Our resistance is the first hurdle to recovery, and it is a formidable one. Resistance comes in many forms, and it has multiple attributions. We are usually unaware of it or refuse to admit it. There are seven legitimate causes of our resistance that need to be recognized and overcome.
CHANGE. We are hard-wired to dislike change. Our bodies and brains are structured to resist anything that disrupts our equilibrium. Our body monitors our metabolism, temperature, weight, and other survival functions to balance and perform properly. A new diet or exercise regimen, for example, produces physiological changes in our heart rate, metabolism, and respiration, which impact these functions. Inertia senses these changes and resists them by making it difficult for us to maintain them. Our brain’s basal ganglia resists any change in our patterns of behavior. Therefore, habits like smoking or gambling are hard to break, and new undertakings challenging to maintain.
PERSONAL BAGGAGE: The various disorders affect us differently, and our personalities are unique; while there are similarities, no two situations are identical. A person with anxiety may be uncomfortable contributing to the classroom, while those with issues of self-esteem have difficulty establishing healthy relationships. Many of us make self-destructive decisions like substance abuse or emotional blackmail to feel viable or to numb us to the pain of our inadequacy. We may feel angry, incompetent, resentful, or worthless. This personal baggage makes commitment difficult; we have beaten ourselves so often we resist anything new, especially something of personal benefit.
PUBLIC OPINION. Public aversion to mental illness is hard-wired. What is perceived as repugnant or weak in mind or body has suffered since the dawning of man. Having a disorder is not a sign of weakness or strength. It is an intrinsic part of nature. Much of society views it differently because they see our disorder in themselves, and it frightens them. That fear is reinforced by prejudice, ignorance, and discrimination. One would hope that negative public opinion would evolve, but studies indicate it has fluctuated since World War II but remains steadfast.
MEDIA REPRESENTATION. TV, books, and films exaggerate dysfunction, stereotyping us as annoying, dramatic, and peculiar. More extreme portrayals suggest we are unpredictable and dangerous. A 2011 comparative study revealed that nearly half of U.S. stories on mental illness explicitly mention or allude to violence. Half of the disordered surveyed by Mind, a London organization, focused on improving mental healthcare standards, said media coverage had a negative effect on their mental health. The media is powerful. Studies show homicide rates go up after televised heavyweight fights, and suicide rates increase after on-screen portrayals. Television content leads to an inflated estimate of adultery and crime rates and negative self-appraisal.
VISIBILITY is the public display of behaviors associated with disorders. Not only is the public uneasy or repulsed by such behaviors, but we also are conscious of being watched, whether it is real or imagined, and often surrender to the GAZE―what psychoanalyst Lacan defines as the anxious state of mind that comes with scrutiny and unwanted attention.
UNDESIRABILITY. Distancing is the public’s psychological expression of aversion and contempt for the behaviors associated with our disorder. Social distance varies by diagnosis. In a 2000 study, 38–47% of respondents supported a desire for social distancing from individuals with depression. The range was most significant for those with drug abuse disorders, followed by alcohol abuse, and depression. Distancing reflects the feelings a prejudiced group has towards another group; it is the affirmation of undesirability. In stigma research, the extent of social distance loosely corresponds to the level of discriminatory behavior. E
DIAGNOSIS. Diagnosis drives mental health stereotypes. Which disorder is the most repulsive, and which poses the most threat? People are concerned about the severity of our disorder, whether it is contagious, or whether our behaviors caused the disorder. Will the symptoms worsen? Is our disorder punishment for our sins, implying the more dangerous the symptoms, the worse the offense. Do not believe everything you read on the internet, chose your friends wisely, and take what your relatives have to say with a grain of salt.
Resistance v. Repression
RESISTANCE is our deliberate or unconscious attempt to prevent something from happening for any reason whatsoever. REPRESSION is a defense mechanism that prevents certain events, feelings, thoughts, and desires that our conscious mind refuses to accept from entering it. It is more of that stuff that clogs our brain and impacts our thoughts and behaviors, but we cannot address it because we don’t know it’s there. We have compartmentalized it and misplaced the key.