A Retrospective On 2017 And Some Thoughts About 2018


It's grey here in Vancouver. Grey skies spilling grey rain on to grey asphalt streets. Grey jackets with grey people with blank expressions on their grey faces. The grey wind makes me shiver with each passing gust. It is less a winter wonderland, more the despairing winter of The Waste Land. 

But all this greyness gives me time to reflect on the year that has passed. So much has happened. In one sense the world feels like it's falling apart. Climate Change runs amok. The champions of greed and avarice seem to be winning as people continue to suffer. Nuclear war may be upon us soon. And Deepak Chopra is getting rich. 

But personally, this year has been one of great growth. I've managed to keep up a blog consistently, which is no small achievement. I've started my own psychotherapy practice that is doing well if not outright thriving. I have healthy relationships, including romantic, friendships and family. I am also in better shape than I've ever been.  I moved into my own place, which is a luxury most people in New York City cannot afford. And I feel less anxious and more connected to my everyday life than I have maybe ever. In short, I am content in a way I have never been. 

But 2018 presents new challenges. I recently joined the Democratic Socialists of America.  I've shared their politics for my entire adult life and felt it was time. And there is a sense that I need to get more involved politically in that sphere. 

As I first started doing therapy, I had the sense that politics and psychotherapy were separate enterprises, and that they should not intermix. But as I've gone along in my career I have seen the obvious folly in this. I think back to my first job in Canarsie, Brooklyn, where I was a therapist to the poorest and most vulnerable sectors of our population. They were mostly men of color and had a laundry list of ailments-- homelessness, severe mental illness, drug addictions, race, class, lack of support networks-- which made traditional psychotherapy impossible. No amount of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy was going to help. You couldn't just think positive and be ok. 

As I've transitioned into working with a more middle-class population, I can see how easy it is for a therapist to reinforce the status quo of consumerist and capitalist American life. And I've realized as I do more therapy, I am just not cut out for reinforcing the status quo. So I've been trying to bring politics into the room more and more with my patients. It's not always easy. But for me, it starts with challenging people's hierarchical views of society and imparting a view that is more collective and humane. In a word, compassion. Not only compassion for one's tribe. But compassion from the parts of society most of us have long ignored.  

And I have decided I need to write more and more about psychotherapy, economics, and politics. I wanted to start a podcast about wellness, but I am starting to realize that my podcast idea feels like it would be reinforcing the basic structures of neoliberal capitalism but also religious beliefs based on making one's self feel good over anything else. (This kind of religion is uniquely American phenomenon). It feels too superficial at this point, even though that path probably has more lucrative potential.

And lastly, I will continue to read as much as I can. I hope to read 30+ books this year along with every article I can about politics and more. I still haven't given up hope, even though in some ways 2017 was the most despair-filled year of recent memory. But given a choice between cyncism and bitterness,  and hope and trying to live with compassion, I choose the second. I don't know how else to live.