ENERGY BLOCKAGE REMOVAL
|2005 AND 2006|
THE MASK OF SANITY
Section 2: The Material
Part 1: The disorder in full clinical manifestations
The following letter was received by an influential senator in Washington and
referred by him to the hospital.
94 THE MASK OF SANITY
It is with regret that I find it necessary to seek consideration from higher authority
but I have been confined in the Veterans Administration Hospital at for two years.
During my period of incarceration here I have tried in every available way to
cooperate with the officials, but it seems an impossibility to get any consideration from
them toward gaining my freedom.
I was placed here on the recommendation of my sister because she thought I was a
drug addict, and she has written some pretty nasty things against me to the officials
I can prove to the satisfaction of all concerned that I am not a confirmed drug
addict or habitual user of any form of drug sufficiently to warrant continuous
confinement. I am not a criminal, nor had I the slightest minor charge of any
description against me at the time I came here. The Staff here has rated me less than
10 percent disabled and discontinued all government compensation; therefore, I
believe you will agree with me that any man with a less than 10 percent disability could
not possess a physical or mental disorder sufficient to prevent his having his freedom
and making his own livelihood.
I am not even allowed parole privileges of the grounds as a great many of the
patients here are. Some are continually violating institutional rules and still retain their
parole privileges undisciplined.
I have two children, who need my support and as long as I am kept incarcerated I
can't assist them in any way for I have no means other than my labor to support them.
I hereby humbly request you to intercede in my behalf and demand these officials
here to grant my release in order that I may be able to support my children to the best
of my ability as is every man's duty.
There are quite a few men in these institutions that are nothing short of
impositions on the government and taxpayers of the United States. They, the same as
myself, are perfectly capable mentally and physically to support themselves and should
be forced to do so.
I have begged for parole, trial visit, or any other means to prove myself selfsustaining,
but the authorities here seem to take my plea as a joke and make a lot of
promises that they have no intention of putting into action.
I will gladly submit to any physical or mental examination you may deem necessary
to assist you in obtaining my release from this place. I pray that you will give my
earnest request your immediate consideration.
Please be assured that I hold no malice toward any of the officials here or
elsewhere but my only objective in writing you is to gain my freedom and support my
Please let me hear from you personally,
Yours very respectfully,
THE MATERIAL 95
The writer of this letter has behind him a formidable record of misadventure.
Detailed knowledge of Frank's early life is not available beyond the following
facts. The son of a rustic blacksmith, he was raised in a small hamlet near the
mountains of north Georgia. So far as can be learned, no members of his family
suffered from nervous or mental disease or made themselves objectionable in the
community. He completed the fifth grade in school, where he was considered by no
means a dull boy, though often truant. Many of the hours he was supposed to have
spent in school or working at some necessary chore for his family he is reported to have
idled away in loitering about a local millpond drowning goats and doing other senseless
or uninviting deeds of mischief.
Before the United States entered World War I, Frank had forged his father's
name to a false statement about his age and enlisted in the National Guard. He was
given vocational training by the government after his discharge from the army. He was
tried at several courses but made no serious effort to complete any of them. In his
community he soon made himself a problem, sometimes drinking to excess, often
behaving in a rowdy and threatening manner, contracting to buy small businesses, filling
stations, farms, but never living up to his agreements.
Local ex-service men, believing that he took morphine and that treatment might
help his maladjustment (commonly referred to as "nervousness"), had him sent to a
psychiatric hospital. He remained for a month, then returned to continue in his old
Now began a series of hospitalizations which extends to the present time. He
would be sent first to one place, then to another. He has been treated in state hospitals,
in federal hospitals, and in private institutions at the expense of the government. All
told, he has been admitted no less than nineteen times to strictly mental hospitals
maintained for the purpose of treating psychotic people. Sometimes he remained only
three or four weeks and sometimes six or even eighteen months. Over the years his
periods of hospitalization have grown slightly longer and his intervals outside shorter.
He has never, during the past fifteen years, been free longer than a few months. While
not under the care of psychiatrists he has received considerable attention from the
police. His jail sentences number seven at the present reading, including a term of nine
months in the Leavenworth Penitentiary (where he was sent for forging a prescription
for morphine) but not counting a score or more of overnight or weekend stops in police
Despite these preoccupations Frank has found time to marry and have four
children and to become ordained as a minister in a small religious sect noted for
vigorous evangelical fervor. His marital relations have been most
96 THE MASK OF SANITY
unsatisfactory during the interludes when he was free to be with the family. His wife
reports that he curses her and fights with her, and it is well established that he seizes any
money that is available, hires automobiles, and drives aimlessly about the countryside,
often drinking to excess and, according to some reports, occasionally taking morphine.
At times he has seemed proud of his ecclesiastical title, referring to himself as a
pastor and assuming unctuous and haughty airs. He has not, however, occupied himself
with whatever ministerial duties he was supposed to fulfill any more consistently than
with other work.
His friends, especially those interested in the American Legion and other service
organizations, have obtained many positions for him. He is shrewd, neat in appearance,
and an excellent talker. He makes a good impression at first but always shirks his
responsibility to such an extent that it is impossible to retain him.
A few years ago he was given a place at a filling station and seemed, surprisingly,
to show considerable interest in his work for several days. It was then discovered that
he had been drawing off all the gasoline he could and taking it to a nearby town where
he sold it and bought morphine from dope peddlers, most of which he, in turn, sold at a
tremendous profit to local addicts.
He has been consistently arrogant and aggressive toward his neighbors and
acquaintances, usually over trifling matters. After taking a few drinks, he has often
threatened others, claimed things that were not his own, and made such a nuisance of
himself that local police would be called to deal with him.
He is boastful and histrionic, more eloquently and aggressively so with a few
highballs, and much given to temper tantrums. He frequently threatens to kill himself
over some petty vexation and once offered a pistol to his wife, urging her
grandiloquently to shoot him. He has never made an attempt, however, to harm
himself, though his opportunities have been unlimited.
He has been reported as having convulsive seizures. These developed when he
was refused special attention by physicians and seemed, according to their descriptions,
plainly and consciously designed toward obtaining various ends. This manifestation has
also been noted when he was confined to jail and wanted to be sent to a mental hospital
in order to escape charges that had been brought against him. These so-called seizures
have been observed several times in this hospital by competent psychiatrists. They did
not in any way suggest epilepsy nor were they convincing as possible reactions of true
hysteria. The patient is unquestionably conscious and shows that he is behaving
intentionally in this way to gain a recognized end. Unlike
THE MATERIAL 97
a conversion phenomenon, the purpose does not appear to be concealed from his
Though occasionally confused after heavy drinking (perhaps with the addition of
drugs), he has at all other times been entirely rational, alert, shrewd, and free from
delusions and hallucinations.
Early in Frank's career his disturbance was diagnosed on several occasions as
hysteria, sometimes as both psychopathic personality and hysteria. Once he was given a
diagnosis of psychopathic personality with psychotic episodes. There was not, however,
any evidence of behavior or symptoms different from what he has shown on other
occasions. There is reason to suspect that the real and pressing need to keep this patient
hospitalized may have played an important part in his being so classified. The genuinely
irrational and incompetent behavior, no doubt, supports the use of such a term as
psychosis, despite the lack of any additional symptoms.
The irrational behavior which has characterized him is not based on a delusional
system or on any loss of the good reasoning ability he shows on examination. Some of
his most turbulent misconduct has, of course, been exhibited while he was intoxicated.
At such times he naturally lacked his customary shrewdness and alertness. However,
this cannot conscientiously be called a psychotic episode beyond and above his wellknown
inadequacy but rather the manifestation of inebriety. I do not mean to say that
this man is normal but only that he has none of the recognized types of mental disorder,
episodic or constant. If his drunken and wayward episodes are to be termed psychotic,
then it would seem that his state at other times might also be termed psychotic, since it
is in his shrewd, technically sane condition that he decides to add the picturesque
touches of intoxication which he well knows will bring him to the attention of the
At this hospital, at the state hospitals, and at the other institutions to which Frank
was sent in recent years, he has been considered a sane man without psychotic episodes.
The symptomatic diagnoses of drug addiction and chronic alcoholism have been added.
During all these years he has shown no evidence of deterioration or regression, and
today at 38 years of age he is the same clever, alert person he was described as being
twenty years ago. Unlike nearly all real morphine addicts, he does not show ordinary
withdrawal symptoms or other signs of physical illness and acute distress when, after
being admitted to the hospital, he is deprived of opportunities to obtain the drug.
If the reports that he takes morphine have any factual basis, such use must be
sporadic. There is little or no evidence that effects of the drug have regularly played any
major role in his behavior. It appears that his chief connection with drugs has been
through his part in peddling them illicitly.
98 THE MASK OF SANITY
His career in the hospital has been marked by frequent paroles which are always
terminated by his failing to return, returning drunk, or being taken up by the police for
petty theft, swindling, and futile and unprovoked disorder. Though ingratiating and
outwardly cooperative when he is trying to obtain parole or discharge, he constantly
schemes to escape or, surreptitiously, to call upon high authorities to have him released.
Once, while helping attendants on the disturbed ward, he succeeded in turning hot
water into a tub in which a psychotic patient lay in a continuous bath. He did not try to
injure the man seriously, but merely to hurt him a little as a joke. This is a fair example
of the inane, humorless mischief that underlies the pretentious front assumed by this
Despite his medicolegal status, which, of course, is technically regarded as
constituting sanity, those interested in finding some practical way to protect him and his
family and to cope with the ever accumulating problems succeeded on one occasion in
having him committed by the court. Those close to the situation evidently found in his
behavior reasons for action more compelling than the abstract criteria which stood in
the way of such a step. After being held in the hospital for several months, despite his
reiterated demands for discharge against medical advice, he called in an attorney.
Frank had in the past always found no difficulty in leaving when it suited his
purpose or his whim. In view of his well-demonstrated inability to live in freedom, he
was now, by means of the legal commitment, kept against his wishes in order to spare
his family, the community, and himself the hardships he had brought about before and
was sure to bring about again. The attorney for the government, in attempting to resist
habeas corpus proceedings, found himself in a familiar dilemma, as the following
quotations from his letter will show:
It is evident that the medical staff at the hospital are using the term insane to convey
the meaning of the medical definition of the word rather than the legal definition. In other
words, the thought back of the use of the word appears to me to be that it is the opinion
of neuropsychiatrists that this man is not suffering from a mental disease as physicians
understand the term, that he does not have a psychosis. It does appear, however, that it is
their opinion that the state of his mind due to drug addiction and also manifested by his
past antisocial behavior is such as to warrant the conclusions that he is incompetent and
that he should receive treatment in a hospital for the cure of nervous and mental diseases.
To say, however, that he is incompetent but not insane presents a rather inconsistent
picture with which to go into court. We may be confronted with such a question as why
he needs to be in a hospital for the care of nervous and mental diseases if he has no
nervous or mental disease.
THE MATERIAL 99
I am inclined to think that the terms insanity and incompetency so far as their legal
significance is concerned are used interchangeably and that the important point to be
considered, whether you call a man insane or merely admit that he is incompetent, is
whether the person is incapable of administering his personal estate in the normal manner
of a prudent man and whether there is definite evidence of a more or less prolonged
departure from normal behavior as compared with the standards of the community, such
as dissipation of funds, unwise purchases, and utter lack of appreciation of values.
Because of the fact that I anticipate some difficulty in trying to show that the man is
incompetent but not insane, I would appreciate an expression of your views on the matter.
It occurs to me also that a man ought to be confined who is a menace to others and likely
to do harm to others, even though his mental condition may be due in part to inadequate
mental development and in part to the use of drugs. He may be just as dangerous to
himself or to others as a person suffering from a mental disease and who, according to the
purely medical definition of insanity, would be pronounced insane.
Of course, it might be asked why these people are not let out of the mental
hospitals and left to the police. If they are considered responsible for their misdeeds, let
them be punished. This, as a matter of fact, is what the average psychiatric hospital is
nearly always forced to do, whatever its physicians may think of the wisdom and
practicality of such a procedure. These men are studied, found free of recognized
mental disorder which might make them unaware of what they are doing, and are sent
back out into the world. They are arrested not once but many times. Most of them
seldom commit such serious crimes that they are kept out of circulation in penal
institutions for long periods. Only rarely can they be kept for more than a few days.
They do not follow any purposive criminal life. They make a nuisance of themselves to
the community as a whole and often tragically wreck the lives of those close to them,
and all to no discernible end. The police and the courts tire of them. Through various
influences they are forced back on the mental hospitals where they take legal action to
regain their freedom, only to begin the process again.
If, as stated in the quotations previously cited, it would be difficult to prove this
man incompetent but not insane, it would be far more difficult, by existing definitions
of psychiatry, to prove him "insane." His perfectly rational (superficial) behavior under
scrutiny, his freedom from delusions, his shrewdness, his alertness, and his convincing
plan for a normal, useful life, in short, his plain sanity as this is ordinarily understood,
make it all but impossible for a judge or a jury to call him insane. Psychiatrists, familiar
with his long record of senseless behavior, are able to see more reason to do so than
could be brought out before a court in terms of abstract criteria by
100 THE MASK OF SANITY
which the decision is determined. But according to the accepted standards of
psychiatry, his diagnosis carries with it an official and automatic endorsement of the
patient as sane and competent. No matter how strongly impressed by real and practical
evidence to the contrary, all physicians, testifying in such a case must admit that the
official technicalities approve this paradox.
Having won his case in court, the patient was released against medical advice.
Frank did not go home but remained in the city where he at once claimed the attention
of the police. On being released after a few days in jail, he took a room at the best hotel
and annoyed other guests by various tactics, such as trying to borrow money, sponge on
them for a meal, or sell them something useless or nonexistent. He became at times
loudly boastful or rowdy and eventually fell on the floor drunk. He refused to pay for
his room and resisted the management's attempts to remove him.
He sought loans under bold-faced pretenses, ran up debts without regard to the
possibilities of payment, and telephoned and wrote to his family, threatening suicide
unless his demands for money were promptly met. There are indications that he was
not inactive during this period in old devices of petty thievery, shortchanging, and
various types of fraud, sharp practice, and connivance that exist, more or less, on the
fringe of organized but illegal racketeering found in any city.
Nothing, however, could be pinned on him by the law that led to his being
effectively controlled. In all issues of this sort that arose, he had his record as a patient
once legally committed and often confined to psychiatric institutions. This record was,
in his ingenious hands, of considerable value as insurance against penal restraint.
After several arrests, the police began to call on the hospital to relieve them of
their problems with this man. They were told that nothing could be done since he had
been legally removed and the hospital was enjoined by the court not to hold him. Soon
afterward the police and various local people began to seek advice on how to deal with
him from the attorney who had liberated this man.
The patient himself soon joined in, coming repeatedly to the attorney's office or
his house, sometimes drunk and always unreasonable, to shout about the injustices of
the world, borrow money, evade threatening penalties, and to demand diverse
preposterous services. The veteran had promised to pay the attorney's bill with bonus
money, but now it appeared that this money had already been squandered. Hoping to
collect his fee and, no doubt, from humanitarian impulses, the attorney sought to keep
in touch with his client. Those with whom he had run up bills and floated little loans
joined others swindled or defrauded in small matters and took up
THE MATERIAL 101
their problems with the patient's legal representative. Soon the incessant complaints
from annoyed people, the client's own nagging or uproarious invasions upon him at all
hours, and the constant queries of the police drove him to seek relief. The patient being
again in jail, the attorney persuaded him to agree to return to the hospital voluntarily and
pled with the physician in charge to take him back, confessing himself at fault ever to
have released such a scourge on the community and on himself.
Arrangements were made for readmission. The patient arrived in custody of a
policeman. He was still somewhat stimulated from a recent intoxication but, though
overbearing and pompous, showed no signs of real drunkenness nor of an officially
Frank took a high-handed manner, swaggered about, and finally refused to come
back into the hospital, saying that he had no mental disease and that he preferred to
return to jail where he would soon be released to carry out important business plans and
social activities. He enjoyed the incident, played up his role dramatically, and took a
peremptory and haughty tone with everyone.
He soon obtained his freedom, but some weeks later after running up big debts,
giving several more bad checks, and participating in a series of senseless, bawdy
escapades, he was finally returned to the hospital. Three months later he again obtained
his discharge on a writ of habeas corpus but not through the same attorney. The story
in its broad essentials was repeated.
Since his last admission, following the exploits just mentioned, he has been true
to form. After varying periods on a closed ward, parole has been given; he has lost it
repeatedly and gone back among "demented" and helpless groups with whom he is, to
say the least, not at home. He has continued at all times free from the technical
stigmata of psychosis, remaining crafty, intelligent, and superficially cooperative while
trying to gain his ends.
Frank takes advantage of every opportunity to make trouble in the hospital and is
rather restless and extremely dissatisfied. He sends frequent letters to women in town
to whom he regards himself as paying court. These are written in a neat hand, well
spelled, and well expressed and are much better letters than would be expected from a
man of his education. They are marked with self-righteousness, extreme egotism, trite
sentimentality, and monumental falsehood. His tone is that of a lover who regards his
own passion as very high and rare.
"Only God knows," he writes, "why I wasn't left over there among the poppies
with my heroic buddies," falsely describing himself as a captain in charge of 272 men.
"My wife never understood me!" he complains in the same letter. What does he expect
of her? The question invites meditation
Section 2, Part 1