Helping you Fail

Pretend to help When I was a junior doctor, I had a supervisor that was renowned for her cold and abusive way of dealing with her younger colleagues. She is the single person from a professional setting that I hated with all my heart, even if I managed to understand at a later time her reasons.

She had a way of dealing with us that I thought was unique. When we were having a serious problem with a patient, we used to seek help from our supervisors. When it was her turn, she would silently listen to us and then she would give us the approval either by not saying anything, or by smiling at us. Feeling confident, we would decide and act upon our decisions until things would turn terribly nasty. At that point she would scream at us and call us idiots, skillfully ruining our self-esteem and casting doubt on our abilities as future doctors.

At that time I was younger and less experienced, but I never forgot her, following the well-known rule that you may forget what someone did to you but you never forget how that person made you feel. But, as usual, a challenge will, sooner or later, reappear in one’s life.

Some time ago, not a junior doctor anymore but still junior in some way, I had to witness the same pattern of behavior. Same setting – a nasty patient and a senior doctor. Same situation – me not knowing what to do, seeking help. Analyzing the situation together with the senior doctor. Me not getting a concrete answer but rather a vague, misty, inconclusive advice. Me acting on what I thought I understood as being the advice. Me doing the wrong move and being criticized after, being told that I should assume my decisions. Me frustrated.

And yet, I wasn’t still aware that the same scenario was repeating itself. Until the news about Greece came out on tv…

Some days ago I was watching an interview, where a gentleman was explaining that the Greeks will cause a loss of 600 euros for each of us in France if they get out of the Eurozone. Why? Because the French state has given to them money that can’t be recuperated now. Here in France, money is the only argument, it’s that form of cynical capitalism where everything is measured in money and emotional decisions are unlikely to be taken.

While watching that gentleman, I caught myself pondering… Why does the Western Europe discover that Greece can’t pay back its debt now? What were they doing all these years? Why is this coming as a surprise? I mean, the European finances are transparent enough and money was approved by Brussels… Of course they knew the Greeks won’t be able to pay back that money! But Brussels allowed the Greeks to fail, so that they can subjugate them easier now. It was a damn strategy and now they feed me on tv with the idea that it’s the fault of Greece. No! It’s Brussels’ fault that they didn’t take care of the money they lent to the Greeks! They didn’t do their job to guard my pocket and now I must lose 600 euros because Brussels is incompetent!…

Both situations – my situation with the senior doctors and the debt of Greece – are the same thing. It’s a game played by transactional analysis rules.

1. The Victim is inexperienced and naïve.
2. The Victim asks for help from the Butcher.
3. The Butcher pretends to give help. On a rational level, the Butcher does give help, but in such a way so as to confuse the Victim. You can’t blame the Butcher for not helping the Victim. On the emotional level, the Butcher offers the help but makes sure that the Victim takes responsibility for something that is horribly wrong, by being sufficiently vague and unstructured.
4. The victim, caught between naïveté and the need for an answer, accepts the solution and puts it into practice.
5. The solution proves to be wrong.
6. The Victim, having accepted to act upon what it thought to be the right way to do things, must accept defeat and feel miserable.
7. The Butcher is aroused by additional proofs of its superiority and intelligence, and feels pleasure blaming the Victim.

Up to this moment I couldn’t figure out the name of this game; it doesn’t seem to be on the list of common transactional games. What is certain is that the Victim is tricked into believing that help will be given, while in fact it’s the opposite. There are negative stamps (negative emotions) collected by the Victim, stamps the can be later exchanged for a headache or a stroke, depending on how many times this game is played. In my case, I might be subject for a complaint, but in the case of Greece, people will die of stress and hunger. In both cases, the Butcher can defend itself saying that all it wanted to do is helping the Victim; rationally, this can’t be denied, but at the emotional level, it was all trickery.

In pathological attachment disorders (or carefully designed strategies), the Butcher may mix the game with real help, sometimes playing the game and sometimes offering genuine aid. In this case, as a Victim, you can’t know if you’re in a game or not, until the epilogue.

I found only one solution for situations like these: Learn! Study! Be Smart!
And Don’t ask for help, for a second time,… from a Butcher!

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