Life in the Land of the Rising Sun

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

And Now for Another Musical Interlude...

Back in my university days, when budget cuts and related staff reductions dragged my last "year" of study out over three years, I spent a lot of time more or less killing time by studying all kinds of subjects that sounded interesting at the time. One of them was psychology. I've always been intrigued by the subject, and I really enjoyed the course that I took (with two different teachers). There were a lot of topics that fascinated me...or irritated me. However, one of the ones that got me the most was the Rosenhan Experiment, which was carried out in 1972.

Rosenhan set out to prove that not only was psychological diagnosis horribly unreliable, but patients in mental institutions tended to be both stereotyped and dehumanized by the staff working with them. There were two stages to the experiment. One involved a number of (more or less) normal people who went to clinical psychologists and falsely claimed to have had only one possible symptom of mental illness. All wound up diagnosed with serious mental illness and were hospitalized. (The reports written about them by the clinical psychologists showed extreme bias, i.e. just about any kind of behavior would wind up being labeled a symptom of insanity). The second stage, conducted after the first was publicized, involved contacting mental institutions and telling them (falsely) that a sane participant in the experiment had tricked his or her way into admission. The institution was then challenged to find the participant. Every single one of them found multiple patients they were confident were imposters...but none of them were.

The sad thing was that the real patients at the institutions tended to identify the imposters immediately...while the staff went right on stereotyping them and treating them like "crazies". In fact, the staff didn't regard the patients as human beings at all; a lot of the time they simply ignored them, even if one tried to ask a legitimate question. That led Rosenhan to describe his own experience as a participant in the stage one experiment as being "an invisible man".

Having known people who have sought psychological treatment...and having heard about some of the things they want through (not to mention listening in shock once while a friend's psychological therapist joked with me about "what a broken, messed-up attention whore" she was), that story struck a nerve. That's why I wrote this song, called "Invisible Man".

This song was one of many that I'd written in spiral notebooks in my college days and then more or less completely forgotten. However, when I stumbled on it last month some things about the lyrics made me think about my father in law and his current predicament. I'd also had the foresight to pencil in the chord progressions and melody back when I'd written the song (something I rarely ever do). That helped me to remember the tune and arrange it a bit. It's really a song about isolation, even abandonment. Besides, it gave me a chance to experiment some more in different ways with my new gear.

Anyway, give the song a listen. Then we'll get back to our usual program (I hope). More info can be found on my Minstrel's Muse site.


  • Yes, any one who needs real help is often shunted around an increasingly draconian medical establishment, while most normal folks w/minor problems often enter into the self-help scams through very expensive media-supported books & seminars.

    Clearing "thetans", "sweat lodge vision quests"-run by "Twinkies" (Euro-Americans posing as Native Americans...real tribal members DO NOT CHARGE for such spiritual services), Xian "Jesus Camps"-"He'll save you from what ails you!", Drs who think popping some anti-depressants will "snap you out of it"'s a miracle anyone gets help these days.

    By Blogger ladybug, at 4:05 AM  

  • The song certainly evokes the moods you describe. The ambient synths really help that out.

    By Blogger Don Snabulus, at 5:58 AM  

  • I like it. The shrink industry sucks.

    By Blogger Pandabonium, at 8:06 PM  

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