The case of "Headless" (Schizophrenia, cured through ridicule)

Casebook of Biblical Psychiatry © Version 7 (CBP-7)

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Casebook of Biblical Psychiatry© brings the principles of Biblical Psychiatry to life based upon real-world cases and familiarizes Christians with different types of situations. This practical companion volume to Biblical Psychiatry© includes not only diagnosis, but also in-depth discussions by experienced Christians for Biblical approaches to treatment. This meticulously detailed volume of dynamic real-life case studies is simply a "must read" for all clinical Psychiatrists, mental health care professionals and Christians interested in expert opinion on today's treatment approaches. Psychiatric students, educators, and practitioners—as well as social workers, nurses, medical physicians, and interested laypersons—will find this unique volume of inestimable value in their day-to-day work.




The case of

(Schizophrenia, cured through ridicule)

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The case of "Headless"


Biopsychiatric labels DSM-5

Schizophrenia, delusion, paranoia


Checklist Behaviours DSM-7

Laziness, Deception, lying, arrogance, pride, boasting, unwilling to admit when wrong.


Insights MMPI-7



Quick Pick EDS-7.1



Self-disablement EDS-7.2

Employment: Time off work in asylum


Chemical imbalance EDS-7.3



Benefits EDS-7.4

Fun, entertainment, relief from boredom and monotony: EDS-7.4.2

Attention seeking, Pride, Praise, Honour, Fame: EDS-7.4.3

Escape duty or life situation: EDS-7.4.4

Smokescreen for secret sin that is soon to be discovered: EDS-7.4.10


Monetary EDS-7.5



Annoyance Scale EDS-7.6



Diagnostic Laws EDS-7.7

Law of Derivative Personal Benefit (DPB) EDS-7.7.2.DPB

Law of Narcissistic Selective Dysfunction (NSD) EDS-7.7.3.NSD


Determine the Problem


Ask a Child

He sure is smart and builds cool toys!  EDS-7.7.12.PMO


5 years later EDS-7.7.LPT

He returned to work.




The case of "Headless"

A watchmaker chooses schizophrenia as a solution to a problem that is never discovered and is cured through appealing to his ego and open ridicule


A Celebrated watchmaker, at Paris, was infatuated with the chimera [imaginary fairies] of perpetual motion, and to effect this discovery, he set to work with indefatigable ardour. From unremitting attention to the object of his enthusiasm coinciding with the influence of revolutionary disturbances, his imagination was greatly heated, his sleep was interrupted, and, at length, a complete derangement of the understanding took place. His case was marked by a most whimsical illusion of the imagination. He fancied that he had lost his head on the scaffold; that it had been thrown promiscuously among the heads of many other victims; that the judges, having repented of their cruel sentence, had ordered those heads to be restored to their respective owners, and placed upon their respective shoulders; but that, in consequence of an unfortunate mistake, the gentlemen, who had the management of that business, had placed upon his shoulders the head of one of his unhappy companions. The idea of this whimsical exchange of his head, occupied his thoughts night and day; which determined his relations to send him to the Hotel Dieu. Thence he was transferred to the Asylum de Bicetre. Nothing could equal the extravagant overflowings of his heated brain. He sung, cried, or danced incessantly; and, as there appeared no propensity in him to commit acts of violence or disturbance, he was allowed to go about the hospital without control, in order to expend, by evaporation, the effervescent excess of his spirits. " Look at these teeth," he constantly cried;—" Mine were exceedingly handsome ;—these are rotten and decayed My mouth was sound and healthy : this is foul and diseased. What difference between this hair and that of my own head." To this state of delirious gaiety, however, succeeded that of furious madness He broke to pieces or otherwise destroyed whatever was within the reach or power of his mischievous propensity. Close confinement became indispensible. Towards the approach of winter his violence abated; and, although he continued to be extravagant in his ideas, he was never afterwards dangerous. He was, therefore, permitted, when ever he felt disposed, to go to the inner court. The idea of the perpetual motion frequently recurred to him in the midst of his wanderings ; and he chalked on all the walls and doors as he passed, the various designs by which his wondrous piece of mechanism was to be constructed. The method best calculated to cure so whimsical an illusion, appeared to be that of encouraging his prosecution of it to satiety. His friends were, accordingly, requested to send him his tools, with materials to work upon, and other requisites, such as plates of copper and steel, watch-weels, &c. The governor, permitted him to fix up a work-bench in his apartment. His zeal was now redoubled. His whole attention was rivetted upon his favourite pursuit. He forgot his meals. After about a month's labour, which he sustained with a constancy that deserved better success, our artist began to think that he had followed a false rout. He broke into a thousand fragments the piece of machinery which he had fabricated at so much expense of time, and thought, and labour; entered on the construction of another, upon a new plan, and laboured with equal pertinacity for another fortnight. The various parts being completed, he brought them together, and fancied that he saw a perfect harmony amongst them. The whole was now finally adjusted:—his anxiety was indescribable:—motion succeeded:—it continued for some time :—and he supposed it capable of continuing forever. He was elevated to the highest pitch of enjoyment and triumph, and ran as quick as lightening into the interior of the hospital, crying out like another Archimedes, "At length I have solved this famous problem, which has puzzled so many men celebrated for their wisdom and talents." But, grievous to say, he was disconcerted in the midst of his triumph. The wheels stopped ! The perpetual motion ceased ! His intoxication of joy was succeeded by disappointment and confusion. But, to avoid a humiliating and mortifying confession, he declared that he could easily remove the impediment, but tired of that kind of employment, that he was determined for the future to devote his whole time and attention to his business. There still remained another maniacal impression to be counteracted;—that of the imaginary exchange of his head, which unceasingly recurred to him. A keen and an unanswerable stroke of pleasantry seemed best adapted to correct this fantastic whim. Another convalescent of a gay and facetious humour, instructed in the part he should play in this comedy adroitly turned the conversation to the subject of the famous miracle of Saint Denis. Our mechanician strongly maintained the possibility of the fact, and sought to confirm it by an application of it to his own case. The other set up a loud laugh, and replied with a tone of the keenest ridicule: "Madman as thou art, how could Saint Denis kiss his own head? Was it with his heels?" This equally unexpected and unanswerable retort, forcibly struck the maniac. He retired confused amidst the peals of laughter, which were provoked at his expense, and never afterwards mentioned the exchange of his head. Close attention to his trade for some months, completed the restoration of his intellect. He was sent to his family in perfect health; and has, now for more than five years, pursued his business without a return of his complaint.(A Treatise on Insanity, Philippe Pinel, 1806 AD)



In 1806 AD, Philippe Pinel, doctor for the Bicetre Asylum in France, gets our gold star of achievement of all the major mad house doctors. He used "moral therapy" that merely threatened torture. Unlike all the other mad houses, Pinel refused to torture and use vomits, blistering and bloodletting of the day. Pinel correctly understanding that insanity was a spiritual problem, not an organic/physical problem with the brain. Instead of drugs, he cured insanity by "moral treatments". "My faith in pharmaceutic preparations was gradually lessened, and my scepticism went at length so far, as to induce me never to have recourse to them, until moral remedies had completely failed" Philippe Pinel would rise up today and oppose the chemical psychiatrists who believe insanity is a chemical imbalance of the brain, that insanity is incurable. He would object to labeling the insane as biological misfits for life because it unnecessarily robs the soul of all hope.


The joke was based upon a well-known story of the Saint Denis, the Bishop of Paris who was beheaded in 250 AD. Countless carvings and paintings of St. Denis are seen with him standing holding his head at his waist.

"The hour of judgment had come; the thugs (bourreaux) threw themselves on them [the evangelists] beating them cruelly with sticks and dragging them through the roads to the Hill of Mercury [Montmartre], where, after the most horrible abuse, the missionaries [athletes] had their heads chopped off with an ax blow. ... In an astonishing miracle the body of Saint Denis was seen to rise up and to gather up his head in his own hands as if he was still alive, raising it up triumphantly and carrying it for a distance of about two Gallic miles [16 km] to the place where it presently reposes where the abbey of Saint-Denis is located. At the sight of this miracle the heathen, terrified, took flight. But the Christians, in awe, blessed this manifestation of divine power. There resulted the conversion of a host of the unfaithful." (The Life of Saint Genevieve, 502 AD)


The etiology of the insanity of the man is never explored by Pinel. The watchmaker, suffering from an extreme case of high self esteem, attracts attention and praise to himself inside the asylum when he sets out to invent a perpetual motion machine. His delusions about having the wrong head on his body are instantly cured through simple ridicule at his expense. Motivated by pride he engages in normal craftsman ship of a watchmaker in building the machine, and his extreme pride led him to stop his "headless game" for fear of another crushing humiliation when he was mocked and ridiculed and flat out laughed at as a fool. The man had a change in will and decided to restore himself back to his former life as a watchmaker.


The key is to take note that the watchmaker cured himself, first through his ridiculous perpetual motion machine and second, by shaming him.


Benefits from behaviour: This illustrates the Law of Narcissistic Behaviour Choice (NBC) EDS-7.7.1.NBC  

  1. Fun, entertainment, relief from boredom and monotony: EDS-7.4.2. Everyday he was making his "world famous" perpetual motion machine, he was on stage and have a lot of fun as the prime actor in his skit.
  2. Attention seeking, Pride, Praise, Honour, Fame: EDS-7.4.3. His fame seeking desires were a cover for some failure we are not told about.
  3. Escape duty or life situation: EDS-7.4.4. Obviously the man was running from some life situation that is not mentioned in the story.
  4. Smokescreen for secret sin that is soon to be discovered: EDS-7.4.10. His insanity was a smokescreen for some other problem we are not aware of.


Diagnostic laws that are seen illustrated in the case of "Headless":

  1. The watchmaker had calculated that the cost of being labeled insane and living in an asylum was worth the benefit of avoiding his problem in real life. This illustrates the Law of Derivative Personal Benefit (DPB) EDS-7.7.2.DPB
  2. In a textbook perfect case of NSD, The man had become dysfunctional in all the normal areas of life as a watchmaker, but became highly functional in building his perpetual motion machine which required a very high level of skill and engineering. This illustrates the Law of Narcissistic Selective Dysfunction (NSD) EDS-7.7.3.NSD


By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections.

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