Sexual desire or its absence. Religious beliefs or the belief that the here-and-now is all we’ve got. The thoughts or experiences that make us feel weird, or embarrassed, or alone.
One reason I’m such a fan of counseling is that it’s a space to talk freely about aspects of our lives that sometimes go unspoken to even our closest friends or family members. We need places in our lives to talk openly about who we are without fear of being judged, criticized, or excommunicated from our most important relationships.
It’s been especially important to me lately that clients of all political persuasions know that politics is something they can talk about openly in sessions. Some are excited and hopeful as a result of this new presidential administration. Other clients are finding their anxiety aggravated and their depression worsening as a result of recent political actions. More than one has been in a fight with a loved one about ideology or the “right” way to act or react.
For many clients, the political situation has been a catapult into de
eper exploration of meaning and purpose. I can relate. In and out of session, so many of us are wrestling with questions of how to better translate personal principles into purposeful actions that go well beyond our own self-interests. We are exploring how to live with difficult emotions without acting out or checking out. We are figuring out how to engage in respectful dialogue that avoids condescension and assumes best intent. And, of course, we continue to discern how to respond to our own limits and needs with self-compassion.
This isn’t selfish navel-gazing; rather it’s trying to figure out how to live and stay connected to ourselves and to one another despite sometimes widely different beliefs about how to make the world a better place.
It is an honor to walk with clients through these questions, holding space for uncertainty, acknowledging fears and courage, and helping them connect to their deepest values.