Seeing people

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.

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10 comments

  1. I love this post!
    There are a lot of people I would like to read this because they don’t seem tobe aware of what you clarified here: Kindness is not just an act of courtesy,but a way to brighten other people’s day & help them in a simple yet effective way to deal with difficulties in their life.
    On top of that,it enriches our own iife as well. For me,there is nothing more wonderful than making other people feel happy and help them to stand through hard times. That’s why I want to become a nurse after school! 🙂

  2. It is always really shocking to me to see how many psychologists and other persons in close contacts with people´s feeling can be unempathetic and “cold”. Showing some kindness and good will to others never hurts and is really beneficial, it helps others feel better and you feel better too, it is a chain reaction.
    I am glad you enjoy psychology classes, good luck with them!

  3. I really love this – such an important thing to remember!
    You have such a great attitude to life in general 🙂
    I think it is really common for doctors to separate the illness or the problem from the person and to just deal with the illness, it’s certainly happened to me numerous times.
    And I also think it is really important that we all remember that everyone around us deserves to be treated as a person and given the same respect, it’s so easy to kind of disconnect from people like shop assistants and waitresses, I’m always seeing people treat them with rudeness!

  4. Love this, you’ve written this so well! And I love your attitude, it’s so important to treat everyone with the respect they deserve. I wish more people would think like you 🙂

  5. I love this. It is so important to realize people are people and that we need to treat them with respect even if we don’t know them. So many people in this world could benefit by taking that into account. Especially the ones in positions of power…

  6. It is so interesting to think about what is “the right thing to take” when you’re in college. Different schools have different ideas of what is best, and it doesn’t always line up with what we think it should. I feel the same way about philosophy as you do about psychology. It causes me to think critically about my life and change for the better. Especially in my eating disorder recovery. I love how you made the relation to patients being seen as their illness. I find this to be true in education as well; where students of all ages are only being seen in terms of their test scores. This is a shame on all levels. People are inherently special and need to be viewed through fresh personal eyes. I actually think about this a lot. My flat has a cleaner and while my flatmates don’t seem to care much about leaving the kitchen a mess “oh she’ll clean it, its her job,” I always strike up a conversation with her when she comes in and try to clean before she gets here, so she can have a couple of minutes to herself. It makes my day to see her relax and sit down. She is a person, even if I only see her tuesdays. One little smile and effort probably makes her day.

  7. I am currently taking psych classes too and I love it. You are right when you say that the more you learn, the more you realize how little you actually know. Very interesting!

    Whitney

  8. I too think psychology is really interesting. I which I’d studied at school!

    I have flitted about with my course and spent a lot of the past 3 years wishing I chose something else and if I could go back, I’d definitely change my decision! I really like that other systems of higher education allow you a degree of flexibility and movement to change majors/minors. I think learning other languages allows you to see yourself and your culture in a more critical light too, as you mention with psychology. Language is the way you see and express the world and I think learning another one, helps you to broaden your view of the world, it forces you to think from a different perspective. I guess it’s similar to how you describe the way we should put ourselves in others shoes and walk a little bit, that way we’d see that they are a person with a whole array of experiences, emotions, problems etc that we ignore most of the time. beautiful post! Thank-you. 🙂

  9. I think you touched on the meaning of life in this one girl.
    And always remember to expand that LOVE to yourself!

    PS- Every shrink should read that book. Agreed.

    Glad your learning ignited your passions! I miss college.


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