Category Archives: Hope

How I Help with Racial and Political Anxiety

Dealing with the overwhelm of the times

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It’s been another difficult week, and this week people have had to contend with hearing about more negative interactions in the government, and the possibility of long-lasting terrible implications related to our justice system. Anonymous op-eds, the continued separation between parents and children, deaths of the good ones…the stress from these news events is enough to make anyone anxious.

You might notice you are carrying an underlying current of agitation or feeling hopeless and frustrated (or horrified), even more often than not. You dread hearing about, yet another ludicrous decision made by those in government. You cringe in the face of everything happening, you have heartache in response to the bad leadership we have, you might rather stick your head in the sand, or barely be able to put one foot in front of the other, you feel so overwhelmed. You might feel powerless or enraged. Or afraid for the future.

And you really care – about the impact of this troubled time on your children, your family, your community, yourself. You care deeply about all those people who are struggling so. And often don’t know how to respond or what to do next.

While there is no easy answer, and no one thing that will resolve everything, there are many things that can ease the overwhelm, and continue to bring light into your life. Even with so much suffering going on, it is possible to live a life filled with compassion, courage, and meaning. And even joy.

At this anniversary time of 9-11 and in honor of all the lives lost and devastation that impacted so many, physically, socially and psychologically, I offer these suggestions for living a whole life, even amidst the heartache and wretchedness that surrounds us. This is not meant to ignore all that’s going on and the precarious state of our world; but to provide support and a buoy, if you will, toward strength and well being, especially during difficult times.

Here’s a list of some things I do to help clients who are struggling with the  political/ racial anxiety of the times:

  • As a bilingual woman of color therapist, I offer a safe place where clients of all backgrounds can share deeply about their real experiences, sometimes in the comfort of their mother tongue, and have the experience of being heard, understood and not judged. My warm down-to-earth presence lets them know I get them.
  • Sometimes it helps to simply let my clients grieve their deepest feelings, hold those feelings, and even grieve with them about the world’s sufferings or their own. I invite the depth of the emotion of their woundedness, and often shed tears with them, in my heart or on my face.
  • I honor whatever acts or actions of courage my clients have demonstrated.
  • I encourage putting into the universe small acts of kindness, or sending goodwill to self, to loved ones, to difficult people, to acquaintances, to strangers, and then to enemies, if possible.
  • I advocate self-compassion as a key to empowerment.
  • I encourage listening deeply to each other.
  • I encourage my clients to speak with their wise voice.
  • I support honest reflection and soul searching into oneself, and the welcoming of all emotions, even the difficult or hard to admit ones. I help them to unpack their own biases, and to recognize the damages of internalized oppression.
  • I suggest, teach and practice mindfulness skills as a way of calming the soul.
  • I advocate dance, journaling, walks in nature, yoga, a variety of breathing techniques – and various ways of freeing the body from the bondage of hatred or discrimination.
  • I help couples, and parents and their kids to have calm caring discussions especially about sensitive issues, with the intention of doing no harm, especially when they themselves are triggered.
  • I offer that those of us who are resisting must take great care to not get stuck in the bitter rage and divisiveness and negative thinking of the times, or we become part of the problem and no better than those we are angry with. We must care well for ourselves, so we can continue in the struggle.
  • I remind people that often the turbulence comes just before the true transformation that occurs. I offer hope that things will change for the better.
  • I offer guided meditations, mindfulness apps, body scans, sleep practices and ways of bringing mindfulness into everyday life, in order to build resilience so they can continue on in the struggle without being completely overwhelmed.
  • I listen. And listen. And listen some more.
  • I share a RAIN practice to use when dealing with difficult experiences: R for Recognize (Notice and name what’s happening in the moment); A for Allow (Can I be with what’s happening right now?); I for Investigate (How am I relating to what is happening? Can I do it without judgement or avoidance or resistance?); N for Nurture (How do I care for this distress?).

These are but a few of the ways I help clients to manage the distress and overwhelm of the current negative political and racist society we are surrounded by.

I am also proud to acknowledge that I was quoted in a colleague’s blog, who talked with several therapists to get best ideas for helping clients who are dealing with anxiety related to the difficult and stressful political and racist times we are living in. He is the creator of the progressive mental health directory, Therapy Den. To read the blog of Jeff Guenther, and to get more ideas about how to take care of yourself during these very upsetting times, click here (I’m honored to be mentioned three times): how to cope with political and racial distress.

I hope these suggestions are helpful and thoughtful to you and others. I’d love to hear from you…How are these times affecting you? How do you tend to what’s really important in your life?

Take good care.

If you or someone you care about feels overwhelmed and is struggling to find peace amidst all the negative political and racist injustice swarming around, please call me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
www.cindiriveratherapy.com
criveramft@gmail.com
(510) 482-4445

Best Tips for Hope During Heavy Times

I’m at a loss for words, and my heart it hurts

“I’m at a loss for words, and my heart it hurts. Things going on in this world so absurd – Mr. President tell me what’s the word?”

mindfulness when you are angry and sad about world events helps the healing.

These words are from Landon McNamara’s song “Loss for Words” which is about the grief experienced by witnessing all the violence going on in the world. But I find it equally applicable to what’s going on right now. Here we are in another time of unfathomable trauma and heartache going on in our country and many are struggling to find the words to express the complex and difficult feelings that we are experiencing.

Feelings like helplessness, anger, sadness, grief about all the unnecessary loss and separation that’s going on. Or feelings of anxiousness and being afraid of what’s to come. Many of us are struggling with trying to make sense with what feels so crazy-making, each day with a different mandate coming at us. We experience these feelings in our bodies, we have a visceral sense of the trauma and torment that is being carried out.

My clients talk to me from time to time about the strain and overwhelm they feel about what’s going on politically and socially in our country. But this experience in particular, related to children that are being separated from their parents at the border, seems to have hit everybody’s rawest nerve and deepest heartstrings. Most every hour I’ve had someone pouring their heart out to me about how disturbed they feel about this example of humankind not being treated with human kindness.

Mostly there is an experience about helplessness and questions about what one can do to alleviate some of the suffering (in the world or within themselves.) Or people wonder about how to handle their feelings of outrage in light of the circumstances that are happening, that are inhumane, egregious, akin to torture and abuse, and even kidnapping.

Anyone who has suffered trauma in their lives or been victimized seems to be especially vulnerable and re-stimulated about these horrific things going on. Clients are talking to me about feeling like the world’s soul has been deeply injured, and humankind has taken an enormous blow.

Some have called this fascism on American soil, equal to what many in Latin American countries already live with and expect regularly. These immigrants who have already narrowly escaped the tail of the shark in their own countries, have sought to protect their families, only to travel north and land in the mouth of the shark.

Others have talked to me just about how terribly sad it is, and how they are reminded of their own children, and the pain they would feel if their own children were in any kind of pain. Still, others have talked to me indicating that they really don’t have anywhere else in the world to talk about this in a personal feeling way.

As a human being and as a mother I have been deeply impacted by this terrible scenario. I am heartsick and alarmed in a profound way over the separations and the lack of cohesion demonstrated, as ICE and so-called ‘Human Services’ are trying to reconnect parents with their children. I have been horrified by the lack of compassion demonstrated.

Before this, I had already felt personally affronted by the ways this administration thinks about and treats people of color, particularly Latinos (calling immigrants rapists and criminals; humiliating proud Puerto Ricans after hurricane Maria with paper towels; eliminating hopes for Dreamers; wanting to build the Wall), but these actions after zero-tolerance have been even more unbearable.

As a psychotherapist I am deeply troubled by what’s currently going on and by what I know will be the likely future that plays out for these children and families that have been separated. To be separated from one’s parent when one is a child is a traumatic event with lifelong negative implications. To be separated from your child when one is a parent is equally traumatic, and there seems to be no level of support for the devastation that has occurred and continues, day after day. We all know that racism is an ongoing traumatic experience to bear. It affects our psyche, our relationships, our sense of security in the world, our families.

Admittedly I have had difficulty to find the words to respond to peoples’ anguish adequately. I have been at a loss for words myself. But I have also felt inspired by the positive and compassionate actions taken by many to address this outrage, like the grandmas who want to make sure someone is looking out for the children.

And from listening to or reading those people who give me guidance and solace, here are some of the best tips I have encountered for holding on to hope in heavy times:

  • Be inspired by all of the support that’s out there – know you are not alone.
  • Let your human compassion grow – be kinder to the next homeless person or person you see who is struggling.
  • Send peace, care, compassion, empathy into the universe.
  • Take action: go to a rally and make signs (Click here to see some of the signs that I witnessed at this weekend‘s ‘Families Belong Together’ rallies). Take only actions that reflect those coming from your heart.
  • Call your Senators and Representatives.
  • Give money to causes like the ACLU or Raíces, or Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande, so they can continue their important work.
  • Cry, share your sorrows, grieve collectively.
  • Remember, all living beings want to be happy, belong, connect and be free. We are all similar that way.
  • Take breaks from the news.
  • Don’t use your suffering to cause anguish to others – use it instead to elevate others.
  • Treating someone as an outsider increases our experience of them as less than human. Do the opposite – see their similarities to see them as more human and more connected to you.
  • Be fully present, even when loss has come. Make space for the “One who knows“ inside of you. Remain calm and clear and bring forth your own wisdom, conscience, compassion.
  • Be fair and generous with your courage as you acknowledge how things are. Remember that many others know how to survive, as do you. Let yourself experience the hardship intimately, personally within yourself, and then also share it with the world.
  • When angry, Breathe (with presence into your heart), and Push (act with intelligence and love, that comes from your best self). Redemptive anger is better than reactionary anger.
  • Pay attention to how you touch your sorrows – is it with fear, anger, aversion, tenderness, warmth, acceptance?
  • Feel underneath your anger and connect to what hurts.
  • Become present and aware of that unbelievable beauty and inevitable tragedy that make up human life. The juxtaposition can be painful.
  • Mindfulness practices empower you to carry on, and help you to remember who you really are. No matter what happens, you still have your courage and good heart. Mindfulness also helps to reduce racial bias and the treating of people as unreal others.
  • Bear witness. Listen deeply to the stories.
  • Share compassion. Let yourself feel another’s pain. Let in other peoples’ suffering. Get close enough so your heart can be broken (open).
  • Offer loving kindness to yourself; then to a benefactor/friend; then to someone you have a complicated relationship with (like a parent, or a spouse); then to a neutral person you may often overlook; then to an enemy or difficult person; then to all living beings….

May you be happy
May you be safe
May you be healthy
May you live with ease
May you not suffer.

What’s your experience like during difficult times? What helps you to get through? I’d love to hear from you. Reply back.

If you or someone you care about is having difficulty managing the overwhelm of racism or discrimination and would like some support, please contact me for a therapy appointment.

For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.

Listening with Heart
Cindi Rivera, MFT
Marriage, Family Therapist
www.cindiriveratherapy.com
criveramft@gmail.com
(510) 482-4445