When Good People Go Bonkers
This article was originally written by Mark Meshulam
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We all go nuts sometimes. Even someone as sublimely well balanced as myself goes off the deep end once in a while.
When this happens, the bizarre behavior of the suddenly wacko can bring damage to themselves, their business relationships, and yes, even their furniture.
Why do we go bananas? Sometimes we allow frustrations to accumulate without releases such as “talking it through”, physical activity or masturbation until we boil over.
Sometimes a situation pushes a button in our psyche which releases a gusher of emotion stored from long-ago pain. This eruption can come seemingly from nowhere and usually scares the piss out of everyone in range including the eruptor himself.
At Evanston(IL) Hospital Outpatient Psychiatry, where I spent a six month internship bringing better mental health to scores of afflicted suburbanites, it was openly discussed that more people would flip out during the full moon. I believe the term they used was “we have more patients in crisis”. Is this human response to the 28 day lunar cycle the etymology of “looney”?
Perhaps not so coincidently, another 28 day cycle which can bring occasional bouts of wackiness is the so-called female cycle, which is not to be confused with a Vespa motor scooter. This caused some UFO theorists to opine that women might actually be aliens not from Venus as originally believed, but rather from the Moon, come to disrupt the football games and bank accounts of men.
Some say that men have a similar cycle – not to be confused with a Harley Davidson – but men are either too complex, or more likely far too simple and random for a true pattern to emerge.
Whatever the reason, when someone you know goes apeshit, do the following:
1. Get the hell away. People in the throes of a psychotic episode can have superhuman strength. They experience something similar to the legendary adrenalin rush which allows animal activists to lift cars off pinned-down pussy cats, a frequent sight in my neighborhood. Nutcases in full bloom can easily turn your head all the way around – remember Linda Blair in The Exorcist? – by grasping it lightly between thumb and forefinger.
2. Stay the hell away. When a person goes beserk, it can last a few days. During that time he will be manically obsessing about whatever insult or injury they perceived to have happened. He is not negotiable yet; don’t even try unless your idea of fun is bashing your head repeatedly into masonry.
3. Watch (from under the desk if necessary) for the real person to return. After such an intense outpouring, Dr. Jekyll will crash from exhaustion. When he emerges, he might be in the sheepish, “What happened?” mode. That is the time for love and support. Try saying, “Wow, you really went through something there, didn’t you?” If he says something normal, like “yes”, you are making progress. If he snarls or throws his mouse at you, revert to #2 above.
4. Have some sympathy. Remember, you have gone daffy yourself. Remember what it was like. It came from pain, didn’t it? That’s what happened to your psycho, he had a tsunami of pain. Remembering this will help you be sympathetic. You might need this help if el loco stabbed you in the eye yesterday with a letter opener.
5. Let him talk and offer only gentle guidance. If a person talks enough, he will eventually realize that they got “out of line”, but he will need some space in order to realize this. If you offer this insight yourself, especially too early, you might get your hand stapled to your ear.
6. Listening is key. Here’s how you do it: Look into the person’s eyes with a slightly sad frown. Nod slowly and knowingly after they say each sentence. Resist the urge to offer your wonderful opinion – this part is called “shutting up”. Wait until he stops talking. Count to 10. Then say one carefully chosen sentence which is either insightful or encouraging. Repeat until cool.
7. To take lunatic handling to the state of the art, try to get him to analyze the triggering event and why it was so extroardinarily evocative.
8. To really bring it on home, get your nutcase to commit to monitoring his reactions, so that if another triggering event occurs in the future, he will be ready with a better, more adaptive behavior. This might include removing himself from the situation with a planned excuse like, “Pardon me but I must leave this meeting unexpectedly because my dry cleaning is ready.”
Copyright 2005 Mark Meshulam