I’ve been working in the direct care and counseling of individuals with mild to severe mental illness for just over two years now. I’ve encountered many different presentations of many different mental illnesses and disabilities, but I’m beginning to notice some common themes.
One of the main (obvious) effects of mental illness and disability is that they prevent the person (or at least hinder them) from conforming to the normal standards of behavior and acculturation most of the rest of us go through more or less successfully. In other words, mental health issues are very good windows into the heart and nature of humanity apart from the “limitations” and “controls” our culture and our upbringing place on us.
So as I have looked into these bits and pieces of our truest, most unfiltered humanity, what have I seen? Sex. Lots and lots of sex. Having watched people slip into the deep recesses of psychosis over a span of weeks, I’ve been able to watch more and more of our social conventions fall away from individuals; and as they do, it’s fascinating to note just how much more and more sexual (and deviantly so) these psychotic episodes become. It appears that much of the trappings to which society seeks to conform us are primarily to “clothe”, “sanitize”, and “tame” our very sexual selves.
I’ve written before about how the cultures both inside and outside the church seem to hate our embodiment and all its various dimensions. Perhaps another time we’ll discuss how this sexuality is meant to be expressed on a societal and personal level in a way that truly expresses but at the same time maintains the preciousness of its importance–but that’s not my purpose for this present post.
So what is my main point here? I really do believe that these hyper-sexual expressions are not being brought on by the psychosis or mental health/disability issues of my clients, but rather are being revealed by them; as the social constructs of “appropriateness” come down, this is what is being revealed as being truly there. My opinion is that this is an insight into humanity as a whole and not just mentally ill individuals.
This, I feel, has been a window for me into how God has made us. Through his hand in our evolving selves, he has formed within us, by way of our primal ancestors, a deeply sexual core. But this is not merely some reductionistic materialistic “biological” sexuality merely for reproductive purposes (though it is that as well); it is, instead, a part of us that taps into a deeply existential part of selves. There are deeply abstract and spiritual dimensions to this sexuality. I’ve seen this in my clients as well.
These expressions of sexuality–these windows into our truest selves–are not just expressions of competitive, animalistic appetite (and this is where Freud got it wrong). These sexual expressions are almost always connected to the deeper faculty of desire–desire for family, for love, for relationship, for story, or for “connection”.
And it’s here we find the point. It’s here we find our Home. It’s in this place of our truest and deepest desires (and not mere appetites) we find why we would happen to be so sexual. It’s in this sexuality that our longing for “connecting” to the “mysterious other” is most graphically expressed. And it’s this connection that is most lost on, and difficult for, our mentally ill brothers and sisters. It’s also what can be most healing for them.
But if we press further and longer and deeper, we can see this longing transformed into need and we see this “mysterious other” become the “mysterious Other” to which we are truly longing to be joined–that we need to know as One. And when we do this, we can take the brokenness expressed in this world and in the brains of some of those around us and see a window into ourselves, which is a window into our Image, which is a window into our God.