Love wins: Talking about what feels impossible to talk about
Updated: Mar 22
This was written during the George Floyd protests in May/June 2020. It's written from a therapy perspective. It's only my opinion and experience. (It's only my own experience, and I hope it's useful. I'll share therapy resources below). Presenter Nigel Clarke (who happened to be very kind to me when I was unwell!) has posted a great concise video here on the need for continued engagement over injustice and for it not to just be a passing concern / passing hashtag, etc.
As a therapist, it feels strange to be silent on this issue; to bypass what's going on, and carry on 'business as usual', especially when the issue of race often has such an impact on mental health. As therapists, it's our job to be nonjudgemental and unbiased/open minded and support people experiencing the pain of injustice, discrimination of any kind, and issues of identity.
It's the very nature of therapy to be inclusive.
The Internet can be a strange and intimidating place to speak up. In the same day you can simultaneously be told, on any particular issue, "Why aren't you saying anything? / Why are you saying nothing to defend us?" and then paradoxically "It's not your place to speak on my behalf".
So for what it's worth, here's some thoughts on the subject:
* It's good to take time off the internet and connect directly to other people. Not only does that give us some respite from an onslaught of information and images, but talking to people directly also means we can ask straightforwardly how we can best support them, and hear their experiences.
That's not to say the Internet / social media can't be helpful. Especially as it gives us an amazing ability to hear a diverse range of voices different from our own. But because it can lead to a sense of overwhelm, I think it's useful, at times like this, to limit it's use.
* Situations and structures that lead to inequality, violence and abuse often need to be looked at, overhauled and updated, so that people can be truly supported and taken care of. Take the situation of domestic violence, for example. Yes, it's possible to lend support when someone is not yet in a place of safety, but deep healing only takes place when people have left and are in a place of safety.
*I sincerely hope in my heart that this is a moment for us to address and look at all forms of racism. It's a broad issue that exists in many forms. I hope that this can be an opportunity for an extended conversation about racism in all forms across-the-board. Where it hides in all those pockets; in the form of comments, delusions, suspicions, prejudices, barriers. I hope this moment lights that up too.
*There is a picture in my Instagram feed that reads "you did not waste your love ever." I do think it's important to come from a place of love at the moment. As Martin Luther King said, "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." The courage is to try and use love as a way forward to engage with others. Your intention is what's important. Things might get a little messy, but most people can recognise when you're coming from a place of love.
*Regarding anger: I've always thought it problematic to talk about anger as a 'negative' emotion, in a therapy context. Anger is simply energy, and that energy can be used as fuel to do something good, productive and beneficial. Even the energy of rage can be harnessed for good. If you're looking for a video of a woman being totally articulate in her rage about her neighbourhood being burned down, look no further than here: https://www.facebook.com/NowThisPolitics/videos/1209961062679819/UzpfSTc3MzU2MDAwMToxMDE2MzczNjcyODIwMDAwMg/)
Anger is only destructive and unhealthy when it's not acknowledged, directed and transformed. Long term we must not be consumed by our own fire. Like any emotion, anger can be turned into a plan of action and then transformed into a positive, helpful and practical solution.
*In terms of hope, progress is often made by addressing what's not working.
* Deep pain takes many forms, and unfortunately discrimination and pain in this world is widespread (as you're continuously reminded as a therapist). While it's very helpful and healing to connect with and take refuge within the exact specific group that understands our particular form of pain (racial abuse, sexual abuse, homosexual prejudice, chronic illness, domestic violence , etc); I feel it's always also equally important, to not become blind to the compassion that exists outside of that group, and is available to us. Broader connections, draw us back out into trusting the world again. There are a great many kind, connected and understanding people in the world. Allow them to nourish you.
Let's look on the positives! There's never been a better time to have awkward conversations! ;)
Thank you for reading this. I'm sharing some therapy resources below. Please share additional helpful organisations and resources in the comments box below:
Therapy resources below: https://foluketaylor.com/
Foluke Taylor is a psychotherapist, writer, teacher and activist. The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation
https://borislhensonfoundation.org/ The Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation is a nonprofit, founded in 2018, "committed to changing the perception of mental illness in the African-American community by encouraging those who suffer with this debilitating illness to get the help they need."
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