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November 22, 2021 at 8:18 am #17713Paul met DebbieParticipant
In her latest column on this website (The Pros and Cons of Disclosing My Disability), Kristin Entler describes her life long dilemma of choosing the right moment to tell about her disability (having cf). In her youth she noticed how telling this too early would scare other children away. Later she developed a system wherein disclosure of her disease depended on a certain amount of stability of the relationship. She would no sooner tell something than when the other person had a certain “staying power” in her life. But recently she has gone back to the old system of telling early. While before she found this stigmatizing, she now feels that being upfront helps her to accept herself better. I certainly feel what she means.
She mentions the term “othering” to describe, how she used to feel being placed outside the group norm as soon as her disability was known. “Othering” often results in marginalizing some one who is different from the norm, like disabled people.
This is an interesting term. I thought about it a bit more from a distant. Indeed, “other” is a much used term. “On the other hand”, “otherwise”, “otherness”, “another”, etc. Where does this come from?
In order for “other” to appear in the mind, there must be a thought first that delivers some kind of judgement, distinction, a label. And everything that is different than this, immediately becomes “other”. It starts early in life when we find out that “we” are not just a feature of the whole (like we felt in the womb and the first time after birth before we discovered language), but we are “some one”, some separate person. Automatically, every person that is not us, turns into “other”.
So, “othering” is something that we all have learned to do just by separating us from the people around us, and separating everything that belongs to us from the property of “other” people. And later we “refine” this system to even make distinctions between all those “others” in “normal others” (people like us, our kind of people) and “deviating others” (people that are in some special way different from us). If we then start to treat these “others” differently, this mostly turns into discrimination.
It is very important to realize where this mechanism originates – in the separating mind. The structure of the psychological “self”, the “ego”. It is not only when it turns into an ugly thing like discrimination, when this becomes problematic. It is problematic from the very first moment that we practice being some one separate. And the only thing we can do to prevent this, is realize fully and earnestly that “otherness” is a figment of the mind – an illusion that does not really exist. We are all features of a whole, not separated parts. If we return to this experience of wholeness, “othering” will not occur to do its separating damage. Let’s think about that, every time we think we are special, some one in particular, healthy or disabled, no matter what label appears in our mind. Let’s go beyond all those labels.
By the way, “brother” and “mother” also contain the word “other”. Perhaps this is a nice reminder to set us straight. We are all children and brothers and sisters of nature. Lets’s be that way. If we don’t other ourselves, we can’t be othered by others either, because there are no others to other us.
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