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Susanna Kaysen

“The point is, the brain talks to itself, and by talking to itself changes its perceptions. To make a new version of the not-entirely-false model, imagine the first interpreter as a foreign correspondent, reporting from the world. The world in this case means everything out- or inside our bodies, including serotonin levels in the brain. The second interpreter is a news analyst, who writes op-ed pieces. They read each other's work. One needs data, the other needs an overview; they influence each other. They get dialogues going.

INTERPRETER ONE: Pain in the left foot, back of heel.
INTERPRETER TWO: I believe that's because the shoe is too tight.
INTERPRETER ONE: Checked that. Took off the shoe. Foot still hurts.
INTERPRETER TWO: Did you look at it?
INTERPRETER ONE: Looking. It's red.
INTERPRETER TWO: Forget about it.

Mental illness seems to be a communication problem between interpreters one and two.

An exemplary piece of confusion.

INTERPRETER ONE: There's a tiger in the corner.
INTERPRETER TWO: No, that's not a tiger- that's a bureau.
INTERPRETER ONE: It's a tiger, it's a tiger!
INTERPRETER TWO: Don't be ridiculous. Let's go look at it.

Then all the dendrites and neurons and serotonin levels and interpreters collect themselves and trot over to the corner.
If you are not crazy, the second interpreter's assertion, that this is a bureau, will be acceptable to the first interpreter. If you are crazy, the first interpreter's viewpoint, the tiger theory, will prevail.
The trouble here is that the first interpreter actually sees a tiger. The messages sent between neurons are incorrect somehow. The chemicals triggered are the wrong chemicals, or the impulses are going to the wrong connections. Apparently, this happens often, but the second interpreter jumps in to straighten things out.”

Susanna Kaysen, Girl, Interrupted
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Girl, Interrupted Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
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