Tuesday, September 04, 2012

David Rosenhan's Experience.

He died not too long ago.
Before he left us, he left some of his notes with another person hoping that someone could help to penetrate this action.  He KNEW. He knew what it was like to be made invisible as a human being because of a definition.
When Rosenhan went into a psych hospital playing the role of “patient,” he shared our experience in a much more real way than most psychiatrists have ever done and it was an eye opener for him. It was also quite a shock, I think, too to see it from the other point of view. One of the things he said about it was that he “felt like” he “wasn't really there.”
That is because psych patients are reduced to the level of objects of observation the minute we walk in the door. Human equality disappears at that moment, even if it was present in your experience before. 
Rosenhan of course, being a Doctor, would likely have been treated as a “superior” before that, so the contrast must have been even more starkly portrayed.  Because of this perceived “difference” in terms of human understanding or worth, a “patient” who says “I felt like I wasn't really there, gets “interpreted” by the “objective observers” and is presumed to be “presenting with symptom” and not a relationship with the doctor or the hospital staff.
What is mean as, “I was talked 'at'  or 'about' as if I had no mind of my own at all, at least, not one that really mattered, or which anyone had to take seriously,'
then gets “interpreted” as
“It must be awful[1] to have a disease that makes you feel as if you weren't really there.”
We must fix this person for his or her own good since s/he has no insight into his/her own condition.
Pathologizing someone's experience of reality turns that person into a self-contained problem,  without relationship to external reality or other people. While it isolates that person in much the same way a contagious disease gets quarantined, it also PROTECTS everyone else and makes them all absolutely blameless.
Unfortunately, the person isolated and controlled, like a threat to the body of humanity is all too often actually the one who sees the cause of the problem and could help to cure it, if only someone could manage to HEAR what s/he is actually saying without “interpreting” it to mean something else.

[1]   Or sometimes “amusing”since the identified patient isn't really considered to be conscious at all

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