How does your OU study of psychology and counselling inform your perspective on the world? Jade Howe, a student on module DD310 Counselling and Forensic Psychology, writes about an incident she witnessed. Her view of the events draws on the understanding of ‘mad and bad’ behaviour that she has gained from DD310.
I recently sat outside a bar, enjoying a beer in the middle of Exeter City centre. A cyclist was on their side of the road, when a police car also appeared on that same side, coming towards them. Both stopped and looked at one another. You see, the police car wanted to over-take two buses that had pulled in on their side and in turn, expected the cyclist to mount the kerb, or move out of the way, so that they could drive past.
The cyclist stops, crosses their arms and shouts ‘I’ve got all day, I’m not moving.’ The policeman approaches the cyclist and they verbally spar for a while. The dispute is generally a back and forth of: ‘Why should I ******* move just because you’re the police?’ and ‘If you continue to swear, I’ll book you’. Don’t get me wrong, the cyclist was rude and hostile but not threatening and within their rights.
The policeman, defeated, walks back to his car. And as he opens his passenger door, the cyclist yells ‘Bye tossers’. From here, readers, ensued a sequence of events that astounded and appalled me. The policeman nodded at his female colleague, hurried back to the cyclist, grabbed their arm and twisted it behind their back. The policewoman did the same to the cyclist’s other arm. But this isn’t the worst of it. After standing from my seat and asserting, ‘That is completely unnecessary’, I am admonished by all of the other customers around me. A lady with her kid tells me to ‘Shut up’, a group of men in their early 30’s look at me like I just said the earth was flat and an older couple snap back, ‘They deserve it, they’re being so disrespectful.’
The reason I open this blog post with this story is because this is a perfect example of how DD310 will widen your perspective on ‘mad and bad’ behaviour. Whilst the cyclist was seen as a maverick by most of the people in the café (maybe the people in the bar) I saw this person as somebody who has been oppressed by a society that is pervaded by inequality. And that is because of the knowledge I have gained from completing this module. I saw the power imbalance between the cyclist (who looked to be from a lower socio-economic class) and the police. I saw the cyclist’s empty social and cultural pockets and how this led to them being placed in a separate, inferior category by their ‘superior’ onlookers, enjoying over-priced beverages. ‘We’ are not like ‘them’.
Society’s narratives have been constructed by the powerful – the legislators, the policymakers, the law enforcers, the media – DD310 will show you how. And such narratives have all contributed to this segregated society which impacted on how this cyclist was treated. On this day, the police represented the very power imbalances by which the cyclist had been suffocated.
DD310 also gave me a window, of understanding how the cyclist might have perceived the scenario. Block 3 of the module highlights the enormous impact of childhood experience on the way we see the world as adults. Children who grow up with unreliable parents develop representations of the world as an unreliable and therefore, frightening place. As such, their ability to differentiate between how they feel inside and what is happening on the outside, is stunted. If I feel scared inside, it is because the world is a constantly scary place. If I feel angry inside, it is because the world is a constantly angry place. And what might happen if you can’t discriminate between your internal feelings and external happenings? Self-preserving strategies are adopted, such as aggression and hostility. The other onlookers saw a person who was angry, defiant and therefore ‘bad’, whilst I saw a person who may have felt scared a lot in their lifetime, adopting their method of survival.
DD310 will prompt you to see wider reasons for behaviour. The problems don’t originate in individuals. They lie in the inequality of our society – the powerful impacting on the powerless; the media creating fear and prejudice in their naive readers. They derive from unpleasant childhoods, which were most likely a result of parents battling their own oppression and austerity measures. After studying DD310, you will start to see a person like the cyclist as a vulnerable human being who has struggled in an unjust world, not as someone disrespectful and ‘mad or bad’ who should be controlled and isolated, away from ‘us’.
You may have noticed that I did not reveal the gender of the cyclist, or the race, or age. Block 2 of DD310 highlights how such components of identity combine to create unique experiences of inequality and discrimination. How might the cyclist have been differently treated if they were female or male? How might the outcomes have been different, or the same, if they were a teenager or an old person? DD310 will open your eyes. Just be ready for the fight that comes along with it afterwards – I am still waiting for a reply from the Independent Office for Police Conduct. In the meantime, I am telling my story to as many people as I can to contribute to the paradigm shift in social perspectives that is needed to produce a better and fairer society.
DD310 Counselling and Forensic Psychology is a Level 3 module in the School of Psychology and Counselling. You can read more about the module here