Just Another Senseless Act Of Violence

I give you this fact which should be obvious:  No one ever does anything that to them, at least in that moment, does not make some sort of sense.  We may often have a WTF moment afterward, but that is hindsight talking. So, what are we doing when we say an action is “senseless?”  We are saying we need not consider how that action made sense to that person when they did it.  We are saying we need not think about how they came to think and feel that way.  Most importantly, we are avoiding looking into the mirror they hold up to us.  It may be about our politics, our theologies, our educational systems or health care systems, our justice systems, or our economic system, whatever, but the mirror is there, always.  Yes, the person may have some mental illness, and that allows us to say he couldn’t possibly be making sense, could not have any message for us other than that he did not get the treatment he needed.  But even if the action was driven by hallucinations and/or delusions, even those are saying something and take forms and contents consistent with culture and society.  Calling the act “senseless” allows us to dismiss the idea that it could have any deeper meaning, but is, “Just another nut job with a gun, how sad.”  Then we do not have to see the roots of the hate, or fear, or rage, or disappointment, or confusion that brought them to that place.  Then we can turn away from the mirror.  Someone else will come all too soon to hold it up to us again, and again, and again, and again,….and again.

immoral or ugly

Just to be very clear about reality, the vast majority of people dealing with mental illness are not killing, raping, or blowing things up.  They are doing their best to live as well as they can with their conditions and manage their lives.  Many are active in forums like this sharing their experience and offering support and encouragement to others.  Many are active in their communities in similar ways and advocating for the needs of their peers.  They are not lashing out.  They are reaching out.  Many others are just quietly getting through from day to day in spite of their mood swings, anxieties, intrusive thoughts, voices, or whatever the manifestations of their conditions may be.  That is the reality of mental illness.


There, But For The Grace…

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?