Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. ~ Plato
I was teaching a resiliency class to a group of women who were on unassigned
idle (UI) status. These women have recently lost or quit their jobs, were dropped out of or
quit school, or were recently released from segregation for committing a rule violation.
Those on UI spend their time locked in their rooms, allowed out for only one hour a day
to do laundry and shower. Assuming they don't receive any informal discipline while
they're on status (failing a room inspection, for example), Sundays are the only day they
are allowed "free" time among general population.
Many of the students in this class have seen me teach before and as a group this
was our second class session, so they were familiar with me and the other students. We
were discussing the development of self discipline when one of the women, I'll call her
Ms. X, began venting about a personal problem she had with changing her behavior.
As Ms X talked I was thinking about having recently met with her while she was
doing her time in segregation. Segregation is a prison within the prison where the
residents are locked down 23 hours per day without any time in general population. For
some women, including Ms. X, segregation seems inevitable because they don't
recognize that they have choices when it comes to reacting to particular situations.
[s1]Ms. X is what we call a "frequent flier" to the seg unit, having been placed there many
times in the past 18 months. I provide mental health services to the seg unit and normally
see the seg women each week while making my rounds.
I have seen Ms X grow from the first time I worked with her, so I was interested
to hear about the situation she wanted to discuss. Ms. X went on to say that she has
success for only so long in her life before she does something to mess it up. She gave an
example of one situation and some of the bad choices she made. I told her the problem
might be a fear of success. Sometims people will get uncomfortable with success and
give up. While people may give up for a variety of reasons, there are strategies to help
overcome the concept of the fear of success. I told her it might be useful to start keeping
track of her successes no matter how large of small they might seem. By recording her
successes regularly she may be able to break the habit of "messing up" after a streak of
good behavior. She seemed excited about this information, and I noticed as I went on
teaching that Ms. X was paying more attention to what I was saying.
Meanwhile, another student "I will call her Ms. Y" was a bit more down in the
dumps. She was commenting under her breath about how unfair certain staff members
can be. She, too, was a frequent visitor to the seg unit so I was somewhat familiar with
many of her personal concerns. As I continued to teach, I thought to myself that I have
not yet found a topic that may lessen her frustrations.
Suddenly, Ms. X turned around to Ms. Y and said, "He is only trying to help us.
Do you have to be so negative about everything?"
You could have heard a pin drop the room got so silent.
Before Ms. Y could respond, I reminded Ms. X that fifteen minutes earlier she
herself was venting about her issue, and we, as a class, had taken the time to resolve it.
"Did you notice the suggested solutions help you calm down? Now that you have
found some peace, perhaps we can help Ms. Y resolve some of her concerns."
Ms. X understood, and I regained her attention as she made the connection. I went
on to describe possible solutions for people like Ms. Y who seemed to be steeped in