Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Unicorns and Meat Cleavers

Currently, I am doing a clinical rotation at a psychiatric hospital. Every week I am either on an acute unit (where the people are psychotic, but could possibly be released into the community after treatment), a forensic unit (in which the people are either Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity or being restored to competency for trial), or an adolescent unit.

The acute unit is full of very sick people. The adolescent unit is full of children that have behavioral issues beyond the scope of most parents’ imaginations. But the forensic unit… that unit is full of people who have committed crimes. It is full of people with antisocial personality disorders (sociopaths, for those not on the up-and-up with cutting-edge psychiatric terms) who couldn’t care less about your or your feelings… and, honestly? It is my favorite unit. As long as you can accept that these people don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves, it is a very interesting learning experience.

Whenever I am talking to these people, though, I can’t help but wonder about their lives. What led them to where they are? What kind of a childhood did they have? What are their parents like?

And it all brings me back to those age-old debates about “nurture vs. nature” and the “chicken or the egg”. Sure, dude killed a bunch of people… but he was abused by his dad from the time he was born. Was he destined to be this way? Or was he molded by his childhood into what he is now? Do you learn to only care about yourself as a way of survival? Or do you only care about yourself because your DNA is programmed that way? Are we shaped by our pasts? Are we pre-determined to be “good” or “bad” from birth?

I, of course, don’t know the answers to these questions. I do know that my sister and I were raised by the same two people and we have the same DNA, but we are very different.  As different as night and day. I know that my husband and his seven brothers and sisters were raised similarly, and they are all individual and unique. Not one of them the same as the other.

I think not knowing which factor is more important sort of scares me for my son. I mean, I am by no means a perfect parent. And I will never be. But, to some degree I feel like it doesn’t really matter what I do. My son will make the choices he is going to make no matter how I raise him.

That’s right. I could surround him completely with love and butterflies and unicorns… and he may still grow up to be a meat cleaver- wielding crazy person.  And that just sucks.

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