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
In a recent group therapy session, there was tension brewing around the issue of how we make decisions: together or alone? One group member announced that he made an important decision by himself. This decision will impact others, including group. It will require him to take a six-month sabbatical from group and from his family. Even though this essentially was an abrupt break up of sorts, the group was interestingly very supportive of both the decision and the way he made the decision.
He and the group were confused, perhaps even offended when I shared that the private way he made the decision was painful. In making this decision alone, he did not include the us, or relationships together. I was not trying to shame or guilt trip the client, or even try to get him to change his decision. However, I am disturbed, if not surprised, by how alienated we are from one another that we don’t even allow ourselves to feel the impact of people’s decisions on us and the impact that our own decisions have on others.
People have a right, even a responsibility, to make decisions regarding their lives and what they want, of course. But in our society, which worships the Individual, we are not so good at living more connected and collaboratively with our fellow humans (and with the natural environment that sustains us I might add). Life in our hyper-individual and disconnected from-one-another culture is saturated with me with you or me against you paradigm. And that’s dangerous. Just look at the state of the world and our inability to sustain healthy relationships to see evidence that we need another way that does not solely focus on my right to make my decision, or result in dependence of others to tell us what to do.
Where is the us, the we?
There is a third more powerful and effective way to live life together. We can view and value the relationships we are building together as legitimate, actual entities in their own right. It requires seeing our relationships as unique organisms with their own needs, to be nurtured and fed. We know that separation from one another is an allusion. So it is crucially important to remind ourselves, as we all maneuver around in our hyper-individualized conditions, to remember the “we” as we live our lives. Here’s one way to do that. We can practice “we” questions like: How are we doing? What do we need? How do we want to make this decision that will affect both/all of us?
Let’s all talk in ‘we’s and ‘us’s and see the efect that has on our interactions and on the quality of our decisions.