Phaedra and The Problematic Speedo

Empathy, being kind, integrity, being objective, looking at the big picture and are my “things.” I personally think I do a pretty good of job being consistent with them, but perfection isn’t something that us humans can manage do but the victory is in our efforts. However, when anger or my pride come into the picture the risk of me giving you Dark Phoenix versus Jean Grey increases, substantially. Today was a perfect example of dichotomy I live, one second I was the patron saint of empathy and the next, everything needed to burn!

Additional Backstory

*Spoilers For The Flash*

I had just finished watching The Flash Season 3 finale and got all choked up watching Iris West show epic levels of empathy and forgiveness for the man that spent the entire season trying to murk her and had managed to murk a member of the Flash team. Sadly, she had to put him down, but for a second you saw him really respond to the empathy consider trusting folks and changing. It hit me right in the feels because it mirrors the therapeutic process on so many levels.


Empathy is the cor of the therapeutic alliance. The Therapeutic Alliance, the relationship between the client and therapist, has been credit over and over again as being the most important factor related to the client progressing. I had a little pep in my step spreading all of the love and peace as I walked through Wal-mart seeking more caffeine to aid in my war against my joke of an attention span. Took extra time and intention to make my jokes and give out a few non creepy comments. I was on top of the world!

Not 10 minutes later I got knocked off my Empathy Unicorn scrolling through news articles, when I cam across one about Ryan Lochte speaking out about the suicidal ideations he experienced after returning from Olympics in Rio.  I really really wanted to open this article and find out he is owning his privilege and the gravity of his actions. I wanted to find out that I was wrong, that I misjudged him all those years ago, and that he was an epitome of white male privilege. Instead it’s full of all the things someone dodging accountable via a lot of Reality Bending.

I Immediately felt myself start to slip…

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Before you read further, please understand that I do not think Ryan Lochte is an evil or horrible human. I think he is an insecure person who allows those insecurities to dominate his decision making. However, no one gets a pass to be shitty to other people.

The first time I saw him in and interview or doing press, I had this feeling that I knew exactly “who he was.” Normally, an attractive man in speedo would have offered some level of distraction, but he just irked the living hell out of me. It was a snap judgement on his character based on some things he said and how he said them, but I didn’t take myself too seriously or assume my opinion of him was even relevant enough to even be shared. I can’t help it that he went on to validate everything I assumed about him.

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Just to be clear, my Empathic Hat is still on, I’m just fresh out of sympathy and f*cks to give for this kind of behavior. I stand my ground on empathy being the greatest tool to heal but accountability is the Yin to Empathy’s yang. This article very well could be written to take his comments out of context, but I doubt it.

You see he is what I call a Reality Bender. It’s in the same zip code with Gaslighting ,but not nearly as malicious or intentional. Reality Benders are those people who rewrite the story and narratives to favor themselves. Later in my counseling program, I was introduced to the professional term used to described these people, Creative Historians. But we’re going to stick with Reality Bending because that’s what I came up with in High School when I was doing my best to figure people out.

 It’s a lovely defense mechanism, that I assumed my ex invented, but later realized it’s annoyingly common. It helps one avoid true accountability and the uncomfortable feelings that come with it. Unfortunately, it has the side effect of also causing that person to remain a man child that no one wants to deal with because they skip the learning and growing part.

It’s like trying to  pass a test but you refuse to  review the actual subject material that was assigned, instead you study the gibberish you wrote down while we were half listening.

Reality Benders tend to vilify people around them and instead make themselves the victims. Typically they “didn’t do anything” instead “something happened to them.” I should also point out that most Reality Benders aren’t completely conscious of this Defense Mechanism. After a little practice and enough cosigning from a few yes men, they really start to believe their false reality.

The result of continuous Reality Bending, please see below

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I don’t doubt at all that he has experienced depression and anxiety. I honestly can’t imagine what it must feel like to perceive being seen and viewed in that light. The figurative Fish Bowl seems like the worst place to have a major douche-bag moment analyzed by millions. People can be very insecure and love to kick others when they are down to feed or create a false sense of superiority, that’s one of the things that makes apologizing and accountability seem so terrible. Generally, that’s not something I need to do because my ego is always two compliments away from being out of control, but I have my moments. But I assure you this read isn’t coming from a petty place. I’m just a bossy know it all who believes it’s important that we process this kind of behavior for what it is and how destructive it can be.

Reality Bending may seem like a great idea in the moment, but it always comes at a cost boo boo. Denying reality and dodging accountable has a way of getting stuck in your psyche where it then rattles around, decays, then becomes toxic. Accountability has that same liberating effect as forgiving yourself and forgiving others does. It’s clear from his statements that he still hasn’t reached a place of accountability. He still feels like he is the victim and people just wanted a reason to dislike him. The fact the word “embellish” is still being used versus calling it “lying”, further proves how this narrative is bent.

You are a privileged, successful, rich, white man who you—>You chose to belittle and abuse a member of the country hosting you —> This person has far less means and power than you do —>You destroy his property—>You then have the nerve to twist the narrative making yourself the victim—> In doing that, you vilified this man who was the actual victim.

 Just in case you don’t see why this is so unbelievably not okay, let me explain it in a different way.

Fred beats his wife up regularly because he has terrible anger management issues and struggles with toxic masculinity and a fragile ego —> Sharon, the wife, finally has had enough and tries to pack up and leave—> Fred can’t have this happening and doesn’t understand how Sharon could “treat him like this” so he throws himself down the stairs to get a little banged up and calls the cops to tell them “his wife is out of control and he needs help.”—> The cops arrive, Fred has marks on him from his fresh tumble, but Sharon is perfectly fine since he hasn’t hit her in a week or so —> Despite her protest, the cops have no choice but to take Sharon into custody based off the evidence there at the time —> If you find yourself saying “well Sharon wouldn’t be in this mess if she just had filed some previous police reports” I’m going to encourage you to really think about that before you say it out loud to anyone.

Those this scenarios are NOT THE SAME, they are both example of abuses of power. I f you agree one is terrible, you should be able to see how the other one is as well. Don’t march into my comments stating that I am equating this to domestic abuse or saying it’s worse, ain’t nobody said that.


Just for shady points, the unmasking of Taylor Swift last year also serves as a pretty solid example of Reality Bending and victimizing defense mechanism. But between us, she seems real aware of what she is doing at this point.

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Don’t do it, is not good for you. Let the fact this man has publicly been a hot mess act as a learning opportunity for you. You have to own your behaviors in full if you ever want to improve them or accept them. People end up in therapy over these missteps because they failed to  “show up for themselves” and make the right call. The problematic wearer of speedos did a bad thing, but he refuses to truly be accountable for it, but it’s still collecting it’s due, but in a way I really wish he didn’t have to experience. I’m not saying that accountability is a cake walk or easier, it’s just the only way you wont suffer more toxic backlashes.

Some people believe in karma, I just believe in emotional physics. When you’re an asshole to people, you rob yourself of happiness. Don’t do dirt and expect to feel “okay” about it. Even if you can get away with something, maybe have some integrity instead because it’s good for you. You are not your behaviors, you are not your mistakes, and your are not “bad” because you did a bad thing. But don’t act Brand New about the negative consequences of your lack of integrity.

Here is the link to the article if you want to read it for yourself and give me your take on it. I’m always open to intelligent and well-intentioned feedback! That’s how we grow. 

Author: Patrick Henderson LPC

I'm a licensed counselor working to try and stay sane while creating more resources and awareness for mental health services. I love my job so much, but I need a change of pace. I want to continue creating resources but why not have a bit of fun while I'm at it right? Come check out my blog where you can have access to a ton of rambling from me that should be definitely be educational and hopefully humorous as well. Come check out my "Pro Bono Adventures" and ways to help support mental health!