Life of "Joker": Unwanted and Lonely, The Greatest Form of Poverty

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

Mother Teresa

Tears are welling up as I reflect upon the scenes depicted in the movie “Joker” which I just watched.

Why am I getting so emotional over a movie you might think. The fact is that the scenes in the movie on what the main protagonist, Arthur Fleck (“Joker”) went through, reflected very well the lives of some of my clients whom I see in counselling setting, and that breaks my heart.

“Joker”, suffers from a mental health disorder which causes him to laugh at inappropriate times. Due to this condition, he came across as somebody weird and became vulnerable to being jeered at, bullied and abused by the people around him, both verbally and physically. Basically, nobody ever took him seriously and often manipulated him into doing things.

It was even more unfortunate that he later found out that his mother whom he loved dearly, was not his biological mother. To top it off, she was one of those who neglected him and left him defenseless when he was abused by her then boyfriend.

“Joker” ended up turning violent and eventually turned into a serial killer.

In the eyes of many lay audiences, it is likely that they would have taught that “That is exactly how “crazy” people with mental health conditions behave.”

But you know what, from the perspective of a trained mental health practitioner, his behavior, while I do not deny that it is extremely problematic, is a result of social factors.

My heart was extremely heavy after watching the movie. I thought the movie reflected very accurately the pandemic of alienation and social isolation in our present day society, a phenomenon resulting in the mental issues amongst many.

I saw alienation and isolation. I saw that he has no friends and people to care for him. Nobody ever bothered listening to him and his side of explanation. To make things worse, I saw him being bullied and abused by those around him.

The consequence of that, an overflowing emotional tank filled with negative experience, and the lack of meaning of existence. When an emotional tank is filled with so much negativity, violence is a form of maladaptive psychological defense mechanism to release the emotional tension within him that has no other outlet of release.

In face of the lack of meaning of his existence, in his words he said “I just hope my death makes more “cents” than my life.” His words reflected well, how hopelessness amongst individuals drive them to suicide.

I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you may say, “Well, we always have a choice as to how we respond and react to situations. There are many who goes through bad times but they do not turn bad like that.”

I agree to that statement to a certain extent. Yet, chances are those individuals possibly have at least one other significant stable attachment figure in their lives to offer love and support, preventing that person from turning wayward.

Unfortunately, most people who suffers from mental health issues, are themselves victims of neglect, abandonment and abuse, be it from their own family members or people around them.

When individuals grow up in such toxic environment, self-preservation and healthy attachment is a foreign concept to them. They constantly get drawn into toxic relationships resulting in a vicious cycle of abuse.

It is likely that many of them do not even have healthy supportive attachment figures in their lives. When trials and tribulations is the air that they breathe when they are growing up, there’s no other alternative reality available in their worldview.

For most of us, we get upset when bad things disrupt our usual good times. But for individuals who have grown up in toxic environments as such, “good times” can be just as disruptive to them because “bad times” is all they know when they are growing up. It is not that they do not want to make positive changes but a change in perspective for them can be just as disruptive because it is not the usual for them.

I teared up when I started writing this piece because I was reminded of a child whom I worked with, who is exactly like I just described. Abandonment and abuse from the home front characterized her growing up years.

I really had a heart for this child for I saw how she was longing deep down to connect with people. But no matter how hard you try to care, she just was not receptive because she simply couldn’t imagine that anybody would ever care for her, having grown up in neglect.

If even your dad and mum who are supposed to be the ones who should be loving you and providing a safe place for you would abandon you, the likelihood of you trusting outsiders would be close to nil.

Eventually, in an episode when she was attempting suicide and I gave chase to make sure her attempt wasn’t successful, part of her wall came down. Likewise for many other kids whom I work with, I have seen how sincere care and concern has broken even the coldest of hearts. There is no quote more apt than Erich Fromm’s “Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.”

Love truly heals. At least this is what I sincerely believe in. As the saying goes, “People grow when they are loved well. If you want to help others heal, love them without an agenda.” - Mike McHargue

People need to know they matter. A sense of mattering is what keeps us well and sane from an existential perspective, because we are all made to connect.

Yet, it is truly a modern-day pandemic where we are all isolated from one another relationally, in part due to busyness of life and in part because most of us do not have the basic ability to even listen and sit with another person who is in distress.

Take a moment and think about when was the last time you have taken time to listen to somebody, say your child or a friend in distress?

Why is it so difficult to listen to a person? Perhaps it is hard work to sit with another in distress because it is uncomfortable. It is even harder work because our modern-day society has driven us much into comfort that most of us are unable to sit with another uncomfortably in pain and suffering.

I literally had people telling me in the face before “You don’t have to tell me all your problems. I don’t wish to hear about it.”

It is no wonder so many individuals are suffering from mental health issues in one way or another, because people just don’t care much about each other anymore and the social support system is simply weak.

Truly as what Mother Teresa said, “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”- Mother Teresa

Paradox of life. While society has become so rich and developed in most part of the world. Yet, we are so poor, socially, because there are so many who are unwanted, unloved, uncared for and forgotten by people.

I really can’t tell you how much it pains my heart on the day I had to stop that child when she was attempting suicide, whenever I hear of how parents abandoned their children, of fellow peers bullying each other in school and the list goes on.

I sincerely believe that if we can just make that small amount of effort just to care for each other a little more in our own little ways each day, such as dropping a text just to check in, utter a kind word to a discouraged soul, be a little more gentle in our speech or lend a listening ear to somebody in distress, perhaps we will not have that many people suffering from mental health issues then.

It is my hope that your eyes will shed tears when seeing people in pain and that your heart will break for the amount of suffering in the world, so much so that you will want to do something to make a difference in this world, to make this world a better place.

Today, as you read this, I hope you take the time and courage to tell a loved one, that he or she matters. You will never know how much a difference that would make to that person.

Follow @Mentidote, a mental health advocacy social media channel on Instagram, Facebook as well as webpage which aims to advocate for the voiceless mental health sufferers and to raise awareness on mental health issues, in hope to make this world a better place.

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