Pathology and Poly
I have been interested in judgment and diagnosis over the past several years, especially as regards sexual behavior, but also relationship life.
I started to hijack one of the blogs here and figured I'd just continue this conversation in a separate thread.
I'm particularly interested in stories and examples of people having to examine accusations/judgments/diagnoses arising from others (family, friends, sig others, etc) that preferences are pathological, that there is something wrong with us for wanting what we want.
Not just polyamory, but non-monogamy, bisexuality, monogamy, asexuality, etc.
My suspicion is we live surrounded by the message that there is something wrong with us, no matter what we choose or do and a part of our awakening is to question and ultimately discard this basic axiom. In fact, we come to embrace ourselves. There is nothing wrong with us. We are just fine precisely the way we are.
Definition of pathology
I tend to think of pathology as definition 1, not 2. So it took a bit to wrap my mind around your post. I come at this as a credentialed allied health professional. (not clinical, just paperwork.)
1. the branch of medical science that studies the causes and nature and effects of diseases
2. any deviation from a healthy or normal condition
Realize that many laymen diagnose, when medical types define. And it is easy to assume someone is judging, when they are simply labeling.
When experiencing something new, whether a new food or a new idea, we tend to judge it, based on our experience. Some people with negative experiences in cheating or jealousy, will reject this life outright. Maybe they are thinking, "This isn't for me."
Give them time to get used to the idea... Be a good person, and let them absorb and learn more. Give them time. Polyamory is an acquired taste. Sometimes we forget to be gentle with others. -- and they forget to be gentle with us.
The classic example is people who consider homosexuality either sinful or an "abomination." Homosexuality is NOT a psychiatric diagnosis in the DSM-IV. In another 20 years, we'll have gay marriage, and socially, it will be accepted. In part, that is due to research that homosexuality is in part "hard wired."
Understand that I don't view judgment as a bad thing. Daily we make judgments... What is the best food for breakfast, the best route to work, the best outfit to wear. We judge others... "she shouldn't wear that color," "he shouldn't talk about that in a public place," etc.
Is poly a psych diagnosis? No. Do various polys have psych diagnoses? Yes. Can you convince the world to stop judging? No. Can you convince yourself that their judgment doesn't matter? Maybe.
Can they point and giggle? Spread mis-information? Make your life difficult? Yes.
You can't change what they do or think. You can change how you react.
Ah, Claire, I love your analytic mind. It's got a very Virgo, detail-oriented quality. Maybe rising or moon or mercury?
Anyway, yes, excellent points all. My sig other has much experience in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and has helped me understand the difference between observing/describing on the one hand and forming a judgment on the other. My own mind tends to jump right over observing/describing and forms judgments as if they are observable facts. Returning to the simple moment of just letting things unfold and observing and describing them has helped me reduce the oppressive weight of my own judging discriminator.
It does seem that non-monogamy and polyamory are subject to some labels that then require a bit of sorting out. It has been important and difficult for me, for example, to reach the determination that I am *both* non-monogamous and a sex addict. It looks to me like lots of people who "cheat" on their monogamous partners can now take refuge in the label "sex addict," and not do the sometimes more difficult sorting out of perhaps being highly sexually and relationally unconventional.
Simply put, non-monogamy is an illness in the eyes of many, a character defect. Similarly for some, monogamy is an illness, a character defect. You are right, of course, to point out that this need not be an issue for anyone.
I think that the pathologizing (I know, that's not really a word...) of sexuality is a huge problem. It's done all the time with regard to BDSM; I've heard many, many people make the assertion that BDSM practices are not "wrong" in an ethical sense, but are instead "unhealthy" or the manifestation of something "unhealthy." I'm not into BDSM personally, but I find it greatly problematic to divide sexual behaviors between "healthy" and "unhealthy." For one thing, it seems to be a mere cop-out to avoid condemning someone outright ("I'm not saying their behavior is wrong or immoral, I'm saying it's unhealthy and they need help," which is just as patronizing and stigmatizing as outright condemnation would be). And of course, it creates the same distinctions between what people should and should not be doing. I think a lot of people think of non-monogamy in that way: we're all acting on some "issues" that we have. The non-monogamy itself may not be a pathology, but it's seen as a symptom of some underlying problem. There must be something wrong with us if we don't fit the traditional model. Homosexuality isn't in the DSM now, but it was until what, the 70s? Which just goes to show that our concept of "healthy" and "unhealthy" sexuality is not a fixed thing. I think the other problem with this division between what's healthy and what isn't is that it automatically normalizes everything on the "healthy" side of the line. If you're someone who's not into being tied up, that's fine. But if you're not into, say, vaginal intercourse, then you're a weirdo for *not* being comfortable with something that is "healthy and normal."
Sexual behaviors, relationship structures, gender identification, etc. shouldn't be divided between notions of "normal" and "abnormal," in my opinion, but as individual desires/preferences/inclinations that are all equally valid. Treating everything as though it's some kind of illness (look at Tiger Woods and his "sex addiction", for example) seems to be the trend these days for continuing to condemn others, but doing it in a more PC way.
Don't let amateur shrinks diagnose, -that is practicing medicine without a license.
Homosexuality was dropped when DSM-II became DSM-III in 1980. Until the DSM-III-R came out in 1987, ego-dystonic homosexuality was a diagnosis.
Three issues are here: Does a behavior impair activities of daily living? and can treatment improve condition/modify behavior? Should insurance pay to treat this condition?
A major change from previous versions was the inclusion of a clinical significance criterion to almost half of all the categories, which required symptoms cause “clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning”. So essentially, if a person is not bothered by his symptoms (and if the legal system is not bothered), it is not diagnose-able.
--oh, and if someone is not a credentialed professional diagnosing you... they are probably a patient or a family member of a patient. Sounds harsh.. but seems to work for a large percentage of the highly critical people I've met.
When I was trying to force myself to be happy with monogamy, I was depressed, my marriage was suffering a great deal, my daily life was most definitely impaired. I know there are a small number of therapists who are poly friendly. But the majority of therapists, in my circumstances, probably would have tried to help me become content with what's normal and accepted, rather than trying to help me embrace who I am.
Lots to digest here, grateful for the conversation.
I will say that my path toward self-acceptance has been surprising! I have not at all expected to embrace my non-monogamy nor my polyamorous leanings. (By the way, does anyone else find it humorous that the site does not recognize "polyamorous" as a correctly spelled word?)
I seriously thought that once I grew up and became a real man I would settle down and stop wanting multiple partners and be a successful monogamist. There are some smoldering resentments about this whole thing that I definitely have to address.
my coming out to my mum is a good example of a story to do with what you are curious about maybe immaterial.
Here is a link: http://www.polyamory.com/forum/showt...ight=redpepper
my mum is a social worker and was convinced that my relationship with Mono meant that my child was being abused and that we were crazy. She was so convinced she went to our doctor and told him that she thought our child needed to be checked out for abuse.
We had a huge blow out about it, didn't talk for six months after that.
Hope this helps in some way.
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