Counseling Today, From the President

From the President: Reality

S. Kent Butler March 1, 2022

S. Kent Butler, ACA’s 70th president

As I reflect on the past two years, I am left thinking of all the things that have come to light due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps it is human nature, but fear and anxiety seemed to rank very high in the “impact on our lives” department, although they represent only two of many issues illuminated within our society of late. In the midst of it all, the question became, how did the human being within dive in? Was it from a positive or a negative frame of reference? 

Fear and anxiety are forces to be reckoned with, and each challenged counselors to delve deeply into a sort of survival mode. We operationalized the fight within us as opposed to giving in to that need to take flight. We dug in our heels, found ways to be resilient and then opened the doors, turned on our computers and let the clients flow in. We did and continue to do amazing work.

From a social justice perspective, I found myself looking forward to the myriad challenges that the pandemic brought forth. I thought they would wake us up to the reality on all accounts. Reality shows have caught on, right? Truth is, the reality of the challenges was always here, perhaps masterfully hidden, but nevertheless always sitting right here, staring at us. Sadly, it often feels as if the challenges will never go away. Again, perhaps this is mainly due to fear of the unknown. 

Many have panicked about revisiting our history. Wait a minute … revisit? Let me restate that. Many have panicked about the learning of our history. They find it “critically” unacceptable to discover and understand how the issues from our past could possibly plague communities in the here and now. If we are truly honest and actively listening, we come to realize that our history is embedded within and walks beside us every day. And when the salient lessons are not by our side, tugging at us like a toddler, they are smack dab in our faces, taunting and beckoning us to fight on. We must talk about Bruno!

I used to have a false interpretation of the concept behind karma. I have since come to understand that there is no perception of good or bad karma; it is simply karma. Tibetan Buddhism proffers that karma is generated through physical actions, dialogue, and thoughts. It is time for us to do better and to grasp the concept that one’s actions bring forth either gains or anguish. 

The Dalai Lama believes that when we are helpful and serve others, we are putting forth good actions into the atmosphere that will ultimately garner benefit, while bad actions will cause harm and suffering. Counselors understand not causing harm. The Dalai Lama further postulates that when we care for others, we manifest an inner strength, despite any difficulties that we may be facing ourselves. He is a firm believer that our own problems will seem less significant and bothersome to us when we engage in this manner with others. Lastly, the Dalai Lama asserts that in reaching beyond our own problems and taking care of others, we gain confidence, courage and a greater sense of calm.

If we are being truthful and using karma positively, we have the power to navigate ourselves to the greatest lessons we will ever have the luxury of learning. I believe that my living in the present day opens the world up to me even more, positively compelling me to embrace my own humanity. So, history is actually “today,” and it has the audacity to boldly walk beside me, in front of me, but never behind me! 

History showcases itself in the many people and rich narratives that I encounter daily. When these powerful lessons are learned, they are no longer in the past; they live within me, and they reside in the present. They are my roots! My ancestors’ blood is running through my veins. They each have lovingly been holding down the fort, battening down the hatches and continuing to watch over me and guide me through any and all difficult times. 

Sure, living through the COVID-19 pandemic has been a hardship, but life, for me, has never really let up anyway. This was just one more thing. Do you feel me? ’Cause I got goosebumps just typing that. Just one more thing! Resiliency! 

I want you to experience your own goosebumps. Reality! Let’s be resilient and real together!

#ShakeItUp and #TapSomeoneIn.

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