10 Things I Learned as A Therapist the Year Everything Changed
Harper Lee once once said,
“You Never Really Understand A Person Until You Can See Things from His Point of View”.
There is so much truth in this.
1) Looking back on 2020 and now full steam into 2021, both as a therapist and an individual, I am leaning heavily on the importance of Lee’s quote. Being empathic toward how one family or individual may manage “all things Covid”, versus another, may seem obvious, but this year more than ever, the reality of intentional empathy needed to be front and center.
2) Many have their reasons for why they do what they do, and usually after an hour with them in a therapeutic setting, any doubt specific to decisions made through the pandemic often led to compassion and understanding.
3) Catching our breath in our self created (as well as culturally encouraged) world of hustle, slowing down quickly became forced upon us. Family bonding and strengthened relationships developed. Many even rediscovered themselves again. It became a welcome change.
4) Others found the “togetherness” too much. The pandemic created financial, emotional and physical hardships, while taking an incredible toll on the well-being of themselves and family members.
More often than not, it was a little of both.
5) I quickly learned, that just like any heated topic, compounded with the inevitable stress that was endured, people were quick to divide, creating opposing camps, based on the viewpoints of whatever “side” they landed on.
The “Mask” or “No-Mask” camp, “to quarantine or not camp”, and most recently, the “vaccinate or not” one. The opportunity for debate and civil discourse quickly transitioned into judgement and division. Burdened with this reality, I was compelled to understand more. It was through the listening of many stories, I noticed a common thread starting to expose itself.
6) During times of uncertainty, (and yes, even those moments when we are not in a pandemic), fear often takes the front seat. Yet, as I spent time with people, I was let in on the many reasons (often good ones), for the choosing of whatever particular camp people would stand behind.
Were some of these decisions poorly thought out, followed because of what others did, or simply made and far from being a good choice?
However, for the most part, as I was allowed into a person’s story, the choices they made, very much made sense, for them.
7) It has become evident through the last few months, that without walking in the actual shoes of another, someone else’s choice may seem ignorant, or even selfish.
In the context of just one day I heard great arguments specific to the fears someone had around losing freedom, while an hour later, just as compelling, someone else justified a concern regarding the impact of the first persons’s rebellion.
But for each of those individuals and the lives they have lived thus far, neither was far fetched or judgement worthy.
8) We all know someone who feared, or worse, experienced vulnerable friends or family members dying at the hands of the virus. Simultaneously they may have been caught up in their own despair, convinced a part of them may be dying too, especially as isolation and lack of connection took hold. It likely felt this contradictory experience to be wrong.
However, I am learning, we actually can live in both places, while still being respectful and kind to one other.
Example after example of “both sides” came my way. In my very own family, there was deep grief as important milestone celebrations were cancelled, right alongside appropriate frustration for an irresponsible celebration a few months later.
9) Hearing story after story, I have grown to see how important it is to view other’s decisions, not as an act of defiance or ignorance, but more so as a response to something deeper.
Whether it be fear, protective love, or even an unconscious choice, responding with humility, knowing we do not always know, is the best approach. I may go so far as to say, this tactic may fuel some much needed individual, as well as corporate healing.
10) I have both witnessed and been educated on the fact that our brains do not always interpret information accurately. The research shows we have built in coping mechanisms that implicitly validate our own certainties, whether these “certainties” are correct or not.
Not to be mistaken for intuition (which usually is correct), certainty around another’s motives may not be.
Knowing that our brain is always trying to protect us, both physically and emotionally, validates the intricate complexity of our design. However, if it is true that sometimes our responses are coming from a faulty radar, could we admit we may miss the mark sometimes?
I wonder if this truth could be an invitation to practice cautiousness v. certainty as we interact with others.
I am willing to give it a shot (no pun intended).
Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts on this topic. In keeping with respectful and kind discourse, I would love to hear yours!