Connecting Collaboratively

When I was a new mom, I was also a school social worker.  I found myself saying here and there as I witnessed child interactions that there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance.  One of my sons as an elementary age boy teetered on this line himself.  We all do at times.

How we communicate with people, how we connect with them, is important! Sure, we know our own truth, and in my office I work with you very hard to define yourself based on your own truth, but being seen accurately and authentically is sometimes our responsibility to be that way in the first place.  How do you define yourself?  I have been asking that question a lot lately.

We had been alone for so long.  Quarantined.  Isolating.  Scared.  Fearful of each other.  Alone.  Lonely.  We were inundated with others telling us if we were being safe or unsafe.  If we were being responsible or a danger to others.  We had no choice but to stop listening to other’s judgments and make our best choices and decisions.  You worked so hard to do that!

We lapsed in our collaborating.  Teams disintegrated.  Schools were online.  Work was at home, as many were functioning as a square on a computer.  The focus on fighting the pandemic by doing our individual part was our group mentality, and beyond that, we were on our own.

Our children suffered a lot.  Playing on teams where they have to be “we” focused, and being in classrooms where they take turns and share and listen, and learning skills like compassion, honesty and empathy were not as available as they are again today.  There is catch up to be done.

I tried my best too.  I added associates to offer more available scheduling of therapy.  I joined with NAMI (listen to my “speech” at the NAMIwalks here) to provide a free teen group.  I responded to every person who reached out to me looking for therapy and continue to strive towards “always an opening” and “no dead ends” (see the NASW-IL press release honoring me with the title of Social Worker of the Year here).   It is Fall 2022 and for many of us, that was before, and now is now.  Now is leaving our houses.  Going into work.  Eating at restaurants.  Visiting family and friends.  Schools are back to mostly pre-Covid functioning and activities are a part of the daily lives of many.

A well known ADHD resource, ADDitude Magazine had an article about the importance of collaboration to help patients.  My associates and I commonly reach out to our clients’ doctors (with permission) and to family members (when appropriate, with consent) to be a part of the greater team.  We all do a lot better as listeners, learners, with humility and openness, and with objectivity.  We always do better collaborating as a team.

In our practice at Lynn Zakeri LCSW Clinical Services, PLLC, we lean heavily on Attachment Theory, in addition to several other theories to help you find comfort in your support system (curious how your attachment style plays out?  Here is a quick quiz).  We have been talking about who your support system is even more frequently since March, 2020.  The New York Times had an article about making friends as an adult.  In 1990, only 3 percent of Americans said they had no close friends; in 2021, nearly 12 percent said the same. The United States is in the grips of a loneliness crisis that predates the Covid pandemic.  The article said something important and I have been sharing that with some of you, and even practicing it during your sessions how to embrace this:  Assume people like you.  Practice that and let me know how it goes. 

Along those lines, this article from the Huffington Post is written by a woman who interviewed her childhood bullies, and often found the same message we have heard before:  We never really know what is going on in someone else’s life. I know we all appreciate that compassion when it is offered to us.  Do you practice that grace as well?

For me, I was seeing many of you before, and we continued to see each other during and now we find outselves at “after”.  Where is that promise that things would feel better when “this” (pandemic) was over?  For many of you, life was predictable in 2020/21 and it is now back to unexpected chaos.  How do you find your calm harmonious peace?  What do you need to really feel joy through connections and experiences?  Does insecurity drive you or are you relatively secure and satisfied?  What are your magic words?  For me, fulfilled comes to mind.  Fulfilled with my team, personally and professionally, and fulfilled with my day-to-day life.  Trying my best and accepting what is meant to be this way.  I have let go of many fears and guilt and shoulds.  What fears are holding you back?  We were afraid of a virus recently.  What do you need to feel secure?  What do you need to feel real?  What do you need to feel alive?

Oh… and my son?  He turned 17 this week and that fine line became determination and passion that gives him pure joy.

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Lynn Zakeri