Orlando! The Meaning and Impact of Mental Illness I

Another Terrible Warning

On what did you focus about this tragedy?

The massacre in Orlando, which was described as hate inspired terrorism, also raised the specter of mental illness along with a lot of other concerns which included effects coming from the political arena. Prejudice and failure to act in the national interest had a significant effect along with the manipulations by power hungry people who claim to be acting from a religious viewpoint. The true meaning of the attack has to be hunted out from the forest of offered opinions and the data which might give us clarity.

The perpetrator claimed allegiance to ISIS and had a checkered history. It is simplistic to reduce it to an act of terrorism. Other points may have more clarity. His history suggests a young man who was hunting for an identity and suffered deep conflict. Just now it has come out that he was visiting gay nightclubs. It may have been that in his personal crisis he was seeking intelligence for his attack. There is another possibility. The view of him suggests that he may have been a person who was facing uncertainty about his sexual orientation. In the end he may have struck out at what might have been his identity home. We probably will never know, but his life experience hints at a larger picture.

He appeared to have been insecure and identity issues are highlighted frequently. And it certainly may have been that the core was his sexual conflict. That conflict may have ramped up recently and who he thought he might be collided with other world themes. But, for us, perhaps the central issue is attending to a process. We can attach a diagnosis reflecting a view of mental illness and end our thinking there or we can look toward a process revealing how multifaceted is human life.

Reevaluation and Reframing Needed

We can hope that the horror of what happened in Orlando does not get lost in a haze of political backbiting. This is an opportunity to do a substantive reassessment of many things from our political stances, to the meaning of “mental illness”, to how we approach the needs of people who are under some form of internal and personal attack. Our services for people in crisis have been impaired and throwing money at it is not the answer. We need to thoroughly rethink out approach and how we offer services. There are many competing interests with which we need to contend.

In the Days Ahead

We have a lot to reconsider. Recent events have broadened the focus of this post as it was originally written. I will be going into matters of history which are illuminating. It is all too easy to accept “experts” but being an expert is often a reflection of the times. What served us at one time may have had purpose and utility just then. Later we may need to do a serious reframing. Now is such a time. And what is happening seems to go well beyond one recent event. We seem to be on the cusp of important change. Lets go exploring.

What have you concluded?

To be continued:

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

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Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Personality of the Artist (Painter)


Our Own Personal Style

While I did well in school it often did not hold my attention. Some things were fascinating and some things trivial. So frequently I “went out the window” which meant dreaming and exploring while the teacher went on his or her way. This process continued into graduate school. Some part of the subject matter was really interesting, other parts not so much.

As the time came closer for me to choose a doctoral dissertation topic I was working with a professor who held my interest. We were very different personality types but he engaged me and would challenge me in very useful ways. I liked that. He made me think.

Creativity Versus Intelligence

At the time he was studying creativity as it related to intelligence. Of course to some people that was a verboten area to explore. Creativity is simply supposed to be creative and that’s that. He didn’t view it that way. And his study came up with an interesting conclusion. Creativity and intelligence are orthogonal. Wow! Really?

Orthogonal is a rarely used word which means unrelated. The conclusion was that you could be really smart and not at all creative or really creative and not so smart in the ordinary sense. I liked that idea. It was what I would call unbinding. For one thing, we don’t have to put the creative types into scholarly straightjackets.

His studies led me to take a look at the literature about creativity in the psychological/psychiatric realm. What a hopeless morass. I did my major thesis (predoctoral) on the subject. I didn’t like what I found and neither did the professors who reviewed it. But it was what it was.

Eternal Gratitude to My Professor 

But It led me to discuss doing my dissertation on the personality of the artist (painter in this instance). My professor thought it worth doing. At the same time such a dissertation is risky. In psychology you are to demonstrate your grasp of the scientific method and it is usually safest to pick up on a line of study, tweak it and do a dissertation study. I decided to take the risk.

At the time the department was deep into the work of Carl Jung and that meant in part we were looking at his personality typology which had been translated into an actual test called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Business people loved it, because once you know a person’s personality, it tells you a great deal about what jobs they will be best at.

Off To Hang Out With the Artists

The long and short of it was I set out for an art school in Richmond, Virginia. The faculty thought the study might be interesting so I went in and took photos of the paintings and paid the students the princely sum of $2 each to take the test. I had long and interesting discussions with the students and hanging out with them was great fun.

I took the data back to Duke and had the paintings rated on a variety of dimensions which then were compared statistically with the personality types. Most of the literature was floundering around in psychoanalytical thought. This time we had real evidence. And it worked.

Surprises and Validation

I’ll cut to the chase. Not surprisingly the majority of the students were primary intuitive types which fits because they were exploring visually and conceptually. There was a smaller subcategory of other types whose work was really, really different. If you ever see a dark painting of a bleak woods against an evening sky, the chances are you are looking at the work of a primary thinking type.

A couple of other things stood out. Contrary to expectations, the artists with thinking as an auxiliary had rich and deep color choices while the ones with feeling as an auxiliary had muted color choices. Some findings were consistent with hypotheses, some counterintuitive.

Validating Jung

And then my professor asked me to do a different analysis. He wanted to know if the primary determinant of the effect was the type or whether there was an influence from the degree of that type. The analysis validated Jung’s contention. Within type there was the matter of degree but there was little variation. It was the type far and away that determined the characteristics of the art. My dissertation was easily defended and accepted.

What did we learn other than what was stated above? We learned about the power of what Jung had put together. I validated my perception that the psychoanalytic floundering was trash. And again, we learned the power of personality among other things I won’t bore you with. The paper was actually picked up by a major psychological journal. I had many other thoughts about such research but have never found the time. It’s interesting what’s out there if you go exploring and again it validated by love of the “What if”.

I’m considering writing specific columns about the women in the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. I think you would find them fascinating.

Are you surprised by any of these findings?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

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Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Freud Versus Jung

Two Forms of Reality

What do these names mean to you?

Once again we encounter the question of what is reality. These two names represent very different views and relationships to the larger elements of society and culture.

Anyone in the mental health field will inevitably come in contact with the writings of Sigmund Freud. Not necessarily Carl Jung. Freud was important in advancing the field of mental health and forming it into a system used to treat what were called mental disorders. He made us aware of the existence of the unconscious mind which we are only now being able to look at in brain imaging. Jung might have come from another planet.

Why Mental Illness?

Freud was very close to the development of western medicine. We had come to the point where there was the thought that people might not suffer infestation by evil spirits. Calling what was happening a mental illness meant they could be removed from not well informed intervention by the church. That was a step forward but as we will see in later posts it was not always to the point.

A Broader Perspective

I’ll be frank to say that Jung fascinated me much more so than Freud. Both men were Europeans but Freud was closer to western thought. Jung foraged the world and shed light on not just our mental systems, but culture and elements of deep meaning.

Both men brought us utility of different kinds. Freud made us realize that there was such a thing as an unconscious mind. It is only now as we probe the brain with new tools that we can see the operation of the unconscious forming up prior to conscious awareness. Each man dealt with reality in their own way.

Myth and Truth

In Jung’s search he related to mythology and he brought us fascinating commentaries and revelations. But he did something more. In searching the world he recognized that there is a personality system in humans. A systematic study of human personality turned out to have absolutely nothing to do with mental illness. The system Jung devised, or perhaps the better word is uncovered, is the basis for the Myers-Briggs Personality Typology which, if you would like to know about your personality you can find it on line. Simply ask our friend Google and you will be taken to it.

Both of these men dealt with reality in their own way. Freud seemed closer to the western scientist while Jung sought reality of other sorts. What I found particularly fascinating about Jung was the mythological components which take us to all manner of alternatives. We can see a great deal about our speculative foragings.

Jung had fascinating perspectives. He wrote an entire book about alchemy. His conclusion was that it was not a search for how to change lead into gold. He saw it as a bridge from the Dark Ages to the Enlightenment as people were exploring new ways.
In Jung’s autobiography Memories, Dreams and Reflections is found fascinating revelations about a man who broke the bounds of ordinary reality. It is both about him and philosophical.

Both Offer Meaning

Sometimes there is a debate about truth and these men. I see no such debate needed. Each offered something fascinating and brought us forward. I have to admit I feel much closer to the work of Jung because we are the same personality type. Freud did good work but his thinking did not enroll me in his world. Both men speak to us about important elements of the human experience and, in the end, they may have nothing to do with mental illness.

Have you encountered the work of these men? What was your reaction?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Discovering How Life Really is


Where Our Identity Comes From

Establishing an identity is a complicated process. It has to do with who is available for us to identify with, our ability patterns, intelligence, and our personality. And I think you can probably come up with other factors.

Given my dissatisfaction and lack of interest in many things which are supposed to interest and enthrall boys meant I sought other things. I chose to explore science, looked at the world as my family traveled, and sought to experience the world in general. That is hardly a comprehensive list because opportunities were always presenting themselves. For me I think personality was central. I wanted to seek out possibilities and unique opportunities.

My Father and I

Naturally my father played a role. I was closer to him than my brother was. Even as a surgeon he liked to get his hands dirty in the yard. He never got entirely away from his early years in rural Mississippi. We went deep sea fishing off Montauk on Long Island, he taught me to shoot which I liked as a hobby but not when it involved killing animals and he took me to ball games which I endured until the day when we went to a Yankee double header. The first game was 26 innings. Enough was enough. He was handy around the house and built furniture. Those things interested me.

Doing a Good Job

One thing that was particularly important to me was doing a good job. Power was not of interest. Getting things done especially in new ventures was of considerable interest. Too often though I saw men of power who lacked vision. When I took the job in the inner city Baltimore I was stunned.

The heads of the psychiatry department were utterly lacking in vision and the psychologists were no better. The latter group invited me to join them and in the first meeting they spent the entire time talking about how they could try to seem more important to the psychiatrists. I never went back. There was substantive work to be done. And even worse there were no women in the central halls of power. Oh yes, there was a nursing department but what I saw out in the programs on the street was their frustration as they did battle with the men in power. At basic levels there were women nurses and social workers who contributed to diversity of viewpoints. But at the top levels there were men only.

Closed Systems

Because of the import of the job I had to face a closed male system. And it was inevitable that I would come to view the men as struggling with their image of themselves and the threat involved by the women struggling for recognition and a say in a new enterprise. As it turned out this was just at the cusp of the Women’s Liberation movement of the 1960s and their meaning and substance utterly engaged me.


What kept emerging over time was seeing in men a central problem in their discomfort with masculinity. They often seemed to feel they did not measure up but when you stepped back it was essential to wonder why there had to be a universal code of masculinity.

But it seemed that fear was a core element and that also surfaces in discussions of patriarchy. It seems likely that progress in our various intersexual relationships may require clearly facing the issue of fear. And honestly I think this will be a monumental task. Men have financial interests in league with the matter of power which is an impediment to change. But at base I think the most important issue and the one which will relate to a turning point is the matter of fear.

What issues do you feel will be crucial? Please let me hear from you at: roger.burt@earthlink.net

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Intuition Function


And so we come to look at the last of Carl Jung’s functions.

Multiple Definitions

In the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy I gave the Tethyan people generous use of intuition. But what Jung was showing us has a different connotation. The Tethyans used intuition as a means of communication. As a personality attribute it may be an ability used to explore possibilities.

This is my favorite function especially since it is my primary function. Intuitive type people are defined as being irrational in the sense that they defy logic. They are the prophets and seers who seek possibilities. To them reality is secondary and novelty is sought. The fact that it is my dominant function adds understanding about my choice of the title of this blog—cuspofreality.

Another Form of Diversity

Jung’s pairing of functions is interesting. It is not difficult to grasp the Thinking and Feeling types but the irrational types of sensation and intuition prove more difficult.

We saw in the sensation type that they may be very different people. Intuitive types pose a different problem. Searching possibilities can open floodgates and being a seer can pose problems for the people around them. In all instances this type of person may come up with interesting ideas and possibilities but there may also be flight from one idea to another. For many of the intuitive types it is necessary to recognize the downside of this function. They must find ways to get things done and cannot spend their entire lives in flights of fancy or searches of the horizon.

Salvation at Hand

For me salvation comes with my auxiliary function which is thinking. Just up there across the line from the unconscious in consciousness is the function which believes in facts and clearly demonstrated processes. So my intuition has an ally which keeps the flights in check and dictates the need to create a focus with an outcome.

I think you can glimpse here the intricate interplay among the functions and attitudes and the need for us to understand who we are and how we have to adapt to who we are. Again we come to the matter of reality and accepting our position on the cusp. All need not be lost. Insight is valuable and once we have the insight, we can look for allies within ourselves and the people around us. And the same can be said for our characters in fiction. Our characters can pit themselves against other people or form alliances. Which is why I wrote the book Creating Characters and Plots.

Then We Add the Attitudes

And when we add in the attitudes there is another story. Jung points out that when extraversion is added for this type, the person may prove to be unstable. They may be artists, politicians or entrepreneurs but may be undisciplined as they chase through an unstable world. Again they must form alliances and use insight to observe their strengths and foibles. Understanding personality types has considerable value.

When introversion is added, the attention may be on background processes distinct from the outside attention of the extravert. The inner attention may be on primordial archetypes and the loss may be in the chase from image to image. It is so easy to get lost in the swirl of the inner world of mythology.

Having given this description, it is palpable why I am drawn to speculative fiction and why my Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy is focused so strongly on the adventures sown by mythology which itself falls on the cusp of reality.

Do you now understand your personality type?

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Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

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A Recommendation – The Anonymously Autistic Blog



Recently I ran across a blog which has truly caught my interest. Its aims is to spread an understanding, acceptance and awareness of autism. No small task, and I believe most of the public does not understand the need.

Part of what caught my interest is not just the subject but the fact that the author is remaining anonymous. It is an interesting tactic which I find effective. One facet is that by remaining anonymous we are left with the subject matter rather than focusing on the person. In this instance that is important because the topic deserves a clear focus. Of course, as the reader comes to understand, she has other personal reasons for remaining anonymous.

Back when I was working on my doctorate in clinical psychology at Duke I heard of autism but never once saw someone with any form of that diagnosis. There is a great deal of speculation about whether we currently have an “epidemic” for one reason or another. There may be an increase but at the same time I find “diagnoses” often suddenly come into vogue as happened with multiple personality disorder which we learned was being created in therapists offices. As to autism, it clearly exists but one of the things this blog shares with us is how variable and multiple it may be. She also shares the difficulty of finding understanding with other people and that includes in education.

What I see in the posts is that there is clearly no one simple entity with fixed characteristics. In fact, as she brings up various issues I find myself observing that I have some of the characteristics. I suspect we all share some of them but they group differently and sometimes gather in larger numbers.

One of the lessons is that we should avoid judgement or pushing aside people who have these characteristics which are then called autism. Too often people so diagnosed are pushed away rather than being included.

It is a complex and challenging subject which reflects the complexity of our humanity. In learning about it we are offered insight into our humanity and, for that matter, insight into ourselves. I strongly recommend anonymouslyautistic.net for your attention. I’m sure you will find your own rewards and interest.

P.S. I couldn’t resist using this graphic picture because it illustrates the dynamism of our brains.

The Sensation Function – Carl Jung’s Typology

The Contradiction of Mystical Reality

This function I find utterly fascinating precisely because my primary function is its opposite. Not surprisingly Jung was mystified because his primary function was intuition. It is hard to come to grips with a function which is the one buried most deeply in our unconscious.

The sensation types are defined as irrational because to them logic is not important. They simply register the reality of perceptions. It is necessary to consider that statement for a moment and then it because clear that such a position is outside logic. They see what happens but there is no critical assessment. Unless of course you are a couture designer.

Most Difficult to Define

Who are these people? The sensation type is actually a multitude of different types. They may be people who are markedly conventional and adhere to the basics of a rigid reality. As such they may be highly conventional. At the same time, they may be gourmands who focus ever so strongly on the wonders of the taste sensations. In that instance they are not confined to a narrowly defined reality. The wonders of taste are open to them. Again, there is the word sensation. Think then too of the person who wonders at the beauty of the world in all its, yes, sensations. And then too they may be focused on fashion with all the wonder it holds.

Then Add in The Attitudes of Introversion and Extraversion

With extraversion these people are the supreme realists and they experience life uncritically. They desire the strongest sensation and seize the sensory moment. Being around them may prove wondrous or decidedly superficial. Beauty in this instance is in the eye of the beholder.

With introversion they turn back to an inner focus. What they see is shaped by them and inside they may collide with myth. Imagine being lost in an inner world with a collage of sensations, inner truths, and the myths of humankind. It could be a wondrous or fearful place. Do you see how these collections of personality have such important dimensions?

A Diverse Collection

Looking at this type from the standpoint of another type it is easy to lose focus. There seem to be such vast differences. Take for a moment the focus on sensation. Everything from color to form to gastronomy to passion may hold sway. No wonder it may be hard to define them. At least to me I see a collage which is hard to define.

A Moderator Variable

Some people see a personality type in which the person is merely conventional and focused on ordinary reality. But I see something else. I wonder, for example about whether someone like the couture designer may suggest a very different form of the sensation type. Such designers focus on sensation whether it is color, form or movement as they shape the image of a woman. It suggests they may be colliding with their opposite function of intuition as they soar in the world of design melded with function. I wonder if in this type we aren’t seeing the indication of what is called a moderator variable which has not been identified. That variable would affect the functioning of the sensation but also define how it may be applied widely and more variably. That is not a pure definition but it gives a hint. There is something about this type that makes me wonder, yes, wonder about the possibilities. And then, of course, if you are an intuitive type like Jung, you have to wonder who these people are and would inevitably find them hard to define.

Do you now perceive the sensation types in your life?

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