When Covid-19 hit our world, the message was ‘stay home’, ‘shelter in place’ and ‘social distance,’ unless you are an essential worker or business.
I was one of those lucky ones.
In response to increasing current public health concerns regarding the spread of the COVID-19 virus, I was able to transfer my psychotherapy practice to online tele-therapy, offering online Zoom sessions.
My work not only mattered, and was essential, but became even more essential as time went on. As more and more people were socially isolating, as people lost jobs and financial security while also being disconnected from their support systems of family and friends, depression, loneliness, domestic violence, anxiety , and other mental health issues were rising to staggering numbers. The need for Connection in Time of Isolation became acute.
During this time though, many found themselves as ‘unessential workers‘. The feelings that follow were of being ‘unessential’ ,and that our work did not matter, which can then turn into insecurity, fear, anger, helplessness and hopelessness. For so many it quickly became a financial and survival crisis.
Yes, I was lucky, and I was grateful, and still very much am. But I also felt very sad, and heart broken seeing clients, friends, colleagues, and so many others, who found themselves ‘unessential’, and unemployed’ Did their work, shops, services, crafts, and arts not matter any more? Did they not matter? Did they have a sense of purpose? Do I matter is a question that goes to the core of our being.
When we experience doubt asking ‘Do I Matter?’, it can deflate and question our sense of self, safety, and meaningfulness. We need purpose to survive.
The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.Ralph Waldo Emerson
I started to write this blog few weeks ago, not knowing what was ahead. Suddenly, it became more relevant, wider, more acute, and a lot more painful after George Floyd died from police brutality, and protests exploded all over the US and around the globe.
Yes of course ‘all lives matter’, but NOW what is in front of us is that Black Lives Matter. After decades of police brutality and of people of color being marginalized, this is a call for action. A call to address the bigger issues of systemic racism, oppression, and discrimination. And at the core, the issue of not mattering is costing lives of so many.
In a touching and powerful address, following the murder of George Floyd, former president Barack Obama addresses the issue:
How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change
So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.
And even beyond making changes to our societies systems, this is a call to ask what matters to each of us. Many feel helpless in trying to make societal change happen, and yet the most powerful change is within ourselves and how we relate to others. How do we express what really matters to us.
In the movie Freedom Writers, a dedicated teacher in a racially divided Los Angeles school has a class of at-risk teenagers deemed incapable of learning. Instead of giving up, she inspires her students to take an interest in their education and planning their future. Based on a true story, the teacher, Erin Gruwell, is determined to inspire and help her students believe and understand that they matter, their lives matter, and that they can make an impact to change their life.
When we feel and experience that we do not matter, that our life has no value or purpose, our ability to survive and thrive is questioned. Lots has been written and shared about what we can do to change the current situation.
A therapist colleague shared these words from Dr Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr., Chancellor of UNCG, which he sent in a memo to students, faculty and staff, “This is personal. I am a black man. I have a black son….How do we fix this? One answer is that this is all about “public will.” That’s the collective sense of people coming together with a good heart and common sense to solve problems….But are we willing? Are we willing to buy into the notion that we have a “shared fate” regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or party affiliation? Are people willing to change how institutions work in this country so that all people are treated fairly? “
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.Martin Luther King Jr.
The essential question of ‘Do I matter?’ is also in the core of our romantic relationships. When we feel that we are disconnected in our relationship, we may experience the panic that we do not matter to our partner. When the survival of the relationship is at stake, we may get into our Fight-Freeze-Flight response. We may shout, scream, go quiet, numb, leave… anything we can do to know that we matter. What may look like a fight can be a Protest for Connection.
When couples sit with me in my therapy office, I read on each one of their face that burning question, Do I matter to you? Would you come when I call?
We long, and we need, and we yearn, to matter in our relationships.
In the movie ‘Shall We Dance’, Susan Sarandon speaks about why people get married.
But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything–the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things–all of it, all the time, every day. You’re saying, ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.
In our Hold Me Tight® Couples Workshop, in a safe, intimate, private setting, we hold space for couples to be able to share that question, and to become vulnerable and open to explore, experience, touch and talk through issues that have been keeping us apart and disconnected. It is time set aside to have these conversations that have been waiting for a long time to happen.
Couples get to renew trust and intimacy within their connection. They experience a new depth of emotional connection and closeness with one another and learn to create a secure base for both people to flourish.
We do not yet have a date for our next Hold Me Tight® couples workshop. As soon as our Shelter in Place situation is changed, Owen Marcus and I will create few dates for our workshops and we will notify you ASAP.
The first half of 2020 has been challenging, surreal, filled with the unknown and scary. It has also been a testimonial to our human life force, resilience, surrender, and hope.
Wishing you all to be safe, well, and keep your hearts open.