Post InCarceration Syndrome (PICS) is a thinking disease. What is a thinking disease? If you’re like me, questions of self-doubt and self-worth immediately come to mind. However, if you would, please put those aside.

The reality is, those of us who’ve served any amount of time in prison had to adapt, adjust, form and create ways of thinking that served our best interest while incarcerated. Let’s call them coping skills or daily norms in perception, attitude, behavior or whatever you will. But, the bottom line is as a human being we are programmed to overcome and survive whatever our environment throws at us. So, if you’re reading or listening to this and you’ve gotten to the other side of prison or any traumatizing experience for that matter, you’re a survivor. Let’s acknowledge that you and I both only did so by creating coping skills to meet life on life’s terms in the midst of the traumatizing and dehumanizing experiences we were faced with. I know it doesn’t feel much like it because it’s so natural to do, but that my friend is heroic! In fact, let’s take a moment to congratulate ourselves for saving and protecting ourselves in the hell we’ve been through.

I hear you asking, where does the thinking disease come in? How do I congratulate myself for developing a disease. Well, if you asked yourself those or similar questions that’s exactly where you find your answer. The issue and what I’m referring to as the thinking disease , at the core of our PICS, or institutionalization centers around how we see ourselves, and value our selves and the survival mechanisms or coping skills we developed. Prison and other such institutions function by forcing you to devalue yourself and your humanity. By making you see yourself as less than, and worse than others. Therefore, here in the free world we tend to think we still need those same coping skills, perceptions, attitudes and behaviors to be safe and productive.

That’s not to say we don’t need any or even some of them, because we do. For example, if you’ve read our tips and tools, you’ll notice we talk about using some of the coping skills I developed during my 17 years of sensory deprived isolation in solitary confinement to cope with my PICS, and to care for myself mentally and spiritually here in the free world. However, we have to allow our spirit, our mind, and our innate survival instinct to do what they do. Which is sift through our milieu with the correct perspective of ourselves (as the heroes we truly are.) not the tainted prison/institutional lens we’ve learned to use. In order for us to clearly see which coping skills to utilize in our current environment.

Changing how we think about and see ourselves will allow us to create thinking and coping skills that reflect our new realities, our new freedoms, and our new successes. Just remember, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water because “perception determines attitude and attitude creates our altitude.