Mark Hardie
Lawyer, Military Veteran, and Philosopher

Schizophrenia, Psychosis, and Jewish Identity

Barack Mandela, who served in the IDF and US Army, is also a psychology researcher. (Personal Collection)

I am an African American who converted to Judaism and became a citizen of Israel. I served in both the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and United States Army. I am an international soldier and wartime patriot.

However, I ask myself: Is my conversion to Judaism and service in the IDF actually a mental disorder known as depersonalization? Depersonalization is described as feeling disconnected or detached from oneself.

I also ask myself: Is my Jewish identity a form of schizophrenia and psychosis?

Schizophrenia is a chronic mental disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by a range of symptoms that may include hallucinations, delusions, disorganized thinking and speech, diminished emotional expression, and impaired functioning.

One aspect of schizophrenia that often comes into question is its impact on identity – how the disorder may affect one’s sense of self and their understanding of who they are.

In this article, I will explore the relationship between schizophrenia and identity, examining how the symptoms of schizophrenia can influence one’s perception of self and how individuals with schizophrenia navigate their identity in the face of the challenges posed by the disorder.

Schizophrenia can have a profound impact on an individual’s identity. The symptoms of schizophrenia, such as hallucinations and delusions, can distort an individual’s perception of reality and challenge their understanding of themselves and the world around them.

For example, a person with schizophrenia may experience auditory hallucinations, hearing voices such as the voice of God, which can be distressing and confusing. These hallucinations can sometimes involve voices that are critical, commanding, or persecutory, leading the individual to question their own sanity.

Delusions, which are false beliefs that are not based in reality, can also impact one’s identity. Delusions of grandeur, for example, may cause a person with schizophrenia to believe they have special powers or abilities, leading to an inflated sense of self and a distorted perception of their own identity.

The impact of schizophrenia on identity is also evident in the thought deficits that individuals with the disorder may experience. Thought deficits can include difficulties with memory, attention, problem-solving, and decision-making.

Engaging in meaningful activities, such as attending synagogue services, hobbies, work, or volunteering, can also help individuals with schizophrenia maintain a sense of identity. It is important to recognize that individuals with schizophrenia are not defined solely by their diagnosis, and their identity is multifaceted, just like any other individual.

This raises the questions: Is my so-called Jewish identity linked to schizophrenia? Is my desire to join the ‘chosen people’ the result of a gradiose delusion? Am I holy or merely delusional?

Jewish identity refers to the sense of belonging, identification, and connection that individuals of the Jewish faith feel towards their Jewish heritage, culture, traditions, and values. Jewish identity can include religious, cultural, ethnic, historical elements.

Although I am not ethnically Jewish, my conversion to Judaism and service in the IDF significantly impacted my identity and it challengd my perception of reality.

Ask yourself: am I truly a convert to Judaism? Is my conversion a genuine spiritual experience of joining the Jewish world? Is my service in the IDF a genuine patriotic service? Or are my conversion and military service merely symptoms of a spectrum of disorders including depersonalization and psychosis? Am I on the brink of salvation or the edge of madness?

I will explore these gripping, deeply personal explorations in “The Blogs” of “The Times of Israel”.

About the Author
Licensed Attorney. I earned a Doctor of Law at the University of California, College of the Law, San Francisco (Hastings) . I earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Riverside. I was an international student at the University of Costa Rica Faculty of Law and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Faculty of Law. I am a military veteran of the United States Air Force and United States Army. I am a laureate of the National Defense Service Medal from the Pentagon. I am a financial donor to following: Harvard Law, Yale Law, Stanford Law, Berkeley Law, UC Hastings College of the Law, UC Davis Law, Columbine High School, Choate Rosemary Hall, Phillips Exeter Academy, Sidwell Friends School, Viewpoint School, Beverly Hills High School, Eton College in the United Kingdom, Special Olympics, Children's Defense Fund, Obama Foundation, Clinton Foundation, Barbra Streisand Foundation, Princeton University, Florida A&M, Howard University, Spelman College, Morehouse College, and the British Red Cross. I am former special assistant and staff attorney to Governor Pete Wilson of California. I was public affairs assistant to US Senator Barbara Boxer. I am a member of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
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