Tag Archives: schizoid personality

Sexual Schizoid

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“They say in SAA that you get to define your own bottom line,” offered another man. He licked his chops, tilling the ground of groupspeak as he had an equally dubious claim involving a late teenager (so he said). A hyper-masculine, balding figure, he personified a certain faction of my group: conventionally unattractive, sired in conjugal visits, wired towards the visual; overflowing with discharge, living just this side of incontinence. These guys tend to not open up much: they speak in code, use phrases like “I crossed the line” to briefly reference why they’re in treatment. Then it’s back to the persecution litany: about their hearings, upcoming or past; about the unfairness of courts, probation officers, the unforgiving nature of wives. I think of women and what they think. What do they expect from these men if not porn addiction? Come to think of it, do those women even look at porn? Have they watched the films, studied scores of images? You see, in some respects they have it backwards. Objectification—that’s the right word, isn’t it? That’s what’s happening to women. But hold on. Do they realize how many porn clips don’t even show men’s faces? Often, all you see are these girthy, circumcised peters sticking out between splayed pairs of legs. Talk about objects. In porn, the penis is the star, make no mistake about it. It is center stage, in the camera’s face, and literally in women’s. But at least their participation makes use of eyes.

— A passage from <em>Venus Looks Down On A Prairie Vole

The above passage describes the population of sex offenders that Daniel Pierce treats in his weekly group therapy. They’re a motley (as opposed to diverse) crossection of underdogs, typically unsophisticated, unlike predators who don’t get caught. Initial contacts with these guys are not just haunting, they’re an all-around humiliation, plus descent into a dark cave. Gruff, terse like their fathers and grandfathers were, they answer questions from counselors like they’ve just come from their lawyers’ offices, and are therefore still following the dictum, say as little as possible, which echoes their characters. Besides their illegal behaviors, the non-violent or non-direct contact offenders are socially withdrawn figures more so than anti-social; diffident more so than brutal. They shy away from intimacy, though more so out of bewilderment than contempt. Their relationships are with machines, computers–that which seems less impinging. To the average observer, they might seem like they’re on the spectrum of autistic disorders, and they might seem as self-absorbed or un-empathetic as any Narcissist. But the accent of their fears is less upon rejection as it is upon safety, and to remain safe this need must remain invisible. Difficult patients, they do not crave understanding, but rather a calculated space between themselves and others. It might sound a bit like this:

Therapist: So, what happened? What’s led you to make an appointment?
Client: (staring at therapist with concealed hate, as if the question is stupid) Got arrested. Crossed the line. (shrugs, pauses. The statement is done)
Therapist: I see, what exactly did you do that led to the arrest? (no more open-ended questions for a while, looking to avoid stonewalling)
Client: (ever externalizing) The charge was lewd and lascivious…with a minor…while intoxicated…something like that
* To get an actual narrative one will need a police report. Imagine what the more blunt truisms might sound like…
Client: Got caught with my dick in a hole
Therapist: By hole, you mean a female?
Client: Yup, one of them…

Most of the men I’ve worked with don’t betray thoughts like these, not so much out of shame, rather because they have little incentive to be honest, or to understand their disordered selves. Their situations mirror their fears, resulting in a self fulfilling prophecy: they are under someone’s control. See, sex offender treatment isn’t looking for honesty in its subjects. It’s looking for compliance, and in no other area of mental health treatment is this misguided objective more pronounced. Therefore, if sex offender treatment doesn’t work (an ambiguous conclusion) it’s because the systems that govern the treatment are misinformed, under-educated, and catering to public opinion rather than the recommendations of research. I write as a former provider under the California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB), and now operating privately and sometimes working with men who seek treatment BEFORE they get caught…BEFORE they hurt someone.

Treatment with them is not about compliance. It is about understanding. Imagine that.

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Letter to a therapist friend

 

Hi, sent you a message a few nights ago, haven’t heard back, which isn’t like you. I’m not taking that personally (unless I should be?), but I thought I’d reach out again, imagining you may still be feeling hopeless, as you were last month, mostly because of work. 
I hope this doesn’t sound self-serving, but I think my modest, self-published book about drug rehab and community mental health as a whole does provide hope to those who work in this business. Many like yourself are smothered by the platitudes of directors, administrators, and so on while otherwise feeling technocratic shards of glass pierce into their sides. I felt in your reaching words something(s) unachieved in our world: passion, bravery; risk inflected with humility. I could feel it in your depiction of that unsatisfying exchange with your manager. A “nice” man, you said. It reminded me of something an old SN once said to our group of supervisees in the three-year program: “there’s nothing nice about being nice”–it was in response to a fellow student who was struggling to manage frame issues, and justifying a lack of confrontation by declaring that confrontation was…well, not nice. In my book I am scathing, I think, about rigid adherence to procedure–the tyranny of the HR manual–when not just common sense, but common thoughtfulness, decency, but above all realness, is called for.
 
There are times when I think that the Masterson model can truly be distilled into these qualities. I reflect on my caseload at any one time and I think, with whom  do I feel spontaneous? who do I really know? what connections feel real to me? More often than not, the best work feels like a jazzy, flowing sense of knowing…something that feels right. That may sound a little soft, and a lot unreliable. It certainly doesn’t sound very “evidence-based” or scientific, or “quantifiable”. But the thing is this: it sounds reliable to me. The reason? I trust myself, whether others do or not. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Doesn’t it sound like a gift, or a real achievement, if I’m to give myself the credit for doing the work. I’m not saying I’m getting it right with all my patients. I’m saying I can tell who I’m getting it right with, and who I’m not getting it right with.
 
I agee that being in the quadrants is tantamount to being unsober. I think this was the basis for our original discussions about blending the Masterson model with a 12-step program. I’m working on myself as I flit in and out of defenses; my therapist is fighting me, I think–thinks me defeatist in my self criticism. Among other things, I defend the hard but fair pronouncements that KS made of me last year. I realize that his cool yet cutting approach stirred something vigorous yet frightened in me. It all lingers, the hurt. I was surprised to read that you “identified” (with being seen? or the “bad” experience you referenced), as I specified being seen in a manner that felt menacing, even sadistic. Did I misunderstand you? Were you writing of being scrutinized, and by KS in particular?
 
You wrote of vulnerability in your last e-mail, “to the toxic foolishness”. I identify with this vulnerability, though I think I have some of the detachment you crave. I’m not entirely free of bad systems. Indeed, there are one or two that are threatening to ensnare me in a fight currently (perhaps more on that in a later e-mail). But TR is nearly two years in my rear view mirror, and completing the book has been, dare I say, cathartic. Anger is draining, despite the sneery, superior tone sometimes evident in the book and especially within this accompanying blog. Whether a handful of people read it (the book), or hundreds more do so, I have cleaned my own internal system of the toxic entity that once dogged me. I have gotten some peace. Like a Schizoid personality, I also have a fantasy, which I’ll share with you: you see, in the future, I imagine achieving a modest, measured (compromised?) fame for my lengthy missive to my peers. I’ll be asked what I think should happen in drug rehabs for adolescents; perhaps what should be happening in all community mental health settings. On the specifics I’ll defer, I think, as I choose to disentangle from Gordion Knots, practice something like a second step, and wait for help from those on the inside. I don’t want to abandon. I don’t want others–least not people like yourself–to give up hope. I just think I need back-up. I need the real selves to present in numbers.
 
Graeme

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