Discover more from Dr Bob Johnson’s simple science of sanity
My pivotal case - September 1991.
Frontal lobes shutting down – while we watch
Much has happened recently – of which more anon. First, my book has been published – details below. This fits well with my wife Sue’s book, “The Prison Psychiatrist’s Wife” which was published in February this year. Her book gives the narrative on why we moved to the Isle of Wight to work with so-called ‘psychopaths’ in Parkhurst Prison, then the top UK prison. Her graphic account illustrates as clearly as I have so far seen, quite what happens when your mind gets gummed up.
In this post, I include the verbatim dialogue of my star pupil, Lenny, a middle-aged man who could not tell his mother that that’s what he was. “Hello mother, I’m an adult”. You can see this is true. He could not. Or rather, his frontal lobes would not allow him to verbalise. These words would not come out of his mouth.
The central question in all psychiatry is WHY NOT? If you don’t grasp why something so obvious as adulthood is taboo for Lenny, why he cannot even think the words, then you will not have a clear idea why so many others go off the rails.
Why keep insisting on something which is not real? Well, the only sensible explanation is that there is something bigger, more powerful than telling the truth. And, to put the point bluntly, this other thing is more powerful than being real, being realistic or being truthful. (Check out other serial liars.)
In Lenny’s case, he had learnt very deeply that had he voiced this general idea to his mother, earlier, then he would not have survived. That’s to say – think this thought, and you're dead. This is the only thing powerful enough to freeze your frontals. Even the fact that this sort of thing can, and all too frequently does, happen – this basic fact about the human mind is unavailable, i.e. ‘unthinkable’, by far too many people. So if you're ready to chance your arm, read through the following dialogue very carefully. Perhaps even print it out, and go through it line by line.
Then do so, while watching the video. Pay especial attention to the EMOTIONS. Watch how these control what Lenny can actually say. Note especially how he struggles, courageously, to overcome his in-built fears. Yes, FEARS. That’s what gums up the mind. And here we are blessed with the nascent process of UNGUMMING.
Lenny gets clearer and clearer in his thinking, just by me supporting him to look into the black hole that has accumulated in his mind. Once he sees it as clearly as we do, then it’s gone. It is no longer there. The blockage in his frontal activities is no more. Freud called this the Unconscious – he never sussed out where it came from, or how to put it right. You might doubt I did. But if you watch Lenny very, very closely, then you will see why I now say this as confidently as I do.
The two books motioned are – “The Prison Psychiatrist’s Wife”, by Sue Johnson, ISBN 978-1914603303, and “Friendless Childhoods EXPLAIN WAR”, ISBN 978-1914603396, both published by Waterside Press, UK, and available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere, as paperbacks or e-books.
Here’s the link to the video –
And here’s the dialogue –
Video Interview Between Dr Johnson And A Prisoner On 'C' Wing Parkhurst Sept 11th 1991
B: How would you describe to someone who doesn't know anything about it, what questions I am asking you and what we are doing?
L: Well it's about my Mother, how she used to batter me when was a kid.
B: What affect did this have on you?
L: Well it made me frightened.
B: Did it?
B: What's happened to the fear?
L: It's embedded.
B: It's still there is it?
B: It doesn't help you does it?
B: What effect does this embedded fear have?
L: It's made me violent.
B: Did it?
B: How does that work?
L: I don't know.
B: Why does embedded fear make you violent?
L: Well she used violence on me all the time and I grew up to violence didn't I? Do you know what I mean?
B: But you're a big lad and you're an adult so why are you still frightened of your Mother? It's still there isn't it?
L: I’m still there, yes.
B: So why hasn't it changed. Why is it still there, do you think?
L: Well, it's all part of growing up isn't it?
B: Part of you hasn't has it?
B: Part of you is still there, isn't it?
B: Because we talked about that this morning didn't we?
B: Being an adult. Can you tell her you're an adult?
L: Yes, I could try.
B: Would you find it difficult?
B: You would, wouldn't you?
B: Do you find that surprising, that you find it difficult to tell your mother you're an adult?
L: Yes. Very surprising.
B: It is isn't it? So what will stop you? Say your mother was sitting over there, what would you say to her?
L: I'd say "Mother you can't hit me any more. I am an adult".
B: And you believe that?
L: Yes, partly.
B: You partly believe it and partly don't?
L: Yes. I don't know whether I could say it to her or not.
B: What would stop you?
B: Fear of what? What is she going to do?
L: Well she might get up and clout me.
B: Might she?
L: Well she might.
B: How old is she?
B: And she is going to do you an injury is she?
L: Oh she's still lively.
B: 85. How big is she?
L: 5 feet 2 inches.
B: And how big are you?
L: 6 feet 3.1/2 inches.
B: It doesn't sound much of a match does it?
L: No, but you can't hit a woman can you?
B: You can't disagree with your Mother, let alone hit her can you?
B: Do you need to be able to disagree with her?
L: It would be nice to, wouldn't it?
B: Would it? What advantage to you is disagreeing with your Mother?
L: Well, I could get on with my own life.
B: Could you?
B: What would you tell her?
L: I'd say leave me alone.
B: Get out of my life?
L: That's why I left home.
B: Why did you leave home?
L: Because I couldn't put up with her batterings any more.
B: You couldn't, could you?
B: How old were you when you left home?
L: Oh don't forget I was in Approved School so I left when I was 13 and I didn't go back home. Oh I'm a liar, I did go back home, I did, but it was getting on my nerves, all the shouting and bawling.
B: And even at that time you were still afraid of your Mother weren't you?
L: Oh yes.
B: You said this morning you were programmed. What was the programme?
L: Programmed to be afraid of my mother.
B: You were weren't you?
B: Also programmed to be smaller than her.
L: Yes, she thinks I am still in shorts.
B: She does doesn't she?
L: She does.
B: So are you going to tell her? ..... I beg your pardon?
B: Are you going to tell her?
L: If she was here now.
L: If she was here now - and if you was here.
L: Mother you can't touch me I'm an adult. I would, I would say that.
B: You would?
B: That's because I'm here?
L: That's because you're here.
100. B: What role do I play? How am I helping you to do that?
101. L: Well, you are giving me . . . . power.
102. B: Moral support?
103. L: Yes.
104. B: I am aren't I?
105. L: Yes.
106. B: After a while you can do it for yourself without me can't you?
107. L: Oh, of course, yes.
108. B: But at the moment you need my support.
109. L: Yes.
110. B: Which I am very happy to give you because I believe you are an adult and I believe she should be told. (Both laugh] That's right isn't it?
111. L: Yes.
112. B: Now could you tell me something about your violence and how that relates to fear of your Mother, if it does.
113. L: I've been pushed around and pushed around and pushed around that much, that I just couldn't take any more when this lad started, and I just went too far.
114. B: How does that relate to your Mother?
115. L: Well, it's bound to isn't it?
116. B: Go on then.
117. L: She used violence on me and I couldn't do anything back.
118. B: You couldn't do anything back.
119. L: No, and when he started giving me some lip .....
120. B: Right.
121. L: I battered the hell out of him.
122. B: Yes.
123. L: And I've got to say it: I meant to kill him.
124. B: You did?
125. L: I did.
126. B: How does that relate to .....?
127. L: There's no getting away from it. As I was saying to the policeman "I want to kill you, you bastard", and I killed him - That's why I wish I hadn't gone for diminished responsibility.
128. B: What does that mean?
129. L: manslaughter.
130. B: That's what you went for?
131. L: Yes, I should have just pleaded guilty to murder, maybe I wouldn't have been on the Book (Category A).
132. B: So how is that violence related to fear of your Mother? How does that work?
133. L: Have you never heard of this before? If violence is shown to you time and time again, there comes a time in your life when you just snap, and I snapped.
134. B: Right.
135. L: Do you get the point?
136. B: I do.
137. L: So you can say it's down to her.
138. B: Because of the violence coming from her?
139. L: Yes because of the violence coming from her.
140. B: And what's your defence against the violence coming from her again?
141. L: No chance.
142. B: What are you going to do. How are you going to stop it?
143. L: I'm going to tell her.
144. B: What are you going to tell her?
145. L: That I'm an adult.
146. B: You like that don't you?
147. L: Yes.
148. B: You're getting stronger as you say it, aren't you?
149. L: Yes, I am.
150. B: You can feel yourself getting more confident.
151. L: I'm getting angry as well.
152. B: Are you, with her?
153. L: With her.
154. B: You are, aren't you? You see the anger. I agree with you, the anger and violence can live together, but behind the anger is fear, because you feel that there is no defence against your Mother doing it again.
155. L: She'd never be able to do it again.
156. B: I know that.
157. L: I know that.
158. B: That's it.
159. L: I know that.
160. B: You also know you're an adult, don't you?
161. L: Yes.
162. B: And you can tell her that?
163. L: Yes I can do.
164. B: At the moment with assistance from me. But in due course on your own.
165. L: On my own, yes.
166. B: That's right. Look her straight in the eye and say "look Ma I'm an adult". Can you do that?
167. L: Yes.
168. B: Go on then.
169. L: Look Ma, I am an adult. And you can't touch me ever again. I've grown up, I haven't still got shorts on.
170. B: Does that give you confidence?
171. L: Yes it does, saying it.
172. B: Does it calm your anger down?
173. L: Yes it does, yes.
174. B: Does it?
175. L: Yes it does.
176. B: It gives a way out for it, doesn't it?
177. L: Yes.
178. B: Because that's the reality.
179. L: Course it is, yes.
180. B: So is this helping you, would you say?
181. L: Yes, it is helping me.
182. B: How would you summarise your position and how have I been able to help you?
183. L: Well, nobody's ever bothered before. They've just asked a few questions and that's it - blah blah blah thank you mam and all that rubbish. The psychologist doesn't do anything.
184. B: So what questions have I asked you? And what has been helpful?
185. L: Well, you have asked me what my home life was like. Why did I start getting into trouble?
186. B: You've got an explanation for that now, haven't you?
187. L: Yes.
188. B: Which you can work out for yourself now, as it were.
189. L: Yes, that's right.
190. B: You've done very well. So you will get rid of this fear in due course?
191. L: Yes, I will.
192. B: How big is it this fear?
193. L: Not all that big now.
194. B: It was big before?
195. L: It was big when you started.
196. B: Was it?
197. L: Yes.
198. B: What did you think when I first started questioning you in this area?
199. L: I thought you was a "quack". (both laugh)
200. B: Did you believe what I was saying?
201. L: I did but I wanted to shy away from the truth.
202. B: Did you?
203. L: But I told you the truth didn't I? I have told you the truth.
204. B: Certainly.
205. L: I could have said "Ah well I don't want nowt to do with it” and walked off, couldn't I?
206. B: Yes.
207. L: It's like coming up against a brick wall isn't it?
208. B: People do that.
209. L: Yes, they shouldn't do that.
210. B: So you were going to do that to begin with?
211. L: I was going to do, yes.
212. B: What was wrong? What was going to make you do that?
213. L: It was upsetting me - the way you was going on about it.
214. B: Was it?
215. L: Yes.
216. B: What exactly upset you?
217. L: Against my Mother.
218. B: You didn't like that at all?
219. L: No.
220. B: That's right.
221. L: But I had to go with it because it was the truth.
222. B: Because what I think that goes wrong is, because I frighten people by going at it too much to begin with. Is that what you think, would you agree that?
223. L: When you kept saying about the spanners.
224. B: You've got the old pliers and pincers didn't you?
225. L: Yes, that's true.
226. B: But you stuck with it, didn't you?
227. L: Yes I did, yes.
228. B: You did very well. But you fancied stopping it at the beginning did you?
229. L: Yes, I did.
230. B: Because it was getting a bit near the bone?
231. L: That's right yes, but it's the truth, isn't it? The truth's got to come out hasn't it? And you were trying to help me, and I am helping you.
232. B: I'm sure you are. So when the truth comes out what would you say the truth was, that's got to come out.
233. L: Well the truth's got to come out and say right I'm not scared of my Mother any more. I'm going to tell her outright, I'm an adult, no joking about. And say look, I've grown up now, you have got to start talking nice, and all that, no shouting like you normally do.
234. B: And no threatening to batter you like she does.
235. L: Yes, that's right.
236. B: So the fear of her will disappear.
237. L: Yes.
238. B: Can you see how your anger went down. A little earlier on you were saying that you were angry, but the anger went down when you understood where it was coming from.
239. L: That's true yes, it's very true.
240. B: And that's the secret isn't it?
241. L: Yes.
242. B: Magic. Anyway thanks for coming along. And let me just double check that you don't mind if I show this to different people.
243. L: No, I don't mind at all.
244. B: Thank you very much indeed.
245. L: All right Bob.
246. B: Thanks, see you.
247. L: See you.
NOVEMBER 11 1991 – extract –
248. L : You can't hit your own mother. Whenever she battered me, I'd never dream of lifting a hand to hit her. Even when I was 21, she slapped me across the face. And me Dad came in. And I ran out of the house. And slammed the door, and then just went and got pissed.
249. B : And bottled it up
250. L: Yes
251. B: But now you would stop her, if she came to hit you ?
252. L : There's no way she would hit me now
253. B : What would you say ?
254. L: I wouldn't have to say anything -- if she went to slap me, I'd just hold her hand. [both laugh]
255. B: well you didn't have the confidence to do that before
256. L : If this had've happened years ago, where a doctor had taken an interest say when I was in my twenties and said what you'd said and we'd conquered it, [none of this would have happened].
257. And then I went to the house. And say I came in late, and she said blah blah blah and she went to hit me, I'd say mother you can't hit me love -- I'm a grown up. You can't do it. You can kick me out of the house
258. B : Because it's your house
259. L: But you can't hit me -- don't try and hit me
260. B: But you've never said that up until the last month or two
261. L: Yes. I've never had the confidence to say it
262. B : That's right.
263. L: You're brain washed into fear. . . . . . . [continued]
Copyright © Dr Bob Johnson 1991 – confidential
Professor Bob Johnson, DSc(hon), MRCPsych, MRCGP, PhD(med computing), MA (Psychol), MBCS, DPM, MRCS, School of Psychology, University of Bolton, BL3 5AB, UK. GMC num. 0400150