A little while ago I received a comment on this blog. Richard Rutherford had something very important to share. I feel compelled to provide his thoughts to you all, in it’s own post. The initial reason for that is because of what he put his finger on: the issue of audism related to self destruction-mechanisms. I feel he definitely has a very good point. In addition, we had an exchange of thoughts afterwards, which produced additional noteworthy points (these are expressed at the bottom of this post, after the “letter”!).
I had not thought about this issue from the aspect that Richard offered, which is such a beautiful thing about this form of communication (i.e. blogging); one thought or experience leads to another thought. Richard puts it so well in his letter, that I put it here, word for word. (Richard, you should seriously think about writing your own blog :-) )
As a comment, I would like to say that this issue, even though I didn’t realize it until I read his comment/letter, was one of the major things I worked with during the two years of psychological therapy I underwent in 2006-2008.
(I underline the good stuff, which I found particularly interesting, add links and images which I find suitable (for your viewing pleasure 🙂 ))
So, here it is:
=====Start of letter======
Dear Ulf,You are incredible!
You are standing on the edge of the abyss and you are not doing what 90% of the people in your place do!
What is it that they do and you are not? They sabotage themselves.
How? By bringing this audism (which we absorbed when we were hearing people) into their new Late Deafened World and using it to attack themselves.
Expectations! Exactly! We bring with us, these expectation of the hearing world we grew up in, with us as we lose our hearing. We feel defective, broken and stupid. How many times, while you were growing up, did you hear, "What’s the matter with you? You stupid or something?"
This attitude, this perspective is that we are broken and we need to be fixed. We need to be made to look and act like all other hearing people. One of the destructive expectations we bring with us is that WE MUST FIX OURSELVES. That we must make ourselves look and act like hearing people. The key to this that we must, "…respond appropriately".
That means that when someone talks to us, that we say the right thing back. Our efforts at bluffing were a desperate, destructive effort to make ourselves at least look like hearing people. I felt shame and guilt when I bluffed but I couldn’t stop myself.
This is the crucial meaning of language. Language is that thing that connects us as people. Language is the foundation for intimate relationships. Between parents and children, between lovers and between individual members of society.
If we have an incomplete language, our relationships suffer. Hearing people don’t understand this. That is one of the basic parts of Audism.
That is why sign language is so important to the Deaf community. Language also, by itself, organizes the brain. The onset of language (about 2 years of age) helps to structure the development of the brain. Missing this stage of development results in difficulty in developing critical thinking. The ability to understand abstract thought suffers. A visual language,
such as sign language, manages to accomplish this just fine. The brain cannibalizes the unused auditory pathways for other things. So, where am I going with this? I’m going to the Late Deafened World.
We have three worlds (actually more). The hearing world, the Late Deafened and HOH world and the Deaf world. I have chosen first to define myself as NOT HEARING. I have also chosen to define myself as not culturally Deaf. I do find myself in this middle world, which overlaps both hearing and Deaf cultures, this Late Deafened World.
We have our behaviors which are common to us. We have our language, which is a patois of coping strategies, hearing, perhaps some sign language and whatever works. This is the question of identity. We have our personal identity (that which distinguishes us from others) and we have our social or cultural identity (that which connects us to others). As we lose our hearing, we lose our cultural identity.
If we do not re-adjust our cultural identity, we will find ourselves trying to become something we are not. We will find ourselves trying to be hearing people, which we are not. The result is loss of happiness, joy and serenity. By understanding I am not hearing, I have found far more joy in my life than I ever thought possible. I do a lot of service in the hearing loss community and it gives me a wonderful sense of purpose and a profound feeling of joy. I know that I am in exactly the right place, doing exactly the right thing. I have written a number of articles for the ALDA (Association of Late Deafened Adults) newsletter along these lines. I suggest you read a book, The Mask of Benevolence by Harlan Lane (Ref. Amazon). He talks of audism….and you are doing exactly the right thing and I support you completely!!!!
==== End of letter ========
My own reactions:
Even though I have a good vocabulary, used to read a lot of books, and thrive on expressing myself by way of writing, and pretty good at saying things out, I often feel like I’m an alien when it comes to verbal communication. I often hear that I’m difficult to understand, and I also often feel it’s difficult to understand others (and I’m not talking about HEARING). It’s like I’m a Mac computer trying to talk to Windows computers. A little bit incompatible.
I had a exchange of words with Richard after his lengthy comment, and in short we touched another issue that I feel has a place on this page: we both felt at a stage in our lives, that we had to ignore what everyone else think about us. There are many reasons for a person to take such a position; but the main thing is: it’s about survival as a psychological entity in society in a situation between rock and a hard place… At one point we found out that we had to BE ourselves in our OWN image.
In that realization also came a huge personal relief: no more trying to make others accept us. Either they will, or they will not. It’s as easy AND HARD as that…
How to cope with the expectations of oneself and those around you, while at the same time, the hearing is going (or gone), and thus, a large part of your identity as well as capability to interact socially (i.e. being your social and cultural identity)?
The previous paragraph is a rhetorical question meant to provoke thought. My personal answer to it is that it depends on which stage you are in the process of acknowledging and accepting the fact that you’re either going deaf or already is.
My relationship with a truly wonderful (hearing) girlfriend has also given me thoughts on this subject:
My girlfriend is forcing me to rethink that (the previous paragraph about the rhetorical question) a bit, because, if I want to be successful in what I do and with whomever I meet along the way, I have to develop a sensitivity of manners and general behavior (i.e. care about what others think about me.)
It’s not easy, and it’s not done in a month or three. But what is great, is that the CI now enables me to focus more on that, rather focus on just “surviving”. I’m only just beginning this phase of my life 🙂
I have also found refuge in my common peers, i.e. hard of hearing, late deafened or CI-users. I feel free in their company, but at the same time, I look for that feeling with everyone else in my life. That is what I wish for…
Total understanding and self acceptance for everyone!