May 2022

Filled with Rage Today

2022-08-29T19:04:23+00:00May 4th, 2022|feminism, Gender identity, LGBT, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

I had a list of topics to write this month’s blog. Then yesterday happened. There is one topic. The attacks on marginalized people. Right now, it is women. This means that it will affect women of color and women without resources the most. We also see attacks on LGB people, massive attacks on transgender people, and ongoing attacks on people of color. If Roe V Wade is overturned we know the next issues on the agenda are birth control, gay marriage, interracial marriage, and medical privacy. There will be no such thing as an established court precedent anymore.

Many of us have seen this coming for years. We have been gaslighted and told we were overreacting. Roe V Wade was a settled law. It would never be overturned. The right has been laser-focused on this issue since Roe in 1973 and have finally begun to reach its goal. Many of us have been feeling this rage for a long time, it gets amplified every time we face another loss. I am rageful at everyone who denied this was happening, who chose not to vote because it didn’t matter anyway, and to politicians who have failed on their promises. I am less rageful at people who support the overturn because they have been honest about their intentions for years. This should not be a surprise.

Why am I as a therapist being so vocal about this issue? Shouldn’t I be a blank slate for a client to work through their pain? No. That is not what I as a social worker believe. I believe in social justice. I am part of marginalized communities as are my clients. For me to be silent in the face of this is to be complicit in it. I don’t raise the issue in therapy but if/when my client does I am there with them validating their rage and the parts underneath the rage that are filled with sadness and feelings of powerless and everything else that is there. My clients need to be safe with me and part of that is knowing that I understand how marginalized people are treated in this country. My experiences are different from theirs but I get how painful it can be.

In an online therapist group, the question was asked Would you tell your client your feelings about this issue if they asked? And some of us said our clients do not need to ask. They already know where I stand. Especially, since 2016 when politics became a constant topic in therapy. Then COVID when therapists were experiencing the same trauma as clients. One of the most effective interventions I had during the shutdown was to say it’s not just you to my clients. At the time many of us felt like our feelings were just ours as a result of not being exposed to many other people to check in about this.

I have to be honest with my clients about my parts that are activated with what is going on in this country. I don’t ask them to take care of me. I don’t tell them how I deal with it because that is mine to manage. I do model that I am activated also. That is who I am as a therapist and as a person. I am angry. I am sad. I am scared. I am figuring out how I will move forward and what actions I need and must take. Probably a combination of self-care and activism. A combination that may shift back and forth over these next months until the next election. What I won’t do as a therapist or as a person is be silent. I will scream and yell with every bit of energy I have. And I will tell my clients that when they ask.


July 2018

How do we take up space?

2018-11-22T00:47:59+00:00July 26th, 2018|feminism, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

So last weekend I took a small group photography class. It was me and four guys. And I was admittedly the one with the least amount of prior experience. As you can see from my featured pictures. (Next class is Lightbox). What became very apparent to me very quickly when we went outside to practice is that I was not comfortable taking up the physical space that the guys were. We did some pictures of our instructor first and the guys just swarmed her and I found myself on the sides. My instructor (a woman) did try and remedy it a few times. And the guys would move when told so. But I really think that they never once noticed me and thought let me move over and make room for Cathy.

To me, this said a lot about both societal expectations and training and my own discomfort in asserting my needs with four guys I barely knew. I am the type of person that is pretty much always aware what those around me are doing. I notice the marital dynamics of a couple three tables over when I am at a restaurant. While it is an occupational hazard it is also who I am. So for me to push myself in between the guys was very uncomfortable and I pretty much tried to avoid it. Which I think could be an entirely different blog post about reaching outside our comfort zones.

I work a lot with transgender and non-binary people. I have walked through many transitions with my clients. It has always fascinated me how people are perceived so differently based on how their gender presentation is read. Especially when people transition to a more masculine presentation they are given more space in the world and often more respect. It is hard to comprehend how ingrained gender expectations are within us. Those guys were nice. One of them even got me lunch. But they were doing what they were trained to do from a very young age. And sadly so was I.

I have challenged myself recently to try and take up space differently. And I have had some successes. When an experience or product disappoints me I am now more likely to verbalize that (though admittedly it is easier for me when I can write something rather than say it). And I have had good results with that. But when it came to taking up physical space that was an area I just was not comfortable asserting myself into.

With the #MeToo movement and a rise in women running for public office, I think we are seeing the beginnings of a shift in our country. I think women are recognizing that asserting themselves can also have positive effects (though I recognize it also can be dangerous in many ways). I hope young women growing up now will learn to be present in the world differently. and I also hope young men do the same.

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