Thursday, 21 November 2013

Is Everything A Disorder?

Where does the buck stop?

The latest theory is that laziness is a type of depression, and that there should be sympathy for the lazy, because they can't help it. An alternative theory (espoused by the lazy) is that they are just saving energy, like cats. Plenty of people who claim to be "thinking outside the box" believe that the value ascribed to a "good work ethic" is in fact a ploy to create worker drones. They liken it either to religious or political brainwashing.

Then, in turn, those who claim that the masses have been fooled into accepting this system, are considered to be at best rebels, social agitators, anarchists, etc., or, at worst, delusional, and on a par with conspiracy theorists.

Unfortunately, as it's patently obvious than a large number of people are incapable of making wise decisions for themselves, it's hard to argue any of this.

Yesterday I wrote about taking advice, and often, not taking it, and how one should respond to the opinion of others. This is directly connected, because in order to choose between all the advice thrown at you, it is necessary to have the ability to discern. If you can't do that, you can't even get out of the starting gate.

If you make poor choices, that's because you have a disability in your executive skills. Everyone is blameless.

How the hell do we find a balance here?

In times gone by there were no excuses. You were beaten for being left-handed, never mind being dyslexic, or "slow", or forgetful, or worse. The idea was that it was all your own fault.

We slowly became more sympathetic to some situations, gave assistance instead of beatings, and recognized that in some cases a person really can't hold down a job, so rather than letting them die in a gutter, other members of society support them.

Now we have gone to the other extreme, and we discovered that, what do you know, if everyone who is compromised in any way doesn't contribute, the burden is too great for the rest to be able to support them. At least, to a standard of living that we have decided all humans require.

What am I suggesting? A return to the workhouse?

How about some proper research. That would be a start. If you've read anything on the history of psychology, you'll know that early theories have largely been replaced. Freud spoke a lot of bollocks. We are much better at it these days, but we're not there yet.

A friend of mine has been diagnosed with a disorder. It's quite a serious one, and most people I've known who have this, don't really function in society, but she does. In fact she holds down a very responsible job. For this reason, I doubted the diagnosis. Not claiming to be an expert in psychology, but when the diagnosis tends to include an inability to stay employed, and they have been successful in their job for years, it seems like a contradiction.

In discussing this with another friend, who has professional skills in the psychology area, an important point was raised, which I knew but had forgotten. And it is this.

Every disorder is an extreme version of mistakes/bad decisions all people make.

That is to say, if you pick a behaviour that is outside that vague grey area we think of as normal, and exaggerate it, first it becomes a quirk, then a disorder, and finally an illness. These are points on a scale.

Let's pick a behaviour at random. Dancing. Dancing is not a survival instinct. It is a choice, a behaviour. Something many of us enjoy. For some it is culturally important (or required, even) and for a few it is banned. But for most people it's something we do in a social setting, or for exercise, and it has its place along with everything else. Therefore, it's normal.

If you dance a lot, with no music playing, perhaps in the line-up in Wal-Mart, or while waiting to cross the road, people will give you funny looks, and consider you a bit eccentric. And you are. Because that is slightly outside of normal, but it's doing no harm to anyone, and it probably puts a smile on people's faces. Dance on, you crazy thing.

If you feel the compulsion to dance during staff meetings or while at the dentist, things have gone a bit off the rails. People start telling you to stop, it's really not appropriate here. We are in the area of a disorder now. Loved ones would ask you to seek professional help, find out what's behind it. You could be fired or arrested. It's not funny anymore.

And then there's stuff like this:

I deliberately used dancing as an example to avoid offending anyone reading, as I don't know anyone who suffers from this, and I would assume it's pretty rare.

But substitute anything for dancing, and you can see what I mean.

The point is that everything, positive or negative, in extremis becomes a serious mental issue. I don't think anyone would argue with that, or that fact that sufferers need help, sympathy, treatment, and actual financial support. If you spend 18 hours a day dancing up and down the corridor, you can't hold down a job.

The question is at which point we set the limit as to a) what society tolerates (a little jig here and there), and b) at which point we acknowledge that the problem is severe enough for the sufferer to be DISABLED, and therefore to be supported by the rest of us.

And remember, I said positive or negative. And these will have different effects as to where that point is. Because it's fairly obvious that a workaholic who is bordering on manic can probably not only support himself just fine, but contribute to others, while at the other end of the scale a lazy person who is only really just outside the range of normal, might find himself out of work most of the time.

In the same way OCD sufferers tend to be quite popular with employers if it manifests in meticulous work, and excessively talkative people can make great salesmen. Recluses have always been in demand for surveillance work. So having a quirk, or even a disorder is not necessarily a disability, it can be an advantage, in the right situation.

No, it's the negative end of the spectrum that tends to be where the problem lies. Addictive personalities, short tempers, shyness, laziness, credulity, and good old-fashioned dumbness, these are the issues.

I don't have any answers here. I wish I did. But I do think we have to decide.


  1. I've always held a theory that laziness is born in people as a personality trait, rather than assumed as they grow up, manifesting itself as the "laziness" we know, in later life. This theory is borne of personal experience, as I know I have marked tendency towards laziness - and notice the same thing in my son. I may or may not be right, but it makes me wonder what else is nature, rather than nurture, in these circumstances.

    1. Yes, because it's something that tends to improve with age, i.e. as we discover responsibility. My eldest was the laziest teenager you ever met. He is now unquestionably a workaholic.

  2. I would have to say that laziness *could* be a sign of depression but not always. Like Jenny, there is a part of me that is also considered lazy but it is not every side, so what on earth does that mean?

    As a side note, Mel, it never ceases to amaze me what you think about and how clear you are.

    1. Thanks Chris. It's even better live, LOL. I just write as I speak. This is the sort of thing my daughter gets on the phone if she triggers a thought.

  3. I think you have rather answered your own question--almost anything has the potential to be a disorder. Some of it is circumstance, but mostly it is choice. There are many people who are technically "disabled" (as you have pointed out) that either have or long for successful employment. As each person may be skilled or as the local job market may utilize them, just about everyone is 'employable' to some degree (some more than others). I am discovering that there can be some wrinkles in the 'system' that can penalize people who are 'differently abled' and choose to work.

    To anyone 'not' in the system, it is no big shakes to take on as many jobs as we care to work. Given the right person(ality), and the financial incentive, we may see one person hold down one main job, and perhaps a part-time job (or a money-making hobby). With so many employers hiring part-time workers these days, it is not unimaginable for someone to work three or four different part-time jobs in a week, just to try to make ends meet--provided, of course, they do not have a 'no-compete' clause in their hiring process.

    But put someone on disability or let them get unemployment for a bit and one must provide 'proof' that they cannot work and why. If they do work any bit of substantial(?) amount, the "benefits" (such as they are) are affected. Once someone is on 'limited income' and sees that benefit (whether it be something like supplemental income, food stamps, or medical coverage), all of those "securities" can be jeopardized by 'working too much.' It can become a Catch-22.

    I love, of course, that you mention the 'balance' in it, because it does not take much to upset the apple cart. One office may hire a number of 'disabled,' part-time workers, only to have to juggle hours around in such a way that it becomes more of a headache to keep them from working 'too many' hours and lose their 'main' source of income. --And I think we might also see that if someone is on a limited income, that main income does not amount to much. It is enough to cause a disorder, if one did not already exist. :P ~ Blessings! :)