Post No.: 0734
It’s especially indefensible when someone knows that someone else has a mental disorder or disability yet still treats them (even more so) with bullying, taunts and belittlement.
Some people, alternatively, end up feeling unsure and nervous around the mentally ill in a ‘stay away from me’ or ‘I cannot deal with this’ kind of way. Even friends can feel scared of saying or doing the wrong thing around them just in case it triggers something, hence some friends sadly end up forsaking a sufferer over time.
Another problem that some people with mental or physical illnesses face in some cultures is how many people treat them as if their conditions are somehow contagious when they’re not. They’re afraid of the ‘abnormal’ (whatever ‘normal’ is). The answer, when one is afraid, is seeking education – not avoiding people or things one doesn’t understand. Meow.
It may be overall adaptive as a heuristic to assume that something that makes someone unwell is contagious and to avoid the source if one doesn’t understand much about it. But we need a refined education because it depends on the specific condition and whether it can be transmitted from person-to-person at all.
Their illnesses certainly have nothing to do with being ‘cursed’ or ‘demonically possessed’! Epileptic seizures are so-called because it was once believed that evil spirits temporarily seize, or possess, the body. It’s not a ‘punishment for a past life transgression’ either, and it’s not about ‘karma’ or other unscientific beliefs.
What’s the point of being punished for a past life transgression if one cannot remember what one did wrong in that past life anyway? What’s the lesson if one doesn’t know what misdeed one should never repeat? Timely rewards incentivise us to repeat what we just did because we learn ‘if I do this then I get rewarded with a pleasurable feeling so I’ll keep doing it again’; and timely punishments encourage us to cease what we just did because we learn ‘if I do this then I get punished with an unpleasant feeling so I’ll stop doing it again’. But if such a lesson comes so late that one cannot even remember what one even did then it’s not a worthy lesson at all.
When people are wedded to a belief that doesn’t fit the evidence, they’ll typically just move the goalposts until a point where their belief becomes unfalsifiable i.e. even though they cannot prove their own belief is true – others not being able to prove their belief is false is enough for them to believe it must be true. So in this example of believing in karma – if others ask, say, how babies born with congenital birth defects deserve what they get, the staunch believers of karma may then rationalise that it must be because of some past life sin. And because (they reckon) you cannot prove that reincarnations don’t exist, or they cannot accept what’s the point of respawning if you cannot remember your apparent past acts or mistakes to learn from them (without having false memories planted – which is what so-called past life regression therapy does), they’ll then settle on this explanation in order to maintain their belief in the existence of karma.
So the concept of karma might lead to the pernicious belief that others who suffer must’ve committed some kind of ‘hidden/secret sin’ in this life or another because of the belief that everyone gets what they deserve. They’re simply being tortured for some past transgression and it’s not up to anyone else to help alleviate their pain because their suffering is perhaps ‘the will of the universe’ or something like that. A belief in karma can come from either religious or secular sources.
It’s the illusion of control. Everyone deserves their misfortunes somehow. Your own bad luck is your own fault… even if it’s because you broke a mirror or walked under a ladder(!)
Some may argue that, even if untrue, the concept of karma helps to teach/threaten people to do good deeds. But is knowingly lying by spreading such untruths a good deed?(!)
A belief in karma can encourage us to work hard, do good and help us to let go of the idea of personally seeking revenge because we have faith that the universe will naturally sort things out to give everyone what they deserve (according to our own notions of right and wrong). Divine guiding forces will punish a wrongdoer for us. A belief in karma might also be adaptive if it stops us from dwelling on our unfair losses because we’ll believe that luck will balance out in the end, whether in this life or beyond. But a huge risk is that we might let go of seeking justice in this life. It can also result in people justifying their own unfair advantages.
Therefore beliefs or attitudes that benefit our mental well-being in certain contexts need to be watched out for in other contexts where they may exhibit harmful and unjust social side-effects.
In some families, some parents try to deny that it’s even possible for their own children to have mental health illnesses – as if denial or ‘ignorance is bliss’ will superstitiously make it disappear. Or they might conclude that they must’ve been possessed by malevolent spirits or demons who need to be exorcised. Beliefs in spirit possessions exist in most societies in every part of the world.
People who suggest things like your depression is due to vengeful spirits haunting and pestering you because you’ve been bad, or a spirit actually possessing you, or that your symptoms are simply evidence of a guilt or secret sin you’re hiding, or it’s evidence of a past life transgression – can really irresponsibility make a mental health sufferer feel worse. What they believe in is total tosh and they may have their own agendas for suggesting these things.
These beliefs can also lead to people paying stashes of money to scammers who claim to be able to listen to and/or influence the spirits involved to help them or their loved-ones get better. These scammers might even dangerously advise the ill to avoid scientifically-supported efficacious medicines. They may argue that they offer a service that can give their clients a sense of spiritual peace of mind, but spiritual mediums, tarot card readers and similar who believe they have special insight into your mind or soul via divine forces or the spiritual realm can cause or exacerbate mental harms. We should understand that their interpretations would only reliably speak the truth about their own minds rather than those of their clients – all subjective interpretations of events speak more about the interpreter than about the events being judged because these are not scientifically objective observations. And what it might be saying is that these scammers have an over-inflated faith in their own intuitions! (Post No.: 0690 suggested that faith is like a perfect scam.)
Other kinds of toxic or heartless responses include, “You’re only mourning for their death because you selfishly still want them in your life.” (Yes I’ve heard this one before from someone who wanted me to immediately stop grieving for a loss so that I could find the energy to do something for them!)
Some people beat themselves up over things they’re not really responsible for, and that’s a, or the, source of their depression. Our conscience usually tells us that we’ve done something wrong but for some people it over-fires and for some it under-fires – just like the way some of the most talented artists at their craft don’t think they’re good enough while some of the least talented think far too highly of themselves. Thus feeling guilty doesn’t always mean that someone has done anything wrong, just like not feeling guilty doesn’t always mean that someone hasn’t done anything wrong.
It’s however classed as a type of dissociative disorder to believe that spirits possess oneself though (dissociative trance disorder). Those alleged to be possessed by spirits can exhibit symptoms that are similar to those found in mental illnesses like epilepsy, psychosis, hysteria, mania or catatonia. Alleged demonic possessions can be related to experiencing trauma. Yet these types of dissociative experiences may be part of certain religious practices across the world – in such cases, they should arguably not be regarded as pathological unless considered abnormal within the context of that cultural or religious group.
…Those who seek to better educate themselves regarding matters of mental health (from reputable sources) won’t mock nor fearfully abandon the mentally unwell, and won’t believe in causes and solutions to them that have no basis in science. When they witness anyone behaving strangely – in any unusual way that isn’t a pretend act – they’ll look to express understanding and fluffy care.
So the more we learn about mental health, and cognitive and developmental problems, the less we’ll see anyone who’s apparently lazy, unconfident, overweight, lacking in intellectual abilities, etc. as a laughing matter or situation to feel superior about – it’s a situation that actually deserves our empathy, sympathy and compassion.
We’ll understand that, for instance, if intelligence is largely down to both one’s genetics and developmental experiences then no one chooses, earns or thus morally deserves these fortunate/unfortunate circumstances at all. So if you’re not what used to be called ‘retarded’ (now known as having an intellectual disability) then count yourself lucky. It’s not a jeer, sneer or ostracising matter because there are causal reasons for everything, and these causes won’t ultimately be the fault of the individual and it won’t have anything to do with divine karma or spirit possessions. So however someone is, we must treat them with kind empathy and respect; not with an assumptive or judgemental ‘empathy’ borne from prejudiced beliefs.
It’s not a fine but totally arbitrary line between vilification and sympathy. Even sociopaths, dictators and mass murderers are ultimately who they are not because of true, strict free choice but chance – from an objective hard science perspective – in a universe that operates according to the immutable laws of physics. No one ultimately chooses their nature or nurture, and there has been no unambiguous evidence found concerning immaterial souls that transcend these laws. Not that this means we should always go easy on people if they’re being lazy, hostile or unkind – but ridicule, abuse, self-superiority and fear are not appropriate or even effective responses. And not that we shouldn’t imprison people or remove some of their rights if they’ve been found guilty in a fair court of law of having maliciously caused harm towards others, for the sake of keeping the rest of society, and them, safe – but when dealing these punishments, no one should be treated with irreconcilable anger, vengeance or derogation.
It’s not the case that most clinically diagnosed mentally disordered or disabled people, or even people with extreme personalities, ever harm others – in fact, mentally disordered and disabled people are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators of crime. It’s like sharks are more likely to be killed by humans than be killers of humans, despite what many people believe based on what they’ve seen in the movies. Our perceptions can run contrary to the statistical data, especially whenever fear is involved. And that’s something we should all understand here.
Many perpetrators of crimes who have mental health problems were victims of something traumatic or abusive in their own pasts (in this lifetime) too – hence these vicious cycles must stop via interventions that protect children and young adults, instead of constantly passing the blames between the causes of trauma or abuse and the people who turn out dangerous because of experiencing such trauma or abuse.
Meow. By clicking on the Twitter comment button below, you can share whether you think advancements in science will one day extinguish all beliefs in spirit possessions, past lives and karma, or will beliefs in incorporeal souls be too intuitive for humans, as a whole, to ever completely abandon?