Monday, October 17, 2011
The Golden Rule
You know The Golden Rule: treat others as you would want to be treated. We want to be treated with kindness, so we treat others kindly. We want to be respected, so we respect other people. We want to be accepted for who we are, flaws and all, so we accept others, flaws and all. We want our mistakes to be forgiven and to be allowed to grow, so we accept that others make mistakes and we let them grow. We want someone to hear us, so we listen.
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine that this was the only rule you had to follow. That’s it. You wake up and think, “I’m going to treat others like I want to be treated.” Do you think you could do it? Not perfectly, but most of the time? If not, what do you think gets in our way?
A big component of this is our mental health. But, what is mental health? That’s a big question, and I think you could get different answers describing what it means to be mentally healthy. You could look to the DSM and discern, in very broad terms, that mental health is when anxiety, depression, substance use, etc. don’t interfere with your level of functioning. Someone else could describe it as simply being happy. Another person might say it's when your thoughts and actions don’t cause internal or external pain. Yet another person might say, “How can you tell someone else what it feels like to be healthy for them?” How would you describe mental health? I see truth in all of the above statements, but at its core, I think mental health is how we connect with ourselves and other people. When there are obstacles to treating ourselves with kindness, respect, acceptance, forgiveness and understanding, it is confusing and painful. And if we don’t connect with ourselves in these ways, how do we then connect with others?
I don’t know about you, but I’m curious to know about these obstacles. What are my obstacles, how do they interfere, can I move beyond them? These are good questions to ask ourselves. Here is something you can do that I find very helpful. When you are interacting with others, take a few moments to see how you are experiencing yourself and the other person. What are some of the words you would use to describe how you feel about yourself? Are they words like beautiful, open, peaceful? Or more painful words like rejected, ignored, wrong or annoying? What about how you feel about the other person? If you feel ignored, do you then feel angry at them? Maybe how you connect then is by lashing out, withdrawing or belittling the other person. Understanding how we feel about who we are can help us understand how we connect with other people, and why, perhaps, The Golden Rule can be so difficult to apply to our own lives.
I challenge us all to become more aware of our obstacles, and if you continue to legitimize them and find you can’t change them, then reach out for help. Be curious. You deserve kindness, respect, acceptance, forgiveness, and to be listened to with the highest regard. We all do.
Jamie Pekarek Krohn, LCPC is a board member with ETD and received her Master's from DePaul University in Counseling and Human Services. She worked as a therapist at Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital and is currently in private practice. Click here to read more of Jamie's posts.