Therapy in the Dark Times

The world has become a scary place and yet it is still so great to be alive. With singers like Ariana Grande singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow, there is hope. There is also sadness. Why does it need to be “Somewhere Over the Rainbow?”

It seems to me that somewhere over the rainbow was close to being real right here and now and maybe it still is. The world was moving in the right direction with more caring about the earth’s well- being, as exemplified by the Paris Climate Change Agreement. With Trump’s declaration that he/we/the U.S.A was withdrawing from the agreement, there is both darkness of heart and joy, with the commitments by cities and states across the United States to reduce carbon emissions. There is power in the joining together of hearts, heads and hands.

As a therapist, I hear a dramatic change in the content of my clients’ sessions.  Never before have the issues of the world entered the privacy of the therapy hour to such a degree. There is fear, anger, bewilderment, more anger, despair, determination and facing personal challenges.

Some people wish to hide “from the mess,” as they call it.  Some feel a sense of panic, like the world is going to implode, and feel there is nothing they can do about it.  Others feel despair and anxiety and expect the apocalypse.  

Giving clients a space to talk about the impact of the new administration has been a good and moving experience for me. After having a chance to talk about their anxieties and despair, people are moving in different ways but not sinking into despair.  Some have realized that stepping out to join others with similar concerns would bring connection and new friends.  Some have found that going to rallies allows them to express their anger and despair in productive ways. Some have joined progressive organizations and are doing things they have always wanted to do. And some are cherishing the strength and beauty of life and sharing that with others to imbue the others with a sense of hope in the face of darkness.

It seems to me that our role as therapists is to hear and hold the despair that so many people are experiencing. It is up to them how they want to respond. Having a place to talk freely, without others’ interference, is the gift we can offer.

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