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Rationality in Absentia Disorder: An Example of Temporary Adolescent Insanity

The adolescent brain has a strong gas pedal and a weak brake which, unfortunately, leads to periods of what can only be called temporary insanity. The insanity comes in various forms, names for which are not found in conventional diagnostic systems like, for example, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. They are not found there because I made them up and in this article I want to discuss one—something I call Rationality in Absentia Disorder (RAD). You can diagnose RAD yourself, you do not need to consult a professional. Here’s how. 

First, your adolescent has to do something that is disturbing and makes no sense—not to you or any other (mature) adult. For example, your adolescent boy microwaves a cricket. Second, you find yourself asking questions in a virtually fruitless quest to find some sense in what your boy has done. The most common questions are “why did you do that?” and “what were you thinking?” If you find yourself in such a situation, quest no further, you are in the presence of RAD. The true answers to the questions are “I did it because I felt like it” and “I wasn’t thinking.” That is the nature of RAD—rationality is absent. 

Alas, because our lives are more rational, we find the true answers to these questions unacceptable and we press the adolescent for rational answers. Recognizing that the truth is unacceptable to adults, adolescents often supply rational explanations for their irrational behavior. In other words, they lie. But we are complicit in these lies because we communicate, always indirectly and often directly, that the truth—the simple, unvarnished, unadorned truth—is unacceptable. 

So how should adults respond to RAD? That is simple; respond to it in a way that will add to the steady development of rational thought in the adolescent by supplying unpleasant consequences. Not because the boy or girl was bad but because their behavior was stupid, and the best way to teach an adolescent to avoid stupid behavior is to make it cost them. It will take time—learning to inhibit irrational behavior and exhibit rational behavior takes time, but gradually the adolescent will recognize that their RAD behaviors, however fun they may have been at the time of their occurrence, are simply too costly to continue. In other words, they will begin to develop common sense which is the opposite of RAD.

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