ON MENTAL ILLNESS: Social Expectations

Jack Bragen
Friday February 08, 2019 - 12:14:00 PM

Social expectations aren't intrinsically good or bad, despite what many people might think. Social expectations are simply the things that people currently expect of others. For example: in the past, African American people in the U.S. were expected to be obedient and subservient. And in Germany under the Nazi's, it was the social norm for children to report their parents, if the parents were disloyal. These were two of the social norms in the past. 

On the other hand, many social expectations are based on behavior which is considerate of others. 

Not smoking around others who object to the fumes is a recently adopted social norm that reflects consideration of others. Another social norm is to put your arm to your face when sneezing. Yet, other social norms of today are often arbitrary or downright repressive. If you go to a ritzy bar or restaurant and you do not have good clothes, you might not get good service or might be asked to leave. 

We live in a significantly repressive society. Many people would disagree with that assertion. However, if you are unable to conform to what is expected, for whatever reason, then society will punish you. 

Mentally ill people and poor people are sometimes not welcome in the realms of the affluent, unless it is to clean their toilets and sweep their floors. 

"Professionalism," (still in the category of social norms) to an extent, reflects being respectful. People who work to earn money feel that their time should not be wasted on things that are irrelevant or things that could be considered "inappropriate." 

The standards that mentally ill people are taught in the mental health treatment systems are completely apart from the expectations of the work world. I am working on establishing a middle ground--for myself. I deal with people in the context of being a mental health consumer. However, I also deal with professional people. I have mishandled some of my business communications due to ignorance. 

In my past, I've considered myself "superior." I believed that society's expectations were petty or perhaps pointless. I believed in nonconformity. This attitude didn't get me very far. If ninety percent or more of human beings have the conviction that I ought to behave like everyone else, I am up against a lot if I try to defy that. 

In the past twenty or more years, I have been struggling to understand human beings, and to get my mind synced to the thinking of other people. 

In one of his books, "The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success," Deepak Chopra, among other things, said that everyone wants to have their perspective understood--everyone wants to be heard. Chopra suggests listening to others. 

Even though the book is from the late 1980's or early 1990's, and even though I might disagree with some of it, many of the ideas in the book are applicable. As someone with mental illness, the quest to become more successful is rocky. Part of this path is to try to give others what they want and expect. 

You could be President of the U.S.A. and could be a miserable failure. Trumpism is a cancer spreading in American culture, and it eats away at people's minds, hearts and souls. Chopra's book was written in a time of relative peace; and in the 1990's, there was a bubble of sanity in the U.S., in which his ideas were applicable. 

Are Chopra's ideas applicable today? I think they are. The difference compared to in the early 1990's is that the modern environment is a lot harsher. In order to follow Chopra's ideas, you should be prepared to be brave. 

I found that as I read and reread Chopra's book, my life apparently became a lot more difficult. In his book, he never claimed that the path would be easy or smooth. Nor did he claim that it would be difficult and full of hazards. He did suggest that readers, before they tried his book, should learn fundamental spiritual practices, such as "Silva Mind Control."  

My conclusion following reading Chopra's book was that this (the seeming increase in difficulties) was my Karma, and these were lessons that I had to learn. I have been lacking in my ability to live among other human beings, and I have lacked the ability to interact in a way that people find acceptable. 

Concerning attaining success, first you need to relinquish the "attachment" to success. This is not the same thing as giving up. Instead, you need to let go of the symbol that you equate with success. Once you do that, one hopes that things will get better. 

Schizophrenia is a disease in which the mind is "split off from reality." This entails that you will not be on the same wavelength as non-afflicted people. If you are psychotic, even mildly so, it poses an impairment to social functioning. If you can learn to listen, it helps with syncing your perceptions to those of most people. And this helps lessen symptoms. 

If you want to be successful, someone must buy your product. If no one is happy with how you are acting toward them, you can not make them buy. Thus, being socially correct (at least when this doesn't conflict with the ethic of "do no harm") is usually necessary, in order to succeed in life in any significant manner.