I must admit I sort of like psychiatrists. All the psychiatrists whom I have
met were peculiar people. All very open to talk about their problems, doubts as well as their optimistic desires to
change things which they know nothing about. I am not being sarcastic: while other branches of medicine share a
determinism grounded on a solid empirical basis, psychiatrists stand like a coloured spot in the grey landscape of
healers. Unfortunately the law enables psychiatrists to prescribe treatments (from psycho-pharmaceuticals to
electric shock treatment) which may be a serious threat to their clientsí health (and I donít mean only the
clientsí psychological health).
One could also object that general practitioners, with no specific knowledge,
can prescribe these treatments. Another objection is that the most powerful drugs, the ones derived from opium, can
be purchased on the street. Nevertheless, it is necessary to take into account a hypothesis which, if true, can
bring us to the conclusion that official psychiatry is very dangerous because of the damage (even irreparable) that
it can do to people who, willingly or unwillingly, go to see a psychiatrist.
All schools of psychology agree with the basic assumption that the
professional choice of an adult represents an attempt to deal with and to solve personal problems which date back to
infancy and/or adolescence. Lawyers, judges and policemen are generally people who have problems with rules, rules
to be followed or to be broken; architects and town-planners are people who need places to be planned in an
artificial and unnatural style; doctors are the professional category with the greatest number of hypochondriacs or
to the contrary, people who break the most general common sense rules for a good health. Have you ever asked your
dentist whether he is afraid of dentists? Have you ever seen a graduate engineer solve a simple everyday problem
with a simple tool, such as a tin-opener or a carburettor?! Have you ever met a person with a degree in foreign
language who speaks the language he is qualified to teach completely fluently as well as with a perfect
I have never trusted Italian Universities much. I have often advised young
people not to attend Faculties which will not guarantee a job, nor give them an adequate scientific training. Again
I faced the same motivation: the wish to know something more about oneís own central problem. Among all
professional workers, psychologists are the ones who most openly and sincerely acknowledge the link between their
problems and their professional choice. In their curriculum vitae a personal analysis is often mentioned as a
favourable point (I recently viewed many job applications sent by psychologists). This is something that I approve
But what does all that mean? Can we conclude that the ones who build our
bridges, treat our health problems, design the brakes of our cars, plan the space we live in, are invariably guided
by such complexes and idiosyncrasies to such an extent that our lives are in serious danger?
To some extent we would think so. Nevertheless we all agree that
technological progress, allopathic medicine and rational planning of space have improved our lives. The improvement
has sometimes caused damage to the environment in both developed and developing countries, but this is a different
topic and I will not go into it now. In sum, one feels better if one goes to see a dentist, wounds arenít treated
with urine anymore, cars are getting safer and safer; so, what is the control mechanism that -for example- prevents
a mad engineer from building a rubber skyscraper if this was his dream as a child?
K.R.Popper stated that a scientific theory is more reliable the more it can
be discussed and confuted. But we donít need to quote Popper. As for our example, an engineer must prove the
feasibility of his project according to hundreds of rules, manuals, simulation programs which have worked
successfully for thousands of years. Also, he must convince someone to finance the project. In turn this
"someone" must have acquired credibility as well as the trust of others, in order to manage big amounts of
money. The designer of a bridge has to be on the bridge when this is tested. I am not sure if this habit is out of
fashion, but set apart those with a suicidal tendency, it is another example of a control mechanism against
professional workers who are excessively attached to the idea of following their personal fantasy. The control
mechanism might not be perfect, but on the whole it has worked: most of mankind is satisfied with it and keeps
working for errors and attempts to improve the control mechanism.
Letís go back to psychiatry. According to the aforementioned theory that
the choice of a profession is a working through of a previous experience, a future psychiatrist as a child had a
problem with mental health. I donít mean that he himself had a mental health problem. It might have affected a
relative or a friend of his. The point is that the future psychiatrist meets "mental health" and started
elaborating this area. Actually all of us have an experience of some degree of "madness" in our life, but
the way one reacts, oneís attitude, varies a lot from person to person. Some people consider madness to be a
deviation; they adopt an attitude of censorship and repression. Some people see madness as an example of genius and
creativity, so they show interest and admiration. Some other people consider madness to be a question of
misconstrued logic, and they face it with appropriate tools. As it was in past epochs, madness continues today to be
treated in different ways from society to society: mad people may be locked up or burnt, may be adored as one close
to Gods or may become the object of philosophical discussion.
According to psychiatrists, mad people are "ill". It is hard to
understand why psychiatrists come to this illogical conclusion. We do know how scientific medicine defines illness
in todayís world: it is an organic alteration of physiological tissues or systems and it can be diagnosed with the
aid of empirical observation. Herpes, hearth failure, anaemia and viral illnesses can all be diagnosed thanks to
very accurate and reliable instruments. A psychiatric dysfunction can only be measured by testing the patientís
way of thinking against that of a "normal" person. In the fifties, Gregory Batesonís research team in
Palo Alto was able to create experimentally schizophrenic symptoms and dynamics. For example, staging a conversation
between two psychiatrists who both came to believe that the other was a mad patient. Pharmaceutical industries have
been giving large amounts of money to compliant researchers. The latter are seeking to uncover the organic or
genetic origins of the more common mental diseases, still no conclusive evidence has been found.
The lack of conclusive evidence for the genetic origin of mental disease
seems to be of no interest to psychiatrists: They dream of a forthcoming crucial discovery that will definitively
unveil the mystery which has persecuted them since childhood. Other professional workers are persecuted by the same
mystery: Psychologists for example.
In the past psychologists have drawn up very elaborate hypotheses explaining
the origin of mental disease. They were sometimes wrong, but each failure represents also an additional step towards
the ultimate goal of this hard task.
By the way, a crucial point is that a psychological theory can simply be
confuted on condition that is be based on elements and hypotheses which can be verified within the conventional
frame of logic and research methodology. If one wishes to maintain that a subject has become paranoid because as a
child he had an authoritarian mother, one has simply to quote a sufficient number of cases in which this pattern is
recognisable and appears to be plausible (of course a few exceptions are possible).
Psychiatrists have metaphysic hypotheses which they attempt to
demonstrate as being true by using clearly false empirical data, or by performing a true act of faith disguised as
positivistic trust in "scientific progress."
An acquaintance of mine - a very worthy person- believes that plants think.
He literally makes up and exaggerates all evidence in support of his fascinating hypothesis. Once- at this stage I
had not realised that it was impossible to convince him of the contrary- I told him that as an amateur botanist I
saw that the physiological structure of the plant could not possibly allow it to think. He then whispered to me with
complicity "Sooner or later weíll discover that somewhere plants do have a brain!" This nice person
holds conferences, teaches, acquires proselytes. He is considered to be "quite peculiar" but he has never
dreamt of abolishing the Forester Police and giving plants group therapy against fire.
On the contrary, psychiatrists fiercely attack those who doubt the scientific
nature of their hypotheses. To unsatisfied clients they reply by saying: "Who can believe a
schizophrenic?". But when the same patient claims to be "cured" thanks to some strange poisonous
cocktail of psycho-pharmaceuticals, he is then considered to be reliable and is shown off as living proof the
validity of the psychiatristís hypothesis. I do suspect that the great number of suicides committed by paranoid
individuals who, obtained a gun licence after psychiatric examination, is just another tragic aspect of the
patient-psychiatrist relationship. Another example of this perverted relationship was quite common some time ago in
mental hospitals which forcefully "admitted" patients. When wanting to leave, the latter accepted to
undergo experimental pharmacological treatment given by some enthusiastic and inexperienced young psychiatrists.
Madness and stupidity not being synonymous, the patients could easily demonstrate that they had recovered by hiding
their symptoms for a certain period.
It was not a difficult task, since psychiatrists had personal great
expectations about the new treatment being successful and their hypothesis confirmed. Therefore patients were
discharged from hospitals, the psychiatrists were content and the case story could often be published in a
scientific journal. But patients would have to be admitted again some months later. Some intelligent patients
repeated the trick several times before the Health Services realised what was going on and, somewhat embarrassed,
warned the new doctors about it.
Another funny aspect of psychiatry is the paradoxical relationship that
psychiatrists have with psycho-pharmaceuticals.
Every psychiatrist knows that psychotropic substances, tranquillisers and
neuroleptics have inconstant and unpredictable effects on symptoms, inasmuch as double-blind trials have shown only
insignificant difference between the effects of the drug and the placebo.
After a very stressful day a psychiatrist friend of mine used to put three
drops of a famous tranquilliser in his camomile tea. Then he would go to bed. I noticed that three drops can be
considered to be a homeophatist dosage: three drops cannot even have an effect on a small mouse! In reaction to my
remarks he would grumble and claim that the drops made him calm down and therefore sleep better. He was indeed using
a drug as a placebo! Among all the young psychiatrists whom I met he was one of the smartest and was very open to
confrontation. He was measured and hesitant when prescribing drugs to patients.
Another psychiatrist told me about some colleagues of his who took
antidepressants in order to fight eiaculatio praecox. The antidepressant held a chemical substance which, as side
effect, caused a temporary congestion of the seminal canal, therefore mechanically blocking the way of seminal
fluid. Actually this side effect is only produced when the substance is taken at high dosage. So we can maintain
that the positive effect of one single pill is due to the ritual which has the effect of reducing anxiety.
We then find amongst psychiatrists a blind and irrational faith in substances
which are known to be toxic and to induce addiction in the individual; also the unpredictability of the effect of
psycho-pharmaceuticals on symptoms is well known; all these examples are signs of the "faith"
psychiatrists have in "their Church" and its obscure and unpredictable gods, gods one must protect oneself
against, by means of drugs, ritual and other initiatory behaviours, hoping that finally Good will triumph. It is a
real religion, which, when professed in special places of worship (such as hospitals, clinics and psychiatric
departments), can administer terrible treatments, such as electro-convulsive therapy: when even the magic drug
proves to be unsuccessful, Godís wrath must be appeased by an even more ferocious ritual.
Everybody who has studied the human mind, knowing psychiatric disturbances to
be its most terrifying manifestation, can understand both the helplessness and the frustration that one feels when
faced with the sufferings that a mental disturbance can provoke.
"Where Angels Fear" is the title of a collection of writings by
Gregory Bateson and his daughter M.Catherine. It is reasonable to think that in order to overcome this fear,
psychiatrists have chosen pseudo-scientific theories which they hope will gradually help them to face the problem.
But they keep on failing, whilst other methods (for example psychotherapy and
intervention within the family and educational structures) reach better and better results, inasmuch as we can now
doubt whether psychiatrists are acting in good faith.
Psychiatristsí research and propaganda, financed by big pharmaceutical
companies in order to maintain an exclusively pharmaceutical approach to psychic disturbances, as well as the
endless suffering of patients and their families and the high costs that society has to pay, make the psychiatristsí
It is high time that we wake them up.