What Kind of Americans Do We Want to Be?

All of us are facing difficult situations and crises which involves free choice, wise thinking and important decision making, based on our values and the kind of America we can be proud of and feel good about. Yet our country more than ever is extremely polarized. Decisions that seem to be made feel as though we are more obsessed with material wealth than we care about one another. We seem to be caught up in hate speech which continues to polarize this nation and we appear to live blindly, not thinking about the effects of our actions on others. Are we going to live so caught up in ourselves that we do not make room for self-reflection?

We are becoming a new country. Will this country be based on materialistic wealth and the power of privilege or will it be based on our understanding of our interconnectiveness? Our greatest times as a country is when we showed concern for others such as after the second world war when we cared about the well-being of others. We created the Marshal plan to aid the recovery of West Germany and Japan. We experienced wealth and abundance during that time. We welcomed immigrants which led to a stronger economy and stronger cultural diversity. These were positive actions taken upholding certain values which included generosity, compassion and inclusiveness. We were the way shower for the rest of the world – a beacon of light for humanity.

There has been a shift in recent years which has led us to where we are today. We have become more aggressive, polarized and have unfair economic policies creating a wider gap between the have’s and have nots. Covid 19 is showing us in no uncertain terms the inequities in our society. We have seen how this pandemic has accentuated the sharp divisions between those who care for others first and those who think it is ok to lose Americans in the name of economic well-being. What may not be so clear is that if we keep losing Americans there will be no economic well-being.

We have choices to make. Who do we really want to be and what are we willing to do to get there? We are at a crossroads. It is up to us as to what direction we want to take and how we chose to relate to the rest of the world. What this pandemic is doing is making us stop, stop the feverish pace we are so used to, stop to hear the suffering of others, stop to recognize that if we want to be healthy, we have an obligation to each other. We are being forced to stop, hopefully to sit in silence and to listen and to really understand what is most important in this world.

Can We Truly Become Great Again?

I read an article the other day on “The coronavirus is an opportunity for people with privilege, and American society as a whole, to broaden their empathy for others.” The article spoke of the threat of death from an unseen virus which affects all of us regardless of class or race, and of the deep interconnectedness which unites us by globally crossing all color, economic and national lines. There are many lessons we are learning because of the circumstances we are finding ourselves in. If we do not take the necessary precautions and find a way to eliminate the virus we could die. We are also seeing that if we stop abusing our planet our water and skies become blue again as earth’s ecology becomes healthier.

 

But what about other aspects of our world we live in, the social aspects where we are seeing such injustice and inequality especially to those less fortunate, those more vulnerable, to people of color. This pandemic is shining a light on the unfairness that exists within our society. We see it in the numbers in which the pandemic disproportionately is affecting African Americans. We see it in society’s lack of concern on the toll of the elderly especially in nursing homes. What kind of collusion course are we on if we do not look at the divisions and if we do not correct the increasingly polarized, increasingly violent course we are on? How much longer can we go on ignoring how we are exploiting people within our own society, and how racism is running rampant because of the inherent superiority that feeds into racism, and the “right” to ignore laws at the expense of others. What kind of world are we creating within our own county whose foundation and glory was based in caring for others? This pandemic is showing us how far off from this ideal we have become.

 

The pandemic starkly reminds us that we are all in this together, that  we need not  just a medical vaccine but a vaccine against a larger and more insidious pandemic of racism and global injustice where 1% own and exploit more assets than everyone else combined. What is desperately needed is deep soul searching and a recognition of the complicity we all play in perpetuating an unjust society. Understanding and healing can come if we can develop within ourselves compassion and empathy. It is deep empathy that will ultimately lead us to making different choices and to the necessary breakthroughs that can serve humanity in a healing capacity. It is the lack of empathy that will keep us in the darkness that we find ourselves in today. Can we rise to the occasion and through acts of kindness and concern for one another truly become great again? This is our challenge, and this is also where our healing lies. What do you think?

 

What does it mean for Forgiveness to be Political?

With all the bitterness and divisiveness which has taken hold in our political world today what we urgently need to heal these divides is “the politics of forgiveness.” But you may ask: What does forgiveness in politics mean, and are politics and forgiveness related? And why is forgiveness so crucial?

I have been thinking long and hard as to what it means for forgiveness to be political. Our political world which is the public realm of our existence is fraught with conflicts, violence and all the “isms” one can imagine. How can we stop this violence and the many attacks on one another and live in a more peaceful society? When we think about forgiveness, we recognize that it is about how we choose to express ourselves and the kind of actions we will take against a perceived wrong, our choice being to choose to respond to this world with understanding, tolerance and compassion. It is tapping into the essence of who we are, what we think and what we believe in. It reveals something about us and what we hold to be true. Forgiveness becomes political when we apply this kind of thinking to our actions in the public realm. Forgiveness becomes political insofar as it is an individual political action that expresses itself first in revealing something of oneself and in the narratives that emerges and finally in how it becomes the basis in establishing new relationships.

Forgiveness is not just a personal or individual act that is limited to the private sphere. Increasingly today there is the realization that forgiveness is also necessary in the public sphere, thus also in the political realm. The politics of forgiveness is urgently needed in the United States, where the polarization is so great that it has virtually become two nations as the rhetoric surrounding our politics illustrates. The only way that equally polarized Republicans and Democrats can live together and stop their partisan sniping is through the politics of forgiveness. That may not happen any time soon but is a willingness to forgive others too much to expect from politicians, many of whom call themselves Christians?

The politics of forgiveness does work, even if it does so imperfectly. We have seen forgiveness in politics carried out in many countries especially where truth and reconciliation commissions have been established. Imperfect as these processes may have been it does not negate the healing power the politics of forgiveness can bring.

Forgiveness is a long process that requires daily reinforcement whether practiced in the personal or political realm. Political forgiveness is even messier because of the many people involved, but it is imperative that this form of politics takes root in every country of the world and especially now in the United States. Conflicts will never cease, but how people handle them is crucial. Forgiveness in politics is imperative if we want to stop doing business as usual, creating more conflict and violence and want to chose to live in a more peaceful world.

What does it mean for forgiveness to be political? I am interested in hearing about what you think. Please share your thoughts on what it means for forgiveness to be political. It is worth a conversation.

There Is Always Good!

 

I was reading a poem this morning which touched me deeply and wanted to share it with all of you. It came to me by way of the Meadows.

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated,some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people oiving in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and greamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

Kitty O’Meara

I know these are stressful times and if you need to seek help of a professional I am available through telehealth. All be well and stay safe.

Love, Not Fear During These Challenging Times

We are going through some trying times which is creating a lot of uncertainty, lots of challenges and yes, opportunities. We are the ones who will make the choice of how much fear or how much love we will experience at this point in time.

As a psychologist I have been asked by many of my clients how to weather this event. Having to change our patterns gives us the greatest opportunity to rethink our lives. We are forced to focus on what our lives are really about. What do we really want to live for?  What gives our life meaning? This is a chance to let the healing energy of love permeate our lives. We can’t be consumed by fear or deny the reality of the pandemic, but we also need to allow ourselves to feel the love that surrounds us.

Whatever physical and social actions we must take to ensure moving successfully through this challenge, we should do so as acts of love and mutual caring, not acts of fear. We need to stand in love, cooperation and connection with each other and see this as an opportunity to feel a sense of our interconnectiveness. When we can stand together, we break the chains of fear and ultimately strengthen the bonds of community which will sustain all of us.

Here are some things we can do to help ourselves feel better during these challenging times.

  1. Remember to Breathe. This will calm your nervous system and lessen feelings of anxiety.
  2. Take one day at a time and focus on being calm
  3. Create meaning in your life.
  4. Do things that help you feel normal. This can have a positive impact on how you feel.
  5. Have a plan for the day. Organizing will give you a sense of security and control.
  6. Nurture your relationships – Connect with people but don’t focus on the coronavirus!
  7. Live a healthy lifestyle – Exercise, eat well and get plenty of sleep.
  8. Meditate – You may want to begin your day with an inspiring thought and meditate on that for a few minutes.
  9. Remember to be grateful throughout your day and appreciate what you do have. That will also give your day meaning.
  10. Create rituals. This too will give you a sense of stability.
  11. Watch your thoughts. During times of stress we may engage in more negative thinking. Thoughts will affect how you feel. The more positive you can be the less stress you will experience.
  12. Develop a positive philosophy as to what we are really dealing with. This is an important time to get in touch with your personal spiritual beliefs and to deepen your spiritual practice.
  13. Remember to be joyful. There is always something to be joyful about!
  14. Appreciate yourself!

You may want to put some of these tips on your refrigerator door or a place where you can readily see them to remind yourself of the things you can do. If you can follow these tips, cut down watching the news and stop following social media you will have far less anxiety, be much more resilient and feel a lot better. For those of you who feel you need extra help feel free to contact me. I am available for telehealth sessions over the phone. I can be reached at erborris@cox.net. Together we will all be fine.