Tuesday, 25 May 2010

What on Earth has Happened to The Samaritans (3)?

We have just discussed the fact that most Samaritans are judgmental and I want to examine this in a little more detail..

Judgment is rife.

Just to bring us up to speed on what has been said so far, let`s just recap:
The prohibition of "chatting" is the chief player in Samaritan engagement. Sams are preoccupied with what they have been told in training about chatting and are focused in an obsessive need to eradicate it.They expend all their effort in vigilance for "chat" rather than attending to the needs of the caller. We have seen how callers are judged upon the subjective application of this diktat and how callers are, frankly, terminated if they get it wrong. We have seen, too, how Sams are inhibited from making helpful,supportive remarks because of a training rigour that chains them to not chatting and making silent space for the caller.

But we also arrived in the territory of callers being judged for their level of distress and the sympathy-value of their particular issues. Scary stuff. I am as disturbed as it is possible to be by a service that operates upon judgments, let alone value-judgments, but it is fairly common for a caller to be failing to create the right impression, according to the strictly high expectations of the Samaritan, and for the status of the callers issues to be used by the Sam to terminate the call.

There may be someone more desperate than you..

Judgment is used to eject the caller who has not shown that their issues are big enough or distressing enough to merit time. The caller may have said a few things that are deemed to be "chatting" or simply not filled the space the Sam expects the caller to fill with distress. As we have seen, the definition of "chat" will vary wildly from one Sam to another so the caller is always on tender-hooks wondering if the Sam will be totalitarian or humanistic. The caller also does not know whether their particular problems will be acceptable or not, in other words, will measure up or not. Callers are told in no uncertain terms that M.E. is not sufficient reason to call or that a family member who had a terminal illness and is now better, is reason to end the call. It is callous and arbitrary.

Of course, a very simplistic "check list" is being used to assess a caller and judge them, but, rather like the end result of ticking boxes in the NHS, it hurts too many people because the criteria simply don`t encompass real people. We can all see that a person "who seems not to be in distress" may be in more distress than one exhibiting it upfront ! One caller's crunch-point-event may be seemingly trivial compared to those with different levels of endurance or better stress management. Sams, though, judge people according to simplistic models and, basically, a person without obvious distress cues, will often find themselves judged "not worthy of time".

There are several ways that a Sam can get rid of a caller judged to be a "chatter" or not in sufficient distress, etc. One particularly harmful method is to introduce into the call the situation of a hypothetical caller who is in greater distress that the present caller ! This is directly stated, of course, no delicacy here! There is elicited here the classic guilt shift as well (!), "there is someone more desperate than you trying to get through and if you don`t vacate the line, you are guilty of preventing help for someone else." Needless to say that the negative effect upon the caller is huge.

Please do join me soon.......

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