“You’re Just Idealistic”

I was busily writing an article that finally puts clear what I do stand for spiritually. But a few weeks ago a co-blogger used terms such as ‘altruistic’ and ‘innocent’ in response to what I wrote on another post. An Itch started.

 A week later I heard from another mental health ‘expert’ that my ethical demands were idealistic and naive in the current climate. You think I’d be used to it. As you’ll see later I first got this accusation in 1985 and endlessly since ,but nevertheless…The itch turned into a burn.

 And for two weeks now I have found myself arguing for humans, and for their goodness ,their potential, their history….The burn started building into a volcano (even my stomach started rumbling I swear).

Then yesterday morning I sat in a café and listened to the bitter cynicism as two souls contemplated all the ways they’d been let down lately.

The volcano erupted and opinionate I must!


As I responded at my friend Jon’s blog (http://spritzophrenia.wordpress.com/): my neighbor and I were chatting and whilst he agreed with me in our potential he also described human beings as a gigantic slug moving along ever so slowly. I paused…accepting his idea but then replied:
                                                              “so I’m the bitch with the cattle prod behind the slug”

Believing in the inherent goodness of the human, believing that psychological evolution is not only possible but is what we are all about, and that that evolution is onwards and upwards is NOT naive nor idealistic nor innocent nor any other cop-out terms. Nor is believing that you and I should, and CAN do better.

I am not nice. I do love people. I often don’t like them though and I definitely think we all need, right here, right now, a universal face slap ( my newest expression :)).  At least all of us who have been recipients of having their basic survival needs met and a chance of education. I am blunt, I am honest and I am very, very determined.

 I am not naïve, nor idealistic, nor innocent (that one still cracks me up). Oh dear…I just have to say…as corny as it is “I am woman hear me roar” 🙂

For the record; my first twelve years were spent with a bitter twisted woman who was exceptionally violent and hateful and a man who wouldn’t stop her. I then spent years in a catholic orphanage seeing damaged kids, damaged parents, damaged catholics, damaged society.

By nineteen I realised, if I followed common wisdom, I would brand child abusers as bad, catholics as cruel, society as f–ked and end up constantly living a bitter, angry and completely drunk life for my heart was naturally a joyful one. SO I decided to try to understand how people could be like this.

I have studied from that moment and for twenty-four years practiced as a psychiatric nurse caring for thousand of people in prisons, hospitals and in the community. And I mean cared for them from counselling to narcan, with company, with education, with advocacy, with resuscitation, with tears. My very last client as a psychiatric nurse hung herself and I found her. Suffice to say; I’ve seen a bit!

 And in all that time, only two people ever had me stepping back in fearful wonderment that this could possibly be a ‘person’ standing before me…with such an absence of empathy. Both had severe anti-social personality disorders (the old ‘psychopath’) and both sit in my mind to this day as an enormous question mark involving words like evil, soul-less and such strange concepts.

 And this is what I know for sure. Ninety-nine point nine percent of people behave badly only for two reasons. Firstly it can be because they are indoctrinated to do so and/or secondly, that they have been emotionally damaged.

And this, if you have my brain anyway, is cool! Because I also know for sure that emotional damaged can be healed and if done so the person will flourish and in a good way!

 At twenty-two I read Maslow and Rogers and saw the humanist in me rather than me adopting it. My experience every day since then only proves to me again and again that if allowed man is essentially good. Doesn’t mean they don’t act like twits most of the time but it does mean potential is there.

So no. I’m not naive or idealistic. I have studied, I have worked and I have lived. And I absolutely believe in our goodness. I absolutely believe in our commonality emotionally and our uniqueness individually. I absolutely believe in our ability to heal (despite psychiatry having lost its way).

My personal fear is that our apathy, our personal bitterness, our wounded hearts zap our energy and make us lounge-chair critics allows crap to happen. We sit alone, grumpy at that which makes us grieve, at those who have let us down, cranky when people speak of hope. But that is my ‘fear’ and to live according to fear is not to live at all.

We must be the change we want to see. We CAN do better. 

Okay so opinionated I have :). Here is a section from my ‘forever being reviewed’ memoir of my first 46 years about the first time I heard I was idealistic;

 Suddenly, the quiet of our bathroom was shattered by the rocket opening of the door.

 “What on earth are you doing?”

 It was the Charge Nurse, eyes-a-glinting and tone demanding.

 “I’m just finishing off with Rita and then I’ll be ready for the next one,” I announced cheerily.

 “You should have done four by now and what on earth are you letting the water out for?”

 Stuttering to respond she cut me off with authority.

 “Four patients per bath, it should only take you ten minutes to get them up, bathed, and dressed. Now move it.”

 “You’ve got to be kidding” I replied without thought, “how can they possibly enjoy that?”

 Her response has stayed with me always.

 “Oh yeah, I know you. Idealistic crap. I used to be like you. But you’ll change girl don’t you worry.”

 Her words were bitter and scorning, the expression on her face reminding me slightly of my mother. Bitterness is a horrid choice of response to life. It hurts all it touches.

 “If I become like you I’ll leave this job” I replied stubbornly and took Rita into the lounge. The Charge Nurse and I, surprisingly, never got on from that moment. It was a problem I seemed to continually create for myself.

  See for me, it’s not about pointing the finger ‘out there’.

It’s not easy to continue to focus on the goodness of man when one looks at the worst we humans do, or if we expect some sort of reward.

But it is easy to stand up when one considers the most likely course of humanity if we do not strive individually to be the very best we can be no matter what others do.

  Don’t worry about others. Today, you challenge yourself to act at all times…well… I already wrote about that in https://leesis.wordpress.com/2010/09/11/i-only-have-one-moral/.

Nope, I’m not idealistic. I have ideals and whilst I breath I will try to live by them. 


11 thoughts on ““You’re Just Idealistic”

  1. I can’t help but think I would have felt the same way in those situations. I wasn’t in those situations, and therefore I suppose I can’t know that for sure, but I can at least agree with your response.

    For a while, I was tempted to begin believing that people only did good things if they received some benefit. Even if just recognition or appreciation. After all, I think that’s something we all desire. To be appreciated and acknowledged. But, I didn’t stay on that thought for too long, because even if that is sometimes the case, it isn’t always. And even if a person does benefit by being “good” (putting it that way sounds kind of silly), it doesn’t mean they are a good person in order to receive. Maybe not consciously anyway. There may be some evolutionary benefit that has resulted in this tendency towards good, but either way, I think I agree with you.

    Well written.

  2. Thank-you so much for the compliment.

    I think we do do stuff for reward but perhaps instead of that being a bad thing that’s the whole point! Good feels good and crappy feels crappy. I want to feel good, others want to feel good so lets get on with it! Personally I’m reclaiming the word good 🙂 .

  3. Leesa, you know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody take the words I meant to be as your basic compliment so wrongly. I’m sorry if all this is the avalanche that my use of “altruistic” and “innocent” started, but girl, you know, take your own advice, and lighten up. And take a compliment for what it is, despite appearances. Yes, people are dicks and scorn attributes like that, and I can see how that is mostly the case in your profession, but not everybody. If I gave you that impression from what I said, then I’m really sorry cause I got misunderstood thoroughly.

    As for the “inherent goodness of humankind”, I am having serious issues wrapping that around child molesters who band together to make a nice little community and share children and experiences, like the ones recently uncovered in my country. Sorry. I can understand something done with emotion as being driven by some deep perpetual hurt or whatever, but something so calmly and surgically precise and completely cold and emotionless (also see NAZI children burning ovens) is not justified by any inherent goodness cramped by mal-adjustment. How much “conditioning” does one need to burn kids and turn them into washing soap? Sorry Leesa, the crimes of humanity give apt examples for arguments against yours.

    • nah nah…your words added to other words which developed in me an awareness that we may be using these terms to avoid personal action. No drama sister 🙂

      Your comments re: bad behaviour and the worst off all, the harming of children. I hear you and I hear the crimes of humanity. But, if you don’t mind those examples speak to what I’m saying. How many parents in Greece don’t molest children?

      See if I’ve nursed lets say ten thousand folk (including child molesters) and can conclude only two need to be locked up for life due to their lack of any inherent ‘goodness’ then moving this to a global scale we will still see a percentage of bad folk.

      So yes there are folks who commit the horrors you refer too. But it is equally true that the majority of folk for all their personal screw-ups are as horrified as you by these men.

      Hence I maintain, the human race is essentially good 🙂 …Cheers….Leesa

    • I don’t know…
      It’s true that the same human kind is as capable of a great spectrum of both good and terrible things. I guess one single human being is capable of two separate things at two opposing ends of that same spectrum. This spectrum is different for each person. The two groups of people you mentioned in your comment, I agree are examples of some of the worst examples of “inherent goodness of humankind”. Somewhere in the middle of the spectrum you have debatable morals. For example, is it ok for a mother with nothing to steal food for her starving children to eat? What about if she steals from another starving child? And so on. (At least as I imagine it). And somehow, I can’t help but sense that the negative portion of that spectrum is at least slightly smaller than the positive portion. Otherwise we either wouldn’t have any good laws for protection, or we would have laws for opposing behaviour. There is at least a majority of humankind who recognizes a “kind” of humanism, even if it’s only tipping the scales by a sad few. Could we do better? As Leesa said, yes! Will we ever? I don’t know. It seems like it’s slowly (very slowly) improving slightly, with the abolition of slavery in most major continents (or at least making it illegal), and improvements on suffrage, etc.

      • great thoughts and I guess for me I don’t know either. But let me tell you as a lesbian woman the world has improved from when I was nineteen and now at forty-seven!

        Ultimately though I want to bring it back to us…me, and you and you and you…. Each individual gets faced every day with a multitude of choices about how they will behave. Lets personally chose to behave as ethically as we can bugger what the rest do. I may be only one brick in the wall but at least I can be a good brick 🙂

  4. Yeah I guess I won’t debate any further, we’re on the same wavelength anyway. It’s just that some actions frighten me to the bone, not only because I can’t understand them, but there’s something else inside that makes my stomach convulse and head spin, and not in the good way. I don’t know what that is, maybe it’s condiditoning, but maybe it’s inherent. Nothing guarantees you, for example, that once you’re a mother you’re gonna be a good mother, it’s a gamble you know you’ve won or lost once you get there. But when I hear of cases like baby Briahnna Lopez some years back, I just can’t even find a handle to start getting into the understanding of these people… they say for example for those mass-baby-murdering mothers there is a psychological syndrome now, and that also makes me furious. It seems that once we manage to justify an abhorent behaviour scientifically it starts being OK. Well, no, it’s NOT ok, and I don’t care what the fancy name for it is. I don’t care. People like them I could never call good, I could never relate to, and I personally think giving them the needle serves the betterment of humanity. In Greek mythology we have the example of Medea, the child-killer, who chopped off her son in little bits and threw them in the Vosporus to slow down the ships that were after her. She is portrayed as having committed the worst hubris against men and Gods, the most unforgivable sin. I agree with my ancestors. I can’t fathom why there even exist “experts” who defend these women. Nevermind, I’m rambling, just ignore me.

    • Rambling isn’t always a bad thing to be ignored. I hear you.
      I’m not a father (or a mother for that matter), but I believe you are right in that nothing guarantees that you will be a good mother. Well, let me rephrase that… nothing guarantees that you will be a perfect mother. I suppose that to a degree we have experienced a childhood where we know what we need (or should or should not have been provided). I guess we can make the choice to guarantee how we treat our children, and that’s at least something. It’s only a gamble if don’t pay attention.

      I would say that science or psychology doesn’t justify an abhorrent behavior. It more probably tries to explain it, so that we don’t have situations like those you’ve mentioned. If we can note the tendencies or behaviors of someone who is likely to do something as terrible as that, we could find ways to treat it with therapy, medications that modify body’s chemicals (if abnormal), or at make people aware of the psychological syndrome. But it doesn’t do anything to provide an excuse to behave that way. And I don’t think it’s ever made someone think that’s ok to behave in that manor. It’s not ok, you’re right.

      I wonder though, in the case of those mothers that murder their children, what the grandmother, or the mother’s mother thinks. I imagine that they can’t simply accept that their own daughter is that terrible of a person, angry as she may be. To her, there must be a reason, and I think that’s where you get the desire to defend horrible behaviors like that…

  5. Love the conversation! And I too hear you Margie but desire to clarify:

    Explanation is not justification. Nobody is saying behaviour that harms another is okay and certainly the harming of children cannot be justified. But as you yourself pointed out the causes behind behaviour can be very different.

    A mum drives off the cliff with her three kids. How could she do that? Because she loves her kids completely. Because in that moment she feels that the death of her children will save them from the suffering she has experienced. It is an act of love. This is not right but it is what it is and to cast condemnation on her is to miss the whole opportunity to prevent this occuring for another.

    And yes there absolutely is a tiny amount of the population whereby…well you’d needle them, I’d permanently incarcerate them…same same. As noted I met two and actually was involved in resisting human righter’s who wanted one of them freed. Which was weird for a lot of my colleagues as I am a strong activist for human rights. But I am not a fool either :).

  6. Leesa, after reading this, I understand you so much better. I was molested as a child by my dad – who in turn had been molested by boys at his military school. Mom knew about it but stayed because she felt she was, in her own mind, protecting us… she became a bitter alcoholic and I her “best friend” from the age of 6.

    We all come from some sort of stuff. I’m manic depressive and PTSD (“panic depressive,” I can joke about it, anyway) who is also a social activist and tireless advocate for lesbian, gay, transgender, and bisexual people… and then found out my own daughter is – in her own words, queer. (Don’t call me a lesbian, it sounds like I’m an immigrant!! she says)

    Leesa, I am profoundly moved by the conversation above, especially the give and take, the maturity of all your writings and those of your friends. Peace, Amy (sharp lil)

    • thanx so much Amy. We do all come from ‘stuff’ hey…and what an amazing way you’ve taken charge of your own stuff. What an example to your own kids and all those around you. Love your daughters expression :).

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