9.30.2006

remorse

A 19-year-old boy was sentenced to life in prison yesterday, for the brutal murder of his younger brother. He was 16 years old when he killed his brother, who was 12.

I can imagine few things worse for a family to live through.

Here's what's troubling me.
Kevin Madden has exhibited little or no remorse for his crimes or empathy for the people affected by them," [Justice David] McCombs told youth court yesterday.
This is a constant theme in the legal justice system: remorse. The public, through the court system, wants to see a display of remorse, and this display is taken into account during sentencing.

This strikes me as ridiculous, and blatantly unjust.

First of all, not everyone can articulate their emotions. Some people simply do not have that power of expression.

What's more, a person who has committed a terrible crime may have a huge conflict of emotions, perhaps too much to sort out and understand, perhaps well beyond his abilities of expression.

And what of the person who can disaply remorse? Does that mean he actually feels remorseful? What if he is feigning the emotion? If his sentencing depends on it, he's certainly got motivation to act the requested role, if he's able.

What of the person who is too shut down emotionally to reflect on his actions? I can well imagine that a boy who killed his little brother is not fully grasping the import of what he did. The human mind is an amazing thing. It will protect itself from destruction by any means necessary. I've seen people shut down over less.

I'm going to assume that a teenage boy who would stab his brother to death, punching the knife in his body 71 times, is mentally and emotionally ill. He may not be diagnosed, but he clearly has a disordered mental state. The Judge describes: "He has repeatedly stated that he has never loved anyone, nor felt love from anyone. He has stated that he doesn't know how emotions feel."

Clearly there is something very wrong with this young man. I'm not suggesting he be released into society with a prescription for Prozac. But wouldn't a mental hospital be more appropriate than prison? He's been receiving treatment in the youth prison where he's been living since the crime, but that will end when he is transferred to an adult facility two years from now.

If he had "expressed remorse," if he had said "I'm sorry," would he be any less sick? Would his victim be any less dead? The whole concept should be retired.

40 comments:

MattInTO said...

The lack of remorse suggest to me that he's suffering from antisocial personality disorder (which used to be be called a psychopath or psychopathy) for which currently, outlook for recovery is grim. To confirm diagnosis of the disorder, the DSM-IV requires three of the following list:

1. failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest

2. deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure

3. impulsivity or failure to plan ahead

4. irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults

5. reckless disregard for safety of self or others

6. consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain steady work or honor financial obligations

7. lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another

(Reprinted from the DSM-IV-TR)

I'd say, just from following the case in the media that he meets several of the criteria. Normally the criteria are only useful for diagnosing adults but he's right on the cusp. I'm not saying a mental hospital wouldn't be an appropriate place for him, but if he is indeed suffering from this, he faces a long if not impossible road to recovery.

L-girl said...

Thanks, Matt. I just find the idea of putting mentally ill people in prison terrible and cruel. Obviously prisons are full of mentally ill people, but it seems so awful to me.

redsock said...

Of course, when someone expresses extreme remorse, there will be those who will say it's merely a ploy to get reduced jail time.

L-girl said...

That could be so - sometimes. If expressions of remorse weren't a factor, the system would be protected against that, too.

David Cho said...

Agreed. Remorse in the justice system is a dumb concept.

Do you remember The Shawshank Redemption? After Andy Dufrene is convicted of murdering his wife, the judge says the same thing - no remorse.

The same goes for rehabilitation. I love Red's parole hearing scene where he tells the panel when asked if he has been "rehabilitated."

"I know what you think it means. It's just a made up word by politicians so that young guys like you can have a job..."

Much like rehabilitation, remorse too is just a made up word by politicians.

Gawwdd, I love that movie.

sister.susie said...

I can't help but think about the parents of the Kevin Madden. They likely saw signs that things were going from bad to worse for their older son. How do you help a kid like that?

I am in NO WAY condoning Kevin's horrific act.

I just want to make the point that dealing with a seriously troubled kid, mental illness, and a faceless mental health system is a huge challenge.

Not to mention dealing with the loss of their younger son. Heartbreaking.

L-girl said...

I am in NO WAY condoning Kevin's horrific act.

Hopefully everyone reading this blog knows you can feel compassion for the assailant without condoning what he did.

After all, he's human, too. Imagine being a 16-y/o kid and be driven, by whatever is in your heart and mind, to do that.

I also find it heartbreaking.

L-girl said...

On that subject, I remember that the school memorial to the students killed at Columbine did not list the killers, even though they also died.

That made me so sad. Their poor parents - they lost their sons and they have to deal with the guilt of knowing their sons killed all those people! In a way they have it hardest of all. And no community to grieve with, shunned as if they did the act itself.

Very sad.

sister.susie said...

Oh, I read your original post more carefully and realized the topic was "remorse". I'm sorry for getting off-topic. Really. Truly.

Lone Primate said...

I think I understand it. The idea of a prison sentence shouldn't be merely to segregate a person from the public, although that's often necessary. It should primarily be about preparing them to re-enter society.

Remorse can be feigned, yes. But I think even the show of it is important: even if you don't genuinely feel it, you are displaying awareness of the social norm that transgression causes regret — or at least that it should. If you can't demonstrate the knowledge that your actions were wrong and hurtful, if you can't demonstrate you regret the harm you've caused, society has no good reason to assume you will behave differently under similar circumstances in the future.

Remorse may not be immediate. A person driven by rage or hurt or wrong on the part of someone else may feel justified in doing whatever put them in custody. They may or may not come to regret it over time. Society has a right to protect itself, and if a person shows no sign of grasping the wrong of his actions, I feel it should quite rightly prejudice his chances of a lighter sentence, or, eventually, parole. This is not asking for a gaudy show, it's asking for reassurance that the social contract is understand will be observed by the person in question in the future. If I were a juror, the demonstrated lack of such indicators would weigh with me.

As far as Andy Dufrene goes, it's true that innocent people do not show remorse. But they're usually quite passionate about their innocence, and in a way, their attributive remorse is demonstrated simply in the horror they exhibit in being accused of something they themselves consider heinous. I feel that most people are sensitive to these things.

Personally speaking, I'm wary of anyone who doesn't exhibit obvious regret at causing death or serious harm to someone else, and I'm disinclined to see such a person re-enter general society, at least until they do.

L-girl said...

I'm sorry for getting off-topic. Really. Truly.

sister.susie, there are no topic police at wmtc. topics are free-flowing. your comments on anything are most welcome.

i didn't even think you were off-topic. really truly. :)

L-girl said...

You make some good points, LP.

My problem with what you're saying is that it works for emotionally and mentally normal people. But for many mentally ill people - even if the mental illness is temporary, like PTSD - the display of "proper" emotions can be impossible.

My concern is for someone who is unable to display remorse, possibly because he or she is in such psychic pain from their crime. I've seen many sensational cases in the US where a teenager or a woman who had killed her own children was labeled a monster because they showed no remorse. To me, looking from the outside and trying to be compassionate, I wondered if they were simply emotionally frozen. Sometimes when the consequences are too much to bear (either for what was done to a person or what they did), that's the response: numbness, deadness. It doesn't mean the person's not sorry.

impudent strumpet said...

I don't know how much it's about a display of remorse rather than about how the presence or absence of remorse is an important symptom in diagnosing what exactly is wrong with the accused. Expressing remorse wouldn't make him less sick (i.e. it wouldn't be the causative agent) but it might show that he's less sick than if he didn't express remorse in the same situation (i.e. it's the symptom). He would have been diagnosed by a psychiatrist (who should be able to find remorse through flat affect or emotional turmoil or whatever) by now, so I've always taken these sort of comments to be reflective of the psychiatrist's findings as opposed to how he appeared in court. (In a book I recently read, they mentioned in passing that lawyers sometimes tell their clients not to exhibit any emotional response to anything that is said in the court - I don't know the reasoning for this, but if it's a common thing for lawyers to advise clients, I doubt judges would judge people based on their affect in court.)

I guess the question is, what's the difference between being locked up in prison and being locked up in a mental hospital? I know that prison inmates do have access to psychiatric care, as well as things like anger management and life skills training, but I don't know anything about their day to day life. And I know nothing about what goes on in a psychiatric hospital. So in both places they're locked up and can't leave because they're currently dangerous to society, in both places their psychiatric needs get some attention, and in both places other things that I don't know about happen (b/c even in a mental hospital, the patient can't be psychiatrized 24 hours a day). In prison he will likely be negatively influenced by the other prisoners and by being immersed in that culture (although, depending on the individual and the environment, he may be doing the negative influencing). Would the same thing hold for mental hospitals?

L-girl said...

I guess the question is, what's the difference between being locked up in prison and being locked up in a mental hospital?

In the US, it's a world of difference. Indescribably huge.

US prisons are extremely violent places where men are forced into sexual slavery, tortured, and fear for their lives on a daily basis. There's no thought of treatment or rehabilitation.

Mental hospitals may not be the nicest places in the world, but they would be heaven compared to prisons.

James said...

This is a constant theme in the legal justice system: remorse. The public, through the court system, wants to see a display of remorse, and this display is taken into account during sentencing.

Benjamin Radford comments on this in his book, Media Mythmakers. It's one of the standard tropes that reporters use so they can fill air time with things that sound meaningful but take very little effort to produce.

L-girl said...

It's one of the standard tropes that reporters use so they can fill air time with things that sound meaningful but take very little effort to produce.

Judges and lawyers use it, too. In the US, it actually effects sentencing decisions! So it's not just media blather. It's part of the criminal justice system.

doug said...

this is the most mis-understood topic in our society...its peoples understanding of mental illness...do people think this boy truly undrstood what he was doing, the consequences etc. he is psychotic does that mean he is not liable to pay the price for his crime...no..but at the same time the courts, society has to truly understand the meaning of psychopathy.

it's no different then the homeless...I work at a psych hospital and yes it is far different then prison and the public's perception of these facilities is wrong...so what if Pschotic personality disorder is hard to treat so is Mount Everest hard to climb but people do it...this boy is young and labels are easy to place on individuals as just like in politics there are conservative, and liberal psychiatrists, you can get any diagnosis you want ...this boy needs treatment, in jail, prison he will only become more violent...and that's not a bleeding heart-liberal in fact viewpoint that is just fact.

I agree with L-girl their is a alternative and the public needs to realize that...that 95% of the incarcerated ARE geting out oneday..do you wish that from prison or from a treatment facility....the reality lies in the fact that a day in prison costs $150 whereas a day in a psychiatric hospital is approx. $380...bean-counters are making the decisions regarding these issues that is the answer

L-girl said...

Thank you for this, Doug. Many thanks.

Sometimes I think we (as a society) have come a long way regarding mental illness, and in some ways we have. Other times I think we're still in the dark ages.

doug said...

as a society we had in the 80's and early 90's but in the last 10 years we have inexplicably undid a lot of the positives we had achieved...the homeless downtown on Yonge street are mentally ill, de-institutionalized...this child at the time of his crime could have had treatment that may have prevented this...but we are regressing as a society and of anything that is happening in the world this makes me the most angry..or in fact disillusioned as taxpayers say I don't want my tax $'s spent on this and that well society needs to be responsible to the mentally ill...did they ask to be mentally ill, their self-esteem gone, their self-worth shattered....they resort to crime, homelessness and drugs...it just tears me apart, and their's no excuse for it...this boy is eligible for parole in 10 years at 30 years of age...he's going to fit in somewhere, we as a society can decide or help decide where...it's simple but extremely frustating...people break their legs,get cancer and yes people suffer breakdowns, psychoses, mental illness..they deserve the same as the others...

L-girl said...

did they ask to be mentally ill, their self-esteem gone, their self-worth shattered

God is this ever true. If you've ever suffered from depression or loved anyone who did, and gotten a mild taste of what it's like...

I can't finish the thought. I just wish people would have more compassion.

We have a cousin with schizophrenia. If not for the constant intervention of his parents, he'd be on the street too.

people break their legs,get cancer and yes people suffer breakdowns, psychoses, mental illness..they deserve the same as the others...

That's it.

If only people understood it can happen to anyone.

Thanks Doug.

impudent strumpet said...

US prisons are extremely violent places where men are forced into sexual slavery, tortured, and fear for their lives on a daily basis.

So why doesn't this happen in mental hospitals?

doug said...

prisons are run by prison guards who in turn allow the inmates to run the institutions in order to maintain harmony within that culture..whereas Psych Hospitals are run by nurses, doctors, professionals just like in a medical hospital,their a treatment facility,prisons are not...

Granny said...

The insanity laws in this country are cruel. Insanity so far as crime is concerned is nearly impossible to prove.

I believe in many cases the crime is its own defense. No sane person would do what this young man did.

Keeping society safe must be a priority but does it have to be prison? Why?

L-girl said...

L: US prisons are extremely violent places where men are forced into sexual slavery, tortured, and fear for their lives on a daily basis.

Imp-Strump: So why doesn't this happen in mental hospitals?

Doug: prisons are run by prison guards who in turn allow the inmates to run the institutions in order to maintain harmony within that culture..whereas Psych Hospitals are run by nurses, doctors, professionals just like in a medical hospital,their a treatment facility,prisons are not...


Yes. And, at least in the US, prisons are garbage dumps for people society has no use for, holding tanks.

I don't know anything about the conditions in Canadian prisons. I hope they are better than in the US, but I have no idea.

I realize that not all psychiatric hospitals are good and that there are abuses (as in any institution), but in general they are hospitals, with everything that implies.

sharonapple said...

I just hope that a hospital can treat the boy. Personality disorders are difficult to treat, especially when the person with the problem doesn't want to confront his/her problems.

Here's how someone with borderline personality disorder (with socio-pathic tendancies) described her treatment:

During my first hospitalization, I had taken one of those fill-in-the-circles psychological profile tests. Little did I know the results would be handed to me at the end of my first official therapy session (right after I was released from the hospital.) Somehow, the little dots I colored led to this portrait of a raging woman with suicidal tendencies, manipulative, often seductive, selfish, at times socio-pathological, et al et al et al. My God, I thought, this is supposed to be me!

Did I sit there and calmly accept it? Think again. I was en route to my car on the lot, stopped by a pay phone and gave the good doctor a call... and a piece of my mind. "You rotten BASTARD", I cried through my tears, "What kind of bullshit is this? Did you read this crap? Manipulative, socio-pathological, selfish, raging -- fuck you, you asshole! Let me tell you a little bit about yourself, you son of a bitch!" Waiting, of course, for him to relent. Waiting for him to either be so intimidated by my rage and the fear of what I would do that he would somehow soften the blow or put a "spin" on the results. Waiting for him to start saying "nice" things about me to counterbalance the test results and make me feel better. Waiting for him to do what I know I could have gotten my husband to do. (And, as a matter of fact, when I arrived home, I got my husband to join on my side against this horrible "injustice.")

But my psychiatrist did nothing of the kind. As a matter of fact, he wasn't up for a discussion over the phone and would have it. All he said was "We can discuss it at your next session. "There won't BE another session, you sonuvabitch! I'm not gonna PAY to take these insults. What the fuck do you know, about ANYTHING? You're just a damned shrink -- you don't even have a real job. Screw you -- that was my last session. I'm quitting!

Well, a few hours later, I called back, talked to his secretary and verified that I *would* have a session the next week. (Dr. T hadn't canceled it anyway...) The man could lay the cards on the table. There wasn't a thing that I could do to make him paint a pretty portrait, to airbrush reality. He was patient, gentle and kind -- but he could draw the line. And, over the course of four years, we talked about absolutely everything -- things from my childhood, sex issues, self-destruction, inner emotions I was dreadfully ashamed to have. It was absolute hell. I ended up in the hospital twice more. Tried to starve myself, drove my car into every barricade on the parking lot, breaking every single one of them in half. Left unbelievably vile notes on the windshield of his car -- with threats and epithets and profanities. Left pictures of my children tucked under his windshield wiper along with a note that he had pushed me too far and if these kids ended up orphans, it would be his fault. Told him I'd report him to the psychiatric board and the hospital (of which he was psychiatric medical director) and accuse him of sexual abuse and make the charge STICK, going on the stand and lying without flinching an eyelash to watch him go down the river. (Charges, of course, that would be fully unwarranted -- he never so much as even shook my hand or hugged me -- he was a strict limits, no contact guy).

....

If the BP is only amenable to therapy as a means to appease someone else -- that isn't enough. It *has* to be self-motivated, it simply has to. It will take everything the BP has within them to withstand it. And I mean everything. If the BP is "shopping" psychiatrists or therapists to find a good rapport, qualifications -- in other words, for the right reasons -- fine. But if they start to "shop" them to shop around for the answers they want to hear, the answers they are willing to accept, the topics they are willing to discuss - forget it. The only effective therapists, I am convinced, are the guys who are willing to lay it on the line come hell or high water. Period.


http://www.bpdcentral.com/support/therapy.html

Real therapy seems to be as hard on the doctor as it is on the patient, and it's a wonder that most psychiatrists avoid people with personality disorders.

L-girl said...

especially when the person with the problem doesn't want to confront his/her problems.

A hallmark of many mental illnesses is that the person believes him/herself to be healthy, and thinks the people trying to help are out to get him. That certainly makes it a lot harder to treat than many physical illnesses.

Real therapy seems to be as hard on the doctor as it is on the patient

Hard, maybe. But the patient has to live with the illness 24/7.

Lone Primate said...

My problem with what you're saying is that it works for emotionally and mentally normal people.

I see where you're coming. All I can say is, this was no rush to justice. The trial took three years. I imagine — at least, I'd like to believe — that the accused was subjected to myriad psychological tests to determine if he were even fit to stand trial, given the nature of the crime. He must have been judge competent. Hard as it is to accept, we do have to acknowledge that there are people out there who do understand the gravity of what they're doing and the ramifications for others, but elect to put their own needs (whatever they may be) first. They may know it's wrong, but simply not care. This may be such a case.

Lone Primate said...

Errrummm, make that "I see where you're coming FROM". Man, it's way too early in the week for a Freudian slip. :D

Lone Primate said...

...Oh, and "judged" competent. Maybe I should just have a few cups of coffee before commenting and just read. :)

L-girl said...

this was no rush to justice

That's irrelevant.

Hard as it is to accept, we do have to acknowledge that there are people out there who do understand the gravity of what they're doing and the ramifications for others, but elect to put their own needs (whatever they may be) first. They may know it's wrong, but simply not care.

I don't find that difficult to accept at all.

I'm not saying this boy shouldn't have stood trial or that he should be released into society with no punishment. I'm saying that he is clearly mentally ill and deserves a psychiatric hospital as opposed to an adult prison.

Read his statements. It's not that he understands his crime and "doesn't care". It's that he has no feelings whatsoever. Does that strike you as normal?

Because he was declared fit to stand trial doesn't mean he's not mentally ill. What a catch-22 that would be.

Lone Primate said...

Read his statements. It's not that he understands his crime and "doesn't care". It's that he has no feelings whatsoever. Does that strike you as normal?

It's two different functions. What you feel about your actions weighs in during the trial, particularly with the jury. How they feel about you is supposed to represent how society in general feels about you and how you should be dealt with in terms of sentencing.

But the suspect's understanding of the crime is what's dealt with in the run-up to the trial. I would point out that it seems disingenuous to bring up that the accused "feels nothing", since this is a subjective emotional state, and as such ought to be disqualified from mention in a discussion of that's based on the invalidity of such subjective emotional states (in this case, "remorse") from criminal trials in the first place. But putting that aside, I'll say that it's a fair assessment to remark that to feel nothing after killing one's brother is not normal. But after all, neither is killing your brother in the first place. Neither is drinking and driving. Neither is robbing a liquor store. Neither is what happened at Enron. Just because something's out of the ordinary does not mean the person who did it is not culpable or necessarily insane. And that's not what the justice system's concerned with prior to the trial. At that point, the question is do you understand the nature of what you did?, not how do you feel about it?. The former decides if you'll go to trial or not; the latter how severe your sentence is likely to be upon conviction.

L-girl said...

Neither is drinking and driving. Neither is robbing a liquor store. Neither is what happened at Enron.

Here, we completely disagree. I think all these things are completely normal. Cheating, stealing and taking risks with substances are all well within the bounds of normal human behaviour. Not everything against the law is abnormal. In fact, most of it is quite normal, including murder. Wrong, but normal.

Stabbing your brother 71 times and feeling nothing, no love, for anyone in your life, and being unable to feel love *from* anyone in your life, is not normal.

I understand the distinctions the law makes. I just disagree with them.

Again, I repeat, I'm not saying this boy should be free. Only that he needs help.

L-girl said...

At that point, the question is do you understand the nature of what you did?, not how do you feel about it?. The former decides if you'll go to trial or not; the latter how severe your sentence is likely to be upon conviction.

Yes, I understand that, and on this point I agree with you. I'm not questioning his competence to stand trial.

Jenjenjigglepants said...

L-girl: "a hallmark of many mental illnesses is that the person believes him/herself to be healthy, and thinks the people trying to help are out to get him. That certainly makes it a lot harder to treat than many physical illnesses."

A tangent, but I'd argue that the treatment of many physical illnesses are hampered by the same problem. The interpretation of health care professionals (HCPs) as adversarial is subtler, but persists (e.g: "that doctor doesn't know what s/he's talking about", "They're just going to tell me to change, not give me something to fix it").

It's easy to blame (and so I do...) the "accept me for who I am warts and all" mentality and the "instant fix" of the antibiotic era.

The amazing double standard to me is that one often meets people who aren't accountable for their own health (bio-psycho-social and/ or spiritual*) that demand accountability from the mentally ill when it's not preventable in the same way.

JJJP

*my conceptualization of spiritual health has more to do with life balance, connection and ethics than with religiousity.

L-girl said...

Interesting, JJJP. I would never have thought of that.

This whole remorse/mental illness/sanity discussion upsets me twofold. One, because it seems clear (to me) that the boy is mentally ill, and two, because he is a boy. Not a man. A child.

I think no matter what a child has done, he/she is still a child and should not be put in a prison with adults. That's just completely inhumane, in my opinion.

sharonapple said...

tangent, but I'd argue that the treatment of many physical illnesses are hampered by the same problem. The interpretation of health care professionals (HCPs) as adversarial is subtler, but persists (e.g: "that doctor doesn't know what s/he's talking about", "They're just going to tell me to change, not give me something to fix it").

Small point on that tangent, I think it's wise to be cautious when it comes to doctors and your health. I know several instances where people were almost killed because of misdiagnosis or mistreatment.

In my mother's case, she'd been suffering from high blood pressure for years, but my family physician never recommended any medication and just told her to change her diet and exercise. My mother did both, but it wasn't enough. My doctor was obssessed with the idea that my mother was eating too much beef (to be honest, my mother's mostly a vegetarian and might eat red meat once or twice a month). It was only after my mother was brought to the hospital with blood pressure at over 200 that she was finally given medication. (High blood pressure and high cholesterol turns out runs in the family. My grandmother, who didn't eat meat and got plenty of exercise on the farm suffered from both and died of a stroke.)

In the worst situation I know, a family friend ended up having a lung removed because a doctor diagnosed it as being cancerous. Turns out that it wasn't.

Granted, antibiotics are over perscribed, and patients can expect too much, but I do think on the othe side a certain jadedness and exhaution can set in.

This whole remorse/mental illness/sanity discussion upsets me twofold. One, because it seems clear (to me) that the boy is mentally ill, and two, because he is a boy. Not a man. A child.

On the whole issue of mental illness and personality disorders, it's interesting to note that successful therapy for personality disorders involves taking responsibility for one's actions.

In an odd way, to be cured, he has to take responsibility for the crime. But then, this has to be self-imposed by him, and not by others.

http://www.focusas.com/PersonalityDisorders.html

Therapy and medications can help, but it is the individual's decision to take accountability for his or her own life that makes the difference.

To heal, individuals must first have the desire to change in order to break through that enduring pattern of a personality disorder. Individuals need to want to gain insight into and face their inner experience and behavior. (These issues may concern severe or repeated trauma during childhood, such as abuse.)

This involves changing their thinking--about themselves, their relationships, and the world. This also involves changing their behavior, for that which is not acted upon is not learned.

L-girl said...

To my knowledge, prison is not an effective way to make people take responsibility for their actions.

But more to the point, mental illness is a not a moral failing or a weakness. It's an illness. Statements like this--

Therapy and medications can help, but it is the individual's decision to take accountability for his or her own life that makes the difference.

--are condescending, insensitive and incredibly reductionist.

Without therapy and medication, there can be no "decision to take accountability" (I assume this means take responsibility). A person who is mentally ill cannot just "decide" to get better, any more than a person with cancer can just "conquer it" by force of will.

Those are just platitudes - and they are very harmful. When people's conditions don't improve, it's their own fault, because they didn't want it badly enough.

This website might as well say they are being punished for their sins, or have too many humours in their blood and need to be drained.

It's horrible that in the 21st century people are still writing such dark-age drivel.

sharonapple said...

I can see how personal responsibility can be a cure for a personality disorder. Personality disorders are the results of warped thinking. I know a bit about this because I was avoidant for a few years, and absolutely terrified of strangers. It got to the point I'd have anxiety attacks walking down streets, hadn't made new friends or acquaintances in years, and had friends and relatives do my shopping for me because I'd panic going to the counter. In the end, a therapist broke through with this comment: the world's not going to change, so why don't you? And he had a point, it was never going to be as safe or as nice as I needed it to be. I had a choice of either becoming a hermit or stopping. I stopped. Of course there's other things -- trusting my therapist -- I'm not sure I would have got better without realizing that I could even have the option of stopping.

redsock said...

Personality disorders are the results of warped thinking.

Sharon, your comments on this subject are highly offensive. That is likely not your intent. Nevertheless, they are insensitive.

I know a bit about this because I was avoidant for a few years

A very small bit, I would say, if any at all. Just because you have gone through a certain experience does not make you an expert in that experience. Everyone's experience is unique. I would wager than none of us have felt anything close to how this kid felt.

In the end, a therapist broke through with this comment: the world's not going to change, so why don't you?

That's all it takes, huh? "Cheer up! And turn that frown upside down." Damn, I wish I had thought to tell my father that before he killed himself.

L-girl said...

I can see how personal responsibility can be a cure for a personality disorder.

Perhaps I don't understand the definition of a personality disorder.

Or perhaps there are many degrees and types of mental illnesses, some of which can be tackled by force of will.

I understand that phobias, such as you're describing, require the kind of responsibility you're talking about.

However, many mental illnesses will not be the slightest bit affected by the attitude of the sufferer, any more than cancer or paraplegia will be. With the right medication (itself not an easy thing to find) and therapy, a person can get to the point where they can participate in their own recovery, too - but without meds and therapy, and sometimes with them, that is often impossible.

I appreciate that you're speaking from personal experience. I am, too.