Monday, May 13, 2013

Not-knowing, in two minutes

In my training I am often asked for simple solutions and expected to give simple answers.  There is only one answer, one simple solution that I've found.  Start every conversation in a state of not-knowing. I need to work on this, because I like to nod, "yes, mm-hmm," and I like the connection that forms when I look at someone and empathize, imagining I could understand what it's like to live their life, day in, day out. 

Imagining it doesn't make it so; the more I learn the more I recognize that the world is an entirely different place for each person.  This isn't always a heavy thing, sometimes the new perspectives I hear about are enlightening and even joyful, like the child who loves X-Men so much, when he found out he has a genetic mutation he was excited about it, or the young girl who doesn't eat, who said that she wants tattoos and dyed blue hair because that will finally make her comfortable in her own body, and thinks we should all just get to choose, (at birth, or something) how our skin and hair looks, because then we'd all be much happier.

Other times it is the heaviest thing in the world. 

There are burdens borne by people in this world that are more painful than I can sit with, in my comfort, I either wallow and melt in the tragedy or I seek distraction. It's my job to learn to sit with tragedy, to face it and sometimes be a vector of calm strength for other people to sit through their own melt-downs.  So this is a powerful thing.

Not-knowing is a way for me to begin that, because many people with burdens are sitting through them with astounding composure and are doing very well for themselves. I start simply and hope to learn something from everyone I meet.  Incredible resilience is part of the human condition, it is more commonplace that I can even believe.

Not-knowing sometimes takes on the bland tone of a questionnaire, but this questionnaire is far from bland:
http://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/assets/pdfs/community_violenceList_final.pdf

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has a tremendous amount to offer, nicely organized here:  http://www.nctsn.org/content/resources

Liza Su├írez, PhD & Jaleel Abdul-Adil, PhD are co-directors of this the NCTSN site at UIC, down the hall from my office.  I cannot say enough about the importance of their work here: http://www.psych.uic.edu/Urban_Youth_Trauma_Center/  and if you like facebook, you can like them here.

This May, now National Mental Health Awareness Month, I hope we can all find ways to reach out for help in our own way, for our own day in, day out struggles.  Caring is a humble act and must start with the humility of not-knowing. To care for others with integrity, we must begin with the humbling act of caring for ourselves.




Monday, March 8, 2010

Come to the hideout at 1354 Wabansia for performances about the ongoing US occupations.
Tonight's event at The Hideout is at 8 PM. Donations of $10 are requested but no one will be turned away.