Daily Archives: April 14, 2015

empathological

Sheila North:

This is a powerful blog by one of my favourite members of the bipolar blogger network. In my mind, it ties in to a quote I recently read by the late African-American singer, Marian Anderson. She was talking about the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), an organisation which stopped Anderson from singing at several venues:

“I forgave the DAR many years ago. You lose a lot of time hating people.”

Originally posted on blahpolar diaries:

James Fallon, author of The Psychopath Inside, has the brain abnormalities of a psychopath, but does not behave like one and here is why.

“…brain patterns and genetic makeup are not enough to make anyone a psychopath. You need a third ingredient: abuse or violence in one’s childhood. It’s an unlucky day when all of these three things come together in a bad way, and I think one has to empathize with what happened to them.”

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empathological

James Fallon, author of The Psychopath Inside, has the brain abnormalities of a psychopath, but does not behave like one and here is why.

“…brain patterns and genetic makeup are not enough to make anyone a psychopath. You need a third ingredient: abuse or violence in one’s childhood. It’s an unlucky day when all of these three things come together in a bad way, and I think one has to empathize with what happened to them.”

But do we? We either elect them to office, work as cogs in their corporate machines, try to be like them, or we are damaged by them, revile them openly and hate hard forever.

Empathy is a delicate thing that I think is born out of compassion. Or vice versa. Or maybe they’re the same thing. The Dalai Lama spoke of one of his teachers who, when asked about his toughest battle, said that he worried that he wouldn’t feel compassion for the Chinese soldiers in Tibet. I don’t know how much you know about that, but we’re talking major crimes of humanity. Ghastly, terrifying, inhuman and inhumane ones. Neither empathy nor compassion mean you have to roll over and take whatever is thrown at you. They mean that you, that we need to attempt some understanding to start with. We are human and so are they; if for no other reason than to prevent future evil, we definitely do need to understand them as much as the non-them crowd that we claim as our own. Understanding, that’s all. You don’t have to do anything more than that.

Empathy is the capacity to understand what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference, ie, the capacity to place oneself in another’s shoes.

Let me give you a small example from my own life, when the universe whacked me upside the head with one of its ineffable lessons. And I’m gonna précis,  because I’m not fond of talking about it. My stepfather – my abuser – is someone I do not claim to forgive, neither do I feel the slightest need to. He came from a background of poverty, abuse and various horrors; that gave me some understanding, but since abuse is a choice, I felt nothing more than that intellectual thing. Then my stepbrother, who was always just my brother, was killed, and his father aged about 20 years overnight. I couldn’t have felt any schadenfreude, I loved my brother and whatever his sins and crimes and fuckups, so did his father. So there I was, unwillingly sharing a major emotion with the man I hated. I still don’t feel the need to forgive, I have never wanted any further dealings with him and for almost three decades, I’ve managed it about 99% of the time. But somehow and subconsciously, that experience erased my hatred.

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Psychopaths, sociopaths (antisocial personality disorder according to the DSM 5) have the potential to be abusers (or CEOs), bipolar people have the potential to be violent (or artists). Neurotypical people have the potential to wage war (or declare peace). We are all capable of those things. We are all human beings, trying desperately to light candles against the terrors of darkness. And there is no binary us and them, because you can slice the pie into a fairly infinite range of halves. And people can be described and divided infinitely too. There’s always one group to shit on another group, as much as there’s that supposed us/them good/evil split.

I’m not advocating non violence. Threaten someone I love seriously enough and I will do my utmost to maim or kill you. I don’t know any answers and I don’t think anyone else does either. How can I ask someone who has been abused by *insert abuser’s most prominent descriptor here* to empathise, to be compassionate? What’s the point of religions and morals and so on if we don’t? How should society be dealing with abusers? How do we raise safer, healthier people? I have a nasty suspicion that it’s easier to unlearn love than hate. Forget postmodern self help wankery (please), that stuff has all been said before and new versions of it are simply ways of lining newer pockets. We need serious philosophers to be heard. Logicians. We need different solutions to what ails us (the collective us, society). We will continue to fail and to shine, be flawed and amazing – utopian thinkers will despise me for saying this – but it’s human nature. It’s who and what we are. Humans strive, struggle, risk … it’s what we do and what we will keep doing.

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Here’s something radical and problematic that makes for an interesting thought experiment …

Nietzsche has postulated that, much as an elephant might ignore a mosquito buzzing around its ankle, a civilization might advance to such a degree of power that it would no longer feel compelled to punish its criminals. “It is not unthinkable,” writes Nietzsche in The Genealogy of Morals, “that a society might attain such a consciousness of power that it could allow itself the noblest luxury possible to it—letting those who harm it go unpunished. ‘What are my parasites to me?’ it might say. ‘May they live and prosper: I am strong enough for that!’” A Hive of Mysterious Danger

Well well … who knew Nietzsche was a trekkie.

Today Was A Trip

    Today was a long day. Actually, every day has been long and weird for about the past three days. First, I helped a guy who was stuck here get a bus ticket to another city in another state. That was a two day process. Then this morning, my boyfriend is doing the dishes, […]

a-z challenge: m

M is for music. I don’t enjoy questions like what’s your favourite song, band, singer, album … no good can come of such enquiries. My mother said rather often, if you applied the amount of brain you use to remember lyrics, you could become a brain surgeon, she also said, you know all the words to all the songs in the world.  Untrue, of course, I’m just not fond of R&B and Motown. Anyway. I’m lazy about writing right now and so I thought I’d share my YouTube playlist with you instead. Last I looked there were 118 songs and I know I’ve left vital stuff out. It starts off with my usual sad boy ballads and then develops a mind of its own and we could call it eclectic … but a more accurate word is demented.

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Brain, Interrupted

I’ve been sitting here in front of my computer for well over an hour, staring at the screen and willing myself to come up with a post that sounds even marginally intelligent. It’s one of those days when my brain is full of totally unrelated crap that I can’t string together in any logical way. Please bear with me as I try to give you something that’s readable…..

(Checks weather. It’s raining. Boo.)

I’m back to where I can’t concentrate on reading again. My attention span is pathetic, and I’ve got two perfectly good library books I haven’t even started yet. I’m also trying to study this week’s Scriptures that I’m reading at Mass this coming Sunday, and I’m just not feeling it. I hate this…..I thought I’d finally overcome it. Not sure what tbe trouble is, but I’ve been kind of jumpy all over so I suppose it comes with the territory.

(Ear bud slips out. Why does it take five minutes to fix it?)

I don’t think I mentioned this before, but my youngest son just got accepted to nursing school at my old alma mater. He starts this fall. To say that I’m proud of him doesn’t even begin to cover it—I am ECSTATIC! It’s the first leg of his journey toward becoming a nurse practitioner; right now he wants to work either in ER or psych.

Heh. You should’ve heard him this morning on the phone, holding forth on the subject of bipolar disorder. He’s working with someone who’s been diagnosed but doesn’t believe they have it. Maybe they do and maybe they don’t, but as we all know, bipolars aren’t always good at being insightful as to their condition. Even if they don’t think they’re bipolar.

(WTF?? Now I’m staring stupidly at the screen again.)

Anyway, he was describing the manic behaviors he was seeing in this person and sounding like an expert in what they needed to control the illness. Which in a way he is, given the fact that he grew up with ME. Who knew it would be useful one day?

(Another friggin’ typo. Pfffttthhh.)

And so it goes.


What Does Mental Illness Look Like?

I came out of the bipolar closet to a work friend today. I knew he would be supportive and non judgmental. But his response kind of irked me, which I know he did not intend. I told him I have bipolar and he said “Oh I wouldn’t have thought that at all”. While he meant nothing wrong with this response, it bugs me. I mean, is a mentally ill person supposed to look a certain way? Are they supposed to have a big neon sign floating above them screaming “BIPOLAR!!!”? Should I be crying more or getting in more arguments to fit a particular idea of mental illness? Should I be writing massive essays about government experiments and chemicals making us sick?

I know I’m probably just being overly sensitive but this is part of why I am careful of who I “come out” to. Stigma and incorrect perceptions of mental illness make me want to hide, to change who I am. Every day I fight to appear “normal” and “pleasant”. It’s exhausting. 1 in 4 Americans suffer from some form of mental illness, which means, undoubtedly, someone in your family or circle of friends is mentally ill.

It’s time to start changing our ideas of who is mentally ill, and just what that means. It’s time to end the stigma and allow people to live their lives as they are, rather than pretending to be something they are not.

OK, end rant.

Filed under: Wellness Warriors Tagged: anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, depression, eating disorder, mental illness, schizophrenia, stigma