Thursday, December 08, 2005

Violating people emotionally

Last night, I was watching Pinoy Big Brother on TV passively until something happened that got me riveted to the television set. I was riveted simply because I could not believe the extent and the lenghts to which the people behind the show will and could go to squeeze out of the housemates every possible emotion. If anyone out there wants a perfect case study on emotional abuse - last night's episode was it! One can't go any lower or cheaper than what they did to those four people.

First of all, any psychologist or psychiatrist worth his name will tell you that deliberately subjecting people to negative situations for the sake of "learning a lesson" or "proving a point" is never advisable even in a controlled environment. Electric shocks and torture are already considered barbaric today. As early as the eighties, psychiatrists have already come to a consensus that while deliberatley exposing subjects to negative and traumatic experiences may have short term benefits, the long-term negative side effects far outweigh any advantages. It is actually common sense (unfortunately, common sense is not common, and I guess this is where the problem lies): someone may learn from a negative experience, but the negative experience in itself negates the very learning process. To illustrate, a child may learn not to steal by being set up and publicly humiliated but the child will carry the scars of that public humiliation for a long time - yes, the child may (and this is not guaranteed) learn not to steal again, but now he has bigger emotional problems than stealing. In the end, what is to be gained from the learning experience?

This is the reason why trainers follow a cardinal rule when doing affective training: never ever subject participants to negative emotional situations. If people cry and break down and become very emotional during the activity, this is processed; but these should not be induced through unethical ways.

What I found truly objectionable from a psychological point of view is this - it was deliberate, it was meant as a test, the whole thing was sustained even when it was obvious that the housemates were already showing signs of being emotionally violated, and, to cap it all off, the show turned sanctimonious and put the blame squarely on the housemates. Ehhhh?

While watching Nene, Uma, Cass and Jayson struggle with their emotions, I could not help but feel outraged. Nobody has to be subjected to that kind of cruelty. The people behind the show may argue that such "torture" happens in real life - that there are people who deliberately do those things and those tests to others to validate or prove a point -- but those are people cast under the same list as Hitler and his doctors at the Nazi camps. They are evil people - kidnappers, cruel stepmothers, etc. Benevolent big brothers and authority figures do not that do that to prove a point.

And Pinoy Big Brother is not a courage contest - it is not Fear Factor where people sign up to confront their fears. This is a show that is supposed to be about empowering the Pinoy! It is supposed to be about how great ordinary Filipinos are and can be.

I was hoping vainly that the humiliation would already stop and that Big Brother would announce that the whole thing was a test of the housemates' loyalty towards each other - i.e., how far the housemates will go to support each other. That was the only logical and face-saving way out of that psychological black hole. But no, they actually saved their ass! Big Brother actually turned sanctimonious and even called in Uma's supposed debt of gratitude. The show actually turned the tables around and stopped very, very short of calling the housemates ingrates. Yeah right. The housemates were fed and given shelter - but ABS-CBN made huge amounts of money at their expense. Excuse me, Big Brother, you may go to town with your charitable acts - but the whole show is primarily a business and everybody knows that. So spare us the sanctimoniousness.

The show had better show how they switched the emotional trigger (Uma's beloved jeans) - because quite frankly, there are valid suspicions that the show's staff switched it when the three housemates were already inside the confession booth. All throughout the "challenge" the garments were in clear view and no switching could have been possible.

But the bottom line is this. What they did was clearly unethical and uncalled for. They violated the housemates emotionally and they should be decent enough to admit it and apologize.

And next time, please call in a psychologist worth his name before pulling out emotional stunts like that one.

1 comment:

Jher said...

They should be ashamed, really. That's why I prefer Jewel in the Palace. LOL