Mind Matters: Opposite Sides of Our Connection

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One day I’m at the mall
shopping; the next day, I drive to Washington for a therapy conference to hear
a Buddhist psychologist call us to kindness and to deepen our awareness.
Actually, these were not such opposite experiences. I was surprised that all
the people I met on my Saturday’s errands showed kindness—an “I’m sorry” if
they didn’t hold a door quite long enough, a “can I help you?” to carry a
cumbersome, large item. Patience, too, when I asked where I might find some
particular merchandise.

I felt as comforted in these
everyday encounters as I did listening to Tara Brach’s lived wisdom. I do
believe that we human beings do want to be caring as well as cared for. I also
believe that when we meet others—even strangers—with an openness and without
rancor that we may receive a mirrored—an in-kind kind of—response. No
guarantees, of course, because the others that we meet have their personal
histories that influence the moment.

And that fact brings me to the
other side of the coin of connection—when we experience the other as not so
kind. I facilitate a grief support group for survivors of accident and murder
(its acronym in SAM). Recently, group members talked about on-line responses to
news stories about their loved ones who were killed. A mother and father
related, that after their son was struck by a motorist, they were chastised for
not being “better” parents: “Why did you let your son ride his bike there?” was
the retort. A widow reported that people reprimanded her husband posthumously
for having been on a motorcycle. (The accident was in no way his fault.)

I also see clients who recall
similar stories. One woman notes how her friend subtly blames her for being
sick by lecturing her with various “you shoulds.”

So why on the one hand can we be
kind to each other, yet on the other hand be so judgmental and critical?
Perhaps, we blame the other to protect ourselves. We try desperately to defend
against the possibility that the same tragedy can happen to us. In other words,
we try to deny our own human vulnerability with the unwritten mantra being
“this happened to you because you did (or did not do) such and such.”

This defensive belief plays out
in the societal collective as well. Perhaps we don’t see the need for universal
health care, for example, because we have ours and, if someone is uninsured or
loses insurance, it must be that “they” did something wrong. We become inured
rather than kind, and don’t recognize the connectedness of the common good.

For every Horatio Alger, there
is a vast unseen, unacknowledged, and forgotten support system. No one is a
rugged individualist without the help of many hands. Vulnerable to the human
condition, we are dependent on, and connected to, each other more than we can
ever know.

• Kayta Curzie Gajdos holds a
doctorate in counseling psychology and is in private practice in Chadds Ford,
Pennsylvania. She welcomes comments at MindMatters@DrGajdos.com
or (610)388-2888. Past columns are posted to www.drgajdos.com.

About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.

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