Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Ch 3: Psychopaths Dream in Black-and-White

In chapter three of The Psychopath Test, Jon Ronson focuses on the work of psychiatrist Elliot Barker and his influence on the psychopaths and schizophrenics inside the Oak Ridge hospital for the criminally insane. Barker's life’s work consisted of trying to cure psychopaths of their disease. His most famous technique was “The Capsule” in which psychopaths would remain inside a padded room without clothing, high off of LSD, and talk about their emotions. This could last days at a time. Barker theorized that physical nakedness would lessen the distraction of clothes and the outside world so that each psychopath could achieve emotional nakedness and ultimately be cured. Initially, the psychopaths seemed to have responded positively to Barker’s treatment, and multiple psychopaths were released to the outside world. However, “The Capsule” taught the psychopaths to become more manipulative, and upon returning to society, they would relapse and commit crimes.

Of the three chapters I have read thus far, I found chapter three to be the most interesting. I have never heard of such crazy and strange ways to approach mental illnesses, so I was fascinated by Elliot Barker’s techniques. One aspect that confused me was the return of the psychopaths into society multiple times after they had committed crimes upon being “cured”. Honestly, I thought that their return was stupid and overly optimistic by the psychiatrists. I believe in second chances, but once someone takes advantage of their privilege to be free by committing murder or rape, I say lock them up and throw away the key.