Central Snark

A very thin line… by Snuppy
Wednesday, 24 October 2007, 6:54am
Filed under: funny...

and apparently easy to cross. So what do you think, is it easy to tell the sane from the fruitcakes, the mentally stable from the gaga?

I used to think you could spot them from a mile away. Over the last week I have been visiting a “looney bin” in relations to my studies and talked to a few of the people in there. One guy was particularly interesting and he gave me this research I am reading right now and have to share with you:

In 1973 a psychology graduate student and 7 others, presented themselves at 12 different hospitals and complained about hearing voices. When prompted upon those voices they said that they were unfamiliar, of the same gender as the speaker and they used words like “empty”, “hollow” and “thud” in their descriptions.

What a high percentage of those 8 do you think got diagnosed as bonkers and offered a bed next to another cuckoo?

All 8 of them got admitted straight away. Seven of them with the diagnosis of acute scizophrenia. Who would have thought it? Now, the rules where that they had to get themselves into the ward and get themselves out of there. They had to present their true history, family trees and everything. The only things they were allowed to change was their names, their employment and vocation. All these showed that there was no history of mental illness in the family for generations, that the person had never suffered from any oddities before and so on.

How long do you think it took the staff to finally realize they made a diagnostic mistake?

They never did. Upon arrival, our pseudopatients acted totally normal, mentioned that all unusual auditory sensations had stopped and they felt just fine. During their stay they took notes obsessively for the research, none of the staff bothered checking what in the name of wacky were they doing. Hospitalization lasted from 7-52 days and they were discharged with a diagnosis of scizophrenia “in remission”.

Who do you think noticed their fakeness?

Yep, the real patients. Almost upon arrival, patients were saying things like:”You’re not crazy. You are a journalist, or a professor[referring to the continual note-taking]. You’re checking up on the hospital.” Conversations overheard by the nursing staff and smiled at.
The report of the nurses showed that the behaviour of our pseudopatients was co-operational, calm and clear from the get go. But, once a person is labeled as abnormal, all of his other behaviors and characteristics are colored by that label.

What are you to take from this?

Nothing or something. Whatever you choose. I for one, went home thinking that the sane are not “sane” all the time. We lose our tempers, we get depressed and anxious and on occasion find it difficult to get along with this or that person. All for no good reason. Likewise, the “insane” are not always insane. Research clearly shows that their insanity occupies a minimal portion of the day.

I stopped and smiled this morning as I went upstairs into the kitchen for the 5th time to check if I had not absolutely switched off the coffee machine.


~Penguin out!

Head over to humor-blogs, where the line is no longer visible.


15 Comments so far
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I don’t know. Madness can take up a lot of the day at least out here. An old friend of mine, now passed beyond the walls of the hospital garden, had as a favorite joke, anytime anyone told him he was crazy he would answer “I’m sane and I got the papers to prove it.” He told that one over and over. Sometimes when the only voice calling him crazy was the wind’s.

That’s a great cartoon, by the way.

Comment by Walela

Was that a cow dressed as a penguin? That’s just CRAZY!!

Comment by I Dive At Night

It is a very thin line. Usually people marching to a different drummer are labeled crazy instead of just out of step with the other inhabitants of the asylum.

Comment by Nessa

Nessa, the English writer/Nevada cowboy, Owen Ulph, tells the story in his book, The Fiddleback, of hearing his father say when he was a boy “The problem with Owen is he thinks the world is marching out of step with him.”

Comment by Walela

Walela – exactly.

Comment by Nessa

And you should talk, in your disguise.

Comment by Nessa

I remember reading about this study in my psych classes. Fascinating, isn’t it? Kind of makes you wonder about how many people are wrongly diagnosed, and given powerful, mind altering drugs that have lots of side effects. The problem with mental illness is that you can’t just point to the brain and say “This bit’s broken, so we’ll just put a cast on it.” The whole thing is so much more complex.

Comment by Theresa

I hear voices all the time. Most of the time I can just ignore them, but sometimes they are so insistent that finally I just have to take out the garbage to get them to stop.

Comment by Diesel

That Diesel scares me.

I think your new weekly column should be “Politically Incorrect with the Penguin or The Penguin’s Politically Incorrect…” or some such name. SOmething catchy to go with these great posts.

To sum up and one of my favorite lines from As Good As It Gets with Jack Nicholson: “Go sell crazy somewhere else, we’re all stocked up here.”

Comment by Lampsha

Walela, that made me smile. The insanities of crazy people are nothing short of adorable sometimes.

Morgan, what cow? There are two penguins there. Maybe you should see somebody to check your vision!

Nessa, I like the metaphor of marching to a different drum. I always explain it to people when I dance and step on toes. Only I can hear it though 😉

Walela, I have a very close friend who always claims she’s never lost, it is just that occasionally the universe loses track of it’s own rotation!

nessa, precisely!

Theresa, and while it is possible to fix a leg and eventually it will heal…the is no correct bandage for the mind, that we apply just right and it heals. However, I am so happy we finally coined “mentally ill” and moved away from crazy.

Diesel, bet you anything your wife knows nothing about it 🙂

Lampsha, I love that movie. I don’t know how often I watch it. In Tomorrow never dies a character says something along the lines of: “The line between insanity and genius is success” I will find the correct quote as soon as I get home 🙂

Comment by Penguin

Yeah, it’s true. Once someone is labeled, falsely or not, it sticks. Pretty sad.

Comment by AP3

This is a scary story! Of course, we see labeling every day, in many ways. It’s hard to be objective, but I’m surprised that no one admitted a mistake, here.

Comment by actonbell

Ap3, I know and reagrdless of how much you try to be yourself…first impressions are usually hard to overcome 🙂

actonbell, plus they tried a range of institutions from really low budget ones to really exclusive ones and teh same result. It scared me! But…to look on the bright side of life…if you are ver in need of a warm bed, a good night’s sleep and breakfast…knock, hear voices and youa r egood to go. It is getting out of there, that seems to be a rather difficult task 🙂

Comment by Penguin

I see dead people. Naahh, just kiddin’. We are all existing on a continuum (just like Q, LOL- other star trek geeks will get it).

Comment by claire

Claire, I got nothing!

Comment by Penguin

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