Stigma – ‘A mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person’. Now, I think that’s harsh when considering the ‘stigma’ towards mental health. Imagine calling your friend a disgrace because they had just broken their leg. However, reading this made me curious. What is the definition of disgrace? The loss of reputation or respect as the result of a dishonourable action. Harsh! What about the definition of dishonour? A state of shame or disgrace. This is what I found really interesting. We find ourselves having gone full circle, but now we have shame to consider also. The definition of shame is ‘a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour’. So, do people with mental illness feel humiliated or distressed more than most because of a feeling that they have done, will do or are doing a wrong or foolish act? I do! I feel shame for many of the things I have done whilst unwell. I feel more humiliated and distressed as a result of these events. These feelings may even be contributing to my continued ill health through low confidence and self-esteem. I feel that shame is a far more appropriate word than disgrace. If stigma for mental health was defined as ‘A mark of shame associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person’, I would not argue it as inappropriate.
I think we need a change of narrative. We need to see the stigma towards mental health patients more as a factor of shame rather than a factor of disgrace; literally Putting Stigma to Shame. Shame is what we feel every time we are or we think we are stigmatised against. Disgraced seems so sharp and severe.
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I am going to be honest in all my writing. I cannot expect my readers to start to tell their story, honestly and from the heart until I have demonstrated that I can do the same and furthermore display I have derived some benefit from doing so. This is by far the hardest thing I have ever had to write…
The truth behind me thinking I am Jesus or not was not a consideration in my life until recently. About 3 years ago, during a hospital admission, a fellow patient turned round to me and said “Jesus is back and alive, I can see it” staring thoughtfully into my eyes. This got me thinking. My mind started to click into gear. A low one at first, but I quickly moved through them and found my thoughts racing. It all seemed to happen overnight. Such a monumental shift in my surroundings. All of a sudden I was presented with a plethora of patients who thought they were Jesus Christ. “My name is Christopher Jones” one young man said. “Don’t you see, it must be me”. As I got more unwell, my thoughts raced and, I began to create reasons why I was Jesus. I was getting, what seemed like, an awful lot of attention from other patients. Do I look like Jesus, I started to ask myself? Does my name Newson imply something about the Lords resurrection. I am not religious. I believe in a higher force but I don’t like to think of one God who presides over all creation. I found myself coming up with more reasons as to why I was Jesus as to reasons I was not. Does this mean I thought I was Jesus?
I feel as though I sometimes get special attention. It has not been uncommon place for people to bow to me. Especially patients in hospital. I ignore it. I don’t feel it is necessary even if i was to think I was Jesus.
At the end of the day, I ask myself, who would like to be a Man who died so mercilessly and so horrifyingly nailed to a cross. Let’s face it, it takes a great deal of passion and desire to live up to being the Son of God who sacrificed himself so that he could save the world on his return. So, despite my consideration in the past, I have distanced my thoughts from any belief that I am here to save the world. I have my plans. Most would call them grandiose, but I believe any one action can change the world for the better. I read a great quote recently, that I would like to leave you with –
A vision without a task is but a dream, a task without a vision is drudgery, a vision and a task is the hope of the world – UNKNOWN
This blog entry is written for those mental health patients who struggle due to thoughts about the Illuminati and for anybody else who has considered learning more about this secret organisation. As a past enthusiast and reader into the workings of The Illuminati I feel I am well versed in both the positives and negatives of pursuing a greater level of understanding of their operation and how they impact our everyday lives. Probably most famously written about in George Orwell’s 1984 and more recently in Dan Browns’ acclaimed novel Angels and Demons this supposedly secret organisation controls the world and it’s population through covert means.
There is a lot of overwhelming information on the internet. By intensely acquiring this knowledge, it is easy to become overbearing, unawares that our pursuit of knowledge is leaving us with an unbalanced perspective. As mental health patients seek to influence people around them and get validation for their newly found knowledge they can feel undermined and stigmatised against, as they are frowned upon. Their new found beliefs are considered a part of their condition even by medical professionals. One problematic area is the way reading about The Illuminati exposes issues with the Pharmaceutical Industry.
As one studies the behaviour of the public in relation to beliefs about The Illuminati’s control we are told that the general public are ‘programmed’ to keep themselves (and one another) in check. Programmed is a term used by people who expose the Illuminati online because they believe it is through Television ‘Programmes’ (as well as Celebrity Lifestyles) that make us think and believe the things we do.
When I went through my infatuation with the Illuminati back in 2011 I read as many books on the subject as I could lie my hands on. I was addicted to the subject because it seemed to give me some meaning and a goal in life. I had always known that there was something not quite right with the world and as soon as I found an explanation I wanted to learn as much on the subject as possible. I wanted to help free the world from the chains of a 9 to 5 working week and allow people the freedom that the worlds resources, if shared equally, could provide. I believed people could work towards new advances that improve life for people on Earth, and even off it! Otherwise people could choose to spend their time with recreation. I have been told by many, on many occasions, that we can all live like millionaires. There is an abundance of resources.
It took me 5 or 6 years to overcome my infatuation with The Illuminati and understand that the biggest impact I could have was by simply being myself. I am kind, caring, loving and compassionate and if I continue to be that way, without the need to pursue changing the world then my life will change and through that change give me the strength and resources to pursue my dreams. As Gandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
To summarise, I think it is important to have some level of awareness about the control we are under. Commonly referred to as the 1% (although more like the 0.0001%) these people honestly think they deserve to rule over and suppress us all through the debt system they have set up, the food they provide for us to eat and the media we are inundated with. We (the 99%!) accept the fact that we have to go to a job 5 days a week that is boring and unfulfilling while we are left with rising costs and stagnant wages. We are constantly left in a place of fear as the news fills us with horrific events while any stories of compassion and love are quickly left unreported. We live with a financial system that is being artificially held up and rising debt levels are left for the poorest to service. The time where politicians support the few over the many is coming to an end. Things are going to have to change. As more people become aware that this predicament is no coincidence and learn to say ‘no, I will not conform’, then the status quo that is so preciously preserved by those in control will not be maintainable.
If you have any questions about the Illuminati or any other subjects covered in this entry please don’t hesitate to get in touch…
Whichever way you chose to look at it, stigma is an individual characteristic that can be overcome through changing your own thoughts and beliefs about yourself and others. The key to overcoming the stigma for having a mental health difficulty is taking full responsibility, and therefore control, for how you feel.
To gain a better understanding of the Science of Stigma lets take a brief look at some of the concepts within Social Psychology. This is defined as the scientific study of how peoples’ thoughts, feelings and behaviour are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_psychology).
Schemas demonstrate how good our minds are at linking concepts together. You might think about the subject of Mental Health. Schemas organise links in our minds to think up categories around that subject. When we think of mental health we might think of Doctors, Hospital, Medication, Social Worker, Stigma. These Schemas can be very helpful – e.g. Thinking of the Doctor will remind us of an important Dr’s appointment you have in the morning. However you can also have Schemas about your relationships with others and yourself and this is where Schemas can begin to play a negative role, especially within the field of Stigma. A mental health patient may begin to believe that others think you are weird which may lead to you beginning to think of yourself as weird. This is where you have to have the strength of mind to ensure you are thinking positive things about yourself.
It’s likely you have heard the term Stereotype before. By definition a Stereotype is the ‘beliefs about the attributes, characteristics and behaviours of members of various groups’. Our worry as Mental Health Patients is that we are Stereotyped as Schemas speed up the way others think and we are categorised as weird, crazy, strange etc. We must put our opinions of ourselves before the opinion of others. After all, what do others know about us, compared to what we know about ourselves.
When it comes to Schemas we use the one that is at the forefront of our minds. So, part of our job in order to get over the Stigma, and take control of our thoughts, is to shift the priority of good schemas in our minds. We can do that using something called Priming. We will discuss this more in Part 2…
Priming is the implicit memory effect in which exposure to a stimulus impacts the response to a later stimulus. It can be considered as a form of conditioning as it can be used to train a person’s mind in both positive and negative ways. We will talk about how this relates to Mental Health and Stigma later in the post.
There are several different types of Priming but I have chosen to look at Supraliminal Priming, which describes the instances where people are aware of the environmental cue, but are not aware of the influence on them. I made this decision because it leads best to my chosen topic of identity.
When people stigmatise against mental health, they are giving patients a label that is fabricated. The labeller has no idea what is on the label, in terms of a patients characteristics, beyond what they interpret as their condition. Furthermore, mental illness leads us to question who we are, as our character morphs from one pole to the other throughout the phases of illness and recovery. In essence, both the misconceptions about mental illness, and the illness itself, can prime sufferers to live with a false identity.
It is imperative that people who suffer from the stigma of having a mental health condition have a clear understanding of who they are; i.e. are aware of the impact that supraliminal priming (via stigma), and their condition, has on their authentic traits as a human being.
I know that I am a friendly, positive, loving and caring person. I know that my true fulfilment lies in making other people feel loved and special. By channelling my energy towards these traits/objectives I become a more complete version of me and therefore tackle stigma (and life’s other hurdles) head on. Don’t let anybody else use your condition to shape THE WAY YOU ARE!!
This is a great post! It’s well worth a read for anybody who suffers from low self esteem. I realise there are a lot of new concepts to understand, but they are crucial in gaining the insight towards channeling your own thoughts and behaviour towards better self esteem. If anything is unclear just comment below and I will do my best to make things clearer for you.
In Part 2 we looked at the danger of how Stigma could shape the way we think of ourselves. To maintain our self esteem, and avoid the impact of stigma, it is very useful to look at two types of Attribution Theory. Attribution Theory is used to explain behaviour. There are two types of Attribution – Internal and External. Internal Attribution is when we look within ourselves for an explanation of behaviour. A teacher whose student has performed very well in a test, may say to himself ‘I’m an excellent teacher’. Whereas if the teacher was to take an approach using external attribution, he/she might say, that student is very clever. That is attribution theory in its simplest sense.
When someone seems to be stigmatising us we can use External Attribution to make better judgements and maintain our self esteem. I will use the example of a mental health sufferer shopping and a customer saying ‘that’s weird’. Using Internal Attribution, we might attribute the customer’s opinion as being targeted at our behaviour. We may think that we are being called weird and that we are the target for stigma. In reality, the comment could, much more likely, be interpreted as being externally attributed. Isn’t it far more likely that they are calling a product, a smell or even part of their conversation weird. The problem is that we tend to internally attribute behaviour long before we come to externally attribute it. Another quick example is when someone is rude to us and we may think that they don’t like us. In reality isn’t it more likely that they are just having a bad day.
Stigma towards mental health sufferers can cause them to have low self esteem i.e. see themselves negatively. There are a few different types of self esteem, that, when understood, can help you to make better choices about how you feel about yourself.
Trait and State Self Esteem differ in regard to where you obtain your levels of self esteem. Trait Self Esteem gives you the bigger picture and is your general sense of self esteem over a longer time period. Whereas, State Self Esteem is more how your self esteem varies from moment to moment. It is worth trying to catch yourself during periods of low state self esteem. If you can, first, stop any destructive negative thought e.g. I am worthless. Then, try to avoid contradicting that thought by saying, e.g. I am not worthless. Believe it or not this only reinforces the negative thinking patterns. Instead, it is far more effective to think of a happy thought. A time when you felt good about yourself and others. By making this thought pattern a habit, you will soon find your level of self esteem improving. Let me know how you get on!
There are some states of self esteem which often go unconsidered, but have a significant impact on how you feel about yourself. You can have all the self esteem in the world, but if yourself esteem is unstable, stigma or certain behaviour by others, can cause you problems. Defensive self esteem is where your self esteem is high, but it is unstable. Here, you are likely to respond negatively to any threat, and have periods of lower self esteem as a result. Mindfulness meditation can help you stay in the present moment, build more stable levels of self esteem, and respond more positively. You can find a plethora of mindfulness meditation apps, by doing a simple search on your phone’s app store.
It is also worth considering something called the contingency of self worth. Here, self esteem can be generated by either, only a few factors (these can be family support, academic performance, self-image, for example), or by a good number of factors. Depending on how importantly you rate these domains and how much they contribute to you self worth will determine your levels of self esteem. If your level of self esteem is based on just one contingency you are more likely to suffer from low self esteem. It may be worth exploring new domains and improving your performance in them. If you would like to be more physically attractive, you could go to the gym, for example.
Stigma can have a dramatic impact on your level of self esteem. Work at understanding the concepts in this post, and take action by putting techniques in place to generate better self esteem. You will find your renewed resilience can help you put stigma to shame!
Peace and Namaste!
Research has shown (Dr Robert & Lisa Firestone 2006) that people are driven to feel hate towards themselves. Robert and Lisa’s explanation for this sense of hate is the feeling that “you are different to other people”. This could be due to mental health problems, but essentially the feeling of not fitting in with society’s ‘norms’ can make us hate ourselves. As mental health sufferers we feel alienated and then have to deal with The Stigma also. It is no wonder that we struggle to have positive thoughts about ourselves.
In Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs there is the necessity to have a sense of belonging from family, friends, colleagues etc. before you can move on to develop a sense of self esteem. The divisions in society today plays on this sense of belonging in a harmful way. Youths who commit violent crime are often trying to fit in with the gang culture. Football fans are committed to foul mouthing opposition fans which emphasises a sense of division. Income bracket, class structure, neighbourhood are all things that divide us as society and prevent us from having genuine, effective levels of self esteem.
More research investigating why we choose to support this inner critic (Kishimi & Koga 2018) describes the work of Alfred Adler, one of the giants of 20th Century Psychology alongside Freud and Jung. His work says that we can all live free from the influence of past experience, doubts as well as the expectation of others. He offers us a liberating experience allowing us the courage to change and ignore the limitations that we and others place upon us.
Adler’s work explains (Kishimi & Koga 2018), “Why do you dislike yourself? Why do you focus only on your shortcomings, and why have you decided to not start liking yourself? It’s because you are overly afraid of being disliked by other people and getting hurt in your interpersonal relationships”. By deciding to stop liking yourself you are setting a goal to stop yourself getting hurt in your relationships with other people. That way you can even have a ready made excuse for when people snub you. You’ve made it nearly impossible to get hurt in your interpersonal relationships.
How does this help us when it comes to Stigma towards people with mental health difficulties? Adler argues that we have to have the courage to change and the determination to take on that inner critic, even if it is backed up by people who stigmatise you because of your mental health condition.
A consequence of disliking yourself is the examples of having an inferiority or superiority complex. The inferiority complex is easiest to explain but maybe harder to accept. People who dislike themselves or feel inferior can either search out and make the effort to improve their situation or make excuses for their current situation. An example may be applying for a better job, but not bothering because you lack the education. A healthy response here would be to search out ways to get back into education and study diligently. The problem is it remains much easier to adopt an inferiority complex and start complaining. You can start right there. If you want to improve your current situation, stop complaining and take action.
A superiority complex is just as destructive. People can dislike themselves whilst boasting about past achievements. Arrogant people rarely feel good about themselves underneath their act. That is the exact reason why they feel the need to boast about their achievements. In a similar vein a superiority complex can take the form of an underachiever boasting about their misfortune. It might be their childhood, or because of their physical characteristics. Whatever it may be, they like to make themselves feel special by boasting about their misfortune. Try and support this person and you are likely to be brushed aside, with little inclination and a comment along the lines of “oh, you don’t know how I feel”. They only want to feel special and sustain the comfort extended to them through complaining and not taking action.
To overcome the sense of hate you have towards yourself you must get control of that inner critic. That voice inside your head that we have submitted to over the years that tells us we are not worthy, good enough, capable enough, beautiful enough etc. After all would you talk to a friend in the same way that you speak to yourself. Why then do you allow this inner critic to develop. By making excuses and complaining you are only feeding those inner thoughts and feelings and leave yourself little opportunity to make the realistic positive changes. By taking action you empower yourself and others to feel better, think better, believe better and ultimately be better. I wish you every ounce of success for gaining control of you inner thoughts and therefore creating the reality you desire.
Firestone, R.W, Firestone, L & Catlett J. 2002. “Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice: A Revolutionary Program to Counter Negative Thoughts and Live Free From Imagined Limitations.” New Harbinger
Kishimi, I & Koga, F. 2018. “The Courage to be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness”. Allen & Unwin
Some people are motivated by competition while others are not. We do not all feel the need to win (Robert E. Franken & Douglas J. Brown 1995). It is difficult to imagine a world where humans pursue a competitive advantage only to improve life for themselves and others.Whatever way you look at it, competition means someone must lose (Dr Sander van Der Linden 2015). The problem with the competitive nature of society today is that competition isn’t always met with cooperation. Modern day society is thwart with competition. Sports entertain the masses, political divides are competitive, economic competition means that markets are efficient and even human survival and finding love is competitive. Competition often gives us the incentive to perform better, satisfies the need to win and gives motivates people to put in greater effort in order to perform at a higher level (Robert E. Franken & Douglas J. Brown 1995).
In terms of mental health patients who take medications; which, I must say, are crucial to maintain stability and ensure patients remain out of hospital. However, they seem to be so strong that they come with unavoidable side effects that destabilise the patient’s competitiveness. Side effects include anxiety, weight gain, problems with attention, memory or speech, visual disturbances such as blurred vision, tremors and even, the one that I haven’t, obviously, yet experienced (and this is written on most of the leaflets for medications that treat mental health conditions) ‘sudden and immediate death’. Mental Health patients have less chance of competing successfully due to these side effects and often give up and accept a life that leaves them second best.
There is also the stigmatism that can give patients little opportunity to feel capable of competing. Patients are guilty of giving others’ opinions of themselves greater significance than what they think of themselves. They accept a worse version of themselves due to others influence, instead of deciding for themselves what they stand for.
I don’t think anybody can say they don’t compete with themselves. I am talking about that inner critic I spoke about in my previous blog entry “The Science of Stigma – The Inner Critic – PART 4”. This inner voice competes alongside a more accepting and rewarding voice. You can choose either to feed your growling dog or your friendly, tail wagging, pleased to see you dog. They compete for your internal chatter and therefore your state of mind. It is important that we learn to manage this internal competition in order to gain a less dependent mind. I have said it before; we must take control of our own thoughts in order to fully establish a mind that is freer from the influence of others.
Gratitude is an extremely powerful concept that can help promote positive self-competition. There is always someone worse off than you and if you allow yourself the time to feel grateful for even the smallest things in life then you will nurture both competition and cooperation. Be consciously grateful when you pick your head off the pillow in the morning, when you eat your meals throughout the day, when you walk out your front door freely and unassisted and so on. It is also worth considering that the less we compare ourselves to others the more chance we will have to learn about ourselves.
Sander van Der Linden, “The Psychology of Competition: How competitions can lead you to do the right thing for the wrong reason” (Psychology Today, June 2015)
M. Huston, “Why we Compete: A Scientific Look at People’s Obsessions with Besting their Peers” (The Atlantic, October 2015)
R.E. Franken & D.J. Brown, “Why do people like competition? The motivation for winning, putting forth effort, improving one’s performance, performing well, being instrumental, and expressing forceful/aggressive behavior” (Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 19, Issue 2, August 1995, Pages 175-184)
The definition of Assertive is ‘having or showing a confident and forceful personality’. Do not be put off by the word forceful. Assertiveness is not being bossy. It is merely an effective communication style that means you can express yourself effectively and stand up for what you feel is right. Being bossy, suggests a lack of respect for the thoughts and beliefs of others. Assertiveness is a respectful communication style (MAYO CLINIC, 2017).
The definition of Anger is ‘a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure or hostility’. Anger is an emotional response. We therefore tend to react without being conscious of the impact our anger has on the receiver. Anger communicates a message in a way that is not as affective as being assertive as it dismisses the needs, feelings and opinions of others. The message, therefore, is rarely heard.
Consider my last post: “The Science of Stigma – Human Competition – PART 5”. Anger stems from a sense of competition. It is the sense that someone else’s opinion is wrong while your opinion is right. Competitive behaviour means people are unwilling to admit they are wrong. A power struggle ensues that results in demands that the other party admits they are at fault. It is important to understand that admitting mistakes, conveying an apology and stepping down from the power struggle is not any form of defeat (Koga and Kishimi, 2018).
I have offered a brief look at anger and compared it to assertiveness as a communication style. However, there are two other methods of communication that are worth considering – passive and passive-aggressive behaviours. Both, also try to communicate a message, but fail to deliver it as clearly as being assertive.
Passive communicators are often shy and too easy going. They avoid conflict and often say things like, “I will do what you decide”. Being passive means you find it hard to say no, so you can be easily forced to do things that put you out – that you don’t want to do. This can result in an angry reaction towards the person who has asked you to do something, that you would otherwise would not have done, and also towards yourself for not being able to stand up for what you believe in. By being passive you give others the license to neglect your own wants and needs.
The final communication style is being passive-aggressive. Being passive-aggressive is an indirect communication style, which often results in resistance to requests and demands through procrastinating and stubbornness (Cherry, 2018). Wikipedia defines Passive-aggressive behaviour as “characterised by indirect resistance to the demands of others and an avoidance of direct confrontation.” (En.wikipedia.org, n.d.). Being passive aggressive can damage relationships and results in a lack of mutual respect which can mean it is hard for the individual to get his/her needs and goals met (MAYO CLINIC, 2017).
Being assertive can help avoid people walking all over you whilst it can also help prevent you from steamrolling others. To become more assertive you can focus on using more “I” statements. By saying things like “I disagree”, rather than “you’re wrong” you sound less accusatory. It can result in a lot more cooperative form of communication. You can also consider practicing saying no, rehearse what you want to say, use body language and keeping emotions in check.
It is worth practicing to become more assertive, because you can learn to express your needs and feeling more effectively. You will find you get more of what is rightfully yours as a result.
Cherry, K. (2018). How to Understand and Identify Passive-Aggressive Behavior. [online] Verywell Mind. Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-passive-aggressive-behavior-2795481 [Accessed 19 Feb. 2019].
En.wikipedia.org. (n.d.). Passive-aggressive behavior. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive-aggressive_behavior [Accessed 18 Feb. 2019].
Koga, F. and Kishimi, I. (2018). The Courage To Be Disliked: How to Free Yourself, Change Your Life and Achieve Real Happiness. George Allen & Unwin.
MAYO CLINIC (2017). Being Assertive: Reduce Stress and Communicate Better. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/assertive/art-20044644. [Accessed 18 February 2019].