Defense Date

2006

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Adult Health Nursing

First Advisor

Dr. Martha Moon

Abstract

This research illustrates the experience of living with hallucinations from the perspective of being, and sought to answer the questions: what is the meaning of hallucinations and how do hallucinations connect to one's sense of self?A phenomenological Heideggerian hermeneutic approach was used to guide data collection and analysis. In this study, 12 individuals with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorders were asked to describe their experience of hallucinations within the context of being. An overarching constitutive pattern emerged with four themes. The constitutive pattern, "A Life disrupted: Still lived," described a pattern of survival and perseverance on one's own terms; a common thread that emanated throughout the other themes. For these participants the four themes that epitomized living a life with hallucinations were:(a) Are they who they are? (b) A not so certain life, (c) Finding strength in the broken places, and (d) I am still me. Are they who they are described both a cognitive search and emotional appraisal of the structure of the hallucinatory experience. Who and what is it? The confusion and fear participants articulated, and attempting to make some sense out of the experience bore a close resemblance to the mechanism of order emerging from chaos. A not so certain life illustrated a picture of living with a chronic illness. Participants described the same waxing and waning of the disease, the lifelong picture of living with a disease, and the same ambiguous perspective of treatment. Participants also spoke of living a life of loss. This loss and subsequent grief in the face of stigma and self-perceived stigma were analogous to disenfranchised loss. Nonetheless, participants referred to making small and daily gains as a way of deriving meaning from this experience. Finding strength in the broken places was this process of lending a different kind of meaning to this experience as integral to surviving mental illness. There was some disparity with the literature concerning the usefulness of language that emphasized mastery and self-empowerment. This language served to be more overwhelming than helpful and clients visualized "getting better'' in small ways with small daily gains. Heidegger's language of care as leaping in and leaping ahead more closely depicted nursing's goal of intervening in the day-to-day needs, as well as the long-range goal of self-empowerment. Additionally, despite literature that conceptualizes a lost or disintegrating self, almost all participants agreed that hallucinations were not expressive of their intrinsic being, rather, "who they were" their "being" remained separate from their hallucinations. I am still me described a persistent sense of self defined as a sense of being that remained consistent throughout.

Rights

© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008

Included in

Nursing Commons

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