I must admit that when I am stressed out I gravitate to reading my horoscope. Sounds odd, I know, but somehow I am looking for universal guidance, celestial answers to what is really causing my anxiety, pseudo-psychological answers to my never ending questions.
When life has hit a plateau, I back off of the endless clairvoyant messages of my future and resume to the more emotionally intelligent approaches to the daily struggles, such as having transparent conversations, journaling my concerns, meditation and making time to hear my own thoughts.
It is when I am out of control that I seek a mind-reader, someone who can guess what I need and why… without my having to say a thing. There is a comfort in reading a projection that my day will be full of “great interactions laced with a large infusion of cash”, (just a note, I have never gotten that horoscope reading… but I am holding my breath for the day!)
Many of us fall into the trap, either with horoscopes or another skewed illusion, that those who know us best can read our minds and know exactly what we need, when we need it and why. This can create havoc in relationships because the reality of reading someone else’s mind is impossible.
However, we can use a spin off of mind reading to better understand others and, in turn, assess interpersonal relationships as safe to pursue or in the need of creating distance for your own survival. That spin-off is called “empathic accuracy” and it is based in the practical science of reading cues in verbalizations and body language to best categorize someone’s state of mind, motivations and intentions.
Persons living with dementia rely on their core ability to recognize these cues in the environment to make sense of what is going on around them, how to react to the social environment and remove themselves when a harmful, threat to survival, is perceived. Unlike me, the person living with dementia may no longer be able to operate with higher level forethought.
With the struggles of memory and future planning that used to lead to transparent conversations, journaling, meditation and critical thinking, PLD operates from the core survival technique of mind reading. They are not reading your mind, but looking at what you do, how you say things, how you hold your body and then quickly judge if the situation is safe or not.
On the flip side, your ability to be empathically accurate (read minds) of the person living with dementia can give you several gifts into the person’s state of mind, motivation and intention… even if they are just momentary reactions. You can keep yourself safe by moving away from someone who is giving off “unsafe” vibes and utilize your teammates to help create a safe space for everyone. You can enter into a compassionate space with a PLD when the vibes you pick up are genuine and need empathy and connection.
It is what we put out in the physical and social environment that dictates how a person living with dementia will respond, react and behave. It is also our job to look at the antecedent of a reasonable reaction (behavior) and consider what could have caused the reaction. Most times it is us… in fact it is almost always us,
Cathy Braxton, Owner and Content Creator of improv4caregivers