Saturday, November 26, 2011

Imperfect, Fallible and Human

Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair but manifestations of strength and resolution. -- K. Gibran

April Epner: I know what I did to you, to you in particular. Kinda worst nightmare kind of thing, right? I knew that. Even at the time I knew that. 
Frank: What else? 
April Epner: I'll do it again, I will, I'll hurt you again and again. Not like that, you'd have to leave me if I hurt you like that. If we were together you would leave me if I hurt you like that again, wouldn't you? 
Frank: Yes. Yes, I would. 
April Epner: Good. But I'll hurt you in other ways, little ways, I won't mean to but I will. And sometimes I will mean to. 
Frank: This is quite an offer you've worked out. 
April Epner: You'll hurt me too, you know. You'll hurt me and change on me, you might even leave me after you promise you won't, how about that? 
Frank: I wouldn't. 
April Epner: But you might. 
Frank: But I wouldn't. 
April Epner: But... you might. 
Frank: Yeah, I guess I might. 

We are in the midst of the holiday season. It is a time for gatherings with family and friends -- holiday dinners and parties, shopping -- all of which typically requires lots social interaction. I chose the quote (above) from the movie “Then She Found Me” because in the (somewhat awkward) scene between Helen Hunt and Colin Firth,  April's words depict what happens naturally in the course of all close personal relationships; be it friendships, family or romantic.  Sometimes letting go is the right decision when we find a person who is not positive and supportive majority of the time.  But, sometimes, an understanding of  natural human tendency to be fallible softens the blow when others behavior, actions (or mistakes) isn’t the most comfortable feeling in the moment and can cause our autonomic nervous system (ANS) light up the fight or flight feeling. It is those moments where not being primitive animals that automatically respond to our biological impulses is important and let reasoning set in.

According to Dr. Daniel Amen “the people you spend time with determine your longevity”.  I attribute my father’s stroke to the social stress he dealt with for decades, coupled with genetics.  He did not have a spouse who was supportive and loving for majority of his life, nor close friends or family to help ease the problems him and my mother faced.  I am happy that seems to have now changed.  Science has proven social isolation is as dangerous as smoking.

Positive social interaction requires understanding and an ability to be benevolent to one another, and show it through our actions and words. It is thought that our “feeling side” of our brain is the primitive part of our brain and the rational part is the apart of the newly (relative to millions of years) part of our brain.    I find using science to help me understand what maybe lying behind my loved ones behavior helps me step away from taking it personal and empowers me to try react better.  Oddly (or maybe not) science  is helping me learn how to maintain relationships through the sticky stuff; to stick it out as I -- and my loved ones -- each evolve, grow and change, as long as the relationships have a predominately positive foundation. Having a scientific understanding (via psychology tests and functional MRI’s) of my son’s brain helps me and his teachers cater his education to what we know his strengths and weaknesses are. We know that he is near genius in vocabulary, but that his processing speed is on the low end of average. This could cause him to come off as being lazy, when it is really his brain catching up and it needs a little more time.  He has an amazing way of communicating, but when he is learning something new we know he needs more time than his average peers to work on mastering it. I find this understanding helps me to be patient when it might be more of a challenge to choose to do so.

 As we are moving through the holidays festivities it seems fitting to end this with a popular verse from the bible:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. --1 Corinthians 13 (NIV)