“When I was first learning to drive as a teenager, it was a completely different experience depending upon whether my father or mother was in the passenger seat. My mother was calm, so I was able to make good decisions. But my father criticized everything I did, so I overthought everything and would end up making mistakes. And that’s what my marriage was like. I based all of my decisions on how my wife would respond. Once we got divorced I moved into a small apartment. And the first morning at my new place, I slept until 11 AM. I hadn’t done that in years. And it felt great.”
People often end up replicating a difficult relationship in their life—it’s so common for kids of abusive parents to marry an abusive partner, or for others to jump from one unhealthy relationship to another. For some, it can feel like a chance to try again—a hope that things will be different this time. For others, it can be a sense of consistency—if a relationship feels familiar, it often feels right and normal, even though it costs us tremendously. But the happy ending to his story, as well as the look of hard-earned confidence on his face, just makes me want to give this man a high-five.
“Serving in the army, you can say that I was a pawn in another person’s game. But you can say the same thing about someone that works at JP Morgan. Sometimes it seemed like the elites were playing chess with our lives. They trained me to jump out of planes and kill people. I didn’t have anything against the Iraqis. I wasn’t fighting against them. I was fighting to get home to my family. So was I a pawn? Maybe. But if it weren’t for the higher-ranking people in the military who saw potential in me, and encouraged me to get an education and become a leader, I’d never even have achieved broad enough horizons to ask these types of questions.”
This veteran nails the ability to hold a “both-and” mindset. He can hold two incompatible thoughts simultaneously, and allow them both be true. It’s the opposite of either-or, which sets things up as an (often) false dichotomy. Don’t get me wrong, there are true either-or situations (the criminal justice system, for example, isn’t known for wiggle room between guilty or not guilty), but in general, being able to see that a situation can be black AND white can be freeing. Without getting into Buddhist territory or quantum physics, suffice it to say this gentleman’s ability to make peace with both his truths is far more powerful than denying one in service of the other.
Do you read Humans of New York? Are the photos and captions moving to you? Do you find they help you feel less alone? Let me know on my Savvy Psychologist Facebook page. I'd love to hear from you.
And don't forget to listen to my full episode with HONY's Brandon Stanton, in which we discuss how to talk to strangers and the importance of empathy, on iTunes and Stitcher. Or you can simply read the transcript here.
This content is strictly for informational purposes and doesn't substitute for mental health care from a licensed professional.
All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.