October 14, 2013 at 8:28 pm #43784
I am a middle school teacher. I never dislike people and always see the good in them, so teaching has served me well. However, every now and then intuition will tell me that something is wrong with a person and this person cannot be trusted. This year, I have a student who I believe is both narcissistic and a sociopath. This person is a compulsive liar and thief. This person starts fights if I turn my back and is now starting anger management classes. The student is very charismatic and charming and manipulates peers to give him/ her what he/ she wants. I am worried because I am known to be a fair teacher but I am worried that my desire to protect my other students from this predator will inhibit my job: teaching this person. I have aides in my class who do not trust this person either but I have not told them that I am pretty sure that this person is a sociopath because I need them to work with this student. However, I feel badly because perhaps I should warn them to protect themselves. I want to teach this student just as I do the other students, but often feel disgusted by the student’s lack of morality as I see this person manipulating peers before my eyes. How do I get this person to be more moral? Is it a lost cause?October 15, 2013 at 4:24 pm #43830
It is the sad province of children that they often must carry many burdens and difficulties without the experience and physiological brain development of an adult. Narcissistic patterns swirl around a wounded self image, and closes their empathy. (This is not canon, and I’ve disagreed with other healers about the tenability of healing narcissistic patterns). Consider how isolating it is to be stuck like that child, how alone and empty. Empathy is how the feeling of love comes through, and without that, where might they seek nourishment? How do they find esteem? How do they find stability?
What came to heart as I asked those questions is precisely the sociopathic behaviors we see arising again and again. Controlling others, for instance, gives them a sense of power, a reliable interaction with their environment that allows them to feel safe. If they can control, they can prevent others from seeing the wound, from harming the self they fiercely protect. This is why anger flares up for them so often… they are wide eyed hunting most of the time, which causes information overload as soon as things slip out of their control, as soon as their reality becomes unreliable.
Its really important for us to keep our heart open to them. They are our children, and we don’t turn our back on the blind and deaf, it is not right to turn our back on the empathically challenged. Is he old enough to be a genuine threat? Are you afraid of being shot or stabbed? What danger are you in that inspires such defenses? What are you afraid of?
The successes I’ve had with narcissism have happened with a few key strategies. First, they have to come to see how their actions harm them. They might reject or be unable to see “don’t kick Suzie, it hurts her” for instance. But, they might see “if you kick Suzie, you don’t get to see that pretty smile she has, and you don’t get to have all that fun on the playground” (etc) The key has been when they realize their actions harm themselves, in physical, tangible ways, they begin to act more skillfully.
Secondly, our heart becomes inspired naturally toward healing them when instead of “dangerous sociopath”, we can see “beautiful child with an infected wound”. If we can sit in positive regard for the child, and become their ally against that wound, it can help them a lot. “Wow, I really like the way you did XYZ, look at the beauty of your art! I don’t really like the way you did ZXY, as wonderful as you are, I know you can do better.” Consider that its very likely their empathy closed from being abused, and closed because their heart could not take the pain.
The real danger we face when confronting the apathetic or violent is not from their fists or teeth, but from the way their actions can spread “closed-heartedness” to us, as we turn our backs and judge our family. Namaste.
MattOctober 15, 2013 at 6:06 pm #43833Pat MerrittParticipant
If I may, I would like to offer some insight from my perspective as a nurse. You haven’t mentioned if this child has been evaluated by a mental health professional. If not, I think that is a great place to start. Maybe you could help facilitate counseling. Judging by what you have shared, I would hope this child is receiving professional help. I understand your desire to want to protect the other children – as they are entrusted to you daily. That is a responsibility, similar to my profession as a nurse – and we have a moral obligation to act toward protection. I’ve struggled with the same concept when dealing with a doctor, with whom I don’t agree – and because my job is to advocate for the patient – my opinion sometimes clashes with the doctors. I feel that if I can share what I see or know to be true to people that can impact the situation – it always makes me feel like I did the best I could. That doesn’t guarantee the outcome but at least I tried to move things in a positive direction – and I can feel good about that.
I wish you success with your challenge and I pray for the student who struggles with his behavior.
PatOctober 15, 2013 at 7:23 pm #43834
Thanks for understanding, Pat. Yes, the student is receiving counseling and anger management services at school.October 15, 2013 at 7:30 pm #43835
Thanks for your reminder to be empathetic. When the student needs empathy, I am careful to pair the student with aides who do not hate the student yet. It is sad, but the student’s actions have deemed him/ her as less than popular with the adults, making my job to teach difficult at times. I myself, cannot trust this child but must find ways to teach the student, for how can one trust someone with loyalties to no one but oneself?
NamasteOctober 15, 2013 at 9:03 pm #43850
I can understand why you would feel like that, and I wonder about this thing you call trust. For instance, we would not trust a snake not to bite us, but we would trust it to act like a snake. Perhaps there is a false assumption that his actions are random, but its highly unlikely. The same patterns that trap you into mistrust trap him… but if working with his patterns and helping him isn’t your aim, what are you looking for? Validation that it is just to give up? Coping mechanisms to heal your own tender heart from the disgust?
Perhaps it isn’t morality the child needs, but better food for whatever lack that is driving his hunger, his dysfunction. Disgust is such an odd and painful emotion, usually arising when we forget that the people who are acting poorly have been taught to act that way by circumstance. Much like a flower doesn’t bloom if there is not rain, sun, and a seed, dysfunction doesn’t arise without the conditions that support it. Who’s to blame?
MattOctober 16, 2013 at 7:32 am #43868
I fail to understand your latest message. In this message, you assume that I believe the child’s actions are random and I operate not to teach this child but from a standpoint in which I give up on this child due to disgust. Had I given up on this child, would I be thinking about this child so much that I am posting about this person online? I post because I worry about how to work with this child who I assign aides yet the aides are antagonistic towards this person. Sarah’s brilliant posted suggestion was to use the child’s narcissism to teach him/ her. I have implemented this and it works wonders. I got a newspaper column in the local paper about the student’s favorite topic for the student to write every month. I had the aides cover the mirrors which we began charging classroom money for usage, as the child tends to use it for hours at a time otherwise. However, none of this changes the fact that we must protect the other children. Due to this person’s charm, the others would give up everything for this person in a heartbeat. As a teacher who loves all of her children, why would I want the others to give up everything for this one person when he/ she will only reject them after he/she has what he/ she wants? I only wish public schools had more theatrical arts as pathological liars with a need for attention such as this student would excel in this arena.
In some ways, you are right, Matt. I have given up in some arenas. As a teacher, I have to protect myself from burnout by picking my battles. I change only what I can. I can teach this person academics and I can attempt to teach other things, but trust, once lost must be regained.
I am allowed to feel disgust. The famous sociopath Charles Manson was abused and neglected as a child. Do you suggest I not feel disgust for his crimes? Yes, we created these people. However, even if such people confide in you, you have to still take it with a grain of salt. Just because they want to be close to you does not mean you should entrust everything to them. I once had a husband who was raised in an abusive environment and later became abusive. After I left, he apologized, but did that stop from him abusing his new wife? It did not. As much as I felt sorry for him, I knew better than to be close to him. Because of her lack of self-protection, lack of disgust and her willingness to stay with him, would you say this new wife is more humane? I would think that she is less humane to expose her children to such cruelty.
I can only do so much for this child. I try to work with this child myself more since the aides are antagonistic towards this person. However, I have to remember to pick my battles lest I should burn out. And yes, I do feel disgust when this person manipulates my other kids. They are also my kids after all.
I am sure that somewhere in this student’s history is something else I would feel disgust towards which caused this person to be created to hurt others. I am not his/ her parent. I cannot provide this “food” of which you speak. I have my own life and do not wish to burnout. Most people in my profession burnout within the first three to five years when they tackle things they are powerless to change. I do not wish to join their ranks. I must have limits.
Who’s to blame? Humanity or lack thereof. One can love and be empathetic, but one must protect those they love, including themselves. I have had the mentality of if I just showed so and so enough kindness, he or she would change in the past, but it just has not worked for me. I don’t just mean with my ex either. I have tried it with others and it does not work. Unfortunately, if one has the genetic disposition and is not shown love and kindness in the early years, a less than whole person is created. If you know a secret in which you can get it work, please share.
Out of curiosity, Matt, what is your profession?October 16, 2013 at 9:54 am #43877
One of my teachers explained the arising of a painful emotion that was so entrenched, we feel that it is just. It makes sense to me why you might feel as though I was judging you, but I wasn’t, and quite the opposite. I’m a healer, by heart and trade, and spend my time breathing in the tangles of reality and breathing out my best love and heartfelt creativity. My questions were curiosity, genuine and open, with only a hope that whatever comes up between us will be mutually nourishing to our hearts, help us find joy more directly, completely. Said differently, you posed a situation, and my heart responded, and if there were whispers of judgment or assumption arising on my side, reflecting through my words, I apologize, that is certainly not my intention.
Perhaps it would be easier to understand my aim if we reframe it into a much more neutral circumstance. Imagine for a moment that we are a beautiful being, full of empathy and joy. However, every time we encounter the color orange, our heart collapses, we experience painful feelings, and our own vision of the world becomes challenged, aggressive. It seems reasonable that we have the right to live in a home without orange, and so we keep our rooms free to protect us from those emotions, those challenges. That is fine, normal and usual.
Perhaps it might be interesting and freeing to approach the color orange in a new way. Sure, we have a right to feel whatever emotions we feel, after all, we feel them. However, perhaps it can be seen that the emotion is unneeded, unhelpful, and doesn’t really serve our heart in any way. As I breathe out these letters and words through my fingers, I feel no hope or wish that you act in such and such a way, being a different being than you are. The hope is only that as you experience the child, your heart remains unburdened by anger, disgust, and the inevitable guilt that results. It might seem like a reasonable aim to try to paint the wall a color other than orange, such as making the child more moral. But as you say, there does not appear to be a way to give the child the food they need, your relations with them are limited and bound by the constraints of the relationship.
The reason to detach from the color orange is to prevent the burnout in a more skillful way. One way is through anger and judgment, such as labelling them as a sociopath, a manipulator, and a selfish user… but it seems that you’ve noticed how disempowering that is, how painful it is to your otherwise open and joyous heart.
In this way, our difficult students become our greatest teachers. When our hearts are open and our mind undisturbed, our inspiration naturally carries with it a generous giving that is unencumbered and skillful. Namaste represents just that, where the Buddha in my being bows and respects the Buddha in yours, calls to it, sings to it, helps it awaken, and your response and reaction calls back. Hand in hand, and heart to heart, we help one another become free.
That being said, being generous is only genuine if it is skillful. I would not consider your ex’s new partner, for instance, to be more humane. Not for a lack of disgust, but because her complacency is mutually afflictive. Said differently, her actions hurt herself, in being abused, and him, in allowing his actions to go on. She suffers, he suffers. That is enough, simply seeing, letting the disgust out the back door, allowing ourselves to accept that our siblings remain trapped in mutually afflicting cycles. When we bring disgust into it, we allow their suffering to spread to our own heart, create additional pain.
Because our previous exchanges have been… tenuous, I won’t press further if my aim is off, my heartsong unhelpful or uninvited. There are some practices which shore up the weaknesses of our energy, to allow our moments to pass through us without ensnaring us, and if you are interested I would of course be willing to share. I have no desire to engage in a contest of wills or credence with you, I see you as my dear sister, and above all wish to respect you and your tender and loving heart. Namaste.
MattOctober 16, 2013 at 9:30 pm #43899
Please forgive me if I was overly defensive in my last posting. I may have mistaken your flowery language as sarcasm and was a bit offended. For whatever reason, I thought that “tender heart” was written with disdain and, it seems, took your words more personally than they were meant to be taken. Perhaps old wounds have not completely healed (?!).
Perhaps your question about what I was looking for was genuine. No, I was not looking for validation. I was looking for a way to balance both being able to reach this student and protecting the other students. I thought Sarah’s posted reply was very insightful. I can use this student’s need to be all-important to teach this student while also finding ways to increase the self-confidence of the other students. I look forward to meeting this new challenge and hope that somewhere out there you too are relishing a deeply fulfilling challenge in your life.
When one seeks one thing, sometimes one receives more than what he or she is seeking. In this case, I was lucky to receive a gentle reminder from you.
Before becoming a teacher, I spent years in other positions: aide, sub, tutor, behaviorist, etc. In those positions, I always found myself wishing that someone else would be more open-hearted to the children. As a student teacher/ pre-service teacher, I recall watching one particular teacher yell at a student until he cried for something he could not control biologically. Because I wanted to pass my internship, I kept my mouth shut and did not bring to anyone’s attention how cruel I thought this was. I do not know if it would have done any good if I did bring it to anyone’s attention… In the same way, I do not wish to punish my student for what is in his/ her biology; as you pointed out in your snake analogy.
Ornate language or not, I do appreciate your reminder to remain empathetic. One of the aides complains to me all of the time about this child, to the point that I am starting to feel badly. What good is it to have good aides and teachers if they, as you pointed out, feel so much disgust towards you? A person should be able to be loved separately from their past actions. In any case, who am I to determine if a child will become a sociopath or not? While I am careful what to entrust a person, I do think that it will be a lot more difficult to work with this child if all of my aides continue to feel so disgusted with him/ her. I hope I can bring to light the more positive aspects of this person’s personality so that he/ she is not completely alone in the world while also hoping to teach the other students a healthy sense of self-confidence and discrimination, as they are so innocent for teenagers that even if this student were not their peer, I would worry about them getting into the car of a stranger. The class I have this year is so innocent and unsuspecting, this particular child really stands out in contrast to her classmates. This child’s charisma often makes him/ her a natural leader. I hope that he/ she will be able and willing to lead the others to do good things one day; however doubtful this may seem at times. As you pointed out, he/ she is just a child. I cannot predict the future and assume that he/ she will become a sociopath, as narcissistic as this person may seem at times. If somewhere down the road, he or she does become a sociopath, I also cannot take responsibility for it either. I can only do my best to impart to him/ her what I can. Perhaps you are on to something, Matt. There’s too much attachment in the feeling of “disgust.” With attachment, is suffering.
I’m not quite sure what you mean by “healer by trade”, as a healer comes in so many forms, but perhaps you have a reason for being so vague. That reason is probably my unfriendliness towards your last post… Or perhaps you just like being mysterious! In any case, I, like many people, likely attach too much identity to one’s profession. Whatever your true profession may be, your desire to help others is appreciated!
I also have no desire to engage in a contest of wills or credence with you and apologize if I made it seem so in my last posting. I surprise myself sometimes. Please accept my sincere apology and my deep gratitude for your reminder to keep an open mind and heart. Somewhere out there, you have affected the life of a child for the better by reminding his/ her teacher to remain open-minded and open-hearted!
🙂 A Buddha Doodle for you: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/32440059788681479/October 17, 2013 at 9:36 am #43916
Thank you for the kind words and the doodle. I wasn’t trying to be mysterious by being vague… just trying to keep the aim of the connection pointed in the direction that seemed necessary, most helpful. The flowery language (as you describe it) is the language of my heart, and is intended to be soft and gentle. For instance “wake up sister, you’re the light for the children in this world” seems brash and sharp to my ears, because yes, you are their teacher and guide, but you also have a heart that deserves peace, safety and joy… and there is no shame in becoming tangled up in disgust and anger. It happens to many of us, and instead of judging and correcting, my hope is to inspire the goddess to rekindle and strengthen creativity and empathy in whatever capacity I can.
You have mentioned a post by Sarah a few times, and I’d love to read her wisdom. Was that in a different thread? I don’t see a response from her, perhaps it was private or doesn’t show up on mobile or something, who knows.
One of my teachers told me that it is important to respect the teaching power of suffering. For instance, the kids in your class may suffer from the manipulations, but what a lesson to learn! We would love it if our kids didn’t have to experience painful emotions, but we can’t stop it, only forestall it a little, but sooner or later they will stumble and fall. Perhaps you see the situation like the Pied Piper, where the students will be pulled away from their happiness and lead out of town by the manipulation and selfishness. I don’t think you’d let that happen, the situation is different than your ex… so if they were being sold drugs or being beaten, you’d be there to protect them, stop it from being genuinely dangerous. Kids are pretty resilient, usually bouncing a lot easier than adults, and when we respect that suffering is a great teacher, we become free from the “oh my god, danger danger” panic sensation, and instead remain rooted in our wisdom and because panic is not distracting us, we can remain more helpful.
Being free in this way is actually far more beautiful and fulfilling. For instance, let’s say we see a hungry snake and try to feed it. If it bites us, sure it hurts and we grab a bandage and so on. However, the pain subsides and bite heals, and because we did our best to give love, the bite is just a bite, it doesn’t cause ripples in our joy. Much like getting a wax might be very stingy, but it doesn’t cause us disgust for the technician, salon or process. Its kind of expected, and blossoms within an openness that allows it to pass through, to settle without lamenting. The same is true when we see our family as hungry, seeking balance and joy, but perhaps doing so unskillfully. Naturally, our hearts inspire action and even if those actions are met with a little lashback or stinging, its OK, because we can rest knowing we did our best to do our part, nourish whatever seeds of waking and love we could, whether or not we get to see the results ourselves.
I got a chuckle from namaskar, not sure if thats common or a play on words. How about Mamaste?
MattOctober 17, 2013 at 5:52 pm #43950Pat MerrittParticipant
I’ve been struck by following this story and there are so many human experiences folded into your experience. I can share what I think are some common threads and deep understanding for your situation. As you may or not remember from one of my posts – I am a nurse. Similar to a teacher, I’ve been entrusted with a job of protecting, educating and helping people (as you have with children).
I firmly believe that the “helping” professions carry the burden of “numbers”. We deal with feeling responsible. We’ve worked with maybe hundreds of people throughout our careers – so the volume – changes our ability to sometimes put things into perspective. We are surrounded daily with the “injustices” of our profession. We are living it every day, with every person we interact with – and over time – despite our efforts to help – it can seem like the injustices never change. That can be extremely frustrating.
For years I worked with oncology patients, and I was surrounded every day by people who were sick, deteriorating, trying very hard to heal, and ultimately dying. The burden of caring for so many terminally ill people over the years – was overwhelming. And I struggled with feeling like no matter what I did, or how hard I worked, or how much compassion I gave – hundreds of people continued to dye of cancer everyday. So what had I done? (often I asked myself)
What I had done, was to help someone walk their path – and provide a little assistance. I never changed the physical outcome – but my support was emotionally beneficial.
I’m simply pointing out that certain professions – instill in us a false sense of responsibility for someone’s outcome. We can only be responsible for ourselves of course, but performing our jobs with integrity – as you have – is a huge gift to the world.
You can’t be emotionally unaffected by what you do – because you interact with the children on such a deep emotional level – it’s hard to disconnect personally. That is what makes you good at what you do – you connect – you care – and that puts you smack in the middle of each child’s emotional tangle. I hope that something I shared provided some comfort. You should be very proud of what you do and just know that you are planting seeds in every child you touch. Good luckOctober 18, 2013 at 9:36 pm #43999
Sarah’s post must have been private. I don’t see it here but see it in my email. I didn’t know you could post privately.October 18, 2013 at 9:37 pm #44000
Thanks, Pat. You’re work as a nurse, wife, individual and mother are also very valuable!!!! 🙂November 26, 2013 at 7:48 pm #45873JoJOeParticipant
Maybe I’m wrong, but here I am out on a limb… hanging in reading between the lines.
But I can’t tell you what I read, too long, too long for my time..or yours
I would ask you to do this one thing and see how things change.
Go up to your “narcissistic, sociopath” student. and say this “I am so glad to know you, you may be a challenge, but fact is you’ve really helping me with so much”
That’s it that’s all..
WHY? because I read the words that are never written…