Thursday, February 11, 2010

heavier things

Confession: I'm not always bright and shiny and energetic and full of tacklehugs. Sometimes I have to be reminded of this the hard way. For all the bouncy and enthusiastic KatieBeth that takes up space in my personality, there's some capacity for deep sadness in there too. That's hard for me to say.

Because of the nature of counseling as a professional endeavor to be exercised in confidence, we often speak frankly in most of my classes, understanding that what is said in that room doesn't leave the room. This can create a very honest atmosphere. And since my classes this semester are psychiatric rehab, group counseling, psychosocial aspects of rehab, and work & disability, there's a lot of honesty and heaviness going around.

Both last night and this afternoon, in class, I struggled with the groupthink that started to develop surrounding negative statements and feelings. Today in work & disability, we explored issues regarding social justice and situational ethics, and my classmates didn't hesitate to talk about what irked them. Last night in psychiatric rehab, the discussion of stigma and statistics and mental illness was explored by the comments of my peers.

Don't get me wrong. Social injustices and poverty and unemployment and disability and misunderstandings and misjudgments are all issues that make my little heart well up with frustration, but frustration will only get me so far. In fact, it mostly just serves to make me visibly upset, like it did in class today, with nowhere to put those feelings except into flushed cheeks and occasional hot tears.

So then what do I do when I feel like we're all so very susceptible to convincingly presented and emotionally wrought information, perpetuating the negativity of hopelessness? I accept that I might actually be more of a cynic than I'd like to admit, but only inasmuch as it spurs me toward movement and action. I'm patient and positive, but I can't handle the kind of pessimism the world wants to hand me sometimes.

But...I haven't yet given up on that whole “change the world” dream. I find joy in briefly exchanged smiles and random acts of kindness and honest conversations and hugs. I think those are the things that change the world...mine at least. Because what is my world except for an assembly of my perceptions of it?

What do you think?


  1. First : Amigas POR VIDA!! :)

    Second: I think John gets a little too opinionated; plus I am sure if I did not agree with almost everything that comes out of his mouth( I think we are similar in our political views) I would be quite offended that he brings all the other non-related stuff to a class on Career Placement. I think it stirs us up and more so for people who arent as vocal or as passionate about the issues he is as vocal and passionate about. (not saying you arent vocal, I know YOU are vocal).

    3. You are assuming that its all talk in class. How do you know that there is not any action on our peer collegues part or on John's part to back up all this "talk"? Sometimes more than not, talk leads to action.

    4. I did not really find what we talked about as negative; it got us all thinking and that is what I find productive. It gets the think tank going.

    5. Unfortunately our world is not a happy go lucky world. We live in a world that makes us not feel so great about who we are and a world that is full of political talk, arrogance, emotions, heated discussions, etc etc etc. WE are in charge of letting it affect us.

    6. I love debate.

    7. in the words of Stevie Wonder, I think we are all held bondage by our isms- racism, criticms, stigmatism, etc etc etc etc etc. Keep loving are doing something right. like we chatted about it class, I am too jaded and too hurt to not voice my opinion, however, I try to do what feels right. My gut guides me. I give a little whistle to Jimminy Cricket and let my consceince be my guide.

  2. Of course you have a capacity for deep sadness. Thank God every day that you do. A person without a capacity for sadness isn't much of a person. Just because some people don't show it as much as others doesn't mean it's not there. I think it's very special that you feel the way you do. There are many who don't let these things bother them, and many more who don't do anything about it even when it does. Fortunately, you seem to have a good balance about these things. You want to change the world, and you're sometimes sad, and cynical, but you're ultimately optimistic and--in my eyes at least--happy. We all need to be sad every once in a while, but I think the best life is one drenched in positivity. You will change the world, or at least, someone else's view of it. You already have.

  3. First: Hugses. I totally love ya and feel for ya when you don't feel too great.

    Second: There isn't anything wrong with being sad and frustrated with the state of the world. Your desire to try to change things, even in the very little ways is very applaudable - it is probably one of the better approaches/attitudes to have.

    That said, being heard and understood can be a very big deal for someone who is struggling through those things. Sometimes change happens because people talk about the bad things. Sometimes people don't know that they are hurtful. And sometimes the people they are hurting can't respond in a way that will be understood. I have too many memories of not being able to explain to someone why they were being hurtful because of my language disability and their intention to "win the argument".

    Again, this is one of those topics I'd love to have a long conversation so stories can be shared and examples and tangents can weave and come back together. I have to try to focus myself more due to the inevitable brevity of this form of discussion.

  4. I think wanting to change the world and help people sometimes just goes hand in hand with having to face negativity, pessimism, and being upset on occasion. Sometimes it's just something that motivates us to push and work harder towards our goals like you said, but it does get hard sometimes. Though I don't work on the same issues you do, I know I've struggled really hard w/ becoming overly cynical and negative over the years and being affected by the cynicism of others. I've found the best way to deal with it has been to talk to other people working on social justice issues different from what I work on. The things they are positive about just reminds me that the fight to change the world might be hard, but there are definitely "wins" and that every struggle is worthwhile.

    It's all about maintaing some perspective about what you do and, at times, just reminding yourself that it's ok to feel sad and upset sometimes.

    You can talk to me anytime about stuff like this, by the way. *HUGS*

  5. Starr, I love you.
    Amigas por vida.
    I like John's opinions. I respect them, and for the most part, totally agree. And I am vocal, but when I really feel deeply, when I'm sharing something difficult or expressing something close to my heart that I have a hard time making the sentences come out.
    As far as action, I believe that our classmates and our instructors DO have good reason to say what they do. And that they act on what they believe. I believe that BECAUSE I generally believe the best about people, I think.
    What bothers me is when we fill the room with negative energy, which is what last night and this afternoon did in some regard. I realize that we need a place to express our feelings, and that class may be a very good place to do that. Maybe. I felt like in both instances we were quick to jump on the bandwagon of “rail on this/complain about that”. Moreso maybe last night. Please don't write me off as happy-go-lucky. I think I'm more than that. I KNOW I'm more than that.
    It REALLY bothers me when people use us/them language. This didn't happen in class today, but it has before. It bothered me in church growing up, and it bothers me in conversation. There is NOT an us/them. We are ALL people. Sorry...tangent...
    You get the idea. Let's have coffee.

  6. John...yes, but I think I'm not always good at expressing it, period. I don't like it, and it makes me uncomfortable. I don't like saying that, and I don't like feeling it.
    But, you're right.
    If there's a balance, I'm working on it. I'm certainly more comfortable with happy, and I'm still learning to be comfortable with the sad. Writing it out, even when it feels all jumbled and melancholy and raw--that helps.
    Thank you, friend.

  7. Nae, thanks. :) I love you!
    I know there's nothing wrong with being sad, and I don't know why I'm wired the way I am. I think sadness is good and has its place and so does being happy. We should all be striving for being the kind of people who care, I think, about what other people need and think and feel. I hope I do better with that tomorrow than today, and better the day after that, even.
    Frankly, I kind of stink at it sometimes. When I'm sad I mostly just want to have some mental space to work it think and pray and feel. That helps.

  8. Nina-
    I think you're right. And tonight when I was driving I thought about all of this as an implication of having a tender heart. For as bright and shiny and full I can feel, I can feel equally broken and sad. There's this quotation that I think is attributed to Mother Teresa that goes “Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.” that I just LOVED in high school. It reminded me to be bolder, I guess. That it was worth it.
    In 8th grade, we read the poem Maya Angelou wrote for the Inauguration (, and I remember it just working me right to the bone. I found my analysis of the lines I picked to write about when I was home over Christmas...I picked the line about cynicism, and that's when I learned what it was and decided I didn't want to be it.
    Anyways. All this to say...I guess if we're going to feel deeply and DO something about it, we've got to be willing to let it go either way. Or maybe I was just too susceptible to literature as a teenager. ;)

  9. Katie: I do not see everything in rose colored glasses. I believe that in order to see the similarities in ALL we have to be open to the difference in ALL; people, opinions, ways of living, beliefs, schemas, etc etc. you know all of this. I did not find the class negative. Everything we talked about was mostly all true things; reality.
    Can you explain what was negative? Or was it just the feeling you got?

  10. Starr,
    From my perspective (which is generally contrary) it felt like initially we had a good conversation going, but there was a quickness to talk about how crappy things are that everyone seemed to want to jump on, and perpetuate the conversation in that direction.
    I think that we NEED to have a place where we can say those things, and maybe I'm just too sensitive. I agree with what was said, but I refuse to see the world only that way. When I think that way, I can feel a little ball of upsetnessfrustratednesshopelessness in my chest. It's not that I don't believe upsetting and tough things to be reality--I do.
    Or maybe I'm just very sensitive, and very contrary. But I'm okay with that.

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