Whilst losing himself in his labyrinthine unconscious during the long process of intellectual self-flagellation which led to his post-Freudian theory, Jung said that ‘My family and my profession remained the base to which I could always return, assuring me that I was an actually existing, ordinary person.’
Memories, Dreams, Reflections, CG Jung (first published 1962)

Like the presence of a clock on the wall[1], like touch, the family contextualises a person, asserts the primacy of reality[2].

A family, though, sometimes need a bit of denial to get them through. Once someone is out of ITU, they are officially better. Talking about delirium suggests it’s not altogether over.

But the person who has been through delirium has had their connection with reality bulldozered, and has somehow to reassert the boundaries. Talking about it may be the best way of placing it in opposition to the here and now. But this isn’t always something people can do with their families. Matt – who chairs an ICU patient support group – says that we need to educate both staff and families:

‘No-one knows about hallucinations. Even though I suffered them, it was never really explained to me. And even though part of your brain thinks ‘that can’t have been real’, to you, you’ve lived it.
Flashbacks can get triggered by anything – and obviously it can be very disturbing.’
His group are working on a leaflet explaining the likely symptoms and causes:
‘The leaflet will be for the relative as much as the patient. 9 out of 10 people will want to talk to a familiar face. It’s a simple thing – just ask the question ‘have you had any bad hallucinations?’. We’re trying to catch people right at the beginning. People estimate that 80% of people in ICU have had hallucinations.’

[1] a NICE-recommended preventative measure

[2] Similarly, people seem to veer towards charting their ancestry when they sense their own – disposability.


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