I begin with an Orwellian dilemma [Orwell G. (1968) The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, Vol. 1, p. 239. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York]: do I 'shoot the elephant' (by writing the abstract) to impress the editor? Or, with the courage of my postmodern convictions, do I lay down my rifle and disregard such suppressive editorial instructions? Bang! My words strafe the paper and the elephant is dead. How difficult it is to stay standing against the powerful currents of the dominant tradition. How easy it is to disavow the inequalities and injustices of that tradition when your livelihood (and your ego) depends upon it. So goes the theme of my paper, that, despite the clarion calls of the illustrious minority to reject the patriarchal model of medical psychiatry, psychiatric nurses continue to be propelled by the twin engines of illness and diagnosis. Yet as soon as psychiatry encounters the 'other' it becomes, in Homi K. Bhabha's words, 'hybridized': a pregnant pause created from the seeds of two different cultures. In this sense, every psychiatric moment becomes a golden opportunity for the psychiatric nurse to abdicate her role as medical factotum. Freed from these contractual obligations, she can join the 'other' and share in his experiences, sustaining rather than negating him within a truly therapeutic alliance. In similar fashion, this article has become a mixture of rhetorical fluidity and structured reality: a hybridized compromise which acknowledges the journal's publication boundaries yet still revels, at times, in the freedom of an open and lyrical text.