October marked the first installment of a monthly blog feature from MSP President, Dr. Diane Blau, discussing what’s on her mind and in her heart regarding MSP and the field of professional psychology.
It has occurred to me that in order to be noticed, one must have something extraordinary to report. The common greeting “How are you?” barely gets a nod. We simply acknowledge another’s presence and quickly move on.
Our current culture has trained us to attend to what is most gripping and exciting, and our ears really perk up when we hear anything that hints of drama. In the course of everyday communication, we like to be entertained. We appreciate stories theatrically related, but especially those that espouse accounts of trouble and conflict of people we know. We are eager to share any news related to the narrative of the moment. And technology has provided us multiple means of instantaneously communicating the latest tidbit; so much so that information flies through cyberspace at breakneck speed.
Turn on any TV news station and hear “Breaking News” or catch a glimpse of a headline online or in print shrieking its typically negative content. Certainly something unexpected has occurred. We are immediately caught up in the spectacle.
What impact does this need for drama have on our society? Have we become prone to exaggerate and distort experience to make it more intriguing to the reader or listener? Consider recent moments when you have been eager to share an event with someone in your world; think of the content and how you chose to relate it. I am aware that when I have something to convey, I select words with care in my desire to hold the listener’s attention, lest it drift off and turn elsewhere, heeding another more appealing call. It isn’t a competition for decibels, but for being the most compelling.
I think this behavior may be widespread, generated by a culture that over-communicates. There is barely an opportunity for reflection, for sorting through one’s experience and realizing its meaning. Speaking, texting, tweeting, emailing, putting it on Facebook quickly follow the first inkling of new data, even if sometimes, it is not accurate.
So we lean toward the negative and can easily misrepresent our experience. I think it is essential, as psychotherapists, that we remain highly attuned to this phenomenon and not enable it in our clients. Perhaps it is not new and is a very human trait. Yet I have noticed it is much more prevalent today and I suspect much more present as your clients recount their experience. It is where reflection is a missed step and opportunities to distill our experience toward what remains meaningful are overlooked. With the chaotic competition for our eyes and ears, it is challenging to pause and sort out what our perceptions are, yet, if not done, we lose a significant element of understanding and responding to our unique experiencing of the world.