Metaphors, meanings & perspectives from the “over-”world & from the “inner”-world
There is a notion well established in the holistic analysis of reality, which assigns to the culture and society a primary role in the definition of the meanings of the existence.
There are social and cultural filters that determine which elements might strain and become accepted, and which have to be stopped, moved elsewhere, removed.
I think it is a crucial point for anyone working in the various fields of care-work to develop the skills and to keep alive the ability to read the influence that the values and judgemental components of the society has on addressing the life-style and to general understanding of the different signification that people might live in.
One of these of the key-stone skills is to recognize the difference between reality and the narrative. It is one of the basic ability that allow to avoid that the interventions, which are supposed to support a possibility of change, might end up in term of net result into a mere imposition of adaptability to the over-estimated "normality".
The unconvenient truth is that without the recognition of this difference, the net result is always a request of adaptation rather than a path of recovery, even if the efforts are named under the more fashionable and politically correct titles of the moment.
What tends to happens it is to witness a particular movement: a constant pressure whose effect is the shift of reality in to a particular narration. The etymology of what is by definition “particular” refers to a sense of being partial, usually of a certain over-defined part. It is by given nature a movement that clarifies what is exclusive, and what is excluded.
During my work, I often receive requests of examples that allow to represent and say something of an institutional functioning and/or psychological structure. I always try to be as simple as possible in such cases.
Furthermore, since my interventions are addressed to people who works at different levels in the field of care and education, I offer a perspective of possible signification and analysis which tend to differ from those given by mainstreaming.
By working with organizations, teams and working groups, they are the environment in which I declined my aims for a possible change. Then it's up to them, to organizations, teams and groups, to develop a tangible and real possibility of change: the path of change can only start from their inner-world, if we want change to to be credible for the individuals we work with, and for.
When an opening to the inner world is given to the over-determining and regulating world, then the estrangement, the discovery and the uncanny have done a little magic entrance.
In the last years, the over-determining world of the media offers a series of immediate images which relay in a metaphor with the functional aspects of institution and psychological structures.
We can use these metaphors as examples of structural functions such as the terms psychosis, neurosis, schizophrenia, paranoia and so on.
It is easy to find out how in the psychosis, the reality is banned, while the desire is still real, like it happens when individuals madly fall in love at first sight. On the side of neurosis, the core part of the structure is still the subject, who is never able to actually catch reality.
Each of the various psychotic structures have its own peculiarities. In schizophrenia the body doesn't stay together, or better, cannot stay together, and the subject of the self becomes an experience of absence. In the paranoia, everything is projected on the others, with a movement whose result is that the person is always in a position of given innocence in front of the guilt of the other, representing the only place from which one is visible.
In the functionalities of perversion, there is an operational movement during which the other disappears, and it is substituted by a over-determined dimension which allow the person to be totally discharged by any given responsibility.
When significations tend to metonymy and foreclosure, when the identification and the recovery pass to the utility of the particular, everything gets more interesting.
When the context is given to the audience of citizens by the media, it contribute massively to the definition of the social representation of reality. In such cases, if the imaginative dimension push forward reality to prefer and impose the narration, that it becomes important to have a say.
Some practical examples might help to have it more clear.
Almost on a daily basis, each of us can experience the funny phenomenon of the alternation between enthusiasm and depression in reference to the data which are supposed to define reality, such as on employment and unemployment. When the reality differs to the official narration, it has to be taken over and redefined.
Let's take the recent employment, unemployment and inactive rates. You might have heard about it. You might have heard how many different interpretations circulates.
When I first approached such data years ago, I expected to find that a measures and its opposite to which it is mutually exclusive, would create a unit as sum.
Mathematics from elementary school and daily evidences suggest that if I buy 10 apples, the ratio between the apples that I eat and those who are still on the table still makes 10. I was amazed to see that it works different with employment-related rate.
The Italian statistical Institute ISTAT explains that:
- individuals are considered employed if in the week of data-collection have been occupied at least for an hour
- individuals are considered unemployed in the month of data-collection have actively search for a work, or if they are disposable to work in the forthcoming two weeks, or if they will start a work within three months.
The data everyone forms a social representation of the general situation are:
- the employment rate, meaning the ratio between those who are employed and the overall population
- the unemployment rate, meaning the ratio between the unemployed and the actual work force.
In March 2016, just to give an example, the employment rate in Italy is 56,7%, the unemployment rate is 11,4%, and the inactive rate is 35,9%. Curiously for a percentage, the sum is 104.
Differently than our apples, the sum is not the unit, for the simple reasons that they are narratively related, but they measures different variables.
I am not going into details of the different narration. The interesting question is: what happens to reality then?
Reality stands into other numbers, which rarely intervene into the official Italian narration.
They are the number of the absolute poverty, which counts the 7% of the whole national population; or the over 6.5 millions meals which have been distributed by the sole Caritas supply-services.
Reality remains in the daily experience, which only occasionally interests the media. It is the reality of taking care. As everyone can experience, the official narrations are everywhere, but the reality is left outside. In the 14% of the population who has no money to buy its own food. European data confirms the everyday experience, but they don't show up in the official narration. Maybe because they demonstrate that in less than a decade, in Italy the poverty rate increased of 12%, while it decreased in many other Eu member states.
Other numbers are on the table of the daily experience: the over 35 thousands evictions, or the over 155 thousands notifications of evictions.
They are not so popular in the housing debate, even if it means 100 individuals loosing their house each single day, and over 400 receiving a notification of eviction each day. It means 400 individuals who were informed they are going to loose their house. 400 received the notification yesterday. 400 receives the notification today. 400 will get a notification tomorrow, and other 400 the day after tomorrow. And so on each day of the year.
The systemic theory demonstrates that nothing happen by case, but there is always a level to which every single act is functional. The interesting question is to whom it is functional, and what functionality it is. In this scenario taken as example, the net results is to allow those who define the narrations to operate at their exclusive wish, using metaphor, metonymy and foreclosure. To the maintenance of own satisfaction.
This speech is not abstract at all, at least for those who experience it on a daily basis on their own life. To them, when the official narration excludes the reality they are living in, what is missing is the sense of the wholeness. All the sense of the whole significations, from the sense of the rules underneath the reality, to the whole sense of “normality” (with all the specifications case by case).
It happens that the individual dimension repeats itself on a daily basis reproducing the experience of lacking normality and individual secureness (economical, housing, social, existential secureness...). It happens that the context shifts from the culture of rights to the culture of opportunities.
In such situations, a movement of self-defence is necessary and salvific to support the individual to survive the shift from the “lack of normality” to a new condition of “normality of lacking”.
The self centres itself on the inner-world, and the gap with the external variable becomes inevitable. In the new realm of the “normality of lacking”, the fear for what is next becomes pervading; this penetrating fear loses the names of its causes along the way, because the names and the causes becomes too many.
When the causes of fear become unspeakable and indirect, it is the time for anxiety to come in. it is the genesis of existential angst.
It is tiny but essential the line which divides the social and political dimension with the individual dimensions who are multiplied on a daily basis for thousands of people.
Other time, the process is opposite. From a simple change in the institutional structures, sometimes the interested organisations might lose their sense of reality, trying to satisfy the king before he speaks.
It happened that the former Social Inclusion Unit of the DG Employment and Social Affair Department of the Eu Commission merged into the Disability Unit.
This change might be very interesting for the consequences, and it can approached from the side of reality, or from the side of the functional narrations, such when the debate is if came first the chicken or the egg, forgetting the fundamental difference between a health condition and a social condition.
I think it is important in such a scenario to concentrate on reality, as the difference is substantial on various levels.
First of all, the causes for disability are endogenous (genetical) and exogenous (environmental), while the causes for homelessness are multidimensional (individual, economical, social …).
Then there is a difference between symptoms (who are a manifestation of a “disease”) and structure, who is the core of a condition.
There is another substantial difference: structurally speaking, while disability is for life, homelessness hopefully is not, unless the multiple dimension that cause the experience of social exclusion would continue to be kept active.
This means that individuals with disability face a structural condition for their entire life, which can be qualitatively at high standard, or very poor, depending to the nature of the disability itself, the degree of accessibility to support resources, such as care, constant training, housing.
This means that disability and homelessness has nothing to do in terms of macro-conditions and causes.
An approach, which would differ from these empirical, historical, ethical and experience-based evidences, will mean a return to the old stereotypes of “no fixed adobe” and of the prejudice of “individual deconstruction”, having the term of “socially deviant” as a paradigm.
Again, reality shows a different evidence. The experience of exclusion effect the psychological structures of individuals, no matter what is the core structure: the existential perspective shifts to a survival perspective.
The repetition of survival strategies on a daily basis, just as the repetition of lacking, originates a regressive movement. Every regression is a self-defence movement, even if the net result is a polarisation of the exclusion itself, making the individual more and more passive.
When passivity meets the social stereotypes, the stigmas of social deviance and social disability are ready to take the floor. Archaic analysis, conservative and dangerous social approach are standing at the front door.
My professional experience, just as my personal one, enlighten a radically different perspective, with simple and basic key-stone elements.
Accommodation is not inclusion, but just a first step to a real care-work.
Disadvantage is not disabilities.
Social exclusion, just as homelessness, are not a structural element of the individual; they are structural and functional elements of society who declines the share of social, economic, relational and existential protection.
The only thing that homelessness and disability have in common is that they are not a problem by themselves, just as the person who experience homelessness or who live a condition of disability are not problematic, nor problems.
They are humans to who we can offer our care, to whom we can pass the reasons and the praxis of taking care.
The one-and-only problem is the degree in the access to rights and resources.