[The following article was written by Michael Robinson. Michael is a freelance writer, a tireless campaigner for parents' and grandparents' rights and author of the book The Custody Minefield, an essential self-help work for mothers, fathers and grandparents wishing to resolve residence and contact issues related to separation and divorce. The article is a spoof, originally written for Michael's friend who is a psychologist.]
The psychology of Geraldine the Chicken and thoughts regarding the diagnosis and treatment of BPD (Borderline Poultry Disorder)
Since keeping chickens, I have noticed one exhibits concerning behaviour. With a lack of psychological diagnostic instruments for the assessment and treatment of poultry, I put forward this paper on my own experiences of Geraldine's behavioural problems and my (ongoing) attempts to provide therapeutic intervention. Personality inventories have been of little use (such as the Minnesota Multi-Phasic), and research is woefully lacking in this regard.
Using the various definitions of human Borderline Personality Disorder (BPDh) throughout the 20th and 21st Century, we can examine the correlation as to how Geraldine's behaviours fit within the developing definitions from Stern in 1938 who first referred to the "borderline" between neurosis and psychoses to the current Diagnostic Standard of Mental Disorders (DSMIV) setting out the recognised diagnostic disorder classifications and characteristics. As a result of this work, and my own observations, I have defined the condition of borderline poultry disorder (BPDc) using parallels to human conditions that seem to mirror this disorder in Geraldine.
In terms of Linehan's theory on human BPDh, several behaviours certainly fit. There is active passivity vs apparent competence. She does seek me out, or any other, looking to us to solve her problems, usually relating to her inability or unwillingness to prepare her own meals, let herself out of the coop, or fill water troughs. Alarmingly, some of her peers are now exhibiting these same behavioural traits (learnt maladaptive behavior perhaps?). I have observed that Geraldine reacts more intensively to lower levels of stress than her peers.
In terms of Kernberg's theory on borderline personality organisation, it is difficult to determine the extent of transient psychosis although there certainly appears in her a belief that she is a human. I have observed low anxiety tolerance, poor impulse control, and an undeveloped or poor ability to enjoy what a chicken should, living within a hen house and run, rather than a preference for human company and habitation.
There is evidence of "splitting". Polar opposites of behaviour exist which include enjoying being cuddled /soothed shortly before showing signs of hostility (pecking). The writer has theorised that she may have fears of intimacy and a fear of abandonment which conflict. Similar to human sufferers, she does seem to have difficulty seeing all of the actions taken by a person over a period of time as part of an integrated whole, but then again, she is a chicken. This pattern of behaviour fits within Zilboorg's early definitions (circa 1941) although the writer wouldn't necessarily agree with the view that BPDh was / is a milder form of schizophrenia.
The writer would be more of the mind of Schmideberg who first described borderline disorder as a disorder of character in 1959. Kernberg writes that a BPDh can talk for 5 hours without the listener having any realistic picture of what the subject is like. This is certainly true of Geraldine, possibly symptomatic of impaired ego integration.
As far as Gunderson theorises, Geraldine certainly seems to fit his criteria for diagnosis in terms of intense unstable relationships with regard to her coop peers, in which she usually ends up getting hurt. Her self-destructive behaviour is discussed further on.
Distorted thoughts / perceptions are also evident. In my opinion, a chicken shouldn't be seeking a sexual relationship with a person, it clearly goes against what is acceptable behaviour within our society, and is surely a sign of poor social adaptation. She does appear to have an unusual sensitivity to nonverbal communication (with regard to verbal communication, sometimes I feel she doesn't understand a thing I say, and her speech is difficult to interpret and often repetitive). Again impulsive behaviours are clearly evident.
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© This article Copyright Michael Robinson February 2008
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