Theodore Dalrymple's The Rush From Judgment

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Theodore Dalrymple The Rush from Judgment Not long ago I asked a patient of mine how he would describe his own character. Summer 1997 Not long ago I asked a patient of mine how he would describe his own character. He paused for a moment, as if savoring a delicious morsel. "I take people as they come," he replied in due course. "I'm very nonjudgmental." As his two roommates had recently decamped, stealing his prize possessions and leaving him with ruinous debts to pay, his neutrality toward human character seemed not generous but stupid, a kind of prophylactic against learning from experience. Yet non-judgmentalism has become so universally accepted as the highest, indeed the only, virtue that he spoke of his own character as if pinning…show more content…
Last week I saw a patient who had taken an overdose after her boyfriend beat her up. Our dialogue followed a set pattern. "And, of course, he sometimes grabs you round the throat and squeezes and tries to strangle you?" I ask. "How did you know, doctor?" "Because I've heard it practically every day for the last seven years. And you have marks on your neck." "He doesn't do it all the time, doctor." This is the universal extenuation offered. "And, of course, he apologizes afterward and tells you it won't happen again. And you believe him." "Yes. I really think he needs help, doctor." "Why do you say that?" "Well, when he does it, he changes completely; he becomes another person; his eyes stare; it's like he has a fit. I really think he can't help it; he's got no control over it." "Would he do it in front of me, here, now, in this room?" "No, of course not." "Then he can help it, can't he?" The woman's desire to avoid a painful dilemma—love him and be beaten, or leave him and miss him—prevented her from asking herself the very obvious question as to why the "fits" happened only in the privacy of their apartment. Suddenly, inescapably, the responsibility for alleviating her misery became hers: she had to make a choice. "But I love him, doctor." The triumph of the doctrine of the sovereignty of sentiment over sense would have delighted the Romantics, no doubt, but it has promoted an unconscionable amount of misery. "Your boyfriend is unlikely to change. He strangles you because he enjoys it and gets a feeling of power from doing so. It makes him feel big: ‘I strangle her, but she still loves me, so I must be really wonderful.' If you leave him, he'll find someone else to strangle within the week." "But it's difficult, doctor." "I didn't say it was easy; I said it was necessary. There's no reason why what is necessary should also be easy. But you can't expect doctors to make you happy while your lover is still strangling you, or to make him stop

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