Stigma from the Dinner Table – Passing on Beliefs and Perceptions

Note: The definition of “Generation” – Dictionary.com:

1. The entire body of individuals born and living at about the same time: the postwar generation.

2. A group of individuals, most of whom are the same approximate age, having similar ideas, problems, attitudes, etc. Compare Beat Generation, Lost Generation.

3. A group of individuals belonging to a specific category at the same time: Chaplin belonged to the generation of silent-screen stars.

The titles of Generations have changed over the years. My generation was the “Nuclear Generation.” It was the generation that did not stay in one place and did not live in the town or city we grew up in. I have lost track of the newer names, but we have come to the point where they complete in game shows on the TV and Web.

Yet, there are family/friend/partner rituals that still exist. One ritual is eating and drinking around the living room, kitchen-island, or dinner table. That creates “The Dinner Table Conversations”. If we are fortunate, information and knowledge is exchanged and everyone goes away happy. One constant during those gathering is talking about other people–someone in the family, world events, neighborhood, partners, business, etc. Another constant is talking about someone’s activities and/or behaviors that affected that person’s fate or someone else’s life. As a result, a Stigma about that person is created. Good or bad, the Stigma’s attitude moves to people in the room, one person to another.

I now am able to move about freely with my legs, spine, and car. This new freedom allows me to see more family and old friends, volunteer in organizations that help those in need, and work at organizations assisting those suffering with Substance Disease.

I have been able to attend many gatherings over the last six months. From my own interaction and watching those of others, I have observed a very high correlation between the dinner table conversation; those who see the positive about Stigma and those who draw the negative or a feeling of superiority. My Stigma was created by loss of health, financial insecurity, and over use of a substance.

First Observation: The conclusions I have drawn come from comments made to me about my known circumstances and those who have confided in me about their experiences. These include comments such as,

  • “What are you doing here”
  • “You look great and I hear everything is good”
  • “I told you not to invite him”
  • “I and the whole family are proud of you”
  • and many more.

Many comments and behaviors (handshakes, slap on the back, smiles, hateful looks, no look at all) have been positive:

  1. either the offspring, neighbor, partner etc. sees the positive outcomes of improvements
  2. or they hope, pray, and come up with solutions and next steps.

The people at the dinner table can generate an environment of good things happening and have positive discussions. These include comments like, “you have come a long way in a short time” or “isn’t it wonderful about him or her”.

But rest assured, that dinner table discussion can do damage beyond mending; for example, the look of disgust or even hate is seen, especially from the young who listened to the adults. Worst of all is “no eye contact, no hand shake, and no speech at all”! These people have absorbed and integrated other’s perceptions and assigned Stigma!

Dinner Table Conclusion: Remember, what we say is always heard by those near by. It is not that those at the table are noisy, it is that they believe what you are saying by listening. Especially, if you are being uncaring about the people you talk about.

Stigma can go both ways. Lets make Stigma be positive. Someone’s life could depend on it.

Brian Masters

brianmasters919@gmail.com

 

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