I worked as a family doctor for 20 years, some time ago, in the rain soaked hills east of Manchester (UK), where I learnt what real medicine is, and what really makes families tick – and why some seem to insist on tearing themselves apart.

These posts describe a straightforward account of how I came to see emotional problems this way, and how so many people work incredibly hard for the wrong outcome. The first posts will be stories of what happened to these ideas in a maximum security prison - the fact is, that the emotional confusions there reflected very accurately those that had occurred in family medicine, so listen to the details, and see if you can pick up the overlap. Bear in mind, if this approach could work there, under really heavy coercive conditions, which it did - then it can work anyway. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that long term prisoners are alien beings - they suffer like the rest of us, if not more so.

When I worked in family medicine, I did so under the invaluable NHS. The NHS, bless it, allows anyone on my “list”, to come and see me for whatever reason they wished, and they frequently did. One person came 135 times in a 12-month – for free. (Contrary to what you might think, we got on remarkably well.) I used to joke that the only thing I hadn’t seen then, was a case of leprosy – perhaps I had, and had missed it, though I doubt it. What I did see was stress. All sorts of stress – work stress, sex stress, family stress, parent stress, gut stress, sleep stress – you name it, I’ve seen it. You feel worried about something – something is niggling you – go see “Dr Bob”, he’s a nice man, “good with nerves and with children” – or so I had heard. Here follow a series of the stories I was told, plus the “answers” I came up with, together with the reasons why I did. 

As a medical student, I’d always wanted to be a psychiatrist – nothing more fascinating than the human mind, especially when it goes off the rails, as mine sometimes did. So after remarkably extensive training, both in the UK and the US, I’d passed all my exams, and had begun to soften the harsher aspects of how psychiatry is done. This didn’t suit my superiors. So when I was finally in a position to limit the barbaric use of ECT, Electro Shock Therapy – those in charge of advancing my career decided they’d had enough. I needed their excellent references for any further hospital promotion. Instead they told potential employers that I was not “a team player”. They killed my “glittering” psychiatric career stone dead. So general practice was all I was left with. It was not my first choice – but thank goodness I stuck it out, because the answers I found there, have become stronger and clearer and more widely applicable ever since. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it, as the coming series will show. 

I’ve now retired after 60 years medical practice, most of them in psychiatry, including working in one of the first New York State Drug Addiction Centres, then for 5 years in a maximum security prison, with violent serial killers, finally unpacking that Holy Grail of all psychiatry – psychotic symptoms.

These articles are a new venture for me. I’ll aim for twice monthly. If you like what I write, please encourage me by responding, with or without paying. I’m happy to answer Qs & As (if slowly). You can always read the academic background to it all, free, by clicking The Simple Science of Sanity. Thanx.

The posts are -

1.    Little David’s Big Problem (free)

2.   Alec practised garrotting his pillow, the better to me target. (free)

3.   Dennis punched the wall in lieu of his mother. (free )

Others to follow. We are now up to number 7, with #8 on its way.

Please note - these are real events - but details, including names, have been changed to preserve anonymity and confidentiality. Thanks.

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How the simple science of sanity impacts on family wellbeing – too many families tear themselves apart – why? This explores, explains and so can cure it.


FAMILIES MATTER MOST. It’s where we’re happiest, or not. As a family doctor for 20 years, I saw more of them than most. Here’s what works, or doesn't.