Devastation; The Word and it’s Context, A Basic English lesson for Human Wellness

“Many errors, of a truth, consist merely in the application of the wrong names of things.” -Spinoza

Depression is a popular word in our language. It is commonly used. The popularity and changed use of the word grew after the television advertisements began to sell anti-depressants. Trauma is also a word growing like wildfire.


Some words and narratives take hold. Some don’t. Not always for the right reasons.

So what if it is the wrong words? Or an inadequate word? A loaded word, for sure. What if the word becomes overused? And we water down our existence as a result. One size doesn’t fit all. Words only fit in an understood narrative.  A story line we can understand. In a context that surrounds it properly. That is, to match our existing knowledge. So we attempt to survive by fitting the story line and then this fails. New words, new stories, changed meanings sometimes result.


So I’m making a proposal to widen our vocabulary and use words that might fit better on some occasions.  I tend to think if a problem ends, the solution has been successful. Otherwise not. Too many problems we have seem to keep on keeping on despite much effort to end them.

Sometimes symptoms of a problem are addressed, misleading us to think we have a solution but the original problem remains.  Immediate symptoms may disappear but the problem resurfaces along with complications of another problem from  failed attempts at eliminating the original one cause. This seems to be quite common in our society with systematic, social problems, especially.

For some of these human problems, that, sometimes, tend to escape successful solutions, devastation may be a more appropriate word. Consider this definition taken from a Webster Dictionary.

devastate: to bring to ruin or desolation by violent action
to reduce to chaos, disorder, overwhelm or helplessness; ravage

Devastation causes disorder, according to Webster and the definition of the words. So there is no mystery there. Disorder comes from devastation and violence. Think of a devastated city from an earthquake. Is it a medical problem then? Why flip it to medical and biological causes immediately when an event has happened that causes devastation? Like violence does.  Sometimes things do get complicated that become harm to the body and eventually impact biology. But sometimes that complication, and wrong words, simply makes some people wealthy.

Overwhelm and helplessness are words now used as part of trauma. Trauma is very popular because it is the real first word that implies some event or thing caused harm. Big Harm. However, For women, in the past, helplessness was seen as part of a learned experience. It was taught along with passiveness and compliance that was popular for women when men were the authority over women based on their gender.

Acknowledging trauma that wasn’t recognized in the past is not a bad thing. I’m not here to speak against what words and narratives actually are accurate and fitting. But when we act as if one size fits all, and we can no longer hear more than one story line and use of a single word in a short narrative, I press pause. Can we still see each other through the lens of our words and stories that distort our full humanity and basis in environments, often harmful? How we name each other changes what we see.  As a writer, it’s troubling simply because it is so vastly limiting.  Writers make story.  Writers choose words. Today with technology you don’t have to be prove qualification and many writers write outside the realm of their own expertise or study.

Some people follow story and do not write. When a certain narrative takes hold in media and it becomes fashionable with lots of followers simply following the popular trend, I’ve learned it’s really time to do a check in with the variety of people and places beyond media productions and a one size fits all mentality.


Psychiatry, one group that uses language in it’s own narratives, changes with trends that are not necessarily started in research of established psychiatry.  In fact, psychiatry changes routinely from outside sources.  Just this week there was an admission of the harm, historically, over aversion therapy. There’s a long standing relationship between psychiatry, the medical field overall, popular ideas, media and politics. It’s built on, and within, the stories we know about ourselves in science, in history and religion, war and current technologies. Personally, I think media does lots of damage to academic research simply by the limiting technological format. Just as little boxes in Facebook lead to limiting respectful conversation.

The words for Illnesses, themselves, come and go like our fashion trends in clothing. The words change. Understandings change. Symptoms may not. What we have today is both unique to our time period as well as rooted in very old established ideas. That’s complexity.

Our popular narratives given to us through media in short, short stories, 3 minute videos, 2 minute news brief, etc., usually avoid complexity even when it exists. There’s simply no time and space for full explanations. Thus proper understandings. Yet We do have a valid need for simplicity. Small boxes and small pages also frame simplicity from complexity of life. We humans are not even designed for life’s complexities and require decades of research and lengthy explanations in pages and pages of documents to understand complexities.

Devastation causes disorder. Hmmmm, I thought. Disorder itself is a word that has, in some places, replaced the term illness. But disorders exist in life and are not just illness, or something detrimental, disorder is a part of a cycle of life with order as night is with day. Open is with shut. Up is with down. Order and Disorder are part of life. 

Although psychiatry has existed for about 4 centuries, the term disorder is only popularly used in the last few decades when that community couldn’t come up with an adequate definition for mental illness and the failure of the past was well known. Actually, there was no definition at all for some time.


Psychiatry has had a long standing debate with the medical community about its validity as a profession. That group kept insisting that there is a biological problem as the root cause of abnormal behaviors. But abnormal behaviors can become normal behaviors and abnormal behaviors can be what the minority do. Just not the majority.  Abnormal behaviors may not be the best way to define a biological problem. If biology is the problem than it would exist in a variety of situations and with a variety of behaviors, anyway. Science knows if you add one tiny element to the scientific experiment, you get vastly different results. So why the stereotyping of behaviors as a one size fits millions???

Doesn’t make even rational sense and analysis when explained. You have to have belief. What we have is a belief system. What we have is lack of science to back up beliefs.

If a biological issue is the problem then biological tests on the body must show us in other anatomy terms. Not by descriptions of behaviors. There have never been chemical tests done to individual people who are thought to be depressed. It’s a one size fits all by words and a narrative in a very specific social relationship defined by appropriate behaviors of doctor and patient. In the diagnostic process, people sit. There is no real behavior going on. It’s talking and analysis of talking and thinking. Not behavior! And one hour of sitting can not be scientific evaluation! I just couldn’t continue to believe.

There is never agreement within the field. The errors have been consistent for a long time and still have no scientific evidence to back the beliefs that tenaciously exist in our society.

It’s lead me to see past the beliefs and question the words.


History shows that the mistakes of the profession are usually corrected in forwarding generations that, in hindsight, explain understandable behaviors in a social context of the time period. Even back to back generations feel the inadequacy of the previous professionals and authorities. It’s called advancements in science!

The history is littered with examples no longer used today. For instance, Drapetomania was a term for slaves that ran away. There was justification for whipping of slaves due to needed carbon in the body.  Hysteria, used in a variety of ways,  was, at one point, the name given to women that wanted to be doctors and artists – or to simply name an angry woman as a sick woman. Anger was not natural for women it was believed.

Idiot and moron became unacceptable but it was the starting words from earlier psychiatry. Masturbation does not lead to death or blindness, but psychiatrists believed it. And loving a person of your same sex was cured overnight when they declared is wasn’t a disorder. Understandings change words and words change understandings. It’s all in how we use them.

So I propose this about devastation….

What would change today, for some people in some situations, if instead of naming disorders, thought to be biological, we used our common understandings about devastation in non-medical terms? There are many situations where we have solutions for devastation and name the event and person as such. In fact, if you evaluate this, you can see a pattern that the situations that get labeled illness with mystery are usually those situations where humans are harming humans and have some form of authority or permission to do so and victim blame. Some of this IS simply victim blaming by way of medical doctors. Examples are plentiful.

We do live with some non-medical, common solutions for violent actions and devastation. Particularly if you are wealthy, important, famous, or in a majority that is perceived as it being necessary to be protected from violence.


So….The result of devastation. The result of violent action. What is it?

Ruin, desolation, chaos, overwhelm, helplessness is not just some post traumatic phenomenon, a disorder in a person, as has been explained effectively for some situations. Naming and treating Trauma isn’t completely the nugget that can end all our discomfort. Since it’s popularity arose in the 1980’s, the understandings continue to change. Of course, It’s an improvement since the narrative has, sort of, a beginning. Something happened. It’s a new narrative. But unfortunately, a fuller explanation of what happens is lopped off and we are back to mysterious illness and old narrative. That often excludes who did what and when and an understanding of normal human responses!

Devastation is the direct result of violent actions. So just for a minute. Think. Forget trauma. Forget the narrative.  Forget the disorders.

Whose violent actions? Violent actions without context of who is not where to start the statement or analysis either. Telling your story is not some ‘medical’ necessity for ‘sick’ people. It’s actually necessary for facts about a person and their life for correct understandings.

Start with the cause and name devastation. Put it in there and see how it fits.

Cause has to start with subject. Who did what?
What happened? What must be done with devastation and violent actions?

Devastate is a verb. It is something a person can do; something a person can have done to them. Devastate. Devastated. Devastating. She is devastated. She devastated him. He is devastated. Basic English Lessons. Subject. Verb. Object.

Devastate is a noun-forming suffix, too, because it is a thing that exists as a result of an action.

Devastation exists.

We use it as follows. There was nothing but devastation. The whole city was left in a state of devastation. Devastation. The house was ruined. Devastation was all I could see. The marriage ended. Devastation was the result. There was devastation everywhere. The rape devastated her. When she shot her father, her mother was devastated. He called her a slut and she was devastated. His father calling him a wimp devastated the 13 year old boy. After being attacked by the gang of boys, he lay on the ground, weeping, devastated.

What creates devastation? Devastators do.

They were devastators because they were the ones that created the devastation.

We can’t have devastation without the subject of devastators in the correct story line. We can’t have an ending without a beginning. We can’t find an understanding if we skip what needs to be understood. I like Einstein’s quote when he said you can’t solve a problem with the same mindset that started it.

To devastate is also to defeat. Not a minor defeat. A major defeat. Defeat brings with it feelings like humiliation or anger. Shame. Defeat diminishes humans. Defeat does not sit well with honor and glory. No awards. No celebrating. Defeat in the form of devastation is worse than defeat itself. It’s not a small, simple defeat.

I don’t need to tell anyone there’s no diagnosis for defeat. Why do we tangle it up as if it’s a mental disorder and then ignore it and not use the word? Does defeat, a major defeat, with all the emotions it entails warrant a diagnosis of a hard to explain mental illness in all situations? Not to mention, struggling for effective solutions?  Hardly. Just in SOME places with some people in some circumstances, we go right to the mysterious mental illness within the person as if nothing has happened to the person. Our narratives or lack of them in social context serve purposes. We don’t know what happened. We don’t talk about. Maybe it was just normal. The narrative goes missing or underground. Especially depending on who are the devastators.

Devastation can be an emotional condition. Devastation can be a physical condition. It can be described. It can be recognized. It does exist. But nobody uses the word in particular cases that need it! In some cases, devastation is a better description than other words commonly used. Devastation can sometimes replace words like Depression, Major Depression, Codependency, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, BiPolar, even Schizophrenia. And there are many events and places where we DO use the word devastation and never label it a mental illness. Why? We understand what happened and we understand the behaviors with it. We simply have to understand what we are doing and what is going on when what we do makes no sense.

As a writer, I know if you got the wrong word, the wrong information about an event or a person, and it has no facts, any fiction will do. In our information explosion era, and image/text technology driven world, we need to do a better job of deciphering fiction from fact. It’s not hopeless. Honestly. The only thing that can pull you out of a situation of non-ending confusion and discomfort is the correct information. The right words that fit the physicality of our existence. The truth of what happened. Maybe not just with one individual, but within the context of a vast social, systematic functioning that fails humans, routinely. Devastation is just one word.

However, If you don’t name devastation, you can not respond appropriately to it.

Fancy names and labels need high priced trained doctors to fix mysterious conditions.(They tell us they can’t, anyway!) Devastation doesn’t. (Unless someone will pick it up, name it and sell it as a disorder.)

Don’t be mislead by what I’m saying. Certainly some people need some training and life skills for some problems. But not being educated properly or training properly about the world we live is not the same as having an illness. It is not a sickness. It is dead wrong to call something a illness when it’s an educational problem.

If someone doesn’t have training to be a lawyer or a farmer, do we call that a medical problem, look for biological reasons and say they have an deficit in their character that defines their illness? We need to be aware of what we are doing and teaching our children because we have such diverse understandings based on varieties of education and such huge differences in understanding each other’s lives. Psychiatry is short lived and empty handed for the task. It must rely on one size fits all stereotyping or it has to admit it’s own lack of training about diversity.

Why have professionals turned our mental and emotional lives into medical diseases when the problem may simply be lack of experience and education? Why don’t they educate? Well, some do. And if they do, why do they call it treatment instead of education? Why not name them as teachers rather than health professionals treating a patient? Changing thinking is nothing less than teaching.

Here’s the thing about devastation and disorder, chaos, etc. It doesn’t need fixing. Or treatment! Think about it.

It doesn’t need fixing at all since many things devastated are not fixable.

Rebuilding from the start is necessary. Clearing away debris is necessary. Starting anew is necessary. So part of cleaning up devastation is a process of change and sometimes changes in order look awful like disorder until reorder is established.

Situations of devastation involving humans need mostly love and support; understanding, kindness, time, labor contributions and community to help rebuild. We know that for many situations we do this. Fire companies are the result of a social group who jump in to devastation fire victims. FEMA exists. But some situations do not get equal treatments. Violence has a lack of community response. In fact, most of the recent work around helping victims is exactly that reorganizing community response. Don’t be a bystander is now heard. Don’t hide in shame. Talk about. Get help.

Devastation doesn’t need drugs as a solution.  Devastation doesn’t have any marketing ploys for chemical balancing cures. Devastation is not a sickness; an illness.

What happens, as it does in our society, if no one addresses the emotional condition called devastation? What if no one says words like devastation to a human situation? If there are no advertisements for children. No lessons. If no one sees it? If people lost the know how, the ability, to handle it in specific situations? If the naming is wrong? What if they say depression over and over and over again but nothing comes of it? What if they say medications over and over again? Or what if medications are used because they don’t know they are devastated. Or they treat a person as if life is a football game and you don’t quit til you win – and if you do, you are a loser. You can’t admit defeat. You can’t admit being tired or hurt. You can’t admit what happened.

There are no advertisements. No school lessons. The story isn’t on the news. You think you are alone and something is wrong with you. Everyone thinks something is wrong and if you don’t know what happened, then it’s mysterious. It’s labeled and stereotyping as different as a mental problem, crazy person.
Or sick.

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As a writer, I was told once that you never write a story for children without hope. I thought immediately how strange that was. How can children learn how to deal with hopelessness if they are only fed hope? Hope is not always the appropriate quick fix for hopelessness. We fail to teach emotions properly. How can the large amounts of devastation in our time period be dealt with in the best possible way?

How one deals with emotional devastation seems to be unnecessarily mysterious on one hand and yet supposedly common and understandable on the other. It depends on which situations we see and understand.

This is not an accident nor just a simple mistake in teachings. Certain situations and social dynamics obscure reality purposely to not notice devastation. Not noticing covers up alot! Our Great American spirit, mantras, and dreams require we not admit defeat, let alone devastation! Don’t Give up is continually heard. Like Earth’s resources, supposedly humans have abundant and never ending resources. It’s simple fiction.

We do not give up. Quit. We drag ourselves around and then call it depression rather than being human and limited and unable to keep up with the social fiction our lives are turned into. Especially children have less ability to know or grasp what is being taught or told to them.

Being emotionally ignorant, illiterate, and unskilled about devastation surrounding certain social situations, as well as other emotional states, is part of society’s social awareness and training – and/or lack of it. It’s a systematic, intergenerational problem. It is not an individual problem.

The word illness, drugs and therapy in a medical model that actually, in some cases, makes no sense, replaces basic knowledge about ordinary emotions and living. But I guess this is no different than the business of restaurants and grocery stores that replaced the knowledge and skills of people growing their own food or the housing industry that ended common understandings about people building their own shelter. Big business changes us to be dependent on itself. Even if we don’t do things for ourselves and count on paid professions to help us, we should have some basic understandings of ourselves, life functions and the world we engage in. We should know that food doesn’t come from chemical mixing in medical laboratories, but from the earth. We are creatures on the earth. Ultimately, our wellness comes from the proper relationship with the earth, unharmed.

According to Webster, devastate means to bring to ruin or desolation by violent actions; to reduce to chaos and disorder. Overwhelm or helplessness.

Order and Disorder
Mental disorder.
Mental Order
Who’s order?
Correct mental order by who?
They ordered him to be in order.
They told her she had a disorder. (That alone caused her to feel devastated.)
They told him he had a disorder.
And often they tell them that the disorder is lifelong and not curable.


Order of words. Disorder of words.

A Control of words, story and speaking.
A disorder of words, story and speaking.

Now, the big question is WHO is in charge of defining the order of our lives? And where is the possibility of reorder? Rewording?  If we give that ability to define the correct order of our lives, then who do we give it to?

Yeah, if you have the wrong words, name the wrong thing, and have the wrong solutions. Yes, you can’t solve the problems. You will never solve the problems with the wrong words and wrong understandings and wrong solutions.

So how many actions in our culture are violent actions causing devastation? How many people are devastated by violent actions?  Harsh, fast, sudden actions. Not always leaving physical bruises or physical injury. Violent actions reduce a person to chaos and disorder; reduces lives to chaos and disorder.  And we have a tradition of not counting or holding some people accountable for violent actions. When power is mixed with violence, it’s near impossible to describe what happened and who did it. Power usually controls the words and the stories over what happened.


Not only all this, but the inhumane technologically driven, systematic, order, forced by economic, chemical, digital and electronic changes in our world that crushes many peoples lives, or destroys ecosystems, causes particular disorders; disorders of nature. Disorders of human nature.

To be continued…..



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