March 27, 2016 (Mainichi Japan)
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Recognizing others’ kindness
香山リカのココロの万華鏡: 「かさじぞう」になろう ／東京
I am often asked which types of people are likely to experience emotional disorders. Truthfully speaking, the answer is “anyone.”
While even intransigent or unkind persons are sometimes known to experience depression, it is also true that a large number of the patients who visit my office could be characterized as people who are considerate and serious.
Despite feeling unwell and suffering from illness themselves, quite a few such persons often say thoughtful things to me such as, “You are looking a little pale. Are you feeling tired?”
I suppose that this is a tendency among kind people to go out of their way to do things for others, even if this means inconveniencing themselves — and often using up all of their energy in the process.
Sometimes I struggle when thinking about this matter, since it would seem as if kindness is somehow a demerit, while those who think exclusively of themselves end up enjoying benefits.
To be sure, people who defiantly take an attitude of “I was not the one at fault” no matter what the situation at hand, and who consistently blame others without looking at themselves, likely never end up practicing self-reproach or facing exhaustion.
Faced with the question of whether one might like to live in a society where everyone thinks only of their own well-being, however, and acts accordingly, I would wager to guess that most people would answer negatively.
Small, thoughtful actions and consideration — such as allowing others to pass in front of you on the street, or saying you are fine when asked how you are feeling to avoid causing others worry, even though you are actually feeling tired — seem to help preserve the tranquility of everyday society.
So what can be done to avoid thoughtful people becoming hurt, as well as to make sure that persons who are deeply considerate of others do not become tired to the point of exhaustion?
In my view, the answer seems to lie in the act of someone recognizing this type of thoughtfulness — and then saying something like “Thank you” or “Please don’t push yourself” to the person who is exercising it.
In reality, however, people these days are so occupied with their own personal issues that they simply pretend not to notice the presence of an overly considerate person — and many of them will even go as far as to use such persons for the purposes of their own personal benefit.
There is an old Japanese fable titled the “kasa jizou” — “straw hat bodhisattva” — which tells the story of an elderly couple who give their last straw hat to a bodhisattva statue to protect it from the snowy cold, and are later rewarded by a visit from the statue bearing gifts of food.
Through this tale, we understand that acts of kindness end up by eventually becoming rewarded. I wonder whether a modern-day version of this scenario exists, wherein people reward others by telling them, “I see your thoughtful actions.”
While I try to do my own part by acting as a “straw hat bodhisattva” in my office, it is unfortunate that the people who come to me are already exhausted and facing conditions such as depression.
It is my great hope that you, too, will become a “straw hat bodhisattva” by speaking up and letting someone know that their kindness has not gone unnoticed.
(By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist) （精神科医）