“We can be redeemed only to the extent to which we see ourselves.”
― Martin Buber
Our culture doesn’t prepare us well for vulnerability.
Often we use technology to create an illusion that we and our lives are perfect and always will be. Even though it is false, we come to believe our own and others’ facades, falling into crisis when we are confronted with our own capacity to be hurt.
Too frequently, we separate older, sick, and needy people from our lives, and segregate them in our communities. As a society, we hide pain and vulnerability from ourselves and our children, and later we are confused that we lack the skills to handle these important parts of being human.
Almost half of the country will have a mental health issue within their lifetime, and all of us will experience times of grief, confusion, and suffering in which we need others’ help.
When I was growing up I looked up to many people in the helping profession who I saw making a positive impact in their communities. When I got older I recognized that what made them engaging and effective was their ability to talk openly and honestly about the things they struggled with and the things that hurt them in a way that was relatable and refreshing to people who had thought they were alone.
Pain and vulnerability do not make anyone weak. They only handicap us when we will not accept the help we need to become stronger. These things are what make us human, and overcoming them is what makes us more adaptable and better equipped for life.
Unfortunately there is no life without pain, but accepting that we are hurting is the first step in healing. Processed trauma is the reason that many beautiful works of art exist. Many people enter a healing profession only because they now have the tools to be the help they once needed.
This month, look honestly at yourself and those around you. Look at yourself and find the parts that you are hiding. Look at your community and realize that many people in it need your help. Be honest and open with yourself and those around you about who you are and what makes you human.
Improving our mental health doesn’t just mean that we feel “better”. Healing often means that we learn to feel and accept the entire spectrum of all of our parts and experiences that make us a whole person. There is a joy and a sadness and a profound absurdity to the human condition. All of us need help and all of us have the capacity to help others. Once we realize this, what a wonderful world we can build together!
Joel Blackstock is a licensed social worker at Birmingham Anxiety and Trauma Therapy. He enjoys helping others reach their personal potential and would love to work with you.