An Odd Aside About Psychiatric Facilities… (Lolita)

Adjusting to new medication sucks.  I’ll admit that I suffer from depression and anxiety disorders, and my psychiatrist put me on new medication about a week ago.  Cue lots of sleeping and a lack of reading because, you know, it’s kind of hard to do both simultaneously.  (Maybe I should put the book under the pillows and hope for the best?)

But to the point.  I woke up rather early this morning and continued my reading of Lolita.  And a particular passage earlier on in the story intrigued the psychology major in me.  I’ll quote it here, no spoilers or anything, I promise.

“I owe my complete restoration to a discovery I made while being treated at that particular very expensive sanatorium.  I discovered there was an endless source of robust enjoyment in trifling with psychiatrists: cunningly leading them on; never letting them see that you know all the tricks of the trade; inventing for them elaborate dreams, pure classics in style (which make them, the dream-extortionists, dream and wake up shrieking); teasing them with fake “primal scenes”; and never allowing them the slightest glimpse of one’s real sexual predicament.  By bribing a nurse I won access to some files and discovered, with glee, cards calling me “potentially homosexual” and “totally impotent.”  The sport was so excellent, its results — in my case — so ruddy that I stayed on for a whole month after I was quite well (sleeping admirably and eating like a schoolgirl).”

Well, other than my immediate thoughts that Humbert Humbert is one manipulative bastard, something else related came to mind.  If you’re familiar with some of the famous psychological experiments done over the past century or so, there’s this particularly interesting one involving asylums called the Rosenhan Experiment, also known as On Being Sane in Insane Places.  Basically, they were sending pseudo-patients that complained of auditory hallucinations to psychiatric facilities, seeing if the staff could actually distinguish the mentally ill from those faking it.  Which those psychiatrists ended up failing miserably at.  The study’s conclusion was, quoted, “it is clear that we cannot distinguish the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals”.  Fun fact: the other patients could distinguish the pseudo-patients better than the psychiatrists could.


I suppose this particular experiment was brought to mind by how easily the psychiatrists, from Humbert Humbert’s point of view, ended up with wrong diagnoses because of his carefully calculated behavior.  And mind you, Lolita was published in 1955, eighteen years before David Rosenhan’s study was published.

Just some food for thought for the early morning, and proof that I’m trying to get through reading this.  I promise.  ❤


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