TriBeCa Therapy is located in Downtown Manhattan, NYC and provides individual psychotherapy and group therapy for adults, children, teens and couples who are looking for creative help in living and building their lives.
On the one hand, it would be reasonable to question just what the matters of racism, sexism, homophobia and bigotry have to do with psychotherapy. Reasonable because they’re issues that psychotherapists tend not to go near. There’s something unscientific about these matters–psychologists and therapists are supposed to attend to matters of emotional distress, where as issues related to racism and bigotry are societal in origin–even matters of “personal preference” and are therefore beyond the pale in the psychotherapy office.
On the other hand, the extent to which these matters are ignored seems utterly preposterous. What could be more apparent than the emotional pain caused, to us and others, by racism, sexism, homophobia and bigotry?
Why so apparent? For starters, take a look around a city like New York. Its diversity is unavoidable. Whether you love it about New York or hate it about New York, this city is filled with people who come from all over the world and who are living their lives in a great variety of ways. What racism, sexism, homophobia and bigotry have in common is that they are driven by categorizations and presumptions that predetermine how we see and related to particular people we interact with in our lives. In other words, racism, sexism, homophobia and bigotry make it considerably more difficult than it would otherwise be to build with people who are different from us.
Now to the “therapy” part
It is particularly true in a place like New York City that few people will profess, at least without some cajoling, to being racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise a bigot. Conversations about such matters quickly turn into proclamations of identity: “I am not a racist!” Recognizing the fallacy in this defensive practice is also a good start in the endeavor to do something about racism, sexism, homophobia and bigotry. What’s fallacious is the notion that these tendencies are matters of individual disposition rather than facts about the world. Racism, sexism, homophobia and bigotry are features of the world. While individual people can question, challenge and seek to redefine their relationship to them, they cannot be or cease to be racist, sexist, homophobic or bigoted because racism, sexism, homophobia and bigotry are simply unavoidable.
What follows from that recognition is this: racism, sexism, homophobia and bigotry are not matters one can choose to denounce a part in (“I’m not homophobic!”) because we live in a world (yes, even here in our progressive New York City) that is profoundly racist, sexist, homophobic and bigoted. If you desire to do something about your participation in these activities (and I believe you should) then what’s required is active, explicit engagement in challenging the features of the world that are racist, sexist, homophobic and bigoted. This includes, rather significantly, the ways in which those traits live in you. That’s right: you cannot cleanse yourself of racism. Because it exists in the world (and you’re in the world as well) it’s unavoidable.
What’s important about taking on racism, sexism, homophobia and bigotry in therapy?
Simple: racism, sexism, homophobia and bigotry mess you up. If you can’t figure out how to get along with people who are different from you, if you operate with a sense of entitlement that keeps you from doing the work of being giving to and building with others, you’re going to find yourself handicapped at living your life (because living your life means living it–like it or not–with other people).
What can be done?
I’d recommend starting with an honest look at the ways you’re racist, sexist, homophobic or bigoted, and giving up the belief that you’re none of those things. There’s also great value in looking at the ways these views are interfering with your life. Psychotherapy is a great place to start that and group therapy even better. Why group? Well, if the group is organized well, it’s bound to come with a great deal of diversity. The challenge of building your life (and building the group) with those who are different from you will be not just a topic of conversation but a live, weekly activity.
291 Broadway, Suite 801
New York, NY 10007