“If only there were evil people somewhere, insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
– Alexander Solzhenitsyn
In 1997 I first heard of the newly emerging field entitled Infant Mental Health. At that time, advances, including the use of brain scan technologies, created new ways to confirm or deny what had previously only been theories regarding how people develop during the earliest part of their life. What I learned gripped me and has never let me go. Some of it I sort of knew intuitively, but not all of it. I, like many in our society, feel more comfortable with a belief system that can be backed up with evidence. All of a sudden, the importance of an infant’s critical needs could be documented.
Okay, to be honest, it totally freaked me out.
By 1997, I had already seen plenty of middle-aged people who showed up in my psychotherapy office with struggles trace-able to experiences that took place in their earliest years. Yet when Infant Mental Health took off, the sudden burst of additional information gave me chills about the implications of continuing to ignore these early needs in our society, and in our world at large. A small sampling of what got my attention was that infant experiences make us or break us in terms of having the capacity to love and be loved, feel empathy, resist violence, and much more.
This awareness is part of what led to the eventual launch of Living Ubuntu, sort of like the phrase, “with knowledge comes responsibility”.
A recent conversation hit me hard. After hearing a lot of black and white thinking, from someone I wouldn’t expect it from, I was reminded that thirteen years after my first encounter, the lessons of Infant Mental Health are still largely unknown by the general public.
In my opinion, the danger of this is we miss the opportunity to improve in how we raise children, and how we help adults heal after less than ideal childhood situations. As a society we are mostly still blocking out the pain and suffering, taking the easier defensive path that leads us to conclude a lot of people in this world are just idiots, cruel, insensitive, selfish, or whatever. Oh, and by the way… whoever “they” are… it’s their fault!
What I see is that our lack of understanding of the deeper layers of life stories makes it easier to create “others” at a time we desperately need increased empathy. There is a line in the Desmond Tutu quote explaining the meaning of the word Ubuntu that says: What dehumanizes you inexorably dehumanizes me.
We can’t afford to continue the emotionally lazy acts of being quick to judge and blame. Preserving our own humanity requires going further into really understanding one another. That includes considering the motives and life experiences underlying actions, wounds yet unhealed and much more. Empathy does not have to equate to approving of another person’s actions, it just means we have made the effort to feel what it might be like in their shoes.
As we come to the end of 2010, my wish for 2011 is that we come together more in like-minded ways, and be more understanding of each other when we don’t.
::: UPCOMING EVENTS IN 2011 :::
January-March, Living Ubuntu Winter Body Group: Relating to Global Issues (website)
2:30-5:00p. Orange County, CA
Meeting every other Sunday afternoon to ground, stretch, breathe and learn how to maintain our own wellbeing in the face of global issues that upset us. For more information, visit http://livingubuntu.org/events.
Tuesday January 18, Skype meeting with Tim Aye Hardy about Burma
6:30p. Irvine, CA
Given that Burma just held elections and Nobel Laureate Aung Sung Suu Kyi has been released from prison, Tim Aye Hardy who currently lives in New York will be giving us an update on what’s going on in Burma. If you’d like to participate, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (949) 891-2005.
Sunday January 30, Veggie Grill Fundraiser for OC for Darfur
11a-10p. Irvine, CA
Come join us in eating yummy food at The Veggie Grill (near UCI) any time from open to close, and be sure to mention that you are there for the fundraiser. When you order, if you mention “OC for Darfur”, or “Living Ubuntu”, or even just “fundraiser” — 50% of your food & beverage purchases will be donated to us. Yay!
Saturday February 26, No time to think, no time to breathe… Is this me?
9:30a-1:00p. Orange County, CA.
Why is it so hard to keep up? Where is the time for me? Why do I feel so lost in my own life? Join us for a workshop about our overwhelmed lives and how to find our way back to a healthy balance. Presented by Tarra Stariell. More information coming shortly.
Saturday May 21, Finding Peace: When security comes at too high a price
9:30a-1:00p. Orange County, CA.
Why are we obsessed with “security” in our culture? What is the price we pay for this? How can we get beyond the familiar status quo to genuinely find peace? Join us as we try to get to the bottom of this struggle. Presented by Barbara English. More information coming shortly.
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