REFLEXIONS ON BEHAVIOR
I believe that our actions reach deeper and farther than we might imagine.
I became a registered nurse in 1969. My first years in nursing practice were on medical-surgical units taking care of people who were on their way to surgery, recovering from surgery, or suffering from serious illness or injury.
In those days nurses had more time to spend with their patients. The relationship more intimate, holistically based. Length of stays longer, affording nurses greater opportunity to know and positively impact our patients. Paperwork less demanding, resulting in more time spent with patients and families.
One example of this is the fact that nurses actually bathed patients who were too weak to shower. The bedside bath was an effective way of assessing a patient. I learned to be respectful of the patient’s vulnerability, treating them gently and in ways that preserve dignity; keeping them covered with bath blankets and towels, uncovering one limb or body section at a time. While bathing that part of the body, I checked for things like range of motion, bruises, skin color and integrity and malformations. I could sense degrees of tension or weakness. I took care to keep my patients warm. When clean and dry, they were treated to a massage to stimulate circulation and prevent discomfort and skin breakdown that comes from being bed-ridden for many hours at a time.
I could see the patients responding to the process- the anxious and fearful gradually relaxing, the sluggish energized. What intrigued me, however, was my own progressive state of relaxation during this process. It was impossible for me to give without getting back.
Now practicing in the field of psychiatric nursing, bed baths are no longer a part of care, but have become a metaphor for what therapists do when sitting with clients who have injured psyches. We invite the client to our office, sit with them and gently question them while doing our best to convey respect and promote feelings of safety. Slowly over time the wounds and weak spots are revealed. Remarkably, without any physical touch, energy is flowing between client and therapist; at times barely perceptible, at other times quite palpable. Moods change. Feelings are generated in both client and therapist. When emotional wounds surface, every attempt is made to bring the client back to a safer more comfortable state by the end of session.
Current science reveals that we are all one mass of vibrating molecules – energy constantly reacting and readjusting to even minute changes in the environment. Even a baseball bat is vibrating and flexible, as can be visualized with high-tech photography. Emotional states can produce physical reactions in an individual and in others around them.
And so we have a bit of hard science adding to the validity of soft terms like “karma” and “vibes” . I believe that whether we are kind or cruel, attentive or indifferent- to human beings or other living creatures, we cannot be so without experiencing repercussions -esoteric shifts in our being.