Wednesday, September 21, 2011

3. Psychopaths Dream in Black-and-White (Ronson (2011))


In this chapter, Jon Ronson explains one way that was thought of as "curing" psychopaths. The "cure" mentioned in the chapter was Elliot Barker’s experimental cure at Oak Ridge (appropriately called the Oak Ridge Experiment.) Barker based his cure off of Paul Bindrim's nude psychotherapy, which was set at a luxurious resort and treated upper to middle class Californians. Being naked assisted the idea of being emotionally naked and enhanced the process of psychotherapy. Other inspiration for the “cure” came from Kingsley Hall, a former community for schizophrenics. At Oak Ridge, Barker took a select sample of psychopaths and led them into a room called the Total Encounter Capsule. The psychopaths weren’t allowed clothes, clocks, or calendars. Barker watched from behind a mirror as the psychopaths became psychiatrists for each other. Barker’s successor, Gary Maier, continued the “cure.” Soon after, the “cure” was taken too far by letting the psychopaths run around on LSD. The guard changed the locks, and Maier was fired. Some of the psychopaths “cured” from Barker’s idea were released. Although Barker claimed them sane (even letting them live as his neighbors), eighty percent re-offended. The “cure” just taught the psychopaths to restrain their feelings and appear normal. The Oak Ridge program ended.

I found the theory of the “cure” to be ridiculous. If I were put in that situation, I would not open up about my feelings. Yes, it would leave me feeling defenseless, but isn’t that when all walls go up? Also, it does not seem right to have criminals counseling criminals. Obviously, the mentalities of criminals aren’t stable or moral. How would one crazy person make another “cured?” Wouldn’t it just reassure what the other criminal was thinking is acceptable? Drugs were a bad decision to bring into the situation as well. Drugs change a person’s state of mind. I am still curious as to what happened to the other psychopaths brought into the capsule. Eighty percent of the criminals went to re-offend. Were the other twenty percent cured?