Monday, February 15, 2010

Personality Disorders (2)

The definition of a Personality Disorder is any set of persistent actions or beliefs which cause the individual, or those around him, difficulty.

Interesting. An "illness" which is dependent on historical, cultural and social context. This should immediately set alarm bells ringing. A broken leg is a broken leg, whether it belongs to a 10,000 BC Maori or a German plumber in 2010 on holiday in Alaska. What his family or friends feel about the leg is irrelevant when it comes to deciding it is broken.

Why do we accept mental illnesses which have such a shoddy conceptual basis? Why are we so intellectually bereft that we permit these pernicious ideas to slither their way into the popular consciousness?

So a person who holds firm to a set of beliefs which, in the eyes of observers, cause him problems in society is mentally ill. What a fatuous idea. This places Christ over the threshold to Bedlam. Every religious martyr, every person who suffered to redress some persistent systemic injustice, soldiers who die for an ideal, Suffragettes, Gandhi... this is an endless list of the mentally ill.

Under this scheme, the capitalist in a communist society is ill, and vice versa. Freegans in Clapham are clearly in Barking. Pacifists in militarised societies are, well, mad. Context, and social reaction, is everything to the diagnosis of PD.

Of course, it is a stated fact that most prisoners have at least one, and a majority, two, personality disorders. Trust me, I live with them. Some hold weird ideas and beliefs but they fall far short of being a break with reality.

This includes me. I have a personality disorder, although no one is quite sure which one (there really are so many). I "must have", otherwise the course of my life wouldn't make sense. Surely I can't stick to my core values, making my life more difficult and inconveniencing those around me, without having some illness?
And so, if I cause myself practical difficulties by resisting some abuse of power, then I must be mad. Any coherent, tested, legitimate philosophical basis that I act from is rendered illegitimate, irrelevant and even dangerous.

For me, doing the "right thing" as best I can judge it has always taken precedence to "doing anything" to get closer to release. Weird and unusual, maybe, but a mental illness?

1 comment:

  1. I understand what you are saying here about pd. However, this may be going off on a bit of a tangent here, but I wanted to say something about my experiences in relating to people with the condition.

    I have been diagnosed with a mental illness myself, so there is no judging coming from me.

    My last partner could never bring himself to tell me his diagnosis but i guessed it was some form of pd and probably psychopathy too. He was ultra insecure, very manipulative and controlling, there was violence in our relationship too, which I don't want to talk about.

    I really tried hard to help him because I don't believe in anyone being written off, but I had to give up in the end.

    I would say he was actually very shy and this goes for other people who I know who have this condition and it isn't always obvious that they are actually painfully shy. They have a feeling and a sense that a part of them needs to be constantly protected by themselves from others who they do not trust, and this feeling runs very deep.

    Again the social conditions and nature of the society we live in with its insecurity, inequality and high levels of competition for basic things like work and shelter as well as for other things like appearances and relationships exacerbates and / or creates the condition.

    Even though I am sympathetic, I do find it a challenging and sometimes frightening condition to come across in people and more understanding is really badly needed.

    Well done Ben for your insightful blog.


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