Psychiatry enforces the status quo.

from Lila: An Inquiry into Morals by Robert Pirsig page 153 fiction ~5 min read

Years later, after he was certified as 'sane,' he read 'objective' medical descriptions of what he had experienced, and he was shocked at how slanderous they were. They were like descriptions of a religious sect written by a different, hostile religious sect. The psychiatric treatment was not a search for truth but the promulgation of a dogma. Psychiatrists seemed to fear the taint of insanity much as inquisitors once feared succumbing to the devil. Psychiatrists were not allowed to practice psychiatry if they were insane. It was required that they literally did not know what they were talking about.

To this, Phaedrus supposed, they could counter that you don't have to be infected with pneumonia in order to know how to cure it and you don't have to be infected with insanity to know how to cure it either. But the rebuttal to that goes to the core of the whole problem. Pneumonia is a biological pattern. It is scientifically verifiable. You can know about it by studying the pneumococcus bacillus under a microscope.

Insanity on the other hand is an intellectual pattern. It may have biological causes but it has no physical or biological reality. No scientific instrument can be produced in court to show who is insane and who is sane. There's nothing about insanity that conforms to any scientific law of the universe. The scientific laws of the universe are invented by sanity. There's no way by which sanity, using the instruments of its own creation, can measure that which is outside of itself and its creations. Insanity isn't an 'object' of observation. It's an alteration of observation itself. There's no such thing as a 'disease' of patterns of intellect. There's only heresy. And that's what insanity really is.

Ask, 'If there were only one person in the world, is there any way he could be insane?' Insanity always exists in relation to others. It is a social and intellectual deviation, not a biological deviation. The only test for insanity in a court of law or anywhere else is conformity to a cultural status quo. That is why the psychiatric profession bears such a resemblance to the old priesthoods. Both use physical restraint and abuse as ways of enforcing the status quo.

This being so, it follows that the assignment of medical doctors to treat insanity is a misuse of their training. Intellectual heresy is not really their business. Medical doctors are trained to look at things from an inorganic and biological perspective. That's why so many of their cures are biological: shock, drugs, lobotomies, and physical restraints.

Like police, who live in two worlds, the biological and the social, psychiatrists also live in two worlds, the social and the intellectual. Like cops, they are in absolute control of the lower order and are expected to be absolutely subservient to the upper order. A psychiatrist who condemns intellectuality would be like a cop who condemns society. Not the right stuff. You have as much chance convincing a psychiatrist that the intellectual order he enforces is rotten as you have of convincing a cop that the social order he supports is rotten. If they ever believed you they'd have to quit their jobs.

So Phaedrus had seen that if you want to get out of an insane asylum the way to do it is not to try to persuade the psychiatrists that you may know more than they do about what is 'wrong' with you. That is hopeless. The way to get out is to persuade them that you fully understand that they know more than you do and that you are fully ready to accept their intellectual authority. That is how heretics keep from getting burned. They recant. You have to do a first-class acting job and not allow any little glances of resentment get in there. If you do they may catch you at it and you may be worse off than if you hadn't tried.

If they ask you how you're feeling you can't say, 'Great!' That would be a symptom of delusion. But you can't say, 'Rotten!' either. They'll believe it and increase the tranquilizer dosage. You have to say, 'Well ... I think I may be improving a little bit ..." and do so with a little look of humility and pleading in your eyes. That brings the smiles.

In time this strategy had brought Phaedrus enough smiles to get out. It made him less honest and it made him more of a conformist to the current cultural status quo but that is what everyone really wanted. It got him out and back to his family and a job and a place in the world again and this new personality of a conforming, role-playing, ex-mental patient who knew how to do as he was told without protest became a sort of permanent stage personality that he never dropped.

It wasn't a happy solution, to always role-play with people he had once been honest with. It made it impossible to ever really share anything with them. Now he was more isolated than he had been in the insane asylum but there was nothing he could do about it. In his first book he had cast this isolated role-player as the narrator, a fellow who is likable because he is so recognizably normal, but who has trouble coping with his own life because he has destroyed his ability to deal honestly with it. It was this isolation that indirectly broke up his family and led to this present life.
Now, years later, his resentment against what had happened in the hospital had lessened, and he began to see that there is, of course, a need for psychiatrists just as there is for cops. Somebody has to deal with the degenerate forms of society and intellect. The thing to understand is that if you are going to reform society you don't start with cops. And if you are going to reform intellect you don't start with psychiatrists. If you don't like our present social system or intellectual system the best thing you can do with either cops or psychiatrists is stay out of their way. You leave them till last.

—Robert Pirsig, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals, p. 153