Being in university means I am “force fed” a lot of subjects as part of my study program. Aside from the necessary, logical ones (such as chemistry and human anatomy) I have what I like to call “time fillers”- subjects that aren’t really at all relevant to my line to study (such as ecology and environment protection) but someone decided were necessary for me to learn. One of the “extra subjects” that I DO find interesting however is psychology.
I’ve always found psychology and the study of human behaviorisms, thought patters and psyche fascinating. The more you learn the more you realize you simply don’t know. And although that might be frightening for some people, it encourages me to delve deeper into the subject and discover the answers to ever arising questions.
Recently our professor gave us a reading assignment – a book by a famous psychiatrist called “Discovering the patient”. It’s not a famous book, and I’m not even sure if you could find it in English, but if you could I would really recommend it to anyone, as it makes for very insightful reading. It is aimed at psychiatrists, and describes the way that their patients should be treated and diagnosed.
In the beginning the author makes a lot of analogies to “regular” doctors of medicine – professionals ranging from surgeons to dentists and their tendencies to treat the patient and their sickness separately – the sickness is an object and the patient- a separate observer in the process of treatment. Sometimes this pattern becomes so well rooted that the doctor loses touch with the person all together – and starts seeing his patients only in the form of their illnesses.
The author goes on to say that although doctors might have the luxioury of this perspective, pshychiatists don’t. The minute they separate the sickness from the patient and begin to lose touch with the human being – their job becomes nearly impossible.
I could go on a rant here about how every psychologist and psychiatrist I’ve come in contact with needs to read this book – but that’s not what this post is about. Reading the book got me thinking about my own life and interactions with people. The people that pass through your day for what seems like just a fleeting moment, the people that you interact with on a day to day basis who’s name you don’t even know. They’re not friends, family or even acquaintances in most cases – just individuals whose paths cross yours at this particular time.
But even if you don’t know these people – be they the janitor, the mail man, the cashier at your local grocery store – they are still people. They aren’t objects you interact with, or robots with no feelings, thoughts or experiences. When we’re busy, or preoccupied with our own problems it’s convenient to think of them in this light , although we rarely do it consciously. I think what we often fail to realize is that our inactions DO matter , our words and actions DO make a difference. We can conscientiously choose to brighten these people’s days, to make their lives just that much better. It doesn’t take much – a cheery ”Good morning!” a kind smile or a few words of thanks is usually enough. But it can make a world of a difference to a person that gets treated with indifference and greeted with stony silence or grunts on a day to day basis.
The truth is we’ll never really know how much a kind word or a smile might mean to someone who’s going through a difficult time in life – losing a loved one, struggling through a tight finantial situation or caring for a sick child at home. People don’t wear their experiences on their sleaves like name-tags, so we know when to treat them with extra kindness and repect. So we should strive to ALWAYS treat people this way, bearing in mind how we would like to be treated in their shoes and that we truly don’t know whats going on behind the scenes in their lives.
By stepping out of our way to show kindness and concern for another individual we also enrich our lives. The more conscious we are that the people around us are just like us – with feelings, emotions and experiences – the more we deepen our connections with others. We begin to see the world in a whole new light, we realize we are not surrounded by nameless, faceless entities – but by people. People whose lives we can en-richen in small ways every day. And as they say – what goes around comes around, and a little bit of kindness goes a long way.