Our Unconscious Interdependence

I’ve been reflecting on how much we depend on one another.

Not just for the physical services we provide for each other, but also the unconscious psychological support that arises from the camaraderie and genuine care in the interaction. This week, my Support Coordinator (SC) told me she is leaving her employer and working elsewhere. An SC liaises between the National Disability Insurance Association and allied support professionals and equipment suppliers. Her experience with the NDIS and allied professional therapists was invaluable in helping me get the support I needed but wasn’t aware was available. She cared, reassured and fought for me when I was at my most vulnerable.

A few weeks ago, a physiotherapist I’m very comfortable with was being promoted to management and no longer able to do home visits. Fortunately, she spoke to management and convinced them to remain my physio, even if less frequently. Meaning, I get to benefit from her professional expertise and her sunny disposition. I always feel better having been in her presence. I get the same joy and fulfilment from the other professionals in my team. I may be discerning, but once I’ve chosen someone they’re a keeper.

However, I wasn’t aware, before getting ALS, the turnover of professionals in the disability sector was so high. Particularly with carers, but other professionals as well, the number of people coming into the industry and leaving (because they don’t like it) or changing positions (for higher pay) is a patients’ nightmare to behold. Just as the disabled begin to get used to someone, they often leave. So the sifting through the unsuitable alternatives, coupled with the instructive and familiarisation process, must start anew. It’s not only exhausting but demoralising. Why would it be demoralising? That’s what I’ve been reflecting on, and the answers aren’t superficially obvious.

Let’s say you have a favourite massage therapist, doctor, chiropractor, physiotherapist, hairdresser, cleaner, gardener, psychologist, or whatever service you rely on frequently and have personal contact with. What makes you see them regularly? Is it just their service, or is it something more? Your initial answer may be their service and skill, and there’s truth to that. However, is there something else behind and beyond that skill that you keep returning to? What is it that you miss if they were no longer available and you had to find someone else with the same skills and proficiency?

I found that I miss the psychological comfort that comes from trusting that professional’s sincerity, devotion to their craft and camaraderie with me.

I’m entirely dependent on the trust that comes from the familiarity with the professional’s service and character.

This is why once we lose a professional, it takes us a long time to find another. You will notice that what you look for is the potential camaraderie that comes from trust in their skill, sincerity and devotion to your well-being. That means you’re choosing character over anything else. Of course, their skill is essential, but if that skill isn’t paired with a character you gel with, you’re going to be looking elsewhere. Their character, the camaraderie you feel, and the trust that goes along with it is the salve that soothes your soul. It allows you to surrender control for a brief period of time. It allows you to feel looked after and feel the healing balm of humility.

Humility, through trustful surrender to another, has profound psychological implications. Apart from the benefit we receive from their skill, we also welcome the emotional boost from their character’s sincerity and compassion. We feel the same effect in talking briefly to a close friend. It’s the same effect we feel from the familiarity of our work colleagues and teammates. It’s the same comfort we feel when we arrive home, visit our regular restaurant or frequent our local shops. That familiarity, that comfort, is what keeps us psychologically healthy and emotionally able to deal with the chaotic uncertainties flooding our subconscious via stress every day. We may not notice the environmental potential for harm, but it’s there, constantly tickling our adrenal glands, preparing us for something terrible that’s bound to happen. Those familiar faces remind us that we’re not alone in character, even if only temporarily.

First, there’s the skill. We need people around us who are competent and self-driven. The self-drive to improve, be better, and care about results keeps them competent. Competence and excellence are essential because, without them, you won’t trust in their abilities and, therefore, surrender. Of course, some are still learning or just beginning, and that’s where their self-drive and personal integrity comes in. We can excuse someone who’s still learning the ropes when we know they care enough to keep trying to excel. It’s in their character we trust. We trust they’re not a quitter. They’re not cowards, hiding and avoiding learning skills because of the possibility of failure and their perception of being perceived as failing. Their humility and interest in their profession (or task) trump false arrogance and pride. And there’s the crux of the matter. Beyond the skill, we rely on the character that applies that skill.

The character is the second faculty we depend on. Familiarity with a humble and amicable nature is the comfort we yearn for in our relationships: professional and personal. But it doesn’t go one way. Unbeknownst to many professionals, maybe even you, they rely on the camaraderie and comfort from their clients just as much. If you’re in a service profession of any kind, you know the joy and fulfilment you feel from a familiar or amicable customer, client or employee. On the flip-side, you feel misery and frustration from a disagreeable, negative or arrogant customer, client or employee. It’s clear then, that the psychological comfort we receive from our interactions is based on competence and the character supplying it. Their character’s amicability and humility signal our subconscious that they’re not a threat amongst the plethora of chaos and uncertainty in our lives. In fact, as we also do that to them (if we’re an agreeable type), the interaction becomes a two-way mini respite session as we forget our troubles and enjoy another’s company for a little while.

Yes, professionals provide us with a service. Yes, we provide their income. Yes, the roles reverse as we interact in our community. But, the psychological solace benefits both parties. We are interdependent on each other for psychological comfort and stability. We need that constancy, familiarity and camaraderie with another for inner peace and resilience more than we realise or care to admit.

I will tell you first-hand that I would be dead already if it weren’t for those special people who’ve helped over the years with ALS. At the weakest time in my adult life spanning 16 years now, these unsung heroes (both professional and personal) have not only provided me with services and the means to survive, but their humility, care and camaraderie have given me the psychological fortitude to go on, to continue despite the daily battle I awaken to daily.

People see me at my worst comparatively to how I was before ALS. I can’t offer or do a fraction of what I could before. I am a silent body in a chair in any social interaction. I can’t converse, socialise or do anything physically meaningful or practical with anyone. My capability to serve or interact is relegated to a computer to communicate through text. Yet, despite the frustration, discomfort, sadness and boredom I may be feeling, I try my utmost to not impose on them my emotional state. My reasoning is this, if there’s a solution, then I’ll apply it; if there isn’t, then why complain? People around me have enough to deal with assisting me physically. There’s no need to add emotional labour to the workload.

Part of my social interactions, then, rely on those few professionals who come over and not only help me with my physical ills but also indirectly my psychological well-being. Their amicable familiarity and humble competence soothe my heart and mind. These familiar faces are dependable, reliable, trustworthy, generous. That’s why it’s so hard when they leave for another profession because I know it will be another uphill journey to find another of the same calibre in competence or character.

There’s the humbling stake through the heart. I succumb to realising my ultimate dependence on my community for my psychological well-being. Their existence and presence in my life determine how I fare in the future. Their care and warmth, their willingness to go beyond the basic call of duty, their sincere interest in my well-being and willingness to thrive is a fresh spring in the aridity of my life’s options.

There are people we’ll never click with. However, this is about recognising those we do benefit from and why. Life is short and extremely arduous. We can bring joy by simply being aware of who is in front of us and the difference they make in our life by just being themselves.


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Also published on Medium.

2 thoughts on “Our Unconscious Interdependence”

  1. Jorge, thank you for sharing your special thoughts.

    Our family has been enjoying the health benefits of your excellent herbs for many years.

    On a spiritual level, it’s almost as if thousands of people would never have experienced the life-changing health benefits of your wonderful range of outstanding herbs without your own personal experiences with ALS and its resulting sacrifices. Perhaps, such complex blessings in disguise are one of life’s most challenging experiences.

    Hopefully, your exceptional writing skills will be preserved and published in a special book compilation.

    I wish you even greater inner strength and peace of heart and mind than you already possess.

    1. Hi Amanda 🙂
      Thank you so much for your kind words. I agree with you, ALS or any suffering, in general, can lead us along unimagined paths that may very well be our saving grace.

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