Greetings friends and community members!
With the Times Colonist 10k run nearly upon us, I thought I might offer some ideas that have been on my mind relative to my practice of therapy and my training as a participant in the TC 10k.
A couple of years ago I was introduced to the writings and ideas of a Vancouver based therapist and activist named Vikki Reynolds (see http://www.vikkireynolds.ca/). Among her many inspirational ideas is her notion of solidarity. Writing mainly for an audience of front-line workers in the helping professions, Vikki emphasizes solidarity – “the interconnections of our collective movements towards social justice, and in resisting oppression” – as paramount for surviving the disheartening experiences that often accompany working to address problems that promote people’s suffering. In a workshop I attended last November, her words resonated deeply with me as she challenged the myth that “self-care” is sufficient in and of itself with respect to front-line workers maintaining sustainability in their work. She made it clear that if we are to survive disheartening circumstances, we need to engage in practices of solidarity – to hold each other up, because one person’s suffering is inextricably linked to the suffering of all people.
Through conversations I’ve had with people in therapy, I’ve come to recognize the applicability of these ideas to all people in society – not just therapists and other helping professionals. Unfortunately, I’ve found that ideas that promote solidarity often take a back seat to ideas that serve to divide and isolate people. We’re told that we need to “be strong”, and that being “strong” means that we “stand on our own two feet” no matter the adversity we are subjected to, and that we ourselves are solely responsible for our own “successes” and “failures”. In addition to that, we are told that we will “burden” others if we ask for help. I’ve learned from the people I seek to help that these ideas are most discouraging of seeking solidarity when support is needed. It seems apparent that these commonly held notions of “strength” and “burdening” do more harm than good, as people buckle under the tremendous weight of their struggles for fear of infecting others with their problems or appearing “weak” if they risk asking for a supportive hand or shoulder to lean on. I’ve been told by some that their experiences of panic attacks and intense anxiety have been influenced by their adherence to these notions of “strength” and “burdening” that keep them isolated and limited in their relational resources. For this reason, I absolutely encourage all people – in the therapy room or elsewhere – to hold their communities of support close and to resist those commonly held ideas that sustain isolation and related problems.
As a TC 10k trainee, I’ve come to appreciate the practice of solidarity in a new light. Having little experience in the area of long-distance running, I suspected that training to run 10k on my own might be a challenging endeavor. For this reason I sought out a like-minded running partner – a person who shared my recognition of the importance of support in taking on challenges. Together we have motivated one another to continue our training on those days we might rather sit on the couch. We’ve been there for each other to offer words of encouragement, high-fives, and pats on the back when we’ve reached new goals. Without a doubt, engaging in practices of solidarity while training for the TC 10k has enriched my experience by bringing in someone to share in our collective triumphs and hold me up on days I’ve felt less inclined to run. Now, as I approach my first ever 10k run, I’m eagerly excited to experience how we – the thousands of participants – hold each other up on April 29th.