Sunday, April 2, 2017

Chapter 3-6. Resulting Harms and Losses

When basic human needs are disregarded, violated or insecure many harms result. Think about what it’s like to be treated unfairly, go hungry, be thirsty, have nowhere safe to sleep at night or no meaningful way to make a living.  Think about what it’s like to be disrespected, hurt, called names, beaten up, pushed around, held somewhere you don’t want to be, or forced to do something you think is bad for you.

These kinds of adversity is highly distressing for most of us.  When basic needs are discounted or deliberately trampled on, nobody does well.  We don’t have what we need to live well or feel well. Our survival is at risk in important ways – physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially…  We may be literally fighting for our lives.

The normal response when our needs feel threatened is anxiety and concern.  If nothing changes, this
can grow into full-blown mental distress. A lot of times this is what people are talking about when they say “I've got anxiety” or “I’m depressed.”

Intense, prolonged mental distress can lead to even more extreme states.   We can end up totally disconnected from ourselves, others and the communities we live in.  We can stop feeling like a part of things.  We can stop feeling human.  We can even stop feeling like living or being alive.

This kind of disconnection – both from things we need, as well as from other human beings -- undermines our confidence in life itself.  Neither the Universe nor those in it feel benevolent or worthy of our trust.

Many of us begin to feel like we have been singled out for misery or torture and we don't know why.   We see others seeming to enjoy life and continually landing on their feet.  What is wrong with me?, we wonder.  Why has God abandoned me?  Is there some evil force stalking me ...?  

We may also stop caring how our actions affect others.  We may look for anything we can that deadens the pain. We may become so physically or emotionally reactive that we lose our capacity to think or be aware.  Once these things get set in motion, they may stay that way for a very long time.  We may get called “suicidal”, “borderline”, “addict”, “chronic”, “unmotivated”, “help-seeking”, “anti-social”  - or even “psychotic”, “psychopathic”, “delusional” or “schizophrenic.”

If that happens to us, it is important to look beyond the labels.  We need to remember that the root cause is not our “mental illness.” It is not our “addict nature.”  It is not our 'criminal minds.'

These are effects, not causes.  Madness, addiction and crime are predictable effects of pain, alienation and subsequent attempts to cope.  Basic life necessities have been missing, disrespected, or threatened. Often, there was no one we trusted to help us find our way out.  When help was offered, it sometimes made things worse instead of better.  All too often, we were on our own and continuing to fall.

Before long, we were in so deep that we didn’t know if we’d ever get out.  True, every so often a passerby might come along and poke their nose in our hole.  But, as soon as they saw how deep it was, they’d turn up  their nose and high-tail it on their way.

There are few places on the human journey that feel more lonely, confusing or distressing than this one.  Yet far too many of us are here right now.

Types of Harms and Losses

Graphic from
We are multi-dimensional beings.  We care about many aspects of our lives on this planet.  This means that, when an injury happens, it can affect us on many different levels.

Here are some examples from The Eight Dimensions of Wellness,

What kinds of harms and losses have happened to you...?

Duration/ Intensity of Suffering

As a general rule, our injuries are more severe the longer we have suffered without meaningful redress. Also important are factors like:

  • How old we were when the injuries happened
  • How many times we’ve been injured 
  • How many different kinds of injuries we have
  • How many areas of our lives were affected
  • How painful the injuries were
  • How long the effects persisted
  • How much the injuries have affected our lives

How would you answer these questions for yourself?


Injuries not Illnesses, Reparations not Treatment

They are injuries, not illnesses.  We should not be 'treated' as if we are the 'problem.'  We should not be shamed or blamed for the consequences of our needs going unmet.  We should not be labeled or diagnosed as if we are sick, ill, irresponsible or amoral.  

At the very least, responsibility and accountability should be shared.  A society that allows harms like these to be perpetrated on its most vulnerable citizens is far from well itself.  It is ill-positioned to point the finger.  

If society wants the victims of its negligent and sometimes intentional maltreatment to stand up and be accountable, then it needs to lead by example as to what accountability looks like. A good first step would be to support the victims of societal malfeasance to repair the damage done to them and recover what has been lost.  

To this end, those injured should be offered validation, assistance, restitution and reparations by the communities that allowed such injuries to occur. Instead of focusing on 'problem populations', mental distress, addictions and crime, first and foremost, should be seen as an indicators of community oversights and failings.  At a minimum, the prevalence of such issues reflects poorly on the quality of dignity, regard and opportunity that communities are offering the most vulnerable among them. 

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