Monday, July 09, 2007

Mental Illness is No Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card

I will go out on a limb here and say that people who cannot control themselves are insane.

The word insane is derived from unsound. An insane mind is an unsound one.

The insane stick out among us like sore thumbs. You can often tell from a block away that some stranger is insane. As when, for example, you see him walking up a crowded street alone and wildly yelling and gesticulating to himself.

The insane may not realize what they're doing at any given moment. They may not remember doing something earth-shaking that they did an hour ago. They may do something horrendous and then be surprised that people disapprove of what they did. In other words, they don't know right from wrong. They have no idea that what they are doing will get them into trouble. They show this by not even trying to sneak around in order to get away with it. The insane are unable to control themselves and thus are but a puppet of their urges.

Insanity can be temporary, as when somebody just "snaps."

Now, what I have just said about insanity is consistent with legal theory here in the United States. This is why you need to prove sanity in order to get a conviction for a crime. The judgement of sanity is made according to the criteria I used above. Did this person show by their behavior that they knew what they were doing? Did they show by their behavior that they know right from wrong? Did they show by their behavior that they could control themselves?

The insane are not punished here: they are committed to psychiatric care.

But guess what? Serial killers and criminals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder are usually judged sane and sent to jail. Because they flunk the insanity test with flying colors.

We have a lot of sloppy thinking out there that all mental illness is insanity. That's exactly what you are saying if you claim that the mentally ill cannot control themselves and that they are not to blame for the bad things they do.

Well then, they deserve no credit for the good things they do either, right?

In other words, the mentally ill are all just machines with buttons that get pushed. Right?

Wrong. I challenge anyone to show me a psychiatrist or psychologist who will agree with that, in effect saying that all mental illness is insanity.

Mental illness causes TEMPTATIONS. Since when is temptation an excuse for anything?

What? People can't be expected to resist temptation? Jeez, then if I am tempted to steal someone's wallet, it's justifiable theft because poor, poor me was really, really tempted to! (sniff, sniff)

That sloppy thinking just doesn't hold up, does it?

It is sad that the mentally ill are tempted in ways the rest of us are not. But since when does TEMPTATION = CAUSE? We all get tempted 20 times a day. And we all are obligated to resist temptation. All but the insane are capable of resisting temptation. That includes the mentally ill.

The insane are not responsible for what they do. But other mentally ill people are. Mental illness is no Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card.

And the mentally ill shouldn't be treated as incapable of resisting their temptations. What a demeaning attitude! That's the way to lead them deeper into sickness, not the way to guide them to wellness.

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20 Comments:

At 7:18 PM, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

I've thought that it should be "guilty by reason of insanity". The punishment then can be tailored to the extenuating circumstances.

After all, people don't get out of jail by claiming ignorance of the law. Just cause you believed that you weren't doing something wrong, doesn't make you immune from the consequences of your actions. And unless we have body switching dopplegangers or consciousness transfers, that's not an issue we need to deal with for this decade at least.

 
At 7:42 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

Hmmm. That would tend to solve the problem of shrinks just sealing them over and then letting them loose to kill again.

 
At 3:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You seem to describe NPD in this post as some kind of addiction which implies that if they had great willingness they could "resist the temptation" How does the temptation theory square with the methaphors you have used on this site to depict the malignant narcissist as a tiger or a snake...
TEMPTATION different from NEED and from INSTINCT or DRIVE

Addiction is not the same thing as perversion to me. Control is like oxygen to them. Most people here have acknowledged that they can't change and can't 'get better' through therapy.

Another weapon they can use against us is the fact that most of them are socially charming,fascinate bystanders and are great strategists. They can get you confused because not only they feel good when they use you as a trash can ( and they manage to do that in front of people as well since they use words as manipulative tools, as a perfect illusionnist noone else notice the trick: twist)they also need to be mirrored as kind so they will surprise you by doing something out of their goodness of their hearts or so it seems ( and my ex N. would add ' I know I am too kind ' both to drive the point home and to stress that YOU don't have to mention it, I know my qualities and everybody is already convinced!)

 
At 5:25 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

Why should every analogy used have to fit all the particulars perfectly? That's an invalid requirement.

Nonethless the analogy does fit. Well, maybe not very well for snakes. A snake is a reptile. That's getting pretty far down there in the cold-blooded domain.

But tigers resist their predatory temptation all the time. That's what tiger tamers teach them to do. Every time he walks in their cage, they resist the temptation to eat him. Till one day, for some unknown reason, they decide not to.

So, where's the incongruity?

All predators choose easy prey. They resist the temptation to attack prey that might injure them in its own defense.

And all this still dodges the fact that narcissists beahve good when there are witnesses (and so do drug addicts). You have to ignore and dodge that fact to insist that they have no control over themselves.

 
At 5:36 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

>Addiction is not the same thing as perversion to me. Control is like oxygen to them. Most people here have acknowledged that they can't change and can't 'get better' through therapy.<

Addiction and perversion aren't the same to me either. The tiger isn't perverted. The N is. He is perverted because he preys on his own kind and for purely vain reasons, not to survive really.

I think most people here think that Ns just WON'T change their behavior. As for their temptations, they can't help that part.

So why should they change and behave? Especially when many people give them an excuse for whatever they do. It works. It gets them what they want. They are excused as being unable to control themselves. Ns and psychopaths are notorious for fooling even psychiatrists to get set free...to just skip away laughing to kill again. They have no conscience, so why should they change? They never developed one.

But I bet that if you kept a close eye on them ready to whack them the moment they do something wrong, they might decide they have a REASON to change. That's why I agree with those who say that our moral obligation is to punish them. That's the only language they "understanmd," because it's the only one they respect.

 
At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Taming them for a while, it can work as long as you are useful, or while in their hidden agenda they have a great plan for you but that takes time so they keep quiet.I felt I was the pet he wanted to tame as well!

There are several reasons why to my mind they can't change.I will just mention one. To be able to change, they will first have to admit that there is something wrong with them.

If you tell a narcissist that he has a problem, YOU become the problem !

They also will have to face the pain of acknowledging their wrongdoing.
For someone who can't even say sorry, thank you or laughs at himself, a real challenge !

Since he is made up only of bluff and a false self which is grandiose and perfect, whatever happens it can't be his fault or responsibility.Externalization of the blame, so convenient ! Avoiding feeling weak, vulnerable, guilty... by blaming others And you think he would be ready to ABANDON this ! Oops, sorry I shouldn't have mentionned the word which triggered the whole thing , right ? You would like his fragile self esteem to take any responsiblility ? Who would be that cruel as to expose him to those intolerable feelings inside he could not handle anyway, that would kill him !

"For the narcissist to admit to one failing , to acknowledge a mistake, even a simple human error of judgement would be to open the door to the DEEP INTERNAL LACK WITHIN. Such feelings of worthlessness are like an ocean being held back by a fragile dyke. The illusion of perfection maintained by projecting faults onto someone else is a BARRIER to be CONSTANTLY tended, mended. To admit any feelings of deficiency would be the equivalent of poking a hole in the dyke...a TOTAL DISASTER."
So I guess the narcissist does not need us to find him excuses. 'The devil looks after his own.'

Being European, I am not used that much to ' political correctness'and my views must be regarded as biaised of course ! ( just kidding Kathy )

 
At 4:00 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

You hit on something there that does make the question a moot point. Though a person has the power to choose, sometimes they would NEVER choose the right direction. On the main site I have mentioned this. There are some things you can do that you just don't repent. As Macbeth - you are so far it that turning your life around is unthinkable because of the consequences and shame involved in admitting what you've done. Theologians call it "the unforgiveable" sin, the unacknowledged one that can naver be forgiven because it is never repented.

So, if I am right and they have the power to choose, it doesn't really matter, because no narcissist ever does change ... unless he has to because he will get whacked every time he steps over the line.

 
At 12:51 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Kathy, you know what I think? I think that regardless of where you come down on the culpability of individual conscience, it's STILL never a good idea to be anywhere near a person who's so wrapped up in himself/herself that you are a pawn in the everlasting zero sum chess game of personal power.

I think it's worthwhile to ask whether a person should be guilty or not guilty by reason of insanity ... but I think it's beyond the pale to ask whether *I* should therefore stay or go.

The answer is always go. As far as you need to.

 
At 8:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

excellent stephanie. it's harder said than done sometimes BUT you still gotta find a way to.the more i dissociate with my N the more i realize how embroiled i had become. yuck! it's like cleaning layers of hardened on muck i didn't even know was there. but now - i can't wait to get it off! i'm getting help for it too cuz i can't get it off fast enough! walking away wasn't an option to them for us when they decided to suck us in. only when we start to see the strings they used to tie us up can we start to cut through them. jt

 
At 8:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i need to correct myself. i said i was dissociating from my N- i'm actually not doing that very well because it's all i ever talk or think about. i should have used the word detaching.jt

 
At 10:38 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

jt,

"Detaching" is a good word to use! And that has to come first, right? Life's not a TV show - you can't wrap it all up in a half hour and have everything resolved. But you can detach, and then gradually grow less and less to be the person who was attached, and thereby dissociate. I have seen for myself that it's a direction over time, and not a conversion experience. Or, not just a conversion experience. You were blind, now you see, so just keep going. Someday, you'll turn around and see the various layers of your formerly attached self, lying about in the path you've been on, and you'll know how you got free.

Kathy, I had a therapist say to me that I can change my behavior, but if I will actually use words and speak up and say something, that's when the dynamics will change within the group of N's and N-acolytes. What say ye?

 
At 11:11 AM, Blogger Kathy said...

If I understand you correctly, I agree. I learned the hard way that "rising above it all" is exactly the wrong thing to do. I used to feel that it was beneath my dignity to fight back against such ridiculous childishness.

Then one day my eyes were opened. Duh, I saw that this is exactly what narcissists play you to do. By turning the other cheek you just give them the green light to keep right on.

I found that you have to speak up over every lie and slight and never let them pass, especially when other people are in the audience. If you don't you're just asking for it.

I tested this with a narcissitic neighbor (now long gone). I finally taught him a lesson. I was delighted at afterwards being accused of "being just as childish as him" by going tit for tat with him. Yeah! I can be childish too! It's kinda like training a terrier: you gotta be stubborner than the dog.

I taught this N his lesson by playing his game by his rules and doing to him what he was in the act of trying to do to me. Oooh, was he furious at this proof that I was onto him and ready to get down to his level.

And guess what? He then left me alone. I was the only one in that neighborhood the bully left alone.

This is because they care about nothing but RESULTS. If abusing you gets what they want, they abuse you. Morality and conscience have nothing to do with any of their decisions. No personal feelings with regard to you have anything to do with their decisions. They don't really want to hurt you personally: you're just a punching bag, like any other punching bag.

So, if abusing you gets them what they want, they do it. If abusing you gets them sent off to crawl into some hole licking their wounds, they leave you alone. That's what all predators do. We make a grave mistake in thinking there's any more to a narcissist than that.

Now of course a neighbor is relatively distant. If you live or work with a narcissist this is no solution, because he will just wait till he thinks you've forgotten and then try again. And again. And again. And again forever. That's no way to live. Because normal people hate to fight. So, in that case, I think you just have to get away.

 
At 7:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

too painfully true. mine is always doing changeups. its been interesting to see that i have fouled up several of his attempts to get at me. i can tell i'm not following his script and our dynamics are changing. but i know he will keep trying to come up with another way to try and control me. I AM NOT going to play games with him. but it is still like a mine field. only now instead of just skipping through it, i stand on the side and make him bring it to me. he's not sure what to do.
if abusing you gets them what they want they will abuse you. they will always abuse you because they want to control you. and the reason why they change so much is because they can tell when they don't have control over you. and it rattles them.we have spent so much time trying to understand what motivates them and if they are calculating their moves and agendas- and i don't think they have a master plan with a particular scenario or specific goal. they aren't driven by a particular want- their want isn't specifically defined. its just that they try stuff and then are disappointed by your reaction and everyone involved is confused by 'what went wrong' including them. then they pout.
its so hard to talk clearly about it cuz its just sooo weird. always shifting and flipping. i don't think they will ever be settled because the results never fully satisfy them.
thinking about the tigers and tamer-- tigers in the wild are predators for survival. their instincts drive them and they don't particularly attack except when to protect or eat.which is acceptable. its unnatural for them to be in captivity.you put them in a cage and of course you gotta watch them cuz they are gonna want to get out and youre the one keeping them in. they make a wrong move and you gotta whack them. thats why we are so tired. we have to constantly watch them Ns cuz we know they are going to take a shot at us. its no way to live. you have to be constantly on guard cuz its not if but when they are going to swipe. i feel like i want to back to the door and just let myself out of the cage. its like living with a tiger that has rabies. yuck.
but whats so weird is that they almost put us/ chose us to be their tamer. they projected that role onto us so they could be the tiger taking swipes at us. like they put us in a position of control over them so they could try to take the control back. this is sounding so goofy. guess im thinking out loud here again. guess its part of me detangling the strings of my relationship here.its such a goofy cat and mouse. i really wish he would just leave me alone- im dead already. :) jt

 
At 7:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

something thats dawning on me while i have time to be here on this site with you... mine is trying a softer approach lately and is saying things like "i just want to be able to do fun things together again". abuse sites call this the 'honeymoon' stage of trying to make up. with the projection education i'm getting i'm seeing it like this: i resent how he expects me to be the one to "run" our lives and that he expects me to "pick out how he can act" just so he can then have a problem with me. something happened the other day and he drew a reference from the past and made it fit current events in a way that indicated in his head they were the exact same thing. the whole hollow man needs me for a mirror thing is becoming more visible to me-- its been hard to really get that even though i live it.. cuz there is still so much garbage to him. he keeps gathering up bags of it and handing it to me expecting me to take care of, sort through it and i don't know what else...apparently i seemed to be doing a good job of it in his estimation- but now i'm not. we both see it.
getting away is hard.
i must be gaining on it. of course he's gonna react- maybe even panic- if he does figure out how ready i am to wash my hands of it. it is sort of scary. becoming aware of how all this works is fascinating- but my body is starting to show signs of the stress its all creating inside me. people who have been victims of targeted abuse and use instinctively if not conciously know they have the unwanted power to trigger our abusers. we are trapped- we are in the catch 22 and we understand the dynamics because of the experiences we've had. people ask "why don't you leave"...its because we know that will pull a trigger- that it doesn't make it end. that they are like a science fiction movie creature that will not cease to exist just cuz we shot them- that they may come back at us stronger now that we are trying to escape. they hate losing control.when you start the weaning process you start getting better vision. but you also gotta do the process in order to succeed. when you start to pull away it escalates their efforts to regain control. watch and learn. i feel like im trying to sneak away without him catching it. i have said i felt guilty like i was betraying him behind his back. i JUST realized its not guilt- its FEAR cuz im not sure im going to be able to run fast enough when i make the break. jt

 
At 11:32 PM, Anonymous Lynn said...

I get more and more worried that NPD is tested in our courts systems. I believe we are getting closer and closer to the argument of having Narcissistic Personality Disorder win a case.

My partner has even used it as a reason for him not paying his back taxes. Luckily, the tax office has refused to accept it.

A man in Melbourne, raped 3 women and used NPD as his defence. Luckily, it was not a case. But soon enough, some bright spark medical professor will make the NPD non-responsible for his actions and thereby not guilty by way of diminished responsibility. Before narcissism was classified as NPD in 1983 it was simply abusive and anti-social behaviour worthy of jail time, but not now when you look at it. Now it's a Personality Disorder! And with that can come many connotations about responsibility and knowing right from wrong.

JT. I am so understanding of your last post. Especially the FEAR factor. YOur explanation of escaping being a trigger is an excellent one. I feel exactly the same and if you don't mind, I will be using your description whenever I'm asked 'why don't you leave?' Yep, escape is the trigger. You don't know what escaping with a young child can hold for the future. MOre physical abuse? Probably. Kidnapping, perhaps? Abuse when you're not there on the weekend they have the young child, definately. So sad.

 
At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anne said...

I did recently leave my N ex-husband and I too was way worried that my leaving would be a trigger of worse things to come. And in many ways that is true, but it was more of a trigger for his life to spiral out-of-control, as I wasn't there to hold it together.

Of course, he blames me for all the things that have gone wrong in his life since I left him (i.e. fired from his professional job, foreclosure of his $1.5 million home, repossession of his luxury car), but it is evident to anyone with half a brain that he is the reason his life is on a very serious downward spiral.

I am now a single working mother of two young children, supporting myself in a town where I have no family. Yet, despite all that and the "horrible divorce", I am successful and financially stable. I have enrolled the kids in a great school and am doing very well at work.

He is not doing well at anything. As much as he would like to blame it all on me, it is past the point where that makes any sense. He is now remarried, aren't his job problems her fault now, not mine??

Yes, all your concerns are valid about the trigger issue, I am not sure yet how this will all turn out (still have a court date where he is suing me to pay for his honeymoon as I wouldn't let him take the kids with him as my sister was visiting from out-of-state that weekend - he still went on the honeymoon, of course, he is just suing me for the kids' plane tickets to Hawaii...).

His downward spiral is still at the beginning and when things really start to have even more serious consequences, such as not being able to pay the rent on his $1 million rental home where he is living now during the foreclosure, then I will be even more scared that he will take out his anger over the results of his bad actions/choices on me and our children.

Never out of the woods with these men, but at least I am out of his bedroom...

The more you are away from these men, the more you realize how sick and dysfunctional they are and how dysfunctionally they force you to live and act and feel. My instincts are to try and live in as normal and boring a manner as possible, I want none of his crazy drama. It is a beautiful thing to not have to walk through minefields in every conservation you have during your day. It is wonderful to know that your stomach won't clench in fear when you hear his car pull up at the end of the day. It is just good to be normal and healthy and to be away from someone who is not and who wants to make you not.

Of course, the problem is that he continues to try and make me interact with him, to bully me on anything that involves our children, and that is my eternal battle with him, which I hate, as he knows I hate to fight and we all know he lives for it and is the king-kong of marital strife. But I am trying, trying, trying to achieve as much NO CONTACT as possible. It is the only way to normalcy, which is all I want anymore...for me and especially for my children. Normal, boring, no drama, get up and go to school/work life. How sad for Ns that that holds no appeal!

 
At 12:22 PM, Blogger Kathy said...

They have no incentive to ever stop it. For example, normal people hate to fight. But narcissists don't. They love to fight. They'll fight over anything. Because they are constantly competing with you for every bit of gratification at stake in anything. If nothing's brewing, they'll pick a fight.

No incentive to be anything other but what they have made themselves.

 
At 6:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

lynn- i think i probably turned white when i read your post. unfortunately i bet you're right and it won't be long and we-even as a society at that point- will be even more screwed. egads! jt

 
At 6:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is a weird question- but- how do you make a narcissist mad ? and- how do you get even with a narcissist ? i'm so disgusted at this moment that i'm thinkin 'what the hell- if i'm being forced to play this sick stupid game with him anyway- why not just take out more gear and play harder. i'm so ready to just kick his #$@ (don't worry- i'm not gonna DO anything- just thinking...) jt

 
At 7:31 PM, Blogger Barbara said...

Thanks for this discussion...I don't feel like I need to make excuses anymore for his N behavior. Yes, he's also depressed but it's all twisted up in the NARC behavior. Who knows, maybe it's an act too!

 

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