We live in troubling times.
We are suffering from dramatic exposures and consequences of climate change, terrorism, animal cruelty, and prejudices and violence against women, those in the LGBTQ+ community, the indigenous communities, African Americans and other marginalized segments of the population (IBPOC), as well cyberbullying and hate speech over social media.
As we neared the end of the third month of the unprecedented pandemic of Covid-19, most of us were already tired, burnt out, depressed, anxious and fearful. We started finding out that our initial coping strategies of managing, in the beginning, were becoming less effective and had gotten ‘old’…. and then George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer.
How far had we still not come? What was the point to anything?
I felt this in my own life.
I felt this in the lives of my friends and family.
I felt this in the lives of my clients.
As a white therapist, having grown up in the predominantly white suburb of Burlington, Ontario, I learned early on that I had to “wake up” to my own biases.
The ethic of being non-judgmental was drummed into me during my formal Social Work education. But how could this translate into my practice with clients and balance this with my personality as a direct and honest speaker from Burlington? How could a white woman help everyone? How could I help those already suffering from the prolonged quarantine to finding purpose and hope in their lives? How do I still inspire, empower and motivate?
Stephen Hawking once said, “Where there is life, there is hope.”
We have to keep going.
I think that it is better to keep going than stop.
I think that If we look back, we can see some kind of evolution happening, where the voices of women, children, animals, IBPOC, and those from all sexual orientations HAVE mattered, albeit slowly and not without setbacks, some of them devastating. How did the democratic voices get louder after Trump won? How is vegetarianism trending? How did Truth and Reconciliation develop? Obviously, there is so much more to do.
I think that it is better to become more self-aware, to speak up, to vote with conscience and to promote what we believe in, to somehow contribute to the healthy micro and global conversations and expressions, to lead with kindness and openness and compassion, to teach by example and to live with heart. Resilience is in part, due to helping others and speaking up.
It has always been intrinsic in the work that I do to lead with kindness and openness and to show my heart as a human being. I am a woman. I am a white woman. I am a mother. Of course, my life experiences shape my views. It is my responsibility as a therapist to be aware of the personal material I bring into the therapy room and be in control of my reactions to my clients to ensure that the therapeutic alliance is protected; that clients feel unconditionally understood, validated and empowered. This is called countertransference. Being aware of unconscious biases is part of this.
I often recognize that my clients have made different choices and decisions than I would. I stretch and learn and grow every time I find a way to really listen, really understand, really empathize and really motivate those towards health, who have walked from a different place than I, and somehow that complexity actually adds to the healing process instead of stealing from it. This is how it should be, that the differences do not divide us, that we treat each other as equal humans, at work, at friendship, at love and in therapy.