Jodie Cook

August 20, 2021

Institutionalised

When I worked in the head office of a care home provider, this word was mentioned regularly: institutionalised.
 
The managers wanted to steer clear of their residents becoming institutionalised. Turning reliant and passive. Less able to function as an individual. Losing independence in favour of institutional control and following instructions.
 
But it’s not just care homes. Throughout our whole lives institutions have existed and we have been part of them. Schools are institutions. We moved between fixed-duration lessons to the sound of bells and worked to nationalised mark schemes. They teach us to literally stay in line.
 
Does it end there? Absolutely not. Workplaces have certain ways of doing things. As do friendship groups, networks, families. Someone can become institutionalised even when the institution is unofficial. 
 
When are you thinking for yourself and when are you following orders? When have you passed up your natural independence and creativity in favour of toeing a line that you believe exists? What patterns do you follow without question and who invented the rituals you hold? 
 
Recognising when institutionalisation is taking place is the first step to resisting it. Not everyone knows how.