Thursday, 27 November 2008

A New Link, More Therapists (A Unique Humiliation: The Deliberate Induction of Stuttering) and a Little Mouth Soaping

As some of you may have guessed from the piecemeal and disjointed nature of my last posting (which I've now sorted out and reorganised), plus the fact that as of this morning it had remained unfinished since Sunday, I have again been plagued by computer problems. I like to be able to report that I have now fixed the problem but as it would take me time to get hold of a new power supply - and probably the best part of a day to pull out the computer, disconnect everything and change it over - having got the thing working I'm getting as much writing done as I can. It's a trade-off between the speed at which I can get volume 2 polished-off and the reliability of my machine. What with one thing or another the blog was beginning to come apart at the seams so I have put aside quite a large chunk of today to smooth things out, edit out bits that are no longer relevant and insert pictures and illustrations where I have neglected to do so but where I have stated that a suitable illustration would be posted at a future date. One such relates to a posting I made a while back wherein I posted a link to a story that featured mouth soaping - if that subject is your thing then a quick glance at the resource list on the task-bar will reveal a link to a mouth soaping site I've come across (or just click on the picture to the top left). Talking of the trade-off between my completing volume 2 and other chores; I have decided to drop the subject of discipline-by-correspondence and much pertaining to that subject has now been removed from the blog. Partly this is because my correspondence with the woman concerned was taking up too much of my time relative to any inspiration and new ideas that were likely to be developed through it. There was precious little in the way of imaginative and useful feedback returning to show for the perspiration shed on my part - what it came down to in the end was one big waste of time.

Returning to mouth soaping: this was of course a traditional punishment for using ‘bad’ language or even just ‘back chatting’ it is of course likely to be experienced as something rather unpleasant and therefore ‘punishing’ in itself but I for one find it hard to envisage imposed in isolation. Rather I think of it as a secondary element, enforced within an outer-framework of discipline, itself enforced by other expedients and penalties of sufficient severity that it becomes accepted in preference, however unpleasant. Thus the holding of a bar of soap in the mouth for a given time can be considered on a par with having to retain an enema and one step above the tedious writing of lines or corner standing as having a relatively mild element of physical discomfort added to the primarily psychological aspect of the latter. In the domestic scenario (wherein I would envisage mouth soaping to most fit) and applied by a strict governess, say, the ultimate sanction is likely to be the strap or the cane or the birch-rod - primarily physical methods, then.

Yet for this to work, particularly the case were the subject is in her late teens and early twenties, a constraining sphere of pressure is required to exist even outside that of the fear of corporal punishment. Wielding the correct psychological techniques - and under favourable circumstances, shall we say - a suitably qualified governess can apply sufficient psychological pressure to overcome any amount of dissidence in submitting to corporal punishment (as we will undoubtedly see in institutionalised volume 3). However, in the clinical environment of a secure psychiatric unit such as our young ladies have voluntarily entered, we can up-the-ante so to speak: forms of actual psychological punishment can be brought to bear that will, given time, ensure that when a nurse orders her charge to bend for the cane or the strap she is always contritely obeyed. As we have seen in INSTITUTIONALISED volume 1; in expert hands even a favourite childhood nursery rhyme can be turned into a rod with which to beat her - so feared that an 18 or 19 year-old woman will beg for the cane, let alone bend, tug down her knickers and grasp her ankles or bend over her school desk when instructed.

But once in expert hands of the not better ways of dealing with bad language, backchat and a defiant attitude?

Put yourself in the shoes of the guardian or stepmother of one of our two heroines; you have control over the family business, the majority of the income and collateral, but only until your young charge reaches the age of majority - a definition you are currently battling over.

Before you an argumentative and defiant young woman stands, brimming with self-confidence and a generous allowance filling her purse - gifted with a probing, inquisitive mind and able to wrap the family solicitor around her little finger, she is a dangerous thing, is she not?

Now imagine she stands there timorous, submissive, shrinking back from you with shoulders hunched defensively and continually fighting the urge to suck her thumb, self-conscious in the extreme and practically devoid of confidence. She is highly reluctant to speak, even when prompted, let alone to loudly voice accusations of embezzlement - and when she does the teeny voice and stilted, incomplete sentences tell the story. The near totally debilitating stutter that afflicts her, that renders her near incoherent and that has for so long isolated her from friends and acquaintances quickly reduces her to tears of frustration under your questioning. She doesn't seem so dangerous now, somehow, does she?

But how can one become the other, the adult become the thumb sucking dependent? The clue is in that newly-developed stutter, clearly the cause of this new childish self-conscious shyness. Psychologically crippling if left untreated, imagine her humiliation to learn that she has, in actual fact, been under treatment and that you, or rather the expert you have hired, are the cause of that debility.

Sheer fantasy and clearly impossible? Obviously so... or is it? You will remember that both Lavinia and Susan in volume 1 were notably gradually developing nervous stuttering and stammering as the story progressed and that both appeared to have something of an impediment upon their arrival - in fact on several occasions both girls have their speech patterns commented upon by staff members, a rather telling fact if one understands the psychology. As you know, to me the story line has to be plausible (or at least possible at a push) so to what degree is this aspect plausible?

Well much in the way that the institution has as part of it remit the aim of understanding the propagation progression of phobias in multi-phobic individuals by the deliberate induction of the same, in the 1930s experiments were carried out to deliberately induce stuttering in unaffected individuals. The leading light behind the study in fact put together a veritable cookbook of methodology for inducing stuttering. In the most basic terms it involved in one way or another making the subject familiar with stuttering (one way might be to engineer the subject to come face-to-face with a sufferer, for example). Then, in a therapy session in conversation the subject might be stopped at some point in her speech, where perhaps she may have stumbled slightly or there had been a minor repetition. The subject would then be warned that not only what were there signs that she was beginning to stutter but that if she didn’t work hard to improve it, she would stutter as badly as… (here the image of the sufferer used as an example would be conjured up). Advice would then be given to help avoid stuttering but that was in fact calculated to make the girl more conscious than ever of her speech. Suggestions would be made such as to take a breath before saying word if she thought she was going to stutter over it, to stop and start over again if she did start to stutter, to be aware of her speech all the time and to do anything to keep from stuttering. In addition she would be urged not to speak unless she was absolutely sure she was going to be able to speak clearly and without stuttering and to put the tongue to the roof of her mouth while thinking about what to say and considering which words she might stumble over...There is no real reason for the nurse pic, incidentally, other than that for some reason I can imagine her as the therapist working with one of our girls incarcerated in the unit - friendly smile and nicely tailored uniform - what else could you want?

One teenage girl, despite being lively, full of confidence and a clear speaker at the beginning of the study had by the therapist’s second visit become quiet and very self-conscious (doesn't that sound the perfect state of mind to have her in if one is to introduce a young lady to strict discipline). Within four months the same girl had “developed mannerisms characteristic of some stutterers, such as snapping her fingers to get a word out, had become shy quiet and withdrawn and was even writing the same word two or three times over in her schoolwork. It has to be noted that in-between the therapist’s visits the teachers, having been told how to behave and under the false belief that they were helping along a system of therapy, would pull up the girl if she stumbled over word or repeated it and make her say it again, thus reinforcing her indoctrination. In a similar vein, the teachers and staff would continually refer to her as being a “stutterer” again reinforcing the indoctrination

What interests me here is that the girl mentioned above was fifteen years old. While, as far as I can tell, a similar study has never been carried out on adults it is difficult to believe that much in terms of developmental change and psychological development will have taken place in the intervening years between the age of fifteen and the age of our heroines - late teens to early twenties - that would render the treatment any less efficacious.

Another thing that interests me here, in terms of both the Milgram Experiment and the Stamford Experiment (look them up on Google - together, they're the basis of much of what takes place in the clinical psychologist study that our girls become enrolled in) is the way in which the woman actually carrying out the study, herself having been described as somewhat timorous, having voiced her concern over the damage she was inflicting on her test subjects nevertheless continued with the study right up to the end when ordered to by her supervisor.

As for our girls; well, you will have to wait until publication volume 2 I’m afraid (not long now - I hope) to find out what has been going on there. PS: now I come to think about it, it's tantamount to psychological gagging - vary nice, very subtle (I like subtle).

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