We Forget We Are A Part of the Environment...

Linda Messbauer

As practitioners who wish to promote change for other individuals we must become conscious of the fact that our very presence is an element of change. We human beings are organisms that respond to change. We record, process, evaluate and possibly respond to our internal and external environment. We are monitors of change.

Every sensation produces a potential for change. Sometimes this is on a conscious level but most of the time it is on an unconscious level…we are not aware of the process. Our brain/mind and body just react to the change. Like when we get cold and shiver or have a temperature and sweat or chew our nails because we are anxious, these are examples of the unconscious process. Other
times we react to sensations in a conscious way by thinking and doing; for example picking out a new shirt because we like the way it feels or its’ particular color. Another example might be turning up the volume of a radio because a song came on that we really like. I try to think of this as on a dynamic continuum from being unaware to being aware of the process. You could think of this action as even more dynamic when emotional significance plays a role. For example: getting teary-eyed over hearing a song or melody that reminds us of an event such as a wedding song.

But if we step back and look at the big picture we are also an element of the environment and a piece of the process for another human being. We seem to forget that when we are not alone we become a part of the other human beings environment. We influence everything about the environment for this person; from speaking directly to them or some else, to moving about, to humming a song, to picking up and turning the pages of the newspaper. We are an element of change to be monitored by the other individual.

I see this as extremely important because we have a tendency to act or speak far too much and this can and does interfere with the other person’s ability to perceive, adjust and control their own environment and experience. If our goal is to allow the person opportunity for personal growth, learning or relaxation we must recognize that as practitioners we are a part of the process. In many relaxation techniques, we are asking people to ignore the external environment such as noise and visual information and to “block out” unwanted thoughts and repeat a mantra, phase or even prayer to accomplish this. If our true goal is to help someone achieve or enter into the process of relaxation we must learn to “help” only where we are needed according to the person’s ability to “block out” unwanted stimuli; this includes us. We sometimes become a part of the problem instead of the solution. When we attempt to assist individuals with a disability, we seem to think that more instructions or directions will be helpful and necessary. We are uncomfortable with silence. And yet it is the very act of remaining silent that gives the other person control and uninterrupted time. We have been taught to “do” and “teach” but have forgotten how much we are a part of the environmental impact on the other individual. How will we ever know what the individual perceives if we are always blocking their view?