Therapy as Liberation
The current climate in our country and especially the nation’s capital is one of hope. Hope that racial injustices will finally be righted. Not only do we honor the memory of Mr. George Floyd, and countless others, by protesting but we continue the process of liberation from oppression of all forms. Therapy is a form of liberation. This is something I’ve spoken about with almost all the DCNE clients this past week. Let me explain how therapy is a practice of liberation.
An original psychological injury is learning that we are somehow not good enough. As children, our egos are strong enough to know what is right and wrong (for the most part) but we have little agency to change difficult situations, especially when they arise between us and our primary caregivers. When this happens, we can turn on ourselves and inflict this original injury – the belief that we are not good enough and are responsible for the failures of others to care for us.
The sense of not being good enough is oftentimes our only way of making sense of difficult situations. If something is going wrong at home, it must be because we did something wrong or bad. Our child minds conclude that we are responsible for the difficulties and we develop a sense of shame. This may cause imposter syndrome in which we feel as if we have to be the best (which is not really a definable variable) or we are an abject failure. There is no inbetween and we hold ourselves to an unattainable standard, which sets us up to be that failure we fear.
Pediatrics, the official Journal of The American Academy of Pediatrics, reports that children see around 3,000 advertisements per day. While not all ads are of this nature, most advertisements show us who we could be, what we could have, what we should look like, or how we could feel if only we (fill in the blank). The number is much higher for adults. On average, adults see between 4,000 and 10,000 ads per day, according to Forbes magazine. This is one way of understanding how the internalized shame we might pick up in childhood is perpetuated.
Add on to this all the social media posts that tell us we should be doing more, acting differently, protesting louder, donating more, etc. We may not realize how this can trigger the sense of not feeling good about ourselves, not doing enough, and therefore our sense of “just not good enough” can invade our thinking again. This internalized dynamic can destroy our sense of self, doubt our positive attributes and contributions, and cast a dark shadow over not only our suffering – as if it is deserved – but our successes – they were just lucky. We internalize this sense of shame and remain caught in the internal oppressive falsehoods that we simply aren’t good enough and the source of our own suffering.
Therapy is an act of liberation when it gives clients an opportunity to see themselves as good enough. That simple insight allows for healing to wash through us despite our own distrust of ourselves. A skilled therapist is not just a cheerleader but someone who guides clients into accepting who they are and becoming themselves in an unbecoming world. We can move further away from blame, shame, and negativity by accepting the tragedy of our beliefs and move away from figuring out who “really” is to blame. Instead of the blame game, we can ask “what do I need?” or “what did I need as a kid, that I didn’t get?” Once we can ask these questions, we can do the work of giving ourselves what we need and becoming who we are meant to be. In this way, we challenge ourselves to undo the initial injury of self blame and hatred through a sense of acceptance and actions that meet our unmet needs.
When we participate in a family, community, or protest from this strong position, aware of our needs and not overcome by our perceived shortcomings, we make it safer for others to undo their negative self-beliefs that prevent them from acting with more authenticity. The DCNE offices are one block from the newly named “Black Lives Matter Plaza” in DC and two blocks from Lafayette Square by the White House. There is no greater joy than to be in this place that is contributing to healing our nation and city.
If you’d like a free consultation, contact us today to schedule. We can’t wait to add you to the team of people working for hope and joy.