused by painful separation between 'L' and his lost love 'Beatrice' appear to be healed by the realisation of 'L' that he has failed to put her needs above his own. Yet, in his moral failure to 'let her go' and wish her good, he finds in the personality 'G' a sudden, transforming and overwhelming joy and embrace, to the point that he exclaims personality 'G' to be the 'Messiah' and 'Saviour' of the World.

A new pledge of loyalty is made by 'L' to personality 'G' in a serous of exclamations that suggest that the personality 'L', so grateful for the help of personality 'G', wishes to serve 'G' alone and be possessed entirely by 'G'. Very soon after this 'crescendo', personality 'L' ends the book and writing ceases entirely indicating that something has been resolved in the mind of the author.

It becomes evident in the book that personality 'G' has taught, personally, 'L' the true meaning of love and its self-sacrificial nature. Personality 'G' is gladdened by the affection and generous response of personality 'L', implicitly promising a renewed hope of happiness and eternal reward for 'L'.

Despite the fact that throughout the dialogue between the two personalities, both personality 'G' and personality 'L' confirm the sexual orientation of the author to be homosexual, there is, if not what one would describe as a 'curing' of the 'condition' of homosexuality, some kind of healing in the author - not necessarily in terms of his sexual orientation, but in terms his view of the sexual expression of love.

This must be in some sense the case, because ten years after the writing episode, the author of the book maintains a three year relationship with a woman with whom he confidently asserts he will marry in the summer of 2013.

It appears from the outcome of this 'spiritual writing exercise' that the author has laid several 'demons' to rest and has, since writing the book, undergone some kind of personal liberation from his deeply conflicted psychological state, through the advice and encouragement, support and love of personality 'G'. The author, who was for a time seeing psychiatrists, a fact made evident in the work, was on substantially powerful anti-depressives. It is also true that he had undergone a period of cognitive behavioural therapy in London prior to the writing of this work. The author maintains that he stopped taking anti-depressives following the dialogue and no longer needs any form of counselling or cognitive therapy. He now appears to be living a far more stable, loving and emotionally healthy lifestyle, supported, regularly by his Catholic Faith.

It appears, too, that the author has gained vocationally, if not financially, from the writing experience, since in 2008, he began a blog which receives a not unsubstantial number of 'hits' a day. The author, or 'patient' maintains that writing this blog brings him a sense of fulfillment and meaning that was hitherto lacking. It is impossible to attribute the author's evident love for the Catholic Faith and for evangelizing through the new media to the writing episode he has named '33', but it is difficult to imagine the personality 'L' writing and communicating the Catholic Faith as passionately as he does going by the mental state of his personality at the time of writing the document, since the personality of 'L' appears to be timid and even afraid.

In my limited experience and knowledge of psychology, I know of few or no such cases in which a schizophrenic or multiple personality patient, nor even of one engaging in paranoid fantasies has benefited so much mentally, spiritually, emotionally or vocationally from the effects of his own psychiatric condition or disorder.

I would therefore assert that this is a hitherto unknown multiple personality event and that it cannot be immediately explained, for there is no explanation to hand for this dramatic account. The possibility of some form of supernatural event, or process taking place outside of the natural order cannot therefore be ruled out. The author's assertion therefore should not be immediately dismissed and the document remains mysterious.

I realise that people who talk about themselves in the third person are considered to be mad, but in order to give as an objective account as possible to the document by the person who wrote it, this assessment had to be done in such a style.

To readers already bored by this kind of self-indulgence, I apologise, but if someone calls me 'nuts', I feel strangely compelled to respond as best I can.


Anonymous said…
LOL I post as Mockery of the Sacraments. I have no way of proving this but I wish to claim that I am not the same person as the one who has created the imaginary dialogue between Grayling & Darwin that appears on a previous blog post.
The Bones said…
Just for the record, I consider someone who claims to 'deny Christ', yet who spends a great deal of personal time and energy commenting on specifically Catholic blogs in order to offer their wisdom and advice to be a little unusual, but hey, who am I to cast aspersions.
Lolalola said…
Laurence, as a point of interest; it's very useful to use the third person to identify yourself with a young child (under 4) they understand that 'mummy' is a person whereas if you used the word 'I' in a directive would be largely ignored. So Eg 'Mummy would like you to eat those vegetables because...' It is not unusual at all that you have written of this account using the third person because you are teaching others the difference between self identity and personhood.
Lolalola said…
And one more point, there is a difference between being broken and not complete.
Anonymous said…
I take your point Laurence. What I do is unusual. Reading The Catholic blogosphere is a vice of mine. There are certainly better uses of my time.
The Bones said…
Keep reading them. There's still every possibility you might come across a blog writer who is even wiser than you.
Anonymous said…
I have indeed encountered such blog writers
Laurence. Not you, obviously, but some of the Catholic bloggers do seem to be wise people. I simply don't share their faith.

The Bones said…
"And I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came upon me: and I preferred her before kingdoms and thrones, and esteemed riches nothing in comparison to her. Neither did I compare unto her any precious stone: for all gold in comparison to her, is as a little sand, and silver in respect to her shall be counted as clay." ~ Wisdom 7:7-9

I take heart in the truth of the knowledge that the beginning of wisdom is the knowledge you have none.
Anonymous said…
LOL That is the wisest thing you have said today Laurence.

You are a good man, I see that you help the homeless, but 33? Well, really Laurence.
The Bones said…
That's really very kind but I agree with Jesus Christ, who said 'Only God is good'. St Mark 10:18

I can only attribute any good thing I do, think or say to Him.

There is no vice in reading the blogosphere unless you are neglecting other duties (as I do) or unless you do so in order to undermine the faith and hard work of bloggers.
The Bones said…
The bad I do I attribute to myself. For instance, yesterday I told a homeless man to "piss off" after he graffitied the property where I live with his name.

In hindsight that was uncharitable because he's just frustrated with being homeless and having to go to court today for setting his own head on fire in an anglican church.
Anonymous said…
Laurence, Since I have been reading your blog I have become very fond of you. I've not read 33 yet. I think it won't surprise you I'm somewhat hesitant. I intend to try to do so. I can see that many hearts and prayers are with you including mine.
Joseph Shaw said…
You're not the first writer to write a book containing 'multiple personalities'. If that makes you nuts, what does it make Shakespeare?

I've read the first 6 chapters. Although I have mixed feelings about some aspects of it - including the grammar - the honesty and psychological insight it displays are impressive and intriguing.

So there's your review!
Martin said…
It's true the book is not well written or particularly interesting, but it does show how people if faith struggle in this world and should be applauded for its honesty
Andrew Rex said…
Schizophrenia is a detatchment from reality charterised by paranoia and delluisions - not a split personality. Multiple personalities is a feature of a disassociate state disorder.

Just thought it's very interesting that you have subconsiously diagnosed yourself in this way. Perhaps you do have some insight after all.
Funny how these critics all have equally poor spelling?!