I got to thinking about “The Stigma.” Where does it originate? I think I see a part of the answer in that ancient saying, “There, but for the Grace go I.” For some of us when we encounter the poor, the afflicted, the addicted, the homeless, the displaced, or the mad, that awareness of how easily we might become or have been born among them moves us to compassion and a desire to be of service in some way. Others know only fear and push the thought of sameness away. They do not want to encounter such people and want them out of sight. They think up ways they are better than those ones, more virtuous, more prudent, more righteous, etc. But the root is fear, not of those people, but of feeling like them, of knowing they are not so different, and the distance between not so great. The stigmatization then arises, at least in part, from the need to deny that fear, to avoid having to imagine oneself standing in those shoes.
If that is so, how to change it? How might those who believe themselves sane come to understand that those they call mad are showing them something important about being human and giving them opportunities to be more fully part of the wholeness of the family themselves? How to free them from that mind killer, fear?