Living in the Margins
Molly Charles (1)
I) Our Selectivity - Perception and expansion of Knowledge
II) Us and Our Being - Asserting Divergence through Discord
a) characteristics of the entity or drug consumed
b) the user or subject and
c) the use of drug as a part of Being-with-others, Being-with-another, or Being ready-to-hand (perceiving the drug to have the central, functional role as facilitator; be it for increased performance at work, for studies....), manipulating the temporal reality of Being.
Besides, Dasein is not static, but stretches itself from birth to death, connecting Life as a sequence of experiences in time. Though, Dasein’s experiences are constantly changing, as experience is always ‘now’ or current view the Self maintains itself throughout with a certain selfsameness (Heidegger, 425p). For Dasein, whatever happens, it experiences it in time.
III) Restrictive approach to changes in Human Profile
Our struggle with variation in sexual identity, reflects our desire to deny empirical evidence of diversity and attempts to portray a selective perception as a universal reality. To take an illustration in line with Kant’s view, ‘All members in tribe X are short’ does not mean there aren’t any individuals who are tall, nor does it mean in future there can’t be taller individuals; with empirical statements, it is difficult to arrive at a universal conclusion.
In the case of gender, there is clear empirical evidence that human sexual identity cannot be limited to the male and female. Yet, we use cultural norms and laws to avoid the reality of diversity in sexual identity, that goes beyond traditional categorization.
b) Drug Use
Reflecting on our assumptions about the drug user or drug use can throw light on our skewed perceptions. For example: ‘All drug users are addicts’ or ‘Drug use causes addiction’ or ‘Once a drug user always a drug user’ or ‘recovering addict’.
All such statements carry with it assumptions of universality and the presence of a causal relation with empirical evidence. All these statements assume drug use always, in every single instance, causes addiction and there are no drug users who are not addicted or become a non-user (without being part of self-help groups).
To explore our restrictive view point, we can examine the statements; ‘All drug addicts are drug users’ or ‘All drug users are addicts’; the first statement is an analytical statement or judgement, for the concept of drug user (predicate) is contained, in some manner, within the concept of drug addict, the subject. But, in case of the second statement it is a synthetic statement and so the predicate can only expand on information about the drug user, the subject. Besides, our synthetic judgement/statement, as in the second example, does not just add information about the subject, it but creates scope for marginalization for the concept of addict has a negative connotation within society. Thus, when we state - he/she is an addict; instead of accepting it as additional information on the subject, it leads to process of labelling and marginalization.
The response by others to this information is to depersonalize the individual and emphasize upon the common myths regarding the drug addict within the given socio-cultural context and brush aside all else. This depersonalization ensures a strengthening of marginalization, for the concept of drug addict has a negative connotation that affects all spheres of the individual’s existence (education, health, social skills, social relationships and work) and the individual no longer struggles only with his/her drug use but also with the weight of negative identity. This process is almost self-perpetuating with the drug user accepting the identity provided by others rather than asserting the need for questioning the assumption of universality and that selective perception regarding drug use, drug user and being a non-drug user.
c) Mental Health
IV) Society’s measures to address concerns of Marginal groups
It is a crime to use drugs in many countries across the globe, a few countries consider it the right of the individual to choose and evolve his/her sexual identity. While mental illness, even in its extreme instances, is not a crime; it can lead to being incarcerated for care. Suicide can still be a punishable offence in many a place, it is only recently that India made changes to remove suicide from being a punishable offence.
It is not surprising that the Law is limited in what it offers, for it can only set boundaries based on socio-cultural, political local reality and international provisions on the issue at hand. An Act does not evolve without any link to local socio-cultural norms; the link exists, to either strengthen and adapt socio-cultural norms or reject the same, the latter seen in the case of abusive/harmful cultural practices. A legal frame put in place can create different levels of intervention/action that aims at modifying human behavior with varying degrees of protection or coercion against ‘abusive or criminal’ behavior.
V) Dasein and Being There- Different view points
When Dasein comes across entities or equipment in its everydayness, for example when reaching for a glass of water, we rarely acknowledge it as a glass within the space of a room. It is the same when reaching for a remote to put on a TV show. When we enter a room we may be aware of the entities or equipment’s presence- at-hand (drinking glass, water cooler, or TV); but, its usability is clear to us only when we manipulate its specific characters (characteristics/ features) for any service- be it to quench thirst or to entertain. While we may have theoretical knowledge about a water filter or Television; it is only through use that we gain specific knowledge related to using the equipment or entity.
On similar lines, if we consider the entity, a drug; the theoretical and serviceability knowledge available to the drug user and non-using family members is different. This is not say that knowing-through-use, is always relevant or better, it is to indicate there is a difference, which in turn affects the whole sequence of events that occur in our reality of ‘Being-there’.
To explore it further, Heidegger spoke of understanding the characteristic of an equipment in all its totality becoming possible only when there was a disturbance of the relations in its use. It is then that the equipment stands out from within ‘Being-in-the-world’ as illustrated in the case of a broken hammer, a dysfunctional hammer makes the equipment stand out clear in the mind of the individual.
This can be seen in the case of drug use; the user is confronted with the reality of his/her drug use when the drug makes its presence-at-hand clear by being unusable (as when adulterated) or through difficulty in accessing it. The user is not just aware about the characteristics of the drug but also many other relational realities that evolved through the use of drugs in his/her world of drugs. The intricate relations that evolved with drug use, may make a drug user to turn his/her entire focus to change the reality of the drug from being inaccessible to ‘Being-present-at-hand’ and ‘Being-ready-to-hand’.
At the same time, the immediate environment, the family, would have a different take on this situation.The narration of that, by a drug user, could illustrate the point - he recounted how his family placed him under house arrest to ensure he could not access or use his drug of choice, Heroin. As days passed the drug user found that beyond the physical discomfort his only thought was the desire to have the drug, that gained in intensity.
In time, his family gained confidence that he could be without the drug, for he had become functional, as expected. After, over a month of being physically drug free, his family, ended his house arrest. The instant he was out on his own, he went to the drug joint, for a smoke.
Here, the drug being present at hand or drug-absent-at hand means two different realities for both the drug user and his family. While the drug as an entity or equipment available for its serviceability of enjoying a ‘high’ gained intensity in the mind of the user; for the non-drug using family members, the drug-absent-at-hand diminished the significance of the drug in the life of the drug user. Thus, different states of Being-in-the-world, or Being-present-at-hand, or Being-I, or Being-with-others, or Being-with-another; exist for the same entity (the drug) among beings who share the same world-space.
The state of Being in the world or ‘Being-ready-to-hand’ and ‘readiness -to-hand’ can mean different things to different people not just in terms of entity or equipment present at hand, but also in terms of a reference or sign. Heidegger, focused on how a sign could occur as an entity that is ready to hand. As in the case of a sign on a signboard. He also focused on the presence of a sign within an equipment that denoted serviceability to one person could be an indicator of a relational reality, to another. To elaborate on the latter, he spoke of a car’s indicator which the driver could use, which other motorists could use to gauge the direction to follow, to ensure a smooth flow of traffic.
On similar lines, there does exist the reality of the drug or its paraphernalia being a reference, or offering its serviceability or being a sign. But, here there would a difference in the state of Being of the drug user and immediate family members. For the drug user the drug paraphernalia as the heroin pipe, Being-present-at-hand, would indicate the possibility of serviceability or use of the drug. Whereas, to the immediate family members, the drug paraphernalia being present-at-hand, would be a sign- probably a warning sign of its adverse impact on the drug user’s -world for education, work, social relations etc. Unlike the drug user they would not, even for a moment, consider the heroin pipe as an entity for serviceability, that could be sought after.
Temporal, Being ‘in time’ functions as a criterion for distinguishing the realms of Being, ‘… Dasein tacitly understands and interprets something like ‘Being’, it does so with time as its standpoint.’ (Heidegger, 39p.). But, what do we mean by Time (11) , there is a physical time or what the chimes of the clock tell us; biological time based on the organism’s internal clock or cyclic processes such as heartbeats, breathing, the sleep-wake cycle; and psychological time, best understood as awareness of physical time or considered phenomenological time. Psychological time, unlike physical time, is subjective and varies based upon the subject experiencing or sensing ‘time’. While an enjoyable experience can make time ‘fly', fear or negative emotion can ‘burden’ one with time, that can wear one down.
VI. Fear, Anxiety and Living in the Margins
In the case of fear, there is a sense of something imminent or threatening, in future; that makes one forgetful and may lead to being lost in the emotion of fear or turn one evasive, seeking any diversion.
Both fear and anxiety temporalize itself to the state of mind, as in ‘having been’ for it is the past that leads to a state-of-fear or anxiety. While everyone goes through such experiences, the impact on individuals who live in the margins can be stark as such instances can be frequent and thereby affect the sense of unity that gives a sense of continuity as streams of experiences that go on to create the ‘I’.
To illustrate the same, fear of enclosed places can hamper our everyday experience; it can affect choice of place of work or occupation, our choice of entertainment, relaxation. The intervention opted for would be to use common sense or professional guidance for behavior modification, but rarely as focusing on the stream of thought.
But, whatever the case may be, isn’t ‘thinking’ really beyond drugs or technology, for both can at the maximum numb the senses or create a false sense of positive feeling. These do not change thinking process or equip the individual with skills to deal with negative or frightening experiences.
Is it not possible that the structural changes seen in the case of schizophrenia or depression may be from intense, almost continuous fear and anxiety? Which is accentuated by genetic vulnerability. Under such circumstances, wouldn’t it be relevant to explore ways in which self-knowledge can be developed to deal with intense fear and anxiety?
VII. Self-Knowledge, Everydayness and Being in the Margins
It is not just fear, even our tendency to give selective qualitative value to the drug of choice, by decontextualization of its use and considering our mind an irrelevant reality, viewing the self as a puppet in hands of the drug is rarely focused upon; for when we consider drug as all powerful, there is a conceptual process that we accept. We tend use concepts churned out by others and live by the same. “Once an addict always an addict”.
With hallucinations, an individual would experience the same difficulty. Recent changes in cognitive therapeutic intervention has led to Hallucination integrated therapeutic intervention. The focus is largely on auditory hallucination and deals with the content to facilitate the individual to get beyond the crippling effect of negative inputs through hallucination (19) .
While auditory hallucination offers scope for psychotherapeutic intervention because of the emotional content, this is not the case with visual hallucination - light flashes, or feeling a pattern or structure as all powerful and threatening.
Psychotherapeutic intervention does offer a way towards individual to deal with their mental health concerns, but, is it not possible for the individual to evolve self-knowledge to deal with setbacks or difficulties faced through intense fear, hallucinating experience or both.
VII.1 Need to Create Self-Knowledge for bringing Change
Here, this paper has a very limited goal, that is to see whether there is scope for an individual experiencing hallucination or intense fear and anxiety that hamper the sense of “me” during a different life experience; to evolve methods to study their experiences and create a body of knowledge that can facilitate their journey for change.
VI.2. Self-Knowledge and ways towards it
VI.2.a. Self-Knowledge and Marginalization
- it can be direct [as in case of line (a)], through social interaction (community, family, non- institutional health care);
- through labelling that is transferred directly (f), or through reflected appraisal (d) and (e), and institutionalization (c).
- The transference of ‘Your world view on my mental health’ through labelling is interactive, whereby the existing deviation from labelling is transferred back to ‘Your view on my mental health'; with new information being gathered through institutionalization or the community at large.
- At the same time, the option for the individual to use the self-verification process to adapt his/her own self-appraisal is limited, and the individual also has no set pathways to change the impact of “Your view on mental health" that affects the individual directly and indirectly.
Towards Change- Developing Schema and Self Knowledge
Self-knowledge influences many psychological processes, Epstein (1972) (24) focused on how self-views affect our view of the world. Along the same lines, according to Markus (1977) (25) self-views held on to with great certainty function as Schemas, they are hypothetical knowledge structures that guide the processing of information. Schemas that individuals hold on to can be varied; being dependent/independent, honest, kind, friendly, reserved etc. Individuals with strong schemas for independence process information regarding independence faster than others.
Other studies found that individuals with strong schema accept information that confirm their views and refute or reject information that don’t. Individuals with strong schemas are consistent in behavior about specific trait. Schemas also influence individual’s social perception, understanding of others, act as a reference point for evaluating others, and influence our judgement about others and their work performance .
Given the present state of interventions for individuals with mental health problems, drug use concerns and gender identity deviations; there is a need to look at certain issues and the scope for developing schemas as part of dealing with marginalization.
• When interventions focus on group identification and strengthening of the same, is there scope for developing varied self-knowledge and guiding of the same.
• When ex-drug users and recovering users are told they are powerless and need to always believe in the sense of powerlessness about their drug of choice and situations that can put them at risk to slipping back to drug use; can such an individual ever get beyond their marginal position and evolve to their full potential as individuals?
• Individuals with mental health problems, are often caught unaware; especially in the case of those vulnerable to schizophrenia/ psychosis, and after the first incident there is rarely an effort to orient the individual on the symptoms experienced. The only option for the individual is to fit into the self-view or image vulnerability provided to him/her, this may be also a defense mechanism for fear of traumatic experience of hallucination/delusions lingers within the individual.
• When institutionalized for care, there is a total disconnect with social contextual reality, unless there is a link connecting the person institutionalized with members from their immediate social network. How does the person create a link between the institution and outside society to make the transition less traumatic? Would sharing a sense of ‘everydayness’ by the family/ a member for social network (e.g. a video documentation or personal sharing of their realities), a two ways process of communication, about life outside and within institution, create some sort common ground for shared experiences.
• This can also create a sense of continuity for the individual under care for drug use or mental health. Of course, the specificity would vary across individuals, but, even the thought of a sense of continuity for the Me/I across -pre, present and post traumatic experience would change the way the affected individual and others look at intervention and care.
• Study on gender and schema (Markus Hazel, Crane Mare, Stan Breinstein and Siladi Michael, 1982 ) (27) indicated that behavior and self-views, of high androgynous individuals and those with masculine schema, may differ even when both may have some sort of masculine schema. To elaborate, “both, masculine schematic individuals and high androgynous may think of themselves as assertive and attach very similar meaning and examples to the attribute, but the high androgynous is also likely to have attributes ‘understanding’ and ‘compassionate’ as the defining feature of the self-concept”. Along this line, in working towards self-verification and in the interactive process of bringing change in the lives of marginal groups, is it possible to identify additional attributes, within marginal groups and others, that create scope for reducing instances of marginalization and identify schemas that strengthen walls of separation?
• Besides, hallucinations have been inquired into to provide a phenomenology of the subjective character of perceptions and perceptual hallucination (Dorsch Fabian ) (28), the focus is to positively characterize hallucinations, in terms of their phenomenological connections to perceptions.
Against this background the possibility for change in perception regarding marginal groups, would require interventions to consider the process of self-verification for social change within the community, and the scope for facilitating individuals to identify their schemas and ways to develop self-knowledge. Probably this process would create a change in the present static situation of emphasis on walls of separation, as the only way forward.
This article is dedicated to my parents, P.A. Charles and Daisy Charles, who taught me to value and hold on to freedom of thought, and embrace diversity in human beings and nature.
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