Saturday, December 17, 2011

Empowered vs. Controlled

"Judi Chamberlin (1978) wrote about her experiences while in a psychiatric hospital in the 1960s:
The whole experience of mental hospitalization promotes weakness and dependency.  Not only are the lives of patients controlled, but patients are constantly told that such control is for their own good, which they are unable to see because of their mental illness.  Patients become unable to trust their own judgment, become indecisive, overly submissive to authority, frightened of the outside world . . . The experience [of hospitalization] totally demoralized me.  I had never thought of myself as a particularly strong person, but after hospitalization, I was convinced of my own worthlessness.  I had been told that I could not exist outside of an institution.  I was terrified that people would find out that I was an ex-patient and look down on me as much as I looked down on myself. (pp. 6-7)"
From Empowering People with Severe Mental Illness by D. Linhorst, Oxford University Press (2006)

A woman with mental illness writes about her experiences in a psychiatric hospital in the 1960s and yet the reaction provoked by this experience sounds like the same reaction of many non-hospitalized students and professionals today - second-guessing self-perceptions, profoundly doubting intuition, ambivalent about what to do, afraid to rock the boat, afraid of our own voice and desires.  The conditions of oppression, regardless of context, setting, or target, can provoke similar reactions.  We can choose a different reaction.

We can  . . .
  • trust our own judgment
  • decide what is best for us (despite social pressures)
  • have a balanced relationship with authority
  • face the world with confidence and respectful humility

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