COLORADO SPRINGS — Stress and emotions are running high in our community and country right now. Much of it is along racial lines. I recently spoke with Cathrin Moeller, a licensed marriage and family therapist with Thriveworks Counseling in Colorado Springs. One of Cathrin’s specialties is counseling blended families that is commonly defined as - a family made of two parents and their children from previous marriages.
I asked her if some of the principles she works to teach these families that are working to bridge gaps and diverse backgrounds could apply more broadly to understanding diversity and helping people in our community and country understand one another better.
Cathrin says, “A lot of times we come to a situation with our bias, we come with our own viewpoints, our own values and sometimes in blended families there is a history. People may come with a lot of baggage sometimes, which I think is actually a good thing because we can open the suitcase and unfold things and put things back - together. Then we can just travel together, working on understanding a perspective of someone, where someone comes from. It’s about compromise, we build true intimacy and connection with people when we can compromise.”
Whether it's weaving together a new family or weaving together a common bond across diverse backgrounds in our society there are some common principles that apply.
Cathrin says a good place to begin is focusing on others. “I always tell people, seek to understand versus being understood. When you meet people and you learn about people, try to understand where they come from, their walk of life, what are some of the traditions that they have that are different from yours.”
When views or opinions people hold close to their hearts are challenged It can be easy to react in anger. Cathrin says even when it’s justified anger, “I think it’s really important to pay attention to how we're reacting. Many of us are exhibiting anger (right now) and anger is appropriate for feeling unjust, or if there's been an injustice, it's appropriate to be angry. But how we react to it is key because we're teaching other people, younger generations, how to deal with (situations and emotions) this. What do we want to teach right now? This is really the time to teach our kids, how do we treat people, how do we react when we're feeling angry? Because if we are lashing out and letting our anger control us, we're just saying that it's okay to act out and hopefully you'll get what you want, when reality that is counterproductive to what we're trying to teach (others) by showing understanding, compassion and empathy.”
Cathrin also says understanding others and showing compassion and empathy doesn't mean we have to abandon our values or beliefs. “I always say knowledge is power. The more you know the greater impact you are able to have on others and share with others. Taking in knowledge doesn't mean you have to change your values, or you have to change who you are as a person. You can acknowledge and accept others and it doesn't mean you have to change your values. I think oftentimes people feel like - oh you're trying to change me, but that's not what we're trying to do. You can say, ‘Help me understand where you're coming from.’ If you can see their point, you can still walk away with the same values that you had when you walked into a conversation.”
If you are really struggling with your emotions right now amid all the protests and unrest in our country, speaking with a counselor might help you sort through the emotions in a productive and safe way.
If you're concerned about finding a counselor whose personal opinions may be different from yours being able to help you and listen to you, Cathrin explains, “In counseling our role really is to help you to seek a better understanding of yourself. We definitely don't give our opinions, we don't give advice, our viewpoint is not valid in the therapeutic room. We are there to help you navigate your challenges and maybe even challenge you with some of your thoughts. I would even say if you are having some angst about (the social upheaval) or dealing with anger and the frustration and reacting to all this, come to counseling. Counseling is a confidential space where you can share and be open and be honest with yourself, and explore these things, versus going home and speaking to your spouse about this or other family members, and then you have children that are listening to this. Children are learning and absorbing all of this. I do think it's important to acknowledge that kids have been affected by this crisis right now. It's all about how you're reacting to it and there is help and a place where you can talk. It can be short-term just to kind of talk it through, and maybe find yourself having different viewpoints and just being a little bit more open.”
If you are interested in speaking with a counselor either in person or on-line, or have any questions feel free to reach out to the folks at Thriveworks in Colorado Springs, at (719) 266-3919 or, you can visit their website (https://thriveworks.com/colorado-springs-counseling/)