During a session with my therapist I was telling her a story about my childhood per the custom and she said to me, “Oh that’s why you don’t treat yourself like a human.”
I must have been pretty taken aback because after what seemed like an eternal pause she said, “That was intense, I’m sorry.” And we laughed.
Unfortunately, laughter doesn’t hide the truth for too long and after our session was done and the computer was closed it was just me and the truth.
There are days when I think I’ve had all the therapy I could possibly have. Days when I think, I can’t think about any of this any more. And then things like this happen.
So now I have to figure out what makes someone human, and how humans should be treated in order to determine where I’ve faltered in how I treat myself.
There are many definitions online, some more helpful than others. “Of, relating to, people,” is not helpful. In science, we are merely another genus like a type of mushroom or bird. The Cambridge Dictionary helpfully adds, “The human body is composed of about 60 percent water.” And now I feel like I’m a cucumber with anxiety.
Aristotle said we are rational animals, and many scientists and philosophers agree that what makes us human is our advanced intelligence. It’s easy to hear “advanced intelligence” and think of rocket science and open-heart surgery, but we forget that what made us human originally was something as simple as hitting a rock against another rock.
The way we treat each other also separates us from the other inhabitants of earth. Studies comparing chimpanzees and children determined both engage in cooperation but human children help more. Children want to work in a group even if it doesn’t benefit the individual.
As a card carrying introvert, this is unsettling. I’m fairly confident if I was on a deserted island, however, I would want to work in a group. And I can remember the feeling of having the option to join a group in a new situation and agreeing to join the group for no other reason than not wanting to be alone.
But maybe it is even simpler than that. When I go to the grocery store I am aware of other people and try not to be in their way. I return the cart to a designated location when I’m done. I say please and thank you and smile when I meet someone’s gaze. If that isn’t societal cooperation, I’m not sure what is.
I’m aware there’s likely more nuance to this, but we’re not here for that. If you can sharpen a pencil and you’ve given the occasional head nod and wave, you’re human.
Tune in next week when I dive into how humans should be treated.
Until next time.