. . . and it's not their genes either. – Dr. C


Lone Ranger JPEG

For a number of personal and professional reasons, I’ve been away from my blog for much too long.  I’ve heard from a few of you, wondering if I was going to finish “The Horrible Kid.”  I did.  It’s  longer than the other chapters however, I wanted to finish the story.   Thank you for your patience, and your interest.

For now, to follow directly after this post, please see “THE HORRIBLE KID – Chapter IV:  A tale from the Lone Arranger.”  Thanks.

Dr. C

Horrible Kid 2

Chapter III:  Heeeere’s Jerry!!

Gloria got up, went to the door, and walked out to the van.

I’m praying he’ll be good, Dr. Cima,” she grimaced, “but I can’t guarantee it.”  Gramma Eleanor began to cry, again.

Before Jerry arrived, Gloria said they never knew what to expect when Jerry came home.  Sometimes he’d have a smile on his face, other times his face would be beet red from anger.  He might ask for an apple, or toss his backpack at his mother.  It was common for Jerry to be the only child in the school van, “for safety reasons.”  Good day or bad, whether alone or with other kids, there was an extra staff member assigned to sit next to him, to and from school.

We decided it would be a good idea for me to meet with Jerry alone so, as planned, I followed Gloria outside.  I met the teacher’s aide, and “escort,” John.  He told Gloria that Jerry had a “mixed” day.  He was “good” in the morning, but “he became very agitated in the afternoon, so we had him in a ‘time out.’”    

 “Time out” meant he was taken from the classroom, and a staff member was assigned to supervise him in a separate and isolated room.  No teaching occurred.  It was supervision only, so Jerry wouldn’t disrupt the classroom.  John was twenty-something, liked his job, very nice, and very poorly trained in child management methods.

Jerry was a normal sized 9-year-old, maybe a bit smaller than most, but not by much.  He was slender and he looked in good health.  He had light brown hair, he was fair skinned, and he was dressed nicely by his mother.  However, his clothes were disheveled, as though he had been wrestling.  I learned later, while being escorted out of the classroom to his “time out,” Jerry had to be restrained by John and another aide at school.  I remember thinking, when I first saw him, he looked like an angry Dennis the Menace.

In her most cautious voice, as though she was trying to avoid an “outburst,” mother started to introduce me to Jerry.  I interrupted, just a little, as I smiled at Jerry.  I learned during my conversation with Gloria and her mother that he liked baseball.

 “Hi Jerry,” I said, “I’m Dr. Cima.  Wanna play catch?”

“Yeah!,” he answered.

He dropped his backpack, ran to his room, got a ball, and came back outside – with a good looking grin on his face.  For the next 15 minutes or so, we played catch, and we were having some fun.  He wasn’t very good at playing catch, as though he hadn’t had much practice.  He was going to get some, we both found out.  For the next six months, whenever I came to his house, he wouldn’t talk with me until we played catch, for about 15 minutes or so.  It was our routine, and a small price to pay, having some fun with this fun-loving Star.  That, and not coincidentally, he got better and better at catching and throwing a ball, and I was able let him know it.

By the way, when you can, it’s a good idea to meet a child, for the first time, when he’s at his best, not his worst.  How does he behave when he’s happy?  What does she like to do?  What energizes him?  What entices her interest?  Besides, I knew all about Jerry at his worst, as attested to by his mother, grandmother, teacher, and social worker.

We had a short conversation, mostly about things he liked to do, nothing about things he didn’t like to do.  He was wary.  I was just another adult in his life, probably there to “boss me around, like everyone else.”  It’s worth pointing out, Jerry was bright.  That is, he could read adults very well.  He knew how to provoke, or charm, as needed.

He told me liked to play, that was clear, and he told me he liked to draw.  I learned from mother he did a lot of drawing in his room, using pencils from a set she bought him.  I saw a few of his drawings.  They were very colorful, some were well done, for a promising artist.  If there was a “theme” to his drawings, I didn’t see one.  There were pictures of animals, cactus, and unnamed people.  No particular “emotion” jumped out at me either.  These were mostly drawings of his surroundings.  He didn’t keep many, and not many people had seen them.

About 45 minutes or so passed and I declared Jerry, to myself, as perfectly normal.  He was, of course.  At his best, he was cute, he was happy, and he was fun.  To be sure, he was driving adults “crazy,” and they were ready to restrict his movements at a moment’s notice.  Still others were clamoring to give him some sort of “medicine,” also intended to restrict his movements, and to get him to finally “pay attention!!”

Our Approach

If you were expecting this to be about how we “changed” or “fixed” Jerry, well, you may be surprised, though I hope not.  After all, this blog is called “Your Kids Aren’t Sick.”  That includes Jerry.  He didn’t need “changing” or “fixing” and, from a temperament perspective, that’s not even possible.  Instead, as you will see, we helped adults change their behavior, and Jerry’s followed.  This is always true, and usually denied, by adults – especially professional adults.

I was confident we could help mother and grandmother. They had “lost control” of their child some years before, for reasons that really don’t matter (I’ll give some details at the end of this tale).  I knew mother and grandmother felt defeated.  However, I also knew they wanted Jerry to remain at home, despite their doubts.  Please remember, as a wraparound program, our mission was to keep the family whole.  With a few child management techniques, and some modeling by our team, mother and grandmother would be “back in control” in a relatively short period.

My major concern was school.  I had a scheduled meeting the next day with Jerry’s teacher, and others.  I was sure with time, persistence, and some good work by our team, we could get Jerry to school in the morning, every day, with a smile on his face.  I wasn’t sure, however, without interactive changes by the school, how long the smile would last once we did.

The School

I brought my wraparound counselor, Angela, with me.  The two of us met, after school hours, with Jerry’s teacher, two teacher’s aides from his classroom, the school psychologist, and the Principal.  Wraparound was a new California statewide service in 1999, it was court ordered, and most professionals were supportive.  When I asked for a general meeting with everyone, they readily agreed.  They needed, and wanted, help too, so I knew we would have willing participants, at least in the beginning.  The trick is to encourage the participants to become our partners in this endeavor.

For the temperament-tuned, Angela was a Champion Idealist, and her enthusiasm alone was enough to give everyone a much needed positive “boost.”  She was smart, she was an experienced trainer in child management, she was good with kids, kids liked her, and so did everyone else.  Her relationship with school personnel was going to be key to creating the changes that needed to occur.

The school reported, as determined in Jerry’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), that Jerry needed an abundance of one-on-one time.  They assigned staff members to bring him to school and to take him home.  Others were there “to be with him” at breaks, recess, and lunch.  He was rarely “in the right mood” to interact with the other children.  His demeanor went, seemingly, from flat to fiery in a matter of moments.  They used a “token economy” in the classroom to provide “motivation” and “behavioral guidance.”  They also relied on “Zero Tolerance” as their discipline program.  None of this seemed to help.  Without hesitation, the Principal, teacher, and aides all agreed Jerry was their most difficult “challenge” of all their students.

The psychologist also reminded Angela and me of his professional assessment.  He stated Jerry is “obviously ADHD.”  He said he would like to refer Jerry to a psychiatrist and that “mother is not cooperating.”  In private, those words rankle me to my core.  Parents are routinely chastised, increasingly often, for not giving permission to a doctor to give their child amphetamine, for a “disease” that doesn’t exist.  Nevertheless, in this meeting, I listened.  I wasn’t there to debate the school psychologist.

Instead, we told everyone we’d be developing a plan, and that we would like to “partner” with the teacher and aides.  I said we were confident that, together, we could all help Jerry’s mother reach her goals.  We also decided, at this first “team meeting,” that we were going to delay other recommendations, including psychiatric.  It’s important to get everyone on board.  They were skeptical, perhaps cynical, and they were expecting us to “change” Jerry.  Nevertheless, we had their commitment, and that’s all we wanted to accomplish at our initial meeting.

Now, it was our turn.  Angela and I needed to gather our team at the office.  We needed to put together the plan.

Chapter IV:  The Plan

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TEMPERAMENT ADDENDUM

Stars

Innately quiet, and perhaps the most artistic of the Stars, Composer Artisans make up about 10% of the population.  Icons include Amadeus Mozart, Cher, Steven Spielberg, Barbara Streisand, Mel Brooks, and a personal favorite, Harpo Marx, to name a few.

As children, Stars in general are known in some circles as the “wild child,” a “firecracker,” a “little pistol,” or even a “little monster,” due to their boundless energy and propensity to attend to their current impulse.  Sometimes they’ll say “he’s wired,” or “explosive” and, “he’s so unpredictable.”  Those from education declare him “learning disabled,” or “learning handicapped,” and they will say has a reading, writing, or math “disorder.”

He had “minimal brain dysfunction” nearly 40 years ago when I first got into this field and, soon afterwards, he had “hyperkinetic reaction of childhood.”  Modern day medics, psychologists, and therapists say he has “ADHD,” or “childhood schizophrenia,” or “conduct disorder,” or a variety of other “diseases” and “disorders.”  Most distressing, if he’s quiet enough and seemingly “uncommunicative,” these particular Stars are currently being diagnosed as “autistic” during the past 20-year “epidemic” of autism diagnosers.  They’ve always called him something.  By the way, have your noticed?  It’s almost always “him.”

Stars, even the quiet ones, have an abundance of energy and an eye for adventurous pursuits, excitement their aim, boredom their bane.  It’s their nature.  This can be problematic for adults – teacher and parents alike –  who are responsible to provide directives to complete pursuits Stars do not like.  This is when child management trumps therapy and punishment, the two dominant styles of interacting with troublesome children.

Jerry wasn’t “sick,” he didn’t have “ADHD,” he wasn’t a “little monster,” he wasn’t “disabled,” and he sure as hell wasn’t a “horrible kid.”  He was a Star, a young Composer Artisan to be exact, and he was behaving as these Stars do when shame overwhelms them.  Ironically, Keirsey notes that Composer Artisans “show a kindness unmatched by all the other types.”  Often, unwittingly, we treat them, in turn, so unkindly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Horrible Kid 2

Chapter II: Time for Change

The family moved at the end of the school year.  Gloria (Guardian/Inspector for the temperament trained) knew she had marketable skills.  Having hired a number of bookkeepers in my career, I know how valuable they can be to an organization.  Gloria found a job before she moved.  She was frugal, God-fearing, simply dressed and, in a word, dutiful.

They moved to one of a dozen or so small, isolated towns that make up the “upper” and “lower” deserts in Southern California.  I asked Gloria why she picked this particular location.  “I asked a friend at work,” she said.  “I told her I wanted to stay close enough so I could visit Orange County, but far enough away so there aren’t many people – or neighbors.  She told me about this place.”

She found a home the first weekend she and her mother, Eleanor, went looking.  Eleanor (Guardian/Provider), a retired schoolteacher, was devoted to her daughter and her only grandson.  In her mid-sixties, she had some health problems.  She was ambulatory, though she was using her walker more and more.  Eleanor would help as much as she could around the house, but the bulk of the home chores were done by Gloria.

Homes are spread out in this small desert town.  Gloria’s nearest neighbor was several hundred yards away.  The county maintained gravel roads were lined with Yucca and other cacti.  Most people kept to themselves.  Gloria and her family lived about a ten-minute drive to the middle of town where there was one traffic light intersection, a few small businesses, and City Hall.

In Jerry’s old neighborhood, there were kids around.  Though he was shunned by his peers, during the day there were children on bicycles, on skateboards, and playing catch on his block in Orange County.  Not here.  They were isolated.  Their first summer before school started didn’t go well.  They were hoping they would find relief, and support, once school started.  They didn’t.

The Home

As director, it was my practice to meet new families that became part of our wraparound program.  I called Gloria on a Friday, and we set up a meeting the following Monday, one of her days off.  I told her I’d like to meet with her alone first, so I scheduled a visit about 90 minutes before the school van dropped Jerry off at home. She said that would be a good idea, and added, “. . . though I can’t promise you he won’t be here anyway, if I can’t get him to go to school in the morning.”

In the middle of the one acre parcel sat an older, well-maintained house.  There was a chain link fence around the property.  There were some large cacti on the perimeter, blocking the view.  The rest of the property was natural desert land, except for a small garden area for Eleanor to grow some flowers and vegetables.  In front of the garden, there was an open dirt area where Jerry sometimes played, alone, on his bicycle – and not much else.  As I entered the home for the first time, I began to understand how desperate this family had become.

Directly in front of me, as I walked in the door, was the living room.  There was a tattered loveseat on the opposite wall.  That’s where Gloria went to sit down.  To her right, with a small table and lamp in between, was a cushioned rocker where Eleanor was sitting and, next to her, a walker.  There was a coffee table in front of them both.  There was another small chair to the left of the love seat.  That’s where I sat.  It was Jerry’s chair.  All the chairs faced the front door wall.

At the entryway, looking to my right, I saw a small television and TV stand, and three folded TV trays.  On the adjacent wall there was a padlocked bedroom door (used for storage I found out later), and next to that an old desk with a computer.  Directly to the left of the desk, and on the same wall as the loveseat, was the door to the kitchen.

To the left of the Eleanor’s walker was an open entryway to a step down, large dining room.  In it was a beautiful, formal, dark mahogany, dining room set that included a long table, eight chairs, and two china cabinets.  Everything was covered in heavy plastic.  There were stacks of boxes on the furniture, and along the wall of the room.  There was dust everywhere, as though no one ever went in there. No one did.

Still standing in the entryway, to my left and down a very short hallway, was the door to Jerry’s room.  His room had a single bed.  It was small, though adequate and clean, and minimally decorated.  The window in his room was nailed shut.  A little further down the hallway was the door to the master bedroom.  Mother and daughter shared the master bedroom with two single beds.  At the end of the hallway was the bathroom that Jerry used.

They managed to get Jerry to school the day I arrived.  I introduced myself, and we began to talk.  Within a few minutes, Eleanor started to cry.  Here’s why.

The Hostages

Gloria made it nearly impossible for Jerry to go anywhere in the house without her or his grandmother knowing.  There was a latch on the kitchen door, out of Jerry’s reach, that would be locked when Jerry was home.  They kept snacks like cookies and potato chips and fruit in the living room.  There was a lock on the master bedroom door as well, except at night.  There were boxes filling up the entryway to the dining room, making it very difficult to enter without raising the attention of mother and grandmother.

So, Jerry had access to the living room, his bedroom, his bathroom – and that’s it.  At night, the front door had a deadbolt to keep everyone out and, added as soon as they moved in, a second deadbolt, at the top of the door, to keep Jerry in.  He had snuck out in the middle the night many times over the years.

Mother and grandmother kept the door to their bedroom open and unlocked at night so they could hear.  Still, they put two chairs in front of the door to act as a barrier, “. . . in case Jerry got up in the middle of the night,” said Gloria, “demanding something.”  The door to his bathroom was unlocked and accessible.  There were no items or decorations on the counter, on the walls, or on the floor, except for toilet paper, toothpaste and a toothbrush.

In the next 90 minutes, they told me much more about their plight over the past several years.  Jerry would become belligerent and “explosive,” according to both of them.  He would throw items in the home, sometimes at his mother and grandmother.  Appeasement was their one remaining child management “tool.”  They would do nearly anything to avoid an outburst.  All of them – Jerry, mother, grandmother – were captives, in their own home.

Gloria loved her son, and Eleanor loved her only grandson, dearly.  Yet, reluctantly, they both acknowledged that maybe Jerry would be better off somewhere else “where they can take better care of him.”

“Can you help us?,” Eleanor asked, weeping, as if there was little hope anyone could.

“Yes,”  I answered.  “We can.”

Just about then, we heard the van driving up the gravel road to drop Jerry off at home.  Mother and grandmother began to apologize for Jerry’s behavior, before he entered the house.

Good, I thought to myself.  Time to meet “the horrible kid.”

Chapter III:  Heeeere’s Jerry!!

Horrible Kid 2

The Horrible Kid

 Chapter I:  How “horrible” can a kid be?

In 1999, a well established mental health agency in California opened one of the first private, non-profit “wraparound” programs in the State.  I was selected as the Executive Director.

Wraparound programs were established to provide services to families struggling with troubled or troublesome children while the child was still living in the home.  Without these services, children were in jeopardy of being removed from their families and placed in either a foster home, a group home, or a larger mental health facility.  After all criteria is met, referrals to these programs come from the county Department of Social Services, the Mental Health Department and, though rare, a school district.  As a bonus, it was much more cost effective than out-of-home placement – at least it began that way.

After 12 months of operation, we had a number of successes with the families we were entrusted to help.  Our team was routinely out in the community and in the homes of our families doing “whatever it takes” – the battle cry of all wraparound programs at the time – to keep the family intact.  We had exceptional people working in the program filling the roles of counselor, Mental Health Resource Specialist (MHRS), and therapist.  Though we were still learning, we were dedicated, and we were confident we had the skills to help our families.

One day I got a call from a county social worker.  We were providing services for two of her families already, and she was pleased with our work.  She wanted to refer a nine year old boy she had on her caseload for three months.  Let’s call him Jerry.  Without our help, she feared, Jerry was headed for out-of-home placement.  “If I have to remove Jerry from his home,” she said with some caution, “I’m not so sure I’ll be able to find a foster parent willing to put up with this horrible kid!

She gave me details, and I accepted the referral.  A few days later, I contacted Jerry’s school and spoke with his school counselor.  I asked how Jerry was doing.  She told me he was enrolled three months earlier, and he was in special classes for the “learning disabled.”  She let me know Jerry was performing below grade level.  When asked, she also said he didn’t have any friends, adding “he’s just horrible in the classroom!” 

They did some testing.  Schools love to “test” kids, especially kids they have don’t know how to manage.  The school counselor told me their psychologist determined Jerry “likely has ADHD.”  She was frustrated with Jerry’s mother because, “I told her we wanted to refer Jerry to a child psychiatrist because of the benefits medication can have, and she refused.  Perhaps,” she implored me, “you can help her accept the idea that Jerry has a real disability.” 

 Since there is no such thing as “disability,” I knew we were going to have to consider the school’s perspective as we developed our plan to help.

Jerry’s Story

“Horrible . . . just horrible.” 

That’s what Jerry’s mother said when I asked, for the first time, how Jerry was doing.  We were in her home, her eyes a little misty, she was dejected – not mad.  Her name, for this tale, is Gloria.  Gloria had more or less surrendered herself to the idea Jerry was always going to be her responsibility regardless of the never-ending burden, and that he would never really improve.  She had been told as much by a number of professionals by then.  “The school is right,” she told me, “Jerry is unmanageable.”

Maybe you know kids like this.  Tell him to go left, he goes right – often because you told him to go left.  “Sit down and be quiet!” only seemed to provoke more animated refusals.  “Time-outs” were, well, a waste of time, because he simply wouldn’t comply.  Punishment – the most overused and least effective of all techniques – got nowhere.

Rewards?  Desperation, and continued failure, placed the professionals in his life in the unenviable position of rewarding Jerry for not doing something.  This is common in schools and treatment facilities.  Rewarding a child for not having a tantrum is counter to behavioral techniques and, mostly, another waste of time.  Rewards are provided to start behaviors you want to encourage, not to stop behaviors you want to discourage.  Thus, this approach was also ineffective, leading to an inevitable, irresponsible, and much too common assertion from nearly everyone: “we’ve tried everything, and nothing works.”

Getting him to school was hit and miss.  Gloria did her best in the morning corralling him into the school van that showed up, often with the help of the van driver. Too often, both would yield to the tantrums.  Consequently, Jerry missed a lot of school.  Once he got to there, it was no cakewalk.  Jerry was famous.  Everyone in the small school – including office staff, nurse, maintenance, all the teachers and teacher’s aides, and every administrator in the building knew Jerry.

If sufficiently provoked, it was not uncommon for Jerry to throw objects, tip over chairs and anything else in his way, curse at the top of his lungs, and in other ways defy any and all directives from the adults in his life, sometimes to the point of physical restraint.  He often did so with a sense of glee – and a grin on his face –  that only served to irritate the adults in charge even more.  He had the attention of everyone.  They all greeted him the same way on those days when he did arrive at school.  “Lets have good day today, Jerry . . .” adding, with an apprehensive smile, “. . . okay?”

The Path to Horrible

Jerry never new his father.  Gloria married when she was 28 years old, and she was pregnant a year later.  Her husband left one day when Jerry was nearly two, and never returned.  Gloria and her young son were abandoned, with no means, so she moved in with her mother.  I’ll call her Eleanor.  At the time, Eleanor lived in a nice home in Orange County, California.  Gloria was Eleanor’s second child.  She had an older daughter in Florida.  Jerry was her only grandson.  Eleanor was widowed a year before Jerry was born.

When she first moved into her mother’s home, everything was “okay,” so said Gloria.  Jerry was mostly happy, and always active.  He was alone most of the time, and seemed to enjoy himself.  There were no other family members in California.  Gloria was a full time bookkeeper for a department store, working 40 hours a week to support the family.  Because her mother was home while Gloria worked, and because of financial considerations, Jerry never attended pre-school.  He hadn’t had much interaction with other children his age until he started Kindergarten.

Real trouble didn’t start until Jerry entered school.  By the time he was in the first grade, “he just refused to pay attention to his teacher,” said his mother.  “He hated sitting still in the classroom,” adding, “I was constantly getting phone calls from school that he was becoming harder and harder to manage, and that he was falling behind his classmates.”

By mid-semester, the school suggested a special class for Jerry.  Gloria dutifully agreed.  After the required school meeting that included his mother and the relevant professionals in his life, Jerry was officially declared, “learning disabled.”  Now six years old, his school career was getting off to a very rocky start.  Over the next year, behaviors worsened.

Jerry was becoming harder to manage at home as well.  By the time he was seven, he was a “terror” at home, according his mom.  Both mother and grandmother were frightened by his outbursts and did what they could to appease him.  By then, raising Jerry had become a full time job for Gloria and her mother.  Speaking of jobs, Gloria told me she began to miss more and more work due to a series of crises involving Jerry and his school.  As if not enough stress already for this family, Jerry was known in the neighborhood as the “wild child.”  Neighbors kept their children away from him.

There were dozens of meetings, new plans were developed, and a string of professionals had come and gone, with no results.  At some point, social services became involved.  With encouragement from many, Gloria and Eleanor decided to move.  Maybe, everyone reasoned, a fresh start in a different setting was in order.  Eleanor found a tenant for her home in Orange County, and the family moved to an isolated home, in a small desert city, on the outskirts of Southern California.  Social services transferred the case to the new county.

Three months later, we were asked to help.

Chapter II: Time for Change

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 ADDENDUM:  For the temperament trained reader

Jerry’s Temperament:  Star (Artisan).  In Please Understand Me, and Please Understand me II, David Keirsey referred to the Artisan Composer (ISFP) as the “most misunderstood of all the types,” and “the least understood of all,” respectively.  Wow.  So very accurate.  After 30 years implementing temperament theory as a means to understand and help children, I can tell you first hand, Keirsey nailed this one.  Like no other children, Stars are medicated, cajoled, bargained with, threatened, and isolated, all as a means to get them the “STOP!” doing whatever it is they are doing, so they can “START!” listening to you.  Stars need to shine, and they need an audience.  Unfortunately, unless guided, any audience will do.

“Mondays with David”

Keirsey Picture 3 

It has taken me more than a month to write this.

My friend, David West Keirsey, died July 30, 2013.  He was 91.  I’m so proud, and fortunate, to call him my friend.  Up until a few years ago, he was Professor Keirsey to me, and I hadn’t seen nor spoke to him for 30 years.

As far as I know, Dr. Keirsey was humankind’s last Gestalt psychologist, and that’s something you should know.  His ideas are historic, and I’ll be writing much more about them, and similar things, for the rest of my life.  First, though, before I tell you more about Dr. Keirsey, I want to tell you about my friend, David, and the loves in his life.

David loved his country.  He was a proud veteran of World War II.  He joined the Navy in 1942. After flight training, he took his commission as a Marine fighter pilot and flew several missions in Japan towards the end of the war.  He wrote in some detail about his military experience in his autobiographical essay, Turning Points.

Those times, and the depression before the war, had a lifelong impact on David, as it did with everyone from the greatest generation.  He believed we were morally obligated to fight World War II, and he knew many who gave their lives protecting our freedoms.  He considered himself lucky to come home, and grateful, for the rest of his life, that he did.  Thank you David, for your service, from all of us.

David loved questions.  For the past 18 months or so I’ve been meeting with him on Mondays for three or four hours, often with his son David Mark, talking about temperament and psychology, and many other things.  I often took notes on my iPad.  I put them in my “Mondays with David” file on my computer.  I love asking questions, he loved answering, so our friendship grew.  We had much to talk about, and it was always fun. (You can read more about this from a prior blog, here.)

At times he became frustrated, his memory sometimes needing more and more of his depleted energy.  When I arrived for a visit I’d often ask, “how was your weekend David?”  He’d reply, with a smile, “I don’t remember, but I’m sure it was fine.”  Once he added, again with a smile, “. . . although I could try to retrieve the information for you if you wish.”  It takes energy to retrieve information.  At 91, you have the privilege of choosing where you want to spend your energy.  It was a polite question anyway.  I always knew where he was every weekend.  He was with his wife and his family.  He cherished his weekends.

Once we started talking about something he was interested in, he became focused, taking his memory to task, retrieving important ideas, if triggered by the right question.  Precision, more than anything, was his forte, organizing and analyzing ideas to a depth only a very few can imagine, simplicity his reasoned pursuit, efficiency always a welcome bi-product.  He never stopped “tinkering,” often spending hours at the computer, changing single words at a time in his many essays about temperament and “madness.”

I put madness in quotes because, well, David wouldn’t have it any other way.  Professor David West Keirsey was so much more than temperament theory.  His humane, holistic, and thoughtful explanation of “madness,” is above all else, his legacy to humankind, as far as I’m concerned.  His seminal work, Dark Escape, provides our species, for the first time in human history, a way out of the “madness” of modern day psychology and psychiatry.  I will be writing much more about this.

 David loved to read.  He read everything.  I mean everything.  I mean anything, and everything, and that started when he was a seven year old, and it never stopped.  The last time I saw him he was reading a favorite novel, for the fifth time.  Why?  “I might find something new – and I like it!” he said.  This wasn’t unusual.  From Turning Points:

I began reading when I was seven. Read (most of) a twelve volume set of books my parents bought, Journeys through Bookland. Read countless novels thereafter, day in and day out. I educated myself by reading books. Starting at age nine my family went to the library once a week, I checking out two or three novels which I would read during the week. Then, when I was sixteen, I read my father’s copy of Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy. I read it over and over again, now and then re-reading his account of some of the philosophers. (Long afterwards I read his magnificent eleven volumes—The Story of Civilization. I also have read his The Lessons of History many times, this being his brilliant summary of the eleven volumes.)

I mention Durant’s book The Story of Philosophy because it was a turning point in my life, I to become a scholar as did Durant, thereafter reading the philosophers and logicians—anthropologists, biologists, ethologists, ethnologists, psychologists, sociologists, and, most important, the etymologists, all of the latter—Ernest Klein, Eric Partridge, Perry Pepper, and Julius Pokorny—of interest to me now as then.

So, I said to myself, who better to ask questions than someone who has read everything – over and over?  He had so many useful answers.  I’ll be sharing them with you too.

David loved words.  Not as a wordsmith or author, though he was certainly both.  He loved words as an etymologist – the only one I’ve ever met.  He often said he may be the only one left.  David studied words.  From Turning Points:

I became a scholar, one of three boys in the scholarship society in 1942. I took a course in word study. I have studied words ever since, even during the war, pasting lists of words on the bathroom mirror wherever I stayed. Why etymology (word signs) instead of linguistics (word sounds)? Because word sounds shorten with use becoming only remnants of what they were, while word signs are written and therefore remain the same. My interest was in what is written, not in what is spoken.”     

Many times on Mondays, triggered by something we were talking about, we’d go upstrairs and sit at his computer in his comfortable, book-filled library – me to his left, him behind the keyboard – looking at an online etymology site, researching a word.  He called it “fun” and, wouldn’t you know it, so did I.

David loved kids.  He started working with troublesome teenagers at the Verdemont Boys Ranch as a young psychologist, figuring out ways to manage these boys, and to help their families.  He worked in schools most of his career, doing the same, training thousands of teachers and counselors and psychologists in methods that work, not theories that don’t.  He began collecting the many techniques to manage and counsel adults and children that was to become the core of his one-of-a-kind, and highly successful Counseling Psychology graduate program at California State University, Fullerton.

He wrote some remarkable essays in defense of children, and every parent and professional should read them.  So, please, do that.  You can read Drugged Obedience in the School here, and The Evil Practice of Narcotherapy for Attention Deficit here, and The Great ADD Hoax, here.  There are many other important and useful essays you will find at the same site.

His solution to helping troubled and troublesome children?  “Be nice to them, and keep them away from those drugs.”  We had a lot in common about kids.  I’ll also be writing about useful child management techniques, from a temperament point of view.

David loved his family.  David Mark, his son and lifelong companion, joined our Monday morning conversations often, and I cherished those times in particular.  A gifted computer scientist, David Mark called his father “Daddy.”  He honored his father.

The two of them could, and often would, debate an obscure, yet important idea with the same passion as when the debate started 30, or 40, or even 50 years earlier.  His father honored him too.  Often, when it was just David and me, he would boast about his son Mark, as fathers who love their sons often do.  How lucky they were to have each other.  I envied them.

Every weekend David and his wife Alice went to Del Mar to meet with the rest of the Keirsey clan and, when they didn’t, family members came to their home.  David and Alice traveled and vacationed with their children and grandchildren.  The two of them together made sure they gave their family the best gift you can give to people you love:  wonderful memories.

Mostly, David loved Alice.  What was the first thing this returning WW II veteran did when he came back from the war?  He married his junior college sweetheart, Alice.  He admired her so.  “Alice has done such a wonderful job of keeping our family together and close over the years,” he often said, with much pride.

When you walk up the circular stairs of their beautiful home you will meet all of the family.  Alice has dozens of family pictures and other mementos adorned on the walls and on the stairs – and everywhere else throughout their warm, loving home.  This, you can tell, is a family that cares for each other, and they are grateful to have each other to love.  I recognized their family quickly.  I come from one too.

Alice – he called her “babe” – from they way he liked to tell it, was a dynamo of her own when she was working in elementary schools.  David said she was always the head of a department or committee or project, or part of some other crusade to care for all those kids for which she loved and cared.

They never quarreled, he told me, more than once, because, he said, more than once, “we were made for each other.”  That certainly proved to be true.  They were married in December, 1945.  I was two months old.

Why did it take so long to write this, and anything else, for that matter?  Well, honestly, I’ve been mourning my friend.  Just a few days before he died, my wife and I visited David and Alice at their home.  As we were leaving, I leaned over, gently grasped his hand to say goodbye, and to tell him, “I’ll see you soon, David.  I have another two or three thousand more questions to ask.”  Without hesitation, he replied, “Good,” and added, “I have two or three thousand more answers.”

His spirit, more than willing, his body, so weary.  During some of our best conversations, he would remind me, and David Mark, “there’s still much work to be done.”  Lucky for me, he trusted me with all that he has written.  The answers to my questions are all there, and that’s good.  I will be doing a lot more reading.  It’s not the same though, and not nearly as much fun, as asking my friend, David, just a few more questions.

You can tell a lot about a person when you know the loves in his life.  I admired him.  I loved him too.  I miss him, very much.

Mondays, for me, will never be the same.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“I just want the world to understand, there’s no such thing as ‘madness.’”

David West Keirsey

Goth Girl ImageHow Did it End?

Evie went home to her mother about six months after I arrived.  She had stopped “cutting” for more than four months, she was still writing in what we were calling her “journal” by then, and most important to me, she was chemical free.  Evie called me two times in the first month just to say hello and to say that she was doing okay.  She was in school, and she was glad to be home.  She thanked me a few times, and I thanked her for trusting me.  We never spoke again.

About four months later, Pamela called.  She wanted to let me know that Evie was still in school, doing okay.  She said Evie seldom wrote anything in her journal anymore.  She also said she thought Evie may have a boyfriend. Nothing had changed with the relationship with her step-father, although Evie, according to Pamela, was much more steady with this unsteady, one-sided, relationship.  Finally, Pamela told me she was dating.  She met a man at work, they had lunch, and they had dinner.  A third date was planned.  She sounded happy.  I think that’s why she really called, but that’s just me.

This is how it usually ends in my business.  It’s rare to have much contact with children and their families once they leave these kinds of facilities, as it should be.  After all, we are there to help them during an extended life crisis, not to ensure everyone lives a good life.  Our job is to provide them with our security, our trust, our guidance, and to discover and encourage their strengths, as children and families work to move forward in their lives.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Epilogue

          If we want a child to change his direction, we must understand what makes him move.  Rudolf Dreikers, M.D.

 A final few words about Evie.  Why, some have asked, was she “hallucinating?  Why was she cutting on her arms?  What, in a nutshell, is the “cause” of such “madness?”  The short, temperament-based answer?  Those are behaviors that Spheres (Idealists) use to ward of feelings of shame.  A longer answer?  This is what one of Keirsey’s disciples, Dr. Milton Lucius, wrote 30 years ago:

 “ . . . , the reaction to stress will differ according to a person’s temperament.  What may be stressful for the Idealist (Sphere) may be exciting for the Artisan (Star), and perhaps a boring problem for the Guardian (Square) or Rational (Cube).  This is so because stress for each temperament is not merely the pressure to act or decide.  Such pressure is merely pressure.  Stress has particular meaning in temperament theory.   

 “Stress occurs when an individual does not satisfy the basic desire of his or her particular temperament.   This is the essence of a ‘crisis of self-esteem.’  If stress is maintained long enough, or is intense enough, people turn their natural temperamental behavior style to an effort to protect themselves from further stress, and away from further efforts to produce satisfaction for their core need.  Their behavior becomes protective rather than productive.”  (Milton Lucius, Ph.D., 1983).

Whether you like the short or long answer, those of us temperament trained need not dwell on the “why” of behavior.  More important, if the intent is to help, the only question to ask is how do I intervene?  And that, whether parent or professional, above all else, is based on temperament.

These tales are about intervention with children who are troubled, or troublesome, and their families.

Why Star, Square, Sphere, and Cube?

I’ve been asked a few times how I decided on geometric shapes to designate the four temperaments.  It wasn’t easy.  With much consternation at the time – more than 20 years ago – and dozens of workshops since, I’ll be telling that story in my next blog.  Hint:  you’ll be learning a little about Gestalt (form) Theory as well.

Finally, I started writing “Goth Girl” last year.  While reviewing some articles online, I found a video about another girl.  Her name is Emily Longden.  She was hearing voices too.  I wrote a blog about her.  You can learn about the Hearing Voices Network, and you can meet – and see –  this brave young woman, here.

Next:  The Horrible Kid

Horrible Kid 2The next tale is about a nine year old male Star (Artisan) boy who was terrorizing his mother and grandmother.  The family was isolated by choice because he was “horrible” at home, and they didn’t want any neighbors.  The school was demanding that mother “medicate” her child because he was “horrible” in the classroom.  He had no friends.  Social Services was threatening to remove him from home and place him in a facility for other “horrible” kids.

In 1999, I was the Executive Director of one of the first private, non-profit “wrap-around” programs in California.  Our job was to keep him home and out of placement.  See how our team intervened to do that, without therapy, and without those phony chemicals.

Goth Girl Image

Part III:  An act of chivalry

When the three of us were in session – Evie, her mom, and me – I would read aloud the most recent additions to her conversation.  By now, she always wanted to hear what I had to say, and that was good.  She spoke of her many troubles, and Vlad comforted her with sound advice and concern.

I should tell you I already had a few private conversations with Evie’s mom about this.  Pamela told me Evie always had a vivid imagination.  She had “friends” she would talk to when she was a toddler, as many kids do.  Like most kids, she grew out of it by the time she started school.  Pamela never thought it was a problem.  She thought it was normal for some kids. It is, of course, for all kids, with spheres far and away the most adept at using their imaginings to tell stories about their life experiences.

Vlad “arrived” right around the time their marriage was “falling apart,” Pamela told me.  As she entered her teens, Evie was becoming increasingly alone, questioning everything her mother did or should have done.  She was becoming desperate as her father receded from her world.  She was angry, hurt, and isolated.

Once, while I read her story for the three of us, the fair maiden (the girl in the story didn’t have a name other than “maiden”) said to Vlad, “Thank you for your chivalry my friend.”  I smiled.  What could this sad and frightened little 14-year-old Goth girl from Southern California know about chivalry, I said to myself.  So, I asked her.  Before she could answer, Pamela interrupted, beaming, and proudly said, “She knows what it means too!”

“Really?” I said. “What does chivalry mean, Evie?”

“Dr. Cima!”  She was a little angry.  “I know what chivalry means!  It means that when a fair maiden is about to step into a puddle of water, the gentleman is supposed to take off his coat and lay it on the ground so she won’t get her feet wet,” she said grinning, with as much pride as her mother.  It was a good moment for all three of us.  From that time forward, we changed her story of desperation into her search for inspiration.

About That Voice-In-Her-Head

One day, sometime in the second month or so that I knew her, Evie asked me, causally, “Dr. Cima, do you think I’m crazy?”  It was, I think, a question to test my answer more than anything else.  She had her fill of answers by then.

Her doctor told her, and her mother, she had “schizoaffective disorder” and something called “major depressive disorder,” and that she needed a chemical to make her better.  Her therapist told her she was “substituting Vlad for her father,” though she had a “psychiatric disease” too.  Her social worker told her she sent her to this facility for her “mental illness.”  A few counselors, frustrated because she wasn’t improving, told her she was “psychotic.”  The other kids at the facility?  They told her she was a “wing-nut,” and other similar terms, as you can imagine.  All of this convinced Evie this really was a place “for crazy kids.”  I answered her question.

“No Evie,” I said, “I don’t think you’re crazy.”

“Ok, Dr. Cima,” she replied, almost as a challenge, “then where does Vlad come from?”

I shrugged and said “I think it’s just you talking to you.  What do you think Evie?”

“Yeah,” she said with a sly grin, “it’s just me talking to me.”

That seemed to help.  After all, that’s what it is.  We should remember, parents and professionals alike, there really isn’t another person talking, and the voice isn’t coming from the clouds.  It’s her own imagination at work, nothing more.  She’s having a discussion with herself, it seems spontaneous, it seems to be real and, for the most part, she’s was okay with it.  We decided she was having “a wide-awake dream, that’s all.”  That seemed to make sense to her.  We never talked about “why” she was having her wide-awake-dreams, so it made it easier for her to talk to me about them.

After awhile our conversations were about the words she wrote, and the metaphorical meanings they had in her life.  It was a great way for her to explain her inner turmoil, and a great way to encourage her candor.  She was, in the next few months, increasingly candid.

About That Cutting

About one month into our relationship, at a particularly vulnerable and honest moment, I asked Evie if I could see her scars.  She was very ashamed of her scars, in front of me, and she always wore long sleeve shirts to hide them.  Evie took off her jacket and extended her arms.  There were several dozen criss-crossed scratches from her wrist to three fourths of the way up both of her arms, most of them permanent scars.  When I gently held her arm to look, she started to cry.

I’m sorry, Dr. Cima,” she said, her eyes fixed on the floor. 

“Sorry,”  I replied,  “why are you sorry Evie?

“Because it’s a stupid thing to do!” she said, with a bit of anger in her voice.

She said, at different times, she did it because she couldn’t stop herself, and because Vlad said it was a sacrifice she had to make, and because she felt so empty inside, and because her dad wasn’t around, and because it brought her a lot of attention and, sometimes, because she was bored.  Mostly, she said, “I do it when I don’t feel anything.”

Not a small item for Spheres, the loss of feelings.  Feelings provide Spheres their life energy.  Spheres without feelings are like Cubes without a puzzle to solve, or Squares without a job to do, or Stars without a game to play.  In desperate times, in a strange place for “crazy kids,” feeling something is better than feeling nothing.  We talked about her feeling nothing, and decided that feeling nothing was a feeling too.  Even if it felt terrible and empty, it was a feeling.  At least, we decided, she was feeling something.  Evie slowed and then stopped cutting herself six weeks after we met.

About That Chemical Cocktail

I convinced Pamela her daughter didn’t have a “disorder” or a “disease.”  Frankly, and not surprising to me, it didn’t take that much to convince her.  She never saw any improvement in her daughter’s behavior, despite the number of “cocktails” they tried.  She consented because a doctor said her daughter needed “medicine.”

This is a common experience for the many hundreds of parents I’ve worked with in my career.  Parents will say they saw improvement in the first few weeks, then things began to get back to where they were.  Chemicals were increased, or decreased, or changed, or added – it didn’t matter much.  Over time, nothing changed, often their child was worse, and now their child was living in “a place for crazy kids.”

Pamela expressed her right as a parent and asked that her daughter be taken off her “medication.”  The doctor cautioned her against doing so, however, Pamela insisted.  With my support, we began a “titration schedule,” and simply reduced and eliminated both her chemicals in a matter of a few weeks.  Good riddance, and a huge boost to the self-confidence of Evie – and her mom.

NEXT TIME:  How Did it End? 

 

Goth Girl Image

Part II:  The Story

Unlike most therapists in society who meet with their clients once a week in an office, in residential settings, the kids live and the staff work at a self-contained campus.  Bedrooms and classrooms and therapist rooms are usually within short walking distance of each other.

That means, if you’re a therapist, it’s not unusual to have lunch with one of the teenagers, or to meet with her teacher, or to take a walk and have a private conversation – in addition to a more formal one-hour session in the office.  In fact, it was my job to make sure therapists didn’t linger in their offices too much.  “If you want to know how your kids are doing,” I would tell them, “go see them where they live.”  So, I spent some time where she lived.

I began to see Evie, formally, once a week.  Our first meeting was cordial.  My job was to develop a trusting relationship, and Evie was rightfully cautious.  As I had lectured my staff ad nauseam over the years, the adult is responsible to earn the child’s trust, not the reverse.  I talked to her about things she liked.  She said she liked to write.  I asked what she wrote about, and if she would share them with me.  “Oh no Dr. Cima,” she said, “I’d be way too embarrassed!”  I told her I understood and maybe she would share with me some day.  We talked about her life a little bit.  She told me she loved her mother very much, though she had many “acting out” episodes when she lived with her mom, especially in the last year or two.

I also learned Evie had sporadic, unpredictable contact with her stepfather.  He married Evie’s mother when she was three, and he was the only father she ever knew.  Her parents divorced a year earlier and were more or less estranged for at least two years before the divorce was final.  Evie’s stepfather had a girlfriend, and her mother was not dating.

 Meet Pamela and Tom

I contacted Evie’s mother after my first talk with her.  I’ll call her Pamela.  Pamela lived by herself in her home about an hour from the facility.  She worked long hours in a responsible position.  I asked her if she was able to meet with me, she said of course, and we met the following Monday.

 Over the next several months, I routinely met with Pamela at the facility.  The two of us would have a conversation, and then we would bring in Evie.  Pamela needed her own private time too.  A good mother, she was confidently independent.  She had a good enough paying job that she could afford to pay her bills and take care of her daughter even if her ex-husband didn’t contribute, which was often. For the temperament trained reader, Pamela is a Protector Guardian.

Sometimes, though, she was overwhelmed with self-recrimination about how all this happened, about what happens next, how the ex-husband’s girlfriend “didn’t help,” that she had no interest in dating, how she is responsible for all of Evie’s troubles, how her ex-husband is responsible for all of Evie’s troubles, and everything else that occurs when couples, with children, divorce.  It’s important to keep in mind divorce is a process, not a date on the calendar, and it inevitably involves unavoidable upset for everyone involved.  Evie was Pamela’s only child, and they were always very close.

Evie’s stepfather – let’s call him Tom – was a blue-collar worker and, from the portrayal Pamela gave me, probably a Promoter Artisan.  I never met him, though we did have one conversation over the phone.  From what Pamela told me, over the past three years, Tom has been less and less involved in Evie’s life, missing gifts for birthdays and Christmas, and often not showing up for scheduled visits.  Still, Evie wanted to see her dad.  (See About Evie’s Father in footnotes [i])

Making Progress

By the third or fourth time I met with Evie alone I asked again, towards the end of our conversation, to read some of her stories.  I could tell she was glad that I remembered to ask a second time.  This time she said “okay,” with an apprehensive smile.  She gave me her well-worn spiral binder and she asked me if I could read it right away.  I told her I would.

I’ve read many stories and many poems from children in foster care over the years.  Anger is a common theme, as is fear, and so is freedom.  Despair is almost always part of them.  For many kids in foster care, futures can be dim.  Evie’s was different.  It really wasn’t a story.

When I first began to read her words, I couldn’t make heads or tails of what she was saying.  Her spelling was okay and her grammar was about the same.  She capitalized the first letter of every sentence, every sentence ended in a period, and each sentence made sense.  There were no questions marks, no exclamation marks, no quotation marks – just periods.  After a while, when I read the sentence Where are you going Vlad, I finally “got it.”

Imagine reading a novel, and the person who wrote it deleted everything in the novel except the dialogue.  There was no introduction, no building of the scene, no sense of when or where this was talking place, or even who was talking.  Instead, the first sentence of the story started in the middle of a conversation between two people, neither of them identified, one sentence after another.  I finally realized Evie wasn’t writing a story for someone to read.  She was writing down the conversation she was having with Vlad, like dictation.

What was the conversation about?  Well, for lack of a better description, it was about a “fair maiden in distress,” who was receiving advice by a loving friend named Vlad.  Vlad was heroic, sometimes dark (he spoke of werewolves and may have been one himself according to Evie).  Vlad loved the maiden in the conversation, Evie once told me, “just as a friend, Dr. Cima.”  Nothing sexual about this relationship, at least in her written and spoken words, and Evie wanted me to know that.

NEXT WEEK:  An act of chivalry

______________________

[1] About Evie’s Father

In my one conversation with Tom, I told him he would have to make appointments to see Evie with me, and that I wouldn’t tell Evie about this until he showed up. In the next six months, Tom called my office on two different occasions to arrange a visit with Evie.  He didn’t show up either time.  I emailed him a few times and I left a few voice messages.  I offered to go to his house to meet with him.  He never responded.  It was a choice he made.  This also meant Evie didn’t hear from him during this time either.  She let me know her feelings about this in her ongoing conversation with Vlad


Goth Girl ImageChemical Cocktail 6

I’ll call her Evie. That’s not her real name, but her real name was just as pretty.  It’s best to honor her privacy, as a professional and as a fellow human being.  After all, this is her story, not mine.

Evie was 14 when I met her. Six months earlier, she was involuntarily placed in an emergency mental health hospital (called a “5150” in California) for her “psychosis.”  She was given chemicals almost immediately and, after the legally required 72-hour hold, she was declared medically fit to go back home.

About two months later another “5150” occurred.  This time, they gave her a new batch of chemicals (see Evie’s Chemical Cocktail above) and upon release 72 hours later, she was placed, without her consent, in a residential mental health facility for teenagers.  About four months later, I was brought in by the same agency as a consultant.  I was there to train and supervise the therapeutic staff, and to train the child-care staff.  For reasons you will see, I became Evie’s therapist.  She was my only client.

Evie was “hearing voices,” according to the notes I read from her prior therapist.  As I found out later, it was one voice.  Evie had a friend who would talk to her once in awhile, especially when she was alone and when her emotions were in turmoil.  I’ll call him Vlad.  “Vlad is my friend, Dr. Cima,” she once told me.  She wasn’t frightened.  Vlad “spoke” to her at times, and she wrote to him.

Temperament:  Sphere

For those trained in Keirseyan temperament theory, Evie is a Sphere – a young Idealist.  That makes her rare (about one in twenty), and very hard to spot, especially in residential settings.  Young spheres tend to blend in and take on the characteristics of Stars (young Artisans) or Squares (young Guardians), though, for reasons I’ll talk about later, they rarely, if ever, take on the characteristics of Cubes (young Rationals).

However, when Spheres are alone with someone they trust, their vivid metaphorical imagery quickly exposes their identity to an observant adult.  We all use our imagination to some degree, now and again.  However, Spheres stand alone in their ability to express their life experiences with metaphorical language.  Little wonder why so many writers and poets are Spheres.  (A few famous adult Sphere/Idealists:  Emily Dickinson, Pearl Buck, Charles Dickens, James Joyce, Leo Tolstoy, Upton Sinclair, Oliver Stone, Paul Robeson, Joan Baez – and Plato.  You can see more famous Spheres/Idealists here.)

Goth

Evie was “Goth.”  Goth – from “gothic” – is one of those adolescent subcultures found in every generation. “Hippies,” “Hip-hops,” “Emos,” “Grunges” – and don’t forget the “beatniks” of the 1950’s” – are just a few adolescent subcultures.  The more shocking and defiant the subculture, the more it brings out the worst in adults intent on “dealing with it.”  Unwittingly, by “dealing with it” adults fortify one of the reasons kids join these subcultures – to gleefully irritate and annoy their supervisors.  Another reason?  Goth culture offers comforting refuge for some unhappy kids struggling to find their lost identity, especially true for Spheres.

Goth is often described as “somber, macabre, and glamorous.”  You can throw in a touch of romance too.  Black is the color of choice for the Goth crowd, and you could always find it in Evie’s lipstick, eye makeup, nail polish, and clothes – down to her black socks and black shoes.  Evie always wore something in her dyed black hair too, usually flowers, often a black flower.  Evie liked flowers.

She was introduced to Goth when she was twelve.  She told me she fit in almost immediately.  She started to read Gothic novels.  A combination of horror and romance, famous Gothic literature includes novels like the Headless Horseman, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.  Modern movie renditions include Edward Scissorhands, Beetlejuice and even Batman. (You can read more about the Goth subculture here.) 

Something Else You Should Know

Evie was a “cutter.”  Cutting is a form of self-mutilation.  It occurs when a child takes sharp objects like razors, knives, or even pieces of glass and cut themselves, usually in secret.  It’s usually done on the underside of the forearm, on the tops of thighs, but anywhere on the body is possible.  When it occurs in residential settings, it can be “contagious.”  Children vying for the attention of adults notice that “cutters” get a lot of attention.  Like no other child at this 40-bed facility, Evie had the attention of everyone, and everyone was worried.  She was an “active cutter.”  (Nearly all long term “cutters,” in my experience, are Spheres.)

Also, as if there wasn’t enough turmoil in her life, for reasons unrelated to this story, her assigned therapist abruptly left the organization the Friday before I started, without a goodbye.  Evie lost her only confidant, and she was devastated.  When I arrived the following Monday morning, a number of staff members let me know Evie had an emotional, “cutting” weekend.  I decided to be her therapist.

Summing up

Evie was emotionally turbulent.  Her family had deteriorated, and so had Evie.  She drifted into the Goth subculture a few years earlier.  She was talking to a voice in her head, and she was cutting on herself almost daily.  Four months earlier, she was removed from home and placed in a facility that was, as she would say over and over – “a place for crazy kids” – and she just lost her therapist, the one person she could trust.

The worst of this?  The medical profession declared Evie “mentally ill” and gave her chemicals because she was “psychotic” and she was depressed.  Good thing I’ve seen this hundreds of times in my career or I would have been depressed too – and maybe a little “psychotic.”

NEXT TIME:  The Story

 

Lone Ranger JPEG

Welcome to “Tales of the Lone Arranger.”

Tales of the Lone Arranger is be about troubled and troubling children I knew and counseled over the past 35 years, from a temperament point of view.  You may recall, I use the terms Stars (Artisans), Squares (Guardians), Spheres (Idealists), and Cubes (Rationals) to describe the four Keirseyan temperaments of children.Temp graphic 2

There are two reasons I chose the name “Tales of the Lone Arranger.”

The first and most important is David West Keirsey.  I learned in my continuing talks with Dr. Keirsey that, in temperament terms, I’m an “arranger.”  He continues to fine-tune his theory, tinkering with his words every day, precision and simplicity his goal.

Thirty years ago, when I first learned about temperaments, I was an “INTJ Skeptic.” Sometime later I was dubbed an “INTJ/Mastermind.”  Dr. Keirsey has abandoned the letters and metaphors, replacing them with exact words that describe what a person does.  In his own inimitable way, he’s settled on “arranger” for my type.  Not surprisingly, the term fits like a glove.  Arranging – and rearranging – is what I’ve been doing over my lifetime.  Nothing more.

The second reason?  My favorite Saturday morning television cowboy show in the early ‘50’s – and there were lots of them – was The Lone Ranger.  He often worked in disguise, he looked out for the good guy, he never killed the bad guy, and he always left town with as little fanfare as possible.  (I also fell in love with the William Tell Overture – as a seven year old!)

This first tale – Goth Girl – is about a 14 year old Sphere (Idealist) who was heavily medicated.  Like all Spheres, it’s about their feelings – or absence of them.  The story has a good ending – at least from the last contact I had with her mother a few years ago.  And, like so many cowboy films I saw in the early fifties (when 50 cents got you admission to the theater, a box of popcorn, and a coke!), these tales will be serialized.  Goth Girl is a four part tale.

There will be more temperament tales to follow.  What we call “normal” childhood behaviors follow observable temperament patterns to trained eyes, so too are the patterns of troubled and troublesome children.  Children “act-out” their shame in ways consistent with their temperament, and therein lies clues for adults who want to intervene.

Part one of Goth Girl follows this blog.  I’ll post part two next week.

Dr. C