• By Dana Sparks

Something to Think About: Knowing others

October 13, 2016

young people taking a selfie picture, laughing and smiling

Dr. Amit Sood says, "Others are more similar to you than you think."

Dear friend,

A typical supermarket has about forty thousand items on the shelf. Given that an average person samples less than 1 percent of these items in a year, you likely aren’t aware of 99 percent of the items in your supermarket.

Even the items I purchase and use are barely familiar to me. When I see a bottle of shampoo or jar of pickles, I only know what the label shows (which I seldom read). Each of these items has a unique journey from start to finish that isn’t known to me. I know these objects only from the middle—neither the beginning nor the end.

Similarly, I don’t know any person in the world from the beginning to the end. Everyone I am familiar with, I know from the middle. I don’t know where you were before you magically showed up on this planet or in what worlds your future awaits. I know your idiosyncrasies, but I don’t know your constraints.

If I find you unreasonable, very likely I am missing a critical detail. Perhaps you are justified from within your perspective. Perhaps we both would be better off if we could have a heart-to-heart chat. Very likely, however, that won’t happen. You feel most comfortable in your shell, just as I do in mine. I don’t know how you’d perceive me if I laid it all bare. You don’t know that either. So we drag through life—judging, feeling judged, wishing we could again receive the unconditional love that we experienced when we were little, when someone made sure we ate enough fruits and veggies, and celebrated every single burp of ours.

While we will never know each other’s complete story, we can assume it isn’t very different. You have struggles and dreams similar to mine. You strive to keep your world safe and fed, as I do. We both want to do the right thing, but sometimes we aren’t sure what the right thing is. We commit silly mistakes; we forget and can’t easily forgive.

I think I know you better than I thought. Through knowing you I know myself better than I did. I wish to keep trying to know you and myself, because once we know each other, I am confident we will each drop our weapons. You’ll get busy healing my hurts, and I will get busy healing yours. The world will be better for it.

May you see your own reflection in the world and, through discovering that similarity, default to kindness and generosity.

Take care.

Dr. Sood 2

Read, Knowing others and previous blog posts.
Also, follow @AmitSoodMD on Twitter.

Dr. Sood is director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program on Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus in Minnesota. He also chairs the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at Mayo Clinic.