The Human Condition

   As a mental health professional, and someone who is a curious human being in general, I spend a large amount of time trying to understand the complexities of human emotions and the reasons for the pleasure and pain that humans can experience on a regular basis. The underlying question is this:  are humans always bound to return to “suffering”, regardless of what we do? Is it the human condition to experience loss and sadness, forever, along side happiness and pride and excitement?

    As a therapist I must ask myself this question repeatedly as it is part of my job to help people with their suffering. If there were a “happy” pill to take away sadness, people wouldn’t go to therapy at all.  If there were a pill to take away sadness, would we every really feel happy, though? Would there really be light if there were no darkness?  If the human condition is to swing between emotional well-being and emotional suffering, then would we really know happiness without knowing what pain feels like?

    I don’t try to talk my clients, my friends, or myself out of being unhappy.  Mostly because I have learned that being unhappy is not permanent, and I don’t think that ignoring or burying the pain will really make it go away faster.  I do, however, strive to work with the meaning of the pain.  For example, if someone is consistently depressed over a long period of time, they may think that this means that they will always be depressed, which is not necessarily the case.  But every time that they are depressed thereon after, when they return to sadness, the meaning that they make may be that they are still sad and that they will always be sad.  On the other side of 10 years of steps to becoming a therapist and practicing therapy, I have formed the opinion that the point of therapy might not be to eliminate the sadness, but rather, to learn let people in when you are suffering as to not be alone. I now understand therapy as being the practice of reaching out in the suffering, and learning to be with another in suffering, as to learn to repeat this in your outside life, as to surround yourself with those people in your life who understand and who also don’t want to be alone in suffering. 

  For hundreds of thousands of years before this point in time, it was our purpose to survive on a daily basis.  Our survival needs were forefront to our emotional issues.  Finding food, clean water, safety, warmth, and other basic survival needs kept us from the daily suffering that we now experience in absence of the basic will to survive.  Struggles now have become making enough money, not feeling isolated, finding meaningful relationships, and finding meaning in general for our purposes on a daily basis.  Our survival needs have manifested differently and they are now not what we spend every second of every day thinking about, or fighting for.  So if you are feeling depressed, overwhelmed, hopeless, and like your life is existentially pointless, it might be helpful to think about spending some time in the wilderness, conceptualizing how you would go about finding food if you didn’t have any, how you might build a shelter, how you could keep warm. And if you feel like you are the only one in the world suffering right now, it might be helpful to talk to someone to discover that you could possibly be understood by another person and potentially many others. 

What It Has Been Like To Be a Sexual Abuse Survivor During The 2016 Presidential Elections

It’s November 9th. The polls are in. Many are shocked and amazed that their worst fears have been realized: Donald Trump is the president of the united stated of America. And many of us wonder, how did it come to be, and what does it mean.

   As a psychotherapist who specializes in Sexual Abuse Trauma,  I would like to look back on this election through the lens of what it has been like for sexual abuse survivors to watch this election and vote in this election.  I would like to bring a voice to sexual violence, for it is traditionally and societally silenced. Why is it silenced, and why is it important that trump won the election despite clearly having views on consent and sexuality that represent Sexual Abuse? I would like to tell you in a clear and consolidated way why it’s such a big deal.

            Many people I know who are survivors of sexual abuse trauma have reported terrible dreams during this election, specifically after the second debate. The dreams include flashbacks of their sexual abuse and their perpetrators. It has become my life work to grapple with this type of trauma, and it has become my professional work to be a therapist for sexual abuse trauma, to run groups for survivors in need, and to be the voice that is repressed and silenced.

Since before the election even started, I have been worried.  One in Three women are sexually assaulted in this country. Surprised? It’s surprising, especially considering that most cases are not pursued legally or even talked about at all.  Hillary Clinton, from the beginning, has represented something to not only women, but to the LBGTQ population, to less privileged populations. She is a woman standing up against patriarchy to become a president.  This gave other women, minorities, and anyone really who has suffered from patriarchal systems a glimpse of  hope. But the threat in this election is much more than just patriarchy- Its Donald Trump himself, and what he represents.  It’s Brock Turner.  It’s the Rich, White, Wealthy men getting a slap on the wrist for “grabbing by the pussy” or raping an unconscious woman. It’s the fact that our country chose a xenophobic racist billionaire as the president instead of a woman. It’s the fact that, when people do stand up to their perpetrators, their perpetrators often times win with a smirk on their face. I know that my words are maybe a simplified version of the complexities of the election, but the themes cannot be denied.

  This Election is personally triggering for sexual abuse survivors, and for Women, LBGTQ Folk, Men, Minorities, Immigrants, and Underprivileged populations alike, because that same message that one got from society when they were originally assaulted has just been reinserted with the Election:  Someone who is unsafe has power over you and you will be out of control. I encourage those to fight for what they believe in and I strive to illuminate the voice and the experience for sexual abuse survivors who wish to be heard and seen right now.

Bianca Aarons is a practicing psychotherapist intern in San Francisco through the auspices of the Grateful Heart Holistic Therapy Center. Bianca’s specialties include attachment, trauma, sexual abuse, post traumatic stress, relationship issues, depression issues, couples work and work with teenagers. Learn more about Bianca at www.biancaaarons.com, email her atbiancapsychotherapy@gmail.com, or call her at (415) 553-5346 to ask any questions or to set up a consultation session.

How do you know if therapy is working?

It can sometimes be confusing to know if therapy is working, or if it is still working for you over a long period of time.  Sometimes, when we begin going to therapy, it can seem like things are getting worse.  This is something that is valuable to notice and it may be an indicator that the therapy is working, as things can get worst before they get better. Below are some key indicators that therapy is working for you, as slow and long as the process may sometimes seem.

•You feel relieved.

•You feel understood by your therapist.

•You feel safe talking about your life.

•Things start to slowly shift in your life for the better, if not immediately, than within the first Six months.

•You can both like and dislike your therapist at times, because you feel safe enough to have both positive and negative feelings with them.

•You can talk about deeper and deeper things as time goes on.

•You start to think about what to talk about in your next session during the week.

•You miss a week and can’t wait to go the next week.

•You begin to feel more secure because you know that you can rely on therapy to open up your feelings.