Transforming a Spoiled Identity: An Exploration of Internalized AIDS-Related Stigma

Gardner, Rachel (2011) Transforming a Spoiled Identity: An Exploration of Internalized AIDS-Related Stigma. Doctoral thesis, Meridian University.


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People living with HIV/AIDS are subject to a distinct and virulent form of stigmatization. AIDS- related stigma conveys the animosity, ostracism, discrediting, and blame directed at those who are, or are believed to be, HIV-positive. When people living with HIV/AIDS internalize AIDS-related stigma it is evidence that they have incorporated society‟s negative views of the disease, and of themselves, into their own identity. This Clinical Case Study describes the psychotherapy of a gay man living with AIDS who endured the long-term intrapsychic and social consequences of internalized AIDS-related stigma. During his 18-month therapy journey, he worked to liberate himself, and his “spoiled identity,” from its confines. The literature suggests that AIDS-related stigma is the combined consequence of biological, cognitive/behavioral, psychodynamic, sociocultural, and archetypal forces. The qualitative experience of people targeted by AIDS-related stigma is inadequately addressed in the topic‟s literature. This study attempts to remedy this gap by presenting a subjective account of an individual‟s struggle with internalized AIDS-related stigma and his endeavor, in psychotherapy, to heal. The treatment entailed guiding the client to identify and shed a multitude of negative familial and cultural messages about homosexuality and HIV/AIDS that had vi taken root in his psyche and influenced his persona and identity. As he began to free himself from this negative internalized imagery, he gained a more positive and fluid sense of his identity beyond HIV/AIDS as well as increased optimism about his future. The study‟s major learning involved discovering the reciprocal relationship between the client‟s imaginal structures and his internalization of AIDS-related stigma. His self-critical and shaming imaginal structures clearly reflected and personified negative cultural messages about homosexuality and AIDS, while they further predisposed him to internalize stigmatizing imagery. The Scapegoat story is presented as a mythic backdrop for conveying the essence of the client‟s personal journey as well as the broader meanings and consequences of AIDS-related stigma for the wider community and culture. Applying Imaginal Psychology to psychotherapy is shown to offer creative potential for facilitating the resolution of internalized AIDS-related stigma, one of countless forms that scapegoating takes in our culture.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Psychology > Critical Theory
Depositing User: Rachel Gardener
Date Deposited: 17 Jan 2017 21:49
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2017 21:49

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