Mental Health: Wellbeing and Happiness Series with MoNya-Mental
By Psychotherapist Mertha Mo Nyamande
I am… you are, a man – black African, or a woman, white Caucasian, a Christian, or Muslim, a Preacher or Teacher, or whatever I believe myself to be, our names, tribes, totems, etc.
We identify ourselves with those which we have formed strong attachments to.
Our identities are complex elements of what our societies have taught us they are. My name was given and has been repeated to me numerous times before I realised that whenever it is called, I know it refers to me, and so I respond. I think, therefore I am (Descartes).
Who are we really, and why do we think we are these things that we identify ourselves with?
Because the people we feared/trusted have taught us these things; my professor told me that I have passed and therefore I qualified to be called a graduate, my father taught me that I was from this tribe and how I should be so proud.
We have also been socialised to identify ourselves with certain groups of people that look and talk, dress like us and live like the way we do.
Our identities are what we are told we are as well as what is avoided of those lessons, as we cower from the certain uncomfortable truths. Such things are what form the deviations to what we then refer to as identity disorders.
Most identity disorders lie in race or sexual orientations. One believing they are male when they have female genitalia or vice versa, as well as others believing to be Caucasian while they are of African descent with dark skin and curly hair.
Causes of identity disorders lie in the pain of the developmental stages that they are borne out of – largely, the identity crisis phase often in adolescence.
When these are not well supported, explained, or satisfied, individuals are left more confused and open to exploring whatever on their own without any support or guidance.
They become referred to as disorders simply because they deviate from the acceptable societal “norms”. A boy should wear blue and play with toy cars while a girl should wear pink and fluffy with ponytails and play with dolls. All these have been taught to us, in both classical and operant conditioning.
The dilemma comes when we feel different from what we are being taught to be, or forced than encouraged, or we simply do not trust those teaching us to the point that we rebel from whatever pathways being taught.
Some identity disorders come about because of traumas or exploitation to the extent that we reject whatever identity due to the pain it has caused us.
There are also some identities whereby we seek the attention of others in sympathetic ways what we cause certain problems or feign illness to gain that sympathy or attention – the Munchausen.
Or we may cause harm to another so that we gain similar sympathy by the very nature that we are the caregiver to the ill – Munchausen-by-proxy. We also have an increasing number of people seeking certain diagnoses to gain certain benefits through welfare systems. Such is the complexity of our identities.
When we identify ourselves in ways that are not regarded as the “norm” to our societies, judged negatively, or are not accepted, this causes dissonance in our and other’s minds which is often feared, frowned upon, and or rejected. Most of which may also have started off as help-seeking behaviours, but when the societies do not understand, it becomes complex and difficult for both parties, as we currently struggle to change our beliefs with regards to accepting key populations; sex workers, prisoners, transgender, and homosexuals as “normal”.
Remedies and recommendations
Modern medicine can now offer synthetic hormonal treatments and perform surgeries to change genitalia to give whatever gender is desired. However, before these new labels can be legally enforced and accepted in our imposed and prescribed communities, the belief systems on which these are rejected need revising so that the cognitive dissonance is mitigated.
As such, in the Christian community of which Zimbabwe/Africa’s majority is, homosexuality is regarded as a sin and condemned in the Sodom and Gomorrah tale, it then becomes difficult to accept the things that are at clear contrast to popular beliefs.
Our beliefs are fundamental to the way we live, practice, and behave in our communities. As such, our laws should also be aligned with those beliefs so that there are no moral dilemmas implied by the laws versus the beliefs.
There have been cases where Christian health professionals were prosecuted for refusing to attend to homosexuals for this reason.
If a state is regarded to follow a particular faith, its laws must largely abide by the rules of such religions, but with how the world is now becoming one global village with diverse populations, cultures, and religions, new approaches are required to defuse the differing norms and values.
There is also a need to establish support mechanisms for adolescents and their families to ensure that these crisis points are adequately provided for to allow a smooth transition into adulthood. These are also the problems that increase vulnerabilities to mood and anxiety disorders, violence, and aggression, leading to substance misuse and other addictions to avoid/alleviate the pain and suffering.
Psychotherapist Mertha Mo Nyamande @ www.i-wellbeing.weebly.com. Insightwellbeing.firstname.lastname@example.org
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