From John Weir Perry’s The Far Side of Madness, in which he discusses how psychosis is a healing process set in place to reconstitute a fragmented self-image:
Taking into account various observations on schizophrenia, I have been inclined to think of the “psychopathology” differently from the usual textbook psychiatric formulation. It is justifiable to regard the term “sickness” as pertaining not to the acute turmoil but to the prepsychotic personality, standing as it does in need of profound reorganization. In this case, the renewal process occurring in the acute psychotic episode may be considered nature’s way of setting things right. Even though this compensatory process may become a massive turmoil, the turbulence is a step on the way toward the living of a more fulfilled emotional life.
He goes on to discuss the cause of the psychotic turmoil and how it is often resolved:
A severe injury to the self-image was apparently at the heart of the genesis of the prepsychotic personality in the cases that I have studied. Things went wrong during the phase in which the archetypal bond with the mother would ordinarily be bringing into play the attentive, tender, caring, and even worshipful emotions of the mother toward her child — this being the child’s fundamental need during this phase. Typically, the mothers of these individuals seemed to have failed to render such love. Such a mother tends to have the feeling, in regard to this particular offspring at least, that she is dealing with a child that she cannot wholeheartedly love with full acceptance. There may be a projection of an image upon the child of unattractiveness or strangeness or perhaps of the black sheep; then the child grows to sense an ill-defined negative judgment of some sort, and his image of himself depicting this emotion will reflect the mother’s emotion. If she sees in him a black sheep, then his image of himself will be the black sheep. Very often this image will turn out to have its origin in the mother’s complexes derived from her own unfavorable parent-sibling relationships. The image representing the mother’s experience of the child becomes all-important to his psychic welfare, establishing for him either the emotional conditions of health and warmth of feeling, or those of distortion and painfulness.
From observing the behavior of the archetypal affect-images in schizophrenic episodes, the impression has grown on me that the syndrome revolves around the problem of self-image. In it, there is a pathological division between its two forms, the personal and the archetypal ones; that is, the personal self-image in the usual sense of the way the person views and evaluates himself, and the archetypal image that compensates it in depth. In the prepsychotic development, the personality has grown into an identity that does not properly belong to him. For he has grown up with a feeling of unlovedness and consequent outsideness, and the self-image is that of being faulty, undesirable, unworthy, and unpromising. These are derived from the mother’s projection, and are taken over by the ego as its personal self-image. Close behind these feelings are the fantasy ones — from the compensating archetypal affect-image — of being superlative, more than human, a genius, or a person of momentous importance to the world. Thus, when the personal self-image is severely debased — as it usually is in the prepsychotic make-up — the archetypal self-image is in the same measure exalted.
The discrepancy between the two self-images in their counterpoise sets up an unstable psychic situation full of a sense of unreality and of anxiety, which is prone at any time to precipitate one into the archetypal renewal process. It seems that when the psyche cannot progress further into its next steps of experience so encumbered by this very negative self-image — especially at times of the great crises of ebullient falling in love or of hurtful fulling into rejection — a change is initiated. The psychic energy, the libido, is attracted to the archetypal level of the psyche, where a process of very high energy-charge starts moving, reorganizing the central archetype and hence reconstituting the self-image. It appears that this recession of the libido leaves the higher levels of the psyche stripped of their usual energy-charge, and hence in a state of disorganization. Both the ego-consciousness and the complexes are left in a state of fragmentation.
As I see it, the principal change that takes place in the reconstitution of the self-image is not merely that self-esteem is restored, but much more, that the capacity to love and be loved is generated. The plight of the schizoid personality is that love has been disappointed. The mother-child bond as the first basic experience of secure love should have been the model for all later experiences of closeness; the mother should have become the first representative of the “Eros” principle, that of relating and loving and allowing intimacy. But what took its place instead was control and suppression. Thus, not only did the child learn for self-protection to withdraw feeling, but even more, he came to deal with people according to the Power principle, instead of the more natural Eros one to which it stands as an opposite. Power wants status and control, while Eros seeks relatedness and closeness. The prepsychotic make-up, with its assumption of unlovability, then suffers a difficult combination of feelings of crushing insignificance and of superlative prestige-hunger. In other words, the initial tendency of the archetypal self-image is to prompt the ego to seek out a balm for unacceptability in the form of some absolute mastery. The psychotic process habitually puts this power-oriented form of the self through a transformation that awakens the potentials for relationship and gives them their rightful place in the structure of the personality and in the style of life.
Then Perry gives an example to illustrate this progression:
One example comes to mind that was so classic in its outlines as to be almost schematic. It is that of a young man in therapy with one of the residents whom I was supervising. I can therefore say with some assurance that I did not influence the content or the direction of flow of the imagery. For the first weeks of his episode he believed himself to be specially elected by the “Space Wizards,” superintelligent and superpowerful beings who ruled the galaxy, to be Chief Space Wizard on earth. (This is twentieth-century language for the title King of the Universe.) In the course of the following weeks, however, his interest shifted remarkably away from such superlative imagery and he became engrossed instead in the fantasy of immersing himself in life on a farm with his wife, raising children and vegetables and livestock. The atmosphere of these preoccupations, starting with the crisp, cold, electric excitement of cosmic power from the sky, turned now to the opposite extreme, the warm quiet comfort of loving family bonds and of nursing the life of animals and plants living on the soil of the earth.