Marian Goldstein – Dehumanizing the Oppressors Can Lead to Permanent Victim Status

Marian Goldstein posted an excellent comment on a thread on Mad In America that deserves to be reposted as an independent blog. She consented to this repost. It starts with a comment from another person:

The men and women who raped me and then drugged me for complaining about being raped, calling me awful names like “Borderline Personality,”  wrecked my beautiful brain and body with their poisonous neurochemicals.

They are NOT human beings just like me. I never forced anyone to do anything, except make my kids do the dishes. I never told lies to make myself powerful and wealthy.

I don’t trust ANYONE who is getting money for managing mental patients, whether they have a diagnosis or not. I risk conflict by telling my truth and I am not afraid of conflict.

Marian gave this excellent response by talking about taking on permanent victim status:

Human beings are unique individuals because our experiences are unique. No two human beings have exactly, down to detail, the same life story. Not even identical twins, who grow up together.

On the other hand, we all have this one thing in common, that we all are human beings, and we react in a certain way to certain experiences. This is what makes empathy possible.

Psychiatry takes the experiences out of the equation, and only looks at the reactions. This is what makes it possible to label the other as “other,” so that empathy is no longer possible.

When empathy is no longer possible, when it is no longer possible to see the other as an equal human being, we no longer think we need to treat the other like we would want to be treated ourselves. That opens the floodgates for all kinds of violence, name-calling, abuse toward the victim, and permanent victim status.

Choosing Permanent Victim Status

No one is always only the victim. In fact, identifying as the victim can be an act of violence if one uses permanent victim status to gain privileges. As in :

“Don’t talk to me like that! I’m a Victim! You have to respect my Permanent Victim Status, and walk on eggshells around me!”

This is a way of indirectly accusing everybody else of being a perpetrator, and making them feel guilty.

Psychiatric Labeling Creates Permanent Victim Status

Psychiatric Labeling Creates Permanent Victim Status

Unfortunately I see it happen all the time. Caroline Myss talks about people using their wounds as currency, a kind of “street currency.”

While we claim our right to be seen as human beings, reacting to a life story, we close our eyes to the life stories of those who harmed us.  We label them, not “borderline,” “schizophrenic,” “bipolar,” but monsters, abusers, evil.

This can go as far as calling certain people aliens from outer space, underneath their human appearance, who have invaded our planet to gain world domination. (David Icke is only one.)

Reverse Name-Calling Perpetuates Permanent Victim Status

Both kinds of name-callers and labelers are dehumanizing people.  Hare a few implications:

1. We’re doing to others what we do not want them to do to us: we’re denying their life story, labeling them as less than human, dehumanising them. No one can rightly expect others to respect them as an equal, if they’re not willing to respect these others as equals.

2. When I use my wounds as currency, I cannot afford to heal, because healing means that I run out of funds.  Ever wonder why mentioning the mere possibility of full recovery in many contexts provokes an outcry of indignation from the Permanent Victim Status community? Ever wonder about statements like “It has ruined my entire life, past, present, and future/I will never heal/I will always suffer?”

3. To the extent that I choose to maintain the permanent victim status, I cannot heal, and never ever forgive.  I continue the drama and violence. I will, inevitably inflict suffering on myself and everybody around me. I remain stuck in a script, unable to write my own, shape my own fate. This means I choose to learn nothing from life.

4.  By dehumanizing those who inflict suffering on others, I actually deny the destructive power of violence. The experience of violence can make any human being (re)act in the most horrifying, “monstrous” ways. This truth is a lot more terrible than ideas about monsters, whose (re)actions cannot be understood, or even reptiles from outer space seeking world dominance. Denying it is what keeps the violence alive and well.

How can we stop creating or using permanent victim status?

1 comment to Marian Goldstein – Dehumanizing the Oppressors Can Lead to Permanent Victim Status

  • Working in the advocacy world is tricky, because I must keep telling my story. But to heal, I need to forget my story and not be part of the past anymore.

    Working towards mental health improvements can be a way to hold onto the wounds, or do something about them. Its much harder to let go and have a life outside of mental health altogether.

    I’m not implying that things don’t need to change, just wondering how it impacts our own wellbeing to feel that we have to change things. Does it irritate a scar? Is it a vendetta? Where does all that energy and passion go? How do we push it into the cause without hurting our own recovery.

    Usually, the stories are about how terrible everything is. We need stories out there about triumph, victory over illness. transformation, and happiness.