A social philosopher named Thomas Hobbes once said that, “Although a man's conscience and his judgment is the same thing; and as the judgment, so also the conscience, may be erroneous.” As humans we articulate these perceptions through language, with the intention of fully understanding the world that we live in. With words being an important part of society, it is rational to expect those in leadership roles to have an accurate understanding of what the labels that we use mean, without this wisdom, whatever subject is at hand might then be marked with an improper designation.
If the given subject is ever misinterpreted there is a great chance of creating uncertainties, especially if the subject is another human being. Even if the observer(s) are not knowledgable of an error, those that are under their direction will most likely adopt a similar viewpoint, developing incorrect perspectives that might very well lead them into ignorance.
Of course, most people may have a mutual understanding of what a word means through definition, based off of current social problems it is becoming clear that not everybody is taking the time to reflect on distributed labels.
Although these conclusions might very well be personal, when institutions are involved, the individual that is mislabeled tends to suffer as a result of these shallow thought processes. Unless these tendencies change, the people that will someday inherit the future will not have the tools needed to create a more sustainable future, a restricting pattern that will then continue into the future, unless of course we all start to place a higher importance on reflective thought.
With such a common tendency such as labeling, each and every individual should know the power that it has over others, especially those that does not fit the prototype. Since our imaginations have a tendency to distort reality, understanding and truth are not always the same thing—and in our own ignorance this issue remains, too frequently, unaddressed.
In our current society, there are so many people that are being labeled as deviants—and when used with a negative connotation, which often it is, stigmatization occurs—and too often, without a fair analysis. These unjust social patters leads many people into believe false conclusions about oneself, another person, or even a group of individuals—contributing even more to the massive communication barriers that already exist within our world.
The stereotypes that do occur, as a result of these biased perceptions, are not only creating disagreements but they also making any conflict harder to resolve if ever conflict does arise. With the intention of uniting individuals, social institutions are actually becoming a form of social control that is tearing our society apart. Even though the moral foundations that they establish intend to bring order to our society, they are instead fragmenting it to the point where any type of progress is possible. Those that either consciously, or even unconsciously deviate away from the institutionalized thought processes, tend to suffer as a result of this harsh reality.
The fallacious conclusions, made by those that were conditioned to place faith in their humanistic conscience, have not only had a negative impact on my own life, but have also been affecting the lives of numbers people around the world, all of whom have not been given a fair chance to prove themselves worthy.
By definition, deviance means to depart from the usual or acceptable standards of society. Deviance occurs when an individual or individuals refuse (with or without a negative intention) to conform to social norms or expectations—beliefs that the community tends to hold in high respect.
Those who do not behave in the expected manner are then considered to be irritating or embarrassing, and can often be seen as harmful. If ever this occurs, the majority tends to solidify by developing a tighter bond, preventing the devious individual(s) from establishing a respectable position in the group. Any devious actions do arise are not only observed by the individuals involved, but are also made known to those that have not been greatly affected—using their behavior as an example to the rest of what not to be.
Whether their actions be publicized by the media or brought to attention in a classroom, those that do violate the rules have a really tough time working their way back into the majority after having been made a disgrace. To a certain degree, this is a natural part of nature—even sociologist Emile Durkheim considers deviance, like crime, to be a necessary part of society.
With his observations in mind, he considers any “infected” individual to simply be just another part of nature, which can then be countered by "antibodies."
As fair-minded as this may seem, accepting it as a natural phenomenon is only contributing to the entire problem. Preventing us from seeking out a more accommodating solution to this dilemma, the many lives that are suffering as a result of these justifications remain un-accommodated by the society that they are also a part of. Whatever label is given to those who step outside of the consensus are irreversible, and unless this reality does change more and more people will continue to suffer as a result, similarly to the way that I have.
It was at the age of three that my mom decided that I was going to be a challenge, this was long before my rebellious identity had even been established. I know this because when my three siblings and I were all babies she used to write us letters, something of value that she could give to us as adults. In my very early years, at the age of two to be exact, she was trying to explain to me my personality—but she reported to having a really tough time doing so.
She said that I was very hard child to describe, but definitely my own individual and also full of spunk. I amazed everybody by my determination to do things “all by myself,” explaining that I was always attempting to do “the big kid stuff" too, which of course must have been why I could crawl, walk, and talks a couple months early.
I was through with taking naps by the age of two, and could not wait to start pre-school just like my big brother. She said that I was a complete angel ninety-nine percent of the time, and also incredibly laid back. Somewhere along the line that changed though. It was until I was about 17 that I read the letters; I thought it was really interesting that her descriptions seemed to match all four of our personalities.
As I grew older though her attitudes towards me started to change. It was still very apparent that my mom loved us all very much, but no parent should make the mistake of considering her toddlers to be her best friends, which is what my mom had done with my brother and also what she was expecting of me. Back then, I spent more time with my Dad—so naturally, I was closer to him. She felt threatened by this though, she wrote. She blamed herself for what she considered to be a problem, she recorded in a letter that, “our friendship is going to require more of an effort.” because I “presented more of a challenge” to her.
At this young age, the age of three, I had already violated my mom’s expectations. Even though I was unaware that I had been stepping outside of the family norms, what came next was out of my control.
A social experiment, led by Robert Rosenthal in the early 1970's, proved that humans have a natural tendency to act according to whatever label they are assigned. This ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ has a significant impact on personal development, shaping an individual’s characteristics through whatever environmental reinforcements they receive; and therefore, establishing their aptitude as well as their life's ambition.
It was discovered in this particular experiment that forming high expectations almost always results in higher performances, while lower expectations cause worse outcomes as well as unfulfilled potentials. This natural cause-and-effect phenomenon not only determines an individual’s social status, but it also impacts how young, developing minds perform academically throughout their school years, with patterns that effect individuals long into their adulthood.
This self-fulfilling prophecy, also known as 'The Pygmalion Effect', was tested on different groups of school children, with results that verified their hypothesis. By assigning tests to a wide variety of elementary students, they then randomly selecting certain individuals from the classes that participated in the study. Rosenthal, along with the help of his fellow researchers, told the student's teachers that the selected individuals were intellectually gifted, when in actuality their tests had only been average.
Despite the inaccuracy of these claims, the teachers then took more of a liking for these "gifted" students, giving them more of their personal attention to help them excel. As a result, these "early bloomers" developed a higher aptitude, and even caused their test scores to increase, demonstrating that with positive reinforcements—anybody, deviant or non-deviant—has the ability to fulfill their potential. As long as their environment promotes an individual’s personal growth, just about anybody can utilize their own mind's potential, but within a society like our own that is full of stereotypes, not everybody can.
In my case, my Mom was under the impression that I was a really disobedient kid. Assuming my reserved personality to be a form of rebellion, she reacted by putting me on a shorter leash, reminding me over and over again that I did not measure up to her standards. Even though I knew that I was not a bad kid, years of this negative reinforcement is what ultimately lead me to vindicate my behavior once I did start to fulfill my mother’s predictions.
Changing from a laid-back child, to a very outspoken one my first fight with my mom was when I was five years old. I would have been in Kindergarten during that time, but, unfortunately, I was not allowed to go. My mom had the intention of home schooling all of her kids, but I wanted to go to real school. Naturally, I became frustrated that I had no say in the matter, and with a desire to express that to her.
One afternoon, right after a home school event, I had brought up the idea of me possibly attending a real school. Of course, she said no, but it made me so upset that I began to cry. I begged her to please reconsider, but there was no room for dispute. At that age I had no other option but to shut my mouth for the rest of the ride, feeling my heart sink when we passed an elementary school—under the impression that I would never be able to attend one. Although I had not broken any laws, I had violated the folkways that were decided upon by my family authority figure.
While feeling powerless over my own life, my young mind started to develop resentments. Our relationship, even at that young age, became somewhat of a power struggle—with my free-spirited personality desiring space, while she desired closeness—the many attempts to change me remained unsuccessful. However, the fears and accusations that she constantly verbalized during those attempts, quite naturally began to manifest as a personal reality for me.
With my parent’s divorce came a life change, as did an academic adjustment. Since my mom needed to enter the workforce, that would then mean that I would be spending my days in real school—for the first time as a second-grade student. When I got there, I found myself completely shocked! The desire for social normalcy that I envisioned was not at all what I thought it would be. Entering the classroom with great hope, I instead discovered how horrible kids can be to each other. With a good moral upbringing, I was sticking up for the castoffs, and because of that I became one. With just a couple friends, I adjusted to the new social scene with acceptance, while enjoying what I still considered to be a positive change. Being a step ahead of the rest, I started off as a good student. I will admit the it was hard for me to pay attention, having to deal with my parent’s separation and all, but I still did manage to get by.
Although, as my family situation continued to change, so did my perceptions about my environment. I went from a young girl that always had a smile on her face, to a girl that always seemed to be in a state of sadness—after looking back at all the old family photos, that has proved itself to be very clear. Life at home always seemed to be getting worse and worse for me, and even though I tried to stay positive, my mom became much harder on me after I disagreed with her decision to ban us from seeing my dad. Just like any other child growing up with dysfunctional parents, I was never entirely sure how to cope with this stress.
Despite my desire for social normalcy, I found fitting in somewhat of a challenge because of my family issues. Coming from an area where everybody seemed to have their lives in order, the chaos that I experienced in my own life came with a deep feeling of inadequacy. Then sure enough, by the time I was in third grade, I started to show symptoms of depression.
Looking back on it, even my activity preferences during that time had changed. Going from the soccer team star, to a young kid that preferred conversations about my own life, particularly revolving around my problems in it. I never knew back then why my friend ended up distancing herself from me, but I assume that my behavior had something to do with it. Of course, I wasn't always that way, but my own witnessing's made it harder to relate to my fellow peers. In attempts to change the social relationships that I did have, my mom had me switch to a charter school.
There, I got made fun of for playing with the boys instead of the girls, who started to make fun of me because these preferences. This is what most likely contributed to the social anxiety that I started to experience shortly after, which became much more apparent by the time I switched back to the original elementary school that I had been attending.
Having been dragged into a dysfunctional stepfamily, my life situation changed once more. When my mom got re-married, I was ten. That is the age that I went from being the scapegoat in a family of five to a scapegoat in a family of eight. With a feeling of powerless I accepted my life for what it was, learning to just simply keep to myself, even at school where my attention issues became even worse as did my grades.
During moments of confrontation, I kept telling my mom that the reason that my grades were bad because I was fed-up with my home life, and that I could not pay attention in class. It’s like she did not even hear the words coming out of my mouth though. She was so convinced that the problem was my character, an opinion that she was unwilling to change.
Having lost interest in most of my usual pastimes, she assumed that to be an issue that was very much in my control. Refusing to helping me stay focused on whatever activities that I was involved with, I was instead told that I was a quitter—and that I was never going to be good at anything because of that. With affirmations not coming from its most likely source, I believed her without a doubt. There were of course actives that I did enjoy—like karate, but even if I did find a hobby that I enjoyed her busy schedule always seemed to interfere with mine.
Being the second oldest child, it always seemed like she placed more enthusiasm into my older brothers pursuits, leaving mine as less of a priority. Finding myself bored all the time, I would articulate this to my mother only to hear her tell me that people that are bored are usually boring. Of course, that only made me feel worse about myself, denying it out loud, but believing it in my head.
Throughout my youth, whenever I would look in Cooley’s "looking glass self"—a sociological term used to describe the personal perception of the self—all I saw a stupid girl with no friends. At the end of fifth grade, after spending most of the year socializing only with the other rejects, I worked up enough confidence to make a few friends. Of course, was really exciting for me, but eventually I discovered that it was hard to be friend with people that do not have the same background as me.
My family situation was so complex that I could no longer relate to my peers, at least not any of the ones that I had always wanted to surround myself with. I put up with quite a bit, but once I did reach middle school, I started to get frustrated. Treating me like I was much younger than I was, I was not allowed to see them very often as I would have liked. My mom feared that I might start doing drugs, using those excuses as a reason to keep me home.
Feeling as if my options were going limited, I befriended the only kids that I felt that I fit in with—the troublemakers. All coming from irregular backgrounds, I felt much more connected to them than the old group that I had been surrounding myself with during my sixth year of school. None of us used drugs at that age, but we didn't mind a little detention every once in a while, and also a few good pranks on each other to take away our own boredom.
With this social change, my mom became concerned. Since I was no longer hanging out with my old friends anymore, my social deviance became yet another concern. The most descriptive action that I have best been able to think of regarding her role in my life would be similar to that annoyance that bullies often do.
Bullies will grab your own hand with theirs, and then start hitting you with it over and over again. They keep saying, “Quit hitting yourself, quit hitting yourself, quit hitting yourself,” but you’re not ever able to stop them because they're too strong.
Although I would try to get through to her it can be so hard reasoning with somebody in a different generation because the communication barriers prevent the words from getting across properly. Being the outspoken person that I am, I continued to persist with freedom in mind. My many attempts had failed me though.
Instead of forming any type of compromise, punishment after punishment was inflicted upon me. That is why I spent seven months of my seventh-grade year grounded, one of which was spent not being allowed to leave her sight during the day. For a while, I even used to get walked into school in the morning, so that way she could make sure that I did not socialize with any of my friends before class. In one attempt to liberate myself, I got sent to my room for a week and that was without any windows—only allowed to leave to use the bathroom and eat. The list can go on, but my purpose isn’t to make my mom look bad. My intention for sharing these experiences is to prove that bad things happen to good people—creating major problems for not only myself, but for kids all over the globe.
One divorce later, and also a few moves, I finally reached high school. This is where most of the troublemakers that I had been hanging out with started to take their lives more seriously. As I said earlier though, I have always had a really tough time pay attention like the rest—and because of that I became really agitated with the entire system. Defying the system, I found myself skipping class quite often, isolating myself from the rest of the social cliques. Despite my boredom and rebellious nature, I remained anti-drug through the first quarter, not once with the intention of ever starting. My attitudes regarding the matter had been based more on personal morality, opposed to witnessing other's experiences with drugs and alcohol. Eventually though, with curiosity being my motivation, I decided to try smoking pot. For years I had been told that I was going to be a drug addict, so in a way I felt like it was an obligation that was expected of me.
At that age, I felt like that’s what I was supposed to be doing, feeling that if I didn't then I would be wasting what everybody seemed to consider the "best years of their lives." Assuming this to be one of the reasons why my life wasn't as enjoyable, I decided to get in on it. Even though all the other stoners thought I was lame, having always been so against it, I quit caring about what others thought of me.
Having gone through so many phases, I always looked like a wannabe. Never had I been trendy enough for the cool kids, or rich enough for the preps, my step-sister was with the jocks, and even though I had always been somewhat introverted, I was much too eccentric for the other quite kids, and too doubtful to keep trying.
Pot became my new best friend, and for a while I we were hanging out every day. With social inconsistencies such as my own, nothing ever seemed to stick, including my relationship with drugs.
With a desire for change, I finally convinced my mom to get me tested for ADHD. This was the only rational explanation that I was able to come to regarding my behavior—one of the few actual characteristics of mine that seemed to stick.
My younger sister had trouble in school as well, and my mom immediately took her to get evaluated right away. The false labels that she assigned me, along with her distorted her thinking, lead her to believe that my issues were related more to my character, than an actual learning disability. My only way to cope was through chemical use, and that was something that I wanted to change. With my diagnosis, I was not granted success. Without having developed the proper study habits, school remained to be a challenge and my coping mechanism was harder to shake than I thought it would be. Without feeling it necessary to get me involved with the school programs, my mom continued to place the bar very high. Taking medication did help quite a bit, but I still had a tough time staying on track. My low-esteem might have contributed to that the most. I never believed that I was the academic type—and my discouraged feelings, while on and off Adderall, caused me to place less of an importance on academic achievements. Doing my school work to simply to get by, and without any type of enthusiasm.
The marijuana seemed to take my mind off of all my emotional issues that I had, much more than the ADHD medications, which I then started to sell to by weed. After one hard year of high school, I got over the drug phase, but still not necessarily focused on my studies. That summer, I became more integrated socially. The girl that I had been hanging out with quite a bit had been expelled for selling mushrooms that spring, clearing up room for new social patterns. Life became a little more bearable for me during this time, and finally my mom was running out of excuses on why I could not see my dad.
For eight long years my four siblings and I were forced to have supervised visitation with my dad—two hours every other Saturday. It was incredibly awkward not to mention unnecessary, but my mom considered him to be a threat.
The reason, if you even want to call it that, was because he supposedly got brainwashed into a Christian cult while he was in college. Changing his identity to accommodate his newfound faith, he distanced himself from his parents and sibling in college. For a couple years he spent his time studying the Bible, and interacting with religious groups that were unfamiliar to his parents. I later found out that it was their own assumptions that lead me and my mom to believe it was a cult, but in actuality it was just a normal church. My dad re-connected with his family once again after getting all of his spiritual questions answered—this was just before him and my mom got together. All of this happened years before I was born, and even though he wasn't as active with the church, he still remained to be Christian.
With my mom coming from a non-religious background, he wanted to teach us bible stories when we were kids. That way we could have a set of moral foundations to use throughout our lives. Indifferent to this at the time, my mom used his faith as an excuse to get the courts involved.
Like always, they took the woman's side, agreeing that separation was necessary. After this, our family, which was once really happy, became divided by custody battles, then restraining orders, and then complete separation, with an exception that was only made possible through supervised visitation.
Like any good parent, he would write us letters as an attempt to stay connected, but I was never able to read any of them. My siblings, who were not as affected or determined to change this, accepted it as their reality, coping in different ways. I on the other hand, with great eagerness, decided to step up to the plate at the age of fifteen. Her only requirements were that I see a therapist as a way to ensure that my mind was in a good place, and also his. Unlike, her previous attempts to get me into counseling, during those therapy sessions she did not attempt to sit in the room with me, finally allowing me my space.
After just a few visits the counselor informed my mom that my mind wasn’t at risk of getting "brainwashed", and as a result we began to make arrangements for shared custody. With this change, came one of the best days of my life. My dad and I went out to eat and talked, and without somebody sitting in a small room listening to us, writing down what our conversations were about. My mom clearly wasn't happy about this, but still every weekend my dad and I made plans to get together, making up for missed times. It didn't take long though for my mom to start expressing herself in her typical, manipulative manner. Making unnecessary comments on a regular basis, I considered her discrete expressions to be rather offensive. As a way to escape her narcissistic behavior, I decided to move in with my dad at the end of the summer.
Assuming that my problems would also come to an end, there was quite a few things that I hadn't considered while making this move. Although it always seemed to be my mother that had been contributing to my problems, I didn't realize the extent of the issues that I had revolving around this social conditioning. By this time, problems involving my own character had already started to develop, just like any young person growing up in dysfunctional family structures.
Even with positive motivations, living with my dad was not as great as I thought it would be. The emotional issues regarding my neglected childhood remained to go unaddressed, still lurking in my subconscious mind.
With much more time to myself, these disturbances were hard to ignore and also express. As a UPS driver, my dad worked long hours, but regardless of his presence I still felt very alone. Since we were not given an opportunity to bond throughout my childhood, it was a hard thing to just jump into—especially as a teenage girl.
Not realizing that my depression had only been paused temporarily, with the start of a new school year my mood, once again, started to decline. It was my sophomore year in high school, and after spending months by myself getting high, I eventually started hanging out with people that did the same. During this time, I used pretty much everyday—smoking weed on a regular basis, experimenting with hard drugs, and drinking whenever alcohol was available.
Struggling academically, I continued along this path as long as I could. It wasn't until I started to become more aware of my own mental states that I realized the reality of my life. Fearing for my future, I began to try to and change my behaviors, actually desiring for a more manageable lifestyle. With this in mind, I decided to come clean to my mom about what I had been doing, an attempt to make things right.
Those amends did not exactly go as planned though. Whistle blowing, a common reaction to social deviance, is useless if the crime had already been committed. If anything, it only creates more problems for the individual that dared to disregard the rules. Unaware of this, my mom decided to blow that whistle anyways, reacting to my confessions by sending me to treatment during the beginning of my junior year.
Instead of finding a way to try and integrate myself back into reality, I was then pushed into a whole new institute—and, like any institute, an entirely new set of regulations were involved.
At the time, I did not think that rehab was necessary but it did end up being a positive experience for me—not at first though. Right away, I was angered over the fact that I was being told that I had a disease, and that my only hope was working a twelve-step program. I certainly didn't like the idea of having to go to AA meetings every week, and definitely did not want to have to develop a relationship with a higher power that I did not believe in.
The idea of sponsorship seemed more like brainwashing, and making new friends while having to leave the old seemed like it would only be a waste of time. I didn't want to change, and I made that very clear. The kind of life that I wanted was one of complete independence, but that is not a state that I would have been able to achieve especially if chemicals were involved.
I had a really tough time coming to terms with that too. I may have wanted to live a more productive life—free of all of the hang-overs, bloody noses, and burnt out memories. While considering my addictive personality, that is not something that I would have been able to achieve. The few attempts that I made to be released from my inpatient stay remained unsuccessful, and I am grateful for that too. After a couple weeks during my stay, I realized that I had been learning a lot about myself. It may have been hard at first to phase my internal world, but eventually my outlook became more positive. In my own ignorance, I had been fooling myself into believing that I could change on my own, and with humility I came to terms with the fact that I alone was not strong enough to fix my own life.
Not often enough are deviants like myself given the opportunity to completely analyze the behavior that is contributing to their inability to function like a normal person. By learning to create new habits, a devious person might be able to better function in the world, or at least be repositioned on a path that might better suit their personal needs.
With the desire to change my course, I became relieved that I was being given a second chance to correct my mistakes. For the first time, I felt like I belonged with the people that I had met during my twenty-eight days of inpatient treatment. Having been surrounded by the other “problem children” of society, I found that my stress levels decreased just knowing that I was not alone. Even though my use may have been a result of social conditioning, just like many other drug addicts, the only way for me to stop was to first admit that I did have a problem, and that it would require me to consciously place my efforts into a recovery plan to help me get back on track. With this as my ambition, I decided to accept the label of being a drug addict.
Those that didn't were sent to extended care, regardless of whether or not their addiction was a result of the self-fulfilling prophecy. As a quick learner, I knew that it would be much wiser for me to accept it right away, rather than having to face the consequences later on in life, or at least in a different treatment center. With a smile back on my face, my chances of recovery increased, as did my knowledge of my own character.
Realizing that my type of personality doesn't function well in a class of eight-hundred, I decided to switch to a sober high school, with an entire student body of forty-five. I started at PEASE Academy after completing a few short weeks of outpatient treatment, which followed my initial twenty-eight-day program.
Although the idea of making these life changes seemed unnecessary at first, the new direction that my life had taken brought me more gifts than any other would have. Interacting with people who had similar backgrounds helped me to feel more connected to the world around me. While I was there, I became the school leader, making a lot of friends in the process, friend's that I never would have made if I were to have stayed within my own original comfort zone.
When I was in the public school system, I had always been pretty reserved, and it felt good to finally break out of my shell. Since I was no longer deviating against my mom’s social expectations, I was allowed me to throw sober parties at her house. After treatment I had decided to move back in with her, but this time with more constructive communication styles, behaviors that were taught to me during my stay in rehab, and to her during the parent program.
The path to recover was a rocky one, but going to AA and working with a sponsor helped me every step of the way. Developing myself spiritually seemed very foreign at first, but with practice and perseverance I was lifted to a higher, more fulfilling life path. No longer did I need devote my energy to trying to cover up the negative feelings associated with not being able to function in society.
With a mind like mine, continuing to feel a connection like I did at first did not last long. The group that I once depended on for my sanity started to drive me insane. With over a year spent in the program, with only one minor relapse, I eventually started to question whether or not alcoholics anonymous was the right place for me. The closer I grew to my peers, the more I realized how hard of a time I have relating. Sitting around coffee shops while smoking cigarette after cigarette no longer seemed as appealing to me.
The energy drinks may have been a great substitute for my previous addictions, but I wanted my social interactions to revolve more around intimate connections than twelve-step drama and games of "Never Have I Ever."
I was more interested in philosophy than I was the big book, and wanted to be able to connect with others that had similar interests. As these desires brewed in my mind, so did the annoyance of having to live my life by another person’s rules. With no other options for maintaining my life, assumptions that were in accordance to the basic 12-step teachings, I felt that I had no other choice but to continue along the path to recovery, or else jeopardize my mental health.
Thinking that my mediocre program was my problem, I decided to get a new sponsor that would help me to place more of an importance on the stability that I desired to keep. Choosing out of impulse, I discovered the sponsorship family that I had joined is what many recovering alcoholics consider to be a cult.
Requiring seven meetings a week, they feared that my sobriety was in danger. At an age where self-discovery would have been more useful, my focus on changing shortcomings prevented me from entirely understanding my own self, which would have very well benefited me so that I could have arranged my life in a way that was more compatible with my free-spirited personality. The identity dialectic, a term used to describe a condition of a deviant who has been driven into contradictions due to social fragmentation, contributed the most to these feelings of confusion. While suffering on a regular basis, black and white thinking took over my mind. Even though I began to take an interest in more intellectual pursuits during this time, I was advised against following through with those interests.
Being told that stimulating the mind with sources of knowledge or direction would create more problems for me, I continued to place my faith in the majority while under the impression that any of my own judgements would only result in disastrous mental conditions.
Throughout all of these contemplations I kept questioning whether or not I was actually an alcoholic. Since I barely even drank before treatment, I wasn't entirely sure if I had an mental allergy to alcohol, and although I had experimented with drugs before I went to rehab, I wondered whether or not it was simply one of the many phases that I have gone through, and just a result of a false label which might have been contributing to my own powerlessness. According to the Grapevine (an AA magazine), secrets keep us sick. With this in mind, I expressed my realizations to my fellow alcoholics, only to get advice that contradicted my observations about myself, as well as the issues regarding this institutionalized society. With agitation, I no longer felt connected to the social foundation that I once depended on for my stability. With no common ground to stand on, I began to feel as if I was going insane. While everybody else seemed to be so certain of their own thought processes, my own remained to be ambiguous. One frantic night I decided that I needed to go somewhere where like a crazy person like myself belongs. With the assumption that I was losing my mind, I called the Fairview Psychiatric Ward intending to find at least a piece of what should have already been intact.
My rational thinking is what ultimately prevented me from attempting suicide that night. Instead of taking action in regards to those ideations, I called up a friend and said that I felt as if I wanted to kill myself.
With heart-felt intentions in mind, he ended up telling his mom who in turn called mine. Having already called an emergency number, my mom came downstairs to my room in attempts to help me through a state of complete of complete despair.
Even though I was not at a point where I was actually going to cause myself any harm, once I was in the psychiatric unit, they treated me as if I was. Right away, I felt as if my energy was being sucked right out of me. Hoping to find somebody to simply offer me direction, like an inspirational speech, I found only people that were willing to offer me only medication and treatment plans—without even hearing me out first, unless you count an MMPI as a form of expression.
While I was there, I went from being insane in a sane place to sane in an insane place—and I realized that right away. A system that should have been designed to heal our societies deviants, instead revolved around confining them, and to a very limited space. Even though I was one of them, I felt so bad for the kids in there—most of them seemed like really nice people that were in similar situations, in other words, they did not fit the mold—and neither did I.
Feeling as if my efforts had gone to waste, I convinced my parents to check me out before my seventy two hours were up. I could not stand being in a place where high-paid doctors only interacted with their patients it was only for brief moments, and with only categorizing tactics in mind. The psychologists did not talk to me like a person, they talked to me as if I were a defect—and I can assume that they did the same for all of the other kids, whose real problems seemed to revolve around their disgust for these unjust systems.
Diagnosing sane people as insane is much worse than diagnosing an insane person as sane, a tendency that happens much more than people realize, not just in social experiments like Rosenhaul's article "Being Sane in Insane Places.”
I may not have gone to the psych ward for a broken leg, but I still felt like I came out of the hospital with a large cast. My Mom had told my siblings what had happened, making any interactions with any of them incredibly awkward. As a result, I tried to avoid being at home as much as possible. As a senior in high school, I was taking full-time college courses at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College, so I wasn't spending too much time at PEASE Academy, like I did the year before.
Even though I was hardly there, I was already considered to be on the verge of a relapse. People that struggle with the amount of inconsistencies that I did are, to them, a danger to be around, with the potential to cause disturbances in their own recovery. By this time, all of the connections that I as a new student had already been broken, all of my initial friends started to go back out and use long before I even got to this point.
Not being able to interact with “normal” people while in AA, I eventually turned to the alcoholics that had already left the program. They were much more accepting of me than anybody else, and also very convincing, offering me insight that I had not yet considered. Without denying the fact that they were alcoholics, they instead acted as if it was not a problem, and to me it did not appear to me that it was. Sociologist, Anthony Gidden, would describe the identity to be a choice; some people’s options are limited, including my own, but he says the self is not shaped by behavior or reactions. He believes that identity is the ability to keep a particular narrative going. Every action has two interpretations and although my decision to go back out and used appeared to be quite liberating, it was actually quite troubling.
Denial became the next theme in my life—and I must say, I played that part very well. My good morals were used as a justification that blinded me from seeing the other interpretation—and as a result I became very ignorant, and even more dysfunctional.
My poor decisions caused me to fail my last semester of high school, missing out on free college credits because I couldn't stop getting high. I did not want to look at it that way though—it would have contradicted my newfound identity, a narrative that I couldn't help but take a liking to after months of mental chaos.
While surrounding myself with people who affirmed my behavior to be acceptable, I was pushed further down the path of addiction—and deeper into my own contradiction. My thoughts regarding my new lifestyle was based around the notion that I was meant to be a drug addict and an alcoholic—after all, I was really good at it.
Getting “shit-faced" at shows was considered to be a talent of mine, and my tolerance for blow was what I considered to be quite impressive. I thought that it was creative of me to consider ecstasy to be the new Lucky Charms, and although acid may have been a trip—I liked to consider it to be a vacation. Nobody from my past reminded me who I really was during this time and that is because nobody ever took the time to get to know my under life. Struggling with an identity dialectic for so long, not even I knew who I really was. Caught up in the drug world, like so many others, I lost myself. Having never had a stable identity, I was without a clue to what it was that I should be looking for. Instead I searching for myself in my polluted insides, I looked to the external world to bring me to enlightenment.
Feeling completely liberated, each and every high filled my empty, shell of a life with something worth living for. After years of feeling powerless, this lifestyle led me to the appeasement that I couldn't find anywhere else. No longer did I feel completely inadequate, lowering my own bar I no longer felt ashamed of my behaviors, so I continued to act in reckless manners without any type of concern for my physical, mental, or emotional health.
This carefree attitude is what lead me to believe that there was nothing was wrong with myself, or the situations that I was constantly placing myself in. The difficulties that I had with expressing myself due to social anxiety was covered up by the chemicals that I used—allowing them to completely possess my body and mind.
When normally nobody seemed to care what I had to say, all the sudden I was surrounded by people that loved to hear me out. During this phase of my life I had so many ideas, and since I was always surrounded by people that I could interact with, there was always something to be said. Unfortunately, the few-day-long drug binges that I was constantly going on enabled me to express myself in a suitable manner, so I literally communicated in “whatever-the-fucks” and “bleep-bloop-blops.”
Unlike most social scenarios, in that sub-culture I was considered to be a really good person. I could never say that about my place in the "real world," seeing that I was always being judged by my aloof behavior. Paradoxically speaking, I was definitely the craziest one in my group of friends, at least when it came to articulating my self-taught expressions, which by their standards was like a radical deep-thinker, while compared to their more simple-minded thoughts.
Through my own introspection I was always having realizations that were so radical, seeming as if I were somehow entirely intact. Despite my inability to hold a job or function academically, I remained to be the much more rational than the people that I surrounded myself with. My intellectual side, still at that time undeveloped, gave me much insight into the lifestyle which I viewed as a full-time research-project.
With my eyes wide shut, I observed the behaviors which are present within the drug world—analyzing each and every situation that I found myself in. In observance to the general state of a drug addicted person, many of my friends were incredibly self-centered and harsh. Using their own faults to justify my own, I continued along this path for almost a year.
Again and again, I made the same mistakes, with results that could have very well proven themselves to be fatal. All of my actions contradicted my principles and my unquiet mind pushed me further into insanity. The social dilemmas that I once observed solely as a wall-flower seemed to become a reality in my own life. As much loved my social cliques, the deviants that I surrounded myself with had no interest in conflict resolution; if ever one did arise everybody seemed to be placed in a tailspin.
After realizing that my friend’s positive characteristics were not even close to outweighing their faults, my desires for a more stable life once again emerged. Life presented me with so many signs to stop: I could no longer just keep ignore them like I was.
By this point, my synthesis did not look too bright because my whole life had been spent in the dark. The identity dialectic that I suffered from only made it harder for me to get back on track, ensuring a more positive future.
Addiction recidivism became the next theme of my life. I was so prone to the relapsing; it is a characteristic of my given identity, just like many other deviants. Although I reached where hangovers were no longer worth the consequences, still I struggled to let go. Re-entering a culture that appears to be so sane can be extremely difficult for somebody like myself. Unfortunately, the label that I have been assigned made it harder for me to work my way back into the mainstream, never entirely understanding how to act and behave.
Living in shame, I felt that I never measured up. I have spent my entire life as an "infection" and in a malfunctioning system it always seemed to be people like me who are blamed for the social chaos that takes place in our world. To me, life seems like a giant race, and unfortunately some kids get a head start leaving any young people, like myself, behind to suffer, without any means for them to then catch up.
For years, I have sat back and watched these horrible kids be given affirmations that convince them that they are good people. The kids in school that made fun of the blind kids and the kids with down syndrome are crowned homecoming kings and queens—and then other kids strive to be them!! Teachers love these kids because they have the confidence to raise their hands in class, and they always look presentable. These are types of kids that have parents that get them involved in sports and activities, making them more interesting people and also much more successful.
Without question, it’s easy for these individuals to make friends because of their impressive reputations and their persuasive characteristics, but what they lack are open minds. This is the reason that many of them become very judgmental, and in a society that accepts justice to be blind, rarely are these kids ever held accountable for their actions, contributing more and more the issue of fragmentation.
Even though there are a wide variety of different sub-cultures in our society, most people do not have the opportunity to experience the others, so they discriminate against them—teaching the future generations to do the same.
Part of the problem is that not very many people have the time do learn about any others, and that's because from the age of five we are all stuffed full of facts, and it is becoming very clear that most people do not even have the time to reflect on those facts. Just because somebody is able to earn an impressive title does not mean that they have earned a mind, although many successful people might, in their own ignorance, disagree. If ever an individual decides to speak up about these issues they are then slapped with the deviant label, only to wind up being pushed around from different institutions, just like I have been—and our educations systems suffer because of it.
When young people deviate away from the social norms, the public-school systems method of defense is to ship them away to an alternative school—one that they feel will be "a better fit for them." This has nothing to do with their intelligence, but is rather an administrative action to deal with any abnormal, threatening behavior.
During my super senior year, I went to one of the alternative schools that they send kids like me to; they did not provide me with a good education though. During this time, I had just managed to quit drinking and also found a new place to live, so that way I could buckle down and graduate like expected.
Even though the program made it easier for me to graduate, the school didn't offer that great of an education; and this was during a point when I would have preferred one. There, I was simply assigned a bunch of packets that I worked on in a room with about fifteen other students, all whom were doing the same thing. Many of the kids seemed really bright, so it was sad to see them waste their time.
Personally, I've noticed that most of the students that attend these schools learn best through hands on work, but these alternative schools do not offer a hands on education. Without being given the resources to help them excel, the lack of academic developments make it hard for them to move up in the world.
The boredom that results in this social flaw only contributes to any common self-destructive behaviors that many young, creative minds naturally adopt. That's why many of the students end up becoming so much more turned off by the systems that they cannot help but observe, developing resentments towards society—just like I was. Despite my boredom and anger, I manage graduated in time that winter just in time to start college second semester, still late, like many other kids.
Now that I'm here at Augsburg I have realized that it is definitely a total institute. Just like all of the other institutes, it makes me feel trapped. The classes are all interesting and I do like my dorm, but it is definitely not the life that I want. When a young deviant does manage to get into a formal educational institution, like a university, they often discover that having been pushed around in so many has caused them to fall behind. Many of us have never had a real formal education, so we’re at least a couple steps behind the rest.
I may not be able to speak for everybody, but I am at least four years behind everybody in everything. My vocabulary is probably equivalent to the vocabulary of a ninth grader, and my reading level is somewhere between 11th and 12th grade. Taking tests is extremely hard for me, mainly because I have had test anxiety ever since elementary school, and I can't always get away with simply looking over the shoulder of whomever I sit next to.
Unfortunately, I have never learned any math past algebra, and as far as the sciences go, I haven't learned very much about any topic in particular. I may have kept journals my whole life, which is why I am somewhat of a decent writer, but I have not written very many formal essays. I try not to dwell on regrets, but the one thing that I regret more than anything is not doing well in school. I would kill to be able to read and comprehend the words of Plato or Voltaire, but their works are not written in slang—so I have a really tough time understanding the lingo.
In our world, there exists so many kids out there that have so much to express, but do not know the words to be able to communicate in a suitable manner, which is why they often don't. I suppose that even if they did, still nobody would listen—and that is because most people don't take the less-advantaged seriously. I try not to envy my peers here at Augsburg, but they really do not know how fortunate they are to have the grades that they do and the friends that they have.
Like in my favorite movie, The Big Chill, which is about a group of friends from college who have a reunion, their friendships seem so real. All of them shared the same memories and had inside jokes too, and that's something that I do not have the privilege of having. In the movie all of the relationships seemed so solid, when in my life I can't help but feel as if I were simply disposable.
Without ever having experienced real friendship, I base my ideas on the characters in this movie—witnessing behaviors carried out by the kinds of people that would be there for a friend in need. You'd think that something that uplifting would benefit anybody, but when people are discriminated against for subtle differences, like abnormal behavior, not everybody gets to experience those blessings.
What I loved the most about the movie was that all of characters would laugh about all the drama that used to go on, but despite the turmoil that they once encountered their friendships still seem so genuine. I can pick out the groups that will be like that someday, and even though I have envisioned me to be a part of one I know that I do not fit in.
Sure, there may be kids here at Augsburg in the StepUp programming that have similar backgrounds, but they do not believe that it is possible to quit partying on your own. They use the term “dry alcoholic” to describe those who used to drink but are not in AA, and consider them to be unwell. Of course, that only contribute to the problem of labeling, and also exclusion but nobody ever seems to give it a second thought. If anything, it's only tearing us apart. The only thing that will help this society become more connected is reflective reasoning, which of course requires us to devote more of our thought processes to unity in opposed to personal success.
I’ve noticed that although there are many students who understand the reading and participate in class discussions, outside of class they don’t care about any of it. Clearly, they are all intelligent and they prove themselves through their academic achievements, but they only do it for the grades and the degree.
I know this because when class isn't in session, I’m always try to spark up interesting conversations about class material, but most of the time nobody even contributes to them. I can't help but understand, though. When young people like myself attempt to enter a new culture, they are automatically rejected by the rest because they do not know the social norms, so boundaries are always crossed.
Regrettably, I admit that I don't have any real friends to interact with to either at least clue me in or even rely on if ever I am in need. Since I’ve been surrounded by dysfunctional people my whole life, I have become accustomed to believing that bad friendships are normal, that's why I never wind up becoming friends with people that care what I have to say.
My best friend at Augsburg accuses me of "trying to sound smart," she likes me better when I go on drinking binges every weekend. I know this because she openly admits this to me on a regular basis. That's very common for somebody like myself to hear though. We tend to surround ourselves with people that we do not get along with since we don't entirely know ourselves or who we are compatible with. Our past experiences have limited our options, so too often kids like me settle for less.
Eventually kids like me start to drive themselves crazy over the amount of information that we attempt to process in our minds. Without a clue about how to manage, our minds become preoccupied with our painful pasts, or our fearful futures.
In our own insanity, kids like me start speaking in opposites and draw diagrams that do not make sense—sometimes we even laugh ourselves to sleep. We say things that people do not understand and become extremely embarrassed by it, but nobody understands why.
Sleep deprivation may be common, but instead of staying up all night studying, we instead play through the same resentments over and over again in our minds, wishing that things would had been different for us. Even if they were though we might still not be happy because we are the kind of people that do not like how this society is arranged. We don’t like going to frat parties or football games, and don’t think that MTV is cool. The dialectic lives on whether we like it or not, and conforming means death—but life after death does not look promising.
In my case, I am very fortunate that I got thrown a rope when I did. Eventually I was going to run into some serious problems with my mental state, not that I already have but on a much more serious level. I would not consider my new opportunities to be luck though—I know that kids like me do not get lucky, instead we get labels.
As far as I'm concerned, I am not a circus animal. That's why I do not like doing through life jumping through a series of hoops. What I prefer is to follow the trail of breadcrumbs that I see before me—they typically get me to where I need to go, but unfortunately these total institutions keep setting up roadblocks that slow me down. I'm getting tired of it, too.
Not only am I become too complex, but so are the systems that our society depends on, which is why I feel that they will not function much longer into the future. In my own confusion, I ask myself why are we continuing to depend on these methods? Clearly the social is irreducible, so it cannot be reduced into specific categories, especially since not everybody fits into the ones that are available.
What it comes down to is that humans may have an intelligent conduct that governs their thinking, which is although much more advanced than animals, there are setbacks. Even though this allows humans to consciously envision an ongoing life process in which they use the past to shape the future, thinking that the future is going to be like the past is still completely irrational.
Although history does have a tendency of repeating itself, we must still consider that the future that many of us envision is only present in terms of ideas, meaning that the life process is not always going to be the same as it once was.
If we continue to fragment our society, like we have been, we are bound to run into some major problems with our species development, and on a level that is not only affecting the world's deviants.
The outspoken individuals that that I have been referring to, the one's that society is trying to contain, are actually the individuals that could potentially be holding our society together, but instead their fingers are being chopped off whenever they try.
Many of these cases happen to be more reflective than the rest, and that is why they deviate these irrational systems. These provident individuals that are often ridiculed for their behavior have an ability to envision a future that is more ideal, and therefore more evolved. If their minds are fit and their needs are provided for fairly, then it is these very individuals that can then direct themselves and the rest by using their own minds to pursue a more sensible future through reflection—a characteristic that is much more evolved than any typical human preparation.
Our social progress depends on the whole, not just the mainstream parts, because if everybody functions properly and is provided for, than so is our entire body.
Martin Luther King Jr. was absolutely right when he said that “if there is injustice anywhere, then there is injustice everywhere.” Deviance is necessary to change any kind of unjust society, and that is why deviance should be embraced, not frowned upon.
I have heard too many people justify bad behavior by saying that life isn't fair—even when it could have been avoided!! Life doesn't have to be this way though. We're the ones that have created the unjust system, and we are the ones that need to change it, otherwise we will continue to make the same mistakes.
The leaders of tomorrow need to be qualified to guide us to a future, not just able to picture a future that they desire, without ever reflecting on how we must really go about achieving such a goal. That is why kids need to be taught to be more conscious, otherwise our species will not evolve the way that it is supposed to.
Instead of depending on total institutions, which are nothing but a ranking system that is becoming a form of social control, we need to instead learn how to depend on each other. The very systems that I speaking out about is suffocating our potential leaders, and I'm not simply including myself in this.
We all have the potential to effect the lives of those around us, even when we're not entirely sure to what extent. When young people grow up thinking that deviance should be dealt with by assigning a label or cutting people out that they don't understand, good people will continue to suffer without having a fair “trial.” This cruel reality is why kids like myself, who were not given a fair chance to prove themselves, eventually break down.
Slowing down the entire whole, our society is not something that anybody can escape, even if they ever try. When those "infections" multiply, they will eventually cause the entire body to become very ill, just like it is becoming more and more.
This issue should be taken lightly. If we want to change the world, we need it start by opening up our minds, and open up to each other. All of these total institutions, no matter how dependable they might seem, are naturally building walls around each and every one of our minds, preventing necessary information from getting in. Through our own action we must all tear down those walls, and it is through deviance that we will succeed. That is exactly why deviance should be embraced, not frowned upon. They should be called upon.