By Elayne Savage, PhD
During Thanksgiving dinner with friends, many at the table gave thanks for being able to come together as community.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we heal by coming together.
I wrote a piece after the election about the healing power of community and the pro-active spirit the spontaneous marching brought.
Two weeks later I wrote a tribute to my almost 23 year old cat, Elizabeth, who died two days before Thanksgiving. The community responses from my Facebook post have meant a lot and are doing so much to help me heal.
I’m including versions of both pieces in case there is something useful for you here. If there is, let me know.
Most of us would agree there is a need for healing in our country. There is fear and uncertainty and insecurity . . . and depression.
Issues we personally or socially care bout are in danger, Many who craved and voted for change in government are beginning to worry their health care and retirement benefits could be tampered with or even wiped out.
Are you, too, needing healing? Have you found a way to connect with others in your community who could use a little comforting as well?
I’d love to hear how you are taking care of yourself.
. . . . . .
On the Road to Healing: Overcoming Disappointment, Anger and Resentment
As you are aware, following the election tens of thousands of marchers across the country came together. gave me hope.
I found it fascinating that many of these marchers are high school and college students. Many saying their confidence in a democracy that values human rights is eroding.
Marchers say they are speaking out because they feel discounted. Not heard. Invisible.
Hopelessness and Helplessness
My therapy clients of all ages are struggling with uncomfortable feelings coming to the surface. They are apprehensive and fearful – expressing hopelessness and helplessness about the unpredictability of what’s to come.
These feelings are well-known symptoms of depression.
As a psychotherapist I know that feeling anger can be a healthy way to combat the ‘freeze-frame’ and listlessness of depression that interferes with work and relationships.
I know being proactive counteracts powerlessness. So I work with clients to strategize how to move forward – how to feel empowered by taking one step at a time.
The key is Action. Movement. Activity.
When a client is depressed I try to schedule morning sessions, which gets them up and out of bed and to my office.
We put words to the worries and fears. We discover ways they can be more present and aware of the world around them. Taking walks and ‘breathing in the colors’ works really well.
Whether or not you support the post-election marching, these marchers intuitively knew how to take care of themselves. By marching and chanting they could reclaim their voices. By taking action they didn’t feel so disappointed or fearful or helpless and hopeless. By marching they could feel more empowered.
Disappointment Can Feel Like Rejection
Most of us have experienced disappointment in our lives and we may have been surprised and confused by the intensity of our feelings.
For many of us disappointment feels like rejection. We may even take it personally – feeling hurt, unsupported, or that it’s “just not fair.”
Where do these feelings come from? Sometimes they actually begin in our early years.
Do you remember when you were little and had your heart set on that shiny red fire truck or new puppy or that curly-haired doll?
Do you remember how disappointed and hurt you were when you didn’t get it?
Were there times you weren’t chosen for the team, or you didn’t get that award you had your heart set on? Or you didn’t get asked to the prom?
How hurt were you? My own hurt was connected to feeling not seen or heard or appreciated.
I’ve learned that unexpected disappointments remind me of the times in my childhood when I watched my hopes fizzle. I’m now aware how these little kid feelings get tangled up in my big person responses. I’m watching this happen
as as I hear announcements of cabinet appointments and apparent congressional plans to erode some of the basic human rights I care deeply about.
Disappointments tend to stockpile. Each new disappointment echoes the last. When we encounter a new disappointment, our past past experiences may ignite and feelings of rejection can take over.
For some of us not feeling heard or seen can feel like a rejection of our very being. If we push these feelings down they might even grow into anger and resentment.
Resentment Can Be Toxic
Resentment takes up enormous space and restricts our ability to connect with others. If we dwell on perceived injustices it affects our ability to be productive. Resentment is a great immobilizer.
One of the best ways to curtail resentment is to create space to voice feelings
Coming Together as Community
The post-election wave of pro-active activity allowed folks to find their voice and speak their feelings in a validating atmosphere. They are finding ways to talk together in living rooms, public places, and social media, I’m even hearing stories about Uber passengers and their drivers offering each other consolation and hope.
Amidst all that hopelessness, hope is alive. The marchers decision to raise their voices and be heard requires hope. There is hope in their determination to be engaged in our future. There is healing and hope in coming together as community.
I find this reassuring amid all the uncertainty.
. . . . .
Goodbye Sweet Elizabeth . . .
Almost 23 years old! And not ready to let go – until now.
You have been such a sweet and loving girl. I am very grateful for you and for all you have taught me these 18 years you have been with me.
You have been admired by many. When somehow you left the house for the first time a couple of weeks ago and wandered down to the street, someone thought you were lost and drove you to the animal emergency hospital. The staff told me a nurse there was hoping no one would claim you so she could take you home with her! You certainly had quite an adventure on your very first sleepover, and clearly you got lots and lots of attention there. But when I located you the next day, you just threw your arms around my neck.
You have won over many hearts in your almost 23 years . . .
I remember the first time I met you. I noticed your bright blue eyes right away.
I loved how you came to your cage door, gave your squeaky little meow and touched
my fingers with your nose. Like you were saying, “Take me home!” And of course I did . . .
I know you finally tired of all the pill taking and hydration infusions. It was hard for me watching you not eating for days and days at a time, even thought the Reiki energy sessions helped.
I decided to post this photo of you getting your blood pressure checked last month -– with the smallest cuff ever!
I know it hasn't been easy becoming deaf and mostly blind. I so respect your spunk! And your dignity and your perseverance. You have been quite a model of graceful aging. I'm grateful for you. And I’ll really miss you.
Goodbye sweet Elizabeth . . .
© Elayne Savage, PHD
Until next month,
Elayne Savage is the author of ground-breaking relationship books published in 9 languages.
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