“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
Why is Psychiatry everybody’s business?
Mental illness is all around us. Chances are that everyone either suffers from, or has a family member or friend or close acquaintance who suffers from a mental illness. So it is everyone’s business to know what a psychiatrist is.
The definition of a psychiatrist in the Oxford Languages dictionary is a “medical practitioner who specialises in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of mental illness.”
Pretty straightforward, huh? That’s until you look up the definition of mental illness in the same dictionary: “a health condition involving changes in thinking, emotion, or behaviour.” When you consider that thinking, emotions, and behaviour are the main ways that we experience the world and the world experiences us, the ubiquitousness of the problem becomes evident.
The gamut of mental illness can include conditions ranging from intellectual disabilities, psychoses, depression, and traumatic experiences, to subtler conditions like dissatisfaction, interpersonal dilemmas, and relationship issues, to grief, bereavement, and even existential issues. This enormous scope is perhaps why anti-psychiatrists crusade to end the medicalization of social problems.
Yet, in truth, where do you draw the line between what is behavioural, what is emotional, and what is social? An attempt to cater to differing theoretical schools resulted in the current atheoretical classification. There is an interesting parable about six blind men who were asked to describe an elephant. One person felt the trunk and described it as a snake, another one felt a leg and described it like a tree, the third person felt its tail and described it as a rope, and so forth. Unfortunately, mental illness can often be like the proverbial elephant. Our current classification system shies away from explaining the cause of illness and prefers just to describe and treat what we are aware of, like we are the six blind men.
Herein lies the scientific paradox: how can you treat something if you don’t know what it is or what causes it?
Conventionally, diagnosis is based on a clinical interview and the expectation is for the mental condition to neatly fit into a particular category in the classificatory system. Thereafter, we treat this condition either with medication or psychotherapy, or both. Unfortunately, mental illnesses are not well behaved creatures and they refuse to fall into neat categories, much to the frustration of us psychiatrists! Even those who do fall into these categories refuse to respond predictably to treatment. Patients often spend years searching for the elusive happy pill or the perfect therapy which will help solve their problems, never finding just the right solution.
A man who had lost his wife a few years ago and is struggling to find meaning in life is treated with the same pills as a man who is unhappy with his job but feels trapped in it due to financial reasons. A woman who has endured unspeakable childhood abuse undergoes the same cognitive behavioural therapy as a woman going through a marriage breakdown. We try our best to individualise therapy, but this is impossible with the limited therapeutic repertoire that we currently base our practice on.
Yes, you heard me right. Our current official therapeutic repertoire is limited, despite all the new drugs on the market (which are variations of the old), and the new therapies (which are largely adaptations of the old). The key word here is “official”. In future chapters, I will be talking about diagnostic techniques and treatment interventions that exist today, yet do not feature in any psychiatric textbooks or standard psychiatric literature. Despite that, they are promising and just might be the future of psychiatry—if we overcome our prejudice and allow them into the mainstream. The challenge we face today is not so much if effective treatments exist, but if we are willing to let go of our current worldview and take a quantum leap.
Why is Quantum Psychiatry everybody’s business?
Psychiatry today, despite what people might think, is largely a mechanistic discipline focusing on the brain and its chemical milieu. Many of the psychiatric theories focus on brain neurotransmitters (chemicals released by nerve endings that transmit information across the brain) and how their deficiency or excess causes mental illness. For example, low serotonin levels are found in people who have depression, so therefore restoring the level of serotonin at certain nerve endings can help relieve symptoms of depression. This forms the basis of treatment with medications such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics.
On the other hand, psychology focuses on the mind and has a variety of views and approaches. Psychology today is very fragmented. It can be intensely political as well, as people can identify with a particular school of thought and disregard other schools. Behaviourists have a here-and-now approach, focusing on current thoughts and behaviours, while analytical psychology focuses on how past experiences shape present thought and behaviour.
Also we have humanistic psychology, focusing on the self, and more recently positive psychology and energy psychology, with a focus on vital energy as the instrument of change. It is evident to the discerning mind that the fields of psychiatry and psychology pose at least two challenges.
Firstly, inherent in the current model is the concept of mind-body dualism, which was first proposed by Rene Descartes, a 17th century French philosopher and scientist. The brain is seen as matter and is treated with chemicals, which are also matter, to orchestrate a change in the “mind”, in the form of improved thoughts. Similarly, various psychotherapies, which work on the mind, eventually have an effect on the brain, as demonstrated by restoration in the level of neurotransmitters and size of some key brain regions that shrink in depression. Yet no one has been able to find that elusive step where matter (brain chemicals) is transformed into thought. This is almost considered taboo, because the moment we look this paradox in its face, our current Newtonian (mechanistic) approach falls apart.
Secondly, and perhaps as a result of our assumption that mind and brain are separate, the field of psychiatry is very fragmented. As with any other fragmented field, emotions run deeper than science. As aforementioned, psychologists identify themselves by the school they belong to— “I am a cognitive behaviourist” or “I am a psychoanalyst” they say—and vehemently defend their school of theory. The picture is similar with psychiatrists. There are experts on bipolar disorder, who categorise this illness into seven subtypes (while others only recognise one or two types). Some psychiatrists tend to diagnose ADHD very often, while others deny even its existence! And so the list goes on. Yet, science does not need defenders. Science is observable and replicable and does not need a “father figure”. Hence the need for a unified theory that will be observable, replicable, and not need defending.
While psychiatry is the study of mental illness, psychology is the science of consciousness. Thus psychology is a broad field studying all human experiences, positive and negative, while psychiatry is more exclusive to disordered experience. Yet, one cannot exist without the other. Thus in my discussions, you will often find that I intertwine psychology and psychiatry—not deliberately, but simply because separating them would be like taking the two helices of a DNA strand apart. It’s possible, but without meaning or purpose.
The basis of quantum psychiatry is quantum physics, which states that consciousness, or the observer, is the primary instrument of experience. In other words, in quantum psychiatry we move away from the assumption that the brain is the seat of consciousness but rather, the reverse is true: the brain is a manifestation of consciousness. This concept can be hard to wrap your head around, but quantum physics seems to read like a plot out of Alice in Wonderland! Consciousness, as quantum physicist Amit Goswami points out in The Everything Answer Book, is inclusive of the brain, experiences of the mind, vital experiences, intuitive experiences, and experiences of self. A more detailed explanation will follow in section one.
Quantum psychiatry is an attempt to develop an all-inclusive model of mental health and illness on all these layers of existence of consciousness. It is a practical application of the principles of quantum physics to understand the maladies of the mind-brain-body and treat it according to the same principles. Quantum psychiatry will address the gaps and paradoxes in our current knowledge.
In this book, I hope to share with you the importance of acknowledging our multi-dimensional existence, without which treatment of mental illness is limited.
If you or someone you know or love is suffering from a mental illness, I hope that this book will open your mind to this new paradigm in psychiatry which holds a lot of promise and the potential to heal on many different levels. If you are reading this book out of scientific curiosity, I hope to engage you not just in a scientific discussion but also encourage you to do your own research, as I have done, to arrive at your own conclusions. Quantum psychiatry, like quantum physics, is as ancient as the scriptures and as new as the particle accelerators. It belongs to no one and everyone. It is evidence-based and I hope it will unify the fields of psychiatry and psychology in the near future.
This book is divided into three sections. Section One explores some basic theories of quantum physics as they relate to the brain-mind and forms the basis of the next section. Section Two describes the application of quantum theory to psychiatry and the various diagnostic and interventional modalities available to our multilayered existence. Section Three is a series of meditations designed to help you experience some of the concepts outlined in section one. These meditations are leveled, so you are able to go deeper and deeper into quantum consciousness progressively.
Each section of the book can be read on its own. Section One is for the scientifically oriented and the sceptics. Here, I discuss the framework on which quantum psychiatry is built and provide a lot of theory and evidence. If you find this part too information-dense, feel free to jump to Section Two, which takes you through a range of practical therapeutic interventions along with some of my personal experiences with myself or clients. Section 3 and the appendix are mainly experiential; the meditations can be read on their own, but will be more meaningful if you have read both parts before. The meditations are also available in mp3 format to download on my website ‘www.thequantumpsychiatrist.com’, so that you can listen to and practice them regularly.
A word about the clinical examples: Most of them are drawn from my own clinical practice, however, I have changed names, ages and details of history significantly to preserve their anonymity.
So, I invite you to take a journey with me into the multilayered human consciousness and delve into its disorders and multiple modalities of treatment. Are you ready to take a quantum leap?