We each make something like 35,000 decisions a day. Not all of them are life-changing, but even the ones we’re barely aware of moment to moment are responses and contributors to our perceived reality. Maybe the decisions you consider more important are the ones you choose to spend more time thinking about, weighing pros and cons, and attempting to predict what happens as a result of this choice. I’ve been thinking a lot more about choices because it seems to be at the forefront of societal tension (at least in the United States). I won’t pretend that choice hasn’t been an issue in American culture for decades, you could even say since the early development of the country. Many of the issues we’re having today are not new, they are simply surfacing and being addressed by utilizing the resources we have to discuss them rapidly and more widespread. Anyway, because on my feeds and in my readings so many people are commenting on the topic of choice, I thought I’d do a little more formal investigating. My Consciousness and Healing course this term gave me the perfect excuse. There are a number of factors contributing to the polarities in this culture, and I want to understand how people are healing individually and what they visualize for collective healing. What are the motivations behind our choices and who are they impacting?
To better understand both healing processes and choice, I picked a hot topic on top of the pile: Covid-19 vaccination choice. Since there is perhaps no better place to find people with passionate views and opinions, I posted on Facebook asking if anyone would be willing to have a conversation with me about it. The response was overwhelming! I knew the participation was way more than I needed for a smaller scale project, but I didn’t want to turn anyone away who felt they had something to say. I won’t bore you with the details of demographics, my methods, the process, and the detailed data (though feel free to inquire if you’re interested!). I’m humbled by the incredible data from the rich conversations. Instead, here I’ll incorporate snippets that have influenced how I now generally understand the bi-directional relationship between individuals and society/culture.
First, I asked people to give some of their reasons and motivations behind their choice to vaccinate or not. Beliefs in the vaccine came up as well, and many people indicated whether they feel the science and report of the vaccine is valid. Some of those who decided to get the Covid vaccine believe it’s important to protect themselves, their families and community—that to do so will put a quicker end to the pandemic. One participant who chose not to vaccinate, and other people I’ve spoken with afterward who have not vaccinated, explained that they also feel like they are doing what is best for their families. It’s interesting how different choices might have the same intentions. Morals and obligations came up among the vaccinated participants, that as a community member they felt “compelled” to do what they felt ensured greater wellbeing for everyone. Some said they felt pressured by their social circles. From this question alone, on motivation and beliefs, people expressed the impact of their choice not only on themselves, but the people around them. It was important to me to provide an open and safe space for people to talk about this because even though we’re able to publicly express online and around town, the tension with differences can turn vicious quickly. Judgement and disrespect seem to uncontrollably flow from frustration and fear. One minute you’re picking out broccoli florets in the grocery store having a friendly interaction, and the next you’re being called a “sheep.” A phone call from your sister is enough to make your heart race and cancel plans for Thanksgiving! Does anyone else feel hot while reading or watching the news?
Next, I asked how the individuals take care of themselves in times of stress. Self-care is more than a trendy buzzword; it’s integral to our health and wellbeing. We can’t be our best without reflecting and meeting our own needs once in a while. A theme identified among the vaccinated participants in my study was moving culture (particularly American culture) from an individualistic to community mindset. I think there is a difference between the intention to take care of yourself and only yourself, and the intention to take care of yourself on behalf of others or with others in mind. A delicate balance, but like with everything else, reflecting on our decisions and impulses can bring insight and deeper knowing.
Recently, I came across a project by Dr. Paula Green and Dr. Ben Fink called Hands Across the Hills. It’s a peacemaking initiative that has brought groups of people from very different locations, western Massachusetts and western Kentucky, to an understanding. I like that from the description of this project it’s not just a goal of finding common ground, but rather embracing and accepting differences. Can we learn to meet in the middle?
This brings me to the final piece of my research, healing visions. My own sort of peacemaking ideals come from learning about other people’s hopes and dreams. I think if we talk more about what we envision for the world rather than everything that is wrong with it, that we might inch a little closer to getting there. Among the angry and afraid people out there, many of whom trigger anger and fear in me, I notice Covid, vaccinations, and mandates have broadened into choices about other things, choices to say what you want, do what you want, own what you want, have control over your own body. It seems that regulations put in place for the pandemic have appeared to be a slippery slope for some people. Many of us worry how the political climate does or will impact our lives. I worry about our democracy at stake and how less individuals will be able to evolve our society because of voting restrictions. Clearly, we are undergoing some major changes, but to build or reconstruct we need to define our “better.” Participants in my study spoke about dire needs for love, respect, kindness, equity, fearlessness, environmental stability, and education. Most of them expressed hope for their visions, though many expressed doubt. I detected audible emotion in many of the participants during our conversations. I know many of us care. Each decision we make will bring us a little closer to somewhere.
A health crisis has infected all parts of our societal systems. Old and new wounds are open, so how will we heal together? If you like this page, please share it!