The New Zealand Government Has Been Separating Children From Their Cannabis-Growing Parents for Decades

This is no worse than what our own Government is doing to us

Today’s mass media assault on consciousness involved emotional images from America of Mexican children in cages. The ensuing outrage was based around the fact that when a Mexican family is apprehended crossing the American border illegally, the children are temporarily separated from their parents. Although this is regrettable, what the media is ignoring is that the New Zealand Government has been doing the same thing to its own citizens for decades.

For one thing, it’s standard practice for the New Zealand Government to separate children from their parents if those parents are going into custody for breaking the law. In this regard, the New Zealand Government’s normal actions are no better than what the American Government is doing. Even worse than this is the fact that many of those parents are going to jail for offences that don’t harm anyone, unlike (arguably) illegal immigration.

The fact that cannabis is a medicine is a fact near enough to universally acknowledged by the young people of the world, even if Baby Boomer politicians have been slow to understand it. However, cultivation of it remains a crime punishable by up to seven years imprisonment in New Zealand, despite that the plant has a wide range of medicinal effects and is used all over the country to alleviate needless suffering.

Because cannabis is so good for alleviating suffering – taking away pain, nausea, insomnia among other maladies – people continue to grow it, despite the law. But because of the law, a significant number of these people end up being apprehended by Police and sentenced to prison.

Many of the medicinal cannabis growers who have been put in prison over the past 40 years have had children. Those children were forcibly separated from their parents by the New Zealand Government for the sake of enforcing a law that should never have been a law.

So all the perfectly natural dismay that Kiwis have been induced to feel at what the Mexican children at the American border are forced to endure – a traumatic forced separation from their parents as a consequence of an arbitrary law enforced by armed men – could just as well arise as a result of thinking about what Kiwi children have to go through as a result of cannabis prohibition.

In fact, our own children have it worse, because they will often not get to see their parents again for a long time.

So if people in New Zealand are going to get upset because of an outrage that the global corporate media manufactured in order to target a conservative American President, let’s get equally upset about similar and equally evil actions in New Zealand.

Every time a New Zealander gets put in prison for a cannabis offence that has harmed no-one, leaving a child on the outside who is now missing a parent, we ought to react with the same outrage towards our own Government as we had today for the Trump Administration. If we’re going to expend energy on outrage let’s at least direct it somewhere where it can do some good.

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Writing Histrionic Personality Disorder

People with Histrionic Personality Disorder (HPD) are colloquially known as “drama queens” or “shit-stirrers”. Fundamental to the disorder is a desire for attention that borders on the narcissistic, as well as strong, shallow, rapidly-changing emotions. This article looks at how to write realistic and believable characters with HPD.

As is the case with many of the conditions in this book (and especially the personality disorders), people with HPD are often high-functioning in several ways. As with most of the conditions in this book, people with HPD can often be entirely competent and effective in their niche. For instance, they excel at screen and theatre acting.

A simple (if crude) way of conceptualising HPD is that, for people with it, drama is like a drug. They get hooked on it, they seek it out compulsively, they try to get bigger and bigger doses of it. The more attention they can draw to themselves the better. A cynic might call them a “psychic vampire” because dealing with them frequently leaves a person tired.

For these reasons, HPD is a fitting and excellent choice for some of the characters in your fiction. A character with HPD will naturally liven things up – even if they end up causing chaos. Because they seek drama out, it is never far from them. Not only do they like drama, but they tend to have just enough narcissism to bring some truly dark emotions out of others.

From the perspective of other characters who might encounter a character with HPD, one of the most difficult things about them is their apparent need to be overly emotional and dramatic all the time. Because emotional reactions are contagious to some extent, a person with HPD will tend to trigger those around them – a great quality in a bartender perhaps, but if there is a need for calmness and order this is usually unhelpful.

Other characters might also find the constant self-aggrandisement extremely tiresome. People with HPD like to use elaborate and flowery speech when unnecessary or even unhelpful, and love to tell stories that feature themselves looking good or being heroic. Such typically unsubtle attempts to draw praise are sometimes described as “needy”. Indeed, it is common for people with HPD to display symptoms typical of Dependent Personality Disorder.

Several common characteristics of HPD overlap with common characteristics of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. One of these in particular is the usual reaction to criticism. For the histrionic, any and all criticism is a brutal personal attack, an act of the utmost cruelty. It is so bad that any retaliatory measures are justified (although a character with HPD will tend toward passive-aggressive revenge tactics).

Related to this is the constant seeking of reassurance or approval. A protagonist with HPD might have compulsive thoughts about not being a good enough person and so seeks out ways of being told that they’re worthwhile. If a character has HPD, there might also be very clear ways that this can be shown through their clothing choice: “Loud and proud” would sum up their dress style.

Other characters might find it very stressful to be around a character with HPD, partially because of the narcissism but mostly because they don’t leave other people in peace. Because of their need to be the centre of attention, a character with HPD might continually butt into other people’s conversations, or make it all about them. They’re also generally happy to spread rumours around, especially if they think that doing so will make someone angry.

A character with HPD might strike other characters as superficial or false. After all, their emotions might strongly rise, but they also strongly fall and quickly transform into other ones. A second character might come to feel that they can’t really trust the histrionic one. It’s hard to know whether they’re acting or genuine.

One area in which the lives of people with HPD tend to be in particular disarray is romantically. They commonly perceive sexual interest where none exists. This makes their own lives difficult, as they often end up misreading the signals and making a move on someone who then rejects them. It can also make other people’s lives difficult, as people with HPD tend to perceive sexual infidelity where it doesn’t exist. This jealousy can fuel untold dramas.

On a darker note, people with HPD are well-known for hitting on people who are already in established relationships. This is partly because of the aforementioned tendency to perceive sexual interest where none exists, but this can also be influenced by a narcissistic refusal to respect other people’s boundaries and an inability to delay gratification.

Having said that, people with HPD are often very engaging to make love to. Excessive sensitivity and dependence on other people’s approval can make for a powerful contribution to the bedroom magic.

Adding a character with HPD to your story, or adding aspects of it to a character in your story, has the potential to liven things up but there is a risk that it can also make things more trivial. Because histrionic characters can get upset over small things, they can be hard for the reader to relate to, and therefore are often better as a foil to another character or as comic relief.

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This article is an excerpt from Writing With The DSM (Writing With Psychology Book 5), edited by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

Writing Paranoid Personality Disorder

Paranoid Personality Disorder (PPD) is a condition characterised by extreme distrust and suspicion of other people and their motives. Characters with PPD are well-suited to serving fictional roles as fiendish adversaries or challenging social obstacles. This article gives some useful tips for writing a believable and engaging character with Paranoid Personality Disorder.

People with PPD are generally very low on the agreeableness scale. Characteristic of the condition is an extreme suspicion of other people’s motives. To be paranoid is to be distrusting, and without a significant element of mutual trust it’s impossible to have any kind of social organisation.

A diagnosis of PPD comes when paranoia has led to a level of disruption that has caused significant disruption in the life of that person or others. It’s not hard to see how this can easily happen in the case of extreme paranoia, for the aforementioned social reasons. A person with PPD is unlikely to trust their employer or supplier to not be ripping them off, and nor are they likely to trust a professor or a doctor.

A protagonist with PPD might live in a world of perceived malevolence. They might see schemes, tricks and traps around every corner. No-one ever approaches them with good news, or with a good offer: all human contact represents merely just another attempt to cheat them. In this regard, the life of a character with PPD might be socially impoverished in a similar fashion to someone suffering from Schizoid Personality Disorder, only with distrust replacing indifference.

If the protagonist of your story encounters another character with PPD, chances are high that they won’t like them very much. It isn’t a pleasant experience to be spoken to as if one is a liar, especially when one had never considered actually lying. It also becomes quickly apparent that investing time and emotional energy in a friendship with a paranoid person is unlikely to be reciprocated, because their constant suspicion will quickly lead to them discounting the value of any favours or friendship offered.

This could make for an interesting story if the protagonist was tasked with winning the trust of a character with PPD. Such a story might mean that the protagonist has to find a way to tease out the few remaining trusting elements in that person and making sure that they get rewarded.

It might also mean that your protagonist ends up learning exactly how someone can end up with PPD in the first place. Perhaps the character they are interacting with did genuinely get cheated, on multiple occasions, by liars who they once trusted: parents, teachers, lovers, bosses. There could be a further twist, if the character with PPD brought all this upon themselves owing to their own malignant personality.

It’s common for individuals with PPD to have what appears to be a “fragile” personality. Ambiguous comments are frequently interpreted as personal attacks, and jokes are often taken in bad humour. Even worse, these reactions are often permanent, because individuals with PPD do not readily forgive slights and insults. For obvious reasons, such behaviour tends to attract enemies, which only serves to fuel the paranoia and mistrust.

A commonly related phenomenon to PPD is that of projection. People who are paranoid are often narcissistic in the sense that they think everything is about them. For this reason, they tend to project their own selfishness and malevolence onto other people. Many cases of paranoia are based on the fact that the paranoid person is themselves not worth trusting.

Some theorists have delineated a variety of subtypes of PPD. Some people with it are particularly stubborn, obsessed with order and regularity and consumed by a fear that someone is trying to cheat them out of something. Others are insular, and lead hermit-like lives far away from the crowds of crooks and criminals that make up society. A third type is malignant – their distrust of other people comes from from suspicion but from hatred.

It’s unlikely that a character in your story will see it as a good thing to encounter a person with PPD, but it is possible. After all, paranoia is an extremely useful aptitude in a variety of security and surveillance-related roles. So if you’re writing about a spy, for example, you might use touches of PPD to flesh out their personality. A character who was once an intelligence officer, but who was let go because they became too paranoid, would be a fitting example.

An interesting twist on a story featuring a character with PPD is if they were actually correct. What if the PPD character was correct in their suspicions of everyone else, and there was, in fact, a great conspiracy or scheme going on?

An important distinction to make is the one between PPD and paranoid schizophrenia (note that paranoid schizophrenia is not in the DSM-V). Paranoid people don’t hallucinate from paranoia alone, and the paranoia involved in PPD is not ludicrously delusional. In other words, a person with PPD may have a twisted conception of reality, but they will not have lost touch with it.

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This article is an excerpt from Writing With The DSM (Writing With Psychology Book 5), edited by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

Writing Illness Anxiety Disorder (Hypochondria)

Lying awake at night worried that you have cancer, despite having no real sign of it, is symptomatic of Illness Anxiety Disorder

Illness Anxiety Disorder is more commonly known as hypochondria. Most people are familiar with the concept of someone who worries so much about imagined illnesses that they cause themselves actual ones, and everyone can relate to feeling fear when faced with uncertainty about a personal medical condition, but despite the familiarity it’s easy to get it wrong. This article looks at believable and realistic ways to portray a character with Illness Anxiety Disorder.

Hypochondria is one of the most common of psychiatric conditions, probably because humans have evolved to be concerned about their health. Getting alarmed about someone you know getting sick makes a lot of sense if you live in a small tribe of about 150 people, while contagious diseases can decimate society. Getting alarmed because you saw something about cancer on television doesn’t make sense, and if this gets bad enough it can become a real problem. .

The disorder is really a gross exaggeration of what would normally be a healthy level of anxiety over one’s physical condition. Instead of maintaining a moderate level of awareness about one’s body, ready to take appropriate measures when necessary, a person with Illness Anxiety Disorder will compulsively check and re-check spots and bumps and marks, and will intently track all rumblings and pains.

Hypochondriasis is believed to be ultimately caused by depression and anxiety, which manifests as an obsession with illness. As with many anxiety-based illnesses, dysregulated stress responsivity as a consequence of early childhood abuse is frequently a factor, although this also commonly arises from a single traumatic shock.

If the protagonist of your story has Illness Anxiety Disorder, this might manifest in ways that are similar to the other anxiety-based and obsessive conditions. They might go to considerable lengths to avoid triggering their condition, such as refusing to visit sick friends or family members. This can quickly cause conflict with the people closest to them, especially if those people think that the hypochondriac is shirking their duties.

A character with Illness Anxiety Disorder is likely to fixate on a particular set of symptoms that they have come to believe is indicative of a medical condition. In fact, they are likely to identify a condition and name it. As could be expected, the availability of Dr. Google to everyone’s home has been tempting for those inclined towards Illness Anxiety Disorder. Many hypochondriacs obsessively research their self-diagnosed condition online.

It’s easy for other characters to become frustrated with a protagonist who has Illness Anxiety Disorder, especially if the hypochondria starts to have an impact on their punctuality or ability to hold an ordinary conversation. It quickly becomes tiresome to listen to a litany of medical complaints every time you see a person, and once other characters start to dread such a thing then they are likely to leave the protagonist on their own.

A protagonist who encounters another character with Illness Anxiety Disorder might find it a great challenge to keep the conversation away from that character’s morbid pre-occupation with death and disease. They might have to make a great effort of will to keep their patience and not become angry. It might also be hard not to tell the hypochondriac to “harden up” or to “get over it”.

As with most of the other conditions in this book, Illness Anxiety Disorder has to cause significant disruption to the life of the character with it before it can qualify as a clinical condition. However, there is a wide range of subclinical forms of hypochondria, such as a preoccupation with various symptoms like everyday pains in the chest, stomach, head or gut. These might be symptomatic of a deeper problem.

Most of the disruption caused by this condition is a consequence of the heavy anxiety it is linked with. This anxiety makes hypochondriacs difficult to get along with, because they are always checking their body functions or fidgeting. The constant need for reassurance that hypochondriacs have is apt to drive their doctor up the wall, let along their partner or caregiver.

Usually, a character with hypochondria will not realise it, at least not initially. Most people are not aware of the extent of physical symptoms that can be produced by simple anxiety and depression, and it’s common to attribute these symptoms to a severe disease instead of psychological origins. It’s possible, then, to use physical symptoms – even if psychosomatic – to foreshadow a general decline in health .

At the end of the day, most of your readers will already know about hypochondria and will have met someone with the condition, even if it was at a subclinical level. It won’t take very many hints for them to realise that a particular character in your story is a hypochondriac. The real challenge, from the perspective of the writer, is to depict such a character realistically and not as a stereotype.

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This article is an excerpt from Writing With The DSM (Writing With Psychology Book 5), edited by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

Writing Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Everyone knows what it feels like to be anxious. The clammy hands, the tightness in the gut, the dizziness, the sudden need to urinate. Where anxiety becomes a psychiatric problem is when this anxiety gets out of control, causing suffering and an inability to get through everyday life. This article looks at how to write engaging and believable characters who suffer from Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

One cluster of problems that people with GAD tend to have relates to restlessness and irritability. They think too much about what might go wrong. A number of small problems can then have the tendency to build up and to provoke an outburst over something small. Often a person with GAD will hit their limit and explode, to the astonishment of others around them who didn’t appreciate the underlying anxiety.

Other characters might see the usual signs of anxiety, only writ large. They might notice the signs of despair in the face – tight lips or a pallid look. The character with GAD might tap their feet a lot, fidget or stammer. Other characters might be able to detect and increase in the tension level of the room when someone with GAD is present.

The author might prefer to be more subtle, however. A character with GAD might to prone to explosive anger or hysteria, but the other characters might not be able to perceive the anxiety that underlies the fractiousness. They might also be prone to mind blanks from the anxiety. The other characters might only perceive the surface expression of the GAD, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusion.

For instance, people with GAD tend to smoke a lot of tobacco. If the protagonist of your story has GAD, it might be that they’re reaching for the cigarette packet every time the telephone rings. If the protagonist of your story encounters someone with GAD, it may be that the constant presence of tobacco smoke or smell causes them them to realise that that character has an anxiety disorder.

Insomnia is another common sign. If the protagonist of your story is an insomniac because of GAD, this might be something close to a living hell; a nightly torment that they are forced to endure. Other characters will be able to pick it in their face as well – they will look tired, with puffy eyes and a downcast look. They will look every bit like someone for who life is difficult.

People with GAD, like many people with mental disorders, have a tendency to suffer low self-esteem. As with many other conditions, it’s not easy to tell where the border between the mental disorder and personal weakness is. A character with GAD might frequently be asking themselves if they’re a coward, or if they’re really cut out for the challenges of life. Naturally such an attitude will eat away at their self-confidence.

Intertwined with this is the reality that people with GAD will often not be treated too well by other people. For one thing, anxiety tends to be contagious. If another person is anxious it’s hard to properly relax around them because of the chance that they might blow their top any moment. For another thing, anxiety tends to make people selfish, because the focus is on the desires of the self and not the needs of others. This selfishness tends to be reciprocated.

GAD can cause some of the same thought-loops and obsessional thinking as other psychiatric conditions. With generalised anxiety it’s easy to become anxious about being anxious, especially once one has become conditioned by unpleasant physical side-effects of worry. A character with the condition might feel highly anxious every time they feel a slight gut disturbance or chest pain, fearing that death has finally come.

Although there’s a shared component of extreme anxiety, GAD is distinct from phobias. Phobias (as discussed at length here) are fears of specific things that are hard to escape. GAD is also distinct from social anxiety. People with social anxiety tend to only feel anxious in anticipation of the risk of social judgment, whereas people with GAD tend to be anxious all the time.

GAD is also distinct from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but several patterns of thinking overlap between the two. In particular, people with GAD are prone to worrying about things like whether or not they left the stove on when they left the house. Because anxiety is always present in such people, and because the risk of burning down one’s house is (reasonably) something that many people are cautious of, people with GAD are frequently triggered into panic by such common concerns.

The best thing about GAD from an author’s point of view is that virtually all of the readership will be able to identify with it. Almost everyone knows what it’s like to feel unpleasantly high levels of anxiety, so GAD will also be reasonably easy to identify with. Probably they also are aware of how unpleasant it is to be around highly anxious people, so they can identify with that also.

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This article is an excerpt from Writing With The DSM (Writing With Psychology Book 5), edited by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

Writing Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder

Hallucinogen Persisting Perception Disorder (HPPD) is an uncommon condition that arises as a consequence of permanent perceptual changes brought on by use of hallucinogens. There is almost no data on the prevalence of this condition, and some don’t even believe it exists. Nevertheless, this article will discuss how to believably portray characters with HPPD.

HPPD usually causes a problem because of visual disturbances that are akin to those that accompany a hallucinogenic experience. It’s common to see glowing halos around various objects, or visual trails that linger behind moving objects. It’s also possible to perceive objects as being much larger than they actually are, or much smaller. Some people even see a kind of “visual snow” between objects, like the static on a television set. Auditory hallucinations are also possible.

A character who has HPPD might appear kind of ‘spaced out’ to the other characters. Those other characters might suspect that the one with HPPD is, or has been, on a heavy drug of some kind. Because their perceptions are so vivid, a character with HPPD might be too distracted to pay proper attention to what’s going on around them. This could create a number of social difficulties for that character.

The author might decide that writing a character with HPPD is not very interesting if focus is placed solely on visual and perhaps auditory disturbances. It might be possible to tell a far richer and more engaging story by showing the reader some of the other lingering psychological effects of psychedelics, especially the deeper emotional and spiritual ones.

The problem with this approach is that one soon steps outside the bounds of the clinical – which is perfectly fine for the sake of literature, but it has to be kept in mind that the strictures of the DSM are distantly removed from what follows here.

Many psychedelic drugs have the capacity to break down a person’s existing perception of reality and replace it with something entirely different. This means that some of the persisting perceptions that arise from hallucinogenic drugs use are not so much sensual, but intuitive.

A common persisting perception from using hallucinogens is a belief that the material world isn’t real. Our culture is materialist; we take for granted that the material world is real and that the human brain generates consciousness. For the vast majority of us, it seems intuitively true that the material world genuinely exists and that the brain gives rise to consciousness, and this perception is so common that it’s taken for granted by most.

People who have HPPD might no longer believe in materialism. They may feel that, in the course of a hallucinogenic trip, they were granted a particular insight into the way the cosmos truly functions. Maybe they now believe that the world is a dream in the mind of God. A character who has had a change in perceptions relating to cosmic attitudes might find themselves coming into conflict with some of the other characters around them. Theirs could be a story of how easy it is to get ostracised from a community for having unique beliefs.

In practice, it doesn’t actually matter whether materialism is correct or not; a character who becomes a non-materialist as a result of a hallucinogenic experience will have extreme difficulty fitting into society in any case. They will frequently be rejected and mocking for being mentally ill. In particular, it will be impossible for them to convince a psychiatrist that their new belief is anything other than a mental illness. A character who thinks like this will therefore likely be an outsider to some degree.

Another common change in perception relates to the presence of a light at the end of the tunnel. Dovetailing with materialism is atheism – the two seem to follow each other closely. The vast majority of people who were raised atheist do not believe in the presence of a benevolent force that watches over their life with a desire to end their suffering. The cosmos is indifferent to human suffering and misery.

A person who has a strong experience with a hallucinogen can easily come to change their opinion on this subject. It might be that your protagonist has suddenly decided to believe in God – not the God of Abraham, but the benevolent, all-pervading force that gives rise and motion to the world. This might not be received well by the other characters in your story, especially if they are materialists, or if they believe in a dead God such as the Abrahamic one. They will probably think your protagonist is mad or evil.

This can make for an interesting story because of the contrast between the good feelings that arise naturally inside a person who has spiritual satisfaction, and the bad feelings that comes from the outside world as a consequence. Their social life might become much more difficult than before, on account of pressure to go back to the socially-approved way of thinking. This could push them into the arms of a new group of people, such as those who have also seen beyond.

These persisting changes in perception are much more subtle than the visual and auditory ones, but they might have just as large an impact on a person’s ability to live a normal life, primarily because of the social disruption just mentioned. In extreme cases, these changes in perception might make employment also impossible, leading to radical life changes that could lead anywhere.

Writing a character with HPPD is no easy task, because it is likely that most of the readers are not intimately familiar with the effects of hallucinogens and so will have difficulty relating to the often bizarre and surreal perceptual changes that accompany the condition. However, if executed skillfully, a tale with a character who has HPPD could be highly entertaining, insightful or even edifying.

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This article is an excerpt from Writing With The DSM (Writing With Psychology Book 5), edited by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

Generation X and the Wisdom of Robert Anton Wilson

The great philosopher Robert Anton Wilson liked to say “It only takes twenty years for a liberal to change into a conservative without changing a single idea.” As it happens, I first heard this statement almost 20 years ago, when I was just about to begin studying at university. How did RAW’s observation stack up for those of us born at the arse end of Generation X? Let’s have a look.

In 1999, when I first went to university, I was more or less a liberal. I had grown up in a welfare family that had been strongly adversely affected by the 1991 Budget of the conservative National Party. A consequence of this budget was that sometimes my brother and I had to go hungry, and the effect of this would often reduce my mother to tears. This gave me a very deep and powerful sense of contempt for conservative politics.

Twenty years later, things have changed immensely, although I haven’t. RAW’s observation holds just as true this century as it did in his time.

In 1999, race was a major issue, as it had already been for centuries, but the tone of it was different. The liberal belief in 1999 was that, although there had been a lot of inter-racial violence in the past, people of all races were capable of coming together in shared humanity. Although biological reasons could clearly explain much of the racial differences in intelligence and behaviour, segregation was an example of the utmost evil.

All that has been flipped. In 2018, the white race stands alone as the singular cause of all the suffering in the world. Now, I’m a conservative because I don’t support the outright destruction of the white race and of Western culture. Even believing in borders is seen as conservative in some quarters, merely an impediment to the neoliberal objective of maximally efficient allocation of labour resources.

Although it’s true that no two things in Nature are identical, it’s no longer permissible to assert that racial differences in intelligence have a biological component. Although this was accepted without question 20 years ago, now one must blame everything on economic and social reasons or be considered right-wing, if not actually fascist. All races are perfectly equal in intelligence, not only when measured in general terms but also when it comes to specific behaviour. Evolution stops at the neck.

Neither has gender escaped this miserable phenomenon. In 1999, I considered myself a strong believer in women’s rights. I considered men filth if they abused or harassed women, and was glad that New Zealand had its first elected female Prime Minister later that year.

Now, a man is sexist if he does not support a system that actively undermines and destroys him. It’s not enough to support scholarships for women to study at university – now that women heavily outnumber men among university students, the agenda has moved on to boardroom quotas and the “gender gap”. MPs like Julie Ann Genter attack white men on account of being white and male, even when there is already a suicide epidemic among those some young men.

Anyone who mentions that men commit suicide at 300% the rate of women is considered a bigot, or dismissed as an incel men’s right’s activist. It’s not enough for men and women to be equal – men have to be made to suffer for the historical crimes of their gender. Many people, like New Zealand’s Poto Williams, want to remove the right to presumption of innocence from men accused of rape.

Religion is no different. Some say that religion is supposed to represent the timeless and eternal, but public attitudes to religion have not remained the same over the past 20 years. In 1999, it was widely understood that Islam was an extremely conservative religion that treated women and homosexuals appallingly. For these reasons, it was obvious that Islam was a right-wing ideology and therefore the enemy of liberals such as myself.

Twenty years later, it’s all different. In 2018, Muslims are – bizarrely – seen as victims, despite a 1400-year world tour of slaughter, mayhem and conquest. I’m a racist if I don’t like people who choose to worship a murderous warlord paedophile. If I oppose the mass immigration of Muslims to my country, I am equated with Hitler, despite being able to point to dozens of historical examples of local populations suffering immensely after mass Muslim immigration.

Believing in history is now conservative, because it supposedly normalises a white male way of thinking. The liberal approach to history nowadays is just to make up whatever needs to be made up in order to further one’s political aims. Lebanon was always a Muslim country, and no natives ever benefitted from colonialism.

Last of all, a similar thing has happened with homosexuality. In 1999, I was a fervent supporter of gay rights. Not only did I think it was appalling that our government had taken until the mid-80s to decriminalise homosexual activity, but I fully supported gay marriage. Gay adoption was clearly a step too far, however, as society was made up of men and women, mostly in breeding pairs, and it would be best for a child to be exposed to this and to both genders.

Now, 20 years later, I’m a conservative for believing that a gay couple is different, in any way, from a heterosexual one. A man can just say he’s a woman now, and if I continue to insist that he’s different to a woman – in any way – then I’m a bigot. I’m not even allowed to find homosexual activity odd, or disgusting, no matter how fervently I support someone’s right to engage in it. Fucking a 16-year old boy in the arse is as natural as anything else in the world.

Even worse, those same homosexuals I defended for many years against hissing, hateful Christians are now attacking me because of my criticism of Islam. They call my criticism of Islam ‘racism’, even though it’s motivated by an appreciation for gay rights – precisely the same sentiments that motivated my criticism of Christianity!

If you are also young and reading this, don’t think it won’t happen to you too. When I first heard RAW predict that I would be a conservative in 20 years if I didn’t change any ideas, I refused to believe him. RAW was old, and didn’t understand that we had now made everything right after centuries of misrule, and that we didn’t need to go any further.

But RAW was right, and much wiser and more perceptive than me. If you are a liberal now, and young, just know that in 20 years those who call themselves liberal will be pushing all manner of absolutely insane shit, and if you don’t go along with it then you’ll be considered a conservative.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis).

Writing Phobias

Most people are familiar with the idea of phobias – the term refers to intense and persistent fears of things, to the point that a person with a phobia will take extraordinary measures to avoid triggering it. Although most people have mild, subclinical phobias of some things and manage okay, for others a phobia can cause immense disruption to everyday life. This article looks at how to believably write characters who suffer from phobias.

The degree of fear caused by a phobia is enough to cause chaos in a person’s life. Instead of merely feeling alarm, a person presented with the object of their fear (or even the threat of it), will often break out in sweats, heart palpitations, dizziness and shaking. They will go to great lengths to avoid being exposed to the triggering stimulus, even if doing so has a heavy impact on their day-to-day social functioning.

Generally speaking, there are three major kinds of phobia.

The first kind of phobia is called a specific phobia – it’s a phobia of something specific, such as spiders, heights or dogs. This sort of phobia is usually a reaction to situations that occurred frequently in the biological past. For this reason, there’s nothing really unnatural about them – it’s just that the fear has been exaggerated to a point where it causes more harm through disrupting a person’s life than it helps avoid harm from danger.

Many phobias begin with an incident in which the object of the phobia caused intense fear in a person. For instance, a person walking through a field and being stopped in their path by an angry dog might develop a phobia of dogs. A phobia of spiders might develop from a childhood in an unclean house that was full of spiderwebs.

Readers who have never experienced living with a phobia could well be interested in reading about the sort of thoughts that go through the head of a character with one, or how they behave (or feel themselves forced to behave) on account of having the phobia. Few who have never had a phobia can imagine how intrusive the fear can be, and how greatly it can impact the ability of a person to live a normal life.

Social phobia is different to a specific phobia in the sense that the phobia reflects a general fear that follows the person with it. Social phobia relates to an intense fear of being judged. In particular, it tends to revolve around a fear of being humiliated in public by means of some judgment being levelled. People with it tend to feel very uncomfortable around authority figures, and would never raise their hand in class to answer a question from the professor.

Most people have a degree of self-consciousness that modifies their actions, but for a person with social phobia this will be exaggerated well beyond mere shyness. For instance, someone with social phobia may be unable to get a driver’s licence on account of being unwilling to sit with the traffic control officer and risk being judged as unfit to drive a motor vehicle.

A character with social phobia might be more interesting if their phobia was ultimately grounded in narcissism. It might be that they were only afraid of being judged on account of having an enormous ego that could not handle even the faintest criticism. This might lead them to becoming vicious in defence of that ego, or to adopting an exaggerated ‘cool’ affectation intended to mask their extreme fragility in the face of judgment.

The third major kind of phobia is agoraphobia. This relates particularly to a fear of finding oneself in an environment that offers no easy means for escape. These environments are common ones such as trains, elevators or open spaces, which naturally leads to a significant impact on ordinary life function. Being caught in such a space with no easy avenue of escape can easily cause a panic attack in an agoraphobic.

Much like social phobia, a character that has agoraphobia might live a particularly lonely and unhappy life. Having agoraphobia makes it much harder for a person to get out of their house, because their house becomes a kind of safe zone from the horrors of society. Stressful and traumatic events can trigger agoraphobia, and central to it is the fear of loss of control. Going outside comes to feel like stepping into the maelstrom.

Generally speaking, it’s easy to include a character with a phobia in your story because almost all of your readers will understand fear, and so they will be able to relate to that character. Having a character with a phobia might be an easy way to create a strong sense of fear and dread in your reader, especially if the phobia is a common one.

Phobias are not generally believed to arise as a result of a moral failing or of any personal weakness. It will therefore be easy to write a character with a phobia who comes across sympathetically to the reader. Portraying a character who struggles valiantly to live a normal life despite a crippling phobia might read as heroic, but if emphasis is put in the wrong places the character might come across as a milksop.

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This article is an excerpt from Writing With The DSM (Writing With Psychology Book 5), edited by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

Writing Anorexia Nervosa

A person with anorexia nervosa can see themselves as hideously fat even while dangerously underweight

Anorexia nervosa (usually just called anorexia) is an eating disorder characterised by an overpowering fear of being fat or of gaining weight. This fear is so all-consuming that it can lead to illness from self-starvation. This article looks at how to write engaging and believable characters with the condition.

The basis of the psychopathology of anorexia is believed to be valuing of thinness. People with anorexia feel that being thin is extremely important, to the extent of it being an obsession. For this reason, anorexia is much more common among women compared to men, and more common among women exposed to fashion media or who have an interest in sport and fitness compared to other women.

More specifically, thinness is considered important because it’s where a person’s sense of self-worth derives from. Thinness is seen as a virtue by anorexics, which is why the condition is so hard to understand for people who don’t have it.

Some might be surprised to hear that anorexia is one of the most deadly of all psychiatric conditions, up there with schizophrenia and major depressive disorder. An unusually low body weight is linked to a wide range of physical ailments, as many elementary bodily functions cannot operate past a certain level of starvation. Even without intending to, it’s common for anorexics to become sick and die as a consequence of lengthy periods of starvation.

If you are writing about a protagonist that suffers from anorexia, their internal dialogue might have a lot of anxiety based around a need to be in control of their body weight. Sometimes such a person will have a ruthless, almost sadistic approach towards their own body. This explains why there is a high degree of comorbidity with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. A person with anorexia often becomes extremely particular and fussy about their food and their calorie intake.

Then again, the approach might be more feminine. Instead of a desire to control, having a meal might conjure feelings of fear, almost panic. The sight or smell of food might trigger a reaction similar to that of a person with a phobia encountering their object of fear. It might be enough to also trigger powerful feelings of self-loathing.

Much like psychosis, anorexia tends to come and go in ’bouts’. An episode of anorexia is often triggered by a traumatic life event. It may be that sudden high levels of stress and anxiety result in a desire to compensate for a perceived loss of control.

Anorexia is not a psychotic disorder. A person with it will generally know that they have something amiss about them – but therein lies the difficulty. This reasonable part of the mind struggles incessantly against the part of the mind that commands that one must be thinner no matter what. It might be that the part of the mind that desires thinness above everything is somehow stronger, or more able to assert itself.

The effect that this might have on a protagonist of your story is therefore similar, in many ways, to that of one with depression. Constant feelings of having undermined oneself lead to guilt, personal recrimination, and a loss of confidence in one’s own intelligence, one’s competence or even one’s will to live. As is true of most of the conditions in this book, anorexics tend to have damaged self-esteem.

Like many of the other conditions in this book, it’s believed that anorexia nervosa frequently has an origin in childhood abuse. It might be that this is the reason for why it goes in bouts: dysregulated stress responsivity arising from the trauma leads to extremes of anxiety, and when one of those extremes is reached, a sudden desire for extreme control appears.

The experience of other characters who have a friend or family member suffering from anorexia is usually a difficult one. In many ways, watching someone waste away through anorexia is similar to watching them waste away through a heroin addiction.

This often brings with it a range of feelings that might profoundly affect that character, in particular frustration at not being able to get through to the anorexic about how dangerous their condition is, and guilt about not being able to “do more” for them. Although it’s true that it’s hard to reason with people who have mental illnesses – by definition – it’s still very common for friends and family of people with them to feel guilt about not being able to do more to get them to live a healthy, normal life.

A more distant character who encountered someone with anorexia might get the feeling that the anorexic is uptight and rigid. Anorexia is often associated with a sensitivity to insults and disrespect, as as perfectionism, and a character that demonstrated any of these traits could plausibly develop anorexia or have a past history of it.

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This article is an excerpt from Writing With The DSM (Writing With Psychology Book 5), edited by Vince McLeod and due for release by VJM Publishing in the summer of 2018/19.

Our Mental Health System Shouldn’t Run on WINZ Logic

A lot of people complain about the way WINZ treats its clients, but their logic makes a certain sense. By verbally and psychologically abusing many of the people who come to them for help, WINZ staff sharply reduce demand for WINZ services and thereby save taxpayer money. This is called WINZ logic, and our mental health system runs by the same principles.

WINZ logic seems to appeal to the vast majority of New Zealanders. We like to consider ourselves a people who have “hardened up”, and who don’t need faggy things like welfare. Moreover, the high levels of diversity in our society mean that those at the top are unwilling to pay taxes for the greater good, because those taxes won’t be helping people like them. So we make sure that WINZ runs an extremely tight ship, where there is absolutely no wastage.

Somewhere along the way, someone working at WINZ realised that many of their clients could easily be discouraged from seeking WINZ services. Many people who need WINZ services are socially outcast or psychologically damaged, and so they are easily disheartened by abuse. If these people were spoken to like thieving, bludging, malingering scum, instead of being treated like fellow humans who need help, they were less likely to come back and ask for more money.

Ultimately, the essence of WINZ logic is this: the more unpleasant the experience of being a WINZ client can be made, the fewer resources WINZ clients will collectively consume.

With ever-tightening social welfare budgets under nine years of a National-led Government, treating the clients badly became the default way to distinguish between the deserving and the undeserving poor. If someone really needed a benefit, WINZ logic claimed, they’d keep coming back despite the mistreatment. So treating the clients badly achieves the twin goals of saving money while still helping the needy.

Unfortunately, our mental health system works on the same logic. In order to save money, patients are systematically verbally and emotionally abused by support workers. They don’t admit to this, and nowhere is it written that this is official policy, but it’s apparent from collating the experiences of many users of the mental health services that this is the case.

The logic appears to be that it’s better for a hundred schizophrenics to starve in the street than it is for one person to perhaps get a benefit that they didn’t 100% need. After all, a severely mentally ill young person who is unlikely to work again is liable to cost the country up to half a million dollars in benefit payments alone over the course of their lives. If people like this could be convinced to commit suicide instead, the potential savings could run into the hundreds of millions.

This might sound implausible to some, but it’s a natural consequence of neoliberal reasoning. Human life has a dollar value. If mentally ill people can’t contribute to the tax farm, and if we can’t just kill them directly, we have to encourage them to kill themselves. This reasoning was introduced to New Zealand by Ruth Richardson in the 1991 Budget and it’s now an indelible part of our culture. After all, we already have “by far the highest youth suicide rates in the developed world”.

If this wasn’t true, then the experience of being a user of the mental health services would be entirely different. One would be treated much like a person ill with a physical illness – as a fellow human being who had had something unfortunate happen to them and required care in order to recover to normal function. Doctors would answer your questions honestly. Consultations would work towards improving your mental health rather than merely assessing your work readiness.

Further evidence for this comes from the refusal to acknowledge cannabis medicine. Despite the fact that there was enough evidence for the medicinal value of cannabis for California to make it legal already in 1996, New Zealand politicians and doctors still have their heads up their arses. Now even Zimbabwe has legal medicinal cannabis.

What this approach to cannabis tells the mentally ill in New Zealand is that the mental health system isn’t really interested in helping them. It’s just: “Take these sedatives and get back to picking cotton.” It wouldn’t matter if 100,000 people all lined up to tell doctors that cannabis had helped them sleep or had helped with anxiety, depression or suicidal ideation. No-one’s listening, no-one cares.

Our mental health system shouldn’t run on the WINZ logic of withholding aid to as many people as possible. It should be recognised that an investment in a person’s mental health now will have excellent returns in both their future productivity and future unwillingness to use mental health services. The emphasis should be on treating them well so that they can get better and we can save money over their lifetime, not treating them like shit to save money this month.

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