by Dr. Kendra A. O’Hora, LCMFT
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (which is sometimes safe, I get it) then you’ve likely heard about the recent Nike/Kaepernick ad. So, I’ve got a series of questions for you…
Are you sick of those angry friends, relatives, or co-workers who are totally missing the point about this Nike ad?
Are you tired of the FB posts that are screaming of ignorance and pride instead of compassion and fighting-for-equality.
Are you frustrated that these extremists can’t seem to LET GO of their anger for one-second to hear your well-crafted argument?
Do you feel like this world is filled with bigots who won’t make space for any narrative but their own?
If you answered yes to any of those – then I’ve got some tough truth for you. And this post isn’t about hate-Nike or love-Nike, it’s not about the Right or Left, and it’s not even going to come close to addressing the very real, systemic issues of police brutality and injustice in our country (this last one is very important and there are many fighting hard, Kaepernick included!). This post is about
That simple. This is an article you need to read so that you can finally understand how your frustration, anger, fatigue, and sadness are actually desperately battling it out inside and you don’t even realize it. In fact, I would like to assert, quite boldly, that the minute we as a culture learn how to handle what’s going on inside, we’ll be FAR more equipped to tackle the inequalities in our country. So, read on…
Here’s the deal. You’ve got your very own right-wing, left-wing battle in your mind and body. I know, I know, you’re about to tell me why you are the well-informed, articulate one who actually knows how this whole debate began. But I would like to explain something very simple using the exact thing that most frustrates you…
There is something very crucial these people are teaching you (you thought you’d never learn something from them)! They are emulating the exact process that goes on inside of your head and body. In the therapy world, we call this polarization.
You see, we all have what’s called duplicity of mind. The basic idea here is that our interests, desires, values, and experiences are sometimes at odds. I’ve written about this before. Ever want to eat a whole box of Girl Scout Cookies but also know you value health and balance? Have you ever wanted to try something new and exciting but your fear holds you back? This is duplicity of mind and we experience it all day.
BUT, the difference between someone who is super healthy versus not is how polarized these desires are. Say for example, you have that desire to eat the whole box of Girl Scout Cookies (OK, I’m speaking from experience but roll with me..) and then you listen to that desire/part of you. You listen. I’ll say it again, you listen. Not follow. Listening and following are different. When we listen to our competing thoughts and feelings we make space for them, we hear them, we invite them to share what they’ve got going on. So, you listen to that sugar-loving part and then…we listen to the other parts.
We listen to the other parts that have different desires. Because they matter, too. And then, once we’ve listened to them all, we make holistic, harmonious choices that balance the wants and needs of all these parts swirling around inside.
I was in session today with a client when we were talking about the challenges going on in our culture. She’s recently been swirling through eye-opening realizations about inequality and justice. If you’ve had these Aha! moments then you know how crucial it is when someone finally gets it, we all welcome that person in with open arms because we’re so excited that they finally can understand these truths.
And, we’ve been drawing some very meaningful parallels to her core relationships, and their general lack of equality. The client desperately wants a seat at the table in the relationships most dear to her heart. But today, we took it one layer deeper.
So, let me map this out for you. How often do you listen to all of the experiences held inside? How often do you make space for the parts of you that are hurting, hurting because your dad left when you were twelve years old. How often do you make space for the parts of you that are sad, sad because you lost your buddy in Iraq. How often do you make space for the parts of you that are scared, scared because they are sensing similar patterns of abuse to that last boyfriend. How often do you make space for the parts of you that are aching, aching because your mom has never told you she loves you. How often do you make space for the parts of you that are traumatized, traumatized because you were raped or bullied?
Here’s the KEY point: When you are gearing up for a well-crafted fight on social media or at your upcoming family function, I want you to ask yourself, do I treat my internal self the same way those Right-wing extremists* treat me? Do I tend to bully myself: “stop thinking about when he left, who cares, grow up, you’re an adult now, get over it.” Do I tend to silence myself: “thinking about this does nothing, it certainly doesn’t help get me closer to my goals.” Do I tend to criticize myself: “you know, you should be over this. It was just an assault in college no need to ruminate, your best friend was actually raped.” Do I tend to control myself: “I can’t think about him dying, I’ll just drink instead.” Do I tend toward ignorance to avoid fear: “there’s nothing worthwhile in these thoughts, I wouldn’t want to be wrong, I’ll just push them away.”
We punish, we silence, we criticize, we condemn, we argue, we control, we bully, we ignore, we blame, we hide. And why? Because we’re scared. Everyone is scared for a different reason. I hear clients say they’re scared to let these parts out because they’ll be easily overwhelmed and they might not ever bounce back. Or, they are scared because that they will feel guilt or shame at the choices they made. Or, they’ll realize they might be wrong and they can’t face losing everything.
So, here’s my suggestion. Before you battle it out with another person**. Before you take up arms on social media or in your own home or family, be willing to do the tough work within. Be willing to figure out how often you are doing this exact same process within your own mind.
Start here, and we’ll be totally different people engaging in an entirely different way.
-Dr. Kendra A. O’Hora, LCMFT
*To be clear, there are plenty of loving, engaging, and open-minded conservatives/Republicans that are willing to engage in healthy dialogue surrounding these topics.
**This post is not meant to diminish the honest and helpful dialogue that is currently taking place in our culture. Those conversations are valuable and should be taken seriously with attention and grace.
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