Listening for the Light: A New Perspective on Integration Disorder in Dyslexic Syndrome, Schizophrenia, Bipolarity, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Substance Abuse

Introduction (pp. 7-8)

Listening for the Light is not about the good times in our family or about the achievements and gifts of its members. This book is about the problems—and at that, only some of them. Its point of view is sociological and psychological. Its discoveries impact our understanding of neurology and the function of the brain. It illuminates aspects of two of those “20 greatest unsolved problems,”[1] namely, free will and consciousness, and investigates little-understood factors that control various so-called mental states. As a study of the microcosmic social unit, the family, it does not attempt to be comprehensive, but restricts its considerations primarily to the issues of brain function mentioned in the title. Our son Daniel’s role is central, because it was through trying to find solutions to his severe problems that I learned more about how the brain affects certain kinds of behaviour and states of consciousness that all of us experience to some extent. While his escalating needs tended to write the agenda for the family still at home after his diagnosis of schizophrenia—two of the children were adults and living away from home and the third soon would be—such was not the case to the degree that seems so in this telling. Other family members, too, are presented primarily in terms of the central problems they were dealing with or that bear on my discoveries. Please keep in mind, when you glimpse other dimensions of relationships, that remarkable accomplishments characterized each family member and resonated positively throughout the family during the troubled times recounted here.

This story draws together many strands of my experience, but focuses on a period of about a dozen years during which my husband Richard and I tried to balance our love and concern for every stressed member of an impoverished family with the special needs of one child who started to slide out of control when he was about 11 years old. The counterpoint to Daniel’s story is my journey of learning and discovery, which did not proceed on schedule like academic study and was multi-layered—one problem partially solved was topped by another less easily solved, topped with another more intractable—a pyramid that eventually explained itself.

When family crises arise that are not adequately solved within existing social institutions, parents may have tough choices to make. A sociological tenet permeating this story is that the lack of social resources in rural settings is detrimental to the health of those living there. Another sociological fact, less often expressed by those actually caught in the talons of poverty, is that a subsistence-level struggle to survive also is detrimental to physical and mental health. Sociologists know this, but the individuals who might alter this situation with their votes, their wealth, and their choices continue to accept privileges without regard to responsibility—as formerly I did. And this problem is urban as well as rural, although the superficial features differ according to the differences in settings. The unjust distribution of wealth in our society leads not simply to inconvenience and a simpler lifestyle for an increasing sector of the population, but to intellectual deprivation, poor nutrition, inadequate protection from the climate, illnesses, exhaustion from excessive work, and the sense of hopelessness that perpetuates addictions and leads to untimely death.

You can read about Daniel’s recovery from schizophrenia and the range of other mental illness he experienced and about his mother’s new paradigm of human behaviour related to the function of the ear in Listening for the Light, available at:

[1] John Vacca, ed. The World’s 20 Greatest Unsolved Problems (Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005), chs 13, 14.

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