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Taunton State Hospital (Taunton, MA) | the arbitrary nature of sanity

The Arbitrary Nature of Sanity | Abandoned America
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A common misconception people have
is that all of the patients at an asylum like Taunton State Hospital
were vicious, frightening, dangerous, and thoroughly deranged.
Because it is infinitely more comfortable than the truth,
we like to view reality as a concrete thing, that we are either
well-connected with or not... But instead, one culture's schizophrenic is another's shaman.
If you were to read through the various iterations of the DSM V
(essentially the bible of psychiatry) you would slowly uncover a disturbing portrait
of madness - one that is ever shifting, ever changing.
Once common diagnoses - Satanic Ritual Abuse Syndrome, for example -
may not even be recognized as existing illnesses by insurance companies.
With this in mind, it begins to become clear that perhaps one of the bigger causes for
locking away so many people, most of whom have committed no crimes,
was convenience. Reasons one could be committed were based on opinion as much as fact:
promiscuity, senility, being deemed wild and unruly, being an unwanted child/senior,
being outspoken in one's religious/political views or having ones that were unorthodox,
anxiety, depression, not getting along with one's family, homosexuality,
being a woman who was viewed as too assertive, not being enough so as a man,
hyperactivity, having birth defects, Alzheimer's, Syphilis, not speaking English (true!),
poor social skills, being isolative or antisocial, and on and on and on.
I think overall we committed so many to protect the sanctity of our own beliefs.
By defining who is crazy and who is not, we know we are well...
so long as we are outside the asylum's walls.
However, the problem lies in the arbitrary nature of sanity.
No two definitions are quite the same,
and as we add more and more standards of what is lucid and what is not -
all dictated by our own mercurial morals - we discover
that in the end there are very few, if any of us, that are left
fit for the outside after all.

Image of Taunton State Hospital and text by Matthew Christopher

If you enjoy my writing, check out my books "Abandoned America: Dismantling the Dream" (which features a chapter on Taunton) and "Abandoned America: The Age of Consequences".

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