The resistance to fully acknowledge our physiological dysfunction (neurosis) is a major impediment to our recovery. Many deliberately choose to remain ignorant of the destructive capability of their dysfunction. We go to enormous lengths to remain oblivious to its symptoms, characteristics, and traits as if, by ignoring them, they don’t exist or will somehow go away. Despite these efforts, the aura of undesirability cannot be muted.
Emphasis must be placed on the importance of fully recognizing and accepting our dysfunctional idiosyncrasies and how they impact our emotional wellbeing and quality of life—mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually (MBSE). Deliberate ignorance is tantamount to fixing a malfunctioning computer by ignoring the manual. This resistance, arguably justified by multiple attributions, is meant to protect us from our irrational self-beliefs, but the shield is unsustainable and counterproductive.
The attributions to resistance are correlated internal and external components. The former is implemented by the dysfunction, diagnosis, and the disruption in natural human development. External resistance is generated by the stigma triad of ignorance, prejudice, and discrimination.
The overarching attributions to internal resistance are personal baggage, mental health stigma, and the natural physiological aversion to change. External attributions fall within the following categories, each informing the others:
- Public opinion
- Media misrepresentation
- Mental health stigma
Physiological Aversion. We are hard-wired to dislike change. Our bodies and brains are structured to resist anything that disrupts our equilibrium. Our nervous system monitors our metabolism, temperature, weight, and other survival functions. A new diet or exercise regimen produces physiological changes in our heart rate, metabolism, and respiration, which impact these functions. Inertia senses and resists these changes, making them difficult to maintain. Our brain’s basal ganglia resist any modification in patterns of behavior. Thus, habits like smoking or gambling are hard to break, and new undertakings (e.g., recovery), challenging to maintain.
Personal Baggage. Every physiological dysfunction and discomfort generates an emotional and behavioral identity due to childhood disturbance, and the corresponding disruption in natural human development. Most are more correlational than dissimilar and commonly comorbid. Their impact Is variable and distinguishable by human complexity. Many induce self-destructive decisions like substance abuse or emotional blackmail. Self-perceptions of incompetence, unattractiveness, and worthlessness are buttressed by guilt, blame, and shame.
Public Opinion. Public aversion to mental illness is hard-wired. Individuals perceived as repugnant or weak in mind or body have suffered since the dawning of humankind. Psychological dysfunction and discomfort are components of natural human development. Scientific American speculates they are so common almost everyone will develop at least one diagnosable disorder at some point in their life. However, much of society views them differently because they see dysfunction in themselves, and it frightens them. That fear generates and is generated by prejudice, ignorance, and discrimination.
Media Misrepresentation. TV, books, and films exaggerate the symptoms and traits of dysfunction, stereotyping the dysfunctional as annoying, dramatic, and peculiar. Portrayals suggest all persons impacted 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. The media is powerful. Studies show homicide rates go up after televised heavyweight fights, and suicide increases after on-screen portrayals.
Visibility is the public display of behaviors associated with dysfunctions. Not only are the recipients uneasy or repulsed by such behaviors, but the afflicted are vividly conscious of being observed, whether actual or imagined, and surrender to the GAZE―what psychoanalyst Lacan defines as the anxious state of mind that comes with scrutiny and unwanted attention.
Distancing is the public expression of contempt for the behaviors associated with dysfunction. Social distance varies, obviously, by diagnosis, but also by region, race and ethnicity, political persuasion, educational attainment, and economics. 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 correlates to the level of discriminatory behavior.
Mental Health Stigma is the hostile expression of the abject undesirability of a human being who has a mental illness. It is theinstrument that brands the dysfunctional as socially undesirable due to stereotype. The stigmatized are devalued in the eyes of others and thus in their own self-image as well. MHS is purposed to protect the general population from ‘unpredictable and dangerous’ behaviors by any means necessary. MHS is fomented by prejudice, ignorance, and discrimination.
Diagnosis. impacted by the DSM, the disease model of mental healthcare, ignorance or ineptitude of mental health professionals, and misdiagnoses. Diagnosis drives mental health stereotypes. Which dysfunction is the most repulsive, and which poses the most threat? People are concerned about the severity of the dysfunction, whether it is contagious, or whether the dysfunction was caused by certain behaviors. Will the symptoms worsen? Is the dysfunction punishment for sin, implying the more dangerous the symptoms, the worse the offense? Diagnosis is facilitated by the deficit disease model of mental healthcare via the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder which focuses on the history of harmful behavior.
The disease model assumes that emotional distress is merely symptomatic of biological illness. The Wellness Model of mental healthcare focuses on the positive aspects of human functioning that promote our wellbeing and recognize our essential and shared humanity. Positive psychologies and the Wellness Model emphasize what is right with us, innately powerful within us, our potential, and determination. Rather than disease and deficit, they emphasize our character strengths, virtues, and attributes. Recovery is not achieved by focusing on incompetence and weakness; it is achieved by embracing and utilizing our inherent strengths and abilities.
Benefits of the Wellness Model
- Revising negative and hostile language will encourage new positive perspectives
- The self-denigrating aspects of shame will dissipate, and stigma becomes less threatening.
- The doctor-client knowledge exchange will value the individual over the diagnosis.
- Realizing neurosis is a natural part of human development will generate social acceptance and accommodation.
- Recognizing that they bear no responsibility for onset will revise public opinion that people deserve their neurosis because it is the result of their behavior.
- Emphasizing character strengths and virtues will positively impact self-beliefs and image, leading to more disclosure, discussion, and recovery-remission.
- Realizing proximity and susceptibility will address the desire to distance and isolate.
- Emphasis on value and potential will encourage accountability and foster self-reliance.
Resistance closes the door to possibility. Nothing comes in, nothing goes out. Nonresistance is a prerequisite for recovery. We cannot recover if we do not consider our options. Nonresistance opens our minds and broadens our perspective. Consideration of new possibilities is rewarding and productive; resistance is counterintuitive to recovery.
Resistance v. Repression
RESISTANCE is the 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 the conscious mind refuses to accept from entering it. It is the ‘stuff’ that permeates our brain that we cannot address because we have compartmentalized it and misplaced the key.
Why is your support essential? ReChanneling is dedicated to research and development of methods to alleviate symptoms of physiological dysfunction and discomfort. Our vision is to reshape the current pathographic emphasis on diagnoses over individual, which fosters a deficit, disease model of human behavior. Treatment programs must disavow ineffective, one-size-fits-all approaches and target the individual personality through communication, empathy, collaboration, and an integration of historically and clinically practical methods. All donations support scholarships for groups, workshops, and practicums.