Reframing Language: Being Essential
It was noticed I have been quiet on social media here I want to say thank you for the messages inquiring if I was alright. The truth is there has been a lot on my mind during my transition and move from Michigan to Texas. Trust me hours of driving during a time of quarantines, shut downs and lack of social interaction in a new environment with you and your dog in the car will do that to anyone. Some upcoming blogs are going to include some of these thoughts and perhaps you are struggling heavier lately with shame, purpose and anxiety. And perhaps my own thoughts may be able to offer insight into those feelings and be able to reframe things in a manner to help your own processing and mental health during this very uncertain time.
So I’m going to be being with a story:
During my move someone messaged me and shared how I probably won’t start working when I get to Texas because I’m not essential. I know this phrase came from a place of conversation but when I broke that phrase down about what it means to be essential it struck a chord. I am a mental health professional that no longer felt mental health and I were no longer essential. Now I know this did not come from a place of harm but rather this is our every day language. I thought my profession is a huge part of my identity and takes up the majority of my life so it helped to re-evaluate how much I am influenced by my professional identity but it also occurred to me as a reminder of why I went into art therapy as a field and the way I was raised. Growing up, I was blest by a family to be taught every person in their job is essential to society to make the world function.
Every profession is to be treated with the same respect.
There is no such thing as a profession being less than another.
It got me thinking about language and art therapy.
While words help with communication this phrase was a reminder to me of why I went into my field. These words paired together I do not believe exemplifies what is actually needing to be communicated to society.
According to thesaurus.com:
Synonyms to the word essential include: necessary, needed and wanted.
As opposed to the antonym of essential and synonyms to non essential: needless, secondary, unnecessary, accidental, unimportant and optional
Being labeled not as an essential employee brings concern to me. Those labeled currently at this time as not essential employees are in fact being placed in a category where someone may be experiencing shame, anxiety, depression and a lack of purpose.
Creativity and art circumvents language when language may put limitations on what is needed to be communicated. I had to reframe what was actually trying to be communicated, and I processed:
This is situational and is not considered “essential employees” but rather the bare necessities our society needs to be at work in order to keep the safety and health of our citizens first in this one particular scenario.
Now I understand that is quite a long phrase but it seems to better communicate what is actually needing to be communicated to those who may be referred to as a “not essential employee” at this time.
So if you may be experiencing a loss of identity and purpose and have been labeled as a non essential employee at this time there may be a relationship between your emotions and this phrase. Not that you need a reminder from me but if we believed every label that has been placed on us we would most likely be very different people than we are today.
And....Please know you are essential.
You are valuable.
This world needs you, and in this situation this world needs you to not go into work. This does not make you a non essential employee this makes you someone who is sacrificing time, financial stability, mental health, emotional health and physical health.
And lastly, you are someone who is serving a purpose in our society even in this situation too.