To each according to his need
Robert Anton Wilson (in case you didn’t know) was an American author, futurist, and self-described agnosticmystic. (It would be nice to get some agnostic mystics to come to CTCW.) But this quote makes an important point. “Every person you meet should be regarded as … walking wounded”. Even if you find that rare sane person, it won’t hurt anything to treat them with the same care and consideration you would extend to those who NEED it. When in recent history did we decide that it was a good idea to ration care and not apply it universally?
My best guess is that we over-extended the idea that we should include our own needs to considering our own needs to the exclusion of those of others. Some of us were taught to put others first, but when the cabin pressure drops, you put your own mask on BEFORE you help your loved ones with theirs. You’re not going to be able to help anyone else if you pass out first. (check out the Psychic EMT class in our tapes.) It’s incredibly important to take care of yourself for so many reasons, most of them are practical. But remember treating yourself kindly doesn’t preclude treating others with a response appropriate to their needs. Yes, occasionally someone needs a sharp dose of reality that may be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s always best to deliver painful statements of truth. If you do that, you’ll be ramping up the pain level until it’s unbearable, and frankly, counterproductive. So remember to take care of yourself, while being aware of what level of response will serve others best.
Someone with PTSD is going to need different interaction than those who haven’t been damaged. When passing out loads or assignments to a group, it is wise give each person a burden or job that they can handle (not saying that a little challenge isn’t sometimes good, but making it impossible doesn’t get the job done, and doesn’t help them either). Sometimes it may be that the person in the wheelchair is the perfect one to hand the delicate package; don’t be blinded by preconceived stereotypes. But so many people have invisible burdens, treating everyone with kindness and courtesy is unlikely to not help. As with sexual consent, always ask. There’s a truism that if you want to get something done, ask a busy person. Some of that is because the people who get a lot done know how to get things done, but sometimes it’s because they’re someone who ‘can’t say no’.
You many not intend to take someone’s ability to refuse away, but that inability may be a “preexisting condition” of which you are unaware. A lot of people don’t think they’re allowed to refuse a request for help. So learn this from both sides. You are allowed to examine any request and say no if it is not a good time for you to go along with it, and other people are allowed to do the same. (There are a few situations, for example, the military, where following orders is required, but please do not extend that behavior beyond the special situation within which and for which it was designed.) Ask, extend the option to refuse, and take time to decide when you are asked. Be gentle with yourselves and others. We can get through this together.