Can we talk about prejudice with our therapist?
Talking about our prejudices is a very sensitive topic. Whether we realize on a fully conscious level that we have prejudices, or we just have fleeting thoughts and feelings, we all have prejudices. Let’s examine the word prejudice. It literally means to pre-judge someone. We do this a number of ways; based on our own past experiences, the experiences of people we know, and accounts in the media, from news stories to reality TV to blockbuster movies. It is a sort of mental shortcut that we use all the time and in many ways can be helpful. If you travel across the country and you are looking for a restaurant to eat at you can decide where might be good, and not so good, based on your previous experience with restaurants of the same name. You might have heard a friend rave about this wonderful restaurant, and they said “if you ever make it out to Seattle you just HAVE to try it!” Here you’ve prejudged based on information from your own past experience in the first instance and information you got from someone else in the latter example. When it comes to picking a restaurant, having a prejudice is an innocent enough thing. When it comes to interacting with a person you’ve never meet prejudices can have an impact on how you relate to the person, either positively or negatively. I say all that say to say, yes we all have prejudices, and when it comes to prejudices about groups of people we can feel ashamed of those thoughts and feelings. Being able to admit those thoughts and feelings as the brave caller did in this video is the first step in making a deeper examination of our prejudices.
What does this have to do with therapy? Therapy is a safe place where we can be vulnerable. It is a place for examination and exploring our “true” thoughts and feelings. Yes, even the ugly ones like our prejudices. I believe that when you have an honest, forthright conversation about a prejudice and examine it in the context of therapy, where you feel safe to expose the fears behind the prejudice, you find that the basis of most prejudice is built on a shaky foundation. Many of our prejudices come from what we are taught growing up by people who we love and respect. Perhaps in some ways admitting that a prejudice is unfounded or wrong feels like we are disrespecting those loved ones. I know because my own personal journey includes growing up with prejudices. However, in learning that my relatives were just people, prone to all the mistakes and follies that entails, I came to see that not everything that they taught me is necessarily “true”. Having the courage to admit that we are prejudiced is certainly not easy, and talking about prejudice is complicated and can be unpleasant. Even so, the end result can be to free yourself from the fears and anxieties that come with prejudice. Your therapist is someone who will listen to these thoughts and feelings without judging you and can help you work through them. Doing so hopefully you can adopt a healthier way of relating to others. Today’s society is continually a more connected one so being able to peel back the layers of prejudice and look at people as individuals can only benefit us all.
Do you struggle with thoughts and feelings that are uncomfortable? Contact me today at (706) 534-8558 or e-mail [email protected] and setup an appointment to work through some of these issues.