Reeve, D. (2015) ‘Disgust, self-disgust and disability: A disability studies perspective’, in P. Powell, P. Overton and J. Simpson (eds) The Revolting Self: Perspectives on the Psychological and Clinical Implications of Self-directed Disgust, London: Karnac Books, pp. 53-74.
There has been little written within disability studies about the role of self-disgust in the lives of disabled people. Drawing on both psychological and sociological approaches, this chapter will look at the assumptions and realities of self-disgust in the lives of those whose ‘impaired’ bodies and minds cause them to be labelled as disabled, and therefore in the eyes of some, to be viewed as deviant and disgusting.
Within contemporary Western society, disability is viewed as a negative identifier of difference; cultural messages and images reinforce the inherent undesirability of impairment and there few positive representations of disabled people. Therefore it is to be expected that many disabled people end up internalising these cultural myths and prejudices about disability, believing that they are somehow of lesser value than non-disabled people. This phenomenon of internalised oppression will be discussed with reference to some of the psychoanalytic ideas developed as part of a contextual psychology of disablism (Watermeyer, 2013) to discuss the relevance of self-disgust when considering the different ways that disabled people manage and challenge internalised oppression.
In addition this chapter will consider the experiences of disabled people who live with incontinence, an impairment which directly challenges the modernist project that demands bodies which are contained, clean and free from contamination. It will be shown that rather than simply feeling self-disgust towards bodies which truly are unruly and leaky, over time these disabled people develop alternative ways of being which provide more positive and healthy relationships between body and psyche than might otherwise be expected.