Dehumanization and Its Collateral Damage

These posts educate and empower individuals who struggle with relational problems, coping with difficult situations, and generally grow as a person. They are meant to encourage you to better handle life on life’s terms. This is only possible through learning about the processes behind crises.

I refrain from political debates because I believe both sides are crazy and neither offer any solutions, only more problems.

However, when it comes to current trends in our culture, there are major themes.

To those individuals who are rigidly against the social movements, millenials, snowflakes, and estranged family member(s): these people do not exist to make your life difficult. There’s a message being sent. Their goals lie in communicating their needs, not to make you feel bad. In fact, it’s not about you at all. None of this is.

They want to belong, feel accepted, and not tolerate the harrassment, judgement, stereotyping, stigmatization, or exclusion usually cast on them by those who project personal values. Their religion is not your religion. Their beliefs are not your beliefs. They vary, and that’s okay. And yours are not better- just different.

Them living their lives will not make yours more difficult. You do that yourself.

No one is more important than another person (even if you disagree).

The marginalized population’s basic human rights have been historically denied for decades. They don’t want to change to fit your mold because it’s not something they value.  Traditional methods of social engagement caused more trauma than they did help. It’s about belonging now, not fitting in. Prejudism, stigmatization, and stereotyping deepens the wounds, traumatizes its victims, increases housing and job insecurity, and escalates violence. It breaks apart communities, increases health inequities, leads to detachment/isolation, and destroys lives. People who fear stigmatization resist seeking mental health treatment, causing decline in their state (Atzenbuehler, Phelan, Link, 2013).

According to World Psychiatry (2002), “Prejudice, which is fundamentally a cognitive and affective response, leads to discrimination, the behavioral reaction. Prejudice that yields anger can lead to hostile behavior (e.g., physically harming a minority group). In terms of mental illness, angry prejudice may lead to withholding help or replacing health care with services provided by the criminal justice system. Fear leads to avoidance; e.g., employers do not want persons with mental illness nearby so they do not hire them. Alternatively, prejudice turned inward leads to self-discrimination. Research suggests self-stigma and fear of rejection by others lead many persons to not pursuing life opportunities for themselves.”

Examine the world through all perspectives; not just yours. When we can see through the eyes of another human being, we change- for the better. As long as we stay isolated in these tiny little bubbles we call our lives, with our worlds revolving around just us, we experience a whole lot of problems with little to no connection to others. Staying isolated, we lack the support structures imperative for healing. When we learn nothing new, stop trying new activities, nothing changes.

People heal in groups.

Mockery, belittlement, and dehumanization only furthers the divide.

It pushes people away, destroys unity, and creates violence and animosity. You may gather a few followers, but the majority will avoid you like the 25th variant of COVID. Because, they can see the bullshit too. Just look at Putin and his wonderful job at leading.

A rigid stance on any topic ceases growth and learning. If you adamantly refuse to hold a respectful debate, dismiss all information from other parties, or choose to stoop to low-ball character insults, your capacity for healthy function in society comes into question. Disparagement is easy. Empathy is hard. Those who bridge the divide are some of the bravest people I know.

I’ve been on both sides.

In this same light, I write this very personal blog article based on experiences that shaped my views and interactions of the world.

I’ve done the most psycho-education on the importance of nervous system regulation. There’s a reason for that, and I will tell you why.

Society is one big dysregulated mess. We run around daily conducting our business, living our lives, with maxed anxiety and incredible defenses aimed to keep you safe from the world. We’ve learned to detach from our somatic selves and use thinking to survive. The problem with this is that we still have those ancient nervous systems that disrupt our ability to think, connect, process, and this leads to more severe mental health problems. Without that emotional intimacy, we die.

Before the Cove, before the Me Too movement, through the lineages of our most recent ancestors, people existed in a swiftly changing societies. From a time where we were taught to “toughen up,” or “pick yourself up by your boot straps,” we now understand the complexities of trauma, pervasiveness of PTSD, and importance to allow for people to be who they are without the damaging effects of shame, outcasting, and dehumanization.

photo of person reach out above the water

Photo by nikko macaspac

Women, blacks, LGBTQIA+, elderly, disabled, understand this. They feel the looks and they actualize the judgement casted upon them by others. How do I know? Because I am one of them, in several ways.

I’m not only an alcoholic in recovery, but I also experienced deep stigmatization of autism as a female. Not fitting in, attracting attention for my mannerisms in public that aren’t like the rest, I have long held the burden of having to mask my personality in order to remain at peace. At least, I used to. I simply don’t care at this point. I am comfortable, familiar with, and love the person I’ve become. I don’t let others define who I am.

It’s been a lifetime journey. In school, kids heavily bullied me for just about everything. Girls do this- girls don’t do that. You have to wear dresses. Stay silent and mind your authoritarians. None of this made sense to me, and no one explained it. When my brain cannot make sense of an action, I do not find reason or motivation to engage in that action, and so I don’t. However, being un-lady like attracted a lot of attention. I stopped caring about fitting in because people made it clear I never would. So, I formed my own ways of being and shrugged off the importance of popularity.

Having Asperger’s, I never understood social cues and I took longer to process socio-emotional interactions. I took people at face-value and believed what they told me, leading to damaging relationships where I was taken advantage of often by friends and family. My family of origin thought it the best to mock and belittle these challenges instead of seeking help. Their  work to shame that out of me did wonders for my nervous system. I was stuck in survival mode until my late 20’s, remaining in a constant fight response. I reacted because I stayed in protection rather than connection. The longer I was exposed to constant judgement, shame, and rejection, the less I trusted. No one could get close, so no one would hurt me again.

Of course, this was distorted and I later found the truth. I see this now in daily life when I go out to eat, shop, or work. People are stuck in this same pattern of protection rather than connection, due to the shifts undergone by the great splits of politics, The Cove, #metoo movement, and Black Lives Matter. Instead of trying to understand, a portion of the population chose to attack and vilify those who wanted so badly to be understood and accepted.

That is a feeling I know on the deepest personal level.

So much, my soul aches when I see another person experiencing it.

The oppressors proved exactly what the marginalized reported.

These marginalized populations persisted, but always on defense. The flight, fight, and freeze responses are consistent with every one. When you attack a person’s core traits that they cannot change- it contributes to an increased sense of rejection, pain, and anger. These harsh emotions filtrate to other parts of their lives, spilling out onto those around them. It makes society worse.

I didn’t change because they scapegoated and outcasted me. I just became really good at seeing through the bullshit, building walls, moving on, and moving out.

When I stopped being their devil, they had to live with the ugliness of themselves. That’s the best revenge of all- moving forward and ceasing being their target.

I used to get angry, rage, and take all the pain out on my body and my life. I gained a terrific drinking habit that helped me just to feel like I could fit in and lower that anxiety just enough to get through. It worked. In fact, it saved my life- until it almost took it.

I don’t live my life as the victim. I now get to see what happened and why. I’ve let go of those people and healed my wounds.

People pass their trauma down throughout generations. Unconsciously, they do what they are taught and modeled. The same behaviors and perspectives are passed down lineages. Closed to the world out of protection for one’s emotional safety, it becomes impossible to see that of others because if your reality is not THE reality, then you’re existence becomes meaningless (in that distorted perception).

So, while my parents did what their parents did to them, I did everything the opposite. What I also did was take on that tremendous toxic shame that I was the defect. Never good enough, unloveable, worthless, I felt the world crushing my hope daily.

This reality shifted when I got into recovery in my late 20’s/ early 30’s. It was a process that took years. Finding out that the core of who you are is false is not an easy pill to swallow. I spent decades in enormous amounts of pain because of these beliefs. Alcohol washed them away for a while, until they came back with a vengeance, and burned me alive when I was sober.

If you don’t know anything about autism or Asperger’s, one part includes the struggle to process emotions well. One person described it as feeling all the feels at the wrong times while not feeling when you’re supposed to. So, rejection felt 100x’s more painful than what the usual neurotypical person would experience. It took me out for days if I was spoken to by a boss or given a poor grade on a paper. Such events shattered my image of perfection and superiority, the mask I used to function with.

person holding black mask

John Noonan

When I hear someone dehumanizing another, I immediately understand that that person has zero self esteem. If you have to make fun of a person’s core traits like sex, appearance, age, gender, or culture, you’re the one with the mental health problems. And, it was this knowledge that turned around my life’s trajectory from falling off the cliff. I always knew logically that I was not the problem and that my parents were mentally ill. However, it didn’t feel true because that was never how I was made to feel. That part came later.

Dehumanization contributes nothing to the advancement of civilization. It destroys communities and lives.


  1. Corrigan PW, Watson AC. Understanding the impact of stigma on people with mental illness. World Psychiatry. 2002 Feb;1(1):16-20. PMID: 16946807; PMCID: PMC1489832.
  2. Hatzenbuehler ML, Phelan JC, Link BG. Stigma as a fundamental cause of population health inequalities. Am J Public Health. 2013 May;103(5):813-21. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.301069. Epub 2013 Mar 14. PMID: 23488505; PMCID: PMC3682466.
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