Deaf Again Autoresponder Course Part Two

The hardest fight a man has to fight is to live in a world where every single day someone is trying to make you someone you do not want to be.

--e.e. cummings

Before we can go into the topic of Deaf Identity, we need to examine a fascinating phenomenon known as the introject.

Dolly Schulman, the Director of the Modern Gestalt Institute, introduces the concept of introjection during her year-long course in Gestalt Theory & Practice.

Introjection is basically known as a resistance where we (paraphrasing Erving & Miriam Polster in Gestalt Therapy Integrated: Contours of Theory & Practice) “incorporate what the environment provides,” “swallow whole impressions of the world,” and “give up a sense of free choice in life.”

Introjects, then, are a powerful influence that literally program our minds and shape our behavior. Let’s take a look at a few examples. Below are some apparently harmless quotes that kids are exposed to on a daily basis:

  • Finish your plate.
  • If you don’t stop making goofy faces, your face will freeze like that.
  • Big boys don’t cry.
  • Just about any statement starting with "You should..."
As I said, apparently harmless. But if you take a closer look, words like these have more power than we ever could have imagined.

For example, let’s break down big boys don’t cry.

I guarantee you that at any movie theater in the country, if you observe a man and a woman going to a movie together, you’ll find an interesting contrast in behavior.

If the movie has a strong emotional impact—be it a heart-tugging happy ending or a tear-jerking tragedy—you can bet that the woman has no qualms about sniffling and sobbing in full view of everyone.

The guy, on the other hand, is more fun to watch. He’ll gulp. His lips will quiver. He’ll pretend he's got something stuck in his eye. He’ll swallow hard and when asked if he’s okay, he’ll swear nothing’s wrong. He’ll emit a fake yawn, stretch out his arms, and discreetly brush away a tear welling at the corner of his eye. If you observe this behavior long enough you’d think this guy was ready for a straitjacket.

So, what happened?

It wasn’t the movie itself that wigged him out. You have to go back in time to locate the source of this strange behavior.

Imagine this man several years ago when he was a little kid. He’s playing football in the backyard with some family and friends when all of a sudden he slips and scrapes his knee. Naturally, he starts crying. And then someone says the magic words: Oh, come on, be a man! Suck it up. Big boys don’t cry.

That’s all it takes. This boy has now been programmed by an introject. He absorbs and internalizes this message. It becomes his reality. And then, twenty years later, you can find him in the movie theater having a spastic fit.

Introjects don’t have to be verbal. Kids watch their parents’ behavior and internalize just about everything. The age-old curse I hope someday you wind up having kids just like you! definitely works. Like it or not, most of us emulate our parents in ways that are quite amusing. A lot of it is automatic and unconscious. Without even realizing it, many kids literally walk, talk, and have certain idiosyncrasies exactly like their parents.

And now we’re ready to bring this discussion back to Deaf Identity. With the previous examples in mind, what do the following introjects tell you?

  • Sit up front.
  • Wear your hearing aids.
  • Read my lips.
  • Hearing-impaired.
Yes, when we utter the above words to deaf children all over the world, we’re instilling in them a model of deficit thinking. We’re telling these kids that deafness is bad, that they’re “impaired,” that they need to be fixed. We’re telling them that they need to look, think, and act like hearing people. And, with hearing aids and speech therapy galore, we’re giving the impression that it’s entirely the deaf child’s responsibility to assimilate.

These introjects can weigh down a deaf person for a lifetime. It’s a formidable obstacle to overcome.

Next in the Deaf Again autoresponder course: A closer look at the impact of introjects.