Jennifer is a group therapist committed to helping people grow emotionally and develop the lives they want. She is the founder and director of the ...Read More
I am The Other. And so are you.
We are living in scary and confusing times, heightened by our collective grieving over the horrific school mass murder this month, the stressful buzz of the holiday season, chronic economic uncertainty, and the end of the world. Well we all know that’s a myth, right? Right! We will see.
We naturally seek safety and certainty in times like these. In our rush to understand why things happen, we resort to black and white thinking and quick, “we have to do something” resolutions. This produces divisive and polarizing debates, taking sides and fighting it out in some form or another with The Other, meaning those on the so-called opposite side of the issues with which we grapple:
- Gun control laws vs. gun rights
- Guns in schools protect us vs. guns in schools make us less safe
- Greater access to mental health services we currently offer vs. changing and transforming mental health treatment
- Privacy rights vs. public safety
- Media as sensationalizing for profit share vs. media as vehicle for information
- Federal government vs. States rights
As history has shown us, us vs. them gets us nowhere. Just consider our Congress and current political system for half a second to be reminded of what I am talking about here.
Given that we do have different views, what do we do? How do we heal, change, move forward, have a shot at something other than extinction (this month or in the future). I have a radical idea: What if we spoke to one another as a “we”, an “us” instead of the more common me-you / us-them. What if we discuss and take action on issues we face today from the vantage point that we are all The Other: I am someone’s Other and so are you so we are all Others. Given that, we can be on the same side: the side called we are all humans in the life together. We will go down together or live together. With this perspective, the issues take passenger seat, or even back seat dare I say, to what’s driving the car so to speak – which is the us, the we.
This is hard because we do not want to face that we are in fact all in this life together and that there really cannot be you / them. We take some sort of comfort in demonizing and dehumanizing others with whom we do not agree. As long as we keep separating ourselves by focusing on individuals, like ‘what was wrong with the recent mass murder?’ or ‘what was wrong with his mother?’, we do not see the larger picture of a sick and decaying society. As the saying goes, united we stand and divided we fall. Separating ourselves from our fellow humans will ensure our fall.
So try on saying “we” and “us,” and not “you” and “them” for a while, and see if it can take us to a new place together. Hopefully, a place filled with love, peace, compassion and justice. This can only happen when we see that, in fact, we are all in this together.