Monday, January 2, 2017

Respect Towards Children Versus Childism in Daily Interactions

Disrespectful Treatment of Children

People often forget or lack the empathy to realize that children are human beings too, just smaller. As a result, children are treated disrespectfully, humiliated, controlled, manipulated, and traumatized in a variety of other ways. In this article, I won’t talk about harsher forms of abuse that occur but rather will specifically address two main forms of how children are disrespected in regular interactions on a basic human level.

If you are a relatively healthy person, you treat your fellow human beings with respect. You meet someone, you say hello, you smile back, and so on. Now, since children are smaller than us and have much less life experience, it is easy to forget that they are human beings deserving decent treatment, too—one might argue even more than adults do. And yet, more often than not, children are engaged with as if they are fundamentally inferior.

Such treatment can be separated into two categories:

Scorn. Engaging with a child in a scorning manner means treating them as if they are fundamentally inferior and therefore deserve overt sneering, humiliation, condescension, or putting down. Moreover, scorn includes being emotionally or even physically overridden, or simply being ignored and isolated.

Patronizing. Patronizing a child means engaging with them in a seemingly nice manner, but actually looking down on them, belittling them, infantilizing them, and otherwise treating them as if they are less capable than they actually are.

Let’s examine a situation to illustrate these behaviors.


I have noticed that in Canada, where I currently live, it is somewhat common for children to help their parents at work. I have seen a few children working at a food court, in a restaurant, or in a family shop. Now, they are not “working” like adults do, but they are standing by their parents and learning to do basic tasks: work the cash register, take an order, serve food, and so on.

So you come in to get food and you see a 9-12 year old child wanting to take your order. There are three ways how to approach them. One, with scorn: getting angry and telling them that they don’t know what they are doing and that you want real customer service, not some goofy, incompetent kid. Two, with patronizing: saying that it’s so cute that such a little boy/girl is trying to take up on an adult task. And three, treating them like you would treat anybody else: being polite, fair, and responsive, saying hello and thank you, not being overly harsh or overly sweet.

The Value of Treating Children with Respect

When a child is treated disrespectfully, it affects their self-esteem, which later results in self-esteem issues. It also impacts their trust, which then results in trust issues. There are numerous other, life-long problems that stem from mistreating a child that I have already addressed in other articles. When treated scornfully or patronizingly, children experience dire consequences. And then they grow up into wounded adults.

Yet, there are many benefits from engaging with children in a respectful manner. When you engage a child as a fellow human being who deserves respect, you are modelling kindness and decency—for the child and for other adults. It helps the child feel more competent, curious, social, and realistic in whatever context you are engaging them in. It also helps you be a decent, empathetic human being and strengthen your ability to treat others respectfully.

Personally, I always try to treat children kindly and fairly. If a child waves at me, I always wave back. If a child looks at me, I smile at them and often wave and say hello. If they come to me and ask me about what I am doing, I answer. I ask them questions. I try to talk in an age appropriate language but I don’t treat them like they are idiots or a burden. If they want to participate in what I am doing, I usually gladly invite them. If they ask for help, I help them, without treating them like they are invalids. And guess what, if you are nice to them, they are nice to you.

Because of my perspective and behavior towards children, and because I usually look friendly and approachable, there have been many times in my life that children have approached me, waved at me, started a conversation with me, or wanted to play with me. Here, curiosity is encouraged, empathy is exchanged, and it is a rewarding experience.

Treating a child with respect and kindness shows them that people are not dangerous; that their feelings, thoughts and preferences matter; that if you have a question or a problem you can ask for help and look for a solution together; that it is preferable to treat each other respectfully, even if there is a power disparity; that even if someone is multiple times your size it doesn’t mean you are inferior or helpless; that it is okay not to know something and not to be perfect.

Childism—a prejudice against children on the ground of a belief that they are property and can, or even should, be controlled, enslaved, or removed to serve adult needs—is still extremely prevalent in society. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can start changing it, by changing how YOU engage with children. Believe me, they will remember, and you will feel better about yourself, too.

Have a child-friendly day,
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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

On Why Holiday Traditions Are Problematic—and a Different Perspective

Here we are again. The holiday season is upon us. People are running around trying to organize things for the upcoming holidays, and trying to find gifts for their friends, loved ones, and those they don’t care about or even hate. Why? Many reasons, and we’ll talk about some of them.

There are a few problems with all of this and here I will discuss two of them. Moreover, I offer a perspective on how you can make things better for yourself and those around you.

The first problem is that the whole tradition thing can be messy and complicated. Yes, the holiday tradition can be beautiful: devoting time and attention to those who are dear to you, thinking about them and giving them something that will hopefully bring them some joy. But—the important thing is to ask yourself if it’s something you WANT to do or if it’s something that you feel you HAVE to do? Plenty of people think they “have to”—that’s the tradition, and everyone is doing it.

Yet, many people hate the holidays and experience a lot of stress and depression doing all of these things. Isn’t it supposed to be about enjoyment and relaxation? Isn’t it supposed to be meaningful? Here, group behavior can a strong motivator and it can be a negative force in our lives. It is important to remember that, if you don’t want to do something, YOU DON’T HAVE TO. When there’s a lot of pressure to “have to” do something, it is important to remember that you are still making a choice.

There are very few obligations in life, and celebrating holidays and following traditions is not one of them. If you like it, great! If you don’t, also great—go do what you actually want to do. If you don’t like spending time with your toxic family, or being stressed or depressed, guess what—you don’t have to. There may be unpleasant consequences for this choice, but you are an adult now so you can handle it.

The second problem is in relation to the fact that people wait for an arbitrary date to do something. My suggestion is to live the life you want to live NOW. If you want to spend time with your family and friends, create a life for yourself where you won’t have to wait for a special time of the year to be able to do that. If you want to give your loved ones a gift, there is no real reason you should wait for Christmas or their birthday—do it TODAY.

Life is short, and you’re getting closer to your grave every day, every minute, every second. Who knows, maybe the beloved in your life will die tomorrow, or even yourself. Highly unlikely, but who knows. People take many things for granted and squander their resources, be it time, money, energy, attention, or potential. And then we die.

It is my opinion that people could be happier if they stopped following social rituals just for the sake of it, living from one mental fix to another, and instead aimed to build a life that they enjoy every day, and then live that life as they want to every day. Is it easy to do? No. Is it possible to achieve quickly and 100%? Perhaps. But you can AIM for it and consistently work towards it, and I guarantee you that even if you achieve 10% of it, your life will be significantly better than it is right now.

This holiday season I wish you more enjoyment in here and now.
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!

Related articles:
Holiday Depression and Stress
Holiday Hope

Sunday, December 18, 2016

What Are Boundaries and Why We Need Them [video]

A new video, where I explain the concept of BOUNDARIES, the classification of it, and the purpose of it.

I think understanding and developing healthier boundaries is vital to everyone who wants to live happier and more authentically. So if your goal is to heal, grow, and evolve, this is the topic you may want to invest in.

If you found it valuable, feel free to share it with others who may benefit from it.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Manipulation and Character Assassination—and How to Handle It

Those of us who have encountered people with narcissistic, predatory, or even sociopathic tendencies (for the sake of simplicity referred to as manipulator) have experienced a phenomenon where the manipulator tries to vilify you by using triangulation, gossiping, power play, mischaracterization, and other tactics. It usually goes like this.... 

The Mechanism Behind It

The manipulator is driven by shame, insecurity, and fear. As soon as they start feeling inferior, or as soon as you notice the manipulator's toxicity—or as soon as they notice you noticing their toxicity—they begin feeling deep insecurity. In their attempt to manage it, they may try to cover their tracks and save their image by giving you made up explanations and excuses, instead of recognizing their unhealthiness and working on themselves to overcome it. If you are able to see though their smoke and mirrors tactics, ideally you will either set a firm boundary and distance yourself from them or they will get terribly scared and ashamed and distance themselves from you, because they avoid people who can see through their facade like a plague. 

Now, since manipulators are terrified by others not liking them or having a negative perception of them, they will try to make themselves feel better by finding others to support their delusions. So they will use their social power, or go tell their circle their version of the story where you are a villain or where you are the perpetrator and they are the victim. In doing so, depending on the type of the relationship, they will say how you are a bad person, mischaracterize you, be overly-critical of you, while in reality they feel inferior—and in certain aspects factually they are inferior—and project that onto you, sometimes without even consciously realizing it. 

In other cases they can be what sometimes is called the devious type, where they see their remorseless destruction of you as a means to an end in realizing their own goals, and they will justify it with a soothing narrative where you are a villain, where they have no choice but to do what they are doing, and where they are a hero. They will use various manipulation tactics to gain people's trust—sometimes the very people they aim to destroy—and then utilize it in their attempt to assassinate their target.

Manipulators are cowards, as they need a group to get their narcissistic supply, enabling, and resources for their schemes. In many ways, they are just like bullies who intimidate or beat somebody up 4 on 1, send their goons after you, or try to sabotage you with lies and deception. Usually their group consists of admirers or yes-men or "like-minded people" or minions—dependents and enablers—who lack their own identity and fail to question the manipulator's or their own toxic tendencies.

In psychology, this whole mechanism is called character assassination. It involves triangulation, gossiping, power play, tribalism, reality distortion, and mischaracterization. This phenomenon is widely common and can be observed or experienced first hand in one's family, school, professional environment, or personal relationships. 

In families, it usually happens in a way where a child or adult-child is terrorized by one or both of their toxic parents in relation to other family members or even to other social contacts. The parent's conscious or unconscious goal is to make you, the child, look and feel bad, and to justify their unjust treatment of you. The same can also happen between siblings, peers, or schoolmates. This is painfully prevalent, and most people have experienced it as children in one way or another.

In a professional environment, manipulators often feel insecure around their colleagues or subordinates. A common story is that the boss terrorizes you, the employee. Between colleagues, if you are a better worker, instead of concentrating on themselves and learning how to do a better job, your colleagues will feel threatened and entitled and try to sabotage you: by turning other coworkers against you, grouping against you, or turning the management against you. Especially if you simply try to mind your own business and concentrate on doing a good job instead of actively "competing with them." 

It is also horribly common in one's adult, personal life: in unhealthy romantic relationships, marriages, and social circles. "Friends" will gossip behind a "friend's" back. Ex-lovers will release a revenge porn video or stalk their ex and spread rumors. A boyfriend or a girlfriend will complain to their circle how horrible their partner is. A wife or a husband will do the same regarding their spouse. In some cases, a partner who suffers from narcissistic tendencies may even go to a therapist (who also suffers from narcissistic tendencies or is incapable of identifying such tendencies) and tell them how their spouse is narcissistic and terrorizing while in fact the spouse is the healthiest member there. And then they create a unity against the actual victim, sometimes to the degree where they plan to actively harm them. Sometimes certain forms of character assassination happens in couples or group therapy, too.  

Granted, not all cases are extreme, this phenomenon is much more commonplace than people realize or want to recognize.

Personal Examples 

In my own life, I have experienced it quite a few times. Some of it was more severe, some of it quite mild. I have also observed it in many different contexts among many different people, especially in groups and certain social circles or communities. Plenty of people told me about their experiences with it, too.   

When I was growing up, I didn't experience much of this type of abuse from my family, but in school and among peers it was quite common. Too many to count. That's what forced socialization does to children. They turn against each other, attack each other, form hierarchies and cliques, isolate others, try to manipulate the teachers, and so on. It forms a prison mentality. Then children grow up and as adults create or participate in the same structures and dynamics. Hence, it is so prevalent.

As an adult, I have experienced it myself when I was in university and later in my personal and professional life. I also have helped my clients deal with their problems, hurts, and injustices related to it. I have heard and observed many stories, many of them from both sides. Below, I will give two examples from my life to illustrate it. Now, I want to make it clear that it is not to seek pity or vengeance—these are merely examples. At the same time, these things happened to me, so they are a part of my life's story.

Story #1

In university there was this professor who, after my presentation, among other things referred to something I said as "impudent lies." One, I don't think I was incorrect (although, technically it is possible that some of the information used could have been factually incorrect), and the topic wasn't important at all, just a dumb, useless presentation. And two, I don't think it is very professional to say something like that to a student and use loaded descriptions like that. I can't imagine saying something like this to someone I teach, even if they are incorrect, especially in front of the whole class. So afterwards I sent her an email where I politely told her some things about the information I presented and about my experience that day. She responded quite rudely, with gaslighting tactics, minimization, and justifications. She was in denial about her behavior, avoided self-responsibility (even in her language, which was mainly passive and "academic"), and, in so many words, explained that she's a great professor and would never mistreat a student. Basically, that everything was fine. I saw no point of pressing her so I left it at that. 

However, the next day she made a public spectacle out of it, where she read my initial email in front of the whole class—her interpretation of the story, of course, where she presented herself as a sad, clueless victim. Not only that, she actually started crying crocodile tears, telling everyone how great of a professor she is to all of her students and how much I hurt her. At the time, I wasn't so clear about or unaffected by it as I would be today—and I knew I will have to deal with her later, and that she has power over me—so I just sat there smiling at her victim playing. I let her finish, I didn't interrupt her, I wasn't given a chance to speak, she never read the following emails, and it eventually ended. Again, even if you believe that somehow I was completely in the wrong, I don't think it is professional or ethical to deal with it by bringing it up in class and make a spectacle out of it. People are paying you a lot of money to teach them, not to use them to deal with your own struggles and personal drama.


I think everyone in the room felt uncomfortable. However, nobody asked me about my side of the story. Nobody cared about my perspective or my feelings. There may be many reasons for that but not one person came to me and asked me about what happened. I think they either simply believed the authority or just felt too uncomfortable to bring it up. I talked about it a little with a few of my classmates with whom I walked together later, briefly mentioning a few details the professor left out. One of them was quite confused and opened the conversation by saying that she feels so sad for the professor, yet at the same time she didn't shun me like some others. I didn't go out of my way to try to convince them of my side of the story, either. I definitely felt wronged but didn't feel the urge to desperately spread my perspective of it in order to not be rejected.

When I thought that I will have to deal with that professor later, I was right. While she was more or less professional in all the remaining classes that semester, she was also a part of the panel in my final thesis defence. She tried to make me feel uncomfortable and even asked me a question during my defence, but I dealt with it fairly well and since she wasn't familiar with the subject she didn't have much to add. 

I won't lie, at the time it did feel good knowing that this professor was listening when my thesis advisor—one of very few who noticed my strengths and talents and cared to be helpful and supportive but not overbearing, who was also the head of the whole defence ceremony—gave a short speech after I was done, publicly praising me as one of her sharpest and most independent students and saying she hopes I will continue studying there further. She didn't have to say any of that, especially publicly and in front of that professor, but she liked me and believed in me so she did, and for that I am thankful. 

After it was all over, the toxic professor came to us in the hall and complimented me on, as she phrased it, "a beautiful defence." I faked a smile and said thank you, thinking: "You are such a hypocrite. We both know what you did." 

My Message to You, Manipulator 

There is a technique used in therapy where a person is encouraged to write or say whatever they would like to say to a person who wronged them. In doing so, you get a chance to let it out, both on an intellectual and psychoemotional level, and make peace with it. It also teaches you self-validation. It doesn't have to be nice, either. Try to be fair and realistic, don't make things up, but if you have stronger emotions and observations that are valid, don't be afraid of letting them through. In situations like this, feeling anger is okay. Here's an example. 

In my time of thinking about this experience, the message I formulated in my head and somewhere in my journal probably was something like this: You are bad as teacher, you are a bad communicator, your lectures are a waste of time, money, and energy. You are an immature, narcissistic human being who wouldn't have a teaching job in a healthy, free market environment. If I ever meet you on the street and you will try to smile at me and say hello, I will tell you to go fuck yourself (in those or other words) because now we are on an even ground. You were a bitch to me, you never apologized or recognized what you did (neither personally nor publicly), and I don't have to pretend that I have more respect for you than I actually do—which is zero.  

Story #2 

The second, more recent experience is from my professional life. This example is an archetype based on many examples that form a type of person I have encountered and observed both in the fields of mental health and education, in my personal life observing several communities and social circles dedicated to healing or self-improvement, and in completely different spheres of life. A few others have told me about their experience with such a type, too. It is a more extreme example to illustrate the point, so some fit it more than others.

This type of person is in the category of the most insecure and actively malevolent people that I have interacted with on a more personal level. At first, I thought this person was also interested in the same things I am interested in. But after some time, it became quite clear to me that they felt insecure around me: constantly comparing themselves with me, trying to prove themselves to me, imitating me, using fake generosity, trying to do things I do, etc. At the same time showing hints that they despise me. I had my own insecurities and was trying to improve my professional life at the time. At some point, I got tired of our unhealthy and unproductive interactions and decided to discontinue our relationship. Later, they tried to apologize for it, openly recognizing that they compared themselves to me, that they copied me, that they felt bad about it, and that now they see their previous behavior more clearly. But it wasn’t genuine and I didn't see the person being fundamentally different. I didn't feel interested in continuing to invest in this interaction anymore so I refused their "apology," gave them my honest reasons, and moved on. Fine, it didn't work out, not a big deal; I'm going to do my thing and you go do yours.

Later, it came to my attention that this person started participating in what could be categorized as character assassination against me. Now, it's worth noting that, just like with the professor, except for one or two very close people who are not involved with that person in any way, I have never mentioned what happened between us to anybody. I haven't mentioned this person or referred to them anywhere. I didn't compulsively talk badly about them with others trying to turn them against the person to get validation or encourage them to pick a side. Yet from what I gathered, it seemed that they have been doing exactly that against me. (For all I know, it could still be happening.) It appeared that the person followed me—possibly in an unhealthy, obsessive manner—and still felt insecure about and competitive with me. This seems to be a type of people who would stalk you to keep up with you and to openly mis-criticize you among their circle, all while telling to themselves that they have to keep an eye on you just in case you are stalking them or talking about them, and to go out of their way to "warn others" about everything they see problematic about you. If you're a writer, they will buy your book just so that they could criticize you and leave a negative review; if you're a chief, they will steal and use your recipes while publicly talking about how the food in your restaurant was too dry and salty.

They mischaracterized me and others; attributed strawman arguments and traits; continued to copy me and others, without giving any credit to those who they resent, and overly-associating with and praising those who are valued in their group to gain more credibility; incorrectly used strong, morally negative terms to vilify me and others and strong, morally positive terms to heroify themselves. There was a lot of black and white, and more importantly, this person had vilified others and heroified themselves in absence of reality or self-awareness, without even realizing they were projecting their own, negative traits onto their targets. This is quite common with manipulators: insecurity, strong projection, black and white thinking, transparent ego, a lack of identity, toxic copying and psychopathic/sociopathic tendencies, being a chameleon, virtue signallingsycophantism, obsessiveness, and delusion.


Now, just like with that professor, I had no interest in spreading my side of the story, like contacting people and trying to explain myself or warning others about them. What others think is not my personal business. Even though I had noticed this was happening, I realized that getting into it would only entangle me further into a drama that I did not want to participate in. I felt that I gave my thoughts and grievances to the person directly while setting a boundary at the end of our initial interaction and moved on. So here my default approach was to deal with the situation internally, to avoid drama and unhealthiness, and to continue with my regular life.

The factual consequences were that I may have lost some potential clients, contacts, and acquaintances. And unfortunately, some people were manipulated into believing and feeling hostility towards me without fully understanding what happened and why they feel as they feel. But this I accept because I have thought about my options and previous experiences in situations like this and more often than not the best way is to ignore it and continue with your life.

All of this is unfortunate but it it happens, so fundamentally it is fine with me. People can say what they think and others can do with that information whatever they want, even if this harms them. I had problems dealing with rejection and injustice in the past, but these days I understand that rejection and injustice as outlined above won't kill me, that those who are prone to manipulation will be manipulated, that those who are insecure manipulators will act out their insecurity in a variety of unhealthy ways, that there will be people who will try to rally others against you and that they don't have to be a part of your life. In the grander scheme of things, none of this is really that important. A person can either learn and grow, make boundaries and face consequences, educate themselves and continue evolving, or keep wasting resources on drama, act out, get distracted, and move through the world without conscious intention or awareness.

My Message to You, Manipulator 

The message for you, manipulator, could have been something like this: personally, you are a false and miserable human being—and you know it. You have to live with yourself every day, after all. Yet you try to convince yourself that you are glorious, partially because you are delusional and partially because some people around you are telling you that. Yet deep down you know the truth—that is where all this fear and insecurity comes from. You hate when people can see your fakeness, your emptiness, and your brokenness. You bring a lot of confusion and disconnect around you. "But how can all these people who think I'm great be wrong? Some of them even hate you now!" You mean people who lack the ability to accurately evaluate a person's character and enable your unhealthy behavior? Yes, they can be wrong. And I'm okay with people disliking me. I am not in a competition with you, but for whatever reason you feel you have to compete with me. Life is not a competition. Move on—it's okay. "But I'm protecting people from your and others' unhealthiness!" You're are not a savior or a protector, and if you think you are you have a Messiah complex. Instead, you use people to feel better about yourself and sometimes these people are vulnerable and lack their own identity too, and you hurt and confuse them because of your behavior. This stems from a need to feel better about who you are and to feel better than me, from your own anxieties, and from your own inferiority.

Congratulations, this is your life. You can continue with that, and I will continue with mine.

How to Handle It

There are two main ways how to handle a manipulator's attempt to hurt you.

Avoiding Drama 

One way, already mentioned in the examples, is to set a clear boundary (usually No Contact works the best), to avoid social drama and, if possible, to remove yourself from such relationships and interactions as soon as possible. "But then the manipulator will win!" Maybe. It depends on how you see winning and losing. I see life as you doing your stuff, others doing their stuff, events happening—and you adjusting to the changing circumstances in a way that is the most acceptable to you. Sometimes it may mean being treated unjustly or losing certain resources in exchange for inner peace and healthier living. 

"But then my friends will abandon me!" Maybe, depends on your definition of a 'friend.' Are they really your friends if they can't even bother to ask you about your perspective on things and your side of the story? If not, then why does it matter?

"But then people will be wrong about me and it will ruin my public image!" Sometimes it can be more beneficial to just let people sort themselves out instead of trying to manage everyone's perception of you. You can't be liked by everybody. You can't control everything. You don't have to always show everyone that you are right (even if you are) or that they see things incorrectly (even if they do). Everything has a cost. Those who care about you will understand, those who are wiser will figure things out, and others... well, they will have to live with their false perception of reality and be around manipulators, oftentimes without even realizing it. The most important thing to remember is that how others see you doesn't change who you actually are (more on that in my video series on self-esteem).

"But I will lose my job!" Maybe. Often the employer cares more about the results than drama. As long as you keep doing a good job it should be fine. And if the conflict is with the management, do you really want to work in an environment like this in the first place? If you are mistreated, then perhaps leaving such an environment is not the worst thing?

"But I want justice!" Well, life is not fair. Sometimes people attack you, sometimes you get cancer, sometimes decent people get mistreated or ganged-up on or unjustly ostracized. Seeking justice has its price—do the math and figure out how much are you willing to pay for the result you think you will get. All things considered, not giving into the drama and continuing with your life generally can be more beneficial than the alternatives.


To me, if it is not a terribly serious issue, it is usually not worth it, but depending on the situation you can consider presenting your side of the story, confronting the manipulator directly, filing for a restraining order, calling the police, and so on. Sometimes these things are more fruitful than other times, but sometimes the end result can be even worse. Nonetheless, sometimes people spend huge sums of money, plenty of time, and lots of energy dealing with the manipulator just to feel better, just to feel that they have won, just to feel right and righteous. But even if you go to court and the judge rules it in your favor, did you really win? If it's a really serious conflict, especially like those that involve children or physical harm, then one might say yes. Otherwise, it may cost you more to win, which in many ways makes it a loss. At the end of the day, it depends on the situation. Pick your battles, they can be costly.

Dealing with It Internally

Oftentimes when people say they want justice they mean they want validation that there has been injustice and that they are in the right. Looking for social validation, even to the degree where you go to court, may simply be an attempt to seek external acknowledgment of your internal experiences. The psychological mechanism is this: you have been wronged, a surrogate parent (e.g., the judge) or a tribe (other people), recognize it, and you feel better—external validation.

However, that is the exact thing that the manipulator is looking for too, because in their eyes you wronged them. And sometimes it can be a combination of both. However, to them, truth doesn't matter—what matters is to feel better, i.e., being validated as morally good and intellectually right, at any cost. There is the truth and there is "the truth" as they perceive it or as they want others to see it. They may even see your good qualities or goals or achievements or behaviors as their own and bad ones as yours, and therefore may think that you did or are doing to them what they are actually doing themselves, and feel right even though you are the one who is actually in the right. They will go out of their way to present their narrative—and if that story is believable enough, people might believe it just like that. The manipulator can be more dangerous if they have gained perceived credibility, i.e., if people trust them. So sometimes they "win" even if you are right.

"But justice..." Well, the greatest justice served is that, even if the manipulator succeeds in their scheme, at the end of the day they still are who they are. They have to live their unhappy life—and that's the biggest price they pay for their toxic behavior, without even realizing the consequences of it. And as I like to say, you can do whatever you want except choose the consequences of your actions. 

If you process the situation internally and resolve your emotions related to it, you will be free from it. Usually it requires an ability to estimate yourself accurately and provide self-validation. So not everyone can do it by themselves at every point of their life. For this reason, it may take a person a long amount of time to overcome it, or they may ask for professional help to deal with it. However, if you resolve the situation internally and the situation is not life threatening, you make peace with it and move on with your life, and the urge to seek justice and validation diminishes. Learn from the experience, learn to spot manipulation quickly to avoid it in the future, and move forward with your life.

Closing Thoughts

Character assassination, its variations, and manipulation related to it is a complex sociopsychological phenomenon that involves triangulation, mischaracterization, power play, defamation, projection, and social drama. If successful, character assassination results in social rejection or social attack for the victim. For many, being socially unaccepted or attacked is a powerful stimulus, as it triggers strong emotional responses. It is exceptionally stressful to experience character assassination and its results in an environment where there is a huge power disparity, for example, if you are a child, or a patient in a hospital, or a subordinate.

It is easier to endure if you are more individual and self-sufficient—physically, emotionally, intellectually, financially—and don't depend on others for many things. It is much more difficult if you lack identity, are still highly unresolved, or have nobody to interact with, because being turned against and possibly isolated may create feelings of self-doubt, self-blame, shame, and fear. And if a person already suffers from low self-esteem, social anxiety and isolation, then they need someone to validate the injustice or at least for someone to be there for them, to like them on a basic human level so that they didn't get too overwhelmed by their emotional responses. Otherwise, in the long run it may mutate into self-hatred, chronic self-doubt, severe isolation, depression, and destructive or self-destructive behavior.

There are two main behavioral responses to social attack or rejection due to character assassination or other forms of social injustice. One is non-engaging: processing the situation as accurately as possible, removing yourself from it or adjusting to it accordingly, and moving forward. And two, fighting back directly, which in many cases may not be worth it, or simply may be quite hard, especially if in lack of resources (money, time, energy, power, social influence). In some cases, some forms of both of those approaches are successfully used in parallel. 

There is this saying that goes something like this: "Don't sacrifice your peace trying to point out someone's true colors. Lack of character always reveals itself in the end." In my experience and observation, it can be true sometimes, but usually it's not that simple. Yes, toxic people reveal themselves all the time. The problem is, most people either are unable or unwilling to evaluate that information accurately. As a result, we have a culture where narcissism and sociopathy—because of cultural programming and their subtle similarity to healthiness and individuality—are perceived as success and an aim. At the end of the day, my humble advice would be to look for a healthy social environment, to be more individual versus tribal, to avoid drama, to avoid being distracted from your goals, to analyze your internal world, to stand up for yourself in your private life, to fight the manipulators if necessary, and to pick your battles wisely.

Character assassination is a cheap tactic used by insecure, fake, manipulative, or simply psychopathic people, and usually the best way is to not to get lured into the drama of it, simply ignore it, and continue doing with what you are doing. Yes, there will be people who will never double-check and simply believe the manipulator, there will be those who will want to find out the truth, there will be those who can see through it immediately, and there will be those who are simply not interested in it. But either way, you can endure it, and continue with your life.


What are your stories? You can leave them in the comments below or simply write about them in your journal.

What would you like to say to the toxic people who mistreated you? You don't have to actually say it to them, but sometimes just getting it out can alleviate your emotional tension significantly and provide some clarity. 

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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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