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North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › dealing with the truly irrational

dealing with the truly irrational

A former member
Post #: 26
This may or may not be the appropriate forum for this, but I am going to give it a shot anyway. Is there a psychologist in the house?

In general, I think folks are generally rational. Sure -- there are those with tidbits and pieces of irrational thought. I've been guilty of that myself.

But what happens when you have to deal with someone truly irrational? Here's my specific example, but I think you can generalize to other situations: My sister is an alcoholic. This is an ongoing issue that I've been dealing with for 20+ years. I am beyond trying to "fix her." I generally just let her be, which really seems best.

However, there are often situations where you have to deal with her -- family emergencies, child safety, public safety (DWI), etc.

I have tried multitudes of methods for dealing with her. Reason does not work. Tough love does not work. My general rule of thumb is to just walk away or say "I disagree, but I won't argue with you" (which works surprisingly well.)

So, from an objectivist perspective: how do you deal with irrational beings when crisis forces you to have to deal with them and their irrationality is nothing but gasoline on a fire?
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 941
So, from an objectivist perspective: how do you deal with irrational beings when crisis forces you to have to deal with them and their irrationality is nothing but gasoline on a fire?

Hello Mark,

I am not a psychologist, but that never stopped me from having uneducated opinions about psychology!

Would you be more specific about what kind of crisis forces you to have to deal with your sister? Of course we can imagine various family emergency scenarios, etc., but our imaginations could be far from any of the specifics you are thinking of.
A former member
Post #: 27
There are currently 2:

  • All of the siblings are dealing with problems associated with decreasing health of our parents. My mother suffers from alzheimers and there is a good chance my father has cancer in his one remaining kidney. (Tests are pending there.) This is a time for calm minds and rational thought. Drunken sobbing phone calls (for example) make the whole crisis worse and move the attention away from the real problem.
  • The next issue on the horizon is that she is about to marry someone and inherit a young step child. I am wondering what my moral obligations are here. I have to think (but do not know objectively) that her fiance has some knowledge of her problems, but the fact he is marrying (and bringing a child into this) her suggests he may not.

Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 941
All of the siblings are dealing with problems associated with decreasing health of our parents. My mother suffers from alzheimers and there is a good chance my father has cancer in his one remaining kidney. (Tests are pending there.) This is a time for calm minds and rational thought. Drunken sobbing phone calls (for example) make the whole crisis worse and move the attention away from the real problem.

I am sorry to learn this about your parents, Mark.

Regarding calls from your sister, I suggest you do not have to take them or at least cut them short after hearing and stating whatever needs to be said. How the other members of the family deal with her calls should be up to them, of course.


The next issue on the horizon is that she is about to marry someone and inherit a young step child. I am wondering what my moral obligations are here. I have to think (but do not know objectively) that her fiance has some knowledge of her problems, but the fact he is marrying (and bringing a child into this) her suggests he may not.

In principle, I think one has a moral right to act to prevent, stop, or report a crime or fraud against any person. Even if one learns of information with a promise of privacy or confidentiality, the promise cannot trump the moral right to prevent or stop a crime or fraud against another. (The issue may be more complicated in case of confidentiality promised relating to a past crime or fraud.)

Is it a fraud for one to not tell the person one is about to marry that one is an alcoholic? I think to answer that question turns on considering the essential terms of a marital relationship. Are there any terms to a marital relationship that an alcoholic does not or cannot meet, such that it would be a fraud to not reveal the alcoholism beforehand? I cannot think of one.

But there are some matters that I think would be a fraud on the normal understandings regarding the terms of a marital relationship. For example, a person seeking or having other sexual relations during an engagement or during the marriage is clearly a breach of the normally-understood agreement to fidelity. This why it is called "cheating." Anyone reporting such sexual activities taking place against a promise of fidelity would be revealing a fraud.

Of course, if the parties have specifically agreed that their relationship is to be "open," contrary to the normal understanding, that is a different matter. If so, anyone else reporting sexual relations outside the normally understood terms of a marital relationship would be revealing little or nothing new.

I think a person should appreciate being told when he is being defrauded. But sometimes a person prefers to kill the messenger. And sometimes the person perpetrating a fraud is not very appreciative, either.



P.S. This is my personal view. This is not necessarily consistent with Objectivism and certainly not any "official" NTOS position.
A former member
Post #: 30

Regarding calls from your sister, I suggest you do not have to take them or at least cut them short after hearing and stating whatever needs to be said. How the other members of the family deal with her calls should be up to them, of course.

Yeah, I am more concerned with her antics towards my folks. They have more than enough to deal with rather than worry about her. I have no problem hanging up on her.

As far as the marriage goes... I am more worried about the emotional baggage she has in store for the child. Her own children are 20ish, now estranged from her and will probably be in therapy for a while.

P.S. This is my personal view. This is not necessarily consistent with Objectivism and certainly not any "official" NTOS position.

I'm more just looking for rational advice here. And it's appreciated.
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 942
As far as the marriage goes... I am more worried about the emotional baggage she has in store for the child. Her own children are 20ish, now estranged from her and will probably be in therapy for a while.

I went a bit off track there.

I am wondering, do you really think your sister is able to hide her alcoholism from her fiance? Is it really a secret that couldn't be brought up when you happen to see them both?
A former member
Post #: 31
I do suspect he knows. I worry though that I use that as a rationalization.

But if you've never dealt with an addict, they live in a total different world. When they lie to cover up for themselves, they actually seriously believe their own lie. They can be very convincing. And, in general, you want to believe your significant other. Those lies are the easiest to believe. Confronting those lies is a serious pandora's box. I've tried several times and there is nothing to gain there for me. I might try some day in the future when my parents no longer will be dragged into it.
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 943
And, in general, you want to believe your significant other. Those lies are the easiest to believe. Confronting those lies is a serious pandora's box. I've tried several times and there is nothing to gain there for me. I might try some day in the future when my parents no longer will be dragged into it.


I've never dealt much with an addict, that I know of.

I think one has the moral right to act to stop or prevent a crime or fraud, if based on all the available, credible information this appears to be the case. (One should be cautious about causing damage by acting based only unsubstantiated rumors.) But there are limits on how one should act depending on the context.

In the scenario you are describing with your sister, I think the appropriate action is simply to let the would-be fraud victim know -- in plain terms -- of your concern regarding the lies you are referring to and the nature of your evidence for it. What the person chooses to do with that information is up to him.

Otherwise, in five years when the person asks you why you stood by and said nothing, what would you answer? Maybe there is a good answer, but I can't think of what it would be.
A former member
Post #: 42
I've learned to distrust the phrase "moral obligation". A morality that is based on self-interest has no obligations; if it is in your best interest, you will do it - not because you are forced to do so, but because you understand why it is the right thing to do.

Realistically, you cannot be held responsible for informing people of things they might not be aware of, even if their lack of knowledge poses a danger to themselves. To say otherwise would be to imply that one has a "duty" to those around him.

Should you intervene when a drunken friend is about to start his car and attempt to drive home? I would tend to affirm this; aside from the immediately-visible danger to a person that you value, there is also the risk that he might get into a fatal accident with others that you value. However, you have no "duty" in this scenario; you simply make a judgement as to whether your friend's condition is serious enough to put himself and possibly others you care about at risk.

While not necessarily a life-and-death situation, I think a similar situation exists between your parents and your sister.

A favorite quote of mine that I first heard from Todd (and will therefore attribute to him):
"The problem with loved ones is that they have free will."

It is regrettable that your parents put up with your sister's behavior, all the more so if they are not happy that they are doing it. But it is not your obligation to prevent them from doing something you know they will regret. As much as you know you are in the right and they would in all likelihood thank you for it later, you will reach a point where you can accomplish no more without using force.

Similarly, as far as informing your sister's fiancé of her condition, you certainly have no responsibility to do so. If you think the benefits of informing him are worth the risks to your relationship with him and with your sister, then I would say go for it.
A former member
Post #: 32
Thanks Josh. That helps a little.

My sticky points I'm still working on are..

It is regrettable that your parents put up with your sister's behavior, all the more so if they are not happy that they are doing it. But it is not your obligation to prevent them from doing something you know they will regret. As much as you know you are in the right and they would in all likelihood thank you for it later, you will reach a point where you can accomplish no more without using force.

Well, my mom is affected by all of this but really is not part of the mix. She has alzheimers and I'd put her at about a 10 year old level right now. The bad part is that the same bad news can be new all over again in 5 minutes. As far as my dad: yes, he know exactly what you are saying. He learned this probably only after 25 years of playing into the foolishness. Right now I guess I have a little bit of a "mother hen" feeling for him. He shouldn't have to put up with sis's issues while he is grappling with his own medical problems.

Similarly, as far as informing your sister's fiancé of her condition, you certainly have no responsibility to do so. If you think the benefits of informing him are worth the risks to your relationship with him and with your sister, then I would say go for it.

My concern here is for the kid. Based on her past performance with children, he is likely to grow up and have issues. It is tough being the "responsible adult" of the house when you are 10 or 12.
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