There is a shadow side of everything. There is a nuance to the helping profession that many people in it, don’t want to own up to. Others wish it had more light so that we could fix a systemic reality that nobody wants to talk about, but effects all of us.
Everyone has a shadow side. Everyone.
Nobody is purely good, nor purely evil. Life is much more complicated than that. The entire field of psychology is a spin off ~ sometimes a rerun ~ of everything we’ve learned about the human experience over the course of our professional lifespan.
When we know better ~ we do better.
At least, that’s how I see the field at large.
We have biases we don’t own up to and prejudices that we seem to think are totally fine.
My ultimate goal is to find a Yoda master teacher in our field. One who is not bogged down with their own ego, as too many are ~ but instead lives with the knowledge of the universe as a whole.
This is a distinction of course, separate from or perhaps seamlessly intertwined with our beliefs, our values, and our moral obligation toward our fellow humans. It extends for most, to other living creatures on earth.
In the greater scheme of things ~ we are the new money compared to other sciences that have been around since the land before time. With that comes some conflict, a few overinflated egos and yes, moral corruption. There is also a lot of good that wants to be good for all.
Light and dark are much more subtle than a simple black/white image of how life is supposed to be.
Worthiness and Value are shadowed by love and acceptance. And visa versa.
When people see you as having no value, worth or interest to them, they feel free to also dismiss you.
They don’t know if you’re confident or not.
Like in every great RomCom or sports movie, that ‘something’ becomes something to them. That’s when they sit up to take notice.
Have you ever been dismissed or devalued by anyone?
I sure hope so.
Nothing builds character or clarity more than being treated like you don’t matter.
Nobody wants to experience that but so many of us do.
Even the best people have their moments, without exception.
When it comes to believing in yourself enough to hold yourself to the highest regard, well, that’s one of life’s goals. Some of us have an easier time of it than others.
Going through a doctoral program in a progressive school that was distance learning before online learning was a thing meant that I was laughed at for my higher learning. By people both in and out of the industry.
Society is slow to accept ‘different’ until it does; then it becomes all the rage. Today? People are scrambling to the online schools for obvious reasons.
My professors were from Ivy League schools, but people didn’t care about that. They cared about obvious status. Nobody was interested in hearing about my education, because they themselves had no knowledge of what I was doing.
I was a lone wolf, held true to my goals by my online friends who were going though that program with me. To this day, many, many years later, I’m still friends with them.
I used to try to justify and explain my entire life so that others would accept me. I was a people pleaser out of need. Feck that.
Life’s too short to worry what other people are thinking.** Says the overthinking, explainer -people-pleaser in remission.
That’s part of this barrier of misunderstanding and choosing not to know about other people.
Nothing teaches us about ourselves like living by example.
Take money for example.
Today ~ I manifest money with my magical thinking about it. It’s more fun that way. I write every day but it’s such a privilege to have a job I love, I feel a bit guilty about the abundance. I had to make peace with that mindset. I had to learn how to love myself enough to believe I was worthy.
I have had both enough money to see the nuances of wealth and privilege and I’ve experienced the pains of poverty.
From that lens, I can speak, up close and personal about what both experiences felt like. Both felt like an out of body experience that offered insight to how the happiness industry can only be applied to some.
When I was working on my master’s degree, a mentor I respected and adored advised me to “get into the field on the ground floor” while completing the degree. She told me that people would not respect me if I told them I was working as a waitress to support myself (and my daughter) as a solo mom.
She basically was saying, without saying, that my blue collar job was not worthy of her respect. That was a hard pill to swallow. Especially so because of what I was in training to do. Work with the poor.
The thing was ~ where I lived, waiting tables paid me more in four days, w/half the hours than any entry level position. Nobody cared about a solo mom’s need or want to be with their child back then. Nobody cared about how a woman became a solo mom in the first place. In the early 90’s, people were still just assuming the worst about single mothers.
Many years later, I came to find out that she was a very wealthy woman who was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. No matter what she did for the world, she really had no personal experience of what it was to live day to day ~ to survive life, rather than live it. She couldn’t give me good advice because she didn’t know what she didn’t know.
That wasn’t her problem. It was mine. For not seeing her shadow, or my own. My struggle was something other people didn’t even think about. I only thought about my point of view, rather than opening up to understanding hers.
It stung, but it also forced me to buckle down and work harder. Ironically, back then, even the fathers of the children who acted more like Disney Dads, than responsible care givers to their own children, treated the mothers of the children like an expendable after thought.
In a way (and sorry Disney, I didn’t come up with the term) society itself is a bit of a “Disney Dad”
Solo moms should be celebrated for their grit. Not reduced to the way society treats us.
That was decades ago now, but I can still feel the pain of having to be strong all the time, while the world around me was truly awful. As is the way for single mothers around the globe. It’s a universal truth that single moms who are not tied to a church or willing to trade their dignity for a hand up ~ are treated like crap.
This is why when I hear a wealthy, affluent woman who has everything, telling single parents and others who struggle how to build grit ~ I want to tell them to fuck off. They have no idea what actual struggle is.
Then I forgive them. To them, holding onto the ghosts of some childhood suffering is all they know. We can’t criticize them for that.
It’s all they know and it’s not our business to judge what causes other people suffering.
The positive psychology industry can only help this underserved population to a certain extent. It does not complete the full circle of care. And the not-for-profit agencies who are so proud of themselves for helping?
They have their own, pocket lined shadow self that needs to have a systemic overhaul.
One does not rejoice and count blessings while being belittled, devalued, disregarded, degraded and humiliated for having to use food stamps, or ask for public assistance, which, in the past, during my darkest hour, I did.
They ~ the helping agencies and the school systems made sure to treat me like I was a nothing. The nuances of that are more significant in shaping a person’s life than anyone is speaking of. Which is why I’m speaking of it.
Single moms are targets.
We treat our most vulnerable citizens as if they are a dirty secret.
We tell them to their face that they have no value.
We, the people of these United States of America are just awful to those who need our kindness and respect more than anyone else.
Saying it out loud isn’t going to change it overnight. Entire paradigms will have to change.
We craft glowing websites and brag worthy posters. Our leaders of the agencies boast about the statistical data they collect. They get a photo shoot at a soup kitchen and those middle managers who are there to guide the financially fragile toward enlightenment ~ well, at least a rung or two up Maslow’s ladder at the very least.
That rarely happens. At least it did in the Northeast. I suspect it, like everything else, is vastly different in the South where I am currently parking my feet.
There are really good people who want to help others. I worked with some of the nicest people in my last job who genuinely cared about the world. I was told by management not to build friendships with them. (Red flag).
There was a lot broken, but when people want to hold on to their very comfortable jobs, in spite of some of their actions, they will do anything to protect their own investments. Even if it means tossing someone else under the bus.
Shit girl, ~ I hate to tell you this but ~ all that devaluing that happened during my tenure as a solo parent ~ while also earning one stupid graduate degree after another. It didn’t hurt me. It built me.
It turned me into a titan of collecting data, noticing the systems and most of all, building up grit that no gentrified researcher could possibly acquire from sending out Survey Monkey surveys to ten thousand people.
Do you want to know how to fix the world? Let the world go ~ let it do what it’ll do ~ don’t cling to wanting to change it. Instead, it will end up changing you.
Researchers ~ Move into the world. Get in there. Don’t give yourself an easy out by spending one lunch time, then going home to your easy life. Go live there. For a while. Spend time on the ground, learning first hand what it FEELS like to be quickly dismissed by people who deem you unworthy of respect or dignity.
Life is hard on people ~ telling them to think happy thoughts … it’s not enough. Telling them to build up their grit while you have not walked in their shoes ~ it’s not enough.
Helping professionals are supposed to help ~ not judge. We spend SO much time judging each other ~ we sometimes forget why we are here. Be here. Where our feet are.
God forbid if those professionals start talking among each other. Instead of being defensive about their own studies.
Combine your helping like a happy meal ~ include a toy ~ but make it intellectually practical the way The Holistic Psychologist has.
Show us your shadow self. Show us your vulnerabilities and imperfections.
But this is about how it feels to live in the lower part of the financial game we all have to play.
Real people. Real feelings. Real problems. Real sorrow and suffering. Real live despair.
When we embrace those as legitimately important to our ‘positive psychology’ we can then, and only then, create meaningful, profound, long lasting system changes for the good of the people.
When the head cheese said in a speech that is now iconically famous, “Psychology is good, but it’s not good enough” ~ I had hoped that he would take it higher. Not just more popular in the financial district.
Nobody needs the words of hope more than the poor.
Instead, the money rained on the parade ~ and as all things classic-fatalistic-tales ~ money made the world go ’round.
IMO ~ No psychology without dignity for all.
IMO ~ There is no meaning without respect for all.
Remember, this is my own shadow work ~ this actualization of living in the experience of needing a solution on the macro level in tandem with watching this surreal playing-out of how fast something can go in a totally different direction from where it started.
I was just as guilty of standing on that band wagon as the rest of them.
If it weren’t for my very tragic midlife experience ~ I never would have questioned it. I would have joined them in La La Land, then danced my way into their embrace.
I was not meant to dance the dance of profiting from the suffering. That was not my path.
This change stuff… It’s not easy. Sometimes, it’s actually quite painful or lonely. But it is what it is.
Articulating my understanding of the world at large in such a public way is to acknowledge that right this very moment, someone else is waking up to what I saw. I am reaching out to those in the shadows of their own lives, saying, “I’ve got you” ~ emerging is NOT easy.
It’s easier to stay comfortable. It’s more pleasant to follow the crowd. Trust me, it’s a lot prettier to hang out with the popular crowd and accept your fate as a beta to their alpha.
But it is more worthy, purposeful and passionate to dare to stand alone on your own terms.
Solo moms ~ whomever you are ~ I see you ~ I hear you and I applaud you for being the badass super mom that you are. Being one helped me to build character ~ even if it did do some damage.
In peace and awakening,
(c) @happinessnoir @InkHoneyPub @K.ArenHenryMiller
“Team work makes the dream work” ~ Juno Temple