What a ride the past six months have been. I’m clocking in at my third existential breakdown for the past few weeks, and frankly, that seems right on target given the current state of things.
I’ve stepped back and spent a lot of time learning, raging, exploring, examining, and collapsing and reconstructing my idea of myself as a person, as a woman, as a researcher, as a psychologist. I’ve had lots of interesting, nuanced and juicy discussions with people, and have given myself permission to explore diverse viewpoints offline – which, over the past few weeks is tantamount to violence according to some. So, additionally grappling with the challenge of what it means to sit with shame and not feel compelled to enter, uninformed, into a dialogue for the sake of gaining external approval or saving face.
There are an exceptional range of resources, stories, art and voices that have been amplified over the past few weeks – a range of which will inspire, enrage, challenge and elevate. I encourage you to make space, continuously for such resources. And from there, make efforts to detangle and integrate your learning – allow it to help shape you into the type of person you most want to be and let it inform how you show up in the world.
Here’s a glimpse of a few things I’m learning/unlearning…
In therapy, we understand the importance of being seen and heard in one’s fullness, in one’s vulnerability, in one’s pain and in one’s truth. Finding a voice and having a space where we can be heard and acknowledged, free from judgement or expectation, is something we all deserve. Unfortunately, structures within our society have made it so that some voices are louder than others, and some people are rarely given the space to be seen. This is unjust and needs to be confronted.
NEEDS & BOUNDARIES
We all have needs and boundaries and we should all feel worthy of expressing them, without feeling as if we are being burdensome or over-demanding. Unfortunately, structures within our society have made it so that certain people’s needs and boundaries are overlooked/disregarded. Our needs run deep, and reflect our human yearning for safety, for inclusion, for belonging and for autonomy. We cannot progress as a collective until all individuals feel empowered to express their needs and boundaries, and expect they will be met with acknowledgement and respect.
INTENT vs IMPACT
We may not ever intend to, but we will, throughout our lives, do things that hurt others. In this way, we all have a duty to both become aware of the ways in which we might unwittingly diminish or injure others, and understand what triggers our own personal hurt and offence. We must honour emotional truths which means not telling an upset person “Don’t be upset” and not telling ourselves “Just get over it” when we find ourselves hurting. We must be compassionate and curious about what drives us to act in certain ways, and how these actions impact others, just as we must be compassionate and curious about what drives others to act as they do and how this impacts us.
SELF WORK IS HARD WORK
Lately, folks have been bandying around the idea of “challenging your implicit biases” like it’s the same thing as remembering to pre-heat the oven. Dudes. This is a lot to expect from some people who aren’t even socially-aware enough to realise that catcalling out the window of their Subaru Impreza is not going to be taken as a compliment. We are all operating with implicit biases – around race, around gender, around values, around who we are and what we deserve. If you’re not questioning these on the reg, you’re basically an automaton and will be discarded once the robot apocalypse comes.
WHAT ARE YOU BRAVE ENOUGH TO LET GO OF?
Self exploration and analysis is hard fucking work. And I can say with 100% certainty that you, me, everyone, is holding onto shit they don’t need or that might hurt others because it’s comfortable, familiar or allows one to retain status/dominance. It’s difficult to confront but essential if you want to cultivate an authentic relationship with yourself, with others, and with the world. So what are you holding onto that’s holding you back? A feeling of superiority around some kinds of people? A feeling to stay small bc you’re afraid of making a mistake? The desire to be constantly approved of? Do the work, and bin it.
WE NEED TO BELONG SOMEWHERE
As individuals, we are soft-wired to be both selfish & groupish. It’s what helped our ancestors survive in harsh environments within tribal communities. This tribalistic desire to belong and to be approved of by our in-group is still as salient as ever, and is explicit in society today, particularly when confronted with politicised issues. It’s easy to admonish and dehumanise others when you feel as if they’ve made conscious choices to believe what they believe – and those beliefs (according to you) are wrong. However, it makes it harder to understand one another, reach common ground and find positive solutions to problems.
WE ARE ALL OUR OWN UNIVERSE
While the conversations around race, gender, sexuality, etc. are all completely necessary, a danger these conversations can pose is the unintentional definition of an individual by what is essentially only one part of them. We are all complex, multi-faceted, radiant, unfinished and often contradictory organisms. Our brains have the tendency to fall into the default of stereotyping or simplifying the complexities of others, particularly when we don’t know too much about them. Don’t be lazy. Learn. Be open. Fuck up. Do better. Be compassionate. Be curious. And be prepared to be dazzled.