Sunday, June 03, 2012

To Heal or To Hurt; To Be Healed or To Be Hurt

Life is consequential. Everything matters, even if just a little bit. Every single human interaction serves as a mutually constructed change of trajectory for everyone directly involved in the interaction, not to mention those indirectly involved.

Presence Matters. Each individual’s presence matters – always - in every situation in which they are present. People are simply incapable of not behaving and therefore incapable of not communicating and therefore incapable of being inconsequential. Presence is influence of some kind. When we are in the presence of other people we are constantly in the process of making their experience of the moment different than it would have been otherwise.

Absence Matters. Absence matters just as much as presence and sometimes even more. There are contexts and situations in which a person is expected or needed or wanted to fill a role. When that person is absent, their non-presence is felt. Absence is still a behavior, still a communication, and still an influence.

It should be noted that there are two kinds of presence/absence. Physical presence is the kind of presence we think of most often. It is obvious when someone is physically present. However, there is another kind of presence that is a little less obvious – psychological presence. Psychological presence is when someone is felt, whether their body is there or not. A parent facebooking while their child is telling them an important event of the their day is being physically present, but psychologically absent. Being apart form someone on a special holiday could be a situation ion which a person is physically absent, but psychologically present. When physical presence and psychological presence are incongruent, there may be stress or relational ambiguity.

Intentionally Present. Intentionality of presence or absence is important because it is consequential. Deciding to be present or absent in any moment is the first step of influence and being influenced, of healing or being healed, or hurting or being hurt. Simply being aware that presence or absence matters is part of what it means to be intentional about making a difference in this world…about deciding how this world will make a difference on yourself.

Making Presence Matter. When the decision to be present occurs or when you find yourself present in a situation that was unplanned, being intentional with the way that presence is spent matters. Will this be an experience in which your presence helps the other present people? Will you be a healing presence for others? Or will you be a hurting presence? It is impossible for your presence to be neutral. Even in the slightest way, people will be better off or worse off because of you.

Making Meaning of every Moment. Everyone else’s presence and absence has an impact on you as well. No one is neutral. Whether the presence of absence of others hurts or heals has two important factors. The first is the initial impact of their presence or absence. Does it heal or does it hurt immediately? What is the reflexive internal or external response before you even get a chance to think on it? The second factor is how the experience is framed – essentially, what meaning will you decide to make of it? Events are events and have an initial impact, but the post-event meaning making shifts the influence from the sender to the receiver.

Viktor Frankl used this power of interpretation and it saved his life. He developed logotherapy as a way of healing and living.

Our lives matter. We cannot not have meaning for ourselves and for everyone else who connects with us in any way. We are consequential people in that we impact and influence others. We are particular people in that the influence we have is unlike the influence anyone else has or could ever have were they to put their entire effort into it. We will heal or hurt. We will be healed or be hurt. And best of all, we have some say so in all of this.

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