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Ordinary Failures of Compassion toward PWA and stigmatized populations: Psychological and spiritual mechanics and resources Rev. Betsy Ritzman Licensed.

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Presentation on theme: "Ordinary Failures of Compassion toward PWA and stigmatized populations: Psychological and spiritual mechanics and resources Rev. Betsy Ritzman Licensed."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ordinary Failures of Compassion toward PWA and stigmatized populations: Psychological and spiritual mechanics and resources Rev. Betsy Ritzman Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor Website:

2 Gentle us, Holy One, into an unclenched moment, a deep breath a letting go of heavy experiences, of shriveling anxieties, of dead uncertainties, open us to the mystery, fill us with the joy that is you. AMEN

3 Connection and Compassion Psychological, Social and Spiritual rules of our culture support compassionate responses to human suffering. Psychological, Social and Spiritual rules of our culture support compassionate responses to human suffering. These same rules of connection also undermine compassion. These same rules of connection also undermine compassion. This is true among all peoples of faith. This is true among all peoples of faith.

4 Social myths of autonomy American Culture directs us toward independence and separation American Culture directs us toward independence and separation Separation and connection become polarized. Separation and connection become polarized. However, Human autonomy is actually the outcome of a ongoing dance between connection and disconnection. However, Human autonomy is actually the outcome of a ongoing dance between connection and disconnection. So, we seek independence and long for connection. So, we seek independence and long for connection.

5 Psychological factors in HIV/AIDS Stigmatization: Failure of Compassion exists in many forms and degrees – from interpersonal tension to murderous rage. Failure of Compassion exists in many forms and degrees – from interpersonal tension to murderous rage. Social isolation and rejection is an outcome of a community wide failure of compassion. Social isolation and rejection is an outcome of a community wide failure of compassion. Abuse (physical, emotional) is another response to a failure of compassion. Abuse (physical, emotional) is another response to a failure of compassion.

6 Compassion vs Abuse: Abuse is hurting the feelings or body of someone else to alter some unpleasant feeling within the self. Compassion regulates unpleasant (ego annihilating) internal feelings. Abuse occurs when compassion for self and loved ones fails to sufficiently support ego function.

7 Emotional Disregulation: Why those who love us hurt us Relationships serve as mirrors of our inner self. We know who we are by how others see us. Relationships serve as mirrors of our inner self. We know who we are by how others see us. Reflections can build or undermine ego strength E.g.: Reflections can build or undermine ego strength E.g.: A misbehaving child can evoke feelings of being a failure and thoroughly unlovable parent; a thriving child strengthens the ego. A misbehaving child can evoke feelings of being a failure and thoroughly unlovable parent; a thriving child strengthens the ego. Angry or withdrawn parents can evoke in children feelings of shame, and unworthiness; loving involved parents build self respect. Angry or withdrawn parents can evoke in children feelings of shame, and unworthiness; loving involved parents build self respect. A distracted or controlling spouse can evoke feelings of worthlessness; affirmation from a spouse supports the self. A distracted or controlling spouse can evoke feelings of worthlessness; affirmation from a spouse supports the self.

8 Disregulation and Revenge Feelings of shame, rejection, unworthiness stimulate an internal crisis, destabilizing ego and identity. Feelings of shame, rejection, unworthiness stimulate an internal crisis, destabilizing ego and identity. They inspire revenge, not for the behavior of others but for the wound (to our sense of self) they seem to inflict. They inspire revenge, not for the behavior of others but for the wound (to our sense of self) they seem to inflict.

9 Communal mechanics of Abuse? Communities and cultures react in ways similar to the individual when communal thresholds of emotional dis- regulation are exceeded. Communities and cultures react in ways similar to the individual when communal thresholds of emotional dis- regulation are exceeded.

10 Stigmaand HIV HIV/AIDS diagnosis implies these conditions, often experienced as negative mirrors: HIV/AIDS diagnosis implies these conditions, often experienced as negative mirrors: Forbidden sexual behavior Forbidden sexual behavior Homosexuality Homosexuality Loss of Gods protection or blessing Loss of Gods protection or blessing Consequential punishmentConsequential punishment Curse Curse Affliction Affliction If a loved one discloses HIV+ status to you – what kind of mirroring do you receive from them?

11 Dynamics of stigma in community Stigma 1596, "mark made on skin by burning with a hot iron," from L. stigma (pl. stigmata ), from Gk. stigma (gen. stigmatos ) "mark, puncture," especially one made by a pointed instrument, from root of stizein "to mark, tattoo," from PIE *st(e)ig- (see stick (v.)). Fig. meaning " a mark of disgrace " is from 1619, as is stigmatize in this sense. Stigmas "marks resembling the wounds on the body of Christ, appearing supernaturally on the bodies of the devout" is from 1632; earlier stigmate (1387), from L. stigmata. Stigma 1596, "mark made on skin by burning with a hot iron," from L. stigma (pl. stigmata ), from Gk. stigma (gen. stigmatos ) "mark, puncture," especially one made by a pointed instrument, from root of stizein "to mark, tattoo," from PIE *st(e)ig- (see stick (v.)). Fig. meaning " a mark of disgrace " is from 1619, as is stigmatize in this sense. Stigmas "marks resembling the wounds on the body of Christ, appearing supernaturally on the bodies of the devout" is from 1632; earlier stigmate (1387), from L. stigmata.tigmasticktigmastick Community: 1375, from O.Fr. communité, from L. communitatem (nom. communitas ) "community, fellowship," from communis "common, public, general, shared by all or many," (see common). L. communitatem "was merely a noun of quality... meaning 'fellowship, community of relations or feelings,' but in med.L. it was, like universitas, used concretely in the sense of 'a body of fellows or fellow-townsmen ' " [OED]. An O.E. word for "community" was gemænscipe "community, fellowship, union, common ownership," probably composed from the same PIE roots as communis. Community: 1375, from O.Fr. communité, from L. communitatem (nom. communitas ) "community, fellowship," from communis "common, public, general, shared by all or many," (see common). L. communitatem "was merely a noun of quality... meaning 'fellowship, community of relations or feelings,' but in med.L. it was, like universitas, used concretely in the sense of 'a body of fellows or fellow-townsmen ' " [OED]. An O.E. word for "community" was gemænscipe "community, fellowship, union, common ownership," probably composed from the same PIE roots as communis.common

12 Traditionally and ritually, those who are marked with disgrace are stigmatized and cast out or scape-goated - ritual or symbolic acts of cleansing for the community/family: HIV or other disorders mark community members with disgrace, mirroring shifts from good to evil HIV or other disorders mark community members with disgrace, mirroring shifts from good to evil Communal emotional dis-regulation (loss of community ego strength) inspires radical distance – stigmatization, scape-goating, etc Communal emotional dis-regulation (loss of community ego strength) inspires radical distance – stigmatization, scape-goating, etcExamples:

13 Laurens Birds

14 Behavioral Pecking Fear Fear Distance –people as projects Distance –people as projects Spiritual: If I avoid death and suffering of others, Ill be spared. Spiritual: If I avoid death and suffering of others, Ill be spared.

15 Fear and superstition in Spirituality Reactions to suffering that emerge from and impact our faith: Reactions to suffering that emerge from and impact our faith: Fear = this might happen to me! Fear = this might happen to me! Superstition = I can control whether I suffer Superstition = I can control whether I suffer

16 Reciprocity in relationships: We expect relationships to build the sense of self We expect relationships to build the sense of self They must provide: They must provide: Unconditional safety and security Unconditional safety and security High levels of compassion High levels of compassion Freedom from resentment, hostility, abuse, and other emotional constraints. Freedom from resentment, hostility, abuse, and other emotional constraints. If a relationship consistently fails to do this, it loses its ego-building function. If a relationship consistently fails to do this, it loses its ego-building function. If it falls below the threshold of safety and security, it becomes ego- destroying. If it falls below the threshold of safety and security, it becomes ego- destroying.

17 Examples of Spiritual Pecking The biblical Jobs friends: your afflictions define your worth and destiny: ie, less than mine The biblical Jobs friends: your afflictions define your worth and destiny: ie, less than mine Prosperity gospel – Spiritual faith= worldly success, failure/pain is evil/weak Prosperity gospel – Spiritual faith= worldly success, failure/pain is evil/weak Healing traditions may deny suffering and pain on the premise that we are already healed, forbidding any open expressions of suffering as inviting evil. Healing traditions may deny suffering and pain on the premise that we are already healed, forbidding any open expressions of suffering as inviting evil.

18 A Neighborhood Story: The Bike Theft at Longfellow

19 The Psyche of the Good Samaritan: Building compassionate human response with faith resources. Identifies with the oppressed one Identifies with the oppressed one Capable: noticing, present, able (self regulated emotions) Capable: noticing, present, able (self regulated emotions) Observes the spirit of the law Observes the spirit of the law Compassion: Takes effective action Compassion: Takes effective action Fearless: Violating cultural demands Fearless: Violating cultural demands Radical: Violates religious law Radical: Violates religious law

20 Spiritual resources for maintaining community and managing stigma and suffering Suffering seen as universal in every life Suffering seen as universal in every life Acknowledgement that suffering elicits fear Acknowledgement that suffering elicits fear Love-mandates to regulate fear - reduces distance Love-mandates to regulate fear - reduces distance Separation from others is seen as illusion/transient Separation from others is seen as illusion/transient Others suffering is our suffering Others suffering is our suffering

21 Faith traditions often teach: True compassion arises naturally when our ego- protecting thoughts lie down True compassion arises naturally when our ego- protecting thoughts lie down Pay attention to your own heart, separate assumptions about yourself from assumptions about others eg:Dont judge - a discipline that builds autonomy and self regulation Pay attention to your own heart, separate assumptions about yourself from assumptions about others eg:Dont judge - a discipline that builds autonomy and self regulation Cultivate compassionate toward yourself (builds ego strength and self regulation) Cultivate compassionate toward yourself (builds ego strength and self regulation) Listen for God in story of the weak and oppressed (undermines scape-goating) Listen for God in story of the weak and oppressed (undermines scape-goating)

22 Marks of the Beloved Community Honoring connection with those who suffer with a willingness to suffer for common good. Honoring connection with those who suffer with a willingness to suffer for common good. Willingness to engage transformation by confronting oppression of others and our own suffering and transgressions Willingness to engage transformation by confronting oppression of others and our own suffering and transgressions Planting seeds of forgiveness- scape-goating and revenge becomes taboo Planting seeds of forgiveness- scape-goating and revenge becomes taboo Harvesting joy from suffering. Harvesting joy from suffering.

23 Consultations… Discussion … Questions… Answers…


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