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Archive for February 11th, 2010

Children need a lot of attention.  When they don’t get it, they’ll often act out – misbehave – in a desperate attempt to be paid attention to, even if the result is negative attention.

I had a patient who used to vomit frequently as a child.  It became an unpleasant regular event during family meals – but he managed to distract his mother for a few minutes.  Even if she was cross and impatient with him, at least she was paying attention.

Scott Brown, the newly-elected US Senator from Massachusetts, grew up in a family where there wasn’t much time available to devote to raising children.  His parents divorced when he was an infant, and both the mother and the father have since remarried three times each.

Scott’s mother was living on welfare at various periods during his youth, and Scott sometimes ended up getting shipped off to live with his grandparents or his aunt.  He had siblings, too.  My guess is there were enough other children around to consume whatever time was available for Scott.

How did the young Scott Brown respond to this situation?  He acted out – badly.  By the time he was 12 years old, Scott was arrested for shop-lifting from a record store and brought before a judge.

This is where things get interesting.  Brown’s story is that the judge, Samuel Zoll, shamed him by sentencing him to write a 1500-word essay on how his siblings would feel watching Brown play basketball in jail.

The People’s Therapist suspects something else happened, too.  Scott had finally forced a father figure – Judge Zoll – to pay attention to him.

That’s why he stole from the record store in the first place.  He didn’t need records.  He needed a parent-figure’s attention.  And he got it – even if it was negative attention.

From that point on, we see a string of events suggesting that grabbing attention – even negative attention – became an unconscious impulse in Brown’s life.  Here are a few examples that jump out at you:

1.  Posing nude for Cosmopolitan Magazine as a law student;

2.  Using the “F-word” as a State Senator during a debate on gay marriage at a high school; and

3.  Presenting his daughters, Ayla and Arianna Brown, as “available” (whatever that was supposed to mean) during his acceptance speech for the US Senate.

The biggest attention-getter of all was politics itself.  Brown seemed to run compulsively for everything there was to run for, from Property Assessor to Selectman to State Representative to State Senator.

This latest campaign, for the US Senate, was an even bigger attention-getter, and once again, it was negative attention. Brown’s role was the spoiler.

Teddy Kennedy, a legend in the Senate, devoted much of his life to fighting to guarantee decent healthcare for all Americans. On the cusp of achieving this goal, Kennedy died after a courageous battle with brain cancer.  Brown’s job?  To get elected on a wave of Tea-Party cash, so he could shatter Kennedy’s dream.  Brown had to get elected so he could be the 41st vote that would allow the small Republican minority from mostly under-populated states, representing an even tinier minority of Americans, to abuse the filibuster rule and destroy years of hard work by blocking healthcare reform.

We can only hope a father figure – perhaps President Obama could fill in for Judge Zoll? – will arrive to give Brown the attention he needs.  Maybe he should be forced to write a 1500-word essay on how his siblings would feel watching him destroy a chance at decent, affordable healthcare for millions of Americans.

This country has had enough of angry little children in positions of authority.

We need leaders who can behave like adults – who win our admiration for what they achieve.  We do not need another attention-grabbing miscreant who will stop everyone in their tracks by throwing up at dinner.

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