JENNIFER BALLERINI

Therapist Blog

How to Be a Better Ally

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This is a really powerful article on being a better white ally to people of color. I appreciate it because it matches my experience as a relationship expert. Both in the absolute necessity of undoing the aloneness of our fellow Americans who are traumatized and suffering, and in the clarity that using shame to "call out" racism will likely shut people down and keep them from learning. While we want to avoid "tone policing" marginalized groups, we who are privileged need to speak up in a way that cultivates understanding and openness. As satisfying as it might be to lash out at your racist aunt or co-worker, you're not doing the work of opening minds and changing behaviors. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "You have little persuasive power over people who can feel your contempt." Staying regulated, curious, empathic, and humble in the face of racist speech is a much more effective approach—not unlike "deep canvassing." This article clearly and eloquently outlines the work white people have in communicating with fellow white people about racism…and I see no reason it couldn't apply to allies in tackling sexism, homophobia, or any other civil rights issue.

Illness Becomes Wellness

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We Are Less Scared Together

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Joy Is Contagious

I just saw this lovely video set to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." It's a commercial (naturally!), but it's still quite touching. As a musician, I've often turned to music to feel grounded, to feel calm, to express myself, and to feel good — playing music just makes me happy.

Things are very unsettled in our world right now and we're all feeling that — the anxiety is contagious. So, I wanted to take a moment to share something lovely that put a smile on my face, in the hopes it will do that for you, too.

Remember as you go through this challenging time to breathe, to exercise, to meditate, to talk to loved ones, to acknowledge your worries, and also to laugh, to play, to seek things that bring you calm, connection, love, safety, and joy.


Love

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LOVE is a sculpture by Alexandr Milov that was displayed at the Burning Man festival. According to Milov, "It demonstrates a conflict between a man and a woman as well as the outer and inner expression of human nature. The figures of the protagonists are made in the form of big metal cages, where their inner selves are held captivate. Their inner selves are executed in the form of transparent children, who are holding out their hands through the grating. As it’s getting dark (night falls) the children start to shine. This shining is a symbol of purity and sincerity that brings people together and gives a chance of making up when the dark time arrives."

This is one of my all-time favorite images. It captures our innate, inborn (literally "wired-in" in this image) longing for connection and depicts the cages our defenses can represent. It's also a perfect encapsulation of what we strive to do in therapy: help the vulnerable parts of us make direct and clear contact with a safe and loving other rather than turning away in pain.

The Opposite of Addiction

One of my clients just shared this awesome TED talk with me from Johann Hari, explaining that addiction is not so much a chemical reaction as it is a desperate attempt to escape from profound isolation. He shares several fascinating studies from the lab and from the real world to build the case that "the opposite of addiction is not sobriety…it's connection."

Empathy 101

I assisted the awesome Jennifer Olden with one of her Hold Me Tight couples' workshops this weekend, and she shared this really wonderful video from Brene Brown on empathy. Although research continues to tell us how incredibly important empathy is to successful relationships, many of us have struggled to define what exactly empathy IS.

According to Brene, empathy has four qualities: perspective taking, staying out of judgment, recognizing emotion in others and then communicating that. "Empathy is feeling WITH people." Someone's in a deep hole, and you say, "hey, I know what it's like down here and you're not alone." An important lesson for all of is that you can't really stop someone's suffering, but you can make sure they don't suffer alone. Empathy, she says, is vulnerable because "in order to connect with you, I have to connect with something in myself that knows that feeling."

She also emphasizes how your empathic presence is the antidote to your loved one's emotional pain vs. trying to come up with a solution. "Rarely can a response make something better—what makes something better is connection."

Check out the clip and learn more about the awesome power of empathy…while watching a judgmental antelope eating a sandwich.