Symington, Neville – A Pattern of Madness

  • sanity/ madness. This book presents two world-views (Weltanschauung): either sanity or madness. Besides the fact that there is not a third option, I believe there is a problem labeling a world-view as “sanity”, for sanity could be considered an axis (along with ontology, gnoseology, ethic, aesthetic, etc) for any world-view. The same critic applies also to “madness”… However, letting asides these critics, I’ll give a try to define each world-view according to Neville Symington. First, there is “The sanity perspective” best defined as 1) the monist solution to the dualities of life (i.e. antinomies), 2) the right to freedom and 3) the unified of soul with the world. Here much emphasis is put on “unification” that I had imagined like a strong citadel protecting its inhabitants inside its walls. And probably if Symington would be alive I would ask him for a metaphor for this world-view – all his concerns were not here, but elsewhere, and so there is a gap in the framework. Also, according to this perspective, the soul is governed by 4 emotions: courage (as opposed to greed), admiration (as opposed to envy), concern (as opposed to jealousy) and love-acceptance (being opposed to hated-omnipotence): those are the emotions of any sane conscience (for the “mad world-view” there is no conscience, but only god/ worm) deep rooted in symbolism (and not in “glue-like attachment” or “paranoia feelings”). This was the first world-view. The second world-view follows now. So, secondly, there is “The madness perspective” that could be understood by another three concepts: 1) the dualism as the solution to everyday antinomies, 2) the search for happiness and 3) the fragmented soul and, more generally, the fragmented world. Much emphasis is put on the concept of “fragmentation” which I first imagined like a house (representing the soul) broken in two halves – one longing for the mother who is distancing in the left side of it, and the other longing for the father who is walking the opposite direction of the mother, in the right side. However, Symington came with a better metaphor, namely: in order to describe the chaos of the soul/ world he proposed to imagine “the ichneumon fly coming to the chrysalis of a butterfly and injecting a poisonous sting into it; and so, the fleshy substance of the pupa becomes transformed into a soup-like mess” (2002: 85). This fragmented soul has an inner center that is “jelly” and an outer periphery that is “crusty”. The jelly part is governed by 3 emotions: greed (known in psychiatric literature as “introjection”), envy (i.e. “projection”) and jealousy (i.e. “obliteration”). On the other side, the crusty part is ruled by a fourth emotion – hatred as both “glue” (i.e. a specific state of attachment found in dependency and symbiosis) and “paranoia”. Those two emotions – glue and paranoia – are relations between “god” and “worm”. The “god” is how the others are perceived by the mad person: where is “god” there is also the “glue” attachment. Finally, the “worm” – or the anti-god, even the evil – is how the self is perceived by the mad person: the relation with the worm is under the sign of paranoia.
  • pattern. Those elements of sanity/ madness have to be seen not isolated (out of context), but together (in the context) – for they are an interlocking pattern of the mind, they are one, and only one, whole.

The map:


  • Symington, Neville (2001): “The spirit of sanity”, Karnac
  • Symington, Neville (2002): “A pattern of madness”, Karnac
  • Symington, Neville (2006): “Sanity and madness”, International Journal of Psychoanalysis, Vol. 87, No. 4, pp. 1059-1068

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