“LOOKIN’ COOL, BUT A FOOL…” THE MYSTERY OF MENTAL ILLNESS, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

I looked in the mirror and nodded. Yeah, I really liked my jacket and wool cap. It was chilly this morning, but with the new additions to my wardrobe, I’d be warm and look good.

Minutes later, I was browsing the window of Barnes & Noble when a homeless man, pushing his cart filled with all his possessions shoved into plastic bags, announced loudly, “Lookin’ cool, but a fool”.

Shocked, I stepped away from the window and watched as the man shuffled past. “Jesus”, he was talking about me! I glanced at my reflection in the store window and shuddered. How did he know? I was feeling so full of myself this morning, and the old guy picked right up on it. It was brilliant.

It’s uncanny how some untreated schizophrenics have the intuitive skill to read our minds. Like a psychiatrist uses his “third ear” to pick up hidden nuances in psychotherapy, the schizophrenic can be even more acutely in tune to another’s inner workings.

To me it is absolutely amazing and mysterious. Sadly or happily or whatever one’s perspective, when treatment is successful, the magic fades — as do the voices and paranoid ideas.

Before they’re treated, how do psychotic people do it?

Probably being paranoid, with all senses on alert, allows the primitive, reptilian part of the brain to pick up and decipher the hidden thoughts of all potential attackers. The biochemicals in the brain align just so and magic happens.

I loved my first year of psychiatric residency when I was surrounded by untreated schizophrenics. I loved the mystery and the magic. I loved all aspects of how the mind works.

I still do…

Like mysteries and magic? Check out Chasing Backwards, a psychological mystery, Skin Dance, a mystery, and The Man with a Microphone in his Ear.

Dr. Smukler has won the prestigious Golden Ear Award for excellence in teaching at Harbor-UCLA Medical center and excellence in writing fiction at The Santa Barbara Writers Conference.

All books are available as ebooks and paperbacks. You can find them at amazon.com/author/arthursmukler or https://artsmuklermd.com/

5 thoughts on ““LOOKIN’ COOL, BUT A FOOL…” THE MYSTERY OF MENTAL ILLNESS, by Art Smukler, author & psychiatrist

  1. In my opinion, mentally ill people, as we like to label them, are often compensated with other gifts of the mind. When medication is needed in order to alleviate intense suffering, prevent suicide, or return functionality so one can work a job, that is all well and fine. But…what about teaching someone how to manage the disturbance in such a manor that they can function without the medication, and not lose their gifts of music, poetry, painting or special insight? Medication will mask and kill these talents more often that not. And without these things in our lives, what is worth living for?


    1. It is! Like The Eagles song, Take It Easy. Sometimes I find myself, “running down the road trying to lighten my load”. That’s where my sense of humor, maybe not so funny all the time, and my novels help enormously.


  2. How do you know he was an untreated schizophrenic? I imagine that homeless people suffer from other forms of mental illness–and that there are some people living on the street who are not mentally ill. Of course, in recent decades, many people once considered schizophrenics have had their diagnoses changed to bipolar disorder, and I’m guessing on-the-spot diagnosis would not be entirely reliable. Since we know paranoia is often unfounded rather than “mind-reading,” I think what’s more interesting here if your projection onto him of some slight insecurity you might have felt about how cool you looked in that wool cap! But it’s true indeed that those of us who consider ourselves sane are nonetheless fools of some kind or another! The idea of a psychological murder mystery is intriguing.


    1. You’re right. I don’t know for sure what his diagnosis is. My somewhat light-hearted approach, and my own tongue-in-cheek insecurity certainly wasn’t meant to imply a diagnosis based on careful evaluation. But, his disheveled, disorganized appearance is MUCH more indicative of Schizophrenia rather than a Bipolar Disorder, and people with true paranoia are much more put together. The psychological murder mystery idea has led to me writing two novels. It was one of my best ideas and in many ways has really improved my life.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s