ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Persistence vs. Harassment

Jack Bragen
Saturday November 02, 2019 - 10:54:00 AM

Under some circumstances, harassment is legal. For example, if you are a company collecting on a debt, you can phone the debtor every day, for twenty years if you want, and, apparently, this is not a crime. When someone is selling a product or if they are working for a political campaign, harassment laws are probably difficult to enforce, including when they are applicable. 

However, in modern times, sexual harassment is a crime. Most people look upon it as highly immoral. The President can do it and get away with it. This is because of his massive amount of money with which he can pay people off as well as hire top-notch attorneys. 

With wealth, people are often able to evade the repercussions of wrong behavior. This is unhealthy - the wealth is insulating a person from the consequences that they, by all rights, ought to face. Their money is supporting their predatory behavior. 

Persistence was once touted as a good quality. However, persistence is where your repeated attempts at doing something are welcome. You could submit a hundred times to a pulp fiction magazine and get a hundred rejections. When it gets to be two hundred, they may get tired of you. Some cut you off after two or three rejected submissions. Others may route your submissions to auto-reject. But I have never been accused of harassment for submitting to a publication too much. 

The best guideline for determining whether you are harassing someone is to determine if your contacts are unwelcome. In order to do this, some level of clarity is necessary. If a mentally ill person is too delusional, for whatever reason, such as not having adequate treatment, it may be difficult to get through to her or him that they ought to stop contacting a person or company. 

This issue is intertwined with how things are packaged. Society has expected norms for how people are to go about contacting a person, agency, or company. If your contacts do not conform to the expected norms, the chances of being accused of wrongdoing are more. 

Harassment often stems from the inability to let go. This is where a person's mind is fixated on something to the point where she or he equates it with survival. Being delusional is a factor. Psychiatric consumers can benefit a lot from mindfulness, which can potentially make them able to realize that, firstly, some things just aren't going to happen, and, secondly, they may not really need the thing they are fixated on. 

Learning the discipline necessary for social appropriateness is a worthwhile pursuit. People can change their behavior at almost any age. But to do this, it requires effort, and sometimes it requires professional help. 

In many scenarios, persistence is a good trait. In writing, if you adhere to the guidelines of the publications to which you're sending material, persistence is usually necessary to get results. 

If a publication emails you, "We wish you the best of luck in your future writing career," it tends to indicate that you should go elsewhere with your submissions. Anyone can get tired of hearing from you. 

In the arena of mental health, it is a recurring theme that a mentally ill man makes unwelcome approaches to a woman with whom he is smitten. Yet, this is also the behavior of non-mentally ill men. The difference is that a non-mentally ill man lacks any semblance of an excuse. 

All people should take responsibility for their behavior, including those with psychiatric illnesses. 

Women also have inappropriate sexual behaviors in the absence of an excuse. I have seen news stories of women punished by the criminal justice system for these behaviors - it is less common than with men. 

When a person comes face-to-face with the fact that a behavior is not acceptable, it is usually emotionally difficult. If you can't sustain that emotion, and instead go into denial, you may not be able to make a necessary change to your behavior. 

So, when trying to decide whether a behavior is persistence or harassment, consider the context, and consider the specifics. And when trying to alter a behavior and finding it to be difficult to change the pattern, change begins by being able to handle the emotional pain of the situation. And change is also facilitated by getting professional help. 

It is important to note here that harassment is not solely in the realm of being a mental health consumer or other individual. Sometimes, disabled and poor people are subject to police harassment, or other harassment perpetrated by the government. When police or government harass a disadvantaged person, the presumption of authority is on the side of the perpetrator. Such abuse must be confronted, but it must be done so correctly. This entails adhering to the applicable laws and norms. For example, if someone in a governmental position is treating you unfairly, you can contact an elected official for help. 

Jack Bragen is author of "An Offering of Power: Valuable, Unusual Meditation Methods."