Challenging the Challenging.

I'm reading this book at the moment:

- but had to stop just now. I was literally crying with anger. I had just read about how, in less "enlightened" times, a man who continually threw himself out of his wheelchair - repeatedly breaking his legs - eventually suffered a double amputation at the behest of an ignorant (and, presumably, very frustrated) and deeply unethical medical team.

A humanistic music therapist might have been able to interpret the man's continuing tendency towards self-harm (also called, get this! 'Challenging behaviour') as some form of communication. He was attention-seeking. He was looking for attention from other human beings. Uh-huh, I get that. And the problem with that is ..?

Quite apart from what seems like a self-evident need for someone to design and construct a chair from which he was unable to throw himself, it seems to me that the man's fundamental need to express his emotions in whatever ways were available to him were being ignored.

Imagine if you are in a land where you do not speak the language, and no one can understand you. You are physically almost helpless, and people can see that easily. You are cared for. Your basic physical needs are met.

Naturally, you long for some kind of more meaningful communion with others but find it impossible to convey this in a way that your carers can understand. Eventually frustration causes you to repeatedly injure yourself. You have noticed, learned, been conditioned to the fact that you have more interaction when one or both of your legs is broken. It's worth it, in spite of the pain.

One day, those responsible for your care drug your food and take you to an operating theatre where they carefully and quickly and neatly remove both of your legs just above the knee.

The story tells me how important it is for me to value all human emotions, even those that seem to be unpleasant or unwarranted - anger and jealousy, for example. And it isn't just in other people that I should respect emotional outbursts - I should listen also to my own emotional responses to things, even if the feelings are what might be called negative or undesirable.

People should treat not only each other but also themselves with more respect than was afforded to this man. Don't dismiss your feelings because you consider them unworthy, or because you think it represents "challenging behaviour." And above all, do not dismiss the feelings of those who are struggling to communicate them.