‘A therapist is like a doctor for your heart.’ Loving Therapy.

The name has come to mean other things to me as well. ‘Well, we’re LOVING therapy,’ in response to the stigma that comes with many issues related to counseling and mental health in society. If you have never heard the word ‘stigma‘ it is a very helpful concept for understanding the greater illness of mental illness that comes from society and sometimes even causes mental injury to those already wounded. Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines it as ‘a mark of disgrace or dishonor associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.’ This sounds like discrimination. That is because it is.

I have come to understand discrimination as bullying and bullying often as a form of discrimination. It is not against the law to mistreat others. It is not against the law to gossip. However, I am thankful for the laws that do attempt to protect people from not only slander but also discrimination in the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has had speakers come to talk to my students at Santa Fe College. I have a friend who is a mediator for businesses and the EEOC and he knows this is a huge issue.Discrimination can be found out in an investigation and it may be evidenced in an interview, hiring, on the job, or retaliation in a demotion or fire.

Illegal interview questions include asking about religion, race, gender, health, family background, genetics, arrests (because there are so many false arrests and slander), sex, height and weight, nationality, housing, etc. If you are asked,”Have you ever been arrested? Who do you live with? Do you have children? How tall are you? What do you weigh?  Are you married? What religious affiliations do you have?,” you may answer by stating that you can understand that they are interested but feel that what makes you a best fit for the job would be your skills and abilities, etc. You can change the subject or you could tell the truth. One student wanted to be a pastor and we addressed the issue of ‘arrest’ and whether a church can ask if a person has ever been arrested. Not that he was ever arrested, but I considered that even though it is illegal to ask, they could. On the other hand Jesus Christ was arrested. Slander is an issue and convicted felons need a new identity and to work as well. I like the idea that people not be punished for mistakes for the rest of their lives. Sometimes there is no law to protect one from ‘discrimination’ and the truth is that a person needs a ‘new identity’ in some sense.  If there was a false arrest that is one issue, but many people do have criminal backgrounds and have to address this in an interview and in society.

These students also watch the documentary Eye of the Storm and discuss how the teacher’s experiment reveals the social development and dynamics in the system of discrimination. If you have not watched this it is a very important experiment that a 3rd grade teacher did with her students after Martin Luther King died. You can find it online here.  The children are told that all the brown eyed children are bad and all the blue eyed children are good. “This is a fact. Blue eyed children are better than brown eyed children.” The brown eyed children had the ‘stigma.’ The children are given special privileges for being blue eyed and impediments for being brown eyed. Over the next few days the children begin to fight and to even have incidences of violence. The brown eyed children start not to do as well in school performance also.The film also reminded me of the film documentary Bully that I saw recently about the bullying problem in US schools. You can read about this film and issue here. The research shows that it is those who stand up for the others being bullied that end the bullying. It is the same with discrimination and you do not have be be the individual who is discriminated against to file a charge or to stand up to it with the EEOC.

Not all cases of discrimination are as obvious. Sometimes the message from the ‘leader’ is not communicated in words or directives of privileges and impediments that are outright stated. Perhaps there is no clear leader in the groupthink that has occurred. People have huddled together out of fear and no one knows how the chaos began or will end. However, all that is important is that the message is communicated and this may be as slight as a facial expression or tone of voice. Perhaps, the one with the ‘tick’ or ‘ADHD’ or ‘Bi-polar’  just was not invited to the party. Perhaps, the girl with the outspoken views on her religious beliefs starts to notice she lost friends, no response to phone calls or texts back in social contacts. At Yale, recently, it was in the news that a woman was allegedly outright told the party was for ‘white girls only.’ However, most people try to hide how they are discriminating. It may also be more likely for someone with limp or funny walk to be made fun of than, for example, in a wheelchair. People often try to protect their reputation when they are being unkind by being discreet about their abuses.

As a result of messages being sometimes so slight, sometimes things are misunderstood as discrimination. For example, the case of Oprah’s shopping trip for a purse is considered a likely misunderstanding. She thought the store clerk would not get the purse out of the case because they assumed she was too poor to buy it, but then later it was said that those were the display purses and they had to get the one down from up top for her to look at to buy- the same purse. How could they not have recognized Oprah anyway and they must know she is rich? Could it be that Oprah still remembers going shopping when she was poor and how that felt, like a beggar at times at the cash register? I remember her talking on her TV show about how she was so poor she used to eat her cereal with Kool-Aid instead of milk. It would be hard to forget those feelings and sales associates definitely do this to people- just see here a clip from Pretty Woman.

Too often WE GET IT. We understood. We understand. We are Loving Therapy, thank you.

When I called the EEOC I was on hold for forty minutes. I have had more experience with sexual harassment and I see this also as a form of bullying. There is no law against male chauvinism, sexism, or patronizing, but sexual harassment is illegal and often not pursued through the EEOC. Perhaps women and others should file more charges.  The research shows that it is the ones who stand up for the person being bullied that end the bullying. We can also stand up for ourselves. I see discrimination and racism as a form of slander. If slander is ‘the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation,’ then racism and other forms of discrimination slanders a whole group of people. I looked into some legal cases and found that slander can also be of someone who really does have a mental illness and is spoken of in terms only of disability, and not their abilities. For example, they are referred to as the mental illness, by name. Many people have some disability and mental illness, but this is NOT who they are.

I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice. This is about identity and truth. This is about the lies told about us and how they affect our life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; our well-being, our mental health, and the health ultimately of our society. We need the gifts and abilities even of those considered MOST weak in society. There are tens of thousands of people in Florida alone who have some ‘disability‘ and are working. What a disaster it would be if we did not have them and if they believed any lie spoken about them by others or in messages given in society.

I had a vision that touched my heart for the people I love who suffer with chronic illnesses, when they are in the most acute phases and most dysfunctional. I will share it the best I can. I saw these people that I love and I felt no different than them- I am the same, their equal, and we are friends, even family. I do not see the illness and I see them. But I see them through a glass and I can reach out to them through their eyes and almost touch them. I could see them as they really are and they are healed.They are not even ‘healed’- they are just whole and as they truly were made to be. I saw them through these scriptures, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known (1 Corinthians 13:12).” Also, “. . .  what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).” “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me (Matthew 25:36).'” “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:37-40).’”

There is no more stigma. Christ takes it on the cross and defeats it in the resurrection from the dead- the new definition of stigma being life. In a moment I saw God and became healed myself and saw my loved ones also like God and as they truly are, whole, healthy, holy, and loved.

This is about how everyone is imperfect and when we meet God face to face and know him we will be like him and perfect. But we will also, after so much longing, finally see each other fully and know one another in truth.

I told a friend of mine this vision. They stated that they thought maybe they had a vision of Jesus once. I said, “Oh, what was it?” They said, “Well, I was at the back of a very large crowd and I saw a man standing at the front of it. . . ”

“And. . . what did you see?”

“Well, that was it. . .”

I laughed. Then they said that they felt at first like they could not go up to get healed because there were so many other people who needed help but then they thought they needed healing just as much as everyone else and so they went up too. I could relate to that.

“Well, it was a really simple vision. Maybe that means it was real.”

“Me too.”

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”
C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory


Rachel Hofer, MS