How to deal with the professionally offended?

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How to deal with the professionally offended?

Postby Yessica » 31 Oct 2014, 12:30

I am doing a bit of internet surfing today.
There is a forum I frequent, I read there but do not write. One of the commenters is a disabled black lady whose parents came from Mozambique, who was born in Germany und now lives in the UK.

90% of her posts are about how she is being "treated badly" because she is black/disabled for example by people seeing a non-white, disabled person as "other" and how whites need to learn about their privilege.

She can go on and on over how bad it is when people ask her where she is from or if the may touch her hair or call her disabled instead of "just different".

I think that this person can be a bit "demanding". Her parents chose to come to Germany, she chose to live in the UK, I don't know exactly why. She could have chosen to move to Mozambique - where she is not surrounded by evil whites and I assume thanks to the wonders of tribal medicine there are more disabled people.

The woman makes me a bit angry. What I would love to do is register and tell her:
"You don't have to live in a majority white country if you do not like us"
"You are disabled face it... and be happy people see you as disabled or you would not qualify for all those benefits, they would not build any ramps for you and so on"
"Stop making up terms like "white privilege" and telling us what we need to learn about and how we need to learn from your people. Germany seems to be quite able to be an effective country without any help from the people of Mozambique"

I am pretty sure if I said that my posts would be deleted (as it happened to other commentors in the past). I see some "black privilege" at work here and in other discussions. Say whatever you want about whites and they won't really be allowed to talk back.

I now have the question: Is there anything I could say in this special case? Internet forums are not important at all and I do know that but it is nevertheless annoying to see how the professional victim runs the place and I have seen that on too many occasions not to be annoyed.
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Re: How to deal with the professionally offended?

Postby Alastair » 31 Oct 2014, 15:03

From the information you provide, I would suggest the lady described has narcissistic personality disorder. I encounter this on a weekly basis in my clinical therapy work.

Presumably, the black lady thinks nothing is wrong with her mental health, so she would never go to therapy much less ever get a diagnosis. Hence we can only go on your observations, which clearly describe her sense of entitlement. (Officially, the wording of the trait in the DSM-IV is, "Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favourable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.")

Symptomatic of narcissistic personality types is the sense that whatever is given them, they demand more, more, more, without ever understanding that relationships are two way streets and others should get some of the benefits of life too.

This lady could have all the bills paid by the State and see no problem with this whatsoever. In fact, if you mentioned it, I am certain she would perceive this as "punishing" her for being disabled. She will take it for granted, just like breathing, that others should meet all of her needs without question or complaint. Yet never consider this as unfair or do as much for others.

It would appear the lady is one of the "professionally offended" because she feel like she never had what she needed. Rather than feel guilt about not being able, through no fault of her own, to contribute more to society, she adopts an attitude of entitlement. This lady would never feel bad about taking what she wants, complaining about other people's work, blaming the indigenous population for 'neglecting' her 'rights', or just taking her negative mood out on anyone who is prepared to listen. By 'taking' I do not mean theft, but it would involve disrespecting others, making them wait, or acting on spontaneous emotions not logic. Ironically, to the point of offending others.

If she wants something, she would demand it, because she imagines her situation implicitly deserves it. Rules, laws, and social contracts, are for people who need guidelines. The narcissists do not, so they adopt the line of “I make my own rules and don't care if you don't like them. You just don't know any better. If you did, you wouldn't question me.”

For this reason I see, on the evidence given, no prospect of conducting any productive dialogue with this lady, should it involve challenging her assumptions.

Here is how Sam Vaknin, the author of
Malignant Self-love: Narcissism: Revisited
, describes it: "I demand to be served, attended and catered to by the main honcho: the most senior doctor, the head waiter, the government Minister, leaders and senior executives and editors-in-chief. With my illustrious career and superior traits, skills, and talents I deserve my match and only the best and am entitled to the grandest."

Of course, the above Narcissistic entitlement is based on white privileged arrogance. But could just as well be based on another ethnic origin and/or bitter experience of disability. This has nothing to do with real self-worth; that is, the belief that one is worthy of accomplishments earned through hard work. Instead, the narcissist is like a small child who never learned she is not the centre of the universe and throws tantrums when outsiders do not meet their demands.

It is not uncommon for minority races to feel entitled to special treatment because of their historical background, their sensitivity to critical analysis from other races, and the subliminal message of positive discrimination underpinned by western culture. I am therefore almost certain that this lady would become abusive, further paranoid, and angry, whenever you confronted her with an opposing perspective on her victim mentality. Other people have doubtless fed this tetchyness by giving way to her. Likely they did not want to cause a scene.

Here are some of the unwritten rules you may find she is unintentionally following:

    I have the perfect right to do or say whatever I want and no one should object.
    My needs have priority, and if others don't like it they just don't understand my disability.
    If you don't do what I want I will become highly offended, make threats, plead with you, or criticise and blame you. If that upsets you, that's your fault. And please don't bother me with your feelings about it. It upsets me when you don't see yourself as inferior to me.
    I will string you along as long as I can.
    When I turn on the pressure until you say you apologise, feel guilty, or confuse you until you don't know what's up or down, it teaches me to try these techniques again.
    I like to mix things up by responding appropriately once and awhile. It keeps you off balance, making you more easily controlled, and convinces you I'm really a good person after all.

If you have the patience and are prepared to accept the above issues, by all means engage further. But I suspect it will only be cause for claims of further 'offence' and any real change of thinking, on her part, outside of therapeutic intervention, is extremely unlikely in my opinion.
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Re: How to deal with the professionally offended?

Postby Yessica » 03 Nov 2014, 11:26

Thanks for your interesting analysis, Alastair und welcome to the boards. I hope you decide to stay and like it here. I never looked at it from that angele but it makes a lot of sense.

I do not know that lady well enough to say wether she has a personality disorder or not but your analysis sounds convincing.

I think I will not register at the forum... it is a political forum and I want to convince with political arguments. If it is not possible to have a political discussion I will just stay away.

Anyway I noticed that there are a number of "professionally offended" people nowadays, both on the internet and offline and that they often manage to dominate a political discussion. They cannot all suffer from a personality disorder, can they? There must also be a climate that encourages them.
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Re: How to deal with the professionally offended?

Postby Jonathan » 03 Nov 2014, 20:28

Hi Alistair, welcome to the forum.

I found your explanation of Narcissistic Personality Disorder to be quite interesting, and easy for the layman to understand. While reading it, I could not help but recall a few articles which Theodore Dalrymple wrote about the state of modern Psychiatry in general, and the DSM in particular. I wondered if you had read any of them, and what you thought of the argument they contained. ... iatry.html ... s-20131105
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Re: How to deal with the professionally offended?

Postby Alistair » 05 Nov 2014, 18:21

Thank you for your question on the articles on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), Jonathan.

I tend to agree with Insel, in that the precision and reliability of the manual has been overstated for decades, “While DSM has been described as a 'Bible' for the field, it is, at best, a dictionary, creating a set of labels and defining each.” Despite the fact that it does bring a degree of much needed consistency, if not always consensus, to the treatment of mental health, a new generation of critics, seeking to update some of the muddled focus as identified by Dalrymple, are in the ascendency.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is “re-orienting its research away from DSM categories.” "The weakness” of the manual “is its lack of validity.” “Unlike our definitions of ischemic heart disease, lymphoma, or AIDS, the DSM diagnoses are based on a consensus about clusters of clinical symptoms, not any objective laboratory measure."

For example, Theodore Dalrymple writes on intermittent explosive disorder
"The notion of an outburst of temper grossly out of proportion to whatever provoked it implies moral judgment as to what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate displays of anger. Appropriateness is an irreducibly moral concept, requiring conscious judgment; no number of functional MRI scans, of the amygdala or of any other part of the brain, will assist in that judgment."

I believe Dalrymple is right and hope science does increasingly dominate the debate over the all too common anti-science "moral concepts" like "appropriateness". I am a clinical psychologist. I am often very disturbed by the anti-empirical and logically absurd statements I hear coming from psychiatrists and psychologists on either side of the debate. As I am sure you know, these anti-scientific and philosophically absurd extremes are found throughout many professions and much of our culture. I would argue against sociologists who say that biology, ethnology and genetics have nothing whatsoever to contribute to the understanding of social order and social change. Fortunately this has changed a great deal in the last 20 years with the rise of a whole range of neuro social sciences.

Part of this has seen NIMH launch the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project to transform diagnosis by incorporating genetics, imaging, cognitive science and other levels of information, with a view to laying the foundation for a new classification system. Through a series of workshops they have tried to define several major categories for a new nosology (disease classification). This approach began with several assumptions based on bringing a more scientific approach into psychiatry:

    A diagnostic approach based on the biology as well as the symptoms must not be constrained by the current DSM categories,
    Mental disorders are biological disorders involving brain circuits that implicate specific domains of cognition, emotion, or behaviour,
    Mapping the cognitive, circuit, and genetic aspects of mental disorders will yield new and better targets for treatment.

Dalrymple notes
"Nature seems to abhor not only a vacuum but also a category. Consider the so-called gambling disorder, which has such features, according to the DSM-5, as preoccupation with gambling and jeopardizing important aspects of life in order to continue gambling."

None of us like to be categorised by outsiders. However, the way each of us interprets our environment and the world is hard wired to be essentially just that - the seeking of a fit between experience and assumptions. Prejudices are universal. Unfortunate and narrow minded as that might seem to a supposedly 'objective' observer or social idealist. Whilst decrying 'labels', we derive many comforts from feeling we are part of particular collectives; whether this is religious, secular or a sub-cultural social group. Gamblers are no different. They do not generally require treatment, any more than a narcissistic personality requires treatment. We are all risk takers, to some degree. It is only natural to see ourselves as the centre of the universe, to some degree. The fact that these mental processes are widespread does not mean they cannot become an issue requiring medical intervention. If and when they impact upon a person's life in a way which has a distinctly debilitating impact on the person's ability to function and interact healthily, within the broader society.

For example, if the disabled, black woman previously referred to, who seems to be forever finding "offense" in her interactions, has no problem with that, then to all intents and purposes she is a well-functioning member of society, with all its eccentricities and that is fine. On the other hand, if she feels she is more and more miserable and finding her behaviours too socially isolating, obsessive, or confronting, then she is well advised to seek support because she is potentially subject to what might be termed a 'disorder'.

On the other hand, as a clinical psychologist, it is true that I often work with psychiatrists who make quite absurd statements about psychological issues and problems. I was once told that if a person responds to treatment other than medicine it is proof that they were never ill. I am not a biologist or an MD but I am extremely interested in and grateful for the research and treatments coming from these fields. I am equally impressed by the research and interventions developed in psychology and sociology. No field owns science. And no specialty within science can hope to avoid turning into an inhibiting ideology if it ignores other fields of science, or any rigorous logical and empirically based attempt to understand the complexity of reality.

I would suggest Dalrymple is overlooking this complexity of reality when he writes of factitious disorder, which consists of “falsification of physical or psychological signs and symptoms, or induction of injury or disease, associated with identified deception”. He feels it is wrong "to grant the same status to someone pretending to be ill as to someone genuinely ill."

I really do not see why someone recurrently acting out symptoms, like a hypochondriac, should not be seen as requiring treatment, if they feel powerless to control such urges and this is potentially putting themselves at risk. It is surely unhelpful for psychiatrists to concern themselves with 'status' when dealing with what is clearly a debilitating and anti-social trait, however it arises. What would be wrong would be to take a strictly medicinal approach to treating such a case. As Dalrymple would agree;

"The semantic change is significant. The word “unhappy” is an implicit call to self-examination; the word “depressed” is, at least nowadays, a call to the doctor. It is no coincidence that the age of the DSM should coincide with a tenth of the population’s taking antidepressants—drugs that, for the most part, are placebos when not outright harmful... Yet this is precisely what the DSM-5 does, establishing its authors’ lack of common sense."

I am troubled by the fact that 'depression' has taken on this mantle where healthy and quite normal rhythms in mood are cause for a general clamour for 'diagnosis' and 'treatment'. Part of good sense is resisting pressure from pharmaceutical companies and acknowledging that clinical intervention should avoid, wherever possible, feeding client expectations of a drug for every illness. An instance being recent attempts to extend definitions of clinical depression to include widespread responses to grief.

Similar normal feelings of sadness occur in reactions to other losses, such as marital dissolution, romantic betrayal, job loss, financial trouble, natural disaster, and a terrible medical diagnosis. Such reactions are currently diagnosed as psychiatric disorders when in fact studies show they too are often normal responses. The evidence indicates that DSM-5 should be narrowing the category of clinical depression, not broadening it.

This is where the mental health 'industry' has to take on some responsibility for failing to educate and curtail popular culture, in (dis)favour of self promotion. For instance philosophers have done a great deal to help scientists recognize some very common forms of illogical reasoning found in scientific research.

Personally I prefer to replace the lack of "common sense" Dalrymple identifies, with 'good sense'. As the social philosopher Antonio Gramsci famously pointed out, what is needed is not more "common sense," common sense is what got us into our state of confusion. What is needed is good sense. Something, dare I say it, I was "happy" to find in the Dalrymple articles you referred me to.
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