Theory and Psychopathology

Lines of thought

From Superstition to Psychological Anarchy

The author applies cognitive behavioral theory to the emergence of psychosis. Interval-ratio reinforcement, equating with reinforcement based on chance alone, is postulated to reinforce psychotic behavior, even covert behavior representing thoughts or ideas, such as delusions of persecution and grandeur. Read More

does this wordiness really helps

I am not talking about the content of the article, but the way this article is written.

skinner made valuable

skinner made valuable contributions to the world of veterinary psychology.

unfortunately, the animal you today are attempting to compare with pigeons doesnt have the ability to fly without mechanical assistance.

so, while true pigeons may breathe air, as a common behaviour shared with humans, it also does not make apples appear to taste similar to oranges.

thats a very long-winded approach to saying that religious people are superstitious and therefore insane.

and that is one of my very exact concerns regarding progressives ability to differentiate between reality, and ideal reality. in many cases that distinction is lost.

a prime example of that is me in fact. today people will judge me by the fact that i dont have the "badges of merit" i should have if they were in my place. for example the superpastor joel osteen is obviously far more worthy of me, then me. except for the fact that typically, and this seems lost on progressives, during the course of an anthropological field study you generally do not use fireworks and flashing neon lights.

now, the problem the religious today are having in fact is that the leaders of religion are today far more prepared to protect their corruption, and against anything and everything, rather then accept truth. similar to the manner in which science seems to now function, if everyone agrees to not see the gorilla, then the gorilla must not exist. while that may make for some intereting group dynamics, what happens if the gorilla takes the ball and keeps it? will the players then continue to go throu the motions? it would appear so wouldnt it? that would create some troubling behaviours wouldnt it? and over a period of time could that illusion be maintained? or would the group cohesion completely break down at some point?

truth is when it comes to social engineering, transhumanism, and all the other "godly" endeavours today, its all nothing new. the pharoahs built their great temples, they didnt call it religion. they called it science. you? not so different.


I did not entirely understand your comments. However, I can respond to some of what you said.

I believe that Skinner knew very well that his experiments with pigeons applied to human beings. That was the point of his work.

I read a scientific article recently that argued there is no way to differentiate between psychotic experience and religious experience. While I believe that psychotic experience may be dysfunctional and religious experience may be functional, both are mental experience and they rely on mental realm for their presentation and their dubiously subjective validity.

In terms of science, yes, this does rely on consensus between people regarding sensory experience in the material realm. However, I also read an article on color-blindness that supports the argument that sensory experience relies on subjective percetion, as well.

very educational

I wasn't aware of the Skinner experiments that induced "superstition" in pigeons, but the mechanism described is fascinating.

The mechanism or technique you described involved giving rewards randomly, which then becomes open to individual interpretation as to "why?" by the pigeons, who apparently try to associate behaviors they happened to be doing at the time as having an influence on getting the reward.

I noted that its important to first teach the pigeons that certain specific behaviors will consistently earn them a reward, so that the pigeons learn that some specific actions have specific and reliable results.

It seems to me that this same mechanism (rewards *and punishments* delivered randomly) could possibly be applied to the conditions that a small child faces when in the care of a parent with borderline personality disorder. BPD features rapid mood swings, switching back and forth from idealization of an individual to devaluation of the individual, high impulsivity, paranoid ideation under stress, and difficulty controlling anger.

A child in the care of such an individual (who is moderately to severely impacted by bpd, unsupervised and not under treatment) would be at high risk of developing bizarre "superstitious" beliefs about reality, because mommy is so unpredictable.

I read a description of an experiment with rats, in which the rats were given random "punishments" (brief, mildly unpleasant shocks); one set of rats were first given a "warning alert" that the shock was about to occur, while another set of rats were never given any alerts or warnings of any kind. The rats who first received a little "alert" were MUCH healthier both mentally and physically than the rats who were randomly shocked with no warnings.

A child who never knows when a punishment will be given (because mommy is so unpredictable) would naturally develop hyper-alertness in an effort to glean SOME kind of warning that punishment was about to occur. And such a child might also develop bizarre "superstitious" beliefs about what kinds of behavior might elicit a reward or a punishment, as well.

Thanks for sharing your information about the development of "superstitious" beliefs and behaviors, its fascinating.

I think

That is a BIG STRETCH! Wow the lengths some people will go to keep the stigma of BPD alive...

consistent with multiple studies of bpd mothers

Actually, the post by "Annie" reflects the conclusions of several studies about borderline personality disorder RE parenting. An unpredictably volatile, self-harming, other-harming parent would indeed induce bizarre coping mechanisms in the child ("superstitious" beliefs specific to the parent-child relationship). The children of bpd mothers ARE at higher risk for disorganized attachment and adult psychopathology; emotional instability/unpredictability in the mother are factors in this increased risk.

I refer you to this comprehensive article at (and its references/annotations):


"Characteristic symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder are likely to hinder the ability of a mother with BPD to parent effectively, thereby negatively affecting the social and emotional development of the child."

" ...the powerful, alternating idealization and devaluation characteristic of BPD, are likely to obviate a positive mother-child relationship and negatively affect the child’s developing interpersonal skills and sense of self."

The article went into detail RE the effect that the unpredictable behaviors of a mother with bpd have on the attachment status of the child:

"Children of mothers with BPD show a significantly higher prevalence of ‘disorganized’ attachment than children of mothers without BPD (Hobson et al., 2005). Mothers with BPD’s intrusive insensitivity, affective deregulation, confusion over role expectations, and unresolved traumatic experiences have been identified as precursors for this disorganization (see Van IJzendoorn et al., 1999; Hobson et al., 2005). Disorganization in children typically arises in response to recurrent stress."


This article is about the need to let go of stigma...

not keep it alive.
The author states "Clearly, this implicates labeling and stigma as they are associated with mental illness. If mentally ill psychotic individuals were not denigrated by others in society, perhaps there would be less of a need in these affected individuals to “prove” that they can be understood, may receive empathy and can feel themselves to be human beings. The consequences of alienation are emotionally destructive, and prescribed for the mentally ill at this time is a kind of psychological anarchy on the level of the self. "

Trying to label BPD mothers as harming their children doesn't help the mother with BPD get the help and respect and treatment she deserves for her BIOLOGICAL illness.

I think it is safe to say that having a parent with any mental illness is going to cause "Disorganization" to a child and isn't optimal although, I actually read a biography of an FBI agent who became one of the best in the field and he credited growing up with his schizophrenic mother for "honing" all of his razor sharp perception skills.

When we do away with stigma we help heal.

Speaking the truth openly is not stigma

Speaking the truth about conditions and situations that are harmful to children isn't stigma.

Its just the truth.

If we speak the truth, speak openly about problems that need to be addressed and worked on, then we can deal with the truth and make things better for the person with a debilitating mental condition like bpd, and her kids. Or the person with alcoholism and her kids. Or the person with schizophrenia and her kids. Or the pedophile father and his kids.

but what is the point

every mental illness could possibly be harmful to children… you don't know which child of which mother is going to be affected by that mental illness and to what extent. Hopefully they have another parent who can help their confusing situation out… in the meantime to trash the person with a mental illness and to assume that they are abusing their children just because they have a mental illness isn't necessary.
Why talk about the possibility of it harming children when you have a person who actually has a mental illness that is "harming" themselves we need to have open and non stigma perpetuating talks about the mental illness itself and how it relates to the person suffering not fear inducing what if about their children...

the point

The point of discussing all this is so that the children in such circumstances can be helped.

If the spouse or other relatives of the parent with bpd (or substance abuse, or whatever mental disorder the individual has) can become educated that having a secure attachment is *crucial* for a young child, then hopefully the spouse or other relative WILL STEP IN and provide the child with that crucial secure, safe, reliable attachment and caregiving, and will get the disordered primary caregiver parent to agree to get into therapy, for their child's sake.

The children of the disordered NEED for their other, more mentally healthy parent (or the other relatively mentally healthy adults in their family) to step in and be there for their child in a calm, consistent, reliable, rational and loving way even if their emotionally-disordered or substance-abusing parent can't be… and not just brush it off as a non-issue by thinking things like "Hey, kids are resilient, so all the screaming and hitting, or all the self-harming and suicide attempts, or the paranoia, or the dissociative behaviors, or all the neglect and rejection are no big deal…!" or "All mothers are good-enough mothers."

Denial or minimizing will prevent the minor children of the disordered from getting the help THEY need.

From the NAMI website

Even among other mental illnesses, BPD is surrounded by a phenomenon that maybe termed "surplus stigma."

Issues that promote stigma and, thus, further the BPD misunderstanding include: 1) theories on the development of the disorder, with a suspect position placed on parents similar to the erstwhile schizophrenogenic-mother concept

a direct quote from the NAMI website

I'm not understanding where you got your information; the following was copied, cut and pasted from the NAMI website:

"What is the cause of borderline personality disorder?

The exact causes of BPD remain unknown, although the roles of both environmental and biological factors are thought to play a role in people who develop this illness. While no specific gene has been shown to directly cause BPD, a number of different genes have been identified as playing a role in its development. The brain’s functioning, as seen in MRI testing, is often different in people with BPD, suggesting that there is a neurological basis for some of the symptoms associated with BPD.

Neuroimaging studies are not clinically helpful at this time to make the diagnosis and are research tools. A number of hormones (including oxytocin) and signaling molecules within the brain (e.g., neurotransmitters including serotonin) have been shown to potentially play a role in BPD. People who experience traumatic life events (e.g., physical or sexual abuse during childhood) are at increased risk of developing BPD, as are people with certain chronic medical illnesses in childhood.

The connection between BPD and other mental illnesses is well established. People with BPD are at increased risk for anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, eating disorders, and substance abuse. BPD is often misdiagnosed and many people find they wait years to get a proper diagnosis, which leads to a better care plan.

Many people with borderline personality disorder have a first-degree relative with a serious mental illness (e.g., bipolar disorder or schizophrenia). This is likely due to both genetic and environmental factors."

my quote was from an interview NAMI did with Perry Hoffman

Save to myNAMI

Borderline Personality Disorder: A Most Misunderstood Illness

by Perry D. Hoffman, Ph.D., President, National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality DisorderSurplus stigma

Even among other mental illnesses, BPD is surrounded by a phenomenon that maybe termed "surplus stigma."

Issues that promote stigma and, thus, further the BPD misunderstanding include: 1) theories on the development of the disorder, with a suspect position placed on parents similar to the erstwhile schizophrenogenic-mother concept; 2) frequent refusal by mental health professionals to treat BPD patients; 3) negative and sometimes pejorative web site information that projects hopelessness; and 4) clinical controversies as to whether the diagnosis is a legitimate one, a controversy that leads to the refusal of some insurance companies to accept BPD treatment for reimbursement consideration.

The schizophrenogenic-mother concept (as I am sure you are aware of) refers to when in psychiatry they tried to say that schizophrenia was caused by the mothers mental illness and or the assumption that some fault in mother/child bonding was the cause of schizophrenia. Then the focus of research moved on to examine marital relationships between mothers and fathers with the assumption that some kind of distortion in these relationships might impact on children and cause schizophrenia. Finally researchers began to take account of the family environment as a whole, theorising that any member of a family, or all the members of a family together, might somehow create conditions of stress that produced schizophrenia in a family member.

My point being that is eerily similar to what you are posting about BPD mothers and doesn't account for biology genes and that some children who have mothers with BPD are going to turn out perfectly ok so why further stigmatize the person with BPD? You are saying "it's just truth words that don't stigmatize" I am saying that Experts in the BPD field say that kind of word linkage DOES INDEED STIGMATIZE and dehumanize and cause further misunderstanding of a person with BPD

Your speaker appears to disagree with NAMI

The speaker you quoted apparently disagrees with the NAMI website article describing the underlying causes of bpd, then (NAMI indicates that its most likely due to a combination of inherited genetic predisposition plus an invalidating environment aka poor parenting.) So, there are apparently differing legitimate opinions about the etiology of bpd.

A recent study of schizophrenia patients appears to indicate that a subset of schizophrenia patients were initially misdiagnosed due to the presence of repeated suicide attempts, repeated self-harming behaviors, depression, and impulsive aggression, all of which are common to or associated with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. I've submitted a question regarding the initial diagnosis of these patients RE the possibility that in some patients, borderline personality disorder can mask underlying schizophrenia. I think this avenue of research deserves further study.

Regarding "stigma". Every single alcoholic I know who has openly admitted that they have alcohol addiction, admitted that they needed help, sought treatment for themselves, and are staying sober, has had to overcome the initial shame or "stigma" of admitting that they have a serious problem that they can't deal with on their own.

But each one of these people I know personally is a decent, caring human being who has put the needs of his or her family over their own personal feelings of being shamed or humiliated. I honor those people. I give them my support and encouragement, because they are brave and they care more about their family's needs than their own "dignity."

I feel the same way about those who have other addictions, or other mental disorders such as borderline pd. I admire, encourage and support those who are actively seeking help for themselves. That takes a lot of courage; "real balls", as you might say.

But there are some behaviors that *should* carry stigma, and should propel an individual who engages in such behaviors into treatment of their own free will: being an abusive, negligent, exploitative, suicidal, self-harming, paranoid, or rejecting parent are among such behaviors. *Whatever* disorder or addiction that causes a person to engage in such behaviors does need active treatment, for the sake of their children if for no other reason.

Minor children aren't meant to endure maltreatment, neglect or rejection by their parents, nor is a minor child meant to be or able to be their parent's live-in therapist, substitute spouse, or substitute parent; its an injustice to the child that needs to be addressed and ameliorated.

If alcoholics can take the "stigma" of saying, "Hi, my name is John, and I'm an alcoholic, but I'm in treatment for it now and I've been sober for 2 years" then those with other substance addictions and those with other mental illnesses need to "man up" and do the same.

You disagree with this author then

you are implying that those that suffer psychosis, in order to avoid labels and be stigmatized, should admit that their sensory perceptions are skewed and "man up" as you say to achieve "real balls". (I think you are saying the courage of real balls makes you a real person?). Despite feeling shame, alienation and stigmatism, once they are able to say "Hi my name is John, and I am a psychotic schizophrenic, in treatment and I openly admit that my perceptions are faulty, then they deserve support encouragement admiration and you will honor them according to your post. Your saying the psychotic person needs to use reason and be rational to be valued.

I got from this article that perception (whether or not it involves fact) is very real to them based on their sensory and belief (perhaps superstitious belief) systems that may or may not involve reason but are still rational in some way to them whether or not they are reliable…. and this is something that on some level we all can relate to doing (whether we have a mental illness or not)…

"Reason may be seldom used by individuals in determination of belief. Individuals may believe what appeals to them, with little thought of rational aspects or consequences of belief. A large majority of people operate with belief systems or world views that are inconsistent, and, although some use of reason pervades the rationale of most people, rationale for beliefs is not necessarily tied to fact."

Since we all on some level do this, perhaps we should have empathy for the psychotic individual because
"To be told that what you seem to sense is not reality is terrifying. Delusions can be punitive, leading to learned helplessness and reduced frontal lobe activity, but the effort to find reinforcement while adhering to delusional perspectives may be compelling, if only in that the psychotic individual may feel that he will be able to “prove’ the legitimacy of his perspective, and thereby earn respect that is not forthcoming as he remains in the shadow of stigmatization as a “psychotic” individual."

"If mentally ill psychotic individuals were not denigrated by others in society, perhaps there would be less of a need in these affected individuals to “prove” that they can be understood, may receive empathy and can feel themselves to be human beings. "

You don't need to stigmatize and alienate an individual because they have a mental illness... because on some level we all use similar "skewed" perception, superstition, beliefs, reason, and rationalizations etc….

of course not

Of course not. A person who is chronically, constantly or frequently psychotic (having frequent or continuous hallucinations, paranoia, fixed delusional ideation, impulsively violent, etc.) is sadly not capable of seeking help for themselves.

This sort of thing happens with senile dementia, for example. The person with advancing senile dementia often becomes a danger to himself/herself or to others *but isn't aware of it*, and so the legal guardianship of the individual is then assigned to someone else, like a spouse, a relative, or the state.

Its obvious that if a person is severely impacted by a psychotic disorder, then that person is going to need their family members or their doctor to get them the help they need, in some form of supervised care.

And as I mentioned before, its only when a person (with ANY disorder or addiction) is being chronically, frequently, intensely abusive to their kids, or to other people, or to their own self, those are the behaviors that should urgently propel a person to seek help for themselves (if they are functional enough to do so.) Even to the point of checking themselves in for residential treatment for a while, for the sake of their children.

Abusive behaviors (whether they're due to alcoholism, psychosis, brain injury or personality disorder, etc.) should NOT be tolerated (aka, *should* carry stigma) and a person who hurts or neglects their kids *ought to* swallow their pride and seek help for themselves if they're doing that kind of sick stuff.

A person who could openly say "Hi, my name is Jane and I have borderline pd, but I am in treatment for it and working hard to get better, because I love my kids and I want them to be safe and happy." should be commended and honored.

No One

NO ONE is condoning abusive or violent behavior (regardless of if it is done to children or adults BTW children can and do abuse/show violence to adults it swings both ways). But not all people with the same mental illnesses express abusive or violent behavior. In fact most schizophrenic (and your beloved Borderlines) are NOT violent.

I think that what people are trying to say is that some of the way mentally ill people "prove" their perceptions (they may do this violently) perhaps WOULD NOT OCCUR QUITE AS OFTEN If we as a society and a therapeutic community didn't stigmatize, alienate, and treat them as abhorrent and less than human. It is established that schizophrenic patients fare better in a more caring, supportive environment -the same is true for most mental illness. One way to do that is to get rid of the stigma by understanding perceptions... ours and theirs can share common ground. Even if they can't say "Hi, My name is Jane and I have…"

respectfully disagree

The research papers I've read show that any disorder that features high impulsivity and intense, inappropriate anger / difficulty controlling anger / chronic anger is going to result in aggressive behaviors directed towards others, including children. Its simply not true that those with borderline personality disorder are rarely violent. Statistics indicate that a high percentage of both men and women arrested for domestic abuse (including the abuse of minor children) have disorders that feature high impulsivity and anger-control impairment.


Thanks for your interest. The fact that random punishment can elicit behavior instead of quelling it is an aspect of my article that is counter-intuitive. One would expect that any punishment would suppress behavior. However, I agree that borderline pathology can create hyper-vigilance, even though punishment of the child as a result of the caregiver's erratic moods might diminish certain behaviors in the child.

The problem can be represented as a need to scrutinize the effects of punishment on the child in an effort to understand how the child's behavior is being reinforced. Moreover, there may be an element of cognition that leads to reappraisal of the circumstances of punishment in a way that allows the child to find positive and negative reinforcement in the punishment.

I agree

It is the specific factor of "randomness", in either reward or punishment, that needs more study.

If a pigeon or a child has already been conditioned to understand that some specific behaviors will reliably elicit a reward, and other specific behaviors will reliably elicit a punishment, then to introduce the new factor of *random* rewards or *random* punishments, would throw the child's world (or the pigeon's world) into chaos. If no real, logical thread of predictability or control is available, then superstition will be substituted.

Why would this occur? My theory is that human beings and most mammals are not designed to endure chaos. We need some degree of predictability, and some control, or at least the illusion of predictability and control, in order to function to the best of our abilities: to thrive.

Total, utter chaos is anti-survival. The stress that Chaos induces wrecks the mind and the body. Which is why having an emotionally unstable, unpredictable primary caregiver who rewards or punishes for no discernable or logical reason can turn a child's world upside down; the child must learn to adapt to a nightmarishly unadaptable environment, learn to survive Chaos, and that can result in a child who has disorganized attachment: failure to successfully bond, and perhaps ongoing derailed emotional development.

ah yes Chaos

"Which is why having an emotionally unstable, unpredictable primary caregiver who rewards or punishes for no discernable or logical reason can turn a child's world upside down; the child must learn to adapt to a nightmarishly unadaptable environment, learn to survive Chaos, and that can result in a child who has disorganized attachment: failure to successfully bond, and perhaps ongoing derailed emotional development."

This is what causes BPD in the first place. The BPD parent unwittingly got it from his/her parents… chaos is circular...

True, but not just bpd

A child's inability to form a close, loving, trusting bond with an unpredictable, erratic, inconsistent primary caregiver can result in other problems or disorders in the child/adult child as well, its not just limited to BPD.

But because BPD in particular is *defined as* inconsistent, erratic, dramatic behaviors per the diagnostic traits, BPD would be high on the list of conditions predisposing poor or disorganized bonding in the children of such individuals.

I agree with you that it can be a cyclical issue: a poorly parented child can go on to be a poor parent themselves, but its not an absolutely certain outcome.

The individual child's innate (genetically determined) resilience and sensitivity factors can sometimes withstand or overcome the poor parenting they received.

But if poor parenting can be recognized and addressed as a very real issue, and programs can be devised to assist people who are at risk for engaging in poor parenting behaviors (such as patients who have BPD, schizophrenia, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse problems, etc.) then perhaps the cycle can be broken.

BPD and superstition

I think your idea regarding superstitious behavior as a response to the mother with borderline personality disorder is fascinating, as well. It would be interesting to develop thought in this regard.

Transgender proves stigma hurts

Did you know that 40% of transgender individuals attempt suicide? That number goes down if their family accepts the child and it goes down to just 10% if both the family and the community accept and respect the transgender individual!

This directly shows how stigma and non acceptance of a biological variation can affect one psychologically.

Stigma is Psychological anarchy

according to a study published by the NIH
:The most pervasive factor affecting parents' access to and participation in mental health services is the stigma accompanying mental illness.4 The stigma of mental illness is likely borne out of misconceptions of mental illness and exacerbated by disproportionate media misrepresentations of people with mental illnesses as violent or unfit. The stigma keeps many parents from seeking the help they need,5 particularly in cases where they are afraid of losing custody of their children. The stigma of mental illness is more severe than that of other serious or chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Being labeled with a psychiatric disorder can profoundly and negatively affect the experiences of parents and their family members, adults and children alike.

Empathy is the KEY to working with mental illness

Take the dreaded BPD as you all have suggested for instance. It can be a very difficult illness to work with causing therapists untold negative reactions to patients, but a key to working with a BPD is to have empathy true empathy it is the only way to connect with a patient that can't (hasn't yet developed the perspectives necessary) to control her mind in a way that a healthier mind would :

"Jay a mental health worker is overflowing with all the unbearable emotion she (a bpd) inspires in him. Using those feelings as a guide to the patient’s emotional experience (countertransference in the broad sense) is the only way to make the work bearable for the therapist, and the only way you can truly help someone this troubled. In my experience, it also helps you feel more compassionate toward their suffering. It is painful and often terrifying to feel murderous rage.

If Jay the therapist, with his healthier mind and greater mental capacities, finds it so difficult, IMAGINE HOW HARD IT MUST BE FOR HIS PATIENT TO BEAR WITH HER EXPERIENCE. By using your reactions as a guide to understanding your client (instead of feeling quietly guilty because you hate her), you’ll truly empathize with her experience, and probably feel a lot more sympathy as well.

What I recommend instead is to use those feelings to connect with her. In my response to Jay, I suggested that he say something to his patient like this: “When you can’t force me do what you want, it makes you so furious you hate my guts and want to kill me.” It’s clear that she’s struggling with murderous rage and it’s important to name it for her, to articulate the emotions and impulses she’s feeling.
It’s easy to assume that she knows what she’s feeling; the truth is, her mind is continually blown apart by the violence of her feelings; she doesn’t really know what they are in any way you or I would recognize. It’s the job of the therapist to help her bear with those feelings and learn to understand them — very difficult work."

** Of course It is easy for us (with a healthier mind and greater mental capacity) to make value judgements about her right/legal and wrong/illegal behavior and of course anything against the law is NOT condoned as acceptable behavior. Not trying to make excuses for unacceptable behavior, just trying to

GO BEYOND that to EMPATHIZE (not STIGMATIZE) in order to *CURE the mental illness and relate to the patient so they can be cured… it works.


I have a schizophrenic son. I appreciate when people dispel the notion of stigma. Just because some schizophrenic patients are violent doesn't represent all schizophrenic patients. When people hear my son is schizophrenic they seem to write him off as a threat to society and worthless.
Schizophrenia can manifest in many different ways some doctors are theorizing that it is actually several different disorders. My son is doing well in treatment off of antipsychotics. When people hear that he is not medicated they act as if I am a threat to society for not medicating him. I have given up trying to explain as the stigma is too far ingrained for most to be receptive too understanding.
My son has value and worth even if he doesn't think in a logical way or necessarily take responsibility in the traditional way for his actions. I would like people to open their minds up to what they don't understand about mental illness and get away from the concept of is it going to hurt me or not.

What you are asking is pretty much impossible

See, I think you are asking for people to do something impossible, when you ask us to get away from the concept of "is it going to hurt me or not?"

Of course I'm going to be extremely concerned if I learn (for example) that a neighbor of mine had been arrested or jailed or been in a psychiatric hospital for engaging in violent behaviors (beating someone up, stabbing, choking or shooting someone, etc.).

I would want to know the reasons for the violence. Was it an act of self-defense, or rage, or was it revenge? I would wonder if my neighbor is an alcoholic, or if he has a mental disorder like intermittent explosive disorder or another disorder featuring high impulsivity and difficulty controlling anger? I would wonder if he had guns in his house. I would wonder, has he done this a lot, or just once? I would wonder, what are the chances that he would become violent toward me, or my family?

My mind would be spinning with anxiety in such a situation.

I'm sorry, but its just not possible to take violence lightly, particularly if you are responsible for the safety of your own children, pets, or spouse.

But my son is NOT violent and yes he is mentally ill

Mental illness doesn't necessarily mean violence. There is such a misunderstanding and STIGMA around mental illness that when people hear that someone is mentally ill ,they automatically think they are violent.
On the whole, most people who suffer from mental illness are not violent. PMS can cause violence in it's extreme form. Most women who suffer from PMS are not violent but some can be. Should we then assume that if a woman suffers from PMS she is likely to be violent? Should we stigmatize women in the workplace and those that work with children because of the very low percentage who actually are violent?

My son has a catatonic type of Schizophrenic. When people hear he has schizophrenia and he is not on meds they think I am asking for it, that soon he will become violent. They have no idea what he is really like. He sits like a pretzel for hours. He initially did well on meds but then developed worsening so we took him off and now with therapy he is able to have a better life and is responding well.

You are more likely to become violent than he is. Remember we all have the capacity in us to become violent.

My post was about how people respond to *acts of violence*

YOU are reading into or *assuming* that in my scenario about a neighbor that I wrote about in my previous post, I would be very concerned to learn that my neighbor was schizophrenic.

But that is NOT what I wrote.

I wrote that I would be highly concerned to learn that my neighbor had *done violence*. And I wrote that I would *wonder why*.

It could be that my violent neighbor is an alcoholic. Or brain-injured. Or perhaps a meth or heroin addict. Or maybe he has intermittent explosive disorder, or borderline personality disorder, or paranoid (non-catatonic) schizophrenia. Or maybe the guy just shot someone in self-defense. I wouldn't necessarily know, but I would sure as hell want to find out, because the reason for his violence would be likely to have an impact on the safety of me and my family, if we were close neighbors.

There happens to be a young man with severe autism who lives in my building under the supervision of his family of origin. They take good care of him when he visits them, and he lives most of the time in a residential facility.

None of us here are afraid of this young man (even though he sometimes makes loud screams and vocalizations which can be startling if you're not used to it) because we've known him since he was a little guy and *he has never done any violence.* I and the other tenants know him, greet him, and are kind to him and his family.

However, if for some reason this poor, severely autistic young man WERE to become violent and hurt his dad or his sister or anyone else, then I WOULD be afraid of him.

Its normal to be afraid of violent people, particularly if you have young children to keep safe.

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Ann Olson is a doctor of psychology, a writer of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry.


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