Please note, this is an edited transcription for reading purposes. We still recommend listening to the audio to capture a more complete essence of the story that is difficult to convey by reading alone.
One of the things that was cogent, more than cogent, just striking and disturbing really was Syd’s take on…
I had a doctorate in clinical psychology, and there were certain things about that I had come up with and learned and counted on it’s just assumptions or I didn’t even know they were assumptions they were just the way you go about doing what you do.
And he was he was consistently in violation of many of those and he took great aim at them.
He was troubled by them and he brought up things that were significant and poignant and disturbing, I began to study. Also, the instances of a revolutionary person, a person who would stumble onto something that was so out of the norm, so out of the status quo. It was just a blow past all these prior assumptions and establish what I now see is a new paradigm and a completely different context for the science in general, the science of psychology and psychiatry and theology too.
He did this quite without purpose but it made things that we were doing seem irrelevant and silly but also harmful. He called us to task about the harm being done to the public.
For example, with regard to these assumptions particularly the power of the past, or the things that we thought were significant about types of thinking, or diagnoses, the right and wrongs of so many practices and procedures and techniques to square aim at.
There were all these kind of sacred cows that he would just have no tolerance for but it was often on the supposition that it that it was harmful to the public – like he was like a champion for the mental health of the public and he was taking all of these assumptions to task and it was troubling and it was less troubling for some of us closer to him but as we went out it was more and more troubling to the general public.
So there were certain people that had trouble and they let him know that that they didn’t like what he was doing and saying so there was a lot of this controversy that was just naturally bubbling up around him and it was very meaningful to me but also again disturbing so there’s a couple of examples of this.
Once we were giving he was presenting a talk in in Miami and there was a woman in the crowd who was quite troubled. She had been a client, we kind of kind of knew a bit of her history she had come, there was a friend of hers that had brought her and a friend was trying to find some way to help her.
I think she may have had some mental health diagnosis and she was also kind of boisterous and would sort of speak out and say things if she wasn’t quiet about her thoughts and opinions.
And it was a amidst a group of mental health professionals and so there was the chief of psychology of this hospital was there, other mental health professional were there, some of which were more familiar with what Syd was doing like myself but also people that were rather unfamiliar with what Syd was doing. It was quite a quite an admixture of people, you had mental health people and all of them were there to hear what Syd had to say.
As Syd spoke at some point this woman engages him from the audience and complains or takes issue with something he said and he surprised me because he didn’t really try to placate her or he said something, he responded to her to her comment and he took issue with that in a profound way.
It wasn’t like it was an argument but he just stated flatly and non-commiserately, (commiseration was a word that I came to become familiar with this idea of co-misery, co-miseration, and there was a lot of commiseration that he would see in the conduct of our counseling and therapies or what have you, that he would call us out on and help us with that we thought were good treatment and what you do to be empathetic or what you do to connect or what you do to help. He saw sometimes he would see those things as harmful whereas we thought them to be helpful and that was like a shock).
And so, in this case she says something he says something bad she says something else he says something bad, and at some point he says let’s take a break because I think he realized that there was no point in carrying on, that wasn’t going to go anywhere, it was this gonna be her not hearing what he had to say and commenting on it. I think he felt a responsibility for the group so he took a break.
Well, in this kind of the novelty of this moment I went up to the front and there were several other people there were familiar with him did so too and he was still seated and we were sort of talking about what had happened and he would be recorded it but he never published that recording. He sent it around for those of us that were being mentored by him but he never intended for it to be publicly released.
It was a moment, this moment happened. Then as he’s sitting there, the chief of psychology in the crowd, had found his way through the crowd and gone over to her and was kneeling down on a knee and kind of patting her on the back, talking with her, and Syd’s there and he spots this – he looks over my shoulder and he sees what this chief is doing. And then it really shocked me because he said, I think he said it three times in a row, “look at that, look at that, he’s killing her, he’s killing her.”
That was a dramatic moment because I thought he was empathetic but I didn’t see that he was wounding her or that Syd had eyes for that and he called people out about it and it wasn’t a very popular thing to do as you could imagine! That there would be people that took great issue with that, hearing that they were hurting people. When I would hear him allude to that or say that to me, I always felt like or generally felt like !well I’m a good guy but I’m professionally trained, you know, first do no harm,” this is the Hippocratic oath. I’ve practiced that and I have no intention of it, it was the last thing on earth that I would want to do to hurt people, yet he would say you’re hurting people.
It would always force me to kind of take stock of myself and try to sort out what was he seeing that was so damaging in his view and that was so not damaging in my view, and that contrast was a very important part of what he brought to the world I think he brought something so new and so different it was troubling and disturbing to the status quo.
It was another instance of that same thing at this (separate) event that he had been honoured, he was Sydney Banks. There’s a long history involved here so all truncated but it came to be that there was a major university, a medical school in the United States, and this medical school was so impressed by what Syd had accomplished and done and they hired some staff to teach the Principles.
The dean of the medical school was really an advocate for the Principles. The money was raised and donated and they were going to open up this Institute at this university as a major university in the United States. They were having the Sydney Banks Institute for Innate Health, it was going to be opened and there was a big brass plaque with Syd’s figure on it that was going to in this marbled hallway.
One of the several institute’s that were so established at this university and they were going to study and pursue looking at these Principles and Syd always said that any one university that got these Principles into their ‘bones’ in the university would be like a beacon on a hill for the mental health of the world, that the people would come from everywhere to study and learn. There would be a source of continuous study and insight that no one would ever get to the end of their study, and there would be a phenomenal growth looking at this.
So, there was going to be this big event and people from all over the country and overseas, I come there to be party to this and so I was asked to be one of the main group leaders and I would meet with groups of faculty members of this medical school beforehand and other people or assigned groups to meet with these faculty members. There was sort of like a big culmination and a beginning of training.
There was going to be a ceremony. Syd was going to talk to these 400 professionals, the physicians and their wives, that were in this auditorium like they have in those medical schools where they have these tiers of seats and they’re on top of one another so you can look right down on and you can see operations being performed and that kind of thing.
So it was a very unique situation and all these physicians. It was a big event that had a big dinner and then they were going to give Syd a piece of gorgeous artwork, a glass art, and Syd was going to speak, which they did.
That was going to happen in the in the evening, and in the late afternoon Syd was being shown around the medical school so he went into the operating rooms, he went to the wards, he talked to physicians. The various departments heads had escorted Syd around in order to be introduced to him in this dignitary and this opening of this Institute, Sydney Banks Institute.
So they have a meeting to kind of go over, “okay here’s the story for the rest of the evening, Syd, we’re going to meet here now, go over some of the logistics then we’ll be in this auditorium. First the Dean will speak and then the president of the University and then you’ll have your chance to talk, we’ve allowed you certain amount of time and then there’ll be the awarding of this gift and then the unveiling of the of the brass plaque and that will conclude the evening.”
So they wanted to go over all that with him so that he was familiar with what was about to happen and he’s been meeting all these people. As he was being shown around, the last person that that was on his tour was the chief of Psychiatry of the psychiatry department. They were introduced and Syd was very cordial and they were going through the hallway going to this room. This chief acknowledges someone that passes by and he acknowledges this passerby and Syd is walking shoulders to shoulder with him and they’re they’ve looked around the offices of the psychiatric facilities and the neurology and what-have-you.
They’re going into this meeting room to go over these logistics and (I wasn’t there, I wasn’t in this meeting but I heard this story) and what happened is Syd inquired of the chief after this passerby and he said “now did you know that person?” and the chief confided to him quietly he said, “yes he’s a patient of mine. I’ve been working with him over 20 years.”
Well, Syd goes and then they go right into this room and quite surprisingly to everyone in the room Syd interrupts the proceedings and has a lot to say about this – he doesn’t say this person’s name in particular but he says things like “anyone who’s been treating someone for 20 years ought to have their license revoked and be kicked out of the profession because they’re the hurting people and they’re taking them back into destructive patterns.”
This is like bleeding people for high blood pressure which was done you know before it was understood what it was, so he really he’d really took issue with this and he wouldn’t stop! It was like he was championing for all of the mental health patients of the world of something, that had been in his mind abused by psychiatry in psychology.
And he was gonna say his piece and there wasn’t anyone going to stop him and it didn’t matter to him that this ceremony was about to ensue and this Sydney Banks Institute for Innate Health was going to be opened and there would be a ribbon-cutting ceremony that had no importance to him, to speak about this harm coming to innocent people.
So it was a very cogent and disturbing moment and Syd would not quit. He went on and on and on, he went on for such a length of time and made his point over and over and that there was really no time left to go over the logistics they just had to adjourn the meeting and proceed on.
But that chief was so upset and so challenged by this person that that he set about immediately to defund that Institute and get it out of the university.
And again, being a university insider (Keith), Syd being someone coming in that who knew that he would take such issue it was a dramatic moment. And in my mind in the history of psychiatry and psychology because it reminded me of the great story when germs were discovered in 1847 that Ignaz Semmelwiess was a physician and he had discovered that his friend had been killed by a careless cut during an autopsy from a patient that had a disease that they called childbed fever and but what Ignaz Semmelwiess realized was that his death had nothing to do with childbirth because he was a male and he realized that there must have been some material on that scalpel and he isolated that single point of origin – and when he did it brought in the paradigm of germs, that was the discovery of germ theory right there and then that was a single thought that he had was there must have been some material on that scalpel.
Of course, before that moment in time you could say there were no germs on the planet, well the germs were here and they were having quite a terrible horrible influence over human health and welfare but no one knew. After that they began to turn the corner and study something that had been unforeseen and unexpected and deadly. But for that, a life on this planet would be completely different.
I think Sydney Banks brought something of that order to medicine, to psychology, to psychiatry, to theology, to these schools, these great institutions of thought that were so radically simple that it really upset the apple cart and we have a great deal to profit from that discovery for the ages to come and I don’t think we’ll ever get to the end of it that these are the points of origin of that disturbance.