Problems at work? Ten things to consider before leaving.

Problems at work? Ten things to consider before leaving.

Before I was a therapist, I spent over a decade working in the nonprofit sector. During this time, discovered a lot about the complexities of office politics. Now, coupled with my training as a psychotherapist, I have been able to help many of my patients navigate challenging and toxic workplace environments and find jobs that fit into the lives they desire.

The bottom line is that workplace dynamics are a microcosm of larger social dynamics and relationships. Unexamined expectations, personal beliefs, and old patterns can greatly impact how people show up at work, and what gets evoked, played out, and triggered. This all impacts how satisfying the work can be. Reverberations of larger structural injustices can often take place in the microcosm of the workplace. As with any group dynamic, some of these reverberations can be structural, such as a common nonprofit top-down “charity mindset” where programming may be based on funding rather than community need; and sometimes interpersonal, through microagressions and other enactments, bullying, denial, and even withholding of important logistical information. People can end up feeling confused and unsure of their roles within the system and in their day-to-day work. Learning how to address these issues both interpersonally and within the company at large, coupled with ongoing attention and company-wide intervention, is key to preventing and mending a toxic workplace environment.

Unfortunately, this is not always possible. So if these issues have been consistently happening without sufficient acknowledgment, and it's interfering with your job satisfaction and quality of life on a regular basis, it may be time to consider a change.

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Power, Contact, and Transformation Through Radical Psychotherapy

Power, Contact, and Transformation Through Radical Psychotherapy

One of the most important and meaningful things in my work is making contact with each of my clients. Without relational contact, whatever work my clients and I do together becomes irrelevant, indigestible, insoluble, and fragmented, which can be traumatizing, re-activating, and particularly harmful on micro and macro levels. That’s not to say rifts and miscommunications don’t happen, even when we are aiming for contact. In fact, that’s often the life blood of our work together, as these inevitable rifts let us know that something is feeling missed inside of you, and therefore there is something that needs to be found and contacted.

So how can you and I make contact, even when you may be feeling an intuitive skepticism and mistrust of what I represent, or even what the vulnerability of emotional contact represents?

I think it has a lot to do with how both of us understand, and can speak to, power, privilege, and hegemony. If I don’t recognize and own my power in the therapeutic dyad, then it is more likely to be misused or enacted without resolution.

In service of a truly transformative experience for my clients and society at large, I aim to stay alive and awake in my radicalism even while maintaining a kind of therapeutic neutrality that is important to my work.

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The Language of "Good-Enough Therapy"

The Language of "Good-Enough Therapy"

I was talking with a therapist friend today about our personal relationships with authority. We were sharing that, as therapists, we have a particular authority that we as non-therapists might also rail against. As therapists, we have authority in the room. Whether we like it or not, there is often a power differential in the clinical hour. But that authority does not have to be a toxic one, and in fact, can become the very container in which to support profound transformation and growth. Here’s how I think that can happen.

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Caring for yourself is necessary. Please keep showing up.

Caring for yourself is necessary. Please keep showing up.

"Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." –Audre Lorde

Showing up can mean a lot of things.

 It can mean marching in the streets.

It can mean donating to local groups dedicated to lifting up the lives of people in marginalized communities.

It can mean sleeping in when you are tired.

It can mean supporting good journalism by subscribing to newspapers and magazines who prioritize unbiased reporting.

It can mean reading books, poems, and speeches by revolutionaries who have come before us, and those on the ground working to make sure our hard-won rights are not stripped from us and the ones we love.

It can mean hosting friends at your home who are willing to talk about the hard stuff.

It can mean less visible ways of showing up when staying home is necessary.

It can mean honoring the process of grieving, taking the risk of loving, daring to make space for your voice and the voices of those at risk.

There is room for all of us in this.

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How To Set Goals You Love (and that could actually help you change your life)

How To Set Goals You Love (and that could actually help you change your life)

If something is not working in your life, you probably already know it on some level. You might feel agitated, tired, frustrated, or lost. You also might not feel like there's much you can do about it.

Sometimes, there really isn't much to do but survive your feelings. If you're grieving a breakup, death, loss, or other transition, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to ride the wave and let it pass. But, if you have any ounce of energy to envision the life you want for yourself, I'd like to offer you a space to try it. You might surprise yourself with what you discover.

Here's a goal-setting recipe to try:

Time: 3-5 hours
Ingredients: Paper, pen/pencil, music, creative inspiration (yes, sometimes Facebook counts as a helpful distraction/creative tool.)Task: Set both qualitative (sense of self and values) and quantitative (actionable and measurable) goals for 10 years, 5 years, and 1 year from now.

On the top of a blank piece of paper, write: In 10 years from now, in the year XXXX, I will be X years old. I:

(Then, answer the following questions:)

  1. How will I feel in my work? (This isn't "what work will I do?"- that comes later. We're trying to get a felt sense here.)
  2. How will I feel in my relationships?
  3. What kind of relationships will I pursue?
  4. How will I feel about what I'm doing with my life?
  5. How will I feel when I fall asleep at night, and when I wake up in the morning?
  6. What values do I hold in my life? How will I know I'm making decisions that are in line with these values?

Next, what does this look like practically? Maybe you want to feel more abundant, stable, loved, and confident. What does this look like? What do you need to do to encourage more of what you want? Make a list as long and as detailed as you want here. This is where you can list some actual jobs you might have, like teaching, publishing a book, working as a pediatrician at XYZ hospital, etc. You can also describe your relationships, friendships, home, pets, children, whatever comes to mind.

This section is your chance to really write out the specifics of what you want- how much money you want to be making, what your career and family and relationships with yourself and your partner(s) look like. Does it mean being in therapy more? Going to more concerts? Fewer parties? Buying more expensive clothes? Putting your clothes budget into your savings? What job do you have and what does it pay you? Are you married, and do you have a stable home? Or maybe those things aren't as important to you as traveling, producing films, volunteering at shelters. Whatever it is, what could that look like for you? Write it down.

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Healing Activities for the New Year During Loss or Transition

Healing Activities for the New Year During Loss or Transition

The new year is approaching, and it is a complicated time - especially for people who are grieving or amidst a lot of unknown, loss, and transition. Losing someone you love can be a complicated and painful experience, especially during the winter. In addition, any kind of change can feel like a loss, and that's often what makes growth feel so hard.

And then, we have the holidays, which can be extra complicated. The days are short, it's cold and dark, and there is an expectation of "holiday cheer" which can feel... well, shitty.

If you're going through loss during the holidays, it's extra important to bundle up your resources and pull them close. Whether it's your dog, your mother, your best friend, or Netflix – use what you have right now to help you get through. And if you are feeling suicidal, please reach out. Your people are here waiting for you. If you can't reach someone you love, because they're preoccupied or sad also, please call the suicide hotline and just talk it through. 1-800-273-8255, 24/7, there will be someone there for you.

Click through for some resources that could be helpful to you or someone you love.

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Ghostship Fire Resources

Ghostship Fire Resources

On Friday December 2, there was a large fire at an artist residence in Oakland, CA. Many artists and creative folks perished, including LGBTQ youth and youth of color, and many more have lost friends, lovers, family, and cherished community.

Many artists have unfortunately had to choose between making money and making art. Therefore, many people impacted by this fire have limited resources for things like doctor's bills, mental health treatment, new computers, and a new place to live.

A number of community members are offering free or low-cost legal aid, inspections, mental health services, clothing, food, and shelter for those impacted. Here are some resource lists for you to share.

MASTER LIST OF RESOURCES
FACEBOOK GROUP: GHOSTSHIP SUPPORT AND LOVE
THERAPISTS OFFERING PAY WHAT YOU CAN SESSIONS
FACEBOOK PAGE FOR THERAPY RESOURCES
FACEBOOK EVENT FOR OAKLAND'S DIY SPACES
A PLAYLIST OF MUSICIANS LOST AT GHOSTSHIP

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What Therapy Is, and Isn't

What Therapy Is, and Isn't

In the wake of the Oakland Ghostship Warehouse fire, many artists, community members, friends and families are in mourning. Even in my grief, I am inspired by the DIY creativity of the artists of Ghostship and many of the other warehouses across the globe who live under the radar, coming alive in art and community. I think, too, about the subversive and underground nature of therapy, and what a radical act it can be to know yourself on a deep level.

Therapy isn't about making people play by the rules. It’s about helping you learn about yourself, in all your weirdness, your queerness, your creativity, in all that you are just as you are. Your dreams, your shame, your fears, your anxieties, your nightmares, your traps, your stuckness. Therapy is here to help you make sense of past experiences, not to bury them. Therapy is here to help you make sense of confusing and difficult feelings so that you are not at the whim of their chaos and destruction. Therapy is a lot like art in this way.

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Resources for action, hope, and connection in these troubling times.

Resources for action, hope, and connection in these troubling times.

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”   ― James Baldwin

It is a new era for psychotherapy. It is no longer a time for neutrality, as the pain that therapists and our patients feel is tied into a greater social context. We must learn about individual pain, projection, denial, narcissistic wounding, and trauma, but we cannot separate the individual from the collective. To do so would be to collude with the pain, hatred, and divisiveness that is now national rhetoric.

There may be people you cannot talk to post-election. There may be people you can. For those you can speak with, I encourage you to try, and to really listen. For those with whom it is not safe to speak,  or with whom you feel too heated or angry, it is okay to avoid those conversations and step back.

A few things that have been helpful for me are: to take care of my body, get enough sleep, talk to supportive friends and family, write this newsletter and share resources, and listen on audiobook to James Baldwin's "The Fire Next Time."

Following are some resources for you, whether you are ready for direct action, need more access to community that shares your values, want to unpack your own racism, or need more space to grieve.

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Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder From a Trauma Lens

Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder From a Trauma Lens

"Repetition of past traumas is a cornerstone of the Borderline experience: for as much as the sufferer is trying to protect himself, he ends up replicating the same circumstances that led to the trauma in the first place."

For more about the complexities of living with, and loving someone with, Borderline Personality Disorder, please take a look at my recent article in Psyched in San Francisco where I approach BPD from a cultural and interpersonal trauma lens.

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