“What am I doing wrong?” and other questions we need to analyze

June 16, 2020

Coaching, Desarrollo Personal, Personal Growth, Terapia, Therapy, Uncategorized

When a person decides to start therapy, they usually do it because they feel that something in their lives isn’t working. This reason is why, many times as a therapist, I tend to think, “What is going wrong?” “What needs to change?” “What is this person not getting right?” These questions bring a strong tendency to try to solve the problem. Yet, at the same time, I believe in the capacity for resilience that individuals hold and their inner wisdom to create their wellbeing. But I have to admit that, sometimes, the voice that says, “What’s wrong?” sounds a little louder. And this is a question that I’ve heard in a lot of conversations, especially around marginalized communities. 

Sometimes we tend to try to identify what areas need to “improve” instead of thinking, “What are they already doing right?”

Questions such as: 

But what if it’s a lack of access to education? People who are not educated usually…

And what about if it was the tone in which they spoke? If they had said it that way, then they wouldn’t have gotten that reaction. 

What if they hadn’t gone out that late? They should know what would happen at that time. 

Many times we avoid evaluating the system in which we find ourselves. We sidestep thinking about an individual’s strengths. On that same boat, we overlook the actions that a person consistently takes for their and others, wellbeing.

The problem with the first idea is that we focus on guilt-tripping the person instead of analyzing the system. This can happen due to many reasons. One of them is that individuals, including myself, benefit from the privileges of the system that works by oppressing others. This position of making folks “responsible” many times happens because we therapists struggle with siting with what’s uncomfortable, and we can’t fix it. There can also be instances in which the patient labels themselves as guilty. In these cases, it is easier to fall into this “shared blindless: than to become aware of the injustices on the system. 

Now, my interest is to focus on the second point. This intention is not because the first idea was not significant, nut because it was the second one that sparked this idea for this blog. 

I am going to give you a bit of context, in the topic of public health, we have the concepts of risk factor and protective factors. Risk factors are those characteristics that place you in a higher position of vulnerability than other populations. For example, some of these factors are poverty, identifying as LGBTQI+, having an autoimmune disease, etc. When we talk about protective factors, we are talking about those characteristics that allow for an individual and a community to face difficult situations and decrease the risk of going through them. Some examples of protective factors would be: having a support system, have spiritual beliefs, having a reliable family system, etc. In conclusion, each person and community have a combination of protective factors and risk factors. 

The reason why I give this context is that a lot of the times, we exclusively focus on these risk factors and not on the protective factors. When we keep this perspective, we can block experiences of resilience and the proactive work that both patients and communities are doing. 

A person can show themselves in therapy in the following ways:

  • They can share that they struggle with communicating with their parents, but they are present in their friendships. 
  • They struggle with understanding their partner’s needs, but this person has a generous intention towards the world. 
  • They find it challenging to keep their life in order, but they are someone whose leadership and support is celebrated by their team. 

Many times, we see these cases, and we say, “There has to be a problem when this person can do one thing but not the other.” Additionally, when we see these polarities, we question our clients, without allowing us to recognize for, and with them, what they are already doing well. Humans are a balance between the “Both…And” We can hold two realities and to not immediately think that’s an imbalance. Let’s allow ourselves to recognize the good thing that our clients, communities, and even the people that are close to us are already doing. And especially if the rest of the world makes them feel like they’ll never do anything right.

Let’s provide feedback, such as: 

 “That shows so much compassion.”

“How beautiful it is to hear you talk about something that you are passionate about.”

“What inspires you when you establish your leadership?”

“What is that vision or thought that leads you to help those around you?”

“I don’t want to take for granted what you just did there…”

I believe there’s something compelling when we recognize the capacities and the intentionality of someone. And to not exclusively focus on what we need to “fix” or heal.” 

I find that, when we do this, we can recognize the potential for healing inside every person. When we value their daily choice of acting based on this potential, whether it is for their benefit or the benefit of others. And in a world that consistently tells you that you don’t belong or that you are not enough, we need the intentionality of remembering or being reminded that we already are. 

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