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The Schizophrenia Stethoscope

The Schizophrenia Stethoscope

So I had an idea the other night, pondering the many medical wonders we’ve created in modernity.  I love music, sound, and the physics of waves, and I began to think about stethoscopes.  I know, it was random.  But the more I ruminated, the more I began to see the stethoscope as a metaphor or model for gaining insight into our own schizophrenic situation.  How can this be?  Let’s take a look.

The Stethoscope as an Insight Gaining Metaphor

I feel positive that all of you are familiar with a stethoscope.  It’s the device that doctors and nurses wear around their necks when not in use.  It sticks in their ears and they can listen to your heart beat or breathing.  Consider the construction of a stethoscope from top to bottom:

  • Ear pieces
  • Chest piece
  • Tubing
  • Bell
  • Diaphragm

These are the pieces of the metaphor.  The way these work in reality is that the diaphragm vibrates when your heart beats due to it’s extreme sensitivity.  This creates a sound wave that is pushed up the bell and through the tubing, chest piece, and finally into the doctor’s ears, where he makes the final judgement about what’s going on.  So how is this a metaphor?  Each piece represents a certain function of our bodies and minds!  Check it out.

The Diaphragm

The diaphragm represents our skin.  It is the piece of us that extends out into physical reality and represents the borders of our bodies.  It touches everything else, from people, objects, the wind, temperature gradients, and more.  It is our literal diaphragm that reacts to the world and generates signals to be sent back to us up our tubing, which represent our nerves.  In our case, we may not always be receiving accurate information from our diaphragms if we experience kinesthetic hallucinations for instance.  We can use the idea of our skin as a diaphragm by paying attention to the signals it’s sending us and analyzing them to see if they are accurate and match up to the reality that is around us.  Through this insight, we are far less likely to overreact, become anxious, etc.

The Bell

The bell represents our filter.  Our minds are not pure.  They are chock full of memories, experiences, biases, pains and pleasures, and all sorts of ideas that influence our perceptions.  Before the signal from the diaphragm hits our tubing and moves on to our awareness, it is filtered first.  Many times, our sickness occurs within this filter, especially when we are talking about delusions and paranoia.  Being aware that the bell exists and asking ourselves how it is affecting our experience can help us to stay calm and understand things more clearly.  Ideally, the bell wouldn’t exist and we’d get pure information, but that isn’t reality.  Every living being has this filter, but learning to understand how it is involved in our own personal process can help us cope far better than not knowing it is there at all.

The Tubing

The tubing of a stethoscope represents our nervous system.  It takes all of the signals from our eyes, ears, skin, and every other window to the world and carries it to our brain for conscious awareness.  Our nervous systems are very complex and most of us probably have hyperactive parasympathetic nervous systems and amygdala’s in constant fight or flight mode.  As with every other part of this metaphor, understanding how our own stethoscope parts function will help us comprehend our own situation that much better.  Know how you react and feel.  Are you sluggish?  Are you anxious?  Hyper?  Depressed?  Think about it and analyze yourself!  Know yourself!

 The Chest Piece

The chest piece is made of metal.  It is sturdy and strong.  We could consider it to be our physical frame, our skeleton that supports all of the other parts of the stethoscope.  It is more than just our framework though.  It represents stability, determination, focus, strength, and all of these other qualities that we desire and honor as positive.  And guess what?  We all have a chest piece.  We all have these qualities inside of us already and everything else we are and do depend upon it.  So stand up tall, summon forth these qualities and nurse them.  Develop your stability and strength and courage.  Be a rock and solid foundation for yourself and others!

The Ear Pieces

The ear pieces represent our focus.  The ear pieces of a stethoscope are meant to rest in our ear canals so we can pay attention to what our body is telling us, right?  The first step of having focus is to actually use our body and listen to what it is trying to tell us.  If you aren’t doing that, then there’s no point in having a stethoscope!  It is up to us to have the ear pieces in our ears, and then to focus on what’s being said.  We must block out all other unimportant noises during this time and really focus.  Focus is how we gain insight.  The entire body and stethoscope serve no purpose if there isn’t an aware mind focusing on what it has to say at least once a day!  Focus, my friends.


So that’s what I was thinking about last night when I was reading stethoscope reviews around the internet.  I think it’s a great metaphor, particularly because it already is a part of the medical field and everyone intimately knows what a stethoscope is.  What do you think?  Can we expand upon this and make it better?  Let me know in the comments!

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