Symphony of Disruption

Since coming to Menninger, I have probably enjoyed my life more than I have in the past ten years. I like what we learn in groups, I enjoy being able to share personal feelings and stories in group psychotherapy, and the closeness of many, if not most, of the people both from Menninger and the step-down has really enriched my life. Even the parts where I have been challenged and questioned and made to look inward at uncomfortable thoughts and feelings were, if not fun, then at least helpful.

There are definitely things that have bothered me, though. Both Menninger and the step-down are voluntary; nobody is required or forced to go to them or to stay if they don’t want to. Yet some people who have come to both seem to treat it as something terrible they are being forced to go through, and treat the groups, treatment, and other patients with all the disdain you’d expect. Their disinterest or active dislike – even hatred – of the program makes it hard for others to get all they can out of the program, because these seemingly involuntary patients like to disrupt things.

Sometimes they make mean, cruel, insensitive, or offensive comments. At other times, they insist on making group facilitators deal with their disinterest by making fun of groups, talking over others, making rude remarks, or generally being disruptive. They challenge those in authority, and treat those around them as if other patients are somehow inferior. Mostly, they just seem to want to waste everyone else’s time they way they feel their time is being wasted.

Maybe they were sent there by family members; maybe as a condition of returning to a job or other activity they were told they needed to go through a treatment program. Maybe they checked themselves in, and don’t feel like they can get out, even though they are informed regularly of the program’s voluntary basis. Whatever their reason, I am sure that they feel somehow justified in making the program difficult or wasteful to others.

Frankly, I don’t care. I came to Menninger of my own volition, and I moved to the step-down of my own volition. I have been paying for my time in both of these programs out of an inheritance that was left to me; this is my own money being spent. Whatever the reason these disruptive people have to waste my time, I don’t give a damn. If you aren’t going to take this treatment seriously, then leave. I didn’t make you come, but it is my time you are wasting with your antics. I don’t mind abrasive or blunt people, because I have seen some of each – they took the programs seriously, however rude they might seem at times.

Yes, this is selfish. No, I don’t care. I want to get everything I can out of my time in treatment, and every group that is disrupted, every activity ruined, and every meaningful conversation interrupted is time and money I am losing so they can indulge their disruptive, rebellious behavior. So, unless they want to pay me back for every group they screw up – a distinction I, not they, would make – then I want them to shut up or leave. This is one of the hardest and most important things I will do in my life – I don’t need it to be made harder.

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