A Life Inside: A Memoir

I found out about the book, A Life Inside: A Memoir by Mindy Lewis, after reading a footnote about it by Thomas Szasz in his book, Words to the Wise. In Words to the Wise, Szasz says:

Upset by her teenage daughter’s rebelliousness, a New York mother commits her to Columbia University’s Psychiatric Institute (P.I.). In her memoir, the “patient” writes: “On my application for admission to P.I., asked to specify the reason for hospitalization, my mother had written: ‘Rebellious behavior.’ All my friends at P.I. were then diagnosed as schizophrenic…. I was never schizophrenic. Not then, not now. How could they possibly have interpreted my rage and confusion as schizophrenia?” The answer is called “standard of care.” Had one of the psychiatrists assigned to treat this young woman asserted that she did not “have schizophrenia” and set her free, and had she then killed herself (or injured her mother), the psychiatrist would have faced an unwinnable malpractice suit.1

In the memoir, Lewis’s mother commits her sixteen year old daughter to a psychiatric ward after some typical teenage rebelliousness, such as smoking marijuana. Her father does not protest. The commitment leaves Lewis confused, and searching for answers for a good portion of her life. Rather than help Lewis, the psychiatric hospital further obfuscates the young woman’s ability to create a meaningful life.

The memoir exemplifies the Szaszian view on mental illness – the idea that it is a guise for conflict in relationships. In Words to the Wise, he says:

Mental illness is a myth whose function is to disguise and thus render more palatable the bitter pill of moral conflicts in human relations. In asserting that there is no such thing as mental illness I do not deny that people have problems coping with life and each other.

As Lewis works through creating a meaningful life, she continually wrestles with her involuntary commitment and her subsequent psychiatric diagnosis. It reminds me of how Szasz describes the matter of psychiatry in his book, Heresies:

The subject matter of psychiatry is neither minds nor mental diseases, but lies-the “patient’s” and the “psy­chiatrist’s.” These lies begin with the names of the par­ticipants in the transaction-the designation of one party as “patient” even though he is not ill and of the other as “therapist” even though he is not treating any illness. They continue with the lies that comprise the subject matter proper of the discipline-the psychiatric “diag­noses,” “prognoses,” “treatments,” and “follow-ups.” And they end with the lies that, like shadows, follow ex-men­tal patients through the rest of their lives-the records of denigrations called “depression,” “schizophrenia,” or whatnot and of imprisonments called “hospitalization.” Accordingly, if we wished to give psychiatry an honest name, we could call it “mendacitology,” or the study of lies.


  1. Szasz, Thomas. Words to the Wise: A Medical-Philosophical Dictionary (p. 200). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition. 

Thomas Szasz: Primary Values and Major Contentions

The above video is an interview with the author and editors of the book, Thomas Szasz: Primary Values and Major Contentions.

The book, Thomas Szasz: Primary Values and Major Contentions is a collection of Thomas Szasz’s best writing during the first three decades of his career as a psychiatrist. It is edited by two admirers of Szasz, Richard Vatz and Lee Weinberg. There is also a section of the book that includes questions from the editors and answers from Szasz. Even though I have read many of Szasz’s books, I found new insights from this one.

Download the first few pages of the book here as PDF.

Thomas Szasz: The Man and His Ideas

May God defend me from my friends: I can defend myself from my enemies. – Voltaire

The book, Thomas Szasz: The Man and His Ideas, is a collection of essays ostensibly put together in remembrance of the psychiatrist-philosopher, Thomas Szasz. Szasz was a fascinating man who wrote and lectured about personal responsibility, freedom, and the myth of mental illness.

Instead of illuminating ideas, the book attempts to point out ways in which Szasz’s ideas were flawed. It is not a book worthy of celebrating the critical thinking, social criticism, and categorical analysis of Thomas Szasz.

Continue reading “Thomas Szasz: The Man and His Ideas”

The Last Interview of Thomas Szasz

The Last Interview of Thomas Szasz, is a simple, hourlong interview by Philip Singer, which he calls a “documentary”. In reality, it is a podcast-style interview interrupted by a few quotes overlaid on the screen. There isn’t much value here because Singer appears to not understand much of Szasz’s main arguments.

Continue reading “The Last Interview of Thomas Szasz”

Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America

In his book, Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America, Thomas Szasz argues that medicine has unwittingly become the new de facto religion in America. According to Szasz, health and medicine have superseded religion as a source of values. Medicine has bootlegged values into everyday life through the backdoor of politics.

Continue reading “Pharmacracy: Medicine and Politics in America”