Phase II: School Bullying… Becoming an Outcast

I don’t mean to be a problem… but it seemed that I was. My existence, begun in such a starkly different way than other kids, in a place where “difference” breeds contempt, and tolerance is given to ONLY those who comply with being a carbon copy of the kid sitting next to them. Where was there a place for me?

The story of my adoption failed to yield comfort so my adoptive parents invested in a book, “The Chosen Baby”. The idea that I was “selected” placed a significant burden on me that I was much too young to appreciate. I had to be perfect…. That was how people became “chosen”. It was a tall order whose very words created expectations in my new family as well as it did with me. I was genetically different. My needs would be different. My adoptive family EXPECTED me to fit in as if the adoption never happened. That was a set up. One that neither my adoptive family nor I could foresee.  Differences between me and the biological daughter they birthed a year and a half after my adoption just accentuated my difference.

 

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ACT I:

It was 3rd grade when my secret got out.  The anxiety that had been created in me about my adoption spilled over and I looked for solace in ANYONE who would feign understanding. 

“Your mother never wanted you,” a blond haired classmate of mine screamed at me from across the lunchroom table, “she threw you out with the trash.”

I held back the tears.

ACT II:

“Time to line up” our teacher yelled at my classmates.

“Ewww,” several of them shouted, pushing each other away from the place behind me, “she has cooties!”

I stood silently, numbed by the insult.

ACT III:

As I approached the school grounds, a male classmate of mine walked up to me…  “We don’t want anyone like you in our school,” he told me sternly as he punched me in the stomach.

I slumped over, the breath leaving me, with tears streaming down my face.

ACT IV:

A neighbor watched as the antics took place on the playground (and did nothing to stop it). She went to my adoptive parents and let them know of the amount of bullying I was enduring…  I was sent to a psychiatrist.

“What would you do, “ I asked him as I sipped the tea he brought me, nibbled on the crackers and  commenced to draw on the blackboard in front of me, “if a little girl walked from door to door…” I drew a door and linked it with a chalk path, to another and another. “And she came to your door and asked you to take care of her because no one wanted her, would you?”

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Trauma, American Style: The Socialization of Indifference

Much like the 1970’s show of a similar name, this expose will consist of multiple vignettes, a new one each week. Each will give insight into the way traumatic events insidiously leave their mark, alone and then as a culminating repertoire of experience. They are REAL life events that begin to tell a story of the making of a victim of trauma.

Many of you may find these stories disturbing. The fact is that trauma is an experience that links us all. Whether it reaches diagnostic criteria becomes irrelevant when events like these have the power to color the perception of ourselves and the world around us.

Many of you have dissociated yourself from the traumatic experiences of your life… “I am like a duck,” you tell yourself and others, “I just let those things roll off my back.”

Then you begin to take notice as the emotions spill over, your body seemingly too small to contain the amount of feelings that you have pushed down into its depths…. Standing on the sidelines of the Memorial Day parade you find yourself choking up, the tears streaming down your face. On another occasion while watching a television program you find yourself welling up with anger, and begin screaming at the television.  Sitting at the dinner table you experience a growing knot that you feel in your stomach every time you watch and listen to your son chew his food.

Each one of these REACTIONS tells a story… not about what you are witnessing, but about YOUR life story. Each one of these moments consists of emotional learning that is non-verbal. These are events that have NOT been explored and so therefore remain submerged until you come face to face with similar situations. Then old feelings begin to rise in the new situations that you find yourself….

We are living vicariously in this culture. Removed from the emotional connection to our own lives, we re-experience the spillover of our lives in the feelings generated through the observation of “others”. We react to “others” by projecting our own life issues onto them… Overcome with the emotion that we buried, we use our station of privilege; of parent, or, of “professional” to judge those in a subservient position and often comment about how they SHOULD think, feel, act, and behave. Given our place of privilege we then can act as we wish, often mirroring the patterns of behavior that we victimized us in the first place, and that through denial, we failed to learn.

I don’t mean to be a problem but…..

 

Blame: The antithesis of Human Inquiry and Justice

Two people come into a room to discuss differing viewpoints. Each carries with them their own biases and life narrative that frames the perspective that they hold. Each also carries within reactive emotional stances that are cultivated in living an emotional life devoid of an appropriate outlet. The exchange is a confrontation and conflict by its very construct.

Culture asserts rules of conformity to reinforce social cohesion. People know their place and operate within a strict doctrine of social etiquette. These rules are only visible through the rituals that they enforce within social institutions which reinforce compliance…

In a school the loud speaker booms overhead, “Please rise for the Pledge of Allegiance”.

In a courtroom the bailiff stand to announce the entrance of the judge, “All rise… The Superior Court of Skagit County is now in session”.

Within these small examples comes an assignment of status and defines a role that one is expected to fill. Blame is the construct of a society demanding conformity from citizens.

Individuals use blame to deflect or abdicate personal and institutional responsibility. Those in positions of authority are in the best position to use the tactic. These individuals find themselves buffered by rituals that reinforce their superiority. The more that blame is used, the less real interaction actually takes place. The dynamics in these scenarios favor one side and minimize, if not nullify the input of others.  It is the epitome of a top-down hierarchy.

People who accept this dynamic find themselves in positions to enforce the same rhetorical hegemony. Their egos support the maintenance of status quo over the basic rights and civil liberties of others and their compliance is rewarded with materialistic advantages.

Lopsided Power plays

Case #1: The Case against a Single Mother facing CPS Proceedings

During work with a young woman who had lost custody of her children, allegations of a “Bipolar Disorder” came to light within Child Protective Service documentation that I reviewed. Since multiple physical diagnoses had been given, the client had been being maintained on a slew of medications prescribed by the physician who had made the original “Bipolar” diagnosis. With the tremendous amount of drugs, some prescribed for a condition that did not exist, the client’s behavior was erratic. The erratic and irrational behavior created the incentive for the removal of the children but an investigation into the authenticity of the claims was never conducted.

I was able to track down the origination of the diagnosis and discovered that it had been made by a local physician known by CPS to have some significant problems managing and treating clients. Despite the fact that it had been some time since the children were removed and it took some time to get her an evaluation by an independent professional, he concluded that the diagnosis was in error. CPS continued to overlook the fact that her behaviors stabilized when the medications were properly being administered and overseen by respected professionals within the community. The children remained out of her custody and mandated expectations multiplied to provide “proof of her ability to parent”.

In CPS proceedings the clock starts ticking as soon as the children are removed from their families’ of origin. All issues complicating reunification for safety reasons are to be resolved within one calendar year regardless of: the lack of credible information that precipitated the removal of the children in the first place; lack of timely evaluations, lack of timely treatment referrals being made by CPS; the inherent conflict of interest in which CPS appoints “independent” community professionals to write up supporting statements to back assertions made by CPS; lack of consistent expectations; repeated turnover of CPS staff,  poor communication between biological families and staff; and duplicitous alignment with foster families over that of biological families.

The stage had already been set for disaster. The department was not interested in why the young woman had acted irrationally nor was interested in looking into the implications that the slew of unneeded prescriptions had on her behavior. By withholding her children, delaying precious time, without interest into the credibility of the charges, the stage was set to seal this young woman’s fate. When institutional power encourages and rewards a blind eye by those it compensates monetarily, justice is not just blind, but deaf and dumb as well!

 Case #2: Treatment Facility Bias and Punitive Interventions: Power from the Court

The coordinator of a local drug court was facilitating a group with me in a treatment center that held the drug court contract for the local county where I lived. She confronted the group though accusing them of being complicit with a participating member who had come up with a “dirty” urinalysis, testing positive for a substance. She demanded the group member who was positive admit to using. Clearly uncomfortable, the 12 women in attendance took turns looking at each other and shifted uneasily in their seats.

The counselor looked over at me as the co-facilitator expecting me to agree with her tactics. I immediately felt uncomfortable. She looked away to continue her harassment of the ladies in attendance. By the time that she was finished, she was yelling at them, calling them names and demanding that those in attendance expose the woman who had tested positive.

I felt compelled to speak against this tactic. I knew the person who had the dirty urinalysis and knew from my sessions with her that she professed to be clean. I felt the harassment and berating being used were abusive to all in attendance and I did not agree with the tactics being employed to elicit information. I may have had deep seated feelings about what was transpiring but as a single mother of three needing a job to support my family, I kept quiet.

In front of the group, the coordinator identified the client and reprimanded her about the dirty urinalysis while threatening her with jail time. The client was visibly shaken. During break she was abandoned by the other clients to deal with her misery on her own. Clients knew if they were to console her, they would face sanction as well, regardless of their personal feeling of her innocence or guilt in the matter.

Still denying the use, she came to me in tears. I knew that I was in no “position” as a subordinate to question the tactics and at the same time ask for a more open minded approach to the client. Instead I told her to make an appointment with her physician and discuss with him the possible reasons for the dirty urinalysis. By getting authorities in a better position than I, more independent of the agency and with more status and power to back her stance, she would be in a better position to confront the allegations.

In court that week she came with a letter from a MD. She had a dirty urinalysis because she was borderline diabetic. If I had not helped her to “position” in the situation, she would have been jailed, her sense of self-esteem obliterated, and a very real physical condition would not have been addressed.

 Get the Facts Straight:

Blame is a coward’s way of avoiding a meaningful conversation.

Blame is asserted to reinforce status and power without a fair consideration of issues.

Blame is hidden in diagnoses which reinforce stigma and propaganda about groups of people.

Blame is hidden in the assertion of biological conditions for human behavior deviance creating and preserving the pathological focus and the medicalization of rehabilitation efforts.

Blame is hidden in warnings given about people with different ideas as being potential aberrant personalities.

Where bias coincides in judgment, there can be no justice or human advancement!

Black and White thinking: The recipe for Ineffective and Mediocre Presidential Leadership

There are certain people whose names rise to our lips when we think of great presidential leadership.  Presidents these days fail in comparison because the nature of elections continues to be dependent on money, therefore creating regurgitated rhetoric and stagnation. Because it takes money to be heard, the field of candidates is limited. We have two parties made up of people who either are wealthy or who are willing to sideline their own unique ideas to win the endorsements and funding of one of the two major parties. This silences the participation of alternative points of view that could come from alternative party representation and perspective.  http://www.apatheticvoter.com/PoliticalParties.htm

It is more than apparent that in order to secure longevity within the political process, elected officials learn to “play the game” and in doing so become part of the dysfunction.

Our two party system exists to balance the polar reality of one another. Together their opposing viewpoints create a kind of dysfunctional homeostasis. Adapted to the political social construct in America, and viewed as a system of balanced interaction, needed so that as a culture we do not descend into chaos, it creates a balance so that once one “position” is taken, the other “position” is created as an equal and opposite response. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeostasis . Stated through Sir Isaac Newton’s third Law of Motion “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” it describes the stalemate that occurs between the two competing and polar opposite stances taken by our political parties.  http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/newtlaws/u2l4a.cfm  The American public is exposed to just the two extremes and are therefore set up to be dissatisfied by their representation and the political process in general.

Think of the concept like a pendulum. When a pendulum swings it starts in one position but needs to swing to the polar opposite side to equalize the force of the swing. That action creates homeostasis by allowing the pendulum to continue to move between the two extreme positions.   Focusing on the two polar extremes within the pendulums track of movement represents splitting, a term used in psychology to express the acceptance of polar realities without an appreciation of the nuances that exist between. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Splitting_%28psychology%29

Within the Republican party we can see this black and white thinking in the “flip flopping” undertaken by candidates and elected officials. The rapid vacillation between opposing ideas come from a limited perspective and is born of a system with few choices and little exercise in the open sharing of ideas. Reactions are commonplace because emotions run high and no thinking is required.

http://youtu.be/rsCmiFcRyIc

http://youtu.be/lwsZw-VjTNI

http://youtu.be/IimIWhExY0U

Our elected officials have been affected by life events that can make them more reactive than interactive to the situations around them . Without the need to think and keep the mind active in debates and open discussions, alternate points of view can trigger the need to “bully” the other side into submission. Those who choose to stand up to these tactics must do so carefully or they  can find themselves without a party affiliation.

http://www.usvetdsp.com/dec07/mccain_suicide_ptsd.htm

In contrast, backed by an intact party, elected officials get to speak their minds and gain the leverage so needed to move legislation. The good news is that the tactics being taken by the Republican party exposes their inability to effectively govern. The problem is that we as a country continue rehashing the same issues over and over, losing momentum and the true ingenuity needed to remedy our current problems. Democrats are stuck in the position of responding to the obstacles created by their polar reality, the Republican party. Nothing gets done and stagnation remains intact.

Where Trickle Down actually works

Back in the ’80’s, for those of us old enough to remember, Reagan promoted the idea that when corporate entities made money, they would pass on their good fortunes to  employees, their families, the communities in which they found themselves and the nation at large would reap the benefits. If you haven’t been paying any attention, Reagan’s theory didn’t work then and it sure as hell isn’t working now.

The evidence was already mounting as childhood poverty began to rise that deregulation might not be the great idea that “the great orator” sold us on. Despite the signs that suggested this tactic was yielding less than optimal results, the government began turning a blind eye to bank and corporate transgressions while increasing its   regulation and oversight of individuals. Thus began the enslavement of the American people through the devaluing of work, the hording of resources to a smaller and smaller portion of the population, and the selling of this evolution as being in the best interest of the American people.

With the recent United States Supreme Court Citizen’s United decision, we have in evidence the most blatant form of granting corporate supremacy, now sanctioned and upheld by government entities as the law of the land. When “Corporations are people and money is voice”, people will always lose. So while banks get bail-out dollars, individual consumers will be pursued  for infractions in contractual obligations on homes that were sold through deceptive practices. While corporations like BP will have to fork over fines for poisoning the Gulf of Mexico, individuals who have been prescribed medical marijuana for real medical conditions will face imprisonment and/or the loss of their children in state child protective proceedings. While the government will pull more and more oversight away from industrial complexes who are dumping poisons into our air and waterways affecting our health, they will stand by as government agencies launch drones to spy on our activities within our homes and communities. Now government, corporation and agency interests can LEGALLY take precedence over individual civil rights.

We have been seeing the erosion of individual rights since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Whereas factories with line staff have all but disappeared, the need for subservient workers has not. Our social institutions have been established to ensure compliance not ingenuity. Regurgitation of facts is preferred to the intellectual debate that encourages the thinking process. We test by multiple choice and mark down for originality of thought. Our great thinkers, like Albert Einstein, who were dyslexic and slightly hyperactive (from sheer boredom in our classrooms) are now seen as a challenge, medicated and whisked away into Special Education classrooms that dulls their senses and slows their mind.

In order to survive in this society we are expected to parrot the corporate and agency interests in the places in which we find employment. Stanley Milgram was able to demonstrate the power that authority had to influence individual decision making. Through his study he proved that someone perceived to be in a position of authority could ask subjects to inflict pain on other participants without raising questions about the ethics or morality in the request to do so. (http://youtu.be/BcvSNg0HZwk). Within our corporations and agencies employees abdicate their moral and ethical convictions to appease the powers that be thereby maintaining their employment  to the detriment of both colleagues, and clients alike. Within these expectations we find the foundational aspects that have eroded our humanity. While Milgram’s experiment took place  in 1961 long before deregulation of banks and corporations, just one ruling has given those entities a jolt of support equivalent to the effect that doping has on superior athletes. We are witness to not just the erosion of civil rights, we are also witness to the sanction of that erosion by national, state and local government agencies and providers. Within this last election buffered by the Citizen’s United ruling, corporations even felt at liberty to tell their employees how to vote. Politicians, mimicking corporate interests, who received corporate payouts almost succeeded in suppressing voter participation in several key states.

Within our homes we have less and less time for each other. We look for evidence that our children are succeeding without investing in the process to make it so. We want intimacy and loyalty but come off as distant, uninvolved, and uninterested. We fault our children for the very issues that we fail to recognize and deal with ourselves. We are ashamed of ourselves so look for ways to blame, ridicule and ostracize others.  While it seems rights and safeguards flow upward, the bulk of the struggle for existence will continue to TRICKLE DOWN!

The Reason we will not Learn from Sandy Hook

Face it, it is hard to look at yourself with a critical eye. After all, we live in a world where we face criticism more often then compliments. We are evaluated for deficits before we are thanked for our contributions. We navigate our lives in compliance of social expectations and pack away the critical voices all around us. To stand up for ourselves is unthinkable and punishable through a wide range of options that range from job and income loss to incarceration. And then we witness Sandy Hook…

We ask ourselves how something like Sandy Hook can happen despite the fact the  answer is closer than we would like to think. We focus on the “craziness” of the gunman without considering the string of gunmen that have preceded him. We distance ourselves from “those people” and talk about guns and mental illness. We link obscure variables of the incident to the key reason that the carnage took place. Those in power attempt to have control over the issue by focusing on those who own guns. In response, those who own guns defend their right to bear arms and target people mental health diagnoses suggesting developing a “registry” for the mentally ill. We are becoming closer and closer to the reality of the meaning that the wearing the Star of David has for Jews. And yet, we are no closer to the answer now then we were before the incident.

The answer lies within the fabric of our culture. The desire for financial security has opened us to become victims of apathy. We are educated without having to think. We gain prestige and upward mobility by spouting the ideas of those who employ us. We lack an understanding of ourselves and are placated through the acquisition of things. We question no one because we lack the self knowledge and moral fiber to know that we should. We ally ourselves with those who grant us what financial means we can acquire so that we can continue to band-aid our vacant soul. We regurgitate the words that those in power use because that assures us continued financial well-being. We know that our ability to succeed will depend on how well we parrot those sentiments.

We choose to uphold “social stability” through victimizing others who do not work for financial security. We have developed ways of ostracizing these people as undesirables; the disabled, the mentally ill, the criminal, minorities, illegal aliens, women. We know the undesirables by these names and others. We find ways to make their ascension in our culture more difficult. Why? Because we agree with the unspoken belief that they want a “free ride”, “hand-outs” and are “lazy”. We harbor hatred for helping those we deem unfit to receive it. When we do help, even in social service organizations, we expect change to happen in a particular time frame to our own specifications. As removed as we are from power, we feel the right to provide human services, mentor and parent in an authoritarian manner in which we remain in control, the expert of someone else’s reality and by its very definition doomed to fail.

Our children, our clients and students are affected by this lack of concern in their welfare whether it is ever voiced or not. With each and every generation that follows the mounting confusion and pain is evident. It is evident in the increasing obesity problems, the domestic violence within our homes, the continuing addiction statistics, rape, suicide and yes, Sandy Hook.

Nanaymie Kasmira Godfrey MS, MAC, LMHC