My love affair with psychology began in the late ’50s with an undergraduate field trip to Creedmoor Hospital in Queens. The walls were gray and foreboding, but none of that mattered as I sat mesmerized, watching a staff psychiatrist interview a bipolar patient. He announced that the interviewee was a manic-depressive suffering from delusions of grandeur. My first shock was that he proclaimed this openly, as if the patient had neither ears nor feelings. Furthermore, it was clear that this way of “exhibiting” inmates was typical.
As evidence of the patient’s delusional state, the psychiatrist noted that the patient had gone out one afternoon and purchased 10 automobiles. At this point, the patient interjected, pointing out that these were Fords—had he been grandiose, he would’ve purchased Cadillacs. His comment elicited laughs from everyone in the room except the psychiatrist, who remained straight-faced. The patient went on to indicate that although he’d planned to give these cars away to relatives, that deal was off, now that they’d had him committed.
Later in the interview, the psychiatrist asked the patient whether his medications were helping. He replied that if they were, it would be a modern miracle, since he wasn’t taking any of them; however, he added with a wink, the wastebasket seemed remarkably improved. Again, laughter from the group, dismay from the interviewer.