I’m a suspicious sort. It’s taken me a long time to develop these complaints, so while I try to write conversationally, this little rebellion has been building for decades. I feel it’s going to be my way back to move forward, like I gotta be me more, not less. I need to stop telling myself I’m paranoid and wrong and say this stuff, if it’s wrong, hopefully it’s harmless, but really, erroneous conclusions aren’t the kind you avoid for decades and are still there waiting for you when you’re finished running. The fact that psychology is just one discipline of many all crammed into the patriarchy and the warrior society isn’t all that’s wrong with it.
There is something wrong with it that I want to explore here with you in real time, and I haven’t nailed it down yet – in fact, I forgot all about it yesterday, that’s why we’re here again – but it’s something I want to answer with “yes, damnit, we are our brother’s keeper.”
We are social animals. We know that we are, that it is fundamental to us, so much so that we know if we raised a person alone, in an even less human version of the Truman Show or something, that if this person never saw another human in their whole life, that humans were the biggest factors in their life still, and that human society did to them whatever that does to a person. Alone in a rocket ship to Mars, we are social creatures and that one interaction – helping us into the rocket – is the interaction that is our life. We are our brother’s keeper, even if we don’t know him, even across the void of space. We are literally keeping millions of our brothers in prison, an odd circumstance if we aren’t supposed to be keeping our brothers at all.
Psychologists, psychiatrists, of course they know this, of course they know it is our interactions that are life and that have the power to make or break us, it’s their business all day long to sort through it, but they don’t have society to work with, often as not they don’t even get our parents or our spouse to work with, all they got is us. I’m sure the task looks like trying to put a cow back together after its interactions with the cattle industry sometimes, except it would be closer to say that it looks like coaching the cow to put itself back together.
When we start to focus on the individual and their part in the interactions that have harmed them, because again, they are the ones we’re talking to, and we start to think about it in terms of choices, as per yesterday’s example –
I’ll break a case down, someone I know – well, half the people I know, as you’ll perhaps agree: a woman, neglected, with or without corporal punishment to boot, by her father, father is detached, unavailable, woman discovers a pattern, later in life of blindness to this sort of treatment, choosing the same sorts of men, always suffering the neglect, with or without ‘corporal punishment’ until, with psychology she sees the early unmet need, becomes more conscious of the issue and is safer from making the same choice next time. A classic psychology success story, I think, not to mention a near ubiquitous one. I think many women and many feminists are familiar with this meme, and it’s an example that defines the popular idea of psychology quite well.
– there’s some dehumanization going on there that I’ve never been comfortable with, and I’m getting less so. If the people in our lives are our “choices,” we are not accounting for their agency, their humanity, or their potential to learn or change. I’m liking this idea less these days, because for me to place my life in this template, I must decide my wife of twenty-five years is nothing but a poor choice of mine, some unconscious animal one can’t talk to and has to work around like any inanimate hazard. This, while simultaneously believing the opposite about my own self, or I’m not in some psych’s office having this conversation at all.
I’m seeking help with my mental health, and I can’t get in the door without taking on this self deception. I suspect one needs a counsellor that’s smarter than oneself. Of course, they know this too, but what are they going to do? We are all they have left to work with. I went to counselling at the very same community health office that my ex and my kids were going to, with the idea that they might be able to see both sides and help us all, but no, privacy laws, I am probably a dangerous stalker. So, we’re all in the same building, our counsellors share a manager – but my ex is just a prop in my own little psychodrama and I in hers, and we each need to figure out for what self-destructive reason we either are coming apart or whatever self-destructive reason we chose each other in the first place. We’re not here to talk about other people, we’re here to talk about you.
They have access to the actual people we are both there to talk about, but no. Psychology deals with our internalized versions of one another, apparently that is more to the point. Real people only complicate things; our stories are irreconcilable, so I guess our counsellors’ stories would be too.
So, yesterday was all about power and the patriarchy using psych sciences as a weapon for conformity, about turning our own experience of abuse into some bad choice we’ve made, about guilt, that many other aspects of life mean this guilt is there, whether we intend it or not. Today, it’s about what framing things as a choice that way does not to our self-worth, but to our sense of other-worth. We are guilty, we have made poor choices, but the ‘others’ in this model are objectified, they aren’t apparently making choices, aren’t apparently able to. Acceptance becomes the goal, because while we are charged to change and grow, the people around us are posited as natural forces or something, exempted.
Everything takes me back to the warrior society, OMG, I didn’t want to think this! That objectification, that dehumanization that we must do in these therapies, this is antisocialization, and the counsellors are cleaning up after the parents, trying to get these sensitive, hurting people to start thinking of other people as things at last, because they never learned it from their childhood beatings, and I’m back to Bluebeard again: you’ll never get any killin’ done, you go around thinking of people as interactive, changeable things all the time. Or any healing either, I guess.
I know, it’s all we can do, that sort of troubleshooting where you have to take these sorts of perspectives, run scenarios, ‘what if you knew, for sure, that your dad was never going to change, never going to hear you,’ and work with that, I know it. I’m not sure you can do that sort of black box exercise with human beings when you are one, it seems like a conundrum – which of course is just what I was looking for when my head went on the fritz, more conundrums.
Thanks for nuthin.’
One year today. One year since the last vestige of mania imploded on me and I couldn’t work anymore. Two years, I may as well make this my anniversary, since it was obvious I was in trouble, I can’t believe it, feels like twenty. I can barely remember them, my girls, my ex, my cats, my life.
Feb. 24th., 2018
Okay, so I agree and more than at least in principle, that it is our interactions that make us, make our lives…If I put it correctly. No man or woman is an island sort of thing. I just wonder where the victim talk is going…I know, I know, I have been trained by psychology not to use that forbidden word, victim, at least not to describe myself, because it is “disempowering” and as you note, psychology claims that it removes my personal responsibility from the equation. I am just not sure where the victim/abuser dichotomy serves to change anything. Or at least where it will go, when you insist on it. It is not that there are not abusers and their objects/subjects, just that thinking of one self as a victim only has so much traction before you get mired in thinking you have NO agency whatsoever. And lets face it, society, for good or ill, does not like victims to claim victimhood. BUT BUT BUT, being a victim is one thing. That could count as fact. To think of oneself in the victimized position just seems unhelpful in the end. But maybe I have drunk too much of psychology’s kool-aid?
the dichotomy I was after was this one where we’re simultaneously supposed to grasp how somebody else – my dad, my ex, those meanies at work, whatever – aren’t going to change, so we have to, like they won’t or can’t, but we – the ones suffering and needing this counselling or therapy or whatever, must! Nobody else can change, but you, because you’re the one suffering from relationships with these basilisks, you must perform the miracle, you must be the only person in your life to somehow grow and learn.
Yes, that’s a victim talking,not, “I can” but “I must,” I know.
For me, that’s not the real conflict, I have decided that people can change, so the “other people can’t” idea, what we’re supposed to accept, dad won’t change, THAT’s what I can’t accept, and so, acceptance eludes me.
It’s a useful attitude, I get that, to tell yourself, dad can’t change, but I can, but I have to be able to believe in change, I can’t believe something like only I am capable of change. I got an ego, but not that much. It sounds useful, I get it, but I hear crazy pressure also: no-one else can, but YOU MUST.
You never felt that? ACCEPT them, but CHANGE you? Again, I get the positive idea, I just feel like it’s my calling to tell the world what else goes with it, like no-one sees downsides.
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Despite an entire adulthood of psychiatry, I have only been in real therapy for about a couple of years, and so what I know may not count for much, except that my therapist is neither a psychologist nor a psychiatrist and in fact refuses to get a license in this country…For all that, my understanding of your dichotomy has been very different. It is not that “They” cannot change, but that we cannot change THEM. A world of difference. The only person we are capable of changing is ourselves…and if they change, bully for them but do not wait around for it…
If you have tried as I have to make others happy and failed at it miserably, because I could not actually make them happy or change,or even want to change, then you know that this is likely true. We can change but we cannot make others be what or who we want.
I found this not only helpful but liberating. One’s abusive father may or may not change, but change if it happens is up to him. We can do only one thing, and that is, change our behavior or attitude, or both. It does not mean we accept injustice or wrong, but that we can only do what we are capable of doing, which is to modify ourselves…
Oh, I know Pam, that’s how it’s supposed to be, that’s what we talk about, the reality factor – yes, I have tried and failed – and the difference between changing oneself and trying to change others, I know, and I can sort of imagine the liberation, I just can’t imagine it for me.
It’s either mental illness, intelligence, or stubbornness, it still looks like a logical impossibility to me that I have to think that way about you and some other way about me, you, know, that way about my ex but a different way about myself, I can’t separate it. I’m practicing, I’m trying to learn to not worry about every person as though they were myself or something, trying to learn to let failed relationships go, trying to keep some others at a distance, but it’s a battle, my heart’s not in it. Every failed or ended relationship just feels unresolved to me, just a failure to communicate, that given enough time and talk could be worked out.
I know I’m offering the minority viewpoint, that’s what I do. I can’t imagine that in a world of 7 1/2 billion people, the world needs my voice selling people you can only change yourself, most folks who think about it agree with that already.
Also – here, is it less offensive if I offer a more positive proof? Of course we can make other people happy, and of course we can help effect positive change in others. I personally have aided in the happiness of others quite a bit in my life, and so have you. I have learned things from other people – I have learned things from you that are going to be a part of my future, more complete self.
I suspect the attitude you’re talking about would be a great stress reducer for me, I wish. When I connected this stopping expecting others to change idea with my main theory Saturday, that was a surprise to me, I wasn’t looking for that answer, it’s a sad one, for sure. I was ready to hit “publish” before it snuck up on me, that second last paragraph. If there’s anything to my general theory, then this warning of mine may matter, that the “don’t expect others to change” meme might have a more nefarious function, a positive sounding meme, co-opted like all of them, by the overwhelming memes about security and competition, the warrior society thing.
I worry, is the thing. Am I talking you out of something healthy, I hope not. I don’t really think so, I know you have the kind of smarts where you can’t fool yourself for long anyway, right? And I’m not saying it’s not true, of course changing other people how you want and when you want, all that, is ridiculous.
I’m just saying, yeah, that, but also this.
My sadness, my truth is that telling me “you can’t change them” makes me sad. That’s kinda my whole faith in humanity right there.
Hope I’m not making you sad too, Pam,
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Argh…so much of what you say is true, all too true…and I don’t argue with what you wrote in that OMG I do not want to be here, again. But I think this belief that we can actually make people change, which is exactly what believing we can change people means, to make them do it, is far more the majority opinion than anything. If for example, all those hospitals that abused me did not believe this, I know they would not have done all the worse-than-coercive and controlling things that they did to me, and continue to do to others. No, I think in fact it is the belief to the point of excluding reality that makes the warrior society so intent on, well, warring. Their/society’s firm but erroneous belief that what they do can force others to change. Oh of,course we can facilitate change and do it better than tying people to beds for days on end. That was nothing except punishment — andnthe fact that so many deny it only proves it is true. But as in the proverbial horse led to the watering hole but not feeling enough thirst to drink from it, well, we can only do what we choose to do, and the rest truly is up to “them.”
I do not find this sad at all. I think the problem is the belief that we can, anyone can force change on others, an extremely widespread but inherently fallacious belief. Talk about OMG…I mean, what is war and aggression and all the lessons you fail against if it is not intrinsically and absolutely based on the notion that we can change others, that is, if we apply enough force, they will do and be as we want them to do and be.
If the world stopped believing this, because it does not work, not really, then we would be a lot better off. So how does your benevolent forcing others to change differ from that force applied by the warrior society? It does not, except that of course I trust in your essential benevolence.
It just do3snt work, to make others change, and even when we do our best to effect change, and to “make people happy” it only “works” insofar as they choose to either accept our suggestions or whatever, or want to be or do as we believe they should.
Torture does not work, not really. But neither does forcing a person to “be happy.” We can be agents of change, in the sense that we help others as we choose to, but in the end, sad as it makes you, change is up to them. This does not mean we should be selfish and self-serving only. You know, I think, that I could never live my lie that way. We have agency and what we do affects people, absolutely. We just cannot force anyone to change in the direction we want. We can only do our best to show the way.
This to me is a good thing. Because if anYone could force happiness in another person, or even make someone feel happy, it would also be true that we can and should do so, and force would become a way of life..
Oops, it already is a way of life, isn’t it! And that is not because any majority believes what I am say8ng but becusse in fact the world is made of people who think they can make people change.
The only difference is whether we agree with the changes wanted…but force is force, and a positive force for happiness implies the exact opposite.
Sorry, if I have written gibberish here, due to incoherent spellings etc but I cannot see what I am typing and so have no idea whether spellcheck has chamged my words or whether what I am writing says what I want to…
Next time I won’t use my iPad, because I am too blind to see a thing on it, but for now, if this makes any sense at all, I hope it says most of what I intended.
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“Fail” should be “rail” as in railing against. And when I said my “lie” that should have read Life.
OK, more later – but OK, so just change everything I said about having to believe I can change but my ex can’t into me having to believe I can’t change my ex, but meanwhile this counsellor telling me so is trying to change ME – that’s a little closer to your experience, right?
look at us showing the world how to have a conversation
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Not all counsellors are geniuses and yours could well be an idiot, keep in mind that most therapy fails and is worthless. You know what you want and how you want to be, don’t let some stupid professional try to tell you these th)gs. I do not believe in “mental illness” anyway, mental suffering yes but counsellors tend to be morons who cannot do what they want to advise others to do. If he or she asks you some idiotic question turn it around and ask them the same thing, I’ll bet the response will be telling.
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now we’re in agreement
No shrink I ever saw did much for me except sympathize and give “supportive therapy” which meant that they earned a lot of dough for essentially keeping me sick and doing nothing themselves. The person I talk with now asks many more questions than posing solutions and frankly if she tried to impose anything on me I would run away, even her opinion. She is a tool and a kind empathic person who sees me as better than I do, I mean a better person than I would say, but she does not offer advice or opinions. If I am “getting better” it is largely because I want to and she does not need me to stay sick or incapacitated. She is not part of the mental illness machine and so has no stake in anything but my doing as well as possible. I doubt most advisors are this detached…
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She ONLY. Wants me to be me, to be free…freedom is her key word.
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I tried a bunch and this fellow I mention was the latest and the best of them, I liked him . . . but I feel the whole system was trying to stuff me into some mold marked “men’s problems” or something, I have given up, but maybe only on govern paid counselling. I imagine I could find someone willing to try seeing me my way if I was paying privately. Sound like you got a good one alright.
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private pay and non-US licensed is the only way for me, NO records no Insurance, no diagnosis…I have a face time psychiatrist two states away who sends or rX when I need them but other than that I have nothing to do with her, beyond paying her bill.
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