The cumulative evidence that childhood and adolescent exploitation is a primary causal factor in lifetime emotional instability has been well-established. This is likely the cause of our disorder. Detachment, exploitation, and abandonment in our formative years can manifest in chronic depression, and feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and unworthiness. We may be prone to repetitive patterns of shallow relationships. We may have difficulty trusting others; we may be afraid of intimacy and commitment. Add to these, debilitating anxiety, codependence, feelings of insecurity, isolation, and the loss of control over life.
In Maslow’s hierarchy theory, the orderly flow of social and emotional development requires satisfying specific fundamental human needs. The adolescent experiencing detachment, exploitation, or neglect, is disenabled from fulfilling his or her physiological and safety needs and the need to belong and experience love.
Child psychologist B.F. Steele maintains “abuse” includes events that interfere with the optimal physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development of the child. The term is subdivided into physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and various forms of neglect, all of which can occur alone or in combination. Maslow’s hierarchy is not a purely linear exercise, and it is not absolute that one level of needs must be satisfied to get to the next level. The list of individuals who have been deprived of fundamental needs yet achieved greatness is long and inspirational. But disruptions in our natural human development makes it more difficult. We did not make it happen; it happened to us as a child/adolescent. It is not our fault, but it is our responsibility to do something about it.
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 diksorder 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.
A recent article in Scientific American speculates that mental illnesses are so common that almost everyone will develop at least one diagnosable mental disorder at some point in their life. A disorder that interferes with our quality of life and emotional wellbeing can generate irrational behavior and negative self-image. We feel less than. Our perceptions of incompetence, substantiated by perceptions of inadequacy and ineptitude, create feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness. We have no value. We believe we are undeserving of the prosperity and happiness that is our universal entitlement. We are ashamed of our perceived inadequacy.
Shame is distressing and incapacitating. Shame makes us feel powerless, inferior, and worthless. To feel shame is to feel acutely diminished in our own eyes and the eyes of others. Shame makes us want to hide or self-harm.
Hiding from it aggravates our shame. Recognizing that shame is a fundamental part of personal evolution allows us to confront it and realize it is purely self-motivated. No one can make us feel shame; it is entirely of our own volition. What do we have to be ashamed of―being human? We should not be ashamed of our condition. We are not accountable for its onset. We didn’t deal the cards. We should only feel shame if our disorder negatively impacts our quality of life and emotional wellbeing, and we refuse to do something about it.
We are our body, mind, spirit, and emotions. For us to be healthy, the four components must work in concert to achieve homeostasis. Each is involved in every activity, although we favor one over the others. How do we know this? Imagine narrowly avoiding a collision on the freeway. As you sit safely on the shoulder, your hands become clammy, and you hyperventilate. You think of your family and ponder your mortality. You express anger at the driver who caused the incident and frustration at the delay while you thank god you survived.
Knowing these four components are integral and cooperative is helpful. When we have a mental block, physical exercise rejuvenates us. When our spirit is deflated, our mind takes us to a place that encourages us, or we dig up a memory of something that gives us joy or strength. When we are emotionally distraught, we engage in mental activities like balancing our checkbook or playing a board game. Or we turn to the physical and go to the gym, or jog, or swim. Or we meditate, pray, or practice yoga. In other words, when one component impacts us negatively, we turn to another one to compensate. This cooperation does not happen by accident; we control their functionality.
Remember, we are children of the universe, entitled to everything the universe has to offer. It is the implicit theory of positive psychology, humanism, and their mentor Abraham Maslow that all individuals are extraordinary by their humanness, and each has the potential for significant personal achievement.
Each of us is unlike every other being in the history of the world. We are one of a kind and inimitable; there will never be another one like us. We are special. We belong. We are an essential part of everything, and without us, the world would not exist. The Philosophy of Organism states that every actual entity is present in every other actual entity. The Principle of Process determines we are in a constant process of becoming because we are creativity. We are significant and necessary.