Thomas Szasz, fully Thomas Stephen Szasz

Szasz, fully Thomas Stephen Szasz

Hungarian-born American Psychiatrist, Social Critic of the Moral and Scientific Foundations of Psychiatry and Professor at the University of New York Health Center

Author Quotes

By pretending that convention is Nature, that disobeying a personal prohibition is a medical illness, they establish themselves as agents of social control and at the same time disguise their punitive interventions in the semantic and social trappings of medical practice.

If the dead talk to you, you are a spiritualist; if God talks to you, you are a schizophrenic.

It is easier to do one's duty to others than to one's self. If you do your duty to others, you are considered reliable. If you do your duty to yourself, you are considered selfish.

My contention is that the psychiatric perspective on homosexuality is but a thinly disguised replica of the religious perspective which it displaced, and that efforts to ?treat? this kind of conduct medically are but thinly disguised methods for suppressing it.

Psychiatry is institutionalized scientism: it is the systematic imitation, impersonation, counterfeiting, and deception. This is the formula: every adult smokes (drinks, engages in sexual activity, etc.); hence, to prove that he is an adult, the adolescent smokes (drinks, engages in sexual activity, etc.). Mutatis mutandis: every science consists of classification, control, and prediction; hence to prove psychiatry is a science, the psychiatrist classifies, controls, predicts. The result is that he classifies people as mad; that he confines them as dangerous (to themselves or others); and that he predicts people's behavior, robbing them of their free will and hence of their very humanity.

The concept of disease is fast replacing the concept of responsibility. With increasing zeal Americans use and interpret the assertion "I am sick" as equivalent to the assertion "I am not responsible": Smokers say they are not responsible for smoking, drinkers that they are not responsible for drinking, gamblers that they are not responsible for gambling, and mothers who murder their infants that they are not responsible for killing. To prove their point ? and to capitalize on their self-destructive and destructive behavior ? smokers, drinkers, gamblers, and insanity acquitees are suing tobacco companies, liquor companies, gambling casinos, and physicians. Can American society survive this legal-psychiatric assault on its moral and political foundations?

The phrase ?The myth of mental illness? means that mental illness does not exist. The scientific concept of illness refers to a bodily lesion, that is, to a material?structural or functional?abnormality of the body, as a machine. This is the classic, Victorian, pathological definition of disease and it is still the definition of disease used by pathologists and physicians as scientific healers. The brain is an organ?like the bones, liver, kidney, and so on?and of course can be diseased. That?s the domain of neurology. Since a mind is not a bodily organ, it cannot be diseased, except in a metaphorical sense?in the sense in which we also say that a joke is sick or the economy is sick. Those are metaphorical ways of saying that some behavior or condition is bad, disapproved, causing unhappiness, etc. In other words, talking about ?sick minds? is analogous to talking about ?sick jokes? or ?sick economies.? In the case of mental illness, we are dealing with a metaphorical way of expressing the view that the speaker thinks there is something wrong about the behavior of the person to whom he attributes the ?illness.'

We shall therefore compare the concept of homosexuality as heresy, prevalent in the days of the witch-hunts, with the concept of homosexuality as mental illness, prevalent today.

By problems in living, then, I refer to that truly explosive chain reaction which began with man?s fall from divine grace by partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Man?s awareness of himself and of the world about him seems to be a steadily expanding one, bringing in its wake an ever large; burden of understanding (an expression borrowed from Susanne Langer, 1953). This burden, then, is to be expected and must not be misinterpreted. Our only rational means for lightening it is more understanding, and appropriate action based on such understanding.

If you talk to God, you are praying. If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia.

It seems to me that-at least in our scientific theories of behavior-we have failed to accept the simple fact that human relations are inherently fraught with difficulties and that to make them even relatively harmonious requires much patience and hard work.

My great, unforgivable sin in The Myth of Mental Illness was calling public attention to the linguistic pretensions of psychiatry and its preemptive rhetoric. Who can be against ?helping suffering patients? or ?treating treatable diseases?? Who can be for ?ignoring sick people? or, worse, ?refusing patients life-saving treatment?? Rejecting that jargon, I insisted that mental hospitals are like prisons not hospitals, that involuntary mental hospitalization is a type of imprisonment not medical care, and that coercive psychiatrists function as judges and jailers not physicians and healers, and suggested that we view and understand ?mental illnesses? and psychiatric responses to them as matters of law and rhetoric, not matters of medicine or science.

Psychoanalysis is an attempt to examine a person's self-justifications. Hence it can be undertaken only with the patient's cooperation and can succeed only when the patient has something to gain by abandoning or modifying his system of self-justification.

The crime [homosexuality] was subject to punishment by both secular and ecclesiastical courts?just as now it is subject to punishment by both penal and psychiatric sanctions.

The proverb warnes you'',''dont bite the hand that feeds you,''but maybe you should,''if it prevents you from feeding yourself.

We speak of a person being ?under the influence? of alcohol, or heroin, or amphetamine, and believe that these substances affect him so profoundly as to render him utterly helpless in their grip. We thus consider it scientifically justified to take the most stringent precautions against these things and often prohibit their nonmedical, or even their medical, use. But a person may be under the influence not only of material substances but also of spiritual ideas and sentiments, such as patriotism, Catholicism, or Communism. But we are not afraid of these influences, and believe that each person is, or ought to be, capable of fending for himself.

Classifying thoughts, feelings and behaviors as diseases is a logical and semantic error, like classifying whale as fish.

If, nevertheless, textbooks of pharmacology legitimately contain a chapter on drug abuse and drug addiction, then, by the same token, textbooks of gynecology and urology should contain a chapter on prostitution; textbooks of physiology, a chapter on perversion; textbooks of genetics, a chapter on the racial inferiority of Jews and Negroes.

It taught me, at an early age, that being wrong can be dangerous, but being right, when society regards the majority?s falsehood as truth, could be fatal.

Narcissist: psychoanalytic term for the person who loves himself more than his analyst; considered to be the manifestation of a dire mental disease whose successful treatment depends on the patient learning to love the analyst more and himself less.

'Psychotherapy' is a private, confidential conversation that has nothing to do with illness, medicine, or healing.

The disease concept of homosexuality?as with the disease concept of all so-called mental illnesses, such as alcoholism, drug addiction, or suicide?conceals the fact that homosexuals are a group of medically stigmatized and socially persecuted individuals. ? Their anguished cries of protest are drowned out by the rhetoric of therapy?just as the rhetoric of salvation drowned out the [cries] of heretics.

The proverb warns that 'You should not bite the hand that feeds you.' But maybe you should, if it prevents you from feeding yourself.

When a man says that he is Jesus or Napoleon, or that the Martians are after him, or claims something else that seems outrageous to common sense, he is labeled psychotic and locked up in a madhouse. Freedom of speech is only for normal people.

A child becomes an adult when he realizes that he has a right not only to be right but also to be wrong.

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Szasz, fully Thomas Stephen Szasz
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Hungarian-born American Psychiatrist, Social Critic of the Moral and Scientific Foundations of Psychiatry and Professor at the University of New York Health Center