By Patricia Lefave, Labeled, D.D.(P)
I want to give the psychiatrized and the psychiatrists a psychic snapshot out of an event from my own life. This is the kind of thing from which I have learned about the similarities to my own protagonist and, in fact, are similar to psychiatry's thinking as well.
Years ago, I belonged for a few months, to a group which was modeled on the Skinner/Selye/behaviourist model of interaction. At one of the earliest meetings for me, this scenario took place. The group leader, a woman who was a few years younger than I, and who had been trained in her role by a mental health pro with a masters degree in Psychology, put on a demonstration.
She handed out to everyone a piece of paper and a pencil and told us to draw a picture of anything at all. When we were finished she instructed us to pass the pictures to our right until all of them had been passed through the whole group. As we received each picture, we were told to give each one a grade between one and ten. So I asked, "What are we supposed to grade them on exactly?"
She did not answer nor even look at me.So, I asked her again, Excuse me..Could you tell me on what basis I am supposed to be grading them? Is it artistic ability or what?"
Her face screwed up in an angry mask yet she still didn't look at me, nor answer me. I must admit her strange behaviour confused me so I said, calling her by name this time in case she thought I wasn't talking to her, 'Daisy' (not her real name) can't you hear me?"
She continued to ignore me as a long time member of the group tip toed up behind me to say ever so quietly into my ear, " You are not supposed to ask that. Stop asking questions."
So instead, I quietly asked the member, "Why am I not supposed to ask that?"
She rolled her eyes at me and walked away from me. Apparently I was being stupid again if I didn't understand the whole deal.
In any case, in an atmosphere of dead (and very uncomfortable silence) the drawings were passed around the group, graded, and then collected and returned to the leader. She held some of them up to show us the variety of numbers applied to every drawing. As she did this she told us triumphantly that "when we assign things a value without knowing the basis of our judgments, we all value the same things very differently."
The light went on and my 'confusion' dissipated. I was not supposed to know the lesson I was being taught before I had been taught it. I had unknowingly stated the obvious and ruined my leader's wise lesson as it had been taught to her. After she finished this demonstration for us all, she turned towards me, her face fully demonstrating her angry affect and said, "I find you very hostile!" (she was unaware of any sense of irony in that.)
No one else in the group said a word even though they all stood and watched this scene being acted out. (After all we don't like to upset out leaders or authority figures do we?)
After a few visits to these group meetings, which seemed very focused to me on jargon and group consensus for "harmony's" sake, I stopped going. Individual experiences seemed less important to the leadership than keeping the jargon in place. (eg; A woman could not talk about her suicidal impulse unless she was going to use the jargon to do it, with which she was not comfortable, so she stopped trying)
I later heard from someone I knew from outside the group setting that some of the members inside the group had suggested I had stopped going because I was 'anti-social."
The woman leader confirmed that she had found me VERY hostile right from the start.
I once attended a community college class after many years away from it. (At 18 I had taken a course I really had no interest in but was under pressure at the time to do so. I had not been back since)
Anyway, as I walked into my new class, dressed accordingly to what I remembered as ‘appropriate’ to the former dress code, I noticed several women dressed in jeans. As the class ended, I decided to ask one of them about it thinking that perhaps this day was exceptional for some reason. So I asked a jeans wearer, “Do you wear jeans all the time or is this a special day for it?”
“What do you mean?” she said, sounding somewhat suspicious. So I told her that I had attended there some years ago, women were not permitted to wear jeans EVER, and that is was in the official dress code.
She told me she wore them most of the time and intended to keep right on wearing them. (Her emotional tone sounded fairly neutral as she said this but she still looked a little suspicious.)
So, after that I also wore them whenever I was in the mood.
Some of the other class members seemed to be treating me a little strangely but didn’t actually say anything so I ignored it (something I am used to doing. As I once told a group of co-workers, “If I were to confront everyone who is lying to me or thinks they are keeping ‘secrets’ from me, I wouldn’t have time to be doing anything else, all day long.”)
A few months later, I got the other side of the story, the one that had been covertly presented to the group, about me, as perceived and ‘interpreted’ by the woman to whom I had presented the ‘jeans’ query. One of the women who had gotten to know me a little bit told me I ‘didn’t seem like such a bitch’ to her.
“Pardon?” I responded, a little taken aback.
She then told me how the communication between ‘Iris’ and me, which was unwitnessed, had been presented to the rest of the group in my absence.
“She is just such a bitch! As soon as everybody else left she said to me, (using contemptuous emotional tone to make her point) “Do you wear THOSE jeans All the TIME? Who the hell does she think she is coming in here all la-de-da in her pant suit, talking to ME like that?”
(Besides the added word “those”, emotion I did not feel, she ALSO left out of her story that I had told her WHY I had asked. Of course, the group did not know that.)
It is unlikely I would ever have known what the group thought, had it not been of one member of it who told me of the other ‘reality.’ The only reason she told me was because she did not see me in the way that I had been covertly defined for the group.
In the days since I have been psychiatrized, after being covertly ‘set up’ by my protagonist, I have recognized that these types of incidents with such a group pattern are extremely common amongst my fellow psychiatrized, especially, it would seem, if they have been labeled ‘schizophrenic’, bi-polar (nee manic depressive), borderline, or sometimes as sociopaths. (I am convinced that it happens that many of the victims of actual ‘sociopaths’ are labeled themselves, when the real sociopath in their relationship claims the reality between them is the exact opposite.
The following are the kind of invalidations used to maintain the group’s belief system and to aid them all in avoiding accountability for their own behavior. The fault is then ALWAYS found to be in the targeted individual.
Here are ten examples in what COULD be an endless list of them which can be applied here to the ‘Class” situation. The first step taken is to be sure everyone focuses on holding their position of invalidating the target, in order to validate themselves. After that, it goes like this:
She is probably just jealous!
She’s trying to compare her pant suit to Iris's jeans just so “Iris” will feel bad!
She is only saying that happened because she likes to make trouble for others.
She likes blaming other people for what she does herself.
She is probably just seeking attention.
She is mad because she feels threatened by “Iris.”
She just does that because Iris is educated and she isn’t.
She probably compares herself to others all the time because she feels inferior.
She is only trying to make some trouble with the teacher for Iris for some reason. Apparently she used to be a friend of Iris's husband’s ex girlfriend when they were in high school. .
She’s probably just really manipulative with other people all the time. Some people are like that you know.
Well, you get the idea. If the target you will remain the target if the group needs to justify itself. Anybody can do this to anyone. If you get sucked into the arguments (most of which will likely be applied to you behind your back anyway) you can stay in it forever on that level because if the point of all the group members say is to blame you, they can come up with hundreds, or thousands, of supposedly ‘good’ reasons to keep on doing it, ad infinitum.
Reason or truth has nothing to do with this. This occurs on an emotional level and is about power and/or powerlessness, so it has to be dealt with on that level also. The best way to do that is by exposing the reality of it to the light of day.
The psychiatric language and judgments coupled with little or no interest in listening to the ‘identified’ patient, seems to be blurring the line between victim and aggressor more and more frequently which must have much to do with psychiatry’s near complete disinterest in concrete evidence. The psychiatrized are not granted the same rights as the rest of society. In fact, criminals have much better rights and are more protected by the laws than I am for just COMPLAINING about abuses.
Psychiatry bases it’s judgments of people primarily on its abstract and wonderfully vague belief system, apart from concrete detail. That is also a definition of metaphysics which some think of as a form of ‘magic.’ Some might see that as psychiatry’s ‘magical thinking’ of which they become so alarmed if sensed in us psychotic ‘others.’ As one of them said to me when I tried to offer evidence in my own case, “It’s not my job to be an investigator.”
(This was while h had been assessing me from a nice safe distance away, based on the rumors of a group of nurses who were being directed by my protagonist’s ‘interpretation’ of events between he and I.)
It is indeed about ‘communication.’
It is hard enough to communicate with someone when BOTH are making an honest effort to do so. Language is an imperfect tool at best because in all of it’s various usages the possibility that what ones means is not what the other means or hears when using the same words.
When even attempts at direct communication are refused, the chances that any real understanding, resolution or empathy will be the result are slim to none. Still some people prefer the ‘interpretations’ of others to the dangers of open genuine communication. I will work on giving it a ‘disease’ name for the next edition of the Dark Secrets of Metaphysics. (DSM) Real understanding and communication is a one to one action. It cannot occur on a group level beyond a very simple and primary concept.
The only concept that works and preserves all personal boundaries for all is equality of worth, and the actions that connect that concept to concrete reality are the conscious decisions to stay out of the boundaries of others as one also expects others to stay out of one’s own and to be prepared to block them out if they don’t choose that. That attitude creates a “space” of mutual respect for boundaries, operating in both directions at the same time. It is only the aggression that is missing from that metaphysical equation. This is ‘the space’ we must all make for both ourselves and others.
If the concept used is not a complementary division between an ‘I/thou’ relationship, then it can only be an adversarial division. A division is necessary to self actualize but it is the KIND of division that matters. If it is not I/Thou as equals but rather ‘them’ and ‘us’ as superior/inferior, everyone is losing whether they recognize the fact or not.
To step outside the correct boundaried space is to lose ones Self in the enmeshment, confusion and the creation of chaos.
Chaos and confusion ends where real understanding and communication begins; right at the nexus of all meaning, and that cannot begin without concrete specific detail or evidence of reality connected to conceptual (or symbolic) meaning. Whenever one is promoted apart from the other, a schizophrenic reality exists.
There is something terrifyingly wrong with a system which promotes a belief within its own members, that they are capable of understanding and judging the lives, thoughts and feelings of another person, who is most often a complete stranger to them, within ten or fifteen minutes of hearing what that person has to tell them. The only way anyone can do that is if they believe they can hear another’s truth as an absolute, abstraction, with no real face value or connection to concrete reality.
When you are on the receiving end of these types of assessments, delivered quite eerily, with the flat affect of the assessor, who is ‘certain’ of his position over you, the experience takes on a surreal quality that tends to remain for a long time. In fact, it often becomes this true psychic horror from which there is no escape possible that CAUSES the original experience of psychosis. Once experienced, nothing you say or feel after that, might ever be heard as ‘real’ or legitimate again. Psychiatry, like any other dysfunctional group, has an arsenal of invalidating platitudes and judgments for everything you can possibly say or do.
Permanently invalidating the thoughts, feelings and experience of the one so labeled becomes the burden tied onto his her back by others that he/she may be forced to carry for the rest of the individual’s life. If you understood that, you would understand how appropriate all those ‘affects’ (formerly known as feelings) really were, and are. Let them BE so the one experiencing them can begin to move past them.