Memories of lunar caustic

I generally find it sensible to reject the opinions of those who refer to the world as “the system”. Author and former Bellevue patient Malcolm Lowry (1909-57) seems to have been one of these people, as Dalrymple suggests in the BMJ (subscription required):

According to Lowry, there is little difference between the staff and the patients. It is the world that is mad, not the lunatic. He says to the doctor: “You’re as resigned as your wretched patients, and you not only stand for it, but persistently your technique is to try and adjust them back to the system—just as you might imagine wounded soldiers being patched up to be sent back to fight by surgeons who had been smashed up themselves.”

This is R D Laing avant la lettre: the madman is simply one who has seen clearer and further than the so called sane.

4 thoughts on “Memories of lunar caustic

  1. Mxymaster

    The idea that the crazy people are the only sane people can generally be dispelled (at least among the sane) by a brief exposure to actual insanity — unpleasant, unhygienic, illogical, repetitive, and sad. I guess if you actually are crazy you can maintain the illusion longer.

    1. Scott Amundsen

      “Insanity” and “Mental Illness” are not synonymous, though Myxmaster’s description — unpleasant, unhygienic, illogical, repetitive, and sad — is apt. Though I wonder one thing: when Myxmaster uses the term “unpleasant,” is he speaking from the point of view of the sufferer or an observer? Because FYI all the descriptive words used here are just as obvious from the inside as they appear to be from the outside.

      As for illusions, I would venture to suggest that everyone has them. But it has been my experience that when the outsider, the “not insane” one, loses his/her illusions, (s)he usually makes tracks as if the Devil himself were snapping at his/her heels, and to hell with the person actually suffering from the actual illness.

  2. Louise

    Surely ‘insanity’ is a term reserved for forensic psychiatry. Are you a forensic psychiatrist, Dr Mxymaster?

  3. Jay C

    Insanity has a non-technical meaning widely accepted, i.e. a mental state wholly or predominantly divorced from rationality and in most cases leading to abnormal behaviour.

    Mxymaster was not attempting to diagnose anyone. You don’t have to be a forensic psychiatrist to know how to use the word, any more than you would need to be a gastroenterologist to know what food poisoning is.


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