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  • Dr. Sandra Y. Lewis

Ate The Whole Thing


Have you ever known kids who wouldn’t eat foods that had a particular ingredient, like cooked onions? Some kids simply refuse to eat these foods or push them around on their plates. Others bargain with their parents to do things they hated like wash dishes in order to avoid eating the food they dislike.

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My cousins refused to eat cornbread dressing because it had onions in it. My aunt would make a special pan without onions just for them. I loved it and I still love it, onions and all.

Other kids who didn’t like the onions in cornbread dressing would pick them out but eat the rest. Because they liked cranberries or mushrooms or celery or green pepper or oysters or many of the other tasty ingredients that can be baked into cornbread dressing. Maybe in your family or neighborhood, it was another food like potato salad or peas and carrots.

But one of the most interesting things about these scenarios is how each kid approaches a food with ingredients that they don’t like. Some reject the whole thing, sacrificing an opportunity to enjoy the parts they do like. Others simply pick out the part that they don’t like and place it on the side of their plate. Then they wholeheartedly dive into the rest. They didn’t seem to mind the flavor the unwanted ingredient left behind. They might even enjoy it along with all the other ingredients.

Perhaps you’ve watched a parent feed an infant a mashed baby food that she or he pushes back out of their mouth. Unconcerned about looks or etiquette, the baby who eats carrots but hates peas will push peas right back out.

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This is where parents get creative. They mix the peas with the carrots and WHOO HOOO!!! The baby eats them without a problem.

These scenarios remind me of one of the oldest theoretical approaches in psychology, Gestalt Psychology. In its early years, it was very useful for unraveling and understanding perceptual processes, that is, how we make sense of the world around us. It has even been translated into effective psychotherapeutic techniques. The big idea in Gestalt psychology is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Everything taken together includes the individual parts as well as the way in which they mix together.

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So, both a smooth line and a set of dashes that move in a round pattern would be called a circle.

When I explain the whole vs. the sum of its parts to my students, I use the example of a disagreement between two best friends. Let’s say you tell your best friend to meet you at your house and give them a key to get in because you will arrive a little later. On your way home, you’re thinking about the last white chocolate, macadamia nut cookie and how good it’s going to taste. Your mouth is watering and you can’t wait to taste the mixture of sweet, salty, and nutty. When you arrive at home, you head straight for the cookie jar. But all that’s left is the crumbs and your friend with a happy, satisfied look on her/his face. While you may be upset about the cookie, it’s not likely that this one incident will impact the strength of your relationship or leave you convinced that your friend is an awful and completely inconsiderate person.

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In this case, you’re willing to take the good and the bad as a total package. You recognize that a combination of qualities make the whole person that you call your friend. These qualities #balance out each other. They complement each other. You may even see yourself reflected in your friend. Sometimes they show you the best of you and other times they reflect the worst in you. And you do the same for them. This #reciprocity in our relationships helps us evolve, figure out how to create new combinations of qualities, and be our best self.

What’s your special flavor? What unique qualities create your personal blend? How will you tweak your recipe and reveal an even better version of yourself? Every day brings an opportunity to be your best you. Spice it up!

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© Sandra Y. Lewis | All Rights Reserved

#reciprocity #balance #relationships #growth

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