Following in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, there appears to be an incredibly high level of reporting and therefore extreme fear of our children master minding deadly attacks at school. Recently, a woman expressed fear in her daughter becoming a school counselor, reporting that she felt it was “too unsafe”. I ALWAYS want to return to another conversation and I invite you to consider the same………….
Nothing is more frustrating than the wave of political and religious statements made after an unexplainable tragedy occurs. In the immediate days and hours following the recent shootings of young children and educators in Connecticut, we have watched a flood of news information followed by words of sympathy and suggestions that we remember to love one another. Quickly it dissipates into diatribes about what needs to change. We make decisions to talk about how we lack discipline or religion and even the need for more gun laws. Although I will never personally own a gun, it hurts to see how quickly we as a nation move to wanting the same thing we always do; a quick fix to relieve ourselves of the anxiety that we experience every time a tragedy occurs.
Now I understand that as a mental health practitioner, it may be easy to discount what I have to say, but I am above all, passionate about people. My desire for every person to lead a life of genuine peace and happiness does NOT require us to seek out therapy. However, I will always remain clear that what we need more than anything else in this life, is clarity around our ability to understand ourselves as emotional human beings. When emphasis is not placed on teaching us about emotions, just like we learn how to read and write, then we are often doomed. When we have little understanding of ourselves in relationship with others, we cannot cope during times of difficulty.
It appears that the rants about gun control and bad parenting become the easy target because we do not want to take a good look at the real issues. If we focus on something like changing a law, then it gives us the option to forego looking at ourselves. And Why Not? Who wants to do the difficult and vulnerable work that it takes? Instead, we talk about how guns are the problem, or the bad parent is the problem. Worse yet, we make another troubled person ‘evil’ or ‘crazy’, all in an effort to not be honest about our lack of understanding or willingness to be honest with ourselves about our own human struggle. If we do not make changes where it genuinely counts, it does not matter if we make hundreds of new laws around guns.
What is going to make a difference, is our own willingness to be honest about what we are breeding like a virus in a petri dish in this country. Why can’t we talk about our emotional struggle? Why can’t we be honest with ourselves and one another about how we feel about ANYTHING? The most common reason people seek out mental health care is not when it is has been one death and loss, but instead many. People wait until the trauma they have experienced cripples their ability to function. What is worse is that the shame that we experience grows because we are have made ourselves believe that we are to be both perfect and capable of taking care of our problems all alone. It is heart wrenching to watch and I am tired of having these two ideas shoved down my throat on a daily basis. So I ask you to listen to your heart and consider carefully what genuinely matters to you and how are you going to make changes that reflect an honest and vulnerable life. Here are just a few ways that allow us to move away from the pretend of perfection and grow towards the kind of life where we value each breath we take and remember that our relationships are meaningful when we genuinely connect on a deep emotional level.
- What is left unsaid in your life? Can you lay your head on your pillow each night and know that every person that you genuinely love knows it. Each encounter that requires your open and honest discussion with the issue has occurred.
- You remember that you are the only person who can take good care of you. Others will not know what you can tolerate in this life if you are not verbally clear, which will often require your emotional honesty. For example, “I am sorry, but I cannot do that. I am emotionally drained and need a break.”
- You chose to make clear what your limits and boundaries are. You do not set aside your own needs in an attempt to appear like the good self sacrifice.
- When you feel emotionally whole, you are genuinely present and ask the tough questions that maybe others will not. For example, “You seem to be struggling, are you feeling down?”
I wonder (IF it is true) how many times Adam’s mother may have needed someone to ask her the right questions about her son? If we do not turn away and hide from our own emotions, maybe, just maybe, this family would have felt empowered to seek out the emotional support they all needed. I will never tout that this choice of journey is easy, but I will say that no matter how many flaws I have, and God knows there are many, I AM ENOUGH- and so are YOU. Just the way you are in this moment; you are Good Enough. Until we move away from a perfection seeking society, one that requires us to hide our emotional and vulnerable humanity, we will not make a world of Good-Enoughs.
It does not matter how many traumas and losses you have experienced, how many times you have tried to stop something that you knew was detrimental to you. It does not matter how many mistakes you have made. We all have the capacity to change. As researcher-storyteller, Brene’ Brown stated, ‘Open the door and walk into the stadium of your worst fears. Inevitably, it is always you that is staring back.’ I, too, had to make a choice and choose another way. Until I sought out therapy for myself, I believed the same as many. I believed that needing to be perfect was a possible destination and I just wasn’t trying hard enough.
Now, I realize that when I sew my lovely spouse’s pants backwards or I yell at my daughter when I am tired and grumpy, it sets me free from the constraint of perfectionism. No gun law will ever set us free. No amount of blame or anger will ever lead us towards that need to feel that we belong; that we belong, just the way we are, flawed, just like everyone else.
Here is the whole truth. If we made the decision to educate and grow insight into our emotional selves, eventually, I would be without a vocation. If you feel there is a struggle to get started on this path, educate yourself honestly about what mental health care is. I wish for once I could stop being called “a shrink” or a person that only “sick” or “crazy people go to” and instead be recognized as a the place in which a person can discover and grow into a whole, healthy, emotionally well human being. If I could loose my vocation due to this reality, I would gladly close shop with a smile on my face. No amount of gun laws will ever change the human heart. Only our genuine human connection can do that.