Monday, June 7, 2010

Lifers' Paranoia

The human mind seeks to uncover connections and patterns. As a species it is, perhaps, one of our most finely honed and consistent abilities. As well as bringing us truth, it also persistently deceives us in a myriad ways. We will cheerfully insist on a connection between events which are a mere correlation, and equally insist upon the miraculousness of other events which, probabilistically, are pretty common.

Seeing patterns and connections when none exist is a strong feature in the psychology of Lifers. As our lives are so uncertain, with every aspect of our existence resting at the whims of others, perhaps the need to find order in our little universe is one way of coping. How else can a person continue through the days, if it is accepted that there really is no sense to it, that capriciousness is all there really is?

And in our eagerness to find some rationality behind the unpredictability, there is a tendency for some of us to imagine a coherence which just isn't there.

Some Lifers I have known over the years insist that staff make meticulous notes that plot our emotional cycles. This allows them to reveal our low points. At these points, they believe that staff will deliberately needle us, frustrate us and generally wind us up. All in the name of either 'testing’, or plain malevolent pleasure in inflicting extra suffering.

I don't indulge in this belief system. Of course we are analysed, our behaviours noted and interpreted. But as the prison system can't organise the proverbial, I can hardly credit them with a Machiavellian ability to deliberately mess with my head. They do that well enough through staggering stupidity.


  1. Reading this, it is obvious that you have to be extremely head strong to cope in this environment. Its doing my head in just reading about it!

    It is really good to share with others the reality of what it is like inside in order to highlight the barbarity and insanity of it all, if nothing else.

    Keep strong Ben.

  2. @Sophie - I agree with you entirely.

  3. The subtext of this post conflicts with many of your others regarding staff and officials.

  4. Anonymous,

    Could you give us an example? I've read a lot of documented factual examples of times Ben has been, ahem, screwed over by officials but not a great deal of paranoia.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.