Love can fuel the deep empathy needed to understand psychosis

By Zoë Boden-Stuart: For Complete Post, Click Here…

In his book Trauma and Existence (2007), the American psychoanalyst Robert Stolorow suggested that when we meet someone whose experiential horizons don’t cross with our own, a gulf opens up that can feel difficult to bridge. If the other person’s views seem so alien that we can’t employ the template of our own experiences, then trying to understand might seem like too much hard work. The easiest response may be to turn away. But what if that person is someone you love, someone you care for? What if turning away is not an option?

This is the situation for people who are caring for a loved one with psychosis – an umbrella term that refers to the experience of perceiving things that other people don’t (‘hallucinating’, to use psychiatric terminology) and/or being convinced of things that seem implausible or untrue to others (ie, holding ‘delusional beliefs’). These experiences can be profoundly strange, frightening or confusing for both the person with psychosis and those around them, as revealed in the interviews my graduate student Ana Luderowski carried out a few years ago.

For example, consider Laurel (all our interviewees’ names have been changed to protect their privacy), a 40-something woman who spoke to us about her partner’s psychosis:

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