A FORMAT FOR GROUP DISCUSSIONS
I have tried to create a format that will enable mental health professionals to consider some experiences of mania from an aesthetic point of view.
Below are materials for four discussion groups A, B, C and D. These can be used in a variety of educational contexts to stimulate discussion. Each discussion group takes a topic that is first introduced as a medical symptom of mania and then as a personal experience and an aesthetic experience. These topics are Elevated Mood, Racing Thoughts, Confusion and Delusions. The recollected personal and aesthetic experiences are based on the author's own history of extreme mood swings. They are included because they appear to have certain aesthetic features or characteristics. The purpose of the discussions is to consider and engage with these experiences and to explore whether they really do have aesthetic features or characteristics. Although these examples are drawn from personal experience they are broadly consistent with both clinical observations and other personal accounts of mania. Elevated Mood is selected because it is widely taken as the 'driving force' behind manic experiences. Racing Thoughts can be one of the more minor phenomena of mood swings, while both Confusion and Delusions are clearly major and dramatic conditions. However, any of the standard clinical symptoms could have been taken as a starting point for discussion, i.e. grandiosity, increased activity, de-inhibition, impulsiveness, impaired judgement, euphoria, pressured speech or hallucinations.
Following the introduction of each topic one or two parallels between these experiences and some phenomena or features from the arts or aesthetic life are added. These comments are included to help participants relate the personal experiences of mania to broader artistic and aesthetic issues.
Finally, to facilitate a new and unfamiliar kind of discussion, some remarks from imaginary health professionals have been included. Participants in the discussions may want to agree, disagree or take issue with any of these contributions.
(At this juncture, it would probably be helpful to look ahead to the discussion group sections in order to understand the form they take and then return to the next section on critical approaches.)