Family and Caregiver Schizophrenia Discussion Forum

Distorted Views of Religion and Spirituality

Why is it that many people with SZ cling to distorted views of religion? For many the religion is probably Christianity based, thinking that they are receiving messages from God. etc.

For my son, since I am a Buddhist, he latches on to certain phrases like “Go with the flow” “Path of least resistance” or “Non-attachment” (which makes him think he is supposed to get rid of his belongings or donate his meager savings to charity.) He twists things out of context and when I try to tell him you can’t make a teaching apply to all situations, he doesn’t agree and goes off on an endless loop

He also desperately wants to make sense of what it is happening to him (hallucinations etc.) so he says that he is having a spiritual experience but needs someone to help him interpret it and that in some cultures those who have visions are guided to become Shamans. . I suggest that if his “visions” and thoughts are helpful, useful and lead him in the direction that he wants to go, then that is one thing, but if they are usually confusing, mean and angry, then they are not worth pursuing

He thinks that if someone was to guide when he had his first episode, then his spiritual experience would have been positive, but because he was hospitalized, they continue to be mostly negative.

How many of you have a family member who has a distorted view of Religion?

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Sounds like a spiritual experience!
You should go check out a vajrayana buddhist temple
And have him meditate with a lama!
That would help him a lot
Is he on antipsychotics right now?

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To be honest spirituality through vajrayana buddhism helped us out tremoundously in our path of wellness
It’s one of the most beneficial things that helped my partner

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Sounds a bit like my son.
He has for years said that his “soul” was taken, and part of it was given to someone else , he also says that he was given part of someone else soul.

He researched extensively about shamans and soul retrieval through the shamans.
Now he says that people have bad things in store for him because he is catholic and that people hate catholics.

He also says that pills can’t fix a spiritual illness and he is “ill” spiritually and not mentally.

He also blames us for not “guiding him and not leading him in the right path etc.
He believes that some people can read minds and he has to learn so he is more aware .
He also says at times he’s has “inner speech” and wants it more as it’s enlightening.

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@Crushd,
My son started showing signs of illness around the age of 14/15. Then it escalated into a whole another level. He would leave our front door wide open (I don’t mean unlocked, I mean physically wide open), and say whatever was ours was “theirs”, and everyone was “welcome” and said we already had more than enough things, and that it was “God’s way” to give generously and to live unselfishly. He gave away tv’s, cell phones, his game systems, and cash. He gave away money he didn’t have @ an ATM machine by making a “donation” to the Red Cross. He had less than $100 in his account, he donated $2,000. It caused a big mess with the bank, and this happened right before he was hospitalized. This was when he was at the height of his psychosis. After his release from hospital, we had to both go to his bank to straighten it out and to prove to the bank manager that he has sz. He no longer has a bank account, we closed his account.

Even now I see traces of him being fixated on Jesus and “God’s ways”. He reads the Bible daily, and knows the entire Bible by heart. He often corrects me on things by using Bible verses. I immediately shut it down, I will not entertain, sugarcoat, or oblige him. I tell him to live his life his way and I will live mine my way. This is the area we seem to be in conflict about the most.

I, too, find it very strange that so many people with sz have this uncanny, unhealthy, fixation with God. Thankfully he has insight, and he realizes he & I will never agree when it comes to the subject of our religious beliefs.

He is also very much aware that his weekly allowance will stop very abruptly if decides he wants to give away what I’m giving him. So far, this “arrangement” appears to have sunk in, as he often shows me what he bought or tells me how much he has saved so far.

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This is a touchy subject, as I respect religion and other people’s religious beliefs, but I am largely agnostic. I’d likely be more of an atheist were it not for my experiences with SZA. I also owe much of my recovery to Jungian Analysis, so I may lean into Jungian ideas here and give them more merit than a lay person would give them or they deserve.

Here are some of my thoughts on religion and SZ:

First, religion validates, “explains” and in many ways reveres many of their experiences that secular society denigrates. If you were given choices between thinking you were a prophet, or a crazy person; that God spoke to you, or you were sick and needed medication; that you were having religious visions, or visual hallucinations; that you were following religious tenants of poverty, or just poor and unemployable and so on, wouldn’t following the religious path better prop up your self esteem, give you comfort or better explain experiences that seem supernatural to you?

Second, religious texts often contain ancient archetypical images, and stories or myths that tap into what Jung calls the collective unconscious. The theory is there’s a shared unconscious biased content that all people share across all societies across time to a well of stories, or fragments of stories or images or abstract concepts that are hardwired into our brain or spirit or soul or whatever contains our conscious and unconscious selves. Joseph Campbell’s Hero of a Thousand Faces expands on Jung’s work and goes through common themes of most religions: creation, sacrifice, redemption, the hero’s and the saviors paths, etc. People with SMI live closer to their unconscious, so the theory goes, so they are more susceptible to its sway and it intrudes and in part takes over their conscious life if they are exposed to archetypical content.

Third, religious texts are persuasive and arguably propagandistic literary documents that use rhetorical devices like parables, metaphors, imagery and mental ‘hacks’ like mantras and koans that aren’t meant to be taken literally. Schizophrenic thinking seems to vacillate between looking for literal answers to questions and rejecting practical conventions. So these devices can appeal to their contrarian biases and lead to misinterpretations that can be opposite to the intent or common wisdom. Religious texts in some ways are meant to confuse to give jobs to priesthoods and religious scholars. If they were straightforward and everyone understood them the same way, there would be no reason for organized religion.

Finally, if you are looking for an “out” or explanation of seemingly supernatural events or psychic suffering, religions are much more emotionally satisfying and require much less critical thought than science. They also offer simple satisfying “answers” to often difficult problems in prescriptive ways and all they ask in return sometimes is to believe or perhaps suspend disbelief. Suspending disbelief with blind faith is a hallmark of delusional thinking, so I understand why religious content may appeal to people with SZ— even those with insight.

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The God phase, the worst possible experience and the most dangerous IMO…

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I think you have to have insight and discernment before “taking on” any religious path. And most religions can easily be misinterpreted, for example, thinking that if you are not completely compassionate, non-attached, selfless, etc, that you will be punished (or have bad Karma.) Or that “what you think” will affect your actions and if your thoughts are not wholesome than you will suffer.

Our son read in some Buddhist text that acting and other artistic pursuits were distractions from the path and so were unwholesome. And living up to “Ideals” of always being compassionate, non-attached, having to be vigilant about your speech and actions can be overwhelming. (Coming to terms with Buddhist ideas like “not-self” can be very confusing. )

At other times he says that he wants to be free, unconstrained by rules and wants to live an unconventional life.
So, I think it is great that Vajrayana Buddhism is helpful to you and your partner.
I am afraid that my son would take it too literally and also get frustrated that he can’t live up to the ideals.

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I find this interesting, because similar misinterpretations are made by actors of various acting theories, especially the work of Stanislavski and others that became known as ‘method acting’. Some ideas and ideals have parallels to Buddhist tradition: be a selfless and giving actor; commit to the work, not to the role; listen to your fellow actors, not yourself; don’t act or think, be present in the moment, etc.

Buddhism seems more rooted in philosophy than many religions and philosophical practice requires discipline and introspection that can be difficult without insight. I’ve found some philosophies useful to my psychological journey regardless of source, and this perhaps explains a certain eclectic and agnostic multi denominational bent. Jung embraced multiculturalism, but had origins in western Christian thought. A final stage and central unconscious archetype in the process of individuation is a concept he calls the Self often represented as a wise old man or crone image (Jungian theory has various gender biases, but not nearly as bad as Freud). Anyway, his thoughts about the self can be equally abstract and confusing.

Yet, I find some of these thoughts compatible with ideas of the non-self. One of my chief laments about folks with schizophrenia is they don’t recognize it as a process to recovery that can kick off change and adaptation of the psyche toward individuation, culminating in enlightenment at integrating the ‘Self’ and ultimately dissolution of the corporal body to whatever plane of non-being. And that’s very hard to pull off without insight. Admittedly my knowledge of Buddhist teachings is scant and mainly touches on Zen, but I feel an intuitive resonance with what I’ve read thus far.

Continuing the discussion from Distorted Views of Religion and Spirituality:

My daughter has gone from one religious extreme to another. At one point married to jesus, then carrying his baby then we are descend from david & are royal. She has also been the wholly spirit. She calls this other world the spirit world & says can see & hear heaven. Early on this was a positive experience for her but now things there are attacking her & everything has just become violent. It is so hard to handle & all the different meds we have tried don’t see to ever make this go away or quieten enough to help. This is a horrible disease that needs more attention.

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TO MB:

Below is the Suttha he was referring to. I try to tell him that you con’t have to take on everything that you read. There are lots of things in the Old Testament that we don’t adhere to such as that homosexuality is evil, or that adultresses should be stoned, or that men can have multiple wives among other things. The interesting thing is that the Buddha did not want to tell him this, he really wanted to avoid an ultimatum, but the actor kept pressing him.

On one occasion the Blessed One was staying near Rajagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrel’s Sanctuary.

Then Talaputa, the head of an acting troupe, went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: “Lord, I have heard that it has been passed down by the ancient teaching lineage of actors that ‘When an actor on the stage, in the midst of a festival, makes people laugh & gives them delight with his imitation of reality, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of the laughing devas.’ What does the Blessed One have to say about that?”

“Enough, headman, put that aside. Don’t ask me that.”

A second time… A third time Talaputa, the head of an acting troupe, said: “Lord, I have heard that it has been passed down by the ancient teaching lineage of actors that ‘When an actor on the stage, in the midst of a festival, makes people laugh & gives them delight with his imitation of reality, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of the laughing devas.’ What does the Blessed One have to say about that?”

*Apparently, headman, I haven’t been able to get past you by saying, ‘Enough, headman, put that aside. Don’t ask me that.’ So I will simply answer you. Any beings who are not devoid of passion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of passion, focus with even more passion on things inspiring passion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Any beings who are not devoid of aversion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of aversion, focus with even more aversion on things inspiring aversion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Any beings who are not devoid of delusion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of delusion, focus with even more delusion on things inspiring delusion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Thus the actor — himself intoxicated & heedless, having made others intoxicated & heedless — with the breakup of the body, after death, is reborn in what is called the hell of laughter. But if he holds such a view as this: ‘When an actor on the stage, in the midst of a festival, makes people laugh & gives them delight with his imitation of reality, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of the laughing devas,’ that is his wrong view. Now, there are two destinations for a person with wrong view, I tell you: either hell or the animal womb."

When this was said, Talaputa, the head of an acting troupe, sobbed & burst into tears. [The Blessed One said:] “That is what I couldn’t get past you by saying, ‘Enough, headman, put that aside. Don’t ask me that.’”

"I’m not crying, lord, because of what the Blessed One said to me, but simply because I have been deceived, cheated, & fooled for a long time by that ancient teaching lineage of actors who said: ‘When an actor on the stage, in the midst of a festival, makes people laugh & gives them delight with his imitation of reality, then with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in the company of the laughing devas.’

“Magnificent, lord! Magnificent! Just as if he were to place upright what was overturned, to reveal what was hidden, to show the way to one who was lost, or to carry a lamp into the dark so that those with eyes could see forms, in the same way has the Blessed One — through many lines of reasoning — made the Dhamma clear. I go to the Blessed One for refuge, to the Dhamma, and to the Community of monks. May the Blessed One remember me as a lay follower who has gone to him for refuge, from this day forward, for life.”

@Crushd Thank you for this, I’ve read some related interpretations and will spend more time pondering the text.

My initial take is your son makes a common logical error seen in scientific study: equating a specific answer to a general one.

Stage acting appeals to me because of its impermanence and cyclical nature. You repeat a play a finite number of times and no two performances are exactly the same, the run ends, you strike the set and move on to the next play. Strike is probably my favorite part, but there are some actors that hate it. Filmmaking is a director’s medium and many stage actors dislike it, because of the lack of control and interaction with an audience, the detachment from the ritual of acting and the illusion of a ‘permanent’ record of bits and pieces of performances.

To me this seems a fairly Buddhist metaphor. As I recall even the Buddha chose a middle way as he was dissatisfied with monastic life.

Yes and I think it is important to know that much of what “Religion” teaches is metaphorical.

The Buddhist teaching really boils down to: Anyone who is influenced by Greed(craving, attachment),
Aversion (anger, hatred, fear) or Delusion (ignorance, denial) will be subject to suffering.

When referring to a “Hell Realm” it can describe the extreme anguish or suffering in THIS LIFE that is caused by any of the above. The “Animal Realm” describes those IN THIS LIFE in “Survival Mode” and who are so conditioned by greed, fear, and ignorance that one can compare them to animals who are highly reactive and live in a constant state of looking out for predators, competition for resources, and anything that threatens their survival.

Many of us who practice do not take things literally but try to interpret as useful metaphors.

I appreciated when you point out the " common logical error seen in scientific study: equating a specific answer to a general one" which I think a lot of people with this illness try to do.

The Theravada tradition states that what the Buddha supposedly taught was recited orally from the 5th century BCE to the first century BCE, when it was written down . That’s a LOT of time to pick up cultural baggage.

Good morning… He is Emmanuel. So i get on my knees. And there i am before the love that changes me. I dont know how but there i am before his love that changes me. See i dont know how but theres power when im on my kneeeeeeee. Eeees.

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Accept his journey… he is eclipsed by glory.

interesting, biblical? i have no clue, interesting, please elaborate…

Thanks Noone,

I am happy for you that your faith is helpful to you. Whatever brings us hope and does not cause harm to ourselves or others, is valuable.

I also agree with your observation: “What the ill person perceives as Over-Stimulation, Over-Work etc seems to be much different from less sensitive/ less salient people.”

Thanks for that.

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My son was baptized into the Christian faith before his problems began but now (30 years later) he sometimes believes he IS God so I have to hide his Bibles. He gets so confused so I can only imagine his state of mind if he looked into other religions and started comparing. I have to keep it simple because as he grows older, he seems to be losing more and more of himself. I miss my kid!

Yes my son has distorted views and this is very common with mood disorders. Best not to argue – you can’t rationalize with someone you love who is irrational. Agree to disagree. Listen. Say that’s interesting or reflect but mainly listen. It’s very hard. I do well some days then other days not. Hang in there.

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It is so hard to not make comments. He was so excited to move to New York and was messaging friends who live there if they knew of rooms for rent. An hour or so later he was planning on living on a relatives non-working boat with no electricity, and pitching in for a solar panel. I told him that he could spend a few nights on the boat to see how he liked it and then he got mad and said I was throwing doubt on his decisions. I commented “You change your mind so much, an hour ago you were all excited about moving to New York.” Of course that did not go over well.

Later he said we were pressuring him to act a certain way ( we have been trying to set limits on him talking to us (at us) when he is angry, especially at dinner time. He also said that we were infantalizing
him and preventing him from moving on. We replied, "We want you to move on. Do what ever makes you happy. Go where you want to go. And he replied, “I have no where to go.”