Friday, February 15, 2008

Sure, Sherman the Shrink Is Absolutely Batshit Crazy, But He's the Only One Who Will Make the Long Drive to the Compound, So We're Stuck.

Good gravy, could we please, in the name of whatever you find holy (God, power, drugs, money, whatever), quit using clinical diagnoses to express our displeasure over someone else's behavior?

What ever happened to good old words like "selfish," "arrogant," or "self-centered?" not high-falutin' enough for ya? Or what's wrong with saying "that's really annoying," or, at the very least, making some crude distinction between behavior observed and personality inferred?

You see, without knowing it, you make life infinitely more difficult for people like me. Why? Because in my day job, I have to help people find words to help them understand themselves and others with some modicum of compassion. Why? Simple, really: so that they stop suffering and inflicting their suffering on others.

Put another way, when you take my tools (diagnoses) and turn them into invitations to bleed self-esteem, it's like me taking words like "deconstruction," "promissory estoppel," and "bidentate ligand" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and stomping all over them, assigning them meanings you never dreamed of. (Truth in advertising: I used to use one of those terms as a pick-up line as an undergrad. guess which one and guess my target audience and you win a special prize!)

Look, if you really want people to stop people from pissing you off (and who doesn't?), talk about what they're doing that pisses you off, and be as specific as you can with regard to time, place, and manner.

If, instead, you'd rather release steam, feel superior, or otherwise exaggerate the difference between you and everybody else, here's what you do: direct your comments to the person's character instead of their actions. Works like a charm every time; plus, this maneuver has the extra added benefit of giving the offending party no incentive whatsoever to stop pissing you (and countless others) off.

Now if you really want to go for broke in the intellectual honesty department, instead of flinging diagnoses the way my 20-month-old has learned to fling the contents of her diapers, try "she/he/that really annoyed me," instead of the diagnosis of the day.

If you absolutely must drape your own personal preferences with some air of legitimacy, use terms like "unethical" or "inappropriate." Philosophers will groan, and social scientists will wonder what authorized you to speak on behalf of society, but at least I’ll have to spend less time wiping your poop off of my tools.

Your friendly neighborhood shrink