To better understand the factors that shape our view of human abnormality, Jamal has begun to reflect on his own lived experiences. During his adolescence, Jamal was frequently exposed to violent, abusive outbursts and other types of dysfunctional behavior within his family dynamic. These experiences made him feel extremely fearful of people, which led to a pervasive distrust in others and a preference to be alone. Appearing withdrawn, avoidant, and socially inhibited, Jamal was often called “weird” and “crazy” by peers and family members who did not understand his reclusive behavior.
Yet, on the inside, Jamal’s experiences were even more complex. In some cases, Jamal wanted to feel empathy toward others; however, he struggled to understand other people’s perspectives and, as a result, often disregarded the needs and feelings of others. This profound sense of emptiness caused him to feel inadequate and inferior to others, which resulted in severe anxiety and self-loathing. However, in instances in which he felt a positive connection with someone, Jamal became excessively dependent on, and fearful of ever losing, this person. For Jamal, these internal and external events caused him to experience degrees of confusion, ostracism, and isolation that left him in a chronic state of despair. As the words “weird” and “crazy” echoed in his mind, the word that seemed to resonate the loudest was “abnormal.”
As a word we often use to describe a deviation from what is considered “ideal” mental health, abnormal has the potential to help or harm individuals, depending upon its application. Whether confronting basic character flaws or clinical personality disorders, each of us has a moral obligation to ensure that we don’t inflict psychological harm on others—intentionally or unintentionally—with the language we use when discussing the complex scope of personality. As we learn to value our individual differences, we might agree that it’s our implicit responsibility to embrace all people with empathy and respect, as each of us attempt to better understand the factors that influence personality.
For this journal activity, you will focus on the influence of language on shaping perceptions of human behavior. Specifically, consider how the words we use can have a dramatic positive or negative influence on how we view the personality characteristics of others. Respond to the following prompts with a minimum of 3 to 5 sentences. Address the rubric criteria listed below and support your answers with a credible source when necessary.
We often consciously or unconsciously promote stereotypes about personality disorders during casual conversations. Consider the language used within your own culture (e.g., family members, friends, colleagues) when discussing personality disorders and imagine engaging in conversation about Jamal. Describe the language that might be used, as well as the thoughts and feelings that you might experience during such a conversation.
Describe how the words we use to discuss personality disorders (e.g., “narcissistic,” “borderline,” “antisocial”) shape our perception of what is considered normal or abnormal. Provide an example within your response.
Describe ways that you could enhance compassion, empathy, and acceptance for Jamal and all people who struggle with psychological disorders. Include specific language that could be used in conversations to respond in a prosocial manner.