A few days ago, my father sent me the link to this very interesting article, on why caring about what others think about us is such a huge part of our human psyche, and what we can do about it.
In a nutshell, the author cleverly personifies that aspect of our being, that part which cares too much about how others see us, as the Social Survival Mammoth. It has been part of our being since prehistoric times, necessary for survival, and hence has stayed with us throughout millions of years of evolution. However, problems start to arise when we give too much attention to the mammoth, in other words, caring too much about whether we’re pleasing others, about how others see us, and neglecting another core of our being: The Authentic Voice (AV) within. The voice which is really who we are, our true and honest selves.
Part 2 of the article has a section which suggests that we look at our lives and figure out where the mammoth is hiding in our existence – it could be disguised in the form of us needing to hear frequent praise to feel good about ourselves; it could appear in the form of us fearing criticisms (even constructive ones), or in the form of us needing to have our opinions validated, to the extent that we fear forming opinions of our own, and only borrow the opinions of others so that we are sure we will fit in. Or maybe the mammoth only manifests in certain contexts and settings, aspects of our lives where we have a strong desire to do the “right” thing and gain approval from others, like in school, or at work, or with family.
After some thought, I came to the conclusion that the biggest area in my life right now which is “Mammothified” is at my practical placement. I thought it would be natural to be self-conscious – after all, when you know you’re being observed, it’s only natural to feel that way. But over this semester, I’ve had numerous occasions during sessions with clients in which I felt that I wanted to, or I should, do something more at certain points in time, only to find myself holding back, because I started thinking about whether it would be the right thing to do, or whether it would gain approval from R. The sensation of self-consciousness would overpower me and I’d usually end up just doing nothing, sometimes regretting it later. The Mammoth at work!
We had our evaluation session recently, in which our supervisor therapist sits down with us and goes through how we have fared in the various sections of assessment. While I am quite happy with the overall assessment and constructive comments, something R said stuck with me and made me realise how huge my mammoth in this area is.
“You’re very musical. But you need to trust your musical intuition more”.
He proceeded to give examples of instances of when I had gone with the flow and trusted my musical instincts, and instances when he felt that I was holding back and could have done more. He was spot on, of course. It made me realise that it probably is better to listen to my AV rather than my Mammoth in this work we do, and it is something I’ll need to hone and work on, such that my AV can take dominant rein in sessions, rather than the Mammoth.
I’m sure there are many more areas in my life that need to be de-mammothed, but I’ll stick to this goal for now:
Controlling and balancing the strength of my Musical Mammoth with my Musical Intuition (AV), so that I will become a better therapist 🙂