If You Don’t Have a Brain…


“If you don’t have your brain, you can never change your mind.”

Those words were said to me last night by my wife Ginger and they ignited my memories and thoughts.

In the early 1970s, under heavy pressure from me, Ted Kennedy reluctantly held Health Committee hearings to investigate the resurgence of lobotomy and newer forms of psychiatric brain mutilation or psychosurgery. Senator Kennedy favored the treatments; he thought they were scientific.

I was campaigning against a resurgence of psychosurgery throughout Europe and North America by speaking at conferences here and abroad, testifying in court and in Congress, addressing federal agencies, writing legislation for the creation of a federal Psychosurgery Commission, organizing opposition, and writing scientific articles and book chapters. It took several years out of my life.

Eventually my efforts brought most psychosurgery in the Western World to a stop.

At the Senate hearing on psychosurgery, Kennedy challenged me in a brief debate in which he asked rhetorically if I would be against heart surgery, too, because it sometimes damages the heart to improve its function, for example, by slowing down dangerous arrhythmias. I replied, in effect, “Senator Kennedy, when you damage your heart, it may affect the circulation of your blood through your bloodstream; but when you damage your brain you impair the expression of your eternal soul here on Earth.”

I must admit it was an angry remark, and it did me no good, because the New York Times struck back at me. The newspaper falsely claimed that I was against psychosurgery on religious grounds, rather than on ethical and scientific bases. My testimony had in fact been very scientific.

That night, the confrontation between Kennedy and me appeared on TV in Washington, DC. Kennedy staff expurgated it from the official transcript of the hearing. I have often wished for the original TV clip of my brief debate with the senator.

The confrontation between myself and Kennedy epitomizes the problem in psychiatry. Too many psychiatrists view the brain with no more reverence than the heart or liver. If you receive a liver transplant, you are still there; but if you receive a brain transplant, you are gone. And if you are afflicted with psychoactive drugs, you will find it more difficult to know you are there.

When we force people to take psychiatric drugs, or lie to get them to take the drugs, we are not only harming the organ of their body called the brain—we are harming their capacity to think and to feel, and to know and to express themselves. We are limiting their personality and identity, and the expression of their soul or spirit.

Drugs, shock treatment and lobotomy all make it much harder for individuals to understand and overcome their emotional problems. These injuries to the brain and its functioning make it difficult and sometimes impossible for them to make better choices in their lives. They are likely to remain stuck in one place or to get worse over time. As Ginger’s quote so aptly put it, “If you don’t have your brain, you can never change your mind.”


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.


Mad in America has made some changes to the commenting process. You no longer need to login or create an account on our site to comment. The only information needed is your name, email and comment text. Comments made with an account prior to this change will remain visible on the site.


  1. dr breggin…what a brave person…you and ginger are so needed now…
    we are behaving in so many ways to destroy human beings…you have really helped me…
    when I was a young psychiatrist I was told to talk less and use more drugs…

    Report comment

  2. Psychiatry is the new form of slavery.
    Euripides, in “The Phoenician Women” wrote “Who dares not speak his free thoughts is a slave.”
    Today’s slave owners do not even allow the slave a mind to think with.

    Report comment

  3. Thanks Dr Breggin,

    The “neuroscientists” are selling their souls for money.


    “…19 years ago, ER Squibb & Sons helped lead a revolution in the community based treatment of schizophrenia when they introduced the depot neuroleptic concept. Since then worldwide clinical experience has confirmed the efficacy and safety of Modecate in over 800,000..”



    The authors of these papers will have witnessed suicide attempt after suicide attempt on these drugs. The manufacturer practically guarantees longterm neurological damage (Tardive Dyskinisia) for those that take them.

    Report comment

  4. Great work Dr. Breggin. The question that very few people bother to ask, and that even fewer people know how to answer, is “What is the mind?” Psychiatry has no good answer to this question, just as it has no good answer to the question “What is the brain?” Think of the absurdity of the very term “psychiatry,” the “medical treatment of the soul.”


    Report comment

  5. “..Drugs, shock treatment and lobotomy all make it much harder for individuals to understand and overcome their emotional problems..”

    This is my experience. It’s not possible to to work through emotional situations in a drug intoxicated state. Psychiatric drugs also create “chemical imbalances” that turn people into chronic Mental Health cases.

    Report comment

  6. Why has it been so difficult to ban shock/ECT? Dr. Breggin has written books on the topic, set up a resources Center, testified at trials, been involved in debates, and all that is happening is an increase in ECT, now for autism and dementia patients.
    Why is the conscientious medical community not standing behind Breggin and offering its voice to see this lunatic, brain destroying assault is not halted??
    Why aren’t your colleagues helping bring this nasty electrical butchery to an end???

    Report comment

  7. “If you receive a liver transplant, you are still there; but if you receive a brain transplant, you are gone.”

    I love that quote.

    Neuroleptics damage the part of our body that makes us who we are as a person.

    I now stay as far away from psychiatry as possible.

    Thank you for all you have done for us.

    Report comment

  8. If religion and science agree on a subject, why not push the religious aspect since court cases dealing with freedom of religion almost always rule on the side of religious liberties. Thus, the question of forced psychiatric treatment becomes a question of religious freedoms. It is not only Scientology that disagrees with the materialistic biomedical model of psychiatry, but Eastern Orthodoxy who continue to refer to priests as “ιατρό των ψυχών” from which we get the word “psychiatrist.”

    “The soul functions through the body, and if the body is damaged, say in its higher brain centres, then the soul cannot express itself, without for all that having been lost.”
    — Hierodeacon Theophanes (Constantine), The Psychological Basis of Mental Prayer in the Heart

    Report comment

  9. The body does everything it can to protect the brain and heart, even if that means sacrificing the peripheral parts such as fingers and toes during times of famine. In my opinion we should not be messing with what’s inside the skull. Hands off, I say! We humans are apparently so thick-headed, we just can’t resist.

    Report comment

    • Just this morning I was joking to myself that we should be paid minimum wage for waiting room time that we spent waiting for late doctors. For time waiting in ER’s, that should be $50 an hour, for time waiting in psych holds, that should be more like $300 an hour, and for time in restraints, well, you can’t even pay that much. Any time on wards or in commitment, unfathomable money. We should be overrun with dough for the time we spent. Retirement is overdue at this point.

      Report comment

    • Hey, John, I gonna share that!!! Thanks, I support your efforts and I think MORE PEOPLE SHould do this to promote awareness. Awareness of harms and also to keep people away from psych. And also, I appreciate the good humor behind it, too. Love you lots, Julie and Puzzle

      Report comment

  10. I see the use of brain in place of mind as limiting – however there is an embodiment (body/mind) through which we behold and share participance in communication and communion.
    The nature of identifying in image and form is of blocking the channel and losing the awareness of connection.
    But the persona-experience within image may be a sense of self-becoming set over and against a fear of loss.

    The breaking of the golden rule is the attempt to get different than you give and generates a reversal in consciousness in which a true recognition of worth-ship is lost to for-getting – a forgetting under which a false or masked sense of self operates a defence against the true – in fear of truth as loss or damnation of the mis be gotten fragment of a forgotten totality.

    So there is a movement to defend against or shut down and deny feared communications of the true nature of our being – within the framing of fear’s protection. Yet this operates within and wholly dependent upon the very Life it seeks to deny, enslave, control or replicate in substitution.

    “Forgive them for they know not what they do” has no regard for what they do – but only for the fear-blindness of a mind at war with itself unknowing.

    Without brain function your focus within ‘this world’ will be unsupported or distorted from it otherwise natural expression. The whole of you will only express through some fragments – but presence is truly beneath and behind all appearances – and so it is the expression and participation that is limited as part of the giving and receiving that Life Is.

    Addicts seek to normalize their behaviour by recruiting social reinforcement. Likewise the self-denying elicit a culture of sacrifice of joy under the false promise of external protections that operate manipulative deceit in place of genuine relationship.

    The horror of uncovering a hateful ‘self’ defends against exposure by giving ever more power to the sense of righteous justification – regardless the mounting evidences of an insanity from which seems no escape.

    The true nature of Mind is Creative – but the mind-construct is a mythological out-picturing of fear and division held by hidden guilt. Awakening from the spell of fear is releasing the allegiance to its premises – if even for an instant. yet no one can release what they are unwilling to first own and while we project or give in order to ‘get rid of’ we will receive in the measure of our giving.

    So give or extend the freedom and worth you would strengthen and grow in place of fear-drive reaction.
    Valuing the gift of our existence is sharing in it in true with-ness and worth-ship. What then of the miscreations of guilt and fear? Can I do more than disinvest or immediately repent of whatever participation is uncovered in my by the evils of the day thereof? For I also share in the fear-protective gesture of withdrawal and withholding of presence – but am now awakening in the release of that as ‘power’ or ‘protection’ in my own way as I can discern and trust to the movement of being.

    I am never healed alone, for no one is alone, and even in fear’s entanglement are we part of each others shadow. So to release it is to no longer support the same in others. But it is not the attack or ‘correction’ of others so much as a recognition of the presence instead of fascinations and reactions within the mask.

    Consciousness is vibrant, rich and in a sense challenging because it is ever unfolding anew – and so the son of Man hath no place to rest! – but the true Expression of True Nature is at rest in and as the Movement Itself. The simplicity beneath this is of aligning in your joy as an integrity or wholeness and congruency of being. Not tomorrow or yesterday – but here with and presently. There is always some spark of a connection to the willingness to be found. But the insistence on searching apart and alone can discard all messengers for something that is unfindable while ‘wearing’ such a belief-system – and that… was its purpose – to seek but NOT find.
    The embrace of our being is synchronous to our own embrace of our denied creations. Regardless the movie that the mind runs, love has and does live through you to others and to your world and even in the alloy of self-illusion is a blessing to be uncovered to eyes that see. A world deprived of your blessing seems to justify hate and fear for denying you – but masked in ‘righteous’ crusade against perceived evils.
    Beware of justifying hate – but rather embrace the hurt to an honesty of insight. It seems easier to hate because a reduction in consciousness is gotten in exchange for the outsourcing of pain – and then it runs of itself to save you the ‘pain of living’ by substitution of a managed ‘existence’.
    But the call to live is hidden within the denied sense of self. The answer is where the problem needs replacing with an opening of perspective and freedom of being – in this step now as life embraced and not a construct to be perfected and then ‘applied’.
    Life is Creation – and yet our self-constructs can be transformed to align within rather than cover over the true appreciation for being.
    Willingness can only reach to its own. For there is no coercion in it.

    Report comment