A Note on Resilliency

This is an anecdotal blog post from my work as a therapist. It's important to preface this with recognizing that as a therapist I am human and ever learning/growing just as my clients are. There are things my clients teach me that I could have never learned from a textbook or a training. There are sessions, sentences, and emotional expressions that stick with me and burn their images into my mind and soul that I can never forget, nor would I ever want to. 

One such moment is during a vulnerable exchange when I made an attempt in validation by saying: "You're so resilient." I was not met with an expression of reprieve, but rather a furrowed eyebrow and a slight shake of the head that rejected that statement and a response: "I don't want to be resilient anymore." My heart sank when in this moment I recognized what I was missing the entire time. 

Women are bombarded by consistent messages of what it means to be feminine. The list is far too long, but the primary one of focus today is: silence. Emotional expression outside of calm acceptance is damning. Daring to disagree with the powers that be have cost the lives of countless women. In this moment, my own internalized oppression had a light shining on it bearing its ugly presence in my own words of perpetuating the same messages in my sessions. 

Women being resilient is a curse born from expectations of being a "proper" woman. "Do it all, Superwoman! And make it look easy!" Now, please, do not misunderstand me. I am by no means downplaying a woman's strength and empowerment to withstand a lifetime of abuse and still find the will to live. The message I want to be very clear here is: It was never a reasonable expectation that you should have to live this life of abuse in the first place and be graceful about it. 

The belief that resiliency is a sign of a strong woman is antiquated and I want to abolish it. In my efforts to validate what I was viewing as unrequited strength was, in fact, colored by my own traumas that wanted to silence her pain; silence my own pain. I learned so much with such a small interaction. I have removed "resilient" from my vocabulary. I have replaced it with "I hear you." I encourage my clients to tell me more, without filter, without social etiquette, without a mask. Tell me more, I am angry with you. Tell me more, this pain is unbearable for you to carry alone. Tell me more, I want to see you. Tell me more, I want to be here with you in this unimaginable space of pain and heartache. It is a blessing to share in this burden with you. I am honored by the lives I have journeyed with and this moment will forever stay with me.