The other day, two things happened in rapid succession that got me to thinking about how we interact with each other in our everyday world. Going downstairs in an elevator in my apartment building one morning, two people got on at different floors as the elevator went down to the lobby and both of them, as soon as they were in the elevator, locked their attention onto their phones. No “good morning” or “how are you”…just immediately heads down writing texts. Then, when I was out on the street, I noticed that most people were so engrossed in their phones that some people were nearly bumping into others. That same morning, while walking across the park, I also noticed the people who were looking at their phones rather than the trees, dogs, or other people.
All this got me to thinking about how we have been programmed in recent years not to take time to notice or interact with one another in ways that were a matter of course in the years I was growing into adulthood. Watching people almost bump into each other while walking along, and being present to absolute silence in the elevator (which doesn’t happen all the time, for sure), touched into a sense of a different level of disconnection from one another than I am used to observing and/or experiencing. This sense of disconnection seems to me to also show up in Facebook posts, and I’m sure also in other places, where people’s comments about public figures or one another are stunningly disrespectful.
As I have continued to notice people locking in on their phones in situations where, in prior years, there might have been a bit of polite conversation, I got to wondering what would happen if I decided to make a concerted effort not only to be cordial to people along the way, but also to emphasize—in my thoughts as well as my actions—an active attitude of respect. One of the results of this practice is that I just about always say hello to people on the elevator, unless they are already engrossed in their phones. These are brief encounters, but I feel better when I’ve acknowledged someone who’s sharing the elevator ride with me. It’s not that I press for conversation. Instead, it’s just an acknowledgment that there are more than just myself sharing the same space.Read More “775th Week: Exploring Respect”
One of the things that most of us find challenging is to manage uncertainty. It’s a natural response to be uncomfortable with not knowing what’s going to happen next or where we are headed, individually and collectively. For some people, finding conspiracy theories offers an experience of “knowing what’s going on” that calms the discomfort most of us feel around uncertainly. For others, anxiety becomes a constant companion and they have difficulty truly soothing themselves. For yet others, becoming numb and shutting down is their natural response to constant and mounting uncertainty.
Also, I want to affirm that having a response to uncertainty is certainly normal and not necessarily something that needs the kind of process I’ll describe below, so please be gentle with yourself when circumstances elicit discomfort and anxiety about the future.
As I’ve been thinking about how we can expand our capacity to be uncomfortable and find some degree of equanimity, I found myself thinking about a concept I have taught for many years—a process of uncoupling trauma-based associations, called over-couplings in the Somatic Experiencing® world. Let me define these terms as I did when teaching SE.
Trauma over-couplings are associations that become “glued together” during times of overwhelm or distress. These are individual elements of experience or learnings that actually don’t belong together. One common trauma-based, attachment-oriented over-coupling is: If I do what I want, they (whoever “they” might be) won’t love me. Those two things don’t really belong together and especially so in adult life. Another common trauma-based over-coupling is: Unless I know what’s going on, I won’t be safe. The problem with trauma-based over-couplings is that they predict something that may not, or probably won’t, happen. They often arise from childhood experiences where we were not only ill equipped to have options available to us but when we also weren’t mature enough to understand what was happening.
I’d like to offer one way to deal with these trauma-based over-couplings. I called it “therapeutic dissociation” in my book, Getting Through the Day, but it’s actually a form of uncoupling adult awareness and options from those arising from earlier overwhelming experience.Read More “812th Week: Managing Uncertainty”