Friday, October 28, 2016

On The Difficulties of Identifying Narcissistic, Unhealthy, Toxic, Dangerous People

Recently, I posted a picture on the Self-Archeology Facebook page that says the following: "Narcissists literally have two faces—their real face and their stage face. And neither is anything like the other. Which one you see will depend on how long you’ve known them. Narcissists can be very charming and know how to gain favor. Anyone who doesn’t know a narcissist well will tell you the narcissist is one of the greatest people they’ve ever met! They believe this is one of the most intelligent, kindest, most interesting, funny, agreeable, most attractive, talented or accomplished people ever. They may wish they themselves had it so "together" or were so popular. However, anyone who knows that same narcissist better (family members, longtime coworkers, etc.) will tell you the narcissist is one of the most horribly frustrating and toxic people they know, and the mere mention of their name makes them feel uneasy, angry, frustrated or otherwise unhappy. Being the only one who is experiencing a narcissist’s real face, while all other family members or coworkers can still only see the narcissist’s stage face is a very lonely, painful and frustrating place to be. Thankfully, the number of people who can see through the facade tends to increase with time."

Except for an incorrect use of the word 'literally,' it is a fair description of someone who has narcissistic character traits. Sometimes people ask me and I ponder myself why is it so difficult for so many people to identify toxicity. So the topic of today is the difficulties of identifying toxic, unhealthy, dangerous people.

Narcissism, psychopathy, sociopathy, however you want to call it, is on a spectrum, just like any other psychoemotional problem. Most unhealthy people do not necessarily fit on the extremum of it. Most toxic people are not psychopathic cold blooded killers or serial rapists. Moreover, even those who are more insane oftentimes are highly intelligent and well-adjusted. If you have studied, for example, the psychology of serial murderers you will know that these people are not some dumb rednecks with a chainsaw carelessly slaughtering people in their shack and hanging them on meat hooks as it is portrayed in horror movies. They may have a family with children, a respectable job, friends, healthy habits, a likable social persona, even a following. People with narcissistic/sociopathic/psychopatic tendencies have learned, among other things, to identify social rules, rewards, and punishments, and to adjust to it so that they would be protected, respected, and even supported. They are often perceived by others either as normal or better that the most (more successful, more attractive, more popular, wealthier, more respectable, more charitable, more caring, more eloquent, braver, more virtuous).

Since many of the characteristics that highly toxic people exhibit closely resemble those of a truly healthier person, it can be extremely difficult to identify it as such. There is a common myth that only unintelligent people fail to recognize highly toxic people, that only dumb people get into a relationship with them or get hurt by them, that only the most gullible, stupid, or evil join cults or give away their money and other resources to manipulative people and organizations. Both studying social psychology, group dynamics, the psychology of more extreme phenomena (like cult psychology, war psychology, or human trafficking) and analyzing my own experiences and observations have led me to believe that there is a huge amount of people with a high IQ and a relatively proper education who do exactly that. There are other, psychoemotional and experiential factors that are much more significant here than one's intelligence.

I've seen, heard about, and met plenty of seemingly regular everyday people who fit the description of a narcissist/sociopath/predator/manipulator to one degree or another. I've interacted with and observed numerous mental health care providers, helpers, educators, and celebrities with big followings who fit it to one degree or another. I have also seen people who are not narcissists being called narcissists by actual narcissists or the supporters and enablers of a narcissist. I've interacted with and observed many people who follow, are involved with, idealize these "wonderful," "amazing" people (as they see them), and consciously or unconsciously internalize their toxic characteristics and behaviors themselves. Some eventually snap out of it or figure out that something is not quite right, but often they can't put their finger on what exactly that is or verbalize it for themselves in a sound enough fashion. Because of the confusion and dependency some regress back into the unhealthy relationships later on. Others sometimes find something superficially wrong and use that as the reason to distance themselves from them, failing to identify the more important issues, hence unable to learn from it, therefore replicating it in other relationships.

So many people have difficulties identifying healthiness versus unhealthy or fake characteristics, relationship dynamics, and behaviors because the latter mimics the former, and to a less resolved or keen person it can be difficult to read the person accurately. They don't see or tend to ignore red flags, accept toxic, predatory, enabling, or manipulative behavior as healthy, and get easily enamored by the person's persona. Moreover, people who lack identity and have poor boundaries are drawn to live vicariously through others and find an authority figure they can project their parents onto. Throw a sense of community into the mix and you have a herd mentality and social pressure. All of it fuels dependency instead of cultivating growth.

Reflecting back on my life, I had many problems with the inability to recognize certain toxicity in people years ago myself. Even though the situation was better than a lot of people's whom I've observed at the time, it's far from something I would call healthy looking back. I was confused, insecure, and quite lonely with my doubts and insights regarding others and myself. I lacked individuality, self-sufficiency, and trust in my correct observations. I needed validation, hence I was succeptible to others creating more doubt in me by invalidating me or strenghtening my doubts instead of acknowledging my insight and my hurts.

While now, after extensively working on myself, it is both uncomplicated and joyous to read people relatively quickly and fairly accurately, not to feel pressured by others, not to feel confused when I am the only one seeing something everyone around me fails to see, not to feel chronically lonely and look for approval and external validation, not to desperately seek a surrogate parental figure to save or punish me, not to feel terrified when others try to invalidate my experiences or deny my insight, to stay loyal to myself, and to help others learn to achieve the same.


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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Psychiatric Hospital Experiences (Part 2): Worker Stories

Psychiatric Hospital Experiences (Part 1): Patient Stories can be found here.

Here's PART 2: WORKER STORIES. [Language unedited, except for a few typos for clarity.]

Comment 1:

It's *insanely* difficult to prove abuse. There was an incident with the home health agency I worked with where a male CHHA raped a female stroke patient. She had extremely limited verbal skills, but was still able to communicate what happened. Police were called. An investigation proceeded. They determined she was of a "limited mental capacity" and misunderstood what occurred. Worst thing I ever saw.

Comment 2:

I used to be a support worker for an organization in Canada that used zero restraints and most of the people we served had some variation of extreme intellectual disability and mental health diagnosis as well.

I mention this because ,in my ten years supporting there, I never once had to restrain anyone. We used a lot of preventative techniques (sort of like the peel method) to identify situations that would trigger escalations and lead to negative interactions.

I'm genuinely saddened to hear people claim that the people who make the rules aren't working on the front lines and should rethink restraint. From my experience, the only person who is responsible for an escalation is the support worker, mental health worker, psych nurse who didn't do their job and actually SUPPORT the person they are supposed to be CARING for. You can't blame someone who has no other option to communicate for trying to communicate. All behaviour is a function of communication. Someone pinching you is trying to tell you something. I've talked down suicidal people by you know, talking to them. Likewise, I spent two hours with a knife pushed to my throat and I'm alive because I remembered my training and talked down my assailant.

Tl;Dr restraints are unnecessary and used for lazy healthcare

Comment 3:

This happens at nursing homes too. I was a CNA at a nursing home / rehab center and there was a patient who screamed. One day a group of other CNAs put a sock in this woman's mouth and laughed at her while she looked up at me, frightened. I just sort of stared at her and the other nurses, horrified. But I was a chickenshit and didn't say anything. If the other CNAs didn't like you, they would refuse to help and this included helping you move a patient. We were short staffed most of the time and I would try asking for help moving patients, but after enough, "Don't you know how to do it yourself? Do you need to be re-taught?" I quit asking and eventually became disabled after a slipped disc pressed on a major nerve and I had to learn how to walk again. Oh and the best part? I got paid $8 an hour.

Comment 4:

So, this is my job. I do this (in likely a different state), and I've been doing variations of this type of job for almost a decade. Not a lick of this surprises me, sadly. I've seen it. Everyone that's ever made it to floor shadowing in places like that will eventually see it. You see it in group homes and on the 1:1 PCP (Personal Care Provider, essentially in-home supervision / general help type position) as well. It's systematic specifically because of the fuckery on the administrative side of things, and because emotional burnout is high, so only the absolute sociopaths or hard-line hardasses last long on the floor. The good ones get lost along the way, or switch to administration where they fade away into that soul crushing world.

I like to think I still have a shed of humanity left. I go home most nights, hug my dog, and cry over the s**t I see. I've managed not to hit the bottle just to sleep, or pills /whatever to ignore the reality of it for a bit. I still manage compassion for the people I work with, and I'll never stop loving my family that's disabled on these levels. Still, I can see my burnout coming; maybe not now, or in a year or two, but I don't think I'll make it to 40 doing this kind of work, not without moving to a private setting and working one on one again. It's too much, otherwise. Physically and mentally.

Comment 5:

I work at a day program for disabled adults. I work in a separate department from most of the staff and clients but am often a witness to the abuse.

We have mostly calm clients with three to four that have rare outbursts (mostly just being loud or knocking things over). And yet they are still treated like garbage by the staff, every day there's at least one incident. When I report it nothing happens.

The staff will start with belittling, and then yelling and screaming at them, and three separate occasions now I have witnessed a particular staff violently put her hands on a client (grabbing and shaking a guy while screaming at him, yanking same guy around, pushing another forcefully into a chair). I have reported all of this to my boss who has not done f**k all about it for the entire 6 months she has known of the problems. She usually doesn't leave her office, and when she does everyone's suddenly on their best behavior.

The guy who gets abused by staff the most, is generally nonviolent unless extremely and understandably agitated (usually they've been ignoring him for a good long time before he gets upset), and at that point he usually just throws objects - not at anyone, and has yet to injure anyone. And yet I get no backup from other staff when I report that he is being abused, people stop talking to me for weeks, and basically my boss thinks I have a "personality conflict" with the most abusive staffer and that I need to "learn to get along with her."

The regional director knows, and wrote the worst abuser up and let her keep working. That was it. After the wrist-slap she was back to hurting people in just over a week.

Calling the hotline does nothing but open me up for retaliation. "Oh but it's illegal for them to retaliate!" Yeah well it's illegal to hurt our clients, too, so you tell me whether or not they give a f**k.

The staff I work with all got these jobs because they are (with 2 shining exceptions out of 11) so lazy and drug-addled and irresponsible that even the local Walmart wouldn't hire them to night stock or clean floors - they resent the fact that this is the only job they can get (that they really, really are still not at all qualified for but the HR dept is told "don't care, just get some bodies in there, hire whatever") and they take their unfounded resentment and anger out on the clients.

In short, cry me a f*****g river, staffers. Y'all prove all the damn time that you abuse people whether they're violent or not.

At my facility we're all paid well above minimum, most of the staff get vacation and benefits and work no overtime with weekends off, with no drug testing and hilariously minimal and lenient background checks - and yet they act so damn put-upon when a disabled person needs their f*****g help sometimes. Most days the staff sits around gossiping while they have the clients watch TV and when that gets interrupted they f*****g lose it and hurt somebody again because they had to do their damn job. It's f*****g unbelievable. And management jams their fingers in their ears and goes LA LA LA I DON'T HEAR ANYTHING LA LA.

This is only the day program - worse happens in the homes. Some of our clients come in with gangrene because their home staff won't help them bathe, infected lesions because they won't cover a wound or get them to a doctor, sitting in day old s**t because no one could be bothered to change them (IT'S PART OF THE DAMN JOB AND YOU CAN SAY YOU DON'T WANT TO WORK WITH A CLIENT WHO NEEDS THAT WHEN YOU APPLY, DAMMIT). Some steadily lose weight and waste away because their home staff doesn't want to deal with their specific dietary needs (chopping / blending / thickening) and either doesn't feed them at all or feeds them the bare minimum. Clients who need to be supervised while eating are left to their own devices because no one gives a f**k if they choke to death. I hear disabled people threatened and verbally abused on the daily by day program and home staff and nobody so much as bats an eyelash - even the few staff that don't hurt people themselves are afraid to stand up against the culture of abuse because we need our damn jobs.

There is no excuse to hurt anyone who depends on you for care. NO EXCUSE, EVER, AND IF YOU HURT A DISABLED PERSON IN ANY WAY YOU ARE IRREDEEMABLE FILTH.

FUCK YOU, CLYDE. [Clyde is the male nurse from the initial article.]

Comment 6:

I work in one of these places as a contract security guard. We get very little pay (80 cents above minimum wage) but damn if it isn't rewarding work. And yeah, there's no excuse for this kind of behavior. I've been spit on, punched, headbutted, had all manner of awful things said about me and my family but I've never hurt someone. My company are real pros and they drill it into our heads our responsibility to keep people safe, and to understand that most of the time a person is SICK and not deliberately cruel.

I recently got a new gig assisting training new people. I hope I can help them out.

Comment 7:

I've worked at different psych wards and I've seen some truly demoralizing s**t. I've had so many discussions with the head psychiatrist about a chosen path, and more often than not, I hated being proven right. Sadly, mental health care in my country is so damn subject to cost cutting (in all the wrong ways), that I've actually had to plead to the psychiatrist to NOT send a (to me) clearly suicidal patient home, in order to make room for a more "high priority" patient. The psychiatrist didn't listen and the patient was sent home. 48 hours later, her daughter found her dead, after downing a bottle of whiskey and hanging herself.

Comment 8:

I've worked security at a number of Mental Hospitals and it really is a difficult job. You get the best results by being empathetic with your patients and always remember that they are sick and deserve respect, but that can be really difficult after standing in place for up to 16 hours without a break because the nurses hate the security guards with a passion and everything smells vaguely of piss and s**t.

I've been very fortunate that I have managed to talk people down from crisis more times than I can count just by treating them as a person, but sometimes due to the illness they must be restrained or secluded for everyone's safety (watching a coworker get his nose broken, or fighting someone who ripped a door off its hinges and is trying to beat you to death with it, or getting stabbed by a 90 year old dementia patient has definitely shaped my opinion on that). But it does feel sometimes that nurses are far more comfortable chemically restraining someone loud than actually taking the time to work with them.

The amount of rules, regulations, laws and hospital policies surrounding the whole mental health field are incredible and being subjected to them definitely explains why we have so many issues in the field. As a final note Wednesdays and Full Moons are always busier than you can hope to imagine.

I should mention. Empathy Drain is very real, and I quit once I noticed I became someone who I wouldn't like to meet on the street.

Comment 9:

The "excuses" made for the people responsible for this are f*****g bullshit. I worked as a support worker for severely autistic teenagers for a few years, providing respite care (specifically a club during the school holidays for 6 hours a day and after school care).

As one of three men amongst a workforce otherwise entirely female, I was always given the responsibility of supporting one of a few older teenage boys. We worked on a one to one basis, i.e., I looked after one kid and one kid only. The boy who I primarily worked with was 15-16 for the couple of years I worked with him. He was non-verbal (couldn't speak a word), needed assistance going to the toilet and because of a mixture of regular teenage hormones and his condition, was prone to extremely violent outbursts.

To put it bluntly, he was a toddler in a hormonal teenagers body. This isn't the autism you think of when you picture a socially awkward person who struggles to make friends, this is completely different.

When a violent outburst happened, it was my responsibility to keep him safe and any other children around him safe. He was a big kid, around 5 feet 10 inches tall, and would bite, kick, punch, pull your hair, scratch at your face etc. these happened quite a few times each day. He was by no means the only kid who behaved like this.

So I can relate to what the people in this article had to put up with. Not ONCE did anything even approaching anything described in this article ever happen, either to the boy I worked with or any other child. What is being described in the above article is absolutely horrendous, and no amount of excuses can change that.

Somebody threw s**t at you? Deal with it. Somebody bit you? It's part of the job. The crimes described above, and make no mistake about it they are crimes, are horrifying. If you can't handle the situations that your job as a care provider for some of society's most vulnerable people will put you in then leave your job and report your colleagues to the police.

PS I f*****g loved my job as a support worker, unfortunately I couldn't keep doing it as the hours were irregular and not enough, but it was genuinely an incredibly fulfilling time.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Psychiatric Hospital Experiences (Part 1): Patient Stories

About a month ago, I read an article on called Things I Saw As A Psych Ward Nurse Too Dark For Horror Films. In it, a male nurse shares his experiences working in a huge psychiatric hospital where he saw, experienced, and participated in many horrible things. Those who follow the subject for a longer amount of time probably will not be too surprised because it is extensively documented how terrifyingly grim so many mental health facilities and health facilities in general are. However, I spent some time reading the comments under the article and wanted to post them as a separate article. I have selected a few more interesting ones where people share first-hand experiences of either staying in such a facility as a patient or working there as a staff member. It's a lot of text, so I decided to separate the comments into two posts: one for patients' stories and one for workers'.

Here's PART 1: PATIENT STORIES. [Language unedited, except for a few typos for clarity.]

Comment 1:

The smaller stuff isn't any less damaging to mental patients, especially in facilities that "treat" patients with more minor issues. It's a relative term. So I was in a ward for people who seemed fairly normal, again, a relative term, but had supposedly threatened suicide, or threatened to murder someone. There were about I'd say 20 people in my ward. Funny thing is, I couldn't find one who had actually threatened any kind of harm. I didn't. I saw a school therapist because I had angry thoughts, and since there had just been a school shooting, he decided that invasive angry thoughts translated to "is going to murder people if I don't have him arrested."

There was another woman in there. Didn't threaten suicide, but they locked her up when she used hyperbole to make a point about how mad she was. Another woman had her son commit suicide, so they decided to lock her up, even though she wasn't suicidal.

We all hated it there. There was one woman who committed herself voluntarily. She didn't even make it past a few hours before she wanted to go home. It was too late, though. They already had her. One woman kept begging for her epilepsy medication, but they refused. Still not sure why they gave me mine. Lo and behold, she had a seizure.

The psychiatrist they assigned me to didn't give a f**k about anyone there. Nor did most of the staff. We only saw each other once or twice a day for about five minutes, would never discuss what was really going on with me, and he'd always say "I guess this is a real life lesson, huh? You know not to say those things now, don't you?" He just kept saying it. I'd walk out of every session depressed as hell. So you're not here to help me? I'm here to be punished? He was an ass to everyone. The rest of the time was just group therapy. It was all voluntary, but if you didn't go to each and every one, you didn't get to go outside for the day. Oh, you've never had any problems with drug addiction, so you don't want to go to the session about that? I guess you didn't want to go outside anyway.

So yeah. I'm never going to downplay the stuff in this article, and I'm never going to say we went though what they did. But words can be just as harmful. I didn't have PTSD before I went in to that place, but I sure do now. We all hated it there. A lot of the people there made it quite clear that we were a burden, that we didn't matter, and that they weren't there to help us. They were there to break us so that we wouldn't be a bother when we got out.

I'll never forget it. The first day I was there, I sat next to someone who had been there a little longer. She turned to me and said "this is your first day, huh?" "Yeah, how do you know?" "You have that broken look."

Comment 2 (a response to comment 1):

This. This is very similar to what I went through. I didn't want to read this article but it was like a train wreck drawing me in. I was forced into "voluntary" hospitalization over having suicidal thoughts (despite the fact that I wasn't in any position to harm myself or anyone else and was thus not an "active danger".) They told me I could go home in three days. They told me exactly where I was going to be and I agreed to go because it was supposed to be in a nearby ward in the best hospital in the area.

Of course they lied. I was sent to a mental hospital several cities away, just barely an adult. It went from "voluntary" to "ignore every request I had about information on when I was being released." Hardly any contact with the outside world. We didn't go outside. Ever. We stayed on that floor with the locked hall doors and received zero help from the "psychiatrist" of the hospital. We would see her for less than 5 minutes a day, just long enough for her to adjust our medication (I was wrongfully diagnosed as bipolar and almost forced to take lithium, another woman was overmedicated to the point that she was crying on the phone to her lawyer about the problems the meds were causing her). And the other patients. I can see them all even though it was almost 8 years ago. One of them would scream like the man in the story. Just scream and scream until I felt like I was the one screaming even though I was trying so hard to act normal so they would just let me go, and all I wanted to do was scream because of how terrified I was.

The only reason I got out was because my parents were able to show up eventually and it took three days for them to convince the doctor that 1. I would go straight to my therapist and not be out of anyone's sight, and most importantly 2. my insurance would stop paying and they wouldn't get paid. They let me go after that became apparent.

I too have had to add PTSD to my list of mental health problems now. There were years that went by where I would hide from ambulances if I heard them coming down the street. I'm terrified of doctors and hospitals - even non-mental health ones are triggering. I've worked through a lot but I still get flashbacks and the worst part is, it took years to find a therapist I could talk to without fearing they would commit me. I'm not suicidal anymore but I would rather die than go back. I can't even find any solace in sharing with people who also have PTSD because I didn't get it from the same experiences they did. You're the first person I've actually heard say that their stay in a psych ward caused it.

People think when they hear the words "psych ward" that they're only for the mentally insane, the violently dangerous. the mentally disabled. We get thrown in there too. High-functioning people with depression who reached out for help, not knowing where to turn, and found hell.

Comment 3:

When I was psych the staff was one of the few things that kept me from going even more crazy. They were VERY fair and protective and on the ball. They stopped me from getting hurt by other patients. They even went out and bought us all cigarettes when we ran out.

They took SOOOO much verbal and physical abuse too.

They also worked 12 hour shifts and would be tired as f**k most of the time. I never asked, but I doubt they were getting paid very much.

I'll be eternally thankful until my dying day that landed a hospital run by good people. Psych was horrible, I can't even imagine trying to get through it while being abused on top of it.

Comment 4:

When I was younger, I tried to take my life. I had no insurance so I got stuck in a place for 3 or 4 days that gave me PTSD.

When I got there, they showed me a white room with a table with brown leather restrains and a bight overhead light. They called it the quiet room and said it was where people who misbehaved went. The others and I saw two or three different people go in there. I only seen the reason why for one and it was because he hit a trashcan (it was on my last day and he had been perfectly kind otherwise). They were pinned, taken in there, strapped down to the table, and given something that made them look out of it. Then the door was shut. We saw it all because it wasn't that big of a place (I think about a dozen patients total?) and they never tried to hide it.

They gave us only paper scrubs to wear in a mix gender wing. I had to beg for my panties while crying which came in handy as I soon started my period. One man had the ass ripped out of his paper pants and when I pointed it out (thinking I was saving him embarrassment), he charged me like he was gonna hurt me. The other male patients had to stop him from hurting me (the nurse did nothing). He came to my room (which I shared with another woman) several times and stared or tried to come in. Again, it was the other patients who kept me safe especially when he came by late at night. Most of my fellow patients were kind and helpful as they seen me as the only bright spot in the place. I acted kind, perky, empathetic, and positive (always was and still am). It was how I have always hid my sadness and it turned out that my mentality helped them.

There was a reason the needed that. Everything was white and there was no decorations because the staff said we didn't need stimulation. No music. No tv. No books. My dad came to visit to which they told him it was not visiting day (it was) and turned him away only allowing him to leave a t shirt out of all the clothes, panties, books, and personal effects (like a toothbrush) he brought. It was actually his because he thought I might like it to sleep in. I curled up with it every night like a teddy bear and kept it hid afraid they would take it away.

The therapy was glorified brain washing and the opposite of helpful. The first time I seen the doctor was the Monday they released me. My dad picked me up and I basically parroted what they had told me to say and looked like an ass. Anything that reminded me of the place sent me into a panic attack. My doctor later changed the meds they put me on because of side effects.

Years later, I had gotten off my antidepressants because I was trying for kids with my then partner. I started feeling depressed and a little suicidal, but wouldn't tell anyone because I was scared of ending back in that place. So I went on like that for a year fighting every day to do things with my worse days including getting out of the bed, eating, and showering. Nobody knew though. Then one day after a particularly bad week (insane random bills, smelling another on my partner when we were fooling around, 30th birthday approaching, dog injured, period cramps, new therapist not listening to me including me saying I was getting bad and if anything happened to me she shouldn't blame herself...) I sat down to write a note. Before I did anything stupid, I was able to stop myself and call a hotline for help. I was taken to the ER and evaluated before they sent me to inpatient treatment at another hospital.

This time I had insurance so I didn't end up in hell, but I still ended up traumatized there and had nightmares months after.

My first roommate was nice, but she had explosive diarrhea and pooped everywhere and used my toothbrush (I caught her). The toothbrushes were cheap and made your gums bleed which doesn't sound bad until you realize they moved her because she was doing that stuff while having HIV. She ended up there because she had beat the crap out of her now ex for cheating on her and giving it to her. My second roommate was a temperamental drug addict.

There was a little color this time, most of the staff was nice, they had some cheesy novels we could read, we got cloth scrubs and undergarments (our own or provided), and the rec room even had dominoes, cards, and a tv which we were allowed to watch during certain times. We were told that going to therapy would help us get out sooner, but I stayed longer than most (I'm guessing part insurance and part because my partner of 7 years broke up with me through my dad and had the other woman in our home). I said everything they expected me to say in the very Christian therapy sessions, but I did skip church.

I was despite to get out honestly. Because I couldn't have MSG and was supposed to not have a lot of dairy, I was fed mostly fruit for lunch and super with occasional dry chicken or greens. That much fruit and nothing else gives a stomach ache and sore teeth. Breakfast and the before bed snack (crackers, small cup of popcorn, and such) was my break from it. We had no way to exercise and when I tried to I got in trouble, so it was sitting or laying all day every day. I missed sunlight, music, friends, my pets, a comfortable bed, reading good books, my favorite shows, paint, driving, internet, my phone, driving, and freedom.

They were especially hard on a young person who was gender fluid or two spirit. She (using the pronoun she preferred there) felt like her gender varied from day to day with her normally feeling like something between male and female with a hair towards female. They often corrected her saying she was a man and put her in a room with a man. She said she was use to it and thought of moving to another state because this one will use any excuse it can find to put people who are trans or non binary in a nut house. Seeing as people who are trans* or genders other than cis male or female aren't the most common, but everyone I talked to often has one or two in their wing while admitted (including myself my first time), it seems to be a problem.

When I got out, I told my dad I was an atheist. After years and years of hiding it, the 19 day Christian bombardment made me realize I was tired of pretending. Turns out he is too. Coming out as non Christian honestly helped my depression so at least they accomplished one thing.

Comment 5:

I was in a psych ward and this all makes sense. It was just 24 hours, but it was f*****g awful. The staff is awful, and I get it now.

Still, it's no excuse to treat patients like absolute s**t. I was being sexually propositioned by a patient who wouldn't stop following me around from the moment I walked in. Even after telling him 5 times to leave me alone and telling the staff 3 times that he kept telling me to have his kid (while I was 6 months pregnant), they didn't do anything.

I don't know if it's just the ward I was in, but they're all incredibly racist. I was the only Hispanic person in the ward, so anytime I said anything in Spanish ('tortilla' 'burrito' etc) the staff would pull me aside and ask me if I was gang affiliated. NO.

Also, I ended up having a panic attack while I was there and they gave me Ativan to shut me up. They told me I had 5 mins to calm down or they'd have to give me meds. f*****g assholes.

I managed to talk to the doctor and convince him that I didn't need to be in a psych ward, that all I needed was therapy.

I was wrongly put into the psych ward when I went into the ER after having panic attacks every night for a week. I was waiting for my OB to come back from vacation, the OB taking his place literally told me "It's all in your head, you're fine. Don't be a hypochondriac." Went to the ER, social worker wrote down that I was homicidal and suicidal, when I was neither. With a 20 month old in the house, they flipped out and stuck me in a psych ward.

Comment 6:

I was court ordered into a psychiatric unit by my domineering mother who claimed to a judge that I was suicidal in order to prevent me from moving out of state. Long story short, I was in the unit for about one week before my dad and brother intervened and I was released by a judge. There was nothing wrong with me except a bad relationship with my mother. In the city where I lived it was fairly simple to have someone committed, you just had to say they're suicidal and it's treated as an emergency. There was another guy in there committed by his ex-wife to prevent him from attending custody anyway...

The unit is in Alabama, basically the only one left in this region after they were all closed. This was my experience - in one week!

At my intake interview, they asked me trick questions in order to commit me. It was so obvious that I even said it to them, and they added to my report that I was paranoid. Even the receptionist said that nobody ever leaves after the interview because the hospital gets a check from the government for each patient they admit.

I refused to sign treatment consent when I arrived. This was consent for medication and research. The nurse threatened to isolate me and not give me food. She also said that if I was uncooperative, then I would have to stay much longer. (This is incredibly illegal - I have years of experience in health care regulation.) I signed and decided to just play along and spit out the medicine they gave me.

They withheld the medication I did need to replace the hormones from my thyroid I lost to cancer. I did not get it for the entire time I was there. I was feeling quite ill by the time I left.

My room was infested with cockroaches. I was given only a small bar of soap and tube of toothpaste. There was no light in my bathroom, so I had to shower with the door open which meant that anyone could see inside. It was too stressful so I showered in the pitch dark instead.

One patient (a traumatized cop who was suicidal after a particularly nasty crime scene) hanged himself in the bathroom with a shoestring during breakfast. He had asked for help all morning and a nurse finally told him to go ahead and kill himself because nobody cares. So he tried to do it. He didn't die because another patient came in and found him. The hospital the unit was attached to seemed only to care about hushing the incident up and trying to make him sign s**t. He contacted a lawyer instead. He seemed better and more clear headed the next day, but he had a bandage around his throat.

Another patient had a very serious problem with some sort of full body Tourette’s - I don't really know, some compulsion to move and talk constantly. He was aware of his issues but he really couldn't control it. They hadn't made him shower in weeks and he smelled like feces and nobody had washed his clothes in god knows how long. Instead they made fun of him, called him names but mostly ignored him. I finally convinced one staff person into washing his clothes and forcing him to shower by shaming her about the basic dignity of people in her care.

The physical-ed counselor was clearly a pedophile/pervert. He could barely keep his hands off the younger, lower functioning patients. I watched him give massages and be all around creepy to several young men. He really liked this same young guy that needed a shower and was always putting his hands on him. Even this guy, who could barely control himself was visibly uncomfortable around this guy. I wouldn't have been surprised at all if this pervert was fooling with the kids in the children's unit.

There were other horrible, painfully sad things going on there, but it's too much to share here. Just to remind you, this happened in ONE WEEK. It was a hellhole and it was basically all that passed for a mental health hospital for half the state of Alabama.

Comment 7:

I have personal experience here. Not as a staff member, but as a patient.

There were some nurses and staff you didn't even want to f*****g blink around. They would take any excuse to beat the s**t out of a patient, "so they knew who ran this place". I watched a girl that I was rooming with, drop her tray at lunch and started crying. This nurse came in, accused her of trying to instigate a riot, starts screaming at her, next thing I know security is there dragging her off to a solitary area. When she came back, she was different. Not, I spent time in the hole different, it was, well, someone put a picture of kittens or ducks here, it was barely recognizing the world around her different. I asked what happened, she just looked at me, asked who I was, then sat on the floor staring at the wall, until someone literally dragged her into bed.

I asked someone who had been there longer than me, what the f**k had happened. Apparently, the "troublemakers" are given multiple ECT [electroconvulsive therapy] sessions a day for however many days they are supposed to be in solitary confinement.

Listen, I won't say that ECT can't have its uses. It helps people as a last resort. The way they were using it though, it was more like torture of a group that has no legal way to fight back.

Most people I met in the ward were nice. We all had problems, and as long as we all felt each other out, finding what to and what not to do, getting along wasn't as bad as you'd think with clinically depressed, schizophrenic, bipolar, or whatever. There were some though, Jesus f*****g Christ, you didn't want to get near. There was a guy who was convinced the government was trying to mind control him into assassinating the head of the united nations, and he bit another patients pinky off. You didn't make eye contact with him, and just tried to stay the f**k out of the way.

I have sadly been to the psych ward more often than I care to admit. I will say, that I've been to good and bad ones. The worst ones almost always seem to have the prefix St. before them.

Comment 8:

Heh. Having suffered mental breakdowns and suicidal episodes in the past, I've been a patient in a psych ward myself. Rather than go off on a tangent, I'm just going to say, it is not a place you ever want to find yourself. It is darker than anything you could possibly imagine, and not for the faint of heart.

Reading this article sure brought back memories... pretty damn ugly ones, too. For a moment, suddenly I was sixteen years old again, strapped to a gurney, completely nude, with snot and blood dried and crusted on my face.

Then, my memory shifted to my being pinned by half a dozen people to a concrete floor for fifteen minutes, even though I begged and screamed for mercy, promising I would willingly take the strange pills they wanted me to take. They had no such mercy, though. A blonde haired woman walked in with a needle in hand, which was jabbed into my buttock. Suddenly everyone got off me and fled from the room, which was slammed shut, and I was left alone. For two minutes I sat wondering what the hell just happened to me, when suddenly I felt woozy, and the next thing I knew, I collapsed onto the foam floor mat. I didn't wake up until the next day, and when I did, I found I had been stripped nude and dressed in a hospital gown. I try suppress this memory, lest it eat away at me like acid.

The nurses and security staff in that place... were, indisputably, the coldest human beings I have ever met, and trust me, that's saying a hell of a lot. I would even say they are barely human at all - more like empty husks, soulless shells, emotionless automatons. Their faces never once showed the slightest hint of emotion - not a single trace of humanity. They were like stone. Cold, hard, unfeeling stone. Sometimes I lay awake at night thinking of those horrible creatures, and chills run down my spine...

PART 2: WORKERS' STORIES ...coming soon.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

Neurotic, Controlling, Narcissistic Mother Mistreats Her Child (Hands in Supermarket Example)

Recently, I was shopping at a local supermarket when suddenly I heard an annoying voice of an annoyed woman. It was a mother scolding her 5-6 year old child for picking up items and inspecting them.

“How many times did I tell you that your hands should only be in two places,” she muttered in that condescending, pretentious, pseudo-reasonable tone. Which means, “Look, I’m clearly feeling extremely upset and neurotic but I can’t just blatantly lash out on you or physically assault you because it’s a public place, so I will use an authoritative and relatively calm tone filled with manipulation, impatience, intimidation, and humiliation to make you obey, which will both in the short term alleviate my emotional instability and ostensibly mask my poor parenting skills.”

“What are those [two places you should keep your hands in]? In your pockets or…”
“…behind your back!” finished the boy and put his hands behind his back.

“Very good!” she said in a condescending and approving manner. Which means, “Here’s a mental treat for compliance to my insane rules and my authority.” It sounded like somebody who praises a dog after he follows the owners command: “Good Boy! Very good! Here’s a treat!” Conditioning in action.

The boy started “to behave,” i.e., started following orders, so the mother felt calmer. She pushed the shopping cart forward while the boy followed her like a mutt she perceives him as.

So what did the boy learn? He learned that his mother is bigger, stronger, and at the same time vital for his survival and well-being, so he has to obey her regardless of what she says or wants.

What did we learn? We learned that in this parent-child relationship the child’s curiosity, exploration, and self-interest is punished—while obedience and meeting the parent’s needs is rewarded and necessary.

Those who follow my work know that I’ve talked quite a few times about the results of such methods of child-rearing. So if this continues—and it may very well be too late for this child already—I can predict that when he grows older, he will have no respect for his mother. And rightfully so because, one, she is doesn’t treat him with respect, and two, objectively she is not respectable. The lack of respect will either manifest itself directly by what will be perceived as “rebellious behavior,” or he will be an obedient, totally self-less, dependent pet whose reason for existence is to manage the Mother’s neurosis and take care of her.

Some may think, “Well, what a parent is supposed to do? The child is annoying, he picks up stuff he shouldn’t, I’m in a hurry, I’m stressed, etc.” Okay. But this is not about you. If you have a child, it’s your responsibility to meet the child’s needs. It’s not the child’s responsibility to meet your needs or be what you want them to be or not to be an inconvenience to you.

If you are actually interested in how to improve such situations, here’s a few suggestions. How about taking time to explain to the child why you think it is objectively bad to pick up stuff at a supermarket. Is it bad? Or is it that you don’t want that because it’s an inconvenience to you? If it is bad, for example, your child is stealing or making a mess, then instead of giving him orders and punishing him you could dedicate some time to talk about what is going on for him emotionally (maybe he’s stressed or deprived or depressed or lonely), to talk about morality (what is objectively bad, what is objectively good, what is morally neutral), talking about property rights (e.g., it’s not good to make a mess at somebody’s property), giving sound and understandable examples, and so on. If picking up stuff at a supermarket is not morally bad (spoiler: generally, it isn’t) and the child is simply curious or bored, then you can go shopping without them. “But it's not as convenient and requires more time, effort, and other resources.” Okay, it’s true. Does it mean you are going to traumatize your child further to maintain your convenience? If so, then don’t pretend to be interested in real solutions.

What is always useful to do regardless of the situation is to examine your own feelings, and perhaps you will recognize that your emotional state has little to do with your child and more with your past, your insecurities, and your false beliefs. It is also useful to explain to your child the principles you expect the child to follow and follow yourself. “I don’t like it” or “You should do this” or “It’s not nice” are neither explanations nor principles.

The best way to be a better parent is to be a better human being. The best way to be a better human being is to work on yourself. But this is not very convenient nor appealing, hence the crippling of children in order to stay comfortable. It doesn’t have to be this way, but it probably will be for a long time yet.

So cheers to those who are brave enough to change and grow into healthier and happier human beings!

Exposing child abuse one article at a time,

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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Healing Starts Where (Self-)Connection Begins

Practice listening to yourself and meaning-making.

This is a quick article on the topic of self-connection. Here, I will talk about the importance of self-connection, the origins and difficulties of (self-)disconnection, and the cultivation of self-validation and individuality.

The Origins and Results of Disconnection

When we are children, we often are invalidated, mistreated, rejected, frightened, manipulated, confused, and abused in a thousand other ways. To avoid all of that and survive in our toxic and dangerous environment, we learn to adapt to it by disconnecting from it—and, fundamentally, from ourselves. Then we grow up, and those survival and defense mechanisms carry into our adulthood and manifest themselves in the same or similar forms. Except now, being in a completely different habitat, they are not protecting us but hinder our growth and lead to numerous problematic, even unhealthy situations, behaviors, and moods.

Being disconnected from yourself leads to reality distortion, overreaction, unhealthy boundaries, acting out, psychological projection, dangerous situations, dissatisfying relationships, social anxiety, poor self-care, depression, and a myriad of other issues—which, by extension, leads to even more issues. To categorize them for a better understanding, some of the more prevalent examples on a psychological-intellectual level are phenomena like dissociation, splitting, reality distortion; on an emotional level it can be self-hate, depression, helplessness, emotional oversensitivity or numbness, projected anger; and on a physical-behavioral level it’s acting out, (self-)harm, addiction, lack of self-care, (self-)destruction—all of which is interrelated.

The Value of Self-Connection

When we start examining our life, recognizing our feelings and accepting them at face value, building a healthier sense of self-esteem, thinking for ourselves, accepting who we are, self-validating our past experiences, then we develop a stronger bond with ourselves—and, by extension, with reality and with other people. This leads to more awareness, more self-love, more inner peace, less anxiety, more self-confidence, a more accurate estimation of ourselves and others, healthier boundaries, more creativity, more intellectual, emotional, and psychological clarity, and more happiness in general.

The Difficulties of Self-Connection

When we are just starting our healing and growth process, we usually are quite lost, confused, anxious, lonely, and in pain. Since at that time we are severely disconnected from ourselves, we crave for validation from others—because, as of yet, we don’t know how to validate ourselves, or simply don’t connect with our understandings on a psychoemotional level. The problem is that people who are disconnected—which is the vast majority of our population—by definition, are doubtful (or falsely certain) and confused about their thoughts and feelings, therefore are dependent on other people’s beliefs about them and about the world in general. This leads to dependency, tribalism and conformism, mass delusion, lack of true identity, exploitation, manipulation, or even to a physical death.

The most common things people mention they get from me—both from consulting with me, and from my articles and videos—are clarity and validation. I help people make a better sense of the world, be it their internal world or the external universe. I also validate a person’s accurate perception of it which they can't get from themselves. I provide much more, but true clarity and validation are two most popular things people give me as a part of their feedback about my work. I did an enormous amount of self-work to be able to be who I am and help people to the degree I do, so it didn’t just magically happen either.

However, when you need external validation and clarity but people around you are toxic, primitive, or plainly insane, it’s extremely difficult to build your sense of self-connection. It only strengthens your self-doubt and self-erasure. Moreover, even if you decide to seek help you may quickly realize that the dominant majority of the mental health providers themselves are highly unresolved, confused, clueless, mediocre, extremely limited, or simply dangerous. And that’s the realization only if you already have a healthy enough basis to be able to recognize unhealthiness and incompetence. Most people are not so lucky and it takes them years to find somebody who can actually help. Many never find anyone and die lost, confused, scared, and lonely—sometimes without even knowing it. And that’s a dismal actuality.

Learning Self-Validation and Individuality

For the reasons mentioned above, external validation and relying on other people can only get you so far, and sometimes it will only confuse you, mislead you, or foster dependency. If you want to truly heal and realize your full potential your ultimate goal should be a strong sense of self and psychological independence. You may want to work more on building a greater sense of self: learning about logic, argumentation, emotional intelligence, journaling, healthy boundaries, being in solitude, listening to yourself, practicing self-empathy and self-curiosity, conceptualizing reality, making sense of what happened to you and your own past behavior, and developing and applying other tools I call Tools for Self-Archeology. If you haven’t found a good helper yet, it will help you differentiate between excellent and bad ones. And if you have one or not looking for one, it will make the whole growth process easier and more efficient. Again, the ultimate goal is psychoemotional independence, clarity, and a strong sense of identity, which only comes from self-connection and the ability to eventually being able to figure out and validate things for yourself without being confused or intimidated by the world's dysfunction.

These and many other topics are explored in great detail in my upcoming book—more details coming soon—and in my previous articles and videos. You are always welcome to leave your feedback in the comment section below or by other means of your preference.

If you found this or other articles valuable, please share it with others who may find it valuable. Also, consider supporting my work by donating. Any and all support is highly valued!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

"I Yell at My Children, and They Will Turn out Fine!"

This article is a response to an old, yet very pertinent comment regarding childhood trauma and its effects.

About three years ago, I wrote an article called Child Abuse and Its Results in Today's Society. Some time after, a person named Lisa left this public comment:

I didn't publish it at the time for relatively obvious reasons, and then completely forgot about it. But yesterday I was looking at all the unapproved comments, saw it, and thought it could be useful to comment on it. This is a rhetorical response only; I'm not actually addressing Lisa personally. I've met and observed many people who say and do similar things, and who have a similar personality and communication methods. I'm simply using this comment as a background context—an example, or a vehicle, if you will—to talk about a bigger, highly common issue that is childhood trauma. Now, disclaimer aside, let's get to it.

Not that I do not agree with any of this, but as a parent (and someone abused badly as a child--in most all ways), I can say some of it is ridiculous. It's confusing right from the beginning: so they agree with everything, yet think some of it is ridiculous. Okay...? I am sorry. Why are they sorry, exactly? For shattering my false perception of reality when I wasn't prepared for it? This didn't happen in any way. For disagreeing? That's not an offence. And they just said that they agree with everything anyway. Again, confusing (more on that later).

Parents sometimes yell at their children. Fact. Does it imply it's in any way justifiable to do so, though? If so, then that statement would be false. Also, does 'parents' mean 'I'? Because not all parents yell at their children, but Lisa definitely does. They get punished and disciplined as the situation dictates [...] The situation can't dictate anything because it's an inanimate, abstract thing; and children don't get punished by themselves—somebody punishes them. Sometimes people attribute human-like characteristics to inanimate objects or concepts and use passive voice to avoid self-responsibility. What is actually happening is that some parents sometimes abuse their children because they think the child deserves it. Because they themselves were punished, and they think they deserved it. Because they were told they deserve it.

[...] and ALWAYS mine know why. Letting somebody know why you are hurting them doesn't justify your actions in any way or make the hurt less damaging. It actually makes the experience MORE confusing and psychologically crippling for the child. Because if you know you don't deserve unjust treatment then it still hurts but at least it doesn't mess up your psyche as much, since at least you KNOW that you are being treated unfairly versus internalizing the thought that you are a bad human being who deserves punishment when in fact you are not and you don't.

Also, it's not the child's fault. If your child "misbehaves," then it's fundamentally your failure, as a caregiver. Teaching them that it's their fault, that they are bad and deserve punishment, and hurting them when they are completely dependent on you is what builds them into a broken adult.

The world is not going to be always empathetic to ones problems. There is not going to be people around to SOOTH them all their lives...sorry, but that is true. Another artificial and unnecessary apology.... It is definitely true that the world, as it is today, is quite an atrocious mess, at least as far as the social aspect of it goes. It's also true that a child won't always have somebody to sooth them, especially when they grow up. HOWEVER, it doesn't follow at all that because the world in some aspects is a horrible place it is okay/justifiable/moral/effective—pick the least triggering word—to abuse and traumatize your child. The world is horrible, so I, the caregiver, the person on whom depends your survival and who suppose to be your guide, teacher, helper, and protector, might as well just abuse you because you need to get used to misery, horror, confusion, fear, and chronic anxiety. Well, thanks a lot, mom/dad! How about instead of THIS you work on yourself more, become a better role model and a more effective caregiver, and raise an at least relatively healthy and independent offspring who can survive and function in this world without having lost their authenticity or having a myriad of deep, everlasting problems?

No, if my kid has a slight scrape I won't over indulge them (they are 10, 12, and 15) as they must learn to do it for themselves too. A lot of people confuse a lack of abuse with a lack of boundaries, or think that the opposite of abuse is doing everything, healthy and unhealthy, the child ever wants. It's not so black and white; it depends on the situation and a child's age.

Also, are you teaching them? Are you guiding, helping, and providing them with necessary tools when they need it? Are you getting out of the way and trusting them when they don't need your assistance and interference?  Or are you just expecting for them to learn how to do things by themselves (preferably in their first try and without any theoretical preparation)? Do you think—and let them know—they are somehow bad if they "fail"? Do you punish them for such "failure"? The second type of child rearing is definitely more popular than the first, but by no means it's more efficient or superior in any way.

I am not abusive but, as most parents will admit, I am not perfect. Factually, if you yell at your child you are abusive. It's not the same as severely and routinely beating a child with a stick or raping them, but it's still abusive. It's abusive because it has negative effects on the child's development. The fact that a person doesn't have a clear understanding what constitutes abuse or rationalize their abusive behavior doesn't change reality in any way. Yelling is abusive because it threatens a child-parent bond, on which, again, depends a child's survival. So when this bond is threatened in any way, a child feels that their survival is in danger. Fear instils insecurity, and also teaches to deal with a conflict in a domination or submission type of way instead of a healthier way. A child can't defend themselves, nor can they escape. All of this (and more) makes it traumatizing, hence abusive.

Yelling is only one form of abuse, a more recognizable one, too. Being an unresolved, confused, untrustworthy, unprincipled, unrespectable caregiver is abusive in itself, in many different, often very subtle ways.

Also, saying that you are not perfect is a painfully common justification for bad behavior. Nobody is perfect at anything. Perfection, by definition, is an unattainable standard. Making mistakes is normal and unavoidable, and there's always at least some room for improvement. However, does it mean that we should have NO standards at all and accept NO responsibility for our actions? I would say it's not true. Also, often a caregiver who uses the I'm Not Perfect excuse doesn't apply the same standard to their child's behavior. This is not fair nor respectable (more on that later).

But, the world is not an empathetic and large...they should not have to learn that the hard way. So why are you teaching them that lesson in the hardest and most destructive way possible? By doing what you are doing you are harming them in ways they will never be harmed as adults. A human being will never be as helpless, dependent, and resourceless as they are as a child.

I do not beat, neglect, nor have scared my kids the way I have been. Seeing as I was abused, I do make en effort to do the best I can to not repeat. First, it's admirable that Lisa in some ways was able to become a better parent than her own parents. It's also quite brave to accept that your parents traumatized you—we all have some traumas, but only a few are emotionally strong enough to recognize that. That said, it doesn't negate all the other ways in which Lisa was unable to improve (at least not yet). It's definitely plausible that a caregiver doesn't beat their child or doesn't leave them on the street to die, or successfully provide food and shelter. But these are very basic human needs, and failures to meet them are very clear forms of abuse.

Talking about less evident forms of abuse, sometimes a caregiver doesn't BEAT their child; they just "spank them"—but only when "they deserve it." Sometimes a caregiver doesn't NEGLECT their child; they just force them to do a task without teaching them how to do it and then punish them for being "bad" and "stupid," or just withdraw attention and loving behavior if a child doesn't comply or "misbehaves" in any way. Sometimes a parent doesn't ABANDON their child or THREATEN ABANDONMENT; they just leave to work for a long time, or drop them in daycare, or say that they will leave the child on the street and go home if the child doesn't do what they want them to do.

That's my point: It's important to understand what constitutes child abuse, and heal from it. Otherwise you will justify and normalize harmful behavior, and will inflict it on your own children.

I agree everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect [...] Well, de facto she doesn't believe that.

[...] people piss people off ...and one should be able to correct a wrong and be heard [...] Yes, sometimes some people piss other people off. Although sometimes it's more complex than just "this person was mean to me." I've observed a lot of people who act out on others and treat them unjustly. But I also have seen many—if not more—interactions where it's not so simple, and a person gets too pissed off, or because the situation reminds them of something from their past. It's very popular to say, "That's offensive!" Or, "You hurt me!" Meaning, "When you said or did this, I felt an unpleasant emotion, and it's your fault!" But this does not necessarily mean that Person A actually did anything to hurt Person B.

In a caregiver-child relationship, again, it's not the child's fault if the child "misbehaves." It's the caregiver's responsibility to teach the child how to be a healthy and authentic human being (often it constitutes simply getting out of the way and letting them be who they are), and to help them in dealing with physical and mental struggles that come with it.

[...] if yelling is needed to be be it! Yelling is a desperate attempt to dominate another person when you feel threatened, or to act out your emotions in a primitive way because you feel overwhelmed. It's interesting how Lisa ends her comment with an exclamation mark, too.

Yelling in an interaction with an adult doesn't improve your communication or your relationship in any way. Yelling at your children scares them when they are small, and makes them lose respect for you when they are older. It also teaches them to yell and over-impose yourself onto others when there's a clash of opinions, interests, or preferences—or to be afraid of and submit to somebody who's yelling. Yelling is not "treating others with dignity and respect.Moreover, is it allowed for your children to yell? After all, "yelling is needed to be heard." Do you listen to them when they yell?

In my experience, often the communication improves when a person stops yelling and starts listening to what the other person is saying (explicitly and implicitly). Also, when a caregiver doesn't listen to their child, doesn't interact with them with empathy and curiosity, then they, guess what, don't learn—or they unlearn—how to listen and how to be empathetic and curious.


So even when Lisa thinks she did overcome her childhood trauma (and to some degree she probably did become a better parent than her parents), fundamentally she is replicating the same behavior that was modelled for her when she was a child.

Lisa, you yell because you want to dominate, because you yourself were dominated and controlled, and you are replicating the same dynamic with your children, and they probably will do the same. You yell because you don't know how to express yourself in a sound, reasonable, and understandable manner. You yell because you want for others to agree with you and do what you want them to do. You don't know how to explain things. You don't make much sense. Your thinking is unclear. You are confused. Your comment is incoherent, scattered, contradictory, and unreasoned (double negatives, convoluted sentence structure, unnecessary, fake apologies, numerous contradictions, over-emotionality, lack of clarity, lack of argument, avoidance of self-responsibility, justifications, etc.). And when a person doesn't make much sense, can't reason, and can't convey an argument, they can't understand things and explain the world to their children—or to other people in general. So out of frustration, confusion, and insecurity they yell, babble, and try to dominate.

The question is WHY doesn't you child listen to you? What does 'listening' mean here? Does it mean 'doing what you want them to do'? Does it simply mean 'comprehending what others are saying'? Are you making sense? Do you actually have arguments and explanations for things, or do you simply expect for your child to obey? If so, why is that the expectation? Why should or shouldn't they do what you want them to do? Can you explain your reasons to them in a sound manner? Do you even know those reasons, and do they actually make sense? Can you explain things to yourself? What does this behavior teach your child? Why doesn't your child respect you? Could it be that in some regards you lack respectable qualities or disrespect your child and others? Do you listen to your child? Do you show empathy and curiosity? Do you respect them? What does 'respect' mean? Do you model the behavior you want for them to internalize? How do you know that the behavior you are modelling for them or expecting from them is 'good'? Where and how did you learn all of this? How did you feel as a child when people yelled at you, disrespected you, or told you what to do?

These are just some of the questions that caregivers could ask themselves. Answering them in an honest manner could help you gain more clarity and possibly improve your relationship with yourself, your child, and others.

An alternative to abuse, domination, chronic anxiety, and confusion is sound thinking, psychoemotional maturity, mental clarity, respectable behavior, and healthy relationships. Break the cycle.


P.S. It's always interesting to comment on such issues, because there's always a person (or fifty) who reads it and maybe agrees with some things but feels mentally threatened by other things, and since I'm the one saying it, they get upset at me. As if I, Darius, am essentially important to the validity of my arguments and observations, or as if interacting with me will change the reality I'm describing in any way. It's either true or false.

Negative reactions to my content is nothing new—it's the Internet, so you can't win; I've dealt with it many a time. But if you read some of my articles or watched some of my videos and felt upset, perhaps instead of sending me an angry email saying I am a moron who knows nothing about anything or giving some other incoherent response you could ask yourself how you feel and why—and then honestly answer it. More likely than not it either has nothing to do with me, or people misunderstand something, or read something in an aggressive tone, or it's simply that the things I point out are true and it's mentally uncomfortable. As a result, a person feels an urge to silence me or deal with me (as if it changes reality) instead of dealing with the real issue. Think about theses things some more, build arguments, observe, study, reflect, analyze, conceptualize. That way even if you disagree with somebody about something at least you would know why or have a decent argument.

Either way, you are always welcome to leave your feedback in the comment section below or by other means of your preference.

If you found this or other articles valuable, please share it with others who may find it valuable. Also, consider supporting my work by donating. Any and all support is highly valued!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Q&A: "Is Therapy Working for Me?"

This article is the second entry in my Q&A series, where I answer a question or respond to a comment. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here: “Should I Talk to My Parents About My Childhood Hurts?”

Today’s question is extremely popular: I’m in therapy, and some people [my spouse, or parent, or friend, or coworker, or partner] say that it’s not working for me. I’m confused. Is it true?

Although it can be nuanced, generally there are only two possibilities: it’s either true or false. Everyone’s situation is different, so you need some objective criteria to be able to figure out your own case.

First, it’s worth noting that the vast majority of people working in the mental health and helping field are not very good at their job, and not necessarily out of malevolence. They themselves are highly unresolved, lack true skill and actual knowledge (formal “education” is barely anything), and sometimes are even more traumatized than their clients. So statistically it’s highly unlikely that your helper* is exceptionally good, although it’s possible. That said, most people are not looking for an exceptionally good helper, nor do they know how to recognize one. They want—or are capable—to work on themselves just to a certain degree. Usually they don’t want to go to great lengths, even if they say they do. And for that reason, a common helper can be sufficient for them. It depends on one’s goals and situation. Which brings us to the next point….

How do you know if the person you are seeing is actually helpful, and how would you measure you progress/regress? At the very beginning of the therapeutic relationship, the helper usually asks the client what do they want to achieve. Also, people who seek help either already know or get informed by their helper that sometimes things have to get worse for them to get better. If you’re unsure, you can talk about it with your helper in greater detail. They may ask you how do you know if things are getting better or worse, and you can ask them the same question. Such a discussion may give you more clarity, and help you figure out if your helper knows what they are doing. I talk about it a little bit in the FAQ section on my website, too.

Either way, it is always useful to ask yourself these questions: How do I know if I’m making progress? How will I know if I have achieved my goals? What exactly are my goals? What is my plan? How long will it take me? What are the smaller steps? And so on….

Try to be clear and specific; saying that you want, for example, freedom, inner peace, or better relationships sounds nice, but doesn’t describe anything concrete. How would you know if you have achieved what you want, or if you are moving in the right direction? Same with saying that you feel good or bad. “Feeling good” doesn’t necessarily mean you are improving, just like “feeling bad” doesn’t necessarily mean you are regressing.

Another highly important thing is the fact that when a person starts actually growing, their relationships change. More often than not people don’t have healthy boundaries and the underlying dynamics are quite problematic. When your healing process starts to develop, your behavior changes, your psychoemotional state changes, your social interactions change. As a result of that, some people around you may not like the changes. Especially those who are used to—or even dependent on—the old ways, where you were manipulated and controlled, or felt inferior. So if you, for example, were obedient, people-pleasing, non-expressive, and non-confrontational, then becoming more authentic and upstanding can result in a clash of interests and expectations. Since you are no longer interested in giving them what whey want at any cost, since now your thoughts, emotions, and wants matter too, they may perceive it as you acting badly, even aggressively towards them. Therefore, they may say that therapy is not helping you. After all, you were so “nice” and “good” and “helpful,” but now you’re so “mean,” “rebellious,” “confrontational,” “insensitive,” “selfish.” In this case, your increasing level of healthiness is perceived as something abnormal and unacceptable. As a reaction to your “aggression,” they may increase their level of manipulation, and the level of actual aggression on their part may escalate to more intense stages. So keep this in mind, and be prepared to re-evaluate such relationships if you haven’t already.

So in short, instead of recognizing your improvement, people like that may get upset with you and tell you that therapy is not working for you, because in their eyes you have changed for the worse—which objectively is not true. It’s just that it doesn’t suit them anymore, so they are upset.

As always, every situation is different, but it is definitely useful to figure out the criteria for evaluating the level of your therapeutic progress. Talk about it with your helper, if necessary. How do you measure your growth? How do you know if you are improving or not? How long does this process take? What are your therapeutic goals? What are the stepping stones? How much progress did you make already, if any? What are the signs of a healthy human being? What are the signs of unhealthiness and dysfunction? Which of them apply to you? How could you become healthier? What is your relationship with the person who says you are doing worse? What is your mutual history? What is your role in this relationship, if any? Is this relationship healthy? What are the signs of a healthy relationship? How does a toxic relationship look like? How do you know?

After you find the answers to those and other questions, you will have more clarity about what is actually going on.

Good luck!

*In my works I use the term 'helper' to refer to anybody who works in the mental health and helping field. It includes psychotherapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, consultants, social workers, coaches, mentors, and many more.

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