“This is your world. Shape it or someone else will.” -Gary Lew
This is one of the reasons why I do what I do.
We live in a world where there are several, easily accessible distractions from Self and the transformative power within.
I took a hiatus from blogging and public speaking to detach and recharge from all the energetic “stuff” that has been happening, to re-mind myself of what is true for me, and to stay grounded in this knowledge by seeing through the distractions.
We can become so accustomed to looking at social media, websites, and the news that these things easily become subconscious influencers.
The next time you scroll or flip the channel, think about what you really believe, what you really desire for yourself (and the world), and if the things you are entertaining and doing match those desires. If not, put down the phone (tablet, remote, etc.), wake up from the distractions, and do something different.
As a psychotherapist, one of the last things that I want to hear is that one of my clients has killed or taken the life of himself or herself (or someone else). It is not because of a personal feeling of failure, but because of a sense that somewhere in the process, my client has lost hope. As therapists, one of our most powerful intentions is to instill hope. It is not a starry wish, but a sense of purpose and encouragement.
When I was in graduate school, I was drawn to the more intense subjects such as traumatology, addiction, and crisis stabilization work. I loved them! I remember sitting in a crisis intervention class and hearing my professor clearly state, “In all your years as a therapist, all of you will lose at least one client to suicide. Be prepared for it. It will happen. Oh, and those of you who are working with trauma and addiction, you can definitely expect it to happen.” He spoke those words with a matter-of-factness that revealed long years of personal experience. I did not want to believe him, but I also knew that there was some underlying realness to what he said.
Even with this warning, I pressed on and continued down the path to become a licensed therapist. I did not and could not lose hope in the long-lasting positive impact of the work we do. I believed that following my passion and helping others to see their inner light was worth much more than living in fear of those who might not see it.
For a little while, I even worked for a crisis hotline. Some of the callers were blatantly at the point where they had chosen to end their lives. I encouraged some to rethink their situations and to see that life might actually be worth living. However for some, I do not know if they did or did not take their lives…the calls simply just ended.
Ironically enough, I didn’t feel disappointment, but gratitude. How might one be grateful for such a thing? I fully understood that the conversations that I had with the callers may have been their last conversations ever. I was at least thankful to talk to them in the present moment and be some type of positive, loving voice before they departed (or decided to live).
And here I am… 8 years and 2 client suicides later.
I will not get into too much detail about the 2 client suicides; however I will say that both were very sobering experiences for me. I re-learned that suicide shows up in many forms.
A spiritual reality about suicide came to me as well:
A person’s exit from this world is not an accident. The way we transition may serve a greater purpose, just like the way we live. It is true that sometimes a person’s life purpose may not be easily understood or clear. But be aware that every life, no matter how short, undoubtedly leaves a precious legacy on this planet.
Every day that I choose to continue working as a psychotherapist and addiction counselor, the possibility of losing a client to suicide, overdose, or something exists. Yet, if a little piece of hope surfaces, then I believe there is a chance that the person will see tomorrow. I Know the power of hope. It starts as a glimmer, and then it becomes a belief. Belief is when the person sees more light and direction. Then a belief transforms into Knowing. Knowing (in this context) is when the person is aware that Life Is.
If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts, or self-harm, please Know that There is Hope.
For nationwide support in the United States you can contact: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
I am currently in Ghana, in the western part of Africa, on my first trip to the continent. I arrived in the city of Accra late on a Tuesday night in March. I was nervous, excited, and exhausted all in one. The customs line for foreigners was very long, so it took over an hour for me to get through. When I made it outside the airport, the first thing that I felt was extreme heat and humidity. I had been on the freezing cold airplane for several hours, the airports were very cold, and then suddenly it was hot. The second thing I noticed was all the Black people…Africans. They looked so beautiful, glowing, and so dark that their skin mixed with the night sky. It was lovely.
My first week here was spent doing tourist-like activities. I have been exploring the region and getting a better understanding of the people. During this tour, I visited Cape Coast Castle and the El Mina Castle. Some ex-pats refer to these locations as the Dungeons instead of castles. These are places where Africans were held in captivity before boarding ships to be sent to other parts of the world as slaves.
Needless to say, going on a tour of the castles was an emotional experience for me. Maybe not in the way that you would think, though. Instead of tears of sadness and sorrow, I became very angry when I heard about the inhumane things that were done to my ancestors. Although I learned about slavery, I was only given a small perspective—one from the lens of American History. The more I learned, the angrier I became. It was disturbing to think about the level of maltreatment that one human can inflict upon another and continue to live a fairly normal day-to-day life.
I heard about the ways that Africans assisted the Europeans to capture other Africans, especially if they were from another tribe or were offered a large amount of European goods.
I learned how the female slaves in the castle were abused and sexually exploited by the governor and his men. The women were forced out of their dungeon and had to walk in a small open courtyard. The governor’s quarters overlooked the courtyard. He simply would point at the woman he wanted to have sex with, and then she was taken through a secret door to his bedroom. Once he was done, she was put back in the dungeon with the others. If she refused, she was left outside, a ball and chain around her ankles to suffer…as punishment.
In the courtyard: Ball (without chain) for female slaves who refused sex
There is a great amount that I would like to write about this experience, yet I will keep this post brief. (Maybe this will turn into a book.) One other thing that I will mention is the “Door of No Return”. The slaves were kept in the dungeons for weeks and months at a time (men and women were separate). Think about it: Hundreds of people in one room–eating, sleeping, defecating, urinating, sick, etc…in ONE small room. The ones who died were taken out and tossed into the sea. The ones who survived made the life-altering journey onto the ships that transported them all over the world…. when they walked through the Door of No Return. Not only did they have to endure the dungeons, but the ones who survived had to endure the ship rides around the globe. What a shame that so many people suffered from this tragedy at the hands of their own people.
This is only a miniscule piece of the history of this planet.
Door of No Return
Why am I writing any of this? Because I desire for you to open your eyes and your mind.
Slavery still exists today, right here and now, and it takes on many forms. Some examples are: Mental slavery, economic dis-empowerment, sex trafficking, free/cheap labor, and cultural imperialism.
I refuse to believe that human nature is naturally selfish, greedy, and immoral.
Yet, I do wonder: What will it take for all humans to see each other as fellow brothers and sisters on this planet? How can we mend the mistakes of those before us and live in a peaceful world instead of repeating this revolving pattern?
Several RIP flowers and gifts were left in the dungeons from visitors around the globe.
In spite of the anger I felt, I found one thing to be slightly comforting. Several people from all over the world left gifts, flowers, and memorials for the slaves who were in the dungeon. Most of them read, “Rest In Peace” and referred to humanity learning a vital lesson from the pains of the slave trade.
I know that healing is possible. But first, we must have compassion for ourselves and each other.