Reverse Effects

“We keep trying to establish feelings of companionship and forming community among those who are marginalized. Yet, we struggle to create a sense of connectedness in a culture that demands independence and self-reliance. We listen to newscasts that announce this. We hear newscasts tell us the strong must control the weak. We read newspaper stories that trumpet the glory of the self. These cultural attitudes become part of our care giving. We have been trained to seek compliance and control. We demand that those whom we serve choose what is right and good when they do not trust us, in fact, often fear us. We live in a world that places the individual above the community.

As care givers, we have to reverse this trend and begin to question what the other needs — to feel safe with us and loved by us. A psychology of interdependence assumes that we find ourselves in others and in the strength of our connectedness to others. It is the foundation of who we are and what we are becoming. It leads us to develop a sense of companionship with those who distance themselves from us. We have to move from a culture of self-reliance to one of human connectedness and from a culture of self to one of otherness. As we do this, we are slowly moving toward the formation of community where we will feel collectively safe, loved, loving and engaged.

Interdependence is based on our shared values — the wholeness and inherent goodness of each person in spite of violent behavior and the thirst that we all have for a feeling of being one-with-one-another in spite of paradoxical behaviors that push others away. These values are difficult to maintain, but are necessary if we are to help those who cling onto the slippery edge of family and community life.”

John McGee,
Mending Broken Hearts: Companionship and Community

Communication Between Souls

I had the good fortune of being introduced to Gentle Teaching when the philosophy had already caught fire. Many caregivers before me have blazed a trail of love and mutual respect; I was thrilled to jump on this path. Gentle teaching has allowed me to make connections and friendships that I never thought possible and is now, how I chose to live my everyday life.

One relationship that I often think of was very brief, but also something very special. It was with a baby elephant I met in Thailand. I had watched many tourists fail to make any connections with these gentle giants and was leery of paying the $10 fee to wade in the ocean with someone who didn’t want to be there. I laughed as each person got a blast of trunk water to the face and was disappointed when the animals would get yelled at when they did not respond to being poked and prodded. Most, if not all, left upset that they didn’t get their ride, and some were still choking on salty trunk spray.

I wanted that ride. When I met my elephant, I introduced myself. I made sure to show him my eyes and I gently pet him to show him I was his friend; we were safe together. Even though we did not understand one another verbally, I used my presence and gentleness to communicate and eventually the baby understood it was good to be with me. After a couple of minutes, the elephant knelt down and guided me up onto his back with his trunk. High and mighty we strolled out into the water. We had to be pried from each other when our time was up. We said our goodbyes on the shore and someone else tagged in. I giggled as I watched my friend spray the new guy in the face when he tried to step on the elephant’s head. Amateur.

Gentle teaching to me is communicating with the soul. You don’t have to speak the same language; you don’t even have to be the same species. I am very thankful that I have found a career where it is part of my day to give love. The trade off is that in doing so, it’s almost impossible not to receive it back. Sounds like a good deal to me.

– Jacine Gyug, Vocational Coordinator