In my last post, we were walking down the street towards a friend of ours, and in this imaginary scene, you were in your friends body, looking at yourself approach. We explored what he might be thinking as he watched you approach.
We explored a little of why our friends might be feeling what they are feeling when they see you, and what might be causing them to act the way they are, as well as why things seem so different with your friends after your brain injury.
How can we influence this meeting to make it less uncomfortable for each of you? We need to think for a moment about the way you would like to be thought of when you are seen by others. What others think of you when they see you is what conditions their response to you, and ultimately controls their behavior towards you.
You may think that you shouldn’t have to work to be seen a certain way, especially when you’ve just had this brain injury and you’re confused and tired all the time. “I should just be me,” you might say, “And I should be accepted for the way I always was.” This, however, is not taking into account basic human nature. We are accepted by others, not only as we are today, but also for what we’ve been to this person for however long we have known them; in other words, for what we represent to them. In this case, as much as we wish we were, we may not be the same old person to them. Yes, we are that person they always knew, but now we are the old friend who had some kind of injury and something changed in you. The changes in you may be almost as hard for them to deal with as they are for you, and they are going to have some affect on the relationship.
When you have had a brain injury, you don’t always think about how you need to change in the way you relate to other people. Instead, you become very focused on yourself, and with good reason, because you have a lot to do and a lot of stuff to work on. While it’s easy to see and feel many of the changes that have occurred, it’s very hard to communicate these to somebody else, or to understand how others are affected by the changes you have undergone. So, aside from the changes themselves, whether they be physical, cognitive or emotional, a big issue is how these changes influence the way you relate to others. In many ways, some of which are below the surface, you are the same old person that you’ve always been, but in many other ways you are a new person.
This is even harder with relatives. Unlike friends, who choose to have a relationship with you, relatives are connected by blood, almost like a pre-ordained relationship. They may not want to accept that you have changed because, in the end, it means that they must change, and it means disruption in their lives. They may not understand, or be upset by what has happened to you, and the fact that you have been hurt in some way and have changed may be threatening to them. Not all people are brought up in a way which allows them to always be there and say the right things.
We don’t often think about how we want to be seen by others, but it is just one part of “stepping back” from your Brain Injury so that you can get more of a world view. Stepping back allows you to look at what is really going on and to] make changes which take into account the bigger picture.