by Dr.Moira Borg MD Gestalt Psychotherapist
Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.
One of the basic behaviours we are taught from a very young age is the way we behave towards others, namely social behaviour or what are commonly described as manners. The importance of instilling such habits in our young is not simply related to raising one’s social status but is closely interwoven with the enhancement of their emotions, temperament, values, attitudes, knowledge and skills basically most of the valid constituents of good character.
Children are born social. The level and nature of social skills they develop then naturally depends on the quality of such passed on by their caregivers and educators. Considering the link between social skills and the child’s psychological development, one can safely assume the protective effect good social upbringing has on the child’s mental health and wellbeing. Conversely, the child’s social behaviour, as is the behaviour of anyone at any age, is a very valid predictor of his/her mental health status. Children are not so eloquent in expressing their feelings in words, especially at a very young age, and as a result their behaviour is usually the only access to understanding their state of mind.
Unfortunately, the reality around me, both as a professional and as a Maltese citizen, is not relaying a very candid picture of our present state of affairs neither where social behaviour nor where mental wellbeing is concerned. Social media have completely lost their communal facet and have instead become a medium of hate, slander and disrespect. Many come to therapy because they feel they are not treated well across the board, at home, at work, socially. While taking into account that we are responsible for what we allow, I still believe that we have become generally disrespectful and ill-mannered towards each other. From my experience, there were many times when I moved aside to allow someone to pass only to go unacknowledged let alone thanked, when I was unceremoniously skipped in a queue or when I had someone literally breathing down my nape while I was withrawing cash from an automated teller machine. Not to mention the cringing experiences on the road and at various places of entertainment where I had to involuntary share ‘private’ conversations, obscenities and offal with fellow citizens.
Unfortunately, what we fail to understand is that by not showing respect and courtesy to each other we are condemning ourselves to deeper loneliness as our relationships cannot sustain such continuous lack of empathy and mutual regard. Moreover, our children are watching us and passively taking in our comportment and no amount of schooling and endless hours of watching Barney singing how ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ make ‘nice things (to) happen’ can overcome what we teach them. It is the collective responsibility of each and every one of us to change this sad state of affairs. Alternatively we have to accept the reality that our society is slowly being doomed to extinction.