Sunday, May 5, 2013

Is delusion healthy?

On Wednesday I met up with Danielle and a friend (or acquaintance) of hers, a bloke who I'm guessing was 45 or so. He was a short, stocky man, whose eyeballs looked like they might pop out. Like Danielle he had problems, but like Danielle he got by; he had a job in the education sector I think. The three of us sat in the food court in the Reading cinema complex and didn't say a lot. Danielle remarked that she hadn't been to the movies for years. She said can't concentrate for the duration of a film, and loses track of the storyline. I'm better now but I used to have the same problem (and maybe still do to some extent, depending on the type of film). Danielle and I went to the tramping club but only stayed five minutes and didn't put our names down for anything.

Yesterday my cousin and her family came over to my flat for fish and chips. The boys were quite loud, and in the absence of toys in my flat, they had to make do with cardboard and sellotape, which provided no end of entertainment for them. I ordered too many chips and must have eaten at least half of them myself, between last night's tea, today's lunch and today's tea. As Mum would say, at this rate I'll turn into a chip.

It's been another mild day here (although as I type, we're in the middle of teeming rain and a rare thunderstorm). People's complaints about Wellington's weather seem laughable when you think that today is the equivalent of November 5th in the Northern Hemisphere. I remember how cold that day could be when I was growing up.

I've started reading a book called What Is Madness? So far it seems to be pitched at a level above me. Perhaps if I'd studied Freud or any of the other famous psychoanalysts it might make more sense. However one thing I've found really interesting is the idea that a certain amount of delusion can actually be healthy, and that being too in touch with reality can cause you to go mad. As an example, some of my workmates are keen football followers; in particular they follow the top Premier League teams. The way I see it, football at that level is pretty much meaningless. The clubs with the most money buy the best players, and guess what, they usually win. A player might represent Chelsea, say, but he comes from South America! What does playing for Chelsea, a small part of London, even mean? My work colleague will watch "his" team on telly, shout at "his" Brazilian midfielder, possibly even thinking he can influence the outcome of the match from his sofa 12,000 miles away. That's sheer lunacy, surely. But maybe having these delusions (and this is just one example) brings meaning to one's life that prevents you from going mad.

If delusion is indeed healthy, then (as with most other things) it must only be healthy up to a point. A couple of weeks ago I got a birthday card from my aunt (Dad's sister). She's certainly exhibited delusional behaviour at times, and she's also had severe depression and been dependent on alcohol. When I saw her in 2008 she came out with "Some people get all the help; others, like me, are always helping everyone else." I couldn't believe what I was hearing. She's shown a distinct lack of care for just about anybody, all through her adult life. That includes her mother and her children. Her comment was entirely delusional, and instead of being a harmless sanity-preserving delusion such as the football example, it was a more serious delusion that seemed to be a result of losing her sanity. My aunt appears to be more sane now. Strange as it might seem, the death of her mother last year probably helped her mental state, and I don't think she's drinking as much. The fact that she sent me a birthday card is a good sign. But she's 65 now, and it's sad to see a life with so much promise (she was blessed with good looks and was highly intelligent) largely go to waste. I could write a lot more about my aunt and maybe I will some other time.

A final word about football, which I just said was meaningless. The last games of the Championship season (that's the second division) were played overnight. I was amazed by how tight the final table was. Leicester made the play-offs with just 68 points while Peterborough were relegated on 54 (a huge total to go down with). Birmingham, who were my team back when football was meaningful to me, finished slap-bang in the middle of the table with 61.

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