Frances Ricks, PhD
I just came out of a meeting where it was said, “I don’t know what self has to do with post secondary education.” I want to discuss what it not only has to do with post secondary education but what it has to do with everything in our lives, including the practice of Child and Youth Care.
The premise of “Without the self there is no other” is this. We see the world from our experience of it. We hear the experience, we see the experience, we sense the experience at a visceral level or at a feeling level, and we relate to the experience within the experience using all our senses.
It is from this experience, and the conclusions we draw from it, that we determine what to do or how to react within the experience. These are split second reactions and they influence the reactions of others and the next set of interactions. For example, when I heard this comment about self I was stunned, I thought “I cannot believe what is being said. Attending classes or in our practices we interact daily with a myriad of 'selves'. What else is there?” My reaction was to take the opportunity to leave what I regarded would become a “hot and pointless debate”. There would be different minds listening from their assumptions, including mine and there would not be time to get to the subtle nuances of how we thought about and experienced the world.
You can see from the above example that our experiences in the moment are filtered through our beliefs (interpretations) about what is happening. The interpretations may be explicitly identified and tied to specific thoughts or feelings or actions, and our beliefs about those. In other words, from our experiences we make meaning of “how things are”, “what things mean”, and this is our “world view” within a particular moment. Hence, my set of beliefs about what was said and the context in which it was said, defined my reactions to it. It is because I cannot escape my belief systems within the moment that I need to be aware of them ... they represent who I am at a particular moment in time. They define my presence and they affect how I behave. Understanding this helps me to understand that I am working with “many selves” on a daily basis. Further, understanding this helps me observe that the self is emergent and creeps along at a “petty pace” to become something different as I integrate new experiences.
I would argue that I have a better chance of evolving if I have an awareness of myself and others; that I have a way to think about the evolving self. As a professor in post secondary education I cannot acknowledge and work with diversity, equity, different learning styles, or anyone, IF I do not have an awareness of self and understand that my awareness of self and other is filtered through me. In fact, having the awareness of how the other is filtered through me heightens my awareness of how others differ from me. I am better able to appreciate their uniqueness, their strengths, their capacity to grow and contribute to me and to others in the community, I suggest that to not have an awareness of self and other, and the relationship between the two, may lead to drawing collective assumptions i.e. “one size fits all”, what is good will be good for and work for all, everyone needs to know “this” and so on.
It has been an interesting “self reflection” to consider this incident and to pass it on to you.
I hope that most Child and Youth Care workers think about themselves in relation to others every moment of their practice. If they do not, then I doubt if they would know if they were working on their own issues or the issues of the other.