Joe Blow is the pseudonym for a man who, though currently happy and high functioning, has had a long history of mental illness, including endogenous depression, bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. His writing is the product of a lifelong struggle to integrate flashes of insight and powerful symbols which appeared to him, often during what we might define as psychotic episodes, with observable reality and a rudimentary knowledge of science by appropriating useful concepts from the work of such iconoclastic thinkers as Wilhelm Reich, R. D. Laing, Keith Johnstone, William Blake and Oscar Wilde.
If asked whether this approach and this conceptual framework have provided him with a secure foundation for emotional stability, happiness and flowering creativity, Blow would reply, “Well, so far so good.”
He also writes humorous erotica under the pseudonym Aussiescribbler.
What has been the relationship between your experience of mental illness and your writing?
Throughout my life, my experience of mental illness has been both a motivation for seeking self-understanding and an aid to achieving it.
I've suffered from endogenous depression, anxiety, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder. I needed to find my way out of this maze of suffering. It is a part of the way the world works that what is inside mirrors what is outside. Our neurotic society is a maze of suffering for those of us who live within it. If I could find the path to healing within myself perhaps it would prove to also be a path to healing for the society of which I was an expression.
It is the thirsty man who most appreciates the importance of water. As someone whose neurotic insecurities left him lonely, shy and sexually frustrated, I came to see how important open communication and tender physical intimacy are to the health of society. Even now I'm rather poor sometimes at "practising what I preach". But I don't view my writing as a message from someone who knows better, but rather as an articulation by someone whose speciality is words of principles many have always been better at putting into practise than he. Words have the advantage that they can preserve ideas and spread a message over long distances with great rapidity. Life needs the wordsmith, but a good wordsmith is not always the best lifesmith. I hope that my writing helps to break the ice for discussions about the issues it raises, but look to others to teach me how to live the vision of a humanity united by love.
It is hard to find a beneficial side to most mental illnesses, but this is not the case with bipolar disorder. Historically, the norm for humans has been to be neurotic, that is to have an insecure ego which defends itself by blocking out disturbing ideas. A person with bipolar disorder has a breach in this system of defence. The ego at times breaks down and is flooded with disturbing ideas. At the time this produces the rush of a high, but when the ego tries to absorb the import of these ideas depression results. This explains why so many of the brightest and most creative of individuals historically have suffered from this condition. Bipolar breakdowns have been very disturbing and dangerous for me, but during such times my mind has been set free to breach the intellectual taboos which needed to be breached for me to achieve a better understanding of myself and society. And the delusions I experienced at such times were symbolic visions of the way ahead. Taking them literally was dangerous, but understanding them as symbols helped to guide my path.
Why did you pick the pseudonym Joe Blow?
Ideas are like viruses. They may be helpful or harmful and they spread from one person to another. What is most important is whether the idea is helpful or not. Sometimes paying too much attention to the person giving expression to the idea can be misleading. We may trust an idea because we have been led to believe that the person who expressed it is an authority of some kind. There are times when it is appropriate to place more trust in information based on the experience of the author. If you want information about the lives of bonobos you are better off going to the writings of a zoologist who works with them than to be satisfied with the information I pass on about them in my book "How to Be Free" based on a cursory reading of Wikipedia. But when it comes to general ideas about the experience of life, the best test is whether or not they bring clarity to our own experience. I'm not an authority in anything, except perhaps my own life experience. I want readers to assess the ideas expressed in my books on their own merits, and so I use the dismissive pseudonym Joe Blow to deemphasise myself.
There is also a deeper philosophy to this. Wisdom and creativity do not come from us but through us. They are an expression of something much larger than ourselves. Let's call it The Source. Our ego provides shape to the expression but the essence comes through the ego and not from it. There is a strong danger that our ego may try to take the credit. Keeping access to all the riches The Source provides means having an ego which defers to it. So it is important for me to remind myself that I'm just a Joe Blow.
This short essay presents a technique for protecting ourselves against verbal bullying. It also looks at how we can regain a childlike sense of joy and give ourselves a secure psychological base for our relationships and our view of the world.
13 % of U.S. voters think that Barack Obama is the Anti-Christ predicted in the Book of Revelations. The idea that a charismatic individual will rise to power and precipitate a final battle between good and evil is expressed in many movies and books.
Can we learn something useful by subjecting this powerful myth to psychological analysis?
Has materialism become a joyless addiction? Is idealism making things worse for us? Have we underestimated the healing power of the erotic? Can the symbolic language of religion tell us something about the nature of the mind? Is the "Kingdom of Heaven" within? These are some of the questions explored in these essays by the author of "How to Be Free".
A tribe who live on the beach between a forest and a lake are so terrified by the discovery of a spider two feet across living beneath the sand that they seek refuge in a pair of towers. Those who like to eat fish build a tower overlooking the lake. Those who like eating fruit build one near the forest. The strategy will lead to conflict and madness in this drily witty fable.
How can we free ourselves from mental suffering? How can we unlock what the poet William Blake referred to as “the mind-forged manacles” - those unhelpful, unfounded and inflexible habits of thought which keep us from reaching our true creative potential?