Logo
UW | INTRANET |

News Details

Marsha Linehan is quoted in an article from The Guardian dealing with trauma from events in society.

Excerpted from The Guardian

‘Every day brings some new trauma’: keeping calm in an anxious world

Oliver Burkeman, November 4, 2017

Marsha Linehan: “The path out of hell is through misery. By refusing to accept the misery that is part of climbing out of hell, you fall back into hell.”

Some months ago, a client of Robin Chancer, a therapist in Akron, Ohio, came to her complaining of a loss of faith in humanity, in her country and in herself. “Is this depression?” the woman asked. “Or is this the election?” It was a good question. “When you’re living through times like these, it can be hard to say whether the problem is everything around you. or something more biological or longstanding,” Chancer says. In some sense, it’s always both. But one of the biggest obstacles to moving forward, she argues, is that we subtly fail to accept what is happening around us.

If you spend significant portions of your week watching or reading the news in open-mouthed horror, this may seem an improbable claim. Of course you acknowledge that what is happening is happening: isn’t this the whole reason you are stressed? However, according to Chancer’s perspective – which is rooted in the tradition of dialectical behaviour therapy, combining cognitive behavioural therapy with ideas from Buddhism – our worry and anger is frequently fuelled by a subtle but intense insistence that things should not be as they are. “We fight against our pain by thinking: ‘This should not have happened,’ by imagining a different world we wish were there, then crying out because it’s not there – all of which just causes a lot more suffering. It steals a lot of our energy, because we’re using it to insist that this shouldn’t be, rather than dealing with the fact that it is. I see a lot of people saying: ‘Can you believe this? This is unbelievable!’ But I don’t think that’s very helpful, because it is believable – it’s happening. And the more we just yell out: ‘How can that be?’ the more we risk getting stuck there.” The same yearning for a preferable but nonexistent situation presumably explains the persistent belief, among some pundits, that Trump may finally be shamed into better behaviour – a hope that overlooks years of evidence that he is entirely incapable of feeling shame.

The alternative to this kind of inner resistance is “radical acceptance”, but Chancer emphasises that this need not involve condoning any aspect of the situation – only accepting that it is, in fact, real. Indeed, such acceptance may be a necessary precondition for making any substantive change to that situation, she says: “We have to let ourselves move along with this horrible river we’re in. We keep hoping we’ll wake up or that someone will save us, but instead we’re going to have to cut a lot of losses and figure out how we’re going to come to terms with all this.” In an article she wrote earlier this year, entitled How To Stay Sane If Trump Is Driving You Insane, Chancer quoted the therapist Marsha Linehan: “The path out of hell is through misery. By refusing to accept the misery that is part of climbing out of hell, you fall back into hell.”