“This pervasive malady (demoralization) appears to be a key dimension of patients’ complaints to therapists today.” — Erwin Randolph Parson, Phd., Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy
“Demoralization is the most potent weapon that can be brought to bear against you.” — John Dilligent
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Are you demoralized? I am. That’s right. I just recently realized that somewhere along the way I had slipped unnoticed into a state of general demoralization. And that’s the precise term that came to mind when the revelation hit me, too: that I was demoralized. Not depressed or despondent or de -anything else — but just flat-out demoralized. And not at that moment specifically, but on a moment-to-moment basis generally. On a daily basis. Demoralization had become my mindset… my stock in trade… the scheme of things… the status quo. Not only that, but anyone I had come to know on an authentically intimate basis anytime recently had eventually confessed to the same condition, more or less, without exception.
As I thought all this through I decided we probably weren’t alone. We might even represent the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Hell, everybody might be demoralized deep-down as far as I know. It’s been my experience that people let go this type of information grudgingly, and even then, only to their most intimate and trusted confidants.
We have been cultured from the cradle to automatically put on a happy face and respond “Fine “, “Good “, whatever, whenever anyone asks us how we are or how we’re doing or how we’ve been. This conditioned response has been programmed into the psyches of every last man, woman and child on this continent. Like progamming a robot, or training a dog. Please take note that everyone does this, it’s a fact of life. But like so many other things we do, we live our lives out almost on autopilot, never stopping to ask ourselves why.
So I thought maybe it was about time to take a closer look at the subject and see what we could come up with. Pay careful attention because there’s gonna be a quiz and here it is:
Do you often, generally, or typically feel:
A general sense of hopelessness.
That everything is meaningless.
A general inability to cope.
That you’re becoming or have become incompetent.
A sense of impotence, powerlessness, or helplessness.
Feelings of greater dependency on others.
The perception of being a burden.
That you’d rather be or would be better off dead.
If you answered Yes to half or more of these, you may be suffering from Post-Traumatic Demoralization Syndrome (PTDS) or simply Demoralization Syndrome for short. The eight line items listed above are the basic known symptoms. Off the chalkboard and out into the real world, symptoms may vary — in characteristic, frequency and intensity, same as with just about anything else.
We can comprehend any concept, no matter how complex it may be, by breaking it down into bites of information and digesting them one at a time. The first step must be to clearly define the nature of that which we are studying in our minds, before we set out to examine it and not after. A thorough understanding of the nature of the beast makes the beast infinitely easier to dissect. From The Free Online Dictionary by Farlex:
Demoralization (noun) : 1) Destroying the moral basis for a doctrine or policy. 2) A state of disorder and confusion. 3) Depression resulting from the undermining of one’s morale.
Nouns are actually derived from verbs, the verb being the essential root of any term — the core. Going all the way down to the root of the concept now:
Demoralize (transitive verb) : 1) To undermine the confidence or morale of, dishearten. 2) To put into disorder, confuse. 3) To debase morally, corrupt.
Now from Merriam-Webster —
Demoralize: 1) To corrupt the morals of. 2) To weaken the morale of; discourage, dispirit. 3) To upset or destroy the normal functioning of. 4) To throw into disorder.
Synonyms: unnerve, emasculate, paralyze, undo, unman, unstring.
Immediately upon clearly defining the term under study here we are equipped to make some accurate general observations:
1) To demoralize someone can mean either to corrupt their morals, or to undermine or destroy their morale — or both. Simplified: either to debase and/or discourage.
2) The severity of this effect can range widely, from weakened morals and/or general discouragement, to complete debasement (corruption) and/or total paralysis (destruction of normal function).
3) The authorized definitions imply a both a victim and a perpetrator, an action taker and a recipient of that action, eg: “To corrupt the morals of…”, “To weaken the morale of…”, etc.