As I was listening to the doctor in the middle of a psychotherapy group session, I was reminded of the importance of attending these classes yet again. The weekly classes are deep thought-provoking discussions about life. Specifically, at its core, it puts emphasis on our thinking process, our relations with others, and more importantly, our relations with ourselves. Every week, the leader of our group discusses something called ‘Mentalization’ – in general terms, it is the process of mentalizing or thinking about a situation or an act from a perspective OTHER than your own. This process requires practice and patience in order for one to adapt to his or her own environment without constantly personalizing events and seeing life through a narrow lens.
The doctor in our class argues that IF we incorporate the practice of mentalization in our daily lives, we will live more stress-free lives and have more understanding of others and their points of view. A simple example he uses is a scenario where you are walking down the street and you ask somebody for directions, then they respond by saying: “Go to hell!”. The doctor argues that you should not take it personally or think about it for the rest of your day asking yourself questions like: ‘Why did I bother asking a question?’. To some of us it may very well be our response to think this way, but according to our therapist, it is wrong because we haven’t thought about what that person may have been thinking and feeling at the time you asked the question! They may have been having a very bad day, or maybe they were insulted by another person just minutes before you asked your question.
So, each week our discussions surround core concepts such as mentalization. However, this past week we came across a new different concept. This new concept was called the social bank account. The term came into discussion because we wanted to know what it would mean if we abandoned our family and friends and tried to make new connections with people. How would that affect us, if at all? Well, I did not understand the concept because I always thought that what we were, and who we were, was a result of all our previous connections with family and friends. And of course, the firmer your connections were, I thought, the more it marked your identity. So, in effect, if you grow up in a family for most of your life, by weakening those connections, to make new ones would probably poke holes on your “identity wall”, so to speak.
I guess I was wrong, because according to the doctor, we are always making new connections, and are not technically “replacing” our parents or relatives with other people, but merely adding to our social bank account. Thus, the more we invest our time and energy, with meeting and strengthening relationships and connections (like “networks”), the more we can withdraw from that social bank account when we are in times of need or when we are feeling lonely.
Regardless of how close or distant your previous relationships were, the “investment” of building more relationships with others is not a threat to past ones. It is merely a healthy social lifestyle that prevents one from becoming socially and emotionally bankrupt.