In a previous post—Journal Entry 015, “Dazzling Insights”—we presented Part 1 of a dynamic interview of Dr. Edward Podvoll, conducted in 1990 by author, historian, and broadcaster Studs Terkel. Terkel’s radio program spanned more than 4 decades as he talked to some of the 20th century’s most interesting people. Podvoll’s book, The Seduction of Madness (later republished as Recovering Sanity, 2003), laid the foundation for Windhorse’s mindfulness-informed, home-based approach to mental health care, and the first Windhorse Community in Boulder. Terkel’s keen interest in the subject of extreme mental states, having read the book, evoked a rich dialogue with Podvoll… In this second half of the interview, Podvoll continues to provide revolutionary insights into psychosis, while acknowledging that the fragility of mind is universal. He discusses four parables of madness, effectively case histories, that form the first part of the book. In these parables, he reveals that psychosis often has, at its core, a wise and altruistic impulse. An individual’s legitimate concern for the dissolution of the world, and a desire to heal it, can go awry and at the expense of oneself. The antidote for those experiencing such states, Podvoll insists, is not placement in an institution, where many are caught in the extremes of their own minds, but a healing community of stable “gentle people” who come into each client’s own home. Also essential is that those who travel the Windhorse path as companions must know how to work with their own minds, and commit to doing so, to truly be of benefit. Finally, in this lively interview, Podvoll counters the charge that a healing community approach to mental health recovery is new, alternative, or radical.
Those of us who have or continue to work in the Windhorse approach have seen the fruit of Podvoll’s wisdom, particularly the inseparability of mind from environment. We hope this exchange will help you to rethink the nature of madness and what is to be done about it.
Lori S. Heintzelman
Louis “Studs” Terkel (May 16, 1912 – October 31, 2008) was an American author, historian, actor, and broadcaster. He received the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1985 for The Good War, and is best remembered for his oral histories of common Americans, and for hosting a long-running radio show in Chicago.