A monster is someone who thinks it’s okay to be a monster

(Title refers to this.)

I’ve really been struggling to explain my reaction to this. It really strongly pings a group of tropes or archetypes in my brain, but I’m not sure I have the right words for them.

Basically: Lovaas thinks it would be cool to be a controlling, abusive parent. He thinks that’s what therapists should be to autistic children. The “benevolent dictator” kind, specifically. Dispenser of punishment and comfort, absolute authority. He thinks this is a GOOD, USEFUL strategy. To encourage social behavior, by using reward and punishment to steer children into acting like they love you.

These three aspects of the use of pain can be illustrated by observations of parent-child relationships. The first two are obvious; a parent will punish his child to suppress specific behaviors, and his child will learn to behave so as to escape or avoid punishment. The third aspect of the use of pain is more subtle, but more typical. In this case, a parent “rescues” his child from discomfort. In reinforcement theory terms, the parent becomes discriminative for the reduction or removal of negative reinforcers or noxious stimuli. During the first year of life many of the interactions a parent has with his children may be of this nature. An infant will fuss, cry, and give signs indicative of pain or distress many times during the day, whereupon most parents will pick him up and attempt to remove the discomfort. Such situations must contribute a basis for subsequente meaningful relationships between people; individuals are seen as important to each other if they have faced and worked through a stressful experience together. It may well be that much of a child’s love for his parents develops in situations which pair parents with stress reductions. Later in life, the normal child does turn to his parent when he is frightened or hurt by nightmares, by threat of punishment from his peers, by fears of failure in school, and so on.

In view of these considerations, it was considered appropriate to investigate the usefulness of pain in modifying the behaviors of autistic children. Autistic children were selected for two reasons: (1) because they show no improvement with conventional psychiatric treatment; and (2) because they are largely unresponsive to everyday interpersonal events.

In the present study, pain was induced by means of an electrified grid on the floor upon which the children stood. The shock was turned on immediately following pathological behaviors. It was turned off or withheld when the children came to the adults who were present. Thus, these adults “saved” the children from a dangerous situation; they were the only “safe” objects in a painful environment.

“Individuals are seen as important to each other if they have faced and worked through a stressful experience together,” and Lovaas wants to ENGINEER that, by causing the stressful experience and then offering the “help”. And he thinks that’ll be a useful foundation for genuine relationships.

From earlier in the introduction:

Despite the pervasiveness of pain in daily functioning, and its possible necessity for maintaining some behaviors, psychology and related professions have shied away from, and often condemned, the use of pain for therapeutic purposes. We agree with Solomon (1964) that such objections to the use of pain have a moral rather than a scientific basis. Recent research, as reviewed by Solomon, indicated that hte scientific premises offered by psychologists for the rejection of punishment are not tenable. Rather, punishment can be a very useful tool for effecting behavior change.

He thinks this is totally cool! A useful, overlooked tool. He thinks there should be NO moral qualms whatsoever, about pretending that controlling someone through fear of punishment is a medical treatment.

I said I understood what Jenna Moran means by the title of this post, but I never expected to hear someone say it so baldly. He really thinks it’s totally okay, to use the tools of a really straightforward literal monster. A domestic abuser. Someone torturing prisoners of war to get them to collaborate. He thinks that’s cool.


Edit: I came across this on Tumblr, and yeah, I think “trauma bond” is the phrase I was looking for and not remembering. Or at least, that’s a large part of what I’m talking about here.


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