Labeling theory and its inherent damages

SOwsinski By SOwsinski, 20th May 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Mind & Spirit>Mental Health

An expression of subjection to verbal abuse and being labelled a "dumby" by my alcoholic, verbally-abusive parent as I grew up has far-reaching implications. Throughout my life course, I have experienced and dealt with the ugly-headed monster of a label I found difficult to shake. College Psychology courses aided me in understanding Labeling Theory, and self-help missions have filled in many blanks, aiding in my laborious crawl out of the quicksand of such mentally-straining devices.

Labeling theory has its inherent abuses

The more I aged and matured throughout my life course, the more I understood the deficiency I was indoctrinated to believe I possessed was actually the problem of the accuser. In retrospect, college education studies and experiential life have helped me to comprehend better the human aspect of growing up in innocence, in loving care, in harmonious support, in safety and security of parental guardianship. Essentially, the basic tenets of humanity.

Eventually, I learned along the way that the ostensibly taxing journey was largely brought on by my adoption of certain labels provided by an alcoholic and verbally abusive parent. The one that indelibly sticks out is the oft-reiterated connotation
"dumby". Thus ensued labeling theory 101.

More specifically, I was "dumby #2", as I was the middle-aged sibling among two other brothers.

So, throughout my life course I was under the impression, given the chronic labeling of how I would "amount to nothing" and this or that similar anecdote, I was doomed to absolute failure. After all, my parent said so.

Raised Catholic and taught throughout the entire duration of elementary school exclusively by nuns, I was also conditioned to proprieties in morality, honesty, respect, obedience, sharing, giving, loving, caring, empathy, sympathy, devotion, loyalty, and a plethora of similar character traits.

I believed in these traits then, and I do today, emphatically.

Thus bordering on ignorance, concentrated on mixed messages regarding the aforementioned character traits, I sat when I was ordered to do so and listened to the barrage of "you're a dummy" labels thrown at me. I believed what I was told. Over and over and over again. The odiferousness of alcohol still turns my stomach today.

I navigated as best I knew how. I swayed in the opposite direction of anything alcohol-related, cared not for the din of confrontation, and emgrossed myself in what we are all taught to believe in as children: Policemen are our friends.

Since age five I admired and adored the presence and symbolism of police officers. Once of-age and with enough money in my pockets, and a new car to steer wherever I wanted, I set out to the sunny state of Florida. Employment already awaited me there, since the publishing firm for which I was employed had relocated and invited me south from NYC.

Fast-forward several years. I entered college life and, with absolute fear and trepidation, engaged in studying timidly. The label of "dumby" had apparently followed me to Florida, several states south from where it initially discovered me and where I made the fateful mistake of obediently listening.

In academic settings, I avoided like the plague any suggestion of "group study" and abhorred any hint of "public speaking" and "presentations" in any class in which I were enrolled. The label persisted in my brain and the very fabric of my existence.

Until I decided to register for my first of a litany of Psychology courses, I was in virtual purgatory, of sorts, believing my destiny was to fail. "No parent said so," I thought.

Thank goodness for academics and the availed abundance of human psychology information. Thank goodness for studying the basis and elements of alcoholism and its inherent damages, to self and others.

So, as I looked back at my life and retrospectively considered my origins and obstacled road traversed thus far, I opted out of the labeling I was forced to understand, realizing I had a choice, a better option. I therefore set out to make strides; whether behind the curve or not, I was determined to overcome such a label.

My university studies were universal in terms of realization of self, the often vexing essence of others, and how synthetic infusions (alcohol) fuse and spark to mold a whole new being.

Albeit hampered for the past 26 years with cancer affliction, a failed marriage, loss of material possessions stemming from bankruptcy-- thanks to cancer-related bills --loss of a limb, and an institutionalized child (autism), I nevertheless forged on and with marked improvements and insurmountable achievements.

I am now a father of four beautiful children, owner of a fantastic home overlooking a breathtaking body of water in sunny Florida, an accomplished career law enforcement officer, early-retired with the highest accolades from my peers ("Officer of the Year"), and branching out in myriad ways with the vigor and excitement akin to the birth of new life. Entrepreneurially, I commenced my own businesses, one in writing, one in editing/proofreading, and the other in pencil portraiture. The latter's stepping stones were lain decades ago, in 1986 in NYC, when I decided to again test the label and enrolled in Art School. I studied graphic arts, advertising, and illustration. This was yet another seed harboring inside me since age 5, nurtured by the other parent.

As a father to my four wonderfully bright, preciously-gifted children, I dare view my upbringings and the damages, swiftly opting to do the opposite of what I was unfortunately subjected to. Teaching lessons is not often easy; indeed, it is quite difficult. However, it need not tax the human psyche to the extent that lashing out metaphorically quashes the intent of any lesson.

I often listen to myself, rather subconciously, when I convey to my children the words
"It is not only about what to do, but also about what not to do!"

So, however embattled the mind and soul may be at the hands (words) of another, it is not beyond the realm of questioning why and thus understanding the potentially-deeply-embedded roots within certain actions (conveyance of invective) so as to properly expose of these bad chemicals. Realizing the ramifications is, of course, best before verbalizing certain thoughts. However clouded and muddied by the infusion of alcoholic contents, we have control over free will, providing we make ourselves aware of consequences of actions stemming from the exercise of free will.

Albeit a supporter of rights to indulge, per Constitutional tenets, my personal constitution essentially compels me to refrain from libations. That indelibly scarred self
whispers in my ear when the offering and or sight of alcohol is abreast.

As a policeman, I was accorded ample opportunity to witness the spoils of the human experience. More often than not, those most-grievous of incidents I were involved in investigating and sorting out were laced with alcohol and/or drugs.

The crucial point here is the use and/or abuse of intoxicants and harmful chemicals has influence over the situation, whether it be a menial matter or one considered impossible to solve.

I enjoy observing people. Human behavior is seemingly endless, no matter the locale, culture, dwelling, age-group. Merely concentrate, look around you, and you will more-often-than-not read expressions upon faces which will explain all or a portion of their past/present life course, all derived without words.

Those individuals I tend to somehow come across in life who candidly reveal personal abuses visited upon them in their past are seemingly on an endless mission to find themselves, perhaps unsure of the message plunged down their throat years ago. Perhaps, even still, seeking to compose logic and reason so as to ensure given situations are not repeated.

It is a matter of choice whether to rest upon the groundwork instilled by another, or to navigate independently and seek your soul...yourself.


Depression, Labeling Theory, Mental Health, Stigma, Verbal Abuse

Meet the author

author avatar SOwsinski
Retired law enforcement officer residing in West-Central Florida, father of four children, cancer survivor, writer, artist, avid reader. Freelance-writing niches: cancer, autism, law enforcement.

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author avatar shoesus23
30th Aug 2013 (#)


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