“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Social Role valorization and wounding

At the end of February, I had the opportunity to attend a training in social role valorization offered by Training Institute for Human Serve Planning, Leadership & Change Agentry in Syracuse NY. For those of you familiar with the work of Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger, his thinking was first published in Normalization in the early 1970's. The book was foundational to much of what has happened in changing the manner in which persons with disabilities are treated. In the early 1980's, Dr. Wolfensberger built on his normalizaton ideas and developed what he calls social role valorization. As a result of his work, there are many articles and book which have been written as well as an International conference held every four years. I would highly recommend the training.

Social role valorization begins by recognizing that people are devalued and wounded. In fact, the SRV training lists 18 wounds.

Wound 1: Bodily impairment
Wound 2: Functional impairment
Wound 3: Relegation to low social status/deviancy
Wound 4: Attitude of rejection-disproportionately/relentlesly the more rejecting party has higher values and is more likely to...
1. Repress awareness out of consciousness "their faith tells them they shouldn't do it"
2. Harm is inflicted on the rejected party in unconscious, indirect and subtle forms
3. Negative behaviors are explained as having positive motives.
Wound 5: Cast into one or more historic deviancy roles...social status causes devalued roles or vice versa (we have touched on these roles in this weblog in the past)
So people can be considered...

1. Non human
a. pre human
b. no longer human
c. sub human (animal, vegetative/vegetable, insensate object
d. other "alien" non human but not sub human
2. A menace/object of dread
3. Waste material, garbage, discard, offal, excrement
4. Trivium
a. not to be taken seriously
b. object of ridicule
c. joculaor, jestor, clown, etc.
5. An object of pity - accompanied by desire to bestow happiness on people and associated with the victim role. Person is "suffering"
6. A charity recipient
a. ambiguous/borderline role of object of charity "nobility" in helping
b. burden of dutiful caring "cold charity" entitled to only the minimum/should be grateful takers-not givers
7. A child
a. eternally
b. once again
8. As a sick/diseased organism (leads to handicap) "medicalization of everyday life", "psychiatrization of deviance"
9. In death-related roles: dying, already dead, as good as dead, should be dead,
should never have lived

Wound 6: Symbilic stigmatizing, "marking", "deviancy imaging", "branding"
Wound 7: Being multiply jeopardized/scapegoated
Wound 8: Distanciation: usually via segregation and also congregation...major forms
Wound 9: Absence or loss of natural, freely given relationships & substitution with artificial/boughten ones
Wound 10: Loss of control, perhaps even autonomy & freedom
Wound 11: Discontinuity with the physical environment and objects "physical discontinuation"
Wound 12: social and relationshp discontinuity & even abandonement
Reasons for relationship discontinuity
Wound 13: Deindividualization, "mortification" reducing humaness
Wound 14: Involuntary material poverty, material/financial exploitation
-stripping what you have
-preventing people from acquiring things
Wound 15: Impoverishment of experience especially that of the typical valued world
Wound 16: Exclusion from knowledge and participation in higher-order value systems (eg. religion) that give meaning and direction to life and provide community
-lack moral guidance
-solace and comfort
-participation in community therefore reduced participation in society
Wound 17: Having one's life "wasted"...mindsets contributing to life wasting
Wound 18: Being the object of brutalization, killing thoughts & deathmaking

It was particularly interesting to see how these wounds tend to accumulate in the life of a person who simply has a bodily or functional impairment of some type. But the SRV folks would say that anyone who is devalued will experience these wounds to a greater or lesser degree whether your devaluing is due to impairment, or race or ethnicity, or religion or whatever.

The church needs to take the role of first of all recognizing the wounds of devalued people and then doing what it can to address the wounds in some way. I found it interesting that wound 16 is "Exclusion from knowledge and participation in higher-order value systems (eg. religion) that give meaning and direction to life and provide community." That is, Wolfensberger has identified the exclusion from religion or religious groups as a wound that is inflicted on persons who are devalued. The training is very careful to present the material in a very empirical fashion. That is, they do their best to just present the facts. They simply say, "If you do this, this will be the result." So if you exclude people with disabilities from participation in religious activities, in the church, you wound them.

It was also noted in the training that people who are already wounded will often feel wounds, be they slight more than those of us who are not devalued. I have noticed this fact with friends of mine whom I just suspected were very sensitive people. Yes they were sensitive, but I am coming to believe their sensitivity is due to their pain from being the brunt of so many of the wounds described above.

The church can do much to attenuate the wounding of persons who are devalued, particularly persons with disablities, particularly by just preventing wound #16. Just as there is a kind of a cascade effect with many of the wounds, there might be a positive cascade effect as we attempt to alleviate the wounds. Facilitating church participation might be a significant start in healing persons with impairments, and lead to a diminishing or total healing of the many wounds.



Impossibleape said...

the pain is very real

but the healing of these wounds is not a priority in most churches

stopping fresh woundings from within the churches themselves is not a priority

your efforts are like those of one crying in the wilderness

Isaiah said...

I absolutely agree that the church need to take a more proactive approach in recognizing the 18 wounds. Unfortunately, disabled individuals are being segregated from mainstream society , due to their impairments. We as Christians must strive to alter the preconceived notion that disabled individuals should be avoided as if their impairment is contagious. This epidemic is not something that can be ignored. It is not impossible to change the minds of religious groups. Through education and practical applications this can be achieved.

Anonymous said...

Sylvia B.
April 25, 2021

I agree and believe that the church needs to take some accountability for people with disabilities by providing services that better accommodate the different needs of each individual. Through my research at the church I interviewed, they were stunned into silence at my questioning about how they integrate and accommodate people with disabilities. When I go to church, I notice quite a few of these wounds taking place during the mass; especially wound 8: distanciation. As much as the family looks and adores their family members with disabilities, they always sit in a quiet corner to themselves away from the rest of the crowds in case they need to make a fast exit. You can also see everyone stare at the person with a disability when they do something that is abnormal and do not realize how intrusive they are being to a family who just wants to enjoy their day out with God and their family. The church is the one place where everyone should feel safe from judgment and prejudices, and yet, it is the place that they get wounded most. Some people with disabilities may not know that they are being wounded due to the severity of their disability. However, their families understand and the wound reaches not just the person it is being directed at, but those that surround them and care for them every day.

Unknown said...

LMH- 11/3/2021

Going to church has never made me look around to fellow parishioners in a whole different light. What I thought was the church doing its do diligence to accommodate for the needs of the disabled person is in fact another way to pushing them to the side. Often when you speak to the church hierarchy you get the feeling that they are meeting the needs, for those who are physically disabled. I am very happy to attest that I see it every Sunday when go to church that they are. But then the question is, so if they are doing this for all those people who are physically disabled, what happen to those that are intellectually or mentally disabled. That's where the questions lies.
When asking certain clergy members for these particular members you get the feeling that they are not aware of these folks or they don't want to know of these folks by the way they react when they are questioned. When they get on defense they say things like, "parents with their special needs child can go to the mothers room and be there in case of an outbursts or screams from the child". Then I state, "I am not asking about children, I am asking for young adults or adults with mentally disabilities?" This where I feel its hostile and at times feel like my faith is being questioned by the clergy. These are simple questions from a simple person trying to find answers in this world. This as of late has been my burning question. I feel at times when talking to clergy they either don't know the answers to this or are seriously perplexed by this person asking for a simple answer to question. Its either yes or no????
I see that my particular church has to grow in this to invite these people and make them feel welcomed. I believe god words prayed in his presence with others benefits all, not just the non disabled people. God's words work in mysterious ways that they can be comprehensible to all, if you let them be received to those that are deemed not able to comprehend.