I wrote this piece over 10 years ago so some of it is dated. Yet I think the message still has clear relevance as what once was unusual is now completely commonplace in language. This records my thoughts and what was my experience at the first signs of a society moving into describing life through what was advertising and marketing of a drug and popular psychiatry hypothesis that never became scientific fact.
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Words define our reality. We use them not only for communication but to describe our behaviors and environment. That is why I examine them as well as create with them. I’m a writer. It helps me to see and experience life in a truer sense. Too many times we use incorrect words out of historical habit which end up conveying a given meaning we all know and understand, but is far from the true meaning of the word. For example, if you do that to me, I’ll kill you. Most times the speaker of this expression is far from meaning this literally. We have known this in the past. But things are changing. Our word usage is very important. Our social problems are rotted (okay, I mean rooted) within a context of our collective social mind and language. It is here that I believe true renewal can begin and it is here I work for social change. I’m a writer, of course. To me, language changes the perception which changes the mind and thus the behavior naturally.
Recently I have observed the use of three particular words. One word is barely ever spoken. Another is used frequently and the last is used so much it hurts to hear it. I overhear it spoken frequently in public places. I hear it in my home. I see the word used in advertisements in the newspaper and hear it repeatedly on television. It is almost epidemic. It is a regular vocabulary word in circles of my friends, acquaintances and coworkers.
In Webster’s dictionary these three words are defined as:
AGRESSION : forceful action or procedure when intended to dominate or master
OPPRESSION: the state of being oppressed which is to crush or burden by abuse or authority, a sense of being weighed down in body and mind.
DEPRESSION: a state of feeling sad, a lowering of functional activity, a psychotic disorder marked by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, appetite change, sleeping disturbance and hopelessness.
I was prompted to write this because I saw one too many advertisements in the local paper for treatment of depression and heard one too many people talk about their antidepressant drugs. Even my counselor was using anti-depressant drugs. I’m disturbed by the use of these words particularly by the professional psychological communities whom the general public look to for help.
Depression is a mental illness that is treatable by medication so go the words. I’d like to know why these professionals diagnose depression but not oppression. It seems that the difference between oppression and depression would be hard to distinguish. A sense of being weighed down in body and mind would create a feeling of sadness, lowered activity and hopelessness.
Our traditional institutions that influence the masses of people can provoke this very condition. Whose not weighed down by our work related problems all boxed in by classism? Which child’s spirit doesn’t crave freedom from the public education institution with no promising solution? What about those catholic nuns and aggression? What’s the difference between the social structure of prison where inmates are confined in rooms to a rigid routine with a bell to signal the prisoner’s next move and the same sort of structure in public schools for our children? With such a structure for training, no wonder the masses are not outraged and keep paying mortgage interest that is equivalent to twice the value of their homes? What about the adult work daily ‘grind’? Adult lives are just a repeat of childhood…just get up every day and do what you are suppose to be doing, no questions asked.
Well, I’m asking!
What traditional religious organization allows for the true freedom of spirit among the centuries old sacred laws designed for a structure of wealth and repression of humanity? In a society that values freedom, we need to question if these institutions really carry forth the values that our country claims. But if you listen carefully, you would think that oppression doesn’t exist, but that we have achieved freedom. And if we don’t have it, then it must be something in us, such as depression that needs correction. For me depression isn’t a problem as long as I remember that the environment and my social training I live under is oppressive. My way out is to continually redo the societal training in my mind and follow the impulses of my spirit. However, this usually causes problems for many relationships in work, family, school, church, and with the government. It is risky, so I found it is best to try to gain group strength out of depression. If no one ever mentions oppression in any counseling office or any place one goes to deal with issues of health how will anyone ever begin to deal it effectively. I do believe depression and oppression both exist but I suspect there are more people oppressed than depressed. No one seems to have a treatment for oppression (except a few activists). I think it would be a good idea to take all these depressed people and start asking them the right questions. Instead of hoards of people drugged (like we really need more drugged people) to cope with our social conditions, we might actually be able to create some positive energy to improve our society instead. I can only imagine the joy created in people’s lives if they are not only given permission to live free, but had total public support to do so!
I also wonder why these professionals do not have drugs, advertisements and posters for aggression. Imagine all the problems that would be solved. I may be an idealist, but you have to admit that it would definitely be a much better step. If someone has to be drugged, I’d say aggressive people should be the first. But again, there is no condition called aggression. Hello? Anyone awake here? Aggression is all around us. Of course there is a condition called aggression. But surely not publicly announced with all the rhetoric and labeling of a severe mental illness. There are no marketing plans and chemical imbalancing cures. Aggression is only biasly diagnosed for a select group of individuals, usually criminals. And then the word aggression is not the final diagnosis. It is diluted into another DSM term. The pioneers who started the psychological community a century or so ago with original mental illness terms certainly were in the dark ages about human behavior. The modern followers of this traditional community of professionals need to be a bit critical of their professional training that has seeds in oppression. Thank god, the word nervous breakdown had lost some potent power as it was once as popular a term as depression is today. These human behavior labeled in clusters are fashionable in how we talk about ourselves and come and go like styles of clothing. The word nervous breakdown was used for at least 100 years after physicians learned that there was no connection with the nerves of the body as they had previously thought when they used that term. Illness has been increasingly being replaced with the term disorders. I don’t want to use such words like disorder, but feel confined to it so my reader understands me. I really think another word needs to be used, but I realize I have to take things slowly. We wouldn’t want to topple the whole industry of mental illness until we have a system that allows people to be free.