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 ...?
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 https://cpr.bu.edu/living-well/eight-dimensions-of-wellness|
Here are some examples from The Eight Dimensions of Wellness, https://cpr.bu.edu/living-well/eight-dimensions-of-wellness:
What kinds of harms and losses have happened to you...?
Duration/ Intensity of SufferingAs 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?