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  • Writer's pictureTom Robinson

The Wheel of Awakening: spiritual awakening, madness, mental illness? - Clockwise or anticlockwise?!

Updated: Jan 28, 2022

I have no idea what’s going on this week but having been sleeping really quite well over the last few months, I am now back to not sleeping very well at all - this is all very perturbing!

I'm annoyed because I thought that I was winning the sleep battle but yet again there seems to be a bump in the road - predictably I suppose - but still irritating nonetheless!

As everyone knows, sleep is the absolute foundation of everything when it comes to good brain functioning, mental health, and well-being – without it you are never going be able to perform to a consistent level - so I really need mine back.

I think all of this spirituality and madness chatter has had an effect on my ridiculously oversensitive brain - oh for goodness sake!

Quetiapine withdrawal, illness, or something else?

There have been a few different factors that could have contributed to this episode of (pretty much insomnia dammit), because I really don’t think I slept last night. This is too bloody annoying for words but I'm venting it anyway!

I wrote a post recently about the fact that I am trying to withdraw from the antipsychotic ‘quetiapine’ because there are hideous side effects that come with it but I’ve been stuck on it now for a while because when I come off it I find that I can’t sleep at all without it.

I’ve cut down over a ridiculously long period of time and finally got down to about 2mg a week ago. You’d think getting down from there would be a cinch but OH NO!

Although I slept well for a couple of nights I have then hardly slept at all since. I’m pissed off because I can’t really write, function or do anything when I feel like this, and I know that it’s quetiapine that has played HAVOC with my sleep because I NEVER had a problem before – ok there were manic episodes but not reoccurring insomnia and rubbish patterns of sleep like I’m experiencing now.

I’m so furious that antipsychotics were forced on me, as they were in hospital, I really, really am.

I know that some doctors would try to tell me that I’m still having episodes of mania and/or mixed state or agitated depression or whatever they’d decide to label this period of general shitness but I know that it’s not that at all.

I am the expert of myself remember, and I know what it’s like to have an episode of mania, hypomania, depression, agitated depression, depression with flight of ideas, blah, blah, and no it’s not a symptom of illness - it’s something else.

The only other thing it could be related to is all this talk of ‘spiritual awakening’ and its relationship to mental illness and madness.

Dr Russell Razzaque does say that when he first started to go round the 'wheel of awakening' in the anticlockwise direction, he noticed that his sleep was seriously compromised…. so maybe it’s got something to do with that then?!

What the hell is The Wheel of Awakening anyway?!

I’m going to attempt a brief explanation of all of this myself, and then add a bit of text by Dr Razzaque to make it even clearer.

'The Wheel of Awakening' is a diagram and theory that Dr Razzaque uses to illustrate the journey of life that we are all proceeding on.

The assumption is that we are all on a path to spiritual enlightenment or ‘awakening’ where the aim is to discover a more evolved version of ourselves that can access the experience of life on a deeper, more connected, and meaningful level.

- I know that not everyone thinks about the meaning of life and all of this profound blathering, but then again, I’m sure there are a lot that do!

The clockwise direction of the wheel, represents the ‘normal’ route and is the one that, according to Dr Razzaque, most people are currently journeying on.

Throughout the journey come the different levels of stress, strain, and pressure that we will all be exposed to in their various different forms and guises. These are the traumas that can propel us into neurotic and affective disorders, such as anxiety, PTSD, and personality disorders, and, further round the wheel, even mania, and psychosis.

The wheel includes drug use which is so very often linked to these episodes of mental illness, spiritual awakening, madness, or whatever you wish to call it.

Drugs – both proscribed, prescribed, psychiatric and recreational, can inauthentically prompt a kind of spiritual awakening and Dr Razzaque discusses all of this in the book.

The anticlockwise direction represents the route to spiritual awakening which Dr Razzaque believes is most authentic. This is the path that he believes the great teachers and biblical leaders of history would have been embarking on.

This route can be accessed through practices of meditation and mindfulness which is something that is explored more extensively at the end of the book.

I don't really do meditation per se, but I do listen to music, especially when I'm struggling to get to sleep and I do find that it helps me - especially as I'm now so much more aware of my ego and how it's all affecting me. - {I've added a song to the bottom of this post which I've used for the purpose of (what I suppose is meditation), 'acceptance' / 'detachment' in recent weeks.}

I have to say though, that this book really did answer all the questions I’ve been looking to answer and it is so clear to me now that ‘breaking down’ really is ‘waking up’ – you’ve just got to be able to survive long enough to be able to recover (a combination of everything) and realise this – but unfortunately that isn’t at all easy either!

Dr Razzaque – Breaking Down is Waking Up

Dr Russell Razzaque’s description is so profound and SO important that I am now adding some of his own words to this post for people to consider for themselves. Here is his explanation of the Wheel and its connection to mental illness and spiritual awakening.

“THIS DIAGRAM REPRESENTS what I call the wheel of awakening.

It is an illustration of the psychological journey that I believe we are all on. It is the journey of ego.

All of us are born at different places along the circle–with different templates for ego already in place–and this is a consequence of whatever factors existed prior to our birth, for example, genetic inheritance or prenatal influences in the womb.

The forces of life then come into play. Trauma, stress, and adverse life events tend to take us in a clockwise direction.

The thinking mind leaps upon life’s vicissitudes and adds layer upon layer to ego. And as new chapters are written into the story of our lives, the concept of ‘me’ gets heavier and heavier. This gradually makes us more vulnerable to further stressful and adverse experiences in life and ultimately it may push us into one of the neurotic disorders, whether that be generalized anxiety, phobias, panic attacks, or one of the more specific reactions like anorexia, obsessive compulsive disorder, or PTSD.”

“This becomes particularly important when we start to consider treatment, because it means that we need to direct our intervention towards the whole environment, as well as the individual; there is a need to go deeper than current notions of ‘treatment’ alone and move beyond it to the profound personal work of growth and development, which is represented in the anticlockwise direction on the wheel.”

Unlike the rapid, jerky clockwise forces of trauma, abuse and drugs, this anticlockwise motion depicts the slow and gradual force of self-awareness, all the way up to awakening.

Where the clockwise current requires little or no free will to follow it, the anticlockwise current represents patient and deliberate effort on the part of the individual. It is not a fast or violent force, but a slow and steady one. In this direction, rather than building up, ego is slowly fading away.

“The anticlockwise journey is both a psychological and a spiritual one and it has been known, in various guises since the dawn of time. From the Buddha to Jesus to Freud, they were all, in one way or another, describing paths that take the traveller in this direction.”

Above the doorway of the Temple of Delphi, where the famed Oracle sat in ancient times and held audiences with princes and emperors from around the world, there was a sign

‘Know Thyself’.

That, quite simply, is the purpose of life. And somewhere, deep inside each of us, we have always known this.

“Though buried under multiple layers of inflamed ego, this reality is also keenly felt by sufferers of mental illness too. The chinks of light that their illness affords them are also its gifts, and this brings about a wisdom, a deeper sense of knowing that clinicians with a higher level of self-awareness themselves will tend to recognize.”

In some ways it will feel like looking in a mirror, the same image but reversed.

They are looking across at each other from opposite ends of the wheel but often, at the same time, also travelling closer and closer to one other as they reach the top.”


The last point to discuss in this series on spirituality and mental illness, is what’s known as ‘The Mind Brain Problem’. It really is the crux question, and one which I will be discussing next week.

For now though, I need to frigging sleep! I’m taking the weekend to work on this, then will probably post a couple of times next week before taking my summer holiday - I think I need a break from writing about mental health for the sake of my own mental health!

Thanks for reading,

Speak to you soon,


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