In a New York Times op ed piece, a psychologist decried (for many reasons not relevant here) a website offering consumers the opportunity to rate their mental healthcare providers.
Either it’s a lousy psychologist afraid of being outed, or one who hasn’t joined the digital age.
Woefully under-prepared for the speed at which cybertechnology change happens, many providers of mental health and the agencies that oversee them are dancing as fast as they can. It comforts me in some small way that I’m not alone in being overwhelmed, and for the same reason. While the “digital natives” who have been born implanted with a microchip “get it”, the “digital immigrants“, like me, don’t. When Dr. Ofer Zur, a prolific writer, educator and speaker on multiple topics affecting the mental health professions, joined his daughter in conversation on the challenges natives and immigrants experience when they’re together, the generation gap widened to a chasm.
There is no worse feeling, no more powerless feeling, than trying to be understood by someone who speaks another language, especially when you have something important to say. It happens within and among institutions — government, education, healthcare, religion, etc. This is “he said/she said” on a scale bigger than the ones they use to weigh trucks. Essentially the same thing is happening: a lot of misunderstanding, not understanding, or poor understanding, all increaseding in direct proportion to complexity. For example, a doctor who doesn’t stay current on advances in medicine is at a disadvantage — not just in acquiring patients, but in saving their lives.
So too in relationships. Each partner attempts to navigate situations in the here-and-now as well as at every life stage and for each of the challenges that comes. As situations and life stages change, so, too, must the relationship. If it doesn’t the relationship risks the stagnation brought about by misunderstanding, not understanding, or understanding poorly. On any given Sunday, partners are negotiating their own stuff as well as the stuff of their relationship — stage-wise and situation-wise. Life becomes harder when factors are added that’ve been hanging around for lots of Sundays: differences in age, life experience, style, abilities, beliefs, perspectives, family of origin experiences, and so on.
Couples who don’t (or won’t) budge from using an individual point of view when attempting to solve a relationship problem, damage both themselves and the relationship. Of course, that applies only when (as a colleague says) you give a rat’s ass in the first place. The point is that the coupleness is a different entity that each partner, even as it contains them both.
For couples to create a space where they can listen and speak creatively requires conscious effort. Conscious, mindful effort. Couples need to become vulnerable to the other if the relationship is to survive, or even form in the first place. It’s very hard to be vulnerable in our world: there seems to be more at stake. At least from 50-50 standpoint.
Which leads me right back around to being a digital nincompoop.
My world is changing, has changed, and I’m overwhelmed by it, which isn’t helped by my own version of what a friend experiences as “chemo-brain”. Invisible disability affects my ability to “immigrate” and that affects my ability to be successful in a world of mail that is hot, software that isn’t very snuggly, and a file cabinet that’s supported by a cloud.
In a cyber-digital world where I too often fail to accomplish what I want to, having relationship success becomes more and more important. It’s a fall- back after an unsuccessful hunt in the cyber jungle or a live word that goes beyond “cancel” or “connect”. It’s worrisome that, as the chip-implanted generation takes over, the importance of feeling connected in relationship may be too much work and less necessary for self-esteem.