Sensitivity.

In most social groups the taboo subjects are religion, politics and the similar. It seems on LiveJournal at the moment that mental health issues are the ones which cause the most uproar and vitriol.

This was brought into focus by a posting yesterday which has generated a whole raft of comments, often taking some small part of a comment and blowing it out of proportion.

I was also surprised and dismayed by the way one of the commentators seemed to think that one particular part of a comment I made was aimed at himself. In fact, I didn’t even think of him when posting and was talking generallities. The word “sometimes” qualifying the “kick up the arse” seemed to be forgotten. This would change the meaning of the sentence from being one saying that occasionally the action would be helpful and appropriate to it should always be done.

Still, this still doesn’t clarify what the term “giving someone a kick up the arse” could mean in reality. As in the normal form of the term, rather than the metaphor, there is a difference between a tap with the side of the foot and a whalloping great kick causing damage. Maybe I should have used a wording such as “shaking the person out of complacency in a firm but constructive manner” but that doesn’t have the same ring to it.

The other worrying thing I find is the idea that to be helpful to someone you have to always be supportive and sympathetic. In this life, often support and sympathy ARE the right things to give, however, on other occasions you do have to point out to people that things they are doing or saying or thinking aren’t right in a way which may SEEM harsh at the time. It’s just like a mother forcing a baby to ween, not nice for the baby at the time but the best thing for the baby in the longer term.

20 thoughts on “Sensitivity.

  1. The problem I have with you is that you seem to have absolutely no clue when these ‘kicks’ might or might not be appropriate. You are like someone with a nuke, wandering around the world taking about how it might be appropriate to blow a few countries up now and again for their own sake. You seem to have no idea of the insensitivity you might be displaying or the level of offence you might cause.

    I would not normally get involved, but you’ve offended me and my friends once too often, so consider this a kick up your arse.

    • Hmm..

      Thank-you.

      I definitely prefer it when people tell me to my face.

      No offence was meant or implied on any occasion. As such I apologise for any I caused.

      • Re: Hmm..

        I know no offence is or was intended. I’m just wary of that big pointy stick you’re waving around blindly. You could have someone’s eye out with it.

  2. I suspect this may draw a lot of comment…

    Ok, paragraph by paragraph.

    #1 Your comment to “mental health issues”. This contains a linguistic presupposition that some people are mentally ill. Don’t agree. I agree with your point that when communicating, different issues require differing levels of rapport in order to avoid causing distress and conflict.

    #2 I found all of the comments interesting, and none of them destructive. Many of the comments focused on particular questions I raised in a wide-ranging article. Interestingly, different commentators raised different issues. I have no problem with any of the people that were kind enough to read my ramblings (which are worth exactly what you paid for them, and no more), and then broaden and deepen them by adding their own point of view.

    #3 Surprise! This is what happens when you don’t have rapport. Aren’t you lucky you didn’t get poked in the eye. Plus, using a nominalisation such as you did is highly likely to generate misunderstanding. If you mean “help”, say “help”. If you mean “bully”, say “bully”. If you say “kick up the arse”, don’t be surprised if people read their own meanings into what you say.

    #4 Perhaps the metaphor is not appropriate to what you are trying to acheive. Time to try something else. In fact, *anything* else. Out of interest, what makes you feel that you are in a position to “shake someone out of complacency in a firm but constructive manner”? Can you offer your life as a guide to others? How have you dealt with relationships that have failed in the past? How have you dealt with having to break off a toxic romantic relationship? What tools do you use to move past a conscious level of thinking, to deal with unconscious behaviours and limiting beliefs? Ever had to overcome an addiction? Ever managed to?

    The only way I would ever help someone to shake themselves out of complacency in a firm but constructive manner is to ensure that they wanted me to. By asking their permission. And not even attempting to do it over the internet, or for that matter over the phone. The medium is not rich enough. You only get the verbal content, not the vocal tonality, or the physiology.

    #5 To be helpful, you do not have to always be supportive and sympathetic. In fact, if someone is playing a game of PLOTM (“Poor Lil’ Old Me”) then this is the worst possible thing you can do, as you will be reinforcing the behaviour. Unfortunately, your words on here read as a game of NIGYYSOB (Now I’ve Got You, You Son Of a Bitch). If that is the game you play, you must expect the outcome you are getting. If you want a different outcome, you should do something else.

    I advised you to either remove this comment, or to make it private so that only you could read it. I still think you should.

    • Hmm..

      First of all, thank-you for your comments.

      Seeing as you have broken them down into individual topics I’ll reply as such.

      #1, Of course, the term “mental health issues” is so broad as to encompass almost anything to do with the operation of the brain. In my opinion, the term is as descritive as “general health issues” or “liver health issues.” ie. a slightly more defined term than just “health issues.”

      #2, I didn’t say that I didn’t find the comments, and indeed the whole discussion, anything other than constructive. I was just a little taken aback by the way one part of my comment was taken by another commentator.

      #3, I was surprised. No doubt half of the problem is due to how poor a communicating medium plain text is. Sure, I may have been able to phrase my language differently and got across my meaning a great deal better. I meant not to mean “bully.” From all my previous experience, the metaphor “a kick up the arse” was meant as a helpful shock to the system.

      #4, Yes, I’ve dealt with these sorts of things myself. The only thing in your list I’ve not had to deal with has been a physical addiction. All anyone of us can do is try to formulate ideas from our own experiences. Life IS tough. Anyone who says it isn’t is probably lying.

      I agree whole heartedly with your second paragraph. I try not to, but I’m nowhere near perfect, but who is?

      #5, Anyone who knows me at all well will know that I do not go in for the “NIGYYSOB (Now I’ve Got You, You Son Of a Bitch)” games at all. I’m not vindictive at all. Anyone who reads anything I write with that slant is putting that meaning on themselves. Just beacuse I may not be elloquent enough to write prose so totally unambiguous that no-one can misunderstand it doesn’t mean that the meaning behind it isn’t trying to be helpful.

      Thank-you for your advice about the removal, I did think about it. However, surely it’s best to air these things rather than to keep burying them and not talking about them?

  3. You really think your arse kicking therapy is equivalent to a mother weaning her child onto solid food? Good grief.

    Here are some differences to consider:

    1) A mother is actually responsible for her baby, and for it’s wellbeing.
    2) A mother’s life experience is infinitely more than that of the baby – this gives her the perspective to make decisions on it’s behalf.
    3) There is no alternative way to get the baby onto solid food, as babies lack the ability to understand the arguments involved.
    4) The bond between a mother and baby is perhaps the strongest human bond there is.
    5) The mother’s actions are backed up by instincts and centuries of accumulated human wisdom and knowledge.
    6) Babies don’t have social boundaries.

    However, I concede that there are some similarities between “kick up the arse” therapists and mothers.

    1) Most mothers don’t have any qualifications for the job
    2) Mothers sometimes do things as much to feed their own psychological quirks as for the benefit of their babies.
    3) Mothers sometimes do alarming amounts of psychological damage to their babies, usually without realising they are doing it.
    4) Some people just shouldn’t be allowed to be mothers.

    • Hmm..

      OK, no metaphor is a one-to-one match.

      The sort of thing I was envisioning as “arse kicking” was something like described by someone we both know who commented on “the other” journal. ie. The one where a friend told her that he wasn’t going to do something for her anymore and that she should do it herself. It’s the sort of thing which shocks and can be painful for both people.

      I feel that I obviously have a totally different concept of “arse kicking” to everyone else. From your reaction and other peoples it seems that the normal meaning would be what I’d call “a kick in the head.” ie. a FAR more harsh thing altogether.

      • Re: Hmm..

        Steve, you’re still missing the point. We know exactly what you mean by ‘arse kicking’, we just don’t think you’re qualified to be doing it.

        • Re: Hmm..

          Its ok to offer whatever help we feel we have to offer. Whether we have a PhD in cognitive therapy, a PsychD and M.D. in psychiatry, or a collection of fine cognacs, comfy chairs, and time to listen.

          What makes it not ok is when we don’t follow through on the offer, or if we don’t take “No thanks” for an answer.

          I have offered a couple of people some time if they want to talk, and I will listen, and ask questions to complete my understanding. They have said “Not right now”, and I have not followed it up, because the ball is in their court. Similarly, its perfectly ok for me to say “I do not wish to work with you, Mr/Ms Client. There is no charge, please leave.” I have done that with one person thus far.

          Its also not ok to step outside the ecological frame of the relationship. It would be wrong, for example, for me to post a recording/transcript of a client session. It would also be wrong for me to suggest “You need to kneel on a thrum-mat, three times a day and I have an exclusive supply of thrum-mats”. And finally, it would be wrong for me to suggest “You need an extensive course of medication, therapy, and seclusion in a recovery centre, which I can provide”.

          I have no idea why I posted this. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

        • Re: Hmm..

          hiya,

          permit me to skip the pleasantries – i’d rather just make my point and go have a cup of tea; my apologies if this short-circuiting offends:

          since when have people needed qualifications to express opinions in a conversational, unpaid capacity?

          with respect, you express many opinions yourself, on many topics – opinions some of which i agree with, some i take issue with, and (on rare occasion) some of which I consider naive – but you have every right to hold them, express them, and keep them, even if my opinions differ.

          you can even change them sometimes. i’ll not complain. 😎

          steve is not inciting racial hatred. he is not expressing hate-speech of any sort. all that he expressed was a metaphor implying that there are occasions when he feels that some other people might benefit from the application of a concentrated and swift dose of reality, possibly to reset some of their perspectives on life.

          case in point: in various ways i had my head up my arse and was taking life for granted, back in 1992, when – one icy morning between xmas and new year – i walked away (with minor scratches) from a car crash which – i was told – should have stoved-in my chest and drowned me.

          kinda changes your perspective on life, that sort of thing.

          makes sensation more pronounced. makes family more precious.

          kick up the arse.

          if people choose to take steve’s observation personally, it strikes me as at least a partial reflection of themselves.

          either way – “qualified to speak”? that is necessary why?

          can’t we expect people to judge sensibly for themselves, whether what a person says has value?

          do the public at large require protection from other people’s comments? and what if someone says they need protection from *your* comments?

          steve’s not taking payment, an (eg) ian and jon are free to ignore him. no loss. no cost. that would seem fairer to me.

          i even believe (?) that LJ even supports some analogues of “killfiles” to support that notion.

          or perhaps their vitriol is driven because (subconciously?) they feel forced to crush his commentaries and prove him to be wrong, lest there be some chance he’s hit on a grain of truth and (horrors) might be a little bit right?

          oh, to hell with it.

          sad blighters, the lot of you.

      • Re: Hmm..

        I think it would be a mistake to think that anyone is concerned about the exact positioning or force of your arse kicking.

        They are concerned that you presume to do it at all.

        Take me, for example. I am someone whose arse you’ve written about wanting to kick (in whatever way) not to mention your having expressed a further desire to bash some sense into me. These are things which you’ve said in comments in my journal.

        Although we’ve been acquainted for many years, we don’t really know each other. We’ve never spent significant amounts of time in conversation, never got drunk and talked all night about life the universe and everything, and never really had any very meaningful interactions. In fact, pretty much all you know about me comes from reading my journal, and perhaps from if he’s discussed me with you for whatever reason.

        So… just from reading my journal, you decided that:

        1) I need external help.
        2) I cannot or will not seek that help myself, therefore…
        3) The help needs to take the form of an intervention from outside, without my consent (kick up the arse, bashing sense into me)
        4) You understand me and my situation enough to be able to do this yourself.
        5) I would permit such intervention.
        6) I would be grateful for such intervention.

        Do you see that from my point of view you are indulging in some outrageous assumptions, whether implicitly or explicitly? Can you imagine how patronising those assumptions must seem to me?

        That’s what I feel that all the fuss is about. If I’m wrong, I’m sure that or will respond accordingly and correct me.

        • Re: Hmm..

          As Ian says the concern is that someone (not necessarily Steve) would presume to do it for another.

          In my case the situation was different – the help WASN’T unsolicited.

          I had already admitted to the person in question I needed help and he had in fact been helping for some time previously. I agree that “a swift dose of reality” can sometimes be helpful, but it isn’t the only way to be helpful and it has to come at the right time.

          However, if that dose of reality (or any other help) comes unsolicited, I’m more likely to accuse the person of interfering, and I certainly will not be grateful for it…

          To take a non perjorative illustration, someone came to my house and insisted I should keep the door to the utility room closed, cos it would keep the rest of the house warmer.

          THis was a true statement – it would no doubt keep the house a whole lot warmer.

          However, I was not grateful for this nor for the door being shut for me, as the cat’s litter boxes are out there and I didn’t think they could cross their legs for that long! Far from being grateful I was downright irritated…

          IME for any advice to be effective one has to remember two things
          (1) It has to come at the right time for the person you are advising.
          (2) THe advisee has to want advice from the advisor.
          Without BOTH of those being true then the advice is most likely to produce irritation rather than a helpful outcome.

          Also IME if (2) is true the advisee will usually ask for the advice eg “what do you think?”, “you got time for a chat about …?” It certainly holds true for me, and I can’t remember finding a contradictory instance in my own social interactions.

          Even if both of the above areture, one must also remember that one can only ever advise or offer an opion to another, the other person must decide for themselves what they want to do. Any advice phrased without this in mind will also produce a counterproductive result….

  4. I think I see the confusion here.

    Ian, you believed that the reason I made my comments was in some way linked to your situation.

    Please believe me when I say that I was not at all talking about any specific situation or case, purely a total generallity.

    As for giving you advice, after you made it clear that you didn’t want any from me in this matter I don’t think I have.

    Just because I made some comments a long time ago expressing my frustration at what seemed to be extra-ordinary and dangerous behavour from your description in your journal surely doesn’t mean that I can express an opinion on similar but unrelated issues?

    I had at that time thought that what you had written in your journal was a factual and documentry account, which you have since informed people is not really how it should be taken. Seeing as I thought that we had been friends during the time at UCL I was concerned and hoped also to give some advice on the matters at hand, ie. the spending “problem.” It was all done with the best of intensions. I also hoped you’d remembered that I always try to help and do not go in for the psychological game playing some people do. What you see is what you get, I have no hidden agendas. At least none that are concious ones.

  5. In most social groups the taboo subjects are religion, politics and the similar. It seems on LiveJournal at the moment that mental health issues are the ones which cause the most uproar and vitriol.

    Nah! I think that’s probably just your experience at the moment. Certainly religion and politics and the like are certainly issues that do gain a lot of uproar and vitriol. But hang on, does that make these issues taboo? I think that just means that more people are interested in them and find the subject interesting enought to start posting on. Also they are things that people might have a strong opinion about which is not neccesarily a bad thing. I think it is good for people to have beliefs and strong opinions.

    Of course if you say something especiallly contensious then that will also get a lot of response too. 🙂

    Oh and Mental Health in itself can be a very polictical matter BTW. Just look where the mental health movement took the human race.

    comments, often taking some small part of a comment and blowing it out of proportion.

    it might be that that small part of what you were saying was the bit they disagreed strongly with. They might have even agreed with something you said in there! 🙂

    The word “sometimes” qualifying the “kick up the arse” seemed to be forgotten. This would change the meaning of the sentence from being one saying that occasionally the action would be helpful and appropriate to it should always be done.

    Well of course occasionally has a very different connotation to sometimes. Occasionally implies almost rarely. As opposed to sometimes being just some of the time.


    great kick causing damage. Maybe I should have used a wording such as “shaking the person out of complacency in a firm but constructive manner” but that doesn’t have the same ring to it.

    certainly it would be a less violent metaphor.
    I don’t think that depression is a matter of complacency tho. I think complacency is more a matter in such things as sadness oru nhappyness. Depression is quite an extreme and profound thing.


    The other worrying thing I find is the idea that to be helpful to someone you have to always be supportive and sympathetic. In this life, often support and sympathy ARE the right things to give, however, on other occasions you do have to point out to people that things they are doing or saying or thinking aren’t right in a way which may SEEM harsh at the time. It’s just like a mother forcing a baby to ween, not nice for the baby at the time but the best thing for the baby in the longer term.

    But isn’t that just what people are doing on live journal in response to your postings???

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