The client predicament

"Suspense, the worst of evils, was at length determined by the ministers of death, who executed, and perhaps exceeded, the inhuman mandate of Theodoric. A strong cord was fastened round the head of Boethius, and forcibly tightened till his eyes almost started from their sockets; and some mercy may be discovered in the milder torture of beating him with clubs until he expired. But his genius survived to diffuse a ray of knowledge over the darkest ages of the Latin world .."
- Gibbon (39: Gibbon, E., The decline and fall of the Roman Empire:, abridged version)

The 'soul deadness' experience

The perplexity system presents itself to the client activist as a maddeningly difficult obstacle to the equilibration of his/her personal situation. Self-expression is aversively conditioned ('channeled') and the stigma experience (40: Goffman, Stigma) is reinforced by way of economic discrimination due to the implausibility of maintaining employment. His/her exercise of imagination is discouraged or channeled in the direction of 'adjustment', so that role expectations lend disrespect to creative activity and stimulate attacks on account of its being considered originary irrationality of behavior. The client, under subjective pressure, lacking an explicit rational justification for the 'internal tools' of creativity, has little capacity to cope with pejorative objectification.

The attitude and social reinforcement that categorizes/objectifies the client at the very point of creativity itself presents a peculiar, direct block for self-development. The impropriety of the topic of self - here identified with the recurrence of madness - leads to a narrow and rigid reification, while neglect of the tropes of self promotes 'blind spots' of underdeveloped personality. (41: res/verba) The ostensibly 'primal'/'limbic' predilection (mentioned above) of the mad personality at these points is to present itself poorly, to appear irrational/explosive, and to be liable to excess, disorder, and heedlessness. There arises a kind of dynamical 'power vacuum' of personal expression that needs to be 'made reasonable' in everyday interaction.

The stress from attack, the degradation from brainwash, and the emotional wallow in 'soul deadness' that the client experiences lead to hard choices around the creative modality. One approach is to get into florid (and lucid) metaphors of Vision, to exhibit the exuberant creative reach of the likes of Hildegard von Bingen or William Blake. A more commonplace alternative is to bog down in confusion and illusion deriving from peculiarities of "education, habit, and accident." (42: Bacon, F., Novum organum) Yet the identification/articulation of the poorly grounded condition of the ambiguous talent/defect of madness has subversive implications for the 'information commodity' thought norms of the perplexity system.(43: Foucault, M., Work/m.i., tr. Stastny, P.)

Thus the topics, the commonplaces, of client creativity arise in an irrational social condition and will have to be reshaped/aliased in the antecedents of rationalistic thought. (44: Marx, K., Economic and philosophical manuscripts of 1844) We could view it that the 'mandate' of creative insight/expression comes side-by-side with the prodigious obligation of resolving intense confusion reasonably. In contradiction with the way that the perplexity system challenges personal integrity and deadens the soul, the client-centered perspective (45: AB14) must be nourished and the 'soul' protected. The potential accomplishment of social construction is to 'shine the light in' and help define, structure, and nurture the growth conditions of client creativity meaningfully and productively.

Uncontrollable imagination

Living in proximity to the manifest irrationality of the 'uncanny', inchoate frame of the madness experience is in the first place a vulnerable social condition for the client. In our competitive society, how then can we afford any reasonable expectation to the client that his/her voice will be heard, or insight/conviction have impact? Worse yet, the typical criterion of institutional discharge being social conditioning to 'docility', the client has a reasonable expectation of being misconstrued! Behavior identified in the perplexity framework as 'incorrigible' may likely in fact amount to a kind of beleaguered hard-headedness, combined with a sensitive or visionary quality which is problematically productive in nature. (46: Dennert, E-mail message; 47: Sacks, O., Awakenings)

Many believe in effect that 'wickedness' (the root meaning of 'illness'), 'malingering' as it were, is the bottom line nature of client irrationality. An alternative model may be found in the idealism of Boethius, who wrote a visionary text that captured the pathos of the feudal experience while he was awaiting execution at the hand of the Ostrogoth Emperor Theodoric:


Boethius (d. 524) was the leading Roman intellectual of his era, a time when the Ostrogoths ruled a fallen Western Roman Empire. His pure but impolitic activity as Senator was deemed treasonable, apparently due to its opacity to the barbarian Ostrogoth ruler Theodoric whose credulity was strained. While awaiting execution in prison, he wrote The consolation of philosophy, (48: Boethius) which became one of the great inspirational texts of the medieval and Renaissance periods. The 'mad' or irrational character of his life's resolution is symbolized by his eyes nearly popping out as he was garroted by the executioner. (49: Gibbon, E.)

The dilemma that Boethius faced in full rationality was so deeply irrational that it serves as metaphor for the way that the 'bizarre' client experience reflects an impacted social opportunity. Isn't the problematic of conventional 'solutions' to madness - exorcism, punishment, medical insult, control - a dilemma of provider limitation and despair, irrational response being pitted against terrible predicament?

In extremis, the client loses coherence or measuredness of being, so that habituation to this situation, even if 'symptom-free', leaves people with little to lose but their disempowerment. (50: Marx, K., and Engels, F., The communist manifesto) This implied revolutionary paradigm may lead people to think to challenge and confront perplexity, but that the dreadful social consequences which will likely obtain, give pause. A creative person may invoke the spiritual implications of seemingly obvious insight, take the risk, and hope to transcend obstacles, still client status obstructs the capacity to deter being controlled. (51: Siebert, A.) The harsh choice of amputation of one's Vision is put against the dangerous alternative of making oneself available as a target of the social reaction against unwieldy imagination.

In sum, the 'performance' problem clients face leads to a conflict-driven instability in the 'theater' of perplexity-driven boundaries for social arrangements and norms. To master the irrationality, to transcend the 'melodrama', and to become accountable to the issues of imagination, the client must make complex choices surpassing the normal operational limits of personality. To put in question the core rationality of the society at a moment in history cannot but have a quality of folly about it; it creates a drama larger than life. (52: Erasmus) As Grassi puts it, "only on the basis of myth can ideas attain their full dramatic significance," (53: Grassi, The primordial metaphor: 54) and professional collaboration will generally be necessary to render this successful.

Disconnection and perplexity

The opening conventionally presented for engaging such vulnerability and confusion is to 'tinker' with a rationalist 'information' construct in order to patch its mismatches. The perplexity system, with its habituated lines of thought, renders the vague images from its other as disconnects lacking rational clarity. (54: Descartes) While clever rationalization may provide approximate 'explanation' as remedy to conceptual confusion, yet in principle, this is of limited scope and does not bring out the ontological difference. (55: Grassi) The expression of clear insight, of "correct" interpretation, (56: Melanchthon, P.) is commonly not readily available from the rationalist perspective, the consequence being a deficit in sensitivity.

When rhetoric consists of an exposition on the topics of the 'information' model, expression will be thus confined within the logic of dialectic. Since the impact of this is likely to be perplexity enhancement and limited articulation, we may prefer rather to draw on targeted expressions of our inchoate sensitivity, as, the perspectives of Melanchthon. (57: Melanchthon, P.) Due to the leaden quality of habituation effects, we are bound to find difficulty in working around or re-cognizing our informing rational constructs. The contrary possibility is that social constructionist ideation could help to sensitize us to "the crucial, but fleeting events through which, in practice, people get to know each other." (58: Shotter, APA Summary)

"Among these dark Satanic mills," (59: Blake, W.) that is, in an atmosphere of manipulation and habit-provoking stimuli, the application of sensitivity is blunted, suffers and may atrophy. The creation and reinforcement of habits of insensitive conceptualizing inflates stale rhetoric and subverts people's sense of well-being:


In a disintegrative process the obvious and 'reasonable' gets confused as the focus shifts to blaming and habituated response. The extreme case of insensitive conceptualizing is catastrophic involvement variability, leading toward the dissociation of personality and fragmentation of the unitary self. (60: Mead, G.H., MSS; 61, Haan, N., Coping and defending) The 'spin' of fugue and self-destruction promotes the breakdown of critical self-conscious behavior, thus, an environment where the effects of such as 'fighting words' and obscenity flourish. (62: 'fighting words') What comes about is an originary perplexity, a naked interface with what Edgar Levenson calls 'reflexive mentation'. (63: Levenson, E, The politics of interpretation)

Verbal abuse or 'fighting words', the language of attack, exploits this hyper-rational and under-emoted circumstance, undercuts critical thought, and hypocritically diminishes responsiveness. The 'low-functioning' behavior, the 'soul dead' state liable to result from this experience, provides a likely final outcome for the impacted individual adjusting to the culture of perplexity.

A client subject to reinforced perplexity is vulnerable to dysphoric experience, but there are likewise dangers from an inappropriate helping process. A supportive environment by itself is not a sufficient cushion, if the politics of the support challenges the sensitivity, (64: Basaglia) or again, if the sensitivity is fostered and yet the context does not root it sufficiently. Thus, the method of psychosocial rehabilitation aims to develop capacities and sensitivities, yet has restricted impact when not well articulated as a challenge to the values of the perplexity system. In general, a policy of raw empowerment is perplexing, while a policy of accommodating prevailing system values is 'disconnecting' and besides that impractical on a large scale. (65: Albee (1990), J. of Mind and Behavior)

Disturbing reality

With the client's opportunity for a wholesome life trajectory so precarious, with the core sense of self challenged, (66: Ofshe and Singer) what is to be done against these disruptive and diversionary influences? It is scarcely sufficient to expect people to realize themselves in habituating low-functioning symptom management regimes where they learn to cope and adjust! People's chance to mobilize their imaginations is surely limited, when their insight is challenged, their constructive efforts attacked, and there is scant room for a life that 'makes a difference'. (67: Whitman, W.) In fact the need is to change the 'master terms' of such a life (68: Derrida, Of grammatology) and in so doing alter and upgrade the philosophical context and practical meaning of the client's involvement with the world. But if the client's sensitivity is encumbered, frustration ensues, the living of being/doing becomes more difficult, and finally intersubjective experience degrades. Neither (1) social conditioning nor (2) a pill fixes is likely to help free up this sensitivity, let alone uncover a socially adequate solution for its unhampered activity. Interpretation from traditions that themselves certify or derogate sensitivity as 'irrationality' can provide an historical framework for rationalizing sensitivity and constructing a social justification for it. From an 'archaeology of knowledge' of the forgotten and/or neglected topics of madness and its social control we can hope to construct new empowerments for sensitivity. (69: Geel; 70: Foucault, M., The archaeology of knowledge)

Assuming that the perplexity system is too well entrenched to encourage the prospects of a direct challenge, we look toward a less inflammatory and more intricate strategy for change. (71: Gramsci, A., Prison notebooks) It's not by challenging system values head-on, but by the conversation that brings the topics retrieved by 'archaeology' back to present social levels, that we open social and political clearings. There are lower social costs associated with the 'nibbles' of mobilized client creativity backed by a structured and rooted challenge to habituated values, than from one that predominantly threatens. The opportunity for hermeneutic skill, therefore, is to uncover the ways to connect with and support the client voice, and advocate in an historically framed way that challenges to the capacities of the present. (72: Cushman, P., Constructing the self, constructing America)

For a way out of the client predicament, the suggestion is to irritate artfully the surface of the social interface with the clients - those involved in madness - and increase society's sensitivity. The counter-culture opening, such as the 'be-in' or the 'flea market', provides a metaphor for the social positions where alternative values may be expressed and new threads of social being may develop. Early client activism has developed the "consumer speaks" conference as a kind of privileged favorable opening, but this has yet to emerge in a form can deconstruct the conflict and bonding of habit. (73: Phelps, A., Sonoma client empowerment training, part II) Given the liabilities of madness as well as its social impediments, we need to privilege favorable openings - and we need the technical capacity to take on the perplexity effectively.


RECAP. The reader needs to recognize that the standpoint of the client activist is distanced because it is particularly prone to misinterpretation and behavioral stereotyping. What isn't defined in terms of clinical enhabitations like labeling (74: Scheff) tends for coping/rhetorical reasons to define itself in a 'politics of identity'. (75: Sampson, E.E.) The tempting 'word-game' of identity renders critical insight shallow, because it fails to address the need for a perspective on the productivity of the client activist role. The articulation of this perspective has to be constructed so that there is originary opportunity for client-driven self-definition that is not however reducible to the homilies of perplexity.

A clearing for social construction