I have been thinking about something that I would like to share with you. When I was attending junior college many years ago one of the courses that I enrolled in and attended was Sociology. The course was an elective and a pre-requisite. I am glad that I had the opportunity to attend the classes and learn from the course. The study of Sociology gives insights into how various factors impact society such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, education, and social class that affects work and how organizations run. During the course of my studies in that class, I discovered something that has stayed with me for long after completing the class in Sociology.
What I discovered was the impact of what I heard described as, “labeling theory”. According to Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia:
“Labeling theory holds that deviance is not inherent to an act, but instead focuses on the tendency of majorities to negatively label minorities or those seen as deviant from standard cultural norms…including terms related to deviance, disability or diagnosis of a mental disorder… The theory is concerned with how the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them. It is associated with the concepts of self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotyping…A stigma is defined as a powerfully negative label that changes a person’s self-concept and social identity”.
Such labeling and stereotyping leads to a stigmatization of the individual. Through my studies and experience as a counselor, I have seen the negative impact that such stigmatization has upon the individual. In my experience, as noted; once a determination, diagnosis or label is given or assigned to the individual, the determination, diagnosis or label many times – consciously or unconsciously — becomes the identity of the individual. I have also noted that as the individual adopts the identity of the label as their identity they unknowingly become vulnerable to being victimized by the identity of the label by believing in the stigmatization. The internalization of the label and stigmatization then makes the individual susceptible to being controlled.
In the process, the individual — many times — unknowingly relinquishes their own unique creative identity for the identity of the determination, diagnosis or stereotype.
As a traumatic brain injury survivor, I found myself labeled and stereotyped by professionals and in social settings. The impact of these labels and subsequent opinions left me feeling stigmatized, minimized and marginalized. Unknowingly, I found myself relegated to a category of damaged goods. Like a damaged or tattered toy that was no longer of any use, I found myself tossed into a box with other toys and left to believe that I was no longer of any real value. But thank God that was not the end of the story. Through my process, I came to realize what stigmatization, minimization, and marginalization led me to believe was an insidious lie.
“Regardless of your lot in life, you can build something beautiful on it.” Zig Ziglar
Please read Part 2 of this article as Part 2 builds upon Part 1. To read Part 2 of this article, please click on this link. Thank you. Traumatic Brain Injury, Labeling Theory and Societal Stigmatization Part 2
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