Tools For Facing Discomfort In The Service Of Justice

Jun 18, 2020

We all have a path to walk as we draw closer to being the kind of people we aspire to be, as partners, parents, friends, neighbors, and citizens. This moment in history is a long overdue reckoning in which white people like myself have the responsibility to confront our role in systems of racial injustice and white supremacy. 

Meaningful change generally involves discomfort. It’s not comfortable to recognize ways in which I’ve fallen short of embodying the person I aspire to be. It’s not comfortable to change ingrained habits. It’s extremely uncomfortable to feel uncertain of one’s moral standing. Yet drawing closer to one’s best expression of self requires engaging with that discomfort and learning from it. 

My work as a therapist revolves around helping clients lean into discomfort. Recognizing one’s own role in creating the dynamics of a relationship is an essential part of creating positive change within that relationship. I believe that is also true of our wider culture and society. Everything you do affects the world you live in. You can be mindful of your impact, or you can be unconscious of it , but you are contributing whether you are aware of it or not. That leaves the question, what kind of world do I want to co-create, and how can I move towards acting as a citizen of that world?

I know for myself and my relationship to racial and social justice, there is a gap between where I currently am and the person I aspire to be in. In this moment, I’ve been thinking about how the same tools I use to help clients achieve positive change can apply to the work of self-examination. 

Here are some questions I’ve been asking myself over the past few days. Perhaps they can help you in your own personal process of self-reflection. Many of them are based on some therapeutic questions for couples developed by my mentor, Peter Pearson of The Couples Institute: 

  • What kind of world do you want to co-create? Imagine living in a world you are excited to be a part of. What is it like in that world? What does social justice look like in that world?
  • Why is living in that kind of world important to you?
  • What would be required of you to co-create the world you want to live in? (Another way to think of this is: What do you want to remember about yourself in this historical moment when you look back on your deathbed?)
  • How far away from being that person are you right now? You can move towards being that person, even if you’re not there right now. Don’t sink into shame or regret; we all have aspects of our lives where we want to do better. 
  • What is one small action you can take to move you in that direction right now?

In the upcoming weeks, I’m going to be writing about specific skills you already have, and how, with just a little strengthening, they can be applied to improving the world and increasing social justice. I’ll also be talking about how to avoid sinking into shame, inaction, or overwhelm. 

I’m also going to be offering my podium as much as possible to Black therapists, educators, and helping professionals, so stay tuned for a lot of interesting blogs about topics at the intersection of race, therapy, and sexuality.

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