The Necessary Precariousness of Hope

The Necessary Precariousness of Hope

It’s hard not to listen when the universe sends us its messages. When I hear on several occasions, “Where’s the hope in what you are saying?”, I can’t help but pay attention.

Here are a few recent examples: Last week on social media, several friends and I were exploring the intertwined history of constitutional rights and racism, when one person said, “I agree with what you are saying, but where is the hope?” The other day, a case conference facilitator suggested the same thing as my group gathered to hear notes from my colleague’s work: “Listen for the hope in this session.” And last week a patient said to me, “Your plants look so healthy; I kill all of mine.” When I responded to him about the way life and death seem so close together, something inside me felt like I missed something important. Later, I realized that I missed a chance to name his hope that I could help him become healthy, just like my plants. So, I am asking myself, where is the hope in my words, work, and actions; and what is hope, really?

In my work as a psychoanalytic psychotherapist helping to unpack the deeper issues beyond behavior change, and as a person in society working toward uprooting and exposing white supremacy, I get down in the dirt quite often. To me, coming face to face with truths is a liberating and hopeful practice, even though this practice often feels painful and disorienting. Exposing something we wish to hide from ourselves that perpetuates destructive (and deadly) patterns is a powerful endeavor, which often feels terrible. After all, there are often several reasons we keep these truths inaccessible, including that we may discover we’re implicated in our own trauma and painful experiences, as well as the trauma and pain of others. Most of us are hardly ever sure we can bear knowing this kind of truth.

Even when we come into direct contact with the pain of being human, there is still room for hope. But it feels important to me to distinguish hope from something more like an idealistic optimism. Author Rebecca Solnit describes this well: She says that optimism and despair are two sides of the same, predictive coin. They both imply an expectation that we know how things will turn out: They will either be all good or all bad, without any room for uncertainty.

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Facing your inner oppressor

Facing your inner oppressor

Charlottesville. Ferguson. Orlando. Neo-Nazis. Police brutality. Racism. Classism. Fear. Fear, hate, and Othering have a figurehead now, and people who were once hidden in their hate are now empowered to come forward. As a white person who gives a shit, it is painful knowing the reality that this kind of hate is on the shoulders of marginalized people day in and day out, when it truly should be the burden of white folks such as myself who are complicit in systems of stolen* status and privilege.

So if you’re one of the many white folks asking, “What can I do?”, I suggest you consider the words of my friend and colleague Lily Sloane: “You have to fight your inner Nazis before fighting the outer Nazis.” 

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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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Building Resilience Through Our Grief

Building Resilience Through Our Grief

Grief is everywhere right now. Mass attacks across the globe. Black men being shot for complying with police, Black men being shot for not complying. White people waking up to unjust systems, having been asleep at the wheel for generations.

A lot of us don't make room for processing our grief. We want to - or are taught to - keep it away, sweep it under the rug, or stuff it down. We're taught, and believe, that being vulnerable is a sign of weakness, and weakness will make us susceptible to more pain and sorrow.

But putting our grief front-and-center, we can learn to heal, grow, and build resilience through our pain, collectively and individually.

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All lives can matter when Black lives matter.

All lives can matter when Black lives matter.

Community building is a way of imagining life as something different than the injustice we see, beyond what we take for granted in front of us, and to enhance a vision for a more interconnected world. Psychotherapy is about growing the capacity to imagine your life as something different, undo trauma that keeps us afraid, and grow the way we participate in and connect with community. Psychotherapy can help you unpack your terror and anxiety about racism, privilege, trauma, injustice, and the unconscious perpetuation of a system that values some lives above others.

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