Feminist Therapy

Badge Of Pride

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One of the drawbacks of living in a culture with an individualistic mentality is that problems created and shared by a group of people are not seen as such. More often that not it’s the person with the least amount of power who manifests the most obvious symptoms and feels personally responsible.

The way to understand all neuroses is that they are the end result of a person’s attempts to solve an unsolvable conflict. A neurosis could not exist without the underlying conflict that creates it. This conflict almost always shows up in childhood and is usually related to primary caregivers or other trusted authority figures who are emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive. The reason that the conflict is unsolvable is because the child has no defense against the stronger presence and has to deal with the dilemma of relating to a person who is supposed to be the source of nurturing, love, and protection instead be the source of fear, danger, and anxiety.

There is limited recourse for a child who lacks any real power or life experience and who is still completely dependent for survival. This situation is unbearable. So the child comes up with creative solutions to feel better. The solution might be cutting, finding relief by inflicting self-harm behind closed doors. It might be disassociation, symbolically leaving the body during instances of abuse. It might be turning off emotionally, deciding that feeling nothing is better than feeling fear and anxiety all the time. It might be getting into physical altercations with classmates, temporarily transferring pain to someone else.

What is truly tragic about our Western culture is that these manifest symptoms are almost always seen as having originated solely within the person who has them, rather than as the outcome of a creative response to an unsolvable conflict created by someone else. Our individualistic mentality makes us believe the person who has the symptoms should be solely responsible for fixing them. Actually this usually just means adjustment to a mode of life that is unfair and psychically damaging instead of working to effect change in the system that is causing the dysfunction.

That’s why if you are experiencing symptoms from life issues the first thing you can do is congratulate yourself and wear them like a badge of pride rather than feeling ashamed. More often than not they represent creative attempts to combat hostile circumstances when there were no other means at your disposal. You can take some time to appreciate the courage and strength you showed to survive difficult times. You might be surprised by how much of a difference this change in mentality makes. The burden of guilt is reduced and in its place pride surges up. Rather than proof of your weakness your symptoms are proof of your strength. The alternative was to give up completely.

Once this revelation hits you fully you will be in a much better position to decide upon ways of living that solve your existential conflicts without producing painful symptoms. To use the cutting example again, the act of cutting itself lowers painful feelings of anxiety, and this would be great if not for the scars, shame, loneliness, and various other symptoms that go along with it. You are now older, wiser, stronger, and have many more tools at your disposal than you did when you were a child, and you can find a creative solution that fits your developmental stage better.