The Thing Is

About a month ago I made a request to one of my kids. The response was, “Is that a thing, or is it just your idea?” The implication was that if it was a thing, i.e. something that is done by a sector of society, then of course he would comply without reservation. However, if it was just my idea, then that deserves querying or negating or disregarding. Somehow, we have distinguished between a thing (which may be an idea or a material object) that is current and widely accepted and utilized, and an individual experience, which may not be considered valid. We have seen this throughout the ages as we broaden our categories for things.

 The outsider becomes insider when having a thing. Over the last couple of generations we have more frequently employed  a thing called disorders. So, if a person seems to learn in a way that does not conform to traditional (or current) constructs, we look for patterns that we categorize as a disorder. This has been useful in broadening our understanding of differences and meeting differing needs, but the unintended consequence is in pathologizing differences. It’s as though it must be a thing  in order to validate an experience. 

 The same is true for physical issues. It seems as though every physical experience must be categorized as a thing –especially one that needs intervention. Normal aging is pathologized. Somehow, calling unpleasant experiences and conditions diseases, normalizes them and us, or exempts us from certain expectations. 

If there is not a new category established, then often personal experiences are considered subjective and psychological problems–not a thing,unless it is a categorized psychological disorder or mental illness. When it’s not a thing, a person is disregarded or not taken seriously. Better to have a named disorder or disease in order to be taken seriously. 

On the other hand, although it has taken so very long, we have made tremendous shifts in thinking about civil rights for once peripheral groups who were discriminated against. Civil rights is a thing. It is about inclusion and accessibility and acceptability. In fact, diversity allows us to stop pathologizing.  It broadens our concepts. It’s not merely a thing in terms of something that is current, but a broader, more inclusive society that allows for ranges of abilities and possibilities and accessibility.  Whatever the next big thing is, it will require shifts.

 Whether we are compelled to shift our habits from technological things or from physical or emotional things, we can also consider how we respond to things. When do we validate? When do we ignore? When do we challenge? When do we restructure? When do we let go? It’s a thing when it’s current. The thing is, it’s most important to remember the things that make a difference–not whether or not it’s a thing.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s