There are, in the psychiatric and popular literature, both true and fictional accounts of the experience of being schizophrenic (e.g., Beers, 1908; Green, 1970; Sechehaye, 1951). Such narrative descriptions are powerful human documents, and have profoundly influenced the practice of psychiatry (Kaplan, 1964, p. 146).
With few exceptions (e.g., Custance, 1952), such descriptions are written retrospectively, during remission or years after the episodes described, and are thus vulnerable to the distortion of selective memory, forgetting, condensation of events, details within events, etc. The time-sampling methods described in this book were explicitly developed to minimize the distortions due to retrospective reporting. While those time-sampling studies are quantitative analyses, a variant of the ‘beeper’ method can be used to create narrative descriptions that are not retrospective (or only slightly so), and thus also minimize distortion.
This method generates narrative descriptions of the moment-by-moment inner experiences of subjects, descriptions that are impossible to generate by any other method. The authors are preparing a collection of such experience descriptions of normal and disturbed subjects to exemplify the range of human experience. We provide here an excerpt from the description of a young schizophrenic woman to demonstrate how this descriptive time-sampling method can augment the understanding of schizophrenia provided both by retrospective narrative descriptions and by quantitative time-sampling methods.
This example may prove useful if readers pause before reading further to ask themselves what is generally understood by psychiatric professionals about how schizophrenics experience their inner world.