Years ago I worked at a law firm.  I had difficulties with coworkers.  They spread rumors about me.  They said I was a homosexual; they said I was a homicidal maniac.  I asked my then treating psychiatrist about why this was happening.  Dr. Palombo said: “You’re a freak!”  He was referring to the fact that I was a lawyer employed as a paralegal.  I was not conforming to social expectations or social conventions.  This, in Dr. Palombo’s mind, accounted for my difficulties with coworkers.  Dr. Palombo tried to account for my difficulties by looking to my behavior.  He avoided trying to explain what it was about my coworkers that caused their behavior.

I thought of an analogous situation.  It happens, perhaps frequently, that child molesters have problems with other inmates in prison.   Prisoners don’t like child molesters.  Child molesters are victims of violent assaults in prison.  You can account for this by saying, “Of course, they beat you up.  You’re a child molester!”

But the issue is not simply the behavior of the child molester.  What about the prisoners who beat up the child molester?  We can say the following about them: They are violent, they are brutal, they have anger issues, they have problems with impulse control, they have no respect for the law (obviously), they will take the law into their own hands, they tend to aggregate in gangs (paranoid fight/flight groups).  Also, perhaps significantly, some of the violent prisoners will have been victims of child abuse themselves, and see in the target an image of their own abuser.

So, as I see it, the problem is not simply: “Well, you are a freak!”  The issue is also, “What are the characteristics of the abusing parties?”

This is the chemistry of human relations.  One would expect more from a phi beta kappa biochemistry graduate from Harvard!  Psychiatrists need to be more attuned to relational issues.