Dear America: Remember Who You Are
An Open Letter from our Founder:
The hurt and intensity of this political moment has deeply affected so many of the people in and out of my office right now. The conversations have been gut-wrenching to hear - people's fears, concerns, uncertainty about the future of our country. Many people are genuinely fearful that it will no longer be the (comparatively) safer place it has been in recent history. Those concerns are valid, and I have come to realize that much like the natural tendency we have as humans to watch and stare at the scene of an accident, we cannot wait for a political leader to save us from the moment we find ourselves in. While I don't necessarily mean that we have to go protest (although that's an understandable and appropriate way to demonstrate our dissatisfaction with the status quo), we do need to do some self-inventory and see how we might be able to facilitate healing within our social reach.
Upon self-examination, I have personally found it necessary to step back and work to resist getting too encapsulated by the fervor of the moment - to remember who I am as a person, what I believe, as well as who and what I care about most. In remembering this, I have personally been moved to try and promote peace and mutual understanding through my work and my personal relationships.
Many of us are hurting. Many of us are wounded. We are becoming increasingly aggressive because we feel that something critical to our safety and well-being (physically or emotionally) is being more threatened. We do not feel understood or cared about. We increasingly view others with particular affiliations or associations as a threat because we believe they want to come between us and something very physically or emotionally important to us.
Yet, I do fundamentally believe we are more alike than different.
During this time, I have found it vital to remember that at our core, many of us still care about the same people and values that we always have (or did not long ago). What has changed is that we struggle to feel like people who think and believe differently than we do understand us or place adequate importance on the issues that are of highest importance to us. As a result, we feel disrespected. When we feel disrespected because we explained our point of view and the other person didn't appear to understand (or decided to be hurtful anyway), we tend to distance ourselves and start self-assuring that our needs are met using increasingly intense strategies until we feel they are adequately met and understood. The vast majority of us do not want to attack others or be difficult just for the sake of making others miserable and do not take pleasure in it - we do so when we feel we must. The reason we escalate the situation is because whatever is at stake feels too emotionally important to us (even for those of you that are hyper-rational) - otherwise we would compromise.
I don't wish to trivialize anything that people are going through right now, but in light of my job as a Marriage and Family Therapist my reflection drew me to the parallels between the state of our country and many of the marriages that come into the counseling office. Most marriage counseling starts with one or both parties telling me that I need to fix the other person because the other person is most certainly the problem. They feel this way because they've tried everything they know how to do to communicate the importance of a particular need or value the other person has and yet the other person seems to still not understand. Ergo, they are the problem.
This political moment feels an awful lot like us trying to select a president that will fix the people who affiliate with the other party (based on what we believe to be true about them).
So I will challenge you to do what I am challenging myself to do. Don't orient your behavior around defeating the opposing party or their candidate - they are not the enemy. The enemy is indulging the urge to participate in a power struggle that can (and already is) hurting all of us. Orient your behavior back around the values you strive to embody, and the things and people you care about most. It is striving toward these things on a personal level that will collectively guide us back to a healthier, more trusting, and safe place.
Wishing You Well,
Founder and CEO of Clarity Counseling