The Idiocy of Shrinks, & the Importance of Boundaries

Shrinks, and I use that term loosely, are little more than blind guides and hypocrites, I’ve found.  Pastors, therapists, psychiatrists–they’re well-meaning, but fools with whom I’ve wasted an inordinate amount of time and money.

Over time, as I got more depressed, my boundaries got increasingly mangled, increasingly in relations to my brother Chris, and my mother was very unsupportive.  Symptoms of exhaustion aside, I suppose the worst problems of my depression lay in self-doubt and concerning how to stand up for myself. (You get told you’re wrong long enough, and it takes a toll.) 

Depression makes you feel helpless, friends, at least at its deep end.  Isolated in the real world or not, you feel thus emotionally, and perception is an aspect of reality.  I was sick of my mother’s erratic rules, sick of Chris’s incursions, but I got utterly no emotional support in terms of taking action, even though I felt like it.

Depression comes with confusion, you see, and I wanted to make the right choice. I’m not to blame for Chris justifying his actions with mine, nor am I for my mother’s, but all thesame, I sought validation.  I was angry, even described fairly enough by another as “murderous,” but was practicing self-control.

Thing is, when I’d press friends and loved ones, “Should Chris have done that?” They’d either say, spitefully that he was (I say that because I framed the questions so that disagreeing with me would be sheer lunacy) or just answer that I needed to forgive, which disrespected the question. 

Yes, I needed to forgive, but I also needed boundaries, and had zero suppoort in making them.  On the one hand, they’d say that they understood brothers fought, but they refused to empathize with my rage, really, and I’m not saying that to empathize means sayin, “Yeah, feel to bash him hard with the folding chair.”

I’d keep describing a scenario validating my anger, or meant to, at least, and say, “Should he have done that?” and I never once got an, “Philip, I don’t know, this is only your side of the story, but if your side of the story is accurate, then I believe you to be correct.”  I could have lived with that, I could have lived with the “It’s only your side of the story” caveat, but no one admitted it.

Given such cowardice, it only got me more steamed, more enraged, more frustrated, and, if you think about it, paranoid.  They were siding with CHris, and Mom, in effect, by their words.  They weren’t even willing to help me confront them in a non-angry way, so that was the effective message, yes? 

They kept telling me what a great mother I had, how lucky I was to have her, but what was the undercurrent?  That I was to blame for everything, of course!  All this talk of personal responsibility was really a guilt-trip, yes?  In the absence of real communication, people draw their own conclusions, and I drew the conclusion that Chris’s justifications were being validated.

So then I went to the shrinks, and guess what?  They basically all stonewalled my questions, and furthered my sense that everyone blamed me.  After all, if anyone really wanted me to stand up for myself, draw a a line in the sand, he’d say I had good reason to be angry, wouldn’t he?  Maybe I’d be cautioned not to chuch Chris in the ditch, yes, but you know. 

Sad thing is, shrinks only believe in empathizing with every emotion but rage, which is a problem given how central it is in the spectrum.  Speaking in antiseptic monotone don’t help none, neither–it ticked me off, even more, ultimately. Speaking one way regradless of the other party isn’t good discipline, friends; rather, it’s being inhuman.

“Forgiveness” was emphasized, but given how they never answered my question of whether my wrath was justified, I was left once again to my own imagining.  To forgive implies that you were wronged, but it seemed the fingers pointed one way, to that of a guilt-trip. 

I am not to blame for Chris’s insecurity and cowardice. 

I am not to blame for my mother’s sloppiness and largely menopausal depression.

I can accept such now, but really needed it then, and those shrinks, for whatever ideological or personal reasons, chose to blame me for everything.  I eventually left the situation in defeat, because that is something I could control, but my head was hanging; it shouldn’t have, but it was.

I daresay that they used my anger as excuse for cowardice, and for such I despise them both personally as a profession.  Their goal is to earn your trust, instead they earned my distrust, and that was because they weren’t straight with me.

I guess my argument is an attempt to deal with the perceived disingenuousness of others.  Say what you mean; don’t give me reason to ask questions, because I tend to interrogate, yet interrogations are generally for those you suspect of concealing something, so don’t give that impression.  If the shrinks had managed to convinced me when I started that they weren’t trying to put me on a guilt trip, I doubt I’d be suffering from apathy now, because that was the only coping strategy that allowed me to face up to an anger well past the pain threshold.  (Maybe, reader, you’ll think I’m blaming them for this instead of taking responsibility for my own actions, but I think fair to say that they weren’t supportive, and if a bond of trust formed, it would have been better for all.)

At any rate, here are my new prospective boundaries I’ve formed for any future intensive one-on-ones.

The following are my expectations, which I anticipate your living up to, under no uncertain terms.

In short, I am not an excuse.
1.  You shall always answer a question according to the question.
2.  Not only does disrespecting a question hurt my feelings, more importantly it violates the golden rule, which is disallowed under any circumstances.
3.  Perceived motives are irrelevant, ie, whether someone wants to be right doesn’t make stonewalling, or spite justified; in short, man up.
4.  Passive aggression, as in unilateral disenagement, is anathema; it’s controlling, mainipulative, so don’t waste my time..

Keep in mind, asking questions too personal is out of bounds, when it comes to inquiries, but that’s basically the only exception allowed, for the sake of candor.

So there ya haves it–lookin’ back, but focused forward.  I trust that formula will work.



About Noitartst

You wanna know about me? Oh, I think, write, and fury. I'd say that about covers it.
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2 Responses to The Idiocy of Shrinks, & the Importance of Boundaries

  1. Sean+ says:

    Here are my thoughts on your question, “Should Chris have done that?”

    Keep in mind, please, that I can not, of course, actually answer your question, not knowing what Chris is alleged to have done and not knowing more than one side to the story. There are at least three sides to everything, all of which must be considered before rendering a final judgment.

    It seems to me that there are three possible versions of the question, all of which I have actually encountered.
    1. I want you to validate my pain and help ease it. I need the human connection of having somebody understand. In other words, I need love in some form. Having gotten that, I hope to be able to move beyond the anger.
    2. I want you to validate my anger, so I can continue in it with justification. Tell me I have a right to the anger.
    3. No, really, I don’t know. Should he have done that? How do the normal rules of human interaction work? I’m not certain.

    Version #3 I could answer as you suggest above: “If you have recounted events accurately, then no, he should not have done that.”
    Version #1, if I understood that to be the meaning of the question, I could answer. “No, he should not have done so. I feel your anger with you. (Really, I would be much warmer in real life!) Now what can be done about that anger?”
    Version #2, sadly, seems to be the most common. I get asked it all the time. It is what I have come to assume to be the real meaning behind those words most of the time, and I am justified in that assumption. I will not and can not answer that version of the question. If I am invited to, I will explain why. If not, I will disengage or redirect. There is no answer; the question, by my values and principles, is meaningless. You may as well ask, “What happens if an irresistible force meets an immovable object,” or “What color socks does God wear?” or “Should I murder my neighbor with poison or a gun?”

    So, sadly, if you asked me that question and I believed you to be asking version #2, I would not be able to comply with your first expectation listed above.

    Now, having said all that, let me add this. I do not know the situations of your youth. I do not know the repeated frustrations and aggravations, the (perhaps) continual feeling of not being understood, of not connecting, of being cast out and made the scapegoat. But I do know that every sibling in the world has had legitimate complaints against his siblings. I know that you must have. So I know that Chris most likely did do things he should not have done, and your mother most likely did things she should not have done. I also know that you are not to blame, and not to be blamed, for being who you are. It is wrong to cast the burden of other people’s reactions onto you. Insofar as that was done, you were wronged.

    That’s done. But since I used the word “scapegoat,” let me recommend an interesting blog post by one of my favorite bloggers and theological commentators (from a psychological perspective):

    • noitartst says:

      Anger is not a safe place to be, Sean. What the shrinks did didn’t help in their goal, ie to encourage me in moving beyond it; they failed. Anger is energy, but energy for what? How do you channel it constructively? The twits didn’t have an answer. They never said, “Yeah, if he does something like that in the future, don’t beat yourself up–feel free to confront,” that would have been helpful and supportive, and not about taking revenge, but instead they kept bashing me over the head with guilt, and kept saying that Chris was right to hurt me.

      Shrinks fear validating rage, and I can see why, but to disengage violates the golden rule. If I were in the shrink’s place, I would give the number three answer, because it would be answering the question, and if a shrink had answered it thusly, I think I would have been satisfied.

      It returns to the Golden Rule, Sean, and that’s what I try to do, never asking of others what I will not ask of myself, and the shrinks flunked because they assumed that I was looking just to be proven right, and never tried to give the third option instead.

      Empathize with the desperation behind the second scenario. It’s there out of frustration. It fears disrespect, and by disrespecting it, disengaging, yes, you’ve managed to avoid validating explosive rage, but you’ve also unwittingly validated cyclic fears and insecurity. The fears would circle, the anger would build, I’d seek validation, and they’d only validate my fears.

      Don’t you see? The shrinks unwittingly formed a vicious cycle, and were unable to deal with it an a way that would encourage me off the treadmill. Anger is energy, and all about going somewhere fast; shrinks today are constitutionally unable to take advantage of this, and it’s a pity.

      Martial arts, in many ways, is about taking what your opponent is giving, and using that to manipulate him into whatever position you want. A shrink should be using the psychic pressure points in the same way, to manipulate the patient into mental health, ie flow.

      Trouble is, shrinks recoil at the notion of manipulation, even though it can’t be helped. The day they recognize that the goal is mental flow, as opposed to stagnation, and manipulation their manipulation of mental states is inevitable, nay desirable, is the day the mental health industry improves.

      Assume I want #3 all the time–I can use that.

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