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Posted by Philip on 7 October 2015, 7:04 am in , , , , , , , , , ,

Owning my projection; an acknowledgement and apology

I got a fair bit of flack for the post I wrote on Friday, asking disabled people to toughen up and stop telling their stories of hardship in public. I also criticised inspirational speakers, as well as media portrayal of disabled people triumphantly doing ordinary things.

I'm not used to the kind of negative vitriole with which a few people responded — it was quite affronting and upsetting. Nevertheless, I should note, my disparaging audience was balanced ten-fold by those who liked the post. I've been reflecting on the reason for the offence and, prompted by a question by a more balanced commenter, why I feel so strongly about this issue. After all, strong reactions are mainly fuelled by psychological projection.

So, what I wrote was about me, not about the people I criticised. To answer the question, "Why is it affecting you personally so strongly?" I've reflected on what's going on for me.

Truth is, I used to feel hard done by, let down by life, society, as well as individual attitudes and actions, on account of my experience of disability. The difference for me was that I felt this before the invention of the internet and proliferation of social media. I didn't have a blog, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to express my hurt, anger, shame and blame. I did my catharsis in my own and others' living rooms in small groups of friends and peers.

At the same time I was doing therapy and, after many years of self-reflection, research and discussion with others, I began to change my mindset and feelings. I reframed abnormality as uniqueness and I realised that my inner turmoil was reflected in my outer experience.

Long story short, my experience of my outer world improved when my inner psyche changed. In the last decade, I haven't felt compromised by my circumstance. On the contrary, I've felt grateful for the life I've created. It hasn't been all good but, on balance, I enjoy my existence.

I also embarked on a high profile career as a comedian and, though I didn't see myself as inspirational, I involved myself in many a media interview about my triumphant achievements. I admit that I am guilty of indulging myself in the perpetuation of the dreaded inspiration porn that the late, great Stella Young so articulately condemned.

I stopped doing comedy about five years ago and I enjoy the reduced public recognition I receive.

So, behind my rant on Friday was a frustration that people still feel some agrievement about their experience, as well as the inspirational stance that some people continue to promote. Behind it was also a genuine desire for people to find peace with their experience and to contribute to a more balanced view of disability, chronic illness and unique function.

I do not apologise for my frustration and desire, but I am sorry for dumping on other people and criticising their experience. I also take responsibility for my projection and lack of reflection about the relatively new phenomenon of social media that has changed private lounge-room conversations into publicly accessible expressions of personal reality.

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