Coming to terms with being human.


Shiny, Happy People

I went to get more Paxil today. I could say I went to see my psychiatrist, but that would suggest couches, notepads, and talking about my mother, none of which ever happens. Instead, I wait in the hallway for about an hour, get called into the doctor’s office so I can say I am doing alright, and then go to the pharmacist. The American health care system at it’s best.
The Center is great. It exists for people like myself who have mental problems and no medical insurance. Most of my fellow patients are homeless. It’s interesting that I would probably pass these people by on the street but in the Center we’re equals.
There is a sign in the lobby; Keep the voices down in the hall. Someone wrote over in the hall and put in your head. Keep the voices down in your head.

Visitors don’t laugh when they see this sign. They look uncomfortable, or they tsk. Patients laugh out loud. We point it out to each other. We’re laughing at ourselves. We’re a group, bound by the idea that we are different than everyone else. Visitors agree. They don’t laugh because it’s not polite to laugh at others, not when they can hear you.
In The Nurture Assumption, Judith Harris talks about group dynamics. Humans are genetically social creature. As such, we develop peer associations which influence our actions. We conform our ideas and mannerisms to whichever group we feel most closely associated with at the time.
This explains how 9/11 caused a bumper sticker epidemic. Did hundreds of thousands of people suddenly become InstaPatriots (just add tragedy)? No. The flag wavers were already patriotic. In peace time, however, only the most fervent individual conforms to a nationalistic group identity. Have a single national tragedy though, and anyone who identifies positively with America begins to conform to the American stereotype.
Likewise, in the Center the patients identify with one another. We group together in a solidarity strengthened by a culture that is uneasy with our differences. Outside of the Center, things change. Outside I am middle class and the others are homeless. Outside the same woman I was laughing with in the waiting room is uncomfortable to be seen around me. I’m uncomfortable too.


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