"Observation and Introspection"

"Observation and Introspection"

Excerpts from “Observation & Introspection,” by Milo Himes:


“As a result of nearly a year of work at the Philadelphia State Hospital I believe the following to be the most significant influences I have observed at work on myself and my fellow workers.”

            “1. A tendency toward paternalism rather than democracy in human relations. This has causal roots both in one’s relation with the patients and in the nature of institutional conditions. When two or three persons have to see that 350 to 400 patients are fed, more or less clothed, get to bed, get routine medical attention, etc., there is a strong tendency to treat them as units in a machine rather than as individuals. To this impersonalization add the lack of available and reliable information on the patient’s background (withheld for good reason from attendants with no professional standards). Also add the daily siege of irrational, childish, or fanciful questions and demands. Now, perhaps, the reader will faintly glimpse how easy it is to turn to the ‘rule’ rather than seek to individualize treatment according to the peculiar needs and problems of the individual. The habit of making the major decisions for a large number of people inevitably leads to a tendency to make and enforce decisions for people rather than patiently work problems out with them. This in turn leads toward more arbitrary and forceful manners in dealing with problems in human relations. This has an inevitable carry-over into daily life.”

            “2. Lowered expectation of ‘results’ in human affairs. Even the most conscientious and pacifistic worker seldom sees any direct results from his work. Mental recovery usually requires months and years for its completion. Poor conditions and inadequate treatment lengthen this period.”

            “3. Increased tolerance for ‘bad’ or ‘sinful’ people. This is not so much from a recognition of the relativity of values as in familiarity with the types of conduct most closely associated with pathological mental conditions. Later contact in our communities with drunkenness, unusual sex conduct, harmful social attitudes and conduct will lead us to look more for causes rather than to affix blame.”

            “4. Ability to work in the midst of intense human suffering. Both because of the nature of their afflictions and of inadequate help, some patients are constantly in mental and physical agony. One may try to budget his time and resources to meet the needs as adequately as possible. Too much attention to one patient may mean gross neglect of others.”

"Too often the adjustment may be made by a brutal and dangerous rationalization. ‘They are going to die sooner or later anyway. The less you do for these highly deteriorated cases the sooner will death’s blessing come.’”

“This in reality is no adjustment at all but merely a refusal to deal with a difficult situation. It may be due to laziness, lack of sensitivity or understanding, low morale due to general hospital conditions, or (with C.P.S. men) because of dissatisfaction with their position in Selective Service, with N.S.B., the religious agency, etc., etc. It is the greatest of all injustices for those resenting injustice to make helpless mental patients the victim of circumstances over which they have absolutely no control or influence.”

“…Though we know pacifist techniques to be the most effective in the long run and see them work in specific cases, there is a tendency to drift into more arbitrary and coercive tactics. In the long run most pacifists will realize this to be a result of weaknesses of their own and of the institution rather than of non-violence as a method of establishing sound human relations and attitudes.”


--Taken from Rhythms, a publication of camp #49. First Anniversary Issue: September 1943. p9-10. In "Camp #49: Philadelphia, PA. 'Rhythms,' 1943," folder 17/17, series IX-13-1. MCC Records Collection, Akron, PA.