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. 

 

Bianca Aarons LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist in San Francisco . 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 at BiancaAaronsMFT@gmail.com, or call her at (415) 553-5346 to ask any questions or to set up a consultation session.

 

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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 LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist 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 at BiancaAaronsMFT@gmail.com, or call her at (415) 553-5346 to ask any questions or to set up a consultation session.

When Fear Shows Itself: Part 2

Thoughts on Working Through Fear.

Baby steps.  That is how you must work through fear, a belief that you are not safe, the terror that it may happen again. The question becomes, How? How do I confront terror? Because as you now know if you have been in an accident, have lost a loved one suddenly, have experienced an abusive relationship, have been sexually abuse, or even have just gotten your heart broken, you may find that you are now afraid that it will happen again. Perhaps at any new moment or with any new person you meet. 

 

When we have a fear response it often gets stored in the body. Let’s say you have always loved riding your bike until recently, when a car accidentally merged into you and you’ve broken a bone. During the time that it’s taken you to heal, you have replayed the event over and over again in your head. Every time you are in a car and see a bike next to the car you are in, you now replay your accident and are afraid that the biker will be hit.  This is a form of post traumatic stress related to your accident. You’ve always had great associations with bike riding. Now, when you are riding, it is as if every car that passes you on your bike is going to hit you. Maybe you no longer enjoy riding your bike because your bike rides now induce small panic attacks and uncommon spells of fear. Maybe this is an indicator that you should stop riding your bike forever, but probably not.

 

How do you work through this??? Well, by riding your bike, of course.  We must do the exact thing that scares us in order to learn to not be afraid again. Maybe the first time, or first twenty times, of riding your bike will be terrifying after your accident. But each new time that you ride your bike and not get into an accident is proof that you are in fact safe to ride your bike again. Does this mean that you wont ever get into a bike accident again? I’m sorry, but no. There is some innocence that has been lost when bad things happen to us. We must move through the world with a different awareness that we may not be completely safe.

 

Confronting your fear is the only way that you will work through it. And how you choose to take this task into your own hands is completely in your control. When you realize that when and how you confront your fear can be your choice, you take some of your power back that you lost when something bad happened to you, totally out of your control.

 

As a therapist, I specialize in sexual abuse trauma and PTSD related to abusive relationships and incidents where people have been raped, taken advantage of, and exposed to painful relationships with partners and/or caregivers.  Part of what is so painful about this type of betrayal within relationship is that it makes it hard to trust others again. Unfortunately, something that can be so sweet, so good, so exciting and passionate, is now paired with fear. That inherent innocence that we are all capable of when trusting another person has been taken away; now when trying to trust another, all one can think about is what might go wrong if they do. One of the scariest parts of post-traumatic stress in a relationship is that it feels like what happened before may be happening again, whether it is being cheated on or being abused. These feelings and fears make it very difficult to date and/or trust again in relationships.

 

So again, when working through fear, many would like to jump in and get it over with. I recommend baby steps toward confronting the fear. There are many layers to traumatic incidents that must be explored. When we go into the fear and tell our stories all at once, we may not be resourced; we may not be able to titrate our feelings, bring ourselves out of the fear if we need a break. That is why it’s helpful to have another person to share with. Therapy can be incredibly useful to begin to navigate ones’ needs around healing an event like this. I notice that when one talks about a traumatic event in therapy, they often forget that they can feel ok again. I will often remember something that they told me they enjoy, such as friends, family, or a happy memory, and I will remind them of this to bring them back to an ok place.  Other resources may include yoga, chocolate, your dog, a book… you get the point. Everyone has their own unique resources that feel good to them. Therapy can be used to identify what your resources are, so when you experience that fear again while dating, while riding your bike, and within relationships, you now have a map to resource yourself. When we confront the fear, we often return to the fear state that we were in when the traumatic event happened; maybe this is a freeze response, maybe it’s a flight response. Maybe we cling again to someone like we did before, even if they aren’t who we need. It’s really important to learn how to breathe, and it’s really helpful to have someone you trust to tell you to breathe again, and to help you identify what’s happening.

 

It might seem like you will never recover, like you will be afraid forever. I want to tell you that your fear can be worked through. Your decisions are possibly being made out of a place of fear, but as you confront your demons, you can begin to make decisions out of a place of love again. Just as the seasons change, our emotions can too, with gentleness and a guiding hand.

 

 

Bianca Aarons LMFT is a licensed psychotherapist 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 at BiancaAaronsMFT@gmail.com, or call her at (415) 553-5346 to ask any questions or to set up a consultation session.