One of the most beautiful and powerful moments in life is when we remember that we are all in it together. When we find our common humanity. When we come together as one. Often people forget this and end up in the mindset that when one wins, the other will lose. If there are the “haves”, there will be the “have nots”. That to give to one is to take from another. This polarization mindset leads to feelings of insecurity, isolation, loneliness, and mistrust. When this is the reality, people act in ways that are detrimental to the goal of a peaceful and loving society because they are in “survival of the fittest” mode. They will act in ways that will damage others in order to benefit themselves. After all, only the strong survive right? Well, that maxim may be true on a macroevolutionary scale, but humans were also made to be social creatures and we tend to be at our strongest when we are functioning well as a group, as communities, couples, and families. When we put aside our petty differences and see each other as part of the same community, that’s when we are at our best. That’s when we thrive.
This dichotomy between a “Me first” mindset and a “Common humanity” one comes to light particularly in times of crisis. In the last few weeks our country has been pummeled by Mother Nature and we have seen examples of people both reverting back to selfishness and cruelty, and others who have come together with generosity, openness, love and kindness. In times of uncertainty and fear, the anxiety response is to immediately think of self; however, when one takes the time to acknowledge the fear and uncertainty and remember that we are stronger together, they can then make the choice to respond with fear or with love. Do we make the choice to act selfishly to the detriment of others, or to act in love and in community with others? The fear response is the one that closes you off, that polarizes you from others and sees them as competitors, while the love response is the one that opens you up to the possibility of working together towards the same goals. Remembering that we are stronger, together.
This lesson is not only useful in a time of societal crisis, but also when in times of interpersonal crisis or conflict. Particularly in your romantic relationships, reframing your focus to see you and your partner as a unit, rather than individuals with competing goals, can be the key to diffusing the cycle of conflict. The next time you are in conflict with your partner, ask yourself: what is my goal here? Is it to solve this problem with my partner or to defeat them and burn this relationship to the ground? Are we approaching this like we are on the same side? Do we see ourselves as teammates or competitors?
Which do you want it to be?
Sometimes asking ourselves that question is the key to realizing that if the goal is “stronger together” then maybe the approach we have been using has been sending the wrong message. Reframing our mindset to see ourselves and our partner as on the same side and saying, “when you or I are struggling, it affects the both of us, so let’s work together to make it better”; rather than each feeling isolated in your own agenda and seeing your partner as an obstacle. Often this simple reframing of the issue as not a “you” problem or a “me” problem, but a “we” problem can completely change the way we approach it and our partner. In the same way that shift from “me” to “we” makes for a better, more positive society, it also will affect your home and relationship for the better.
Kristal DeSantis, M.A., LMFT-Associate, is the founder of Austin STRONG: Relationship Building Center in Austin, TX
Visit www.austinstrongrbc.com or call 512-887-8036 to book a couples' or individual counseling session. Follow us on Facebook www.facebook.com/austinstrongrbc or Instagram @austinstrongrbc for more relationship-focused tips, articles, and inspiration.
*** Acknowledgment: On this day many years ago, we saw a powerful example of a community pull together to rise above hatred and come together as one. Respect and gratitude to the many members of the First Responder community who sacrificed their own lives, and all those others who put aside their differences and proved that Love is ingrained in the hearts of humans and it will always triumph if we let it.***