She Is Sitting In The Room

She is sitting in the room that we have placed her in.

It is called a seclusion room.

We have placed her there because she said she felt like killing herself.

She is sitting in the seclusion room for her own protection.  The room is narrow and empty except for a bed with sheets and a window and radiator.

She is siting in the seclusion room wearing nothing but a hospital gown.  She is on suicide watch so every 15 minutes a staff member looks through the small window in the door to ensure she is safe.

She is sitting in the seclusion room and we have given her medication to keep her safe.

She sits in the seclusion room and hangs herself.


The ward psychiatrist stands up and the patient attacks him.

The patient is put in a seclusion room.  This time for our protection.

He is a huge fellow who having won both an academic scholarship and athletic scholarship to Harvard, had a psychotic break.  Perhaps Harvard was too much for him to take.

He doesn’t sit in the seclusion room.  He rips the unbreakable and secure seclusion room doors down and walks off.


I was very young when these two events occurred.

I took from the first one that if someone wants to kill themselves it may not be possible to stop them.

From the second one I took that there are some things we cannot protect ourselves from.


Now, years later, I have a different view.  Now I wonder if we didn’t precipitate these events by placing these two people in seclusion rooms.  Seclusion rooms where they were left alone with the very thing that was tormenting them.  And they did what they had to do to escape what was for each of them unbearable.


Harold Boris wrote a book ENVY(1994).  The second chapter of this book is entitled, “Tolerating Nothing”.  Boris wrote, “There are some people for whom there is no such thing as nothing.  In their psychic calculus, zero does not exist.  Inside the zero, where there might otherwise be an absence, there is instead a presence of an absence”. (p.21)


I take this to mean that tolerating nothing-the absences, the voids, the gaps-is intolerable for most of us.  And to avoid nothing we will do anything to transform the empty space into something-drugs, sex, money, work…. Anything that will allow us to avoid tolerating even a little bit of nothing.


Now I think that when we placed them in their respective seclusion rooms, we left them alone to face what they were trying to avoid.  We left them alone with no escape from nothing.  And they did what they had to do to escape.


While these may be extreme examples,  I have come to think that to one degree or another we all have difficulties tolerating nothing.  And this may actually be a fundamental human condition which we attempt to evade or solve most of our lives.


Like the old saying goes, “Something is better than nothing”.





Dr. Brody




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