What is Madness? — Darian Leader

I’ve always enjoyed Freud. And I wanted to try something by Darian Leader. So I read this because it was cheap and had a good cover. And it was great. And I would say you should read this.

Perhaps, at some level, we not only expect this from madness but actually want it, as if to externalize the latent feelings of violence we all harbour within ourselves.

I like that people can think like that. And also:

Thus Daniel Paul Schreber, a German judge whose memoirs of his ‘nervous illness’ were first published in 1903, and who believed he was being transformed into the begetter of a new race, inhabiting a bizarre universe of divine rays and filaments, could still deliver acute legal arguments and expertise, not least concerning his own tutelage. He was able to convince the courts, using both legal argument and personal narrative, that he was fit to be released from his incarceration in an asylum and to take charge of his affairs.

This worried me greatly:

In his famous study, David Rosenhan arranged for eight ‘sane’ people – three psychologists, a paediatrician, a psychiatrist, a painter, a housewife and psychology professor Rosenhan himself – to seek admission to twelve different American hospitals. None of them had any reported symptoms, yet they were instructed to complain, when seeking admission, of hearing voices that said the words ‘Empty’, ‘Hollow’ and ‘Thud’. After this, if admitted, they were to simply conduct themselves as usual and report no further occurrence of the voices. This all proved even easier than expected. All but one were admitted with the diagnosis ‘schizophrenia’, and all of them were discharged with the diagnosis ‘schizophrenia in remission’ after stays of between a week and nearly two months. They were prescribed nearly 2,100 pills, from a wide variety of different drugs. Remarkably, staff seemed to have no awareness that these were ‘pseudo-patients’, but inmates were often suspicious: ‘You’re not crazy. You’re a journalist,’ as one patient said.

I like Groucho Marx:

Think of Groucho Marx’s quip: ‘He may look like an idiot, and behave like an idiot, but don’t let that fool you: he is an idiot.’

Pretty fascinating:

Louis Wolfson’s fascination with languages is another example of this process. He became what he called ‘a schizophrenic student of languages’, learning French, German and Russian in order to escape from the English language that so terrified him.

Fact of the year:

Otherwise, Shipman spent his time translating Harry Potter into Braille.