Do you remember Tom Cruise‘s rant against psychiatry on the Today Show with Matt Lauer in 2007? Mr. Cruise, a member of the Church of Scientology, has been so consistently outspoken against psychiatry that the International Association of Scientology awarded him the Freedom Medal of Valor in 2004, in part for “eradicating the very thought of psychiatry.”
During his quest to learn about the impact of madness on society, author Jon Ronson (pictured at microphone) became confused and disoriented while trying to diagnose himself using the standard manual of mental disorders, DSM-IV. So he sought guidance from from organizations dedicated to documenting examples in which psychiatry had become “overzealous” in diagnosing and treating mental illness. Ronson ended up consulting Brian Daniels who works for an international network of Scientologists called the CCHR (Citizens Commission on Human Rights) aimed at documenting psychiatry’s “inhumane and often lethal practices.”
As described in Chapter 2 of his book The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness IndustryRonson learned about “Tony” (not his real name) whom Scientologist Daniels believed was completely sane but incarcerated against his will in the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Broadmoor had also housed the real Hannibal Lecter. Tony had been diagnosed with DSPD (Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder) after flunking the 20 question Psychopath Test, otherwise known as PCL-R or the Hare Checklist after it’s developer, Canadian psychologist Robert D. Hare (pictured at left).
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here because Ronson doesn’t fully describe the Hare Checklist for another 45 pages in Chapter 3. First we are given a brief history of Dianetics, Scientology and its founder L. Ron Hubbard (or LRH to Scientology insiders) described in Ronson’s flippant narrative style. Chapter 2 ends with the author’s first encounter with Tony who doesn’t at all fit the picture of what most people imagine to be a psychopath but rather more resembles a typical contestant on Donald Trump‘s The Apprentice.
In an apparent attempt to balance his mocking account of Scientology against some of the nuttier theories and practices from the history of psychiatry, Ronson recounts some cases from the 1960s. For example, California psychotherapist Paul Bindrim had patients remove their “tower of clothes” and participate in nude therapy sessions to facilitate “emotional nakedness” using a technique called “crotch eye-balling.” Nude psychotherapy was not restricted to California and Ronson also describes Elliott Barker‘s practice at the Oak Ridge Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Ontario. In the late 1960s, marathon nude therapy sessions, fueled by LSD, were conducted in a “Total Encounter Capsule,” a small room painted bright green.
In our next installment, we’ll cover the development and use of the Hare Psychopath Checklist as describe in Ronson’s book. We’ll also tell you about the differences between “successful” vs. “unsuccessful” psychopaths and some of the influences they’ve had on American business.