Psychologists, counsellors, psychiatrists etc, all have to deal with any clients and any behaviours, in a respectful and what is considered ‘non judgmental’ way. And need to remove their emotions, to deal with worst of behaviours.
I see this can lead to a continual emotional disconnect from the reality of the harm highly abusive people cause to their victims. They choose to see the abuser/perpetrator, in a non emotional way, and that can transfer to how they speak about them, with the victims. Which is really insensitive and lacking in empathy for the victim of the abuse.
I’ve seen this happen in my own counselling. And I’ve raised it and pointed out the lack of empathy.
I watched a psychologist on a TV program about sex the other day and what is considered normal. One person being interviewed was a paedophile. And what he considers as absolutely appropriate sexual contact with a child as young as 7. (It made me nauseous listening to him). The psychologist spoke of her struggling to deal with him and his obvious deeply sick mind, and how that struggle was because she was out of her clinical environment. Inside a clinical environment – she could remove her emotions and deal with paedophiles in a manner considered appropriate. Outside of that, she struggled to contain her disgust. I could see it on her face. So inside her clinical environment, she wasn’t in fact acting like a normal human being would.
It made me realise, mental health professionals in their clinical environment, can remove emotions and deal with vile, disgusting people, in certain ways. Which is appropriate for that client. And they choose to see that as empathy for the abusive client.
But, this becomes a big issue for the victims, when this lack of emotion, and seeing vile, disgusting people, who have caused such profound and intentional harm, spoken of in a ‘clinical’ way, is also displayed to the victims. (Or they harp on about compassion for abusive people, which is even worse). The victims need validation of the vileness and need normal emotions shown, not some emotional devoid attitude, about something so profound and so life impacting, and painful.
The lack of normal human emotions that can be displayed by mental health professionals, simply invalidates the pain of severe abuse and minimizes the damage and suffering.
This is all about a real lack of empathy for victims of severe intentionally caused profoundly impacting abuse/suffering.
It’s all about how the mental health professional needs to feel. It’s about how they need to cope with their job and certain types of clients. Not about the abuse survivor client, at all.
And a lack of empathy, never serves a severe abuse survivor. It only causes more pain and suffering. And this shames the survivor, who yet again, does not have their normal and needed emotions, validated.
I see this very clearly. Real empathy, is not a flower that grows in everyone’s inner garden.
This is why I try to avoid speaking about the abusers who caused such profound harm and suffering in my life, in counselling. Because the invalidation and minimization hurts. The lack of normal emotions and excuse making and ‘clinical’ attitude, is invalidating and deeply hurtful.
So I choose to ignore it. I accept people are limited, and often by their own needs to view things in certain ways to cope with their lives, even when that be at the expense of others. I also see it’s not intentionally meant to harm and shame. But, it does.
It is interesting when you have more empathy for a counsellors needs and behaviours and understand why, than they do for their client.
I instead focus on those who do have normal emotions and normal reactions to what is evil at work and the empathy to understand the pain it causes.
~ Lilly Hope Lucario
This post has been noted on Twitter as ‘thought provoking’ and ‘needed’, including by mental health professionals. This is all I aim to do – help others to think. I realise I am controversial at times, as I think about things in a way many don’t.
I guess this is what I bring to the conversation about empathy for severe abuse survivors and discernment into human behaviour. This being due to a greater empathy level and capacity to express what I see, think and feel.
I know this is being shared by mental health professionals, which is good.
Jane Street kindly shared this post. Jane is an Associate Director for Psychology & Psychotherapies, Wandsworth. Clinical lead for LIA. Passionate about positive practice & the NHS.
Another example of a mental health professional, glad to see I had written this, and confirmed it’s value and this insight is needed. And helps mental health professionals and clinicians, to become more aware and better at providing appropriate counselling and empathy, for complex trauma clients.
I will add to this post, I did raise this issue with my counsellor, who did understand what I was stating. She did express what her emotions are about e.g. paedophiles, and how yes what they do is disgusting, vile, abhorrent and they do disgust her. I said to her ‘well that’s the first time you have ever shown any normal reactions to what paedophiles do. Or any abusers.” And how her failure to show normal human reactions and emotions, has affected me and my capacity to trust her.
I explained I do also have empathy for how therapists etc, do have to control their emotions when dealing with abusers, but they need to know how they harm abuse survivors, if they continue being ‘clinical’ about them, to the survivors.
I also stated I think it would be better, if therapists did not have clients who are both abusers and victims of abuse, so not to have this issue arising. There is too much of a conflict of interest when dealing with both.
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