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Showing posts from May, 2022

The Prisoner in the Asylum: It's Your Funeral Part 2

The introduction and master post to this series of posts about The Prisoner can be found  here . Edited 30/5/22 to make the original post less unwieldy. It may seem as if the rest of the episode is not related to psychiatry but I think the whole rest of the episode shows a number of institutional behaviours. We see everyone concerned dealing with The Village as best they can, and surviving as best they can. This may sound like normal adult life where we're all struggling, but I think what makes it more institutional is that I think we see the sort of behaviours we see when you are unable to leave an institution and they authorities can't get rid of you. Nowadays we tend to forget how people weren't going anywhere in the old hospitals. The staff used to say that literally the only way people left was in a box and in that situation it creates a significantly different power balance to most modern healthcare. In addition to the abuse of patients by staff who had to be basicall

The Prisoner in the Asylum: It's Your Funeral Part 1

The introduction and master post to this series of posts about The Prisoner can be found  here . Edited 30/5/22 to make the original post less unwieldy. Medication time! It is an indicator of how posh a clinic The Village is that the staff haven't been round to wake you to give you a sleeping tablet yet, but we've finally hit some medication. I am going to pick up on one apparently insignificant comment in the episode and give it a disproportionate importance because the subject was of disproportionate importance to mental health after the Second World War: it is the point at which Number 2 refers to Number 50 as being given one of the new super-strength meprobamates. Meprobamate is actually the name of a specific drug so this plural use is a little confusing,  unless it is intended to mean the catch-all group of anxiolytic drugs which do not belong to the other chemical groups of benzodiazepines and barbiturates. Meprobamate was a significant part of psycho-pharmacology in the

The Prisoner in the Asylum: Once Upon a Time and The Schizoid Man

The introduction and master post to this series of posts about The Prisoner can be found  here . I have never watched The Prisoner in the production order before, and while obviously it screws up the order of episodes at the end, it has the advantage for my agenda of giving us this couple of cosy therapeutic episodes together at this point. I am going to deal with them together because, to be quite frank, I don't like them, always get up quite a lot of hope about them and end up feeling rather disappointed. I am going to be even more frank and say that this is because they are both ridiculous. Once Upon a Time is bizarre and Schizoid Man falls flat on its face because it's impossible. We all have lookalikes, but not to that extent (although of course I do myself frequently get mistaken for Telly Savalas). Nonetheless I think they go well together because they both reference elements of psychotherapy and particularly the anti-psychiatry of the sixties. It will come as no surpris

The Prisoner in the Asylum: The Chimes of Big Ben

The introduction and master post to this series of posts about The Prisoner can be found  here . I am absolutely delighted to say that although I didn't think it would, because I thought it was too espionage-based, The Chimes of Big Ben has given up much that is interesting in psychiatric terms. Admittedly it took much interrogation and the use of truth drugs. It is also one of the episodes which has a number of questionable aspects and inconsistencies, and I'm delighted to announce that when you assume Number 6/Smith is in a hospital, a lot of these can be resolved with a glib ready answer that I will give later. But how do we know it's a hospital? I'm going to be very simplistic here and say that we know it is because Number 2 says it is when he says that Number 8 is there with nervous tension. The fact that Smith thinks they're trying to get information out of her is his misinterpretation. First I would like to focus on an apparently insignificant scene which wo

The Prisoner in the Asylum: Dance of the Dead

The introduction and master post to this series of posts about The Prisoner can be found  here . Dance of the Dead is another episode rish in material relevant to The Village's status as a hospital and commentary on contemporary psychiatry, so I will attempt to deal with it in the order it appears in the episode. The overriding theme is the public face of the institution and its private operation behind the scenes. In my last post, about Checkmate, I commented on the way power was never as clearly hierarchical in the hospitals as it would appear to be, and how in The Village there would likely be a number of long-serving staff members who would resent Number 2. Sure enough, at the beginning of this one we see exactly this happening: Number 40 takes it upon himself to get the 'information' out of Smith without waiting for orders. In fact he expresses frustration at the length of time doing things under orders can take, and believes he knows better than his superiors. This is

The Prisoner in the Asylum: Checkmate

The introduction and master post to this series of posts about The Prisoner can be found  here . Checkmate is such a rich episode in terms of at least mentioning many themes of post-World War 2 psychiatry that I will try to at least mention them all but some may need development elsewhere. The over-riding theme would be various aspects of institutional behaviour. The most obvious in institutional terms is the business of finding out who are the masters and who are the servants, that is staff and patients. Although it is disguised in The Village this is of course the eternal division between people in institutions. It isn't apparent from the series but this division was actually never as simple as it seems in the big hospitals, and this is directly comparable to The Village. Some staff would have more power than others (and not necessarily the ones supposed to) and some patients, in true prison fashion, would get the role of a trusty so would be more like staff. The reason for this

The Prisoner in the Asylum: Free for All

The introduction and master post to this series of posts about The Prisoner can be found  here . Starting series of posts which take over my life seems to be the theme of 2022 on the blog and so a mere four posts in, we finally get to episode 2 of The Prisoner in the production order, Free for All. I suspect that several episodes are going to take a number of posts and others are going to end up squashed together in one post. I wouldn't bet on there being seventeen posts at this stage: this is an adventure which really does feel like it's going to get its own life and run away from me. Spoiler alert : in this post I will reveal the identity of 'Number 1' and you might like to come back to this post when you've seen the whole series. In this episode Smith begins his therapy. He, and doubtless others, has a mixture of individual and group therapy in the village. How can I possibly see what is going on in The Village as therapy? Watch the initial breakfast scene betwee

The Prisoner in the Asylum: The 'Where am I' Dialogue

The introduction and master post to this series of posts about The Prisoner can be found  here . We are about to encounter the 'Where am I?...In the village' dialogue for the first time and I think it is so important to the theme of the series, and its importance indicated by being repeated, that it deserves a post on its own.  I would suggest that this dialogue is a conversation of the sort familiar to anyone who has worked in mental health at any level, where a service user doesn't consider they need the service they are reluctantly receiving and disputes the need for this service on their own terms with the professionals. Consider as another example, this extract from a longer conversation in the Titicut Follies documentary, which again has the same characteristics of two people at different tangents and is a real conversation in a real psychiatric hospital: The ability or otherwise to see things the psychiatrist's way is such an important aspect of mental health tha

The Prisoner in the Asylum: Arrival Part 2

The introduction and master post to this series of posts about The Prisoner can be found  here . In my last post about Arrival I considered the nature of The Village as a total institution and as a psychiatric hospital. In this post I will turn to our 'Prisoner'/patient, Peter Smith, and the processes which make him part of the total institution. Nobody, surely nobody, talks about hospital without mentioning being 'admitted' to hospital, and Goffman once again has a reason for why people are admitted to a total institution rather than just moving in like you would into a flat: 'The inmate, then, finds certain roles are lost to him by virtue of the barrier that separates him from the outside world. The process of entrance typically brings other kinds of loss and mortification as well. We very generally find staff employing what are called admission procedures, such as taking a life history, photographing, weighing, fingerprinting, assigning numbers, searching, listin