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On Being Human

Where’s the manual, right? How do I drive this car called me?Sometimes we think we’re the only ones without a clue, swerving around sudden steep curves in a tulle fog. But you’re not alone. Life is complicated.

How to drive the “me car”?

Let’s start with the word human. We are known as Human Beings for good reason. You are not a Human Done - all finished, like a car. You are a Work in Progress, developing over time. Being Human is about not yet knowing and needing to learn. You learn as you live, through interaction.

You interact with your own thoughts, beliefs and feelings, shaping how you behave. You also interact with your environment: the air you breathe, the sounds and sights around you, the information you absorb, the behaviors of others with whom you work, play and live. You live in a particular time and place with particular economic, social and environmental pressures. You are shaped, either consciously or unconsciously.

By far the most important shaping is your belief system, and that often develops so early that you are completely unaware of it. What you believe about your potential and worth is at the very root of you. Are you “good enough?” Do you deserve love, respect, challenge, security, health, joy?

What shows up first, long before you “get” your beliefs and how they might be impacting you - are your reactions. Humans have many feelings and some of them come very very fast, before we know what’s happening. Anger, fear, worry, jealousy,
disappointment, sorrow, embarrassment, guilt, shame. Even love. Your feelings can be bewildering, unexpected, unwanted, and hard to name. But they definitely arrive and you definitely feel them.

Being Human means listening to your feelings. They carry information necessary for your survival, development and success. If you want to be happy you have to accept and understand them.

They are the biggest clue in the Me Manual.

You will be tempted to shut your feelings down, ignore them, act against them, and relieve them through substances and excessive activities. Feelings can be uncomfortable.

But, guess what: they tell you what you need. When you feel cold it’s a no-brainer to grab a sweater, right? You make an immediate connection between feeling, need and action. And nobody asks you why, gets offended, talks back.

When you have these other, more difficult, feelings there are often relational ramifications. It’s complicated. We need to learn communication skills. We need to develop some emotional courage to apply the skills.

Yes, courage. If you identify the kernel of truth in difficult feelings - what bothers you and why - you might have to say or do something. Maybe you won’t be listened to or liked. Maybe you’ll have to leave. Maybe you’ll end up all alone.

We have keen imaginations - and we’re best at imagining the worst. This is why people seek out professional help. We really can be our own worst enemy, scaring ourselves and shutting down. We need skills, strategies, support.

In your life you will be faced with situations that are complicated, confusing. You deserve professional support as you learn to get to your needs, find your way. You can then take measured, practical steps to get more of what you want. You can slowly experiment.

The therapeutic alliance between you and the therapist will lead, over time, to you understanding and better trusting yourself. You will begin to use your thoughts and feelings to get at those early underlying beliefs that are holding you back. You will have a sense of movement, and you may make some of the changes that so scared you before you got support. You will be stronger.

One of the most useful diagnoses in the Diagnostic Manual is Adjustment Reaction. We are bombarded these days by rapid change - all of us. Not only are the tools we need constantly changing. Relationships have become more fraught. Job change is rampant, often due to inexplicable systemic chaos. It has become harder to figure out what to do, even if you accept the truth of your feelings and know what you want.

Know that you don’t have to do it alone. Forgive yourself for being uncertain, confused, for needing help. For Being Human.

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