These days, given racial injustices on top of coronavirus-related stress, how do we know whether what we’re feeling is just grief, or trauma? And how can we help our clients work through it constructively?
According to physician and bestselling author Gabor Maté, the grief we’re experiencing is actually an antidote to trauma—a healthy outlet for what we’re feeling. While trauma leaves us stuck in our sadness, grief abates and eventually allows us to tap into an innate sense of agency.
Grief, Maté continues, shouldn’t be confused with pain, suffering, or fear. And people who are currently working through trauma may be disproportionately affected by recent events. But therapists can help clients keep trauma at bay by promoting agency. He uses the example of activists and protesters, who, in avoiding pitfalls like feelings of helplessness or isolation, are actively countering trauma.
“Healing is a highly subversive act in our culture,” Maté writes in this Networker article. The therapist’s task, he adds, is to help clients “see the connections among their existence, the nature of the culture we live in, and the functioning of all of humanity. It’s about challenging the idea that someone’s value is dependent on how well they fit into an abnormal, unhealthy culture.”
Gabor Maté, MD, a family practitioner for over three decades, is the author of four bestselling books, including When the Body Says No: Exploring the Stress-Disease Connection and In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction. His upcoming books include The Myth of Normal: Illness and Health in an Insane Culture.
Zach Taylor, MA, LPC, is the Director of Psychotherapy Networker. He oversees the award-winning magazine—frequently interviewing the field’s top experts—and stepped up to be among the hosts of the annual Psychotherapy Networker Symposium, which is the largest and longest running annual gathering of psychotherapists in the world. In addition, he manages CE trainings and programs for PESI, Inc., Networker’s parent company. Prior to joining Psychotherapy Networker, he spent 10 years in practice specializing in anxiety and panic disorders. His mission is to support psychotherapy professionals and develop future trainers and trainings to improve outcomes for their clients. He currently lives in Eau Claire, WI.