Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Therapists Promoting Bad Manners

Another blow against manners. And against social harmony.

Yet again, the therapy profession is exposed as the enemy of good manners and of decorum. Yet again, therapists are encouraging behaviors that disrespect the feelings of other people. Whatever happened to empathy?

Take the example of people who chew with their mouths open, who make all manner of disagreeable sounds when they masticate their food. Most people consider them to be rude and impolite. Most people avoid them. When neighbors invite friends for dinner parties they are not on the list. When their managers have lunch meetings with prospective clients, they are excluded.

Table manners are easy to acquire. Failing to master them speaks ill of you. Out there in the real world, most people will hold it against you.

But, now therapists have rushed out to defend those who refuse to change their ill-mannered ways. Therapists believe that anyone who does not like to listen to you make disgusting sounds over dinner has a psychiatric problem. Yes, indeed. What would we do without therapy?

Elizabeth Bernstein reports the sad results:

Christine Robinson was looking forward to a date night with her husband, Robert. She grilled flatbread veggie pizza, opened a bottle of Cabernet and lighted some candles.

Her husband took a sip of wine, swished it around in his mouth, then bit off the triangle tip of a pizza slice with a crunch. “The mix between the crispiness of the crust, the chewiness of the toppings and the slurping of the wine is what did it,” Ms. Robinson says.

She got up and turned on some classical music. But she could still hear his chewing. She turned the music up. That didn’t help. Then she asked her husband, “Please, slow down and enjoy the food.”

He snapped. “I am sorry I disgust you so much that we can’t even be in the same room together,” he told her, and stormed off.

If you can’t stand the sound of someone’s chewing, does that person need to close his or her mouth? Or do you?

The Robinsons have been married for twenty years. You really have to ask yourself what kind of man Mr. Robinson really is. Is he that stubborn and that inconsiderate that he cannot learn how to chew with his mouth closed? We are not asking him to become a scratch golfer. Does he not understand that his wife sees his behavior as an assault? Does he not know how repugnant he is to other people? How oblivious and self-centered can you be?

Of course, one has to wonder how Mrs. Robinson could have allowed this to continue for twenty years and why she would have married such a boor. But, still, we feel her pain. If she goes out and finds a Benjamin Braddock we would not blame her.

But, Mr. Robinson can now feel vindicated. The therapy culture is on his side. Serious experts in that godforsaken profession believe that if his wife does not like the way he eats the problem is hers. Thus, Mr. Robinson does not have to change anything about the way he behaves.

His wife is suffering from a psychiatric condition. She is hypersensitive to certain sounds.

Therapists believe that Mrs. Robinson and her ilk are incipient tyrants who are trying to change the way people eat. If so, she has not been notably successful. In fact, she has suffered through this for twenty years.

The experts say that when you are bothered by someone who is chewing popcorn loudly in a movie theatre you should not say anything, lest you offend them. The fact that their behavior is offensive to anyone who wants to watch the movie does not seem to matter.


Ares Olympus said...

Elizabeth Bernstein: The experts are clear: The person who is annoyed by the sounds is the one who needs to change and learn coping skills. If others accommodate you by changing the way they eat, they are only enabling you.

I don't know. I can see both sides. Sensitivity is certainly "subjective", and for all I know, it may be we can train ourselves to be less sensitive. Snoring would seem to be the bigger case in marriage, and it's harder to argue over manners there since one person is asleep. And in that case, I can confirm from personal experience that the more attention you give to a sound, the louder it seems.

So back to the loud husband, let's say we do an experiment and discover 82 of 100 people don't notice his chewing habits, does that make the 18 "wrong" for their sensitivity? What if his chewing is normal to 60% the population and within a tolerance of "good manners" as objectively measured by some expert? Would that make him "right" to object to her complaint?

And in the opposite direction, we can say if this man "really loved" his wife, he would be willing to be considerate towards her needs. What we don't know is how much he has tried to change over the 20 year marriage. The conversation itself sounds a bit one-sided, she saying peacably “Please, slow down and enjoy the food.” while he was irritated supposedly saying “I am sorry I disgust you so much that we can’t even be in the same room together,” But if this is a 20 year old argument, you'd think his answer wouldn't contain such apparent surprise by her request.

And if we're putting therapists in the argument, I'd imagine some of them would not just be there to say who is RIGHT, but they'd want to look at wider dynamics, is her husband always so insensitive? Is he having a bad day? Has she made the request before? Did she really say it exactly as that? Is there a way she could have expressed herself without implying he was wrong to eat the way he does?

We could ask whether she was expressing contempt towards him that she was not aware of, perhaps rolling her eyes, with sarcasm in her voice, as if she was sure he was in the wrong, and that he understood WHY she was telling him what to do.

In sort, it seems foolish to take sides at all in any single case.

But it looks like the PURPOSE of the article is not to give an objective answer, but to bring up the possibility that "sensitivity" is REAL, and not everyone has that, so we can better understand each others - what we experience is not the same as what others experience. And pretending everything is a matter of common manners is probably not a completely solution to this sort of predicament.

Maybe we can discover "Cognitive Behavior Therapy" also works for reducing sensitivity to sounds?

Yes, maybe the husband is a bore, and needs to learn some manners.

And maybe both are true?

Sigma Sez said...

Ares, you need to start your own column. Who has the patience to wade through your lengthy comments?

KCFleming said...

The WSJ article was sloppy, mixing several unrelated things together.

They use descriptions of rude and boorish behavior alongside people who are indeed hypersensitive.

They are suggesting that misophonia is an isolated condition, when it very often occurs in the context of similar sensitivities to light, odor, movement, foods and pills (i.e., side effects).

I would not be surprised that the majority of sufferers are female, that they have multiple such sensitivities, and that many have fibromyalgia, irritable bowel, TMJ pain, and migraine headaches.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thank you for the clarification. The Journal should know better.

sestamibi said...

While I generally agree with your position, I think you really picked a baaad example to illustrate it. The fact that the Robinsons have stayed together for 20 years is due in large part to the fact that Mr. R doesn't let himself be pussy-whipped. This makes him an alpha male and holds Mrs. R's interest.

On the other hand, I wouldn't recommend that Mr. R express the same behavior in a public setting.