February 5, 2017
Don’t worry, this is not a political post. Although my clients have been talking about the “current political climate” all week.. well really for a couple weeks now.
It’s been very fascinating for me as a social worker and psychotherapist to witness my client’s journeys during this “current political climate.” I must say there is a part of me that is extremely fascinated by something my schooling taught me about long ago but never truly experienced in my work until now.
I don’t recall the exact name of the class, although it was something like “Social Policy,” or something like that. I also don’t recall my professor’s name either, although he has been one of the ones I remember most from graduate school. He was an older gentleman, closer to retirement than most. His classroom was in the basement of the building with no windows. He wore Birkenstocks with socks, and although that did endear me to him, for the first few weeks I thought he and his class was incredibly boring. A year with him later, I felt quite the opposite.
One of my most memorable moments with Professor was the day I fell down the stairs on the way to his class and after going to the bathroom to regroup and assess myself, I realized that I could not use my right hand and that I best get myself to a doctor. I approached Professor and informed that I think I should skip class to go the hospital, to which his first question was, “Do you have health insurance?” A perfect question from a social work professor who teaches social policies.
Social workers are trained to understand each person we meet as a “person within their environment,” meaning that any particular issue a client comes in for is influenced by their home life, their family, their social circles, their communities, their state, their nation, and the local and national “political climate.” The above name-forgotten political class with the memorable name-forgotten professor was truly my first real introduction into politics. The class each week started with Professor thumbing through a stack of anonymous “current events”questions that the class submitted after reading a reputable newspaper that week. He answered the questions and schooled us on relevant topics, political structure, current events in a way I am sure none of us really knew to be curious about. I remember feeling the other students were as cautious as I was as to not reveal that we frankly knew absolutely nothing about politics or event what was happening at that time. I feel certain none of us did. I do recall wishing to stay in a class like that forever so I could have my own personal guide to understanding all that was happening politically and socially.
The only real “politics effect me, too” moment I had before graduate school, was a year or so prior when I worked for what once was called the Department of Social Services. Our office and many others endured budget cuts which resulted in a boat-load of lay offs and a hiring freeze. Those of us who were blessed to keep our jobs, along with the recently laid off, rallied at the state house and lobbied for our co-workers jobs back. I felt strong, confident, righteous, and felt so incredibly moved to be part of fighting not only for my own client caseload not to sky rocket from the already high numbers it held, but more so to be able to provide better care to the families we serviced, as I knew we already were providing the “just good enough” kind of service.
That was about 16 years ago, and since then I cannot recall once, not once, that politics entered the room with me as a social worker or therapist. Until now.
My clients are not coming in to talk about politics, per se, although many needed to voice their feelings, process, and acclimate to the new information happening around them. What my clients are coming for, really, is help sorting through feelings of what they “should” be doing during this time. Many have come to me stating they feel guilty that they didn’t march, or are not sure that they are the type to post things on Facebook about their beliefs, but maybe now they should? There is a general lack of clarity about “what to do” right now given so many mixed emotions, swirling information, and unsettled times.
So, this is it, this is when my social work training many moons ago finally starts to appear! Here it is, here is the example of how politics affect my clients… but … um.. what I am supposed to do with that??
What I have come to is, that my clients are not looking for therapy in these times. My clinical skills really have no place here. Yes, we could definitely talk about grounding, coping skills, self care and all the like, yet this has felt different, and has felt like my clients are asking me for more.
And here is where I am not a typical therapist, here is where I depart from traditional clinical skills and bridge over into the spiritual, into the intuitive, into the bigger mission. I don’t always know what to say when I feel my client is calling upon me from this place, and yet, I know that I don’t have to know what to say. I know as soon as I start talking, something good will end up coming out and I just trust and let the words flow.
And here is what has been coming out:
This is a time, as in any, to be in integrity, to be in authenticity, to be for the greater good. If you are to act, please, do what you feel called to do, from that deep place in your core. Veer away from what you think you “should” do from that fear-based place that worries what others will think of you. Veer from the guilty place that fears that you have somehow wronged the world by remaining true to you.
Some of us are introverts and our way to affect positive change in this world may not be grand displays, may not be rallies and pickets and postings. Some of us are here to effect change on a grand scale, some of us are here to effect change on a small scale. Some of us are loud and proud, some of us are subtle and profound. Some of us will be surprised by what we want to do, or surprised by what we don’t want to do. No one is better than the other. We are all needed. All of us, in our own individual ways can continue to make this world a better, gentler, kinder place to be. Do as you are called to do, do what you feel moved to do, and most importantly do what feels authentic to you.
Some of us know we will be called to do something, and yet not might not be the time. Honor and respect this. Helping the world become better is a long-term project, we will need folks with fresh energy when other folks are burnt out. There is no time limit, there is no need for knee-jerk reactions. Be clear, be thoughtful, be deliberate. Allow your time to show up for you, when it is time.
Some of us are worried that we aren’t participating in helping the world heal, and I urge you to think again. You being you helps. You healing yourself helps. You taking care of yourself, being kind to yourself, you being still and quiet and well-rested and well-cared for helps. You help just by being you with your kind heart and your loving presence. You help. If you don’t know what else to do right now, care for yourself, keep yourself healthy and well. It may be now tis the time that you conserve energy to do your part later. It is all good. Continuing to embody health and healing, compassion and love helps. Think of the power of a group of healthy, compassionate, and loving people banning together in that energy. Talk about effecting change!
So, this is not a political post.
This is a post about being part of a community. And how you can be the best community member you can be, which may include right now, just taking good care of yourself.