Dr Sigmund Downs, Fellow of the Royal
College of Psychiatrists, awoke to the sound of rain striking his
bedroom window. He gloomily rose and stared dolefully from his
window to the street below where other sad and dejected figures
were cheerlessly beginning their day. For a moment he pondered on
jumping from the window to end it all, but cowardice restrained
He proceeded to breakfast and was met by a
typical morose greeting from his wife. You lived through
the night, then? I expect youll wish you hadnt by the
end of the day - if you dont die horribly today, that is.
Sigmund sombrely and silently consumed his
breakfast while he considered, with a heavy heart, the patient he
would be seeing today.
That patient was Harry Brightman or Happy
Harry as the nurses at the psychiatric hospital where he
was detained, despondently called him. Harry suffered from
elevation - that distortion of thought and mood in which a
patient perceives the world with optimism and joy.
Sigmund had made a special study of such
cases. It was clear that human beings lived short, painful and
tragic lives. If something in any endeavour could go wrong, it
invariably did, and bad fortune was the norm. Most people,
therefore, naturally maintained a state of mind that accurately
correlated with reality. That is joyless, dispirited, sorrowful
and melancholically pessimismistic. People experiencing
elevation, by contrast, maintained a pathological joie de vivre.
Harry was a particularly difficult case.
Sigmund recalled the transcript of a session with his previous
therapist. Harry had pointed to birds in the blue, cloudless sky
and claimed the sight made him feel glad to be alive. He had
remarked on his pleasure at being in good health as it provided
opportunity to joyfully help others.
Harry also had religious delusions.
Everyone knew that after death a body simply rotted. If anyone
could be bothered to arrange a funeral, worms might eat the body,
but that was that. Harry was not certain, but he thought it
possible that there might be something that could be called God.
Even if that was not the case, however, he believed it worthwhile
to strive for the highest ideals simply for the good of mankind.
This mood had affected his previous
therapist who had now been off work with high spirits for six
months. Sigmund began to experience joviality, just thinking
The phone rang. It was the clinic. Harry
had escaped. He had been sighted telling jokes to a crowd who had
been sobbing at a bus stop. There had then been a report of him
helping a dispirited old lady across a road and giving some money
to a wretched beggar. Then he had vanished.
Sigmund was not surprised. The only patient
he had planned to see today was now gone. Typical! What was the
point of bothering?
Despairingly, Sigmund returned to bed.