On Progress ll By Stephanie Boulton, MA, LPCC

On Saturday it was declared that Biden won the election. It was a massive release of so much energy, like people could breathe again. I saw so many tears of relief, dancing, yelling…

Like a weight had been lifted. 

This morning while reflecting on the moment, it occurred to me that for the last four years as a society we’ve been looking backwards. Progress had felt like it had come to a halt, like it was in stall mode and that we have been hanging on to whatever we could… rather than actually being able to move forward. 

As a people, we are going through so much social change and facing so many big challenges. And that progress didn’t seem to go away in the last four years. But instead of moving forward, collectively we were fighting the parts that resist that change. Instead of feeling like we are making the change, we’ve had to deal with the dark parts of our country, that are afraid of what change means, afraid of losing what they have, and are in denial that change is necessary. 

The collective mirrors the personal.

I know when I’ve been through massive changes there has always been a stage of reckoning with my fears, doubts and the parts of me that benefitted from not changing. Those voices were strong. They felt real and convincing. 

But eventually, the part of me that knew that not changing would be more damaging, limiting than any of those voices. 

But climate change, LGBTQ+ rights, racial justice, gender equality…Progress is being made…. Society is moving as a whole. We are evolving and things are better. 

And of course, parts of society are afraid of these changes, are pushing back, are speaking out all those fears.  I came to accept that anytime I was about to embark on a journey, that the night before I would not sleep due the doubts and fears that I should be going at all. Or that when I made a big decision to learn to accept that the next day I would be overcome with doubt about it being the right one, no matter how right that decision was.

In an interview with Laverne Cox, transgender actor and activist, I remember her speaking about trans visibility and representation.* She said that in the last decade there have been so many gains in transgender visibility and rights. As a result of being more visible, we have also seen a rise in hate crimes and push back against transgender rights, and at face value it looks scary. But we are seeing the hate crimes and discrimination more because of visibility and that it does not reverse or devalue the progress made in the area of transgender rights over the whole. 

I can’t imagine what experiences and choices I would have missed out on if I had let those doubts be louder than the desire to see the world, or take risks in my life. As humans, we have a desire to grow, explore, to satiate our curiosity, to be our unique selves, and face challenges. Our cultural stories, myths, movies, books are all filled with people taking big risks to live their dreams, listen to their hearts, and face big challenges. 

And I’d love you to name one, where they faced no resistance whether that be from other people or from inside themselves. And no matter how hard it seems or futile, that voice inside the hero’s heart wanting to grow is louder than the voices resisting it. 

Have we not been going through a similar stage in America?

Those voices of doubt, denial, and fear have been loud. And it is hard not to ignore them. There is a reason why nostalgia and the desire to return to the glory days is part of the rhetoric. Because change is scary. 

But what a relief that our systems of power have stopped needing to cower to those voices of fear. These past 4 years have been a battle against those parts of society that would rather go backwards. Just like those parts of ourselves that would rather put the brakes on change. 

The last week has felt like watching those two parts play out on a national scale. And yet, the part of our country that desires change has prevailed.  Those parts that desire to move forward are still and louder than those that want to hold on. And the people’s voices who say we can hold on to the myth that we can go backwards will start to quiet out. 

By no means am I saying that we can sit back and be passive, the work is still ahead, and it is not likely to be apple pie and roses. But we are rounding the corner of this part of our journey as a society and take some time to grieve, celebrate, sleep and stock up on resources for the next leg of the journey. 

*see Brene Brown’s Podcast Unlocking Us: Episode from June 17, 2020. Brene with Laverne Cox on Transgender Representation, Advocacy & the Power of Love.

Stephanie Boulton, MA LPCC (she/her/hers) is a counselor in private practice and works in both Denver and Broomfield. She has a background working with a diversity of people in outdoor settings and draws from attachment theory, body-based and experiential therapies, as well as ecological and feminist approaches. Stephanie’s website can be found at www.soulterracounseling.com or you can email her at steph@soulterracounseling.com.