Getting Even

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Settling a Score

Settling a score or getting even has many meanings and consequences.  In football, baseball or other sports, the umpire or the referee makes the final decision who has lost or gained the “point.”  His decision is the final word of who wins and who loses as he delivers justice in the sports arena.  In the law it is the judge who metes out justice.  It is a means of determining fairness and what is right and what is not. In the religion of our Western culture it is the Bible, the ten commandments, the rabbi, the minister, the priest, the clergy who interpret what is acceptable and what is not.  There are of course measures and the beliefs and practices of the individual who metes out judgments.  Absolutes rarely if ever exist.

How we as ordinary mortals judge people depends on our upbringing; the way that our parents trained us, their beliefs, their learning, their culture, and their experiences.  There are circumstances that cannot be judged nor controlled.  We as humans attempt to determine the cause and effect of what happens in our world.  There are situations which we cannot explain.  We attempt to find the root of certain behaviors or actions.  What we do is attempt to fit the proverbial round object into a square space.  Pure science cannot discover where feelings, reactions, and behaviors absolutely began.  We can conjecture, imagine, attribute whatever we will without ever finding the answer.

Psychotherapists, who are the alleged experts in human behaviors and their norms or abnormalities as well as causes, can only conjecture.  They can interpret who is or is not homosexually inclined by the appearance, bearing, and spoken word of the patient.  They can look at the gait, the voice, the associations of a specific subject, but again they are often puzzled as to the history or the cause of the particular outcome.  The literature tells us that the person in question had an overly strict father, a masculine unloving mother, an absentee parent, was unwanted by one parental figure or another, etc., etc. 

Parents who are unhappy with the outcome of their parenting cannot comprehend what created the child that they raised with love, kindness, understanding, and all that is considered acceptable and good.  There are nuances and responses that are not able to be intermingled or interpreted.  There are innumerable examples of incomprehensible situations, some of which will follow  (they are authentic people whose names have been changed for the confidentiality of the human beings described):

The Blumenthal family raised four wonderful children.  They were second generation Americans.  Both parents were satisfied with their income, having worked hard together to be financially secure.  They felt fortunate having both boys and girls, of whom they were proud.  They received much love from their very accepting parents.  The outer appearance of all of their offspring were normal. The boys seemed masculine and the girls feminine.  As time went on, one of each gender became active homosexuals.  Their outer appearance belied their actions.  All four of the offspring were attached to their parents.  Eventually they left town and found “significant others” of their own gender with whom they partnered.  The remaining two stayed in their hometown where their parents lived.  The parents pondered how this could have happened to them.  They were a loving couple who adored their children, raised them as practicing Jews, taught them “right from wrong” and expected normality in their and their children’s lives.  They mourned for the grandchildren that they would not have.  Their mourning was for their children and for their future.  The therapist to whom they turned could not see any realistic reason why this well matched healthy couple produced two homosexual offspring.

The second example of an incomprehensible outcome is that of a young couple who gave birth to five attractive children.  They felt so fortunate to have two sons and three daughters.  Both parents were highly educated people who raised their offspring with love.  One son had many serious food allergies, so that an extra amount of attention was paid to him and his special needs.  He was pampered and never made to feel any less adored than his siblings.  No matter how busy the mom was, she went out of her way to make foods that were delicious.  He could eat no fish, nuts, or anything that contained even a trace of the forbidden edibles.  He was their first born son, as his parents had two girls before he came into this world.  They adored him and called him the “SON!” (The sun, the moon, and the stars).  David, like the other offspring, was pampered and adored.  His sisters too cared very much for him and looked out for him like little mommies.  He knew his worth and accepted the adulation which he so generously received.  Like all of the offspring of this couple, the boy was intelligent and, being of a conservative Jewish family, enjoyed the synagogue which they attended.  He went away to a well known Yeshiva from which he received his bachelor's degree.  Although he was surrounded by Jewish boys and girls, he did not seem to be much interested in dating the Jewish girls  (his parents were adamant that all of their children stay within the tenets of their religion and that of their ancestors).  They had made their feelings and beliefs clear to their children almost from the time that they were introduced into the world.  They noticed a change in their older son when he became “liberal” in his so called beliefs.  Whatever his conservative parents believed, he verbally opposed them.  One day while attending graduate school, he shocked them by confronting them with the fact that he was engaged to not only a non Jew but an oriental.  His parents attempted to dissuade him when he decided to have her undergo a so called liberal “conversion.”  How could someone so foreign suddenly become a Jewish woman??  His grandparents too were speechless!  His mother described the conversion so aptly when she said,  “It is like taking a herring, dipping it into water, then calling it a steak!”  It was not that there were not many attractive and bright Jewish girls that were eager to have this well educated, attractive young man as a husband. He consciously made his choice.  HE DESERTED HIS FAMILY; they did not desert him.  Many psychological reasons can be found for the behavior and actions that he chose.  Some of them  are cited here.  Many are clichés or imagined wrongs.  1. He wanted to do his “own thing.” 2. Independence and liberality was his goal. 3. No one could tell him what to do or how he should feel. 4. He wanted to be embraced no matter what. 5.  He was an “adult, a man,” did not care what anyone thought. 6.His friends liked him no matter what (his beliefs). 7. the culture is right and we must accept it. 8. His life is his own and “the devil take the hindmost.” 9. He is right come what may. 10. His family is all wrong!   There is much more.  He exhibited many unacceptable behaviors toward his young brother and attempted to talk him in an unlawful, unjewish way of life.  No matter how his family attempted to explain this person's attitude, it could not be explained or excused!  He was attempting to impose guilt on the family that had given all they could to make his life a healthy and happy one.

An analogy can be found when we examine psychopathic criminals who hold everyone except themselves responsible for their crimes.  They hold the victim responsible!  At a later date we will explain the folks described by our late Buffalo psychiatrist, Dr. Samuel Yochelson, who wrote books (with a colleague) while he worked at St. Elizabeth Hospital for the Criminally Insane in Washington, DC.


Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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