The Hot Stove Project: Learning From People who Think Differently


People with mental disorders or differences are often experienced as “hot stoves” in society — at work, at school, at home, in friendships.  In addition, providers and consumers who embrace the medical model and those who don’t are often “hot stoves” for one another.  The result of arguments for and against those and other divisive perspectives is interference with empathy, understanding, creative solutions, and forward movement as a mental health community.

The 24-minute films “How to Touch a Hot Stove: Thought and Behavioral Differences in a Society of Norms,” and “Crazy?” emerged from our collaboration with filmmaker Sheryll Franko.  The first, the principal film, and the second, composed of supplementary material from the dozens of interviews with a wide range of professionals, people with lived experience, and professionals with lived experience, are found on our website,  A film on the meaning of “recovery” — which further tackles the complexities of social integration, but from a different angle — is now in the works.

But The Hot Stove Project is much more than our films.  The HSP is dedicated to increasing dialogue across different perspectives through a variety of means that include public speaking, conferences, the use of social media and so on to engage the community at large — professionals and non-professionals, consumers and non-consumers —in re-thinking “madness” and the we/they divide.

Alice is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who trained in the ‘70s.  She witnessed the field split into the medical community and the non-medical community, with little or no communication across that widening divide. She became tired of giving people who think, feel, or behave outside socially accepted norms medical band-aids so they could tolerate an increasingly toxic social matrix.

Lois is an academic with psychoanalytic training.  She has written extensively on the interface of creativity and neuropsychoanalysis and while writing her last book, Imagination from Fantasy to Delusion, researched in part while she was a Visiting Scholar at the New York State Psychiatric Institute, she became acutely aware of the division among mental health practitioners with regard to the etiology and treatment of those with serious psychiatric disorders.

Lois and Alice met 5 years ago, each eager to find ways of aggressively fighting the stigma that plagues those who are marginalized because of their “differences” in thinking and behavior.  Making a film seemed like one way to reach a large number of people in the effort to get people to ask the difficult questions — questions about how they, as individuals, might inadvertently be contributing to the divide and how they, with greater awareness, might help to decrease it.

The Hot Stove Project aims to seek greater integration, both of our understanding of “madness” – and of those who would be labeled “mad” – into society.  It aims to invigorate what must be a large-scale social movement analogous to women’s rights, civil rights, and gay rights.  Marginalization of a large group of people can no longer be accepted and integration must be based on empathy for those who struggle, those who live, love, and work with them, and those who treat them.

Society as has much to learn from people who think differently.  We all do.

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. To me, it seemed like an advertisement for mental illnesses, but I agree you do need to learn from people who think differently. I think the psychiatrists gather together, vote “mental illnesses” into existence to sell and force pharmaceuticals onto other people for profit and “social control.” I consider psychiatric stigmatizations, defamation of character.

    I know from being stigmatized, so my PCP could cover up her husband’s “bad fix” on my broken bone and my pastor could cover up medical evidence of the sexual abuse of my four year old child, that the antidepressants CAUSE odd dreams, odd sexual side effects, and brain zaps. I know the psychiatric practitioners then misdiagnose these ADRs as bipolar, I understand this same misdiagnosis has happened to over a million American children also.

    And then when the psychiatrists realize their misdiagnosis, they CAUSE anticholinergic intoxication with major drug interaction laden drug cocktails, but call this major drug interaction poisoning, bipolar. Then once one finally gets weaned off the appallingly toxic drug cocktails, the patient will suffer from drug withdrawal induced super sensitivity manic psychosis, and this drug induced withdrawal problem will once again be blamed on the patient’s bipolar by the psychiatric professionals.

    And after nine years of research, from an outside of the industry perspective, it seems pretty obvious to me that the DSM “bible” is really nothing but the a categorization of the “mental illness” symptoms the psychiatric drugs CAUSE. It’s a scam to sell toxic and unwanted drugs.

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    • Oh, Lois and Alice, as to how I think differently, according to 40 hours of unbiased psychological career testing, I’m supposed to be a “judge” or an “architect.” And both as a child, and after the iatrogenic “bipolar,” I tested in the borderline genius range on IQ testing. Any comments for those of us you’ve deemed “crazy,” so you may cover up child molestation for religions and malpractice for incompetent doctors?

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      • Oh, yes, and I believe in God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus, which I have a legal right to believe in in the USA, without being defamed and drugged for belief in, technically. Apparently, some of you psychiatric “professionals” haven’t heard of the First Amendment, according to my medical records. Or human rights?

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      • Oh, and my subsequent pastors and doctors have confessed and / or agreed based on the medical evidence, that I dealt with the “dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.” Apparently the psychiatric industry has been covering up malpractice for the mainstream medical community and child molestation for the religions for decades with your stigmatizations and tranquilizers. When will you quit harming others to maintain a status quo that is obviously not worth keeping?

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        • Well, I had an uncle with “depression” after the eye surgeon screwed up his eyesight and left him almost blind. Depression for which he got pills that caused or at the very least exacerbated his diabetes and caused swelling in his legs.

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          • There were six children in my ex-therapist’s neighborhood, around my child’s age, who were stigmatized with “lacking in validity” “mental illnesses,” possibly all because the psychiatrists are covering up child molestation by defaming sexually abused children with fictitious “disorders,” rather than addressing their real problems and putting child molesters in jail, who violently committed suicide. Then a big giant cover up by the psychiatric community with my ex-pastor pointing out the “at-risk,” I’ve read.

            Scientifically invalid “disorders” cause more societal problems, than they cure. And the psychiatric drugs CAUSE the symptoms of the DSM “disorders.”

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  2. Lois and Alice,
    What meaning could the word professional have in a field that has scientifically been proven to be based on lies and torture and greed. That is now actively torturing children of toddler age and younger and so many others in increasing numbers and with more rigor, instead of voluntarily , apologizing , resigning , and paying reparations. That is so spineless that its members won’t spend even a week on 800 mg. of thorazine a day, or lay down for 15 electro- shock treatments, or even be strapped down for 24 hours, so they can even begin to realize or develop some semblance of empathy, for the people they now want to dialog with that they have previously so cavalierly tortured. It may be easy not to be a hot stove with a pocket full of ill gotten blood money and an undeserved respectability . But that hopefully will slip away as people around you will wake up.
    I once had a friend who had a masters degree and was a social worker, he had gone to school at UCLA .He said the philosophy which he used that enabled him to get accredited was BBB which he said stood for bullshit baffles brains. At least he was honest.
    Sincerely, Fred Abbe

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  3. Hi Lois and Alice (.edu)–

    Thanks for gearing up for this collaborative outreach. We need so many other, better things on offer than the standard modes of care and the attached rhetoric of the current day hailed as the latest and best ever in treatment.

    I mean to visit your site, but want to remark upon your approach, that you seem not to try telling anyone what to think, which in itself runs counter to the mainstream approach on mental health, but instead want to encourage us to consider how we tend to conceive of and judge the significance of differences. Thus, you are making a communications effort central to what coping strategies have to build upon and reinforce…and, of course, this can work out either way but benefit comes in merely making the attempt, regardless.

    Thanks for the time you have devoted in the good fight.

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  4. To be honest the people who treated me worst because of the “diagnosis” were the people who produced it to begin with. From almost everyone else around I got mostly support and even validation that my experiences were justified by what I went through. Some had just as bad an opinion about the so-called professionals as I do. When I hear that the stigma should be taken away from “mental illness” I see the bunch of NAMI-like falsely smiling people trying to explain to me that it’s not my fault that I am less than a human being and a bunch of psychiatrists explaining how their torturous practices are for my own good. I don’t have a problem with stigma, I have a problems with the APA criminals running an abusive system and lying to people and torturing them on the daily basis.

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    • Really, we already have enough anti-stigma stigmatization campaigns founded by mental health “professionals” (in this case psychiatrist, psychoanalyst). Diagnosing people with bogus mental illnesses and doing so called anti-stigmatization campaigns are two sides of the same coin.

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      • Indeed. Very disturbing.

        Could you ladies possibly use any professional cred or connections you may have to help defeat the Murphy bill expanding involuntary treatment or to stop the forced drugging of children or convince your colleagues to stop prescribing drugs that ruin people’s lives? That would really be so much more useful and much appreciated. Thanks

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        • Yes, ladies, I’d very much like to see an end of teens lighting themselves on fire and jumping in front of trains, because instead of addressing their actual problems, they’ve been given psychiatric labels and tortured with psychotropic drugs, please.

          In polite society, defaming and torturing people is illegal. Would you psychiatrists like to join polite society, please?

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  5. Stigma heals when those being stigmatized stop giving a damn what other people think and project onto them. That’s a matter of having a sense of Self.

    People who ‘think differently’ are societies true leaders, by example, because they have the courage and integrity to walk their own paths and live in their own truth, and not one of ‘group think.’

    The ‘norm’ is fear-based and conformist. Why would anyone want to integrate into a fear-based society? That’s emotional and spiritual suicide. A new world is being born, and the norm is extinguishing itself with its own deceit and delusions.

    Am I a ‘hot stove?’ To some, yes. To others, not so much. I think that goes for everyone.

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  6. Dear film makers

    Were you being intentionally ironic when you said These are people we don’t touch? (since obviously these are people your profession has strapped down and given convulsions, spreadeagled and strapped down, injected toxic chemicals into, locked behind doors etc. Actually it seems like these are people you can’t keep your hands off of)

    Was the list of clips organized by participant part of the project? (Since the peoples with labels (the ones you believe are hot stoves) were conspicuously missing except for famous novelist Greenberg) What does that say about your unspoken attitude toward them? Or did you make that choice intentionally to illustrate stigma?

    The rain shots were beautiful and sad but at the same time a cliche. The words were moving but almost predictable. Don’t all crazy people believe they are God? But still it was beautiful and grand And then the tacky crazy frames. And the mood was smashed. You framed the shots what did you want to say?

    I’ve only managed to watch 2 minutes, I find it difficult to watch, so far but I would like to hear from you! New york is a foreign land to me and I wonder if I lack the sophistication to appreciate your intentions. Clue me in!

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    • You’re putting it in a harsh way but I kind of agree. I’ve thought about this clip (watched the whole thing plus additional material) and I really can’t figure out what is even the purpose of it. It just shows a bunch of people saying different things without much context and any conclusion. Not really informative, not thought provoking just a bunch of disconnected pictures of talking heads.
      Honestly, it makes me sick to my stomach when I see all these articles and movies promoting mental illness hidden behind “we want to remove stigma” slogans. It just feels to me like a trick to lure more people into the system. Feeling sad? Come out, we have a brand new disorder for you and some happy pills to go with it and now you don’t even have to fear the stigma. Maybe we should make a campaign showing what can happen to you if you decide to go to a psychiatrist. May be a little thriller but will be a better description of reality that this whole anti-stigma campaign.

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  7. B I think that would be a better idea. Like the man who ate nothing but fast food for ninety days.
    Start by an interview with someone about things he believes and things that trouble him. Establish an atmosphere of intimacy. Then afterwards take it apart. I feel sad or disappointed is accompanied by a DSM number flashing on the screen for depression or whatever. I believe in God or feel the presence of someone who died will have a DSM number for psychosis etc. Then the pharmaceuticals are started and just follow someone and watch what happens. If side effects or disturbing behaviour occurs it will be an indication for additional drugs and more diagnoses. Brilliant idea!

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