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  • Writer's pictureDayna Sharp, LCSW

I've Been Quiet

As a therapist, I hear about and sit with lots of the most uncomfortable of feelings: anxiety, vulnerability, shame, disgust, loss, rage... They're all part of the quilt of human existence, but they're sometimes so uncomfortable--even threatening--most of us like to pretend they're not there.

The last few days of uprising and violence in our cities has confronted us on this in a big way. We can't pretend that the feelings of shame, disgust and rage inherent to racism aren't there, the fires tell us. We've been quarantined now for several months, in a desperate attempt to protect ourselves from an uncertain and dangerous coronavirus that has forced us to face some of our greatest conflicts and fears: how to love and be connected in a temporary human life. Life isn't giving us a break, it hasn't allowed for our pretending to continue.

Sometimes pretending is a kind of denial that can get us into trouble, especially when we "overlook" red flags in relationships, or lie to ourselves about the impact of alcohol and substance abuse on our lives. But pretending is always in service of protecting ourselves--our emotional selves. And sometimes, a little bit of pretending is crucial to our well being. We need a bit of illusion in life to carry on in a way that feels balanced. For children, the magic of the tooth fairy or of superheroes help us to counteract the fears associated with growing up. For adults, sometimes its the illusion of being in relatively complete control of our lives. But both kinds of illusion are necessary.

Yet this is a time of widespread disillusionment. As a therapist, I've struggled with my social media page during these times. It's not my job to offer even more bad news. But it's also not a time for a barrage of feel good memes. I think, in times like these, its my job to listen. To bear witness to the hard feelings. To understand how hard those feelings are, and to share in the holding of them. So that you're not alone.

I'm not going to tell you whether to #stayhome or help you identify your risk levels for COVID 19. I trust that you know what is right for you. I'm not going to tell you what to think about #BlackLivesMatter, because that's not my role. But you can tell me about any of that, all of the feelings you have about it, or none of it at all. And I'm okay with any, all and none of that. I may be quiet right now, but don't doubt that I'm here, with you.

I'm quiet because I'm listening.


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