Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lesson #28: There Are Two Kinds Of People In This World...

Some of my earliest memories involve going with my mother to the Alpha-Beta supermarket in Culver City.  I remember one distinct moment in the parking lot when she looked around, and noted with some detached disdain, "There are two kinds of people in this world.  Those who return to their shopping cart to the store, and those who leave them out."

I always loved studying human nature, even as a child.  I went through undergraduate and graduate school studying Psychology and learning theory after theory about the psychic apparatus,  attachment, unconscious drives, humanism, guilt, dreams, and family dynamics.  There was something about the drive to understand "why" in these studies that seemed removed, cold, and somewhat irrelevant, especially when you are working with clients who have nowhere to live and little food to eat.   As I began working full time in the profession, I found that modern Cognitive-Behavioral models made a lot more clinical sense, offered actual solutions to my clients,  and were more integral to my own values.  The work of Dr. Albert Ellis and Dr. David Burns focused on improving people's lives and empowering them to learn tools to manage their own problems, with or without therapy.

Yet now at age forty, with all my education and research, I'm inclined to believe that my mother had it right all along.  What human behavior comes down to is that some people will return their shopping cart to the front, and some will leave them out.  There are individuals on this earth who perceive connection among living beings, and feel responsible for having a healing impact in this world.  Then there are those who do not feel connected, have no attachment to doing their part to help, and could care less about making another person's life any easier. 

I have been reminded of my mother's eloquence a lot recently, as I do outreach and education for the current HIV Vaccine Trials.  I meet some people who are interested in learning, and feel a strong sense of responsibility to take five minutes to find out if they may be eligible to participate.  And then I meet those who simply don't care.  They shield themselves with fear, arm themselves with ignorance, and mindlessly leave their proverbial shopping cart out for someone else to clean up.

Taking care of my own "shopping cart" in this world has led me to take jobs which help others, and just as importantly, nourishes me.  Friends and family have often questioned how I have been able to do such "depressing work." The answer is very simple: If I'm not part of the solution then I am part of the problem.  I can't take on every thing wrong in the world, but I can return my own shopping cart and encourage others to experience the benefits of doing the same.  How about you?
Damon L. Jacobs is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist seeing individuals and couples in New York City. He specializes in issues related to addiction, ageism, bullying, caretaking fatigue, grief and loss, gay/lesbian issues, stress management, depression, as well as couples in non-traditional arrangements. He is the author of "Absolutely Should-less: The Secret to Living the Stress-Free Life You Deserve." To have him speak with your group, or to schedule a counseling visit, call 347-227-7707, or email at Shouldless@gmail.com


Anonymous said...

this is probably my favorite one so far! a great, simple way to think about things and a tribute to the wisdom of your mother!!

JD Tuyes said...

Hi Damon,

I agree with Matt. This is the best one and a natural extension to your comments on spontaneous gestures of kindness.

I hope your transition to 40 is going well. Mine is over and on the way to 41 already.

See you sometime soon, I hope.


Jennifer said...

Your mom is so generous. I love people who return their cart

Angela said...

I love these posts, but I have to ask: is there now a third type of personality since grocery stores installed those chutes in the parking lot for storing shopping carts? ;)