Our voices and our stories change the conversation
Updated: Aug 7, 2020
I recently read a wonderfully powerful book by Lori Gottlieb called “Maybe you should talk to someone”. I am fascinated by people and what we call “the human condition”. How do we start out in life with significantly less of the woes, prejudices, pain and stress that seem to become part of our make-up as we grow? Lori’s book really spoke to me as she showed through the stories of her patients the complexity of life and its fragility as well as the raw and uplifting power of living your truth.
Before you think this is all doom and gloom and there is nothing positive here, bear with me as there is a point to this.
One of the things she said in her book, was there is no hierarchy in pain. This really struck me. That statement is so blindingly obviously true when you take a moment and think about it. Because we do exactly that. We measure others pain against an arbitrary yardstick that we (and often society) decides. We calibrate what we are going through versus others. We can be dismissive of others’ woes.
Lori talks about pain. As a psychotherapist, she sees more pain than most. However, I think there is an analogy applies to stress too; stress is not a distant cousin to pain, it certainly feels more like a close relative. In fact, it applies to any kind of suffering and what is stress, if not suffering?
So where is the positive in all this, I hear you say?
The positive for me is that we are actually talking about this. We are less afraid than ever before to say everything is perfect. It’s about courage and vulnerability. It’s about showing up and putting your head above the parapet. Lori does that in spades in her book as she talks about her own story not just that of her patients. She could so easily have chosen to leave her own story out of the book. It’s not self-congratulatory. Far from it. In my view, the impact of her patients’ stories is all the more powerful because of her raw honesty. She is walking the talk and showing us in real terms that you can struggle, you can also grow and thrive.
If we continue to hide behind the emotional armour (I wrote about this recently), we bury the pain, the stress. The hierarchy remains entrenched; even more so because we refuse to acknowledge that we are even struggling. We lack compassion for ourselves and others.
Stress is commonplace. We use the word casually to cover a myriad of woes. By starting to peel away the layers of how we work, why we work, what we role model, we make progress. Slowly. Intentionally.
We need to fail forward, learning from every mistake we make and embrace our collective voice as a profession. The more voices, the more the stories come through (and they are coming through), the more we can recognise little bits of ourselves in those voices, the greater the empathy and connection we build.
Claire Debney The MOSAIC Collective