Jump to content

How To Remain Emotionally Detached When A Lecture Deals With Insanity?


Le Renard

Recommended Posts

Hello! :smile:

I have a bipolar disorder and I have been more or less stable for several months now. :holiday:

I'm studying literature at the university. I really enjoy it. But I have a problem with one of the lectures I'm going to.

In this lecture we have to study two plays : "Woyzeck" from Georg Büchner and "King Lear" from Shakespeare.

"Woyzeck" deals with a soldier (called Woyzeck) who lives with his mistress and their child. One day the mistress is getting seduced by an officer. Wild with jalousy, Woyzeck kills her. In the play, he is depicted as a madman (he is probably mentaly ill : he has psychotic symptoms) whose insanity leads him to m*****. But his entourage looks obviously a lot more crazy than he is. He lives in a world where reason and logic are upside down. But everybody around him acts as if it were normal. Woyzeck looks oppressed by the strange society he is living in. The big issue of the play is the following : has Woyzeck always been insane (in this case, the crazy society he is living in would have increased his mental illness so much that Woyzeck would have been led to act as a ******er) ? Or did the madness of the society trigger Woyzeck's mental illness ?

"King Lear" deals with a king who decides to share his kingdom between his three daughters. But they have to flatter their father to get their share. The first two sisters are very greedy : they flatter him so well that he gives them their due. The third sister loves her father so much that she refuses to flatter him : she expects her very behaviour to be a genuine proof of her love. But the king, blinded by his pride, exiles his most honest daughter and gives all his wealth to the two others. Then the two remaining sisters monopolize their father's kingdom and throw him out. The king starts a long descent into hell and get progressively plunged into insanity.

I'm sure you see why these plays make me feel upset. Especialy "Woyzeck". Every time I study the plays, they make me think of my former psychotic fits and how deep I felt into depression or mania. And I find it painful. I feel very ill-at-ease when I must study the characters' profile, thoughts and behaviours because I experienced them. I don't manage to be detached and objective about the characters.

Has everyone ever had a similar experience ? How did you manage to overcome it ?

Thank you in advance for the replies. :smile:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Le Renard,

It's interesting to me (being a literature lover myself) that these plays impacted you so much. They did what their creators intended then, didn't they? I think you have to take the approach that this is just a literature study, it will be over soon and push through. I think you should look at the fact that clearly although it feels very real to you, these were both just works created by great playwrights telling a story. It's hard not to immerse yourself in these plays because they are so strong, but maybe you can write about how it is difficult to remain detached and objective because they are so "real" to you. It could make for a great paper.

Sincerely,

MaddieLouise

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi, MaddieLouise!

Thank you for your reply. :smile:

I agree with you when you say that "King Lear" and "Woyzeck" are only literature - masterpieces certainly, but only literature. I also agree on the fact that plays aim at making people react in one way or another. But the fact that I'm identifying with the characters and feeling ill-at-ease with it doesn't only come from the fact that they are labelled as "insane".

Indeed I am sometimes disturbed by the way some students or professors handle the issue of "insanity" during the lectures whereas they have no idea of what they are talking about. Whether they find it funny because the character is so disturbed and lost that he is unable to remain logical and sensible, or they only consider "insanity" as a word with a romantic meaning ("Insanity" would be personnified as the mean used by Fate to make humans toys to play with).

I know these are only plays and literature lectures. Shakespeare and Büchner probably didn't care about the way mentally ill people were treated at their times. Perhaps I shouldn't be that sensitive about it. Moreover I'm perfectly aware of the fact that I would consider "insanity" exactly the same way if I didn't have a bipolar disorder. I also know that one day or another I will have to manage to laugh at jokes about "insanity" or "madmen" or "nuts" (I don't know all the English expressions to deal with mental illness, but in French there are plenty of colourful ones :happy:). For the moment I'm unable to find mental illness "funny" or "romantic".

Unfortunately I cannot write an essay or give a talk on this issue because the mandatory subjects we are given don't let us the opportunity to do so. Moreover we are not allowed to give our own opinion, except if it has already been dealt by a well-known author (we have to make a demonstration and explain our arguments with accurate elements from the text, which doesn't let much space for imagination or feelings).

I don't know how to "extract" myself from all these things in the plays that echo my bipolarity. I would like to be able to consider the text only, instead of seeing images from my own life as I read the plays. I know that it's only a lecture, but to me it awakes something else. My lecture is not the only thing that makes me react this way : for example, I can no more watch the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (with Jack Nicholson) because of what it reminds me. I used to love this movie. Now I just can't stand it.

I don't want to fear Büchner and Shakespeare's plays : these are really great plays! :rose:

Best wishes,

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Le Renard:

I think it will be difficult to extract yourself right now, and even I cannot watch certain movies or plays because they are "triggering", which these two plays are to you.

As for a paper - you said: "(we have to make a demonstration and explain our arguments with accurate elements from the text, which doesn't let much space for imagination or feelings)." Can you maybe make a factual comparison of the disorders these two suffered from (making a guess based on context clues and evidence from the text and modern research) and either compare them to people in like positions today who seem to have suffered these same disorders or better yet compare and contrast the insanity of the two characters one to another? Just an idea. Immersion into their disorders and fates, might actually prove to be how you overcome this.

Sincerely,

MaddieLouise

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi, MaddieLouise and thank you for your reply!

I really appreciate your kindness and your understanding: thank you. :smile:

You have very good ideas for a paper. The problem is that I can't just write on the subject I want to: we have a list of subjects and each student has to deal with one of them. And there is no place in any of these subjects for mental diseases at all. Unfortunately.

I think that perhaps I could try to discuss my problem with my professor (she is very nice). I even think that perhaps I could propose her another subject to add to our current list.

I'm thinking about a subject about the way mental disease is depicted and what importance it has in the two characters' fate. I really feel inspired by your idea of making a comparison between the two characters' "insanity": what does the appearance of "insanity" mean in the two stories? how can we interpret it? how does mental illness affect the characters' personnality? Woyzeck looks already ill at the very beginning of the play, whereas Lear looks very healthy: does it make a difference in the way we tend to judge the two characters? do they have the same kind of mental illness? are the consequences of this illness the same for the two characters?, etc.

I think that you have had a very good idea and that it could make a good subject. But I do not know if my professor will allow me to propose another subject. Moreover I am afraid of her reaction for, of course, I cannot propose such a subject and expect her not to understand that I have a mental illness. My professors know about the fact that I am a "handicapped student" but they do not know what I have. And I am not sure that I want them to know about it. I do not know if it is worth the risk.

MaddieLouise, what do you do when you cannot do otherwise than endure a "triggering" situation? Do you have some "tricks"? :smile:

Thanks again!

Edited by Le Renard
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was recently in a very similar situation. In an art history class, we watched a video essentially analyzing Van Gogh's problems. There were definitely a lot of "triggers" for me, and I got really worked up to the point of feeling sick, just sitting in class watching this video practically crying.

And everyone laughed in the class laughed at his problems, saying he was so weird, crazy, etc. Even parts of the video about how he would've been treated with lithium (which I have taken for years) he would've been fine (I've taken and am still not "fine). His suicide was what really got to me. After Van Gogh shot himself, he lived for 2 days and his brother was by his side. My most recent suicide attempt, as I lay in the hospital bed, my brother stayed by my side the whole time.

If I had been in a big lecture, I probably would've have just excused myself (but it was a small classroom--maybe 15 people). But I would definitely recommend talking to your teacher, even student affairs (or similar service). Mental illness has such stigma attached to it, and so many people don't understand how serious it is. Remembering some of my past experiences (hospitalizations, suicide attempts, etc) can be traumatic.

In terms of coping in a "triggering" situation, I'd say it depends. If possible, walk away. Otherwise, some ideas:

-I get really fidgety/nervous, so I try to wear bracelets to "play with" or distract me

-Focus on your breathing. Sounds stupid, but once you practice it, it can really help. I try to count my breaths, because that requires more concentration

-If you can, try writing. I like to journal, so that sometimes helps. Or even simply doodling.

It's definitely hard in a classroom, being around peers and also trying to focus on the work. Good luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Le Renard,

I think that the professor will be impressed with your ability to come up with a new, unique idea. It shows initiative and that you are an independent thinker. If she figures out that you are writing this because you suffer from a mental disability, then that just means she knows some of your thinking comes from experience.

I really hope you pursue this and ask her about it. Let us know how it goes.

As for your question: In triggering situations, I try to do something physical, like walking (or pacing)-ha! If you can't watch the content, look down and try to focus on something else OR leave the room. It isn't worth having an anxiety attack over the material and if the professor asks you about it, tell her that the content was very troublesome for you at the moment, and that you needed to remove yourself. No one can fault you for that.

Sincerely,

MaddieLouise

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hello! :smile:

Thank you Swimfan93 for sharing your experience with me. And thank you MaddieLouise for your advice and encouragement. :smile:

I know it can look odd, but when I attend the lecture which makes me feel overwhelmed, I always feel the need to listen to what the professor and the other students say very carefully. Especially if they talk about "insanity". I don't want to miss the least information. I don't want to avoid the problem. I think that I need to face this terrible thing called "mental illness".

I have spent a lot of years trying to hide the symptoms of my bipolar disorder. And I haven't always had the possibility to express my helplessness and my despair. Now I don't consider my illness as a fault or a punishment anymore. Sometimes I still feel desperate and helpless, but I try to keep in mind that there is no fate and that I can try to do something to get better.

Besides my bipolar disorder I also have a "Selective sound sensitivity syndrom" or 4S. This disease consists in making people very anxious and very angry when they hear some very ordinary sounds. This might be the result of a dysfunction in the brain. After my psychiatrist it could be a comorbid disease (that is to say a disease which develops parallel to bipolar disorder). Since my 11 years old I have been keeping avoiding all the situations which could trigger such aggressive reactions when I heard certain sounds. But it has never worked. I have progressively realized that avoiding triggering situations was not a good solution for me. At that time I was so terrified to hear those "triggering sounds" that I could hardly go out of my appartement or to see anyone.

Now when I experience difficult situations due to my bipolar disorder, I think that it could help me to face the problem rather than to avoid it. It is tremendoulsy hard to manage to do such a thing. I probably overestimate my strengh. But I think I should at least try to do it.

I'm in holidays at the moment (one week). I have a lot of work to do. And yet I think I should try to do this extra-writing I'm thinking of. I will give it to my professor. I will explain her that I found the issue of "insanity" very interesting and that I tried to work on a comparison of Lear and Woyzeck's mental illnesses. I will ask her if she would agree to read my work. I think that she will probably be ok.

I don't know if I will be able to do this writing from the beginning to the end. But at least I would have tried.

Thank you very much for your help, I really appreciate it. I will try to let you know how it goes. :smile:

Best wishes,

[Edit: I'm writing this post as it is very late in the night (or very early in the morning): I'm terribly sorry for the bad treatment I inflict to the English language. :poster_oops: I hope you will forgive me.]

Edited by Le Renard
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Hi,

Thank you MaddieLouise for your kindness but you should listen to my oral English: it's atrocious... :taz:← me trying to make English sounds... :cheesy:

Well, I come back to my initial subject... :smile:

A few days ago I gave a talk in front of all the other students. It was for a different lecture from the one I was talking about a few weeks ago. I had to explain an extract from one of Anton Tchekhov's play: The Seagull. In this play one of the characters makes a suicide attempt and ends up commiting suicide at the end of the play. I had to explain the "suicide attempt" part taking into account the end of the play.

I worked with another student, a Finnish woman, an Erasmus exchange student who is currently learning French in our university. We had to share the work between us. We discussed the "suicide" issue a little. And I suddenly realized that I couldn't give her such a difficult issue to talk about in a language with which she didn't feel comfortable enough yet. So I proposed to do this part of our work and she looked relieved.

I've had a hard time to do the written part of the work. And then when we presented our work in front of the others, every time I had to say the word "suicide" it was as if the word was burning my mouth. I always had the impression that the other students were able to see on my face that I knew the issue a lot more than I should.

As I had stammered two or three time (which was very bad for our mark) I decided to take this work as a problem of literature only. I like to work very accurately on the books we study. I like to point out details, to look for clues which lead to other explanations and to use the literary devices we are tought. That's what I did for our talk. I took the extract of the play as a riddle to solve. I assume I just stood back a little and focused on the characters of the play rather than on me. This suicidal character - whose name is Treplev - had a lot of common points with Hamlet, the character from Shakespeare's play. I draw a parallel between them. Nothing is supposed to be perfect but I think we will have a good mark.

Altogether we have 4 plays which deal with insanity and/or suicide. We have been given an essay to make for the 6th of April and we have to use all the plays in our argument. I don't know if I will have enough time to make my extra work on insanity but I will try to. It's important to me to talk about it in one way or another. Maybe it will be possible to integrate this issue into my essay? I must think about it.

So I have lots of work to do to be able to feel better with certain issues. But I've already begun to make a little progress...

As for my English I'm afraid that I will have a dreadful accent all my life :laugh:, but at least I am improving my written English thanks to all of you. :rose:

Best wishes.

Edited by Le Renard
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...