2018 Was a Big Fat Lemon, but I Made Lemonade. You Can, Too.
Give up your cultural misery. Find your passion and act on it. Find some hope.
Posted Dec 19, 2018
For those of us who seek to define and live out our lives based on concepts of fairness, integrity, and equality, 2018 has been a rough year. Regardless of politics, 2018 has bombarded all of us with fear-mongering and enmity from all sides, evoking more social anxiety and depression than I’ve ever seen. I witnessed this in the people around me, in my clients, and also in myself.
When I finally realized (thankfully, early in the year) that watching the nightly news was both making me feel worse and preventing me from actually doing something to make the world a better place, I decided to significantly cut back on my daily news-mongering and spend my suddenly available free-time doing something that made me feel good about myself, in this case, actively supporting thoughtful people and ethical events, small and large, wherever I could find them and in whatever ways I could.
Since I am old enough to realize that I alone have little control over the bigger issues our society faces, I looked past the political headlines, hoping to find, join, and contribute as much as possible to some form of positive social movement. Relatively quickly, I found a cause that to me represented integrity, human dignity, and universal truths—a cause where I felt I could personally help out at least a little a bit and, more importantly, where, when joined together with like-minded others, I/we could help a lot. That cause was and remains the #MeToo movement.
I supported #MeToo in 2018 because it represents more to me than a victim’s rights platform and far more than some righteously angry people out there looking for someone to blame. To me, #MeToo’s voices of truth stood apart from the endless overhyped, overwrought, overworked stories of 2018 because #MeToo is more than just the usual bombastic rhetoric designed to distract us from change; instead, it is the leading edge of change. Long overdue, much-needed change.
Our nation has a long tradition of women standing up when necessary. This has led us from 19th- and early 20th-century suffragettes to mid and late 20th-century feminists to today’s21st-century headlines. More importantly, the current movement, #MeToo, is about much more than just ending sexual abuse. In the broader sense, this crusade is all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Women (and men) involved with #MeToo are standing up to and fighting against not only sexual abuse but gender and social inequality in general.
So, despite all the painful headlines 2018 brought us, I purposely sought out and found something I could believe in. And then I acted, to the best of my ability. Here are some things I did (and am still doing) to support #MeToo—all of which have been incredibly rewarding to me personally and hopefully at least a little helpful to the world around me.
- Starting in late 2017 and continuing throughout 2018, I wrote about 21st-century women’s issues; in particular, sexual issues and the #MeToo movement. On Psychology Today alone I published articles about how to move forward after you’ve been sexually harassed, how you can know if you might be part of the #MeToo movement, how men can become part of the process of healing, and why men in power sometimes choose to abuse that power.
- On the social media front, I tweeted (@RobWeissMSW) about the importance of the #MeToo movement and the differences between sexual addiction (sometimes used as a catch-all excuse by men who’ve misbehaved sexually and been caught, such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and numerous others) and sexual abuse/offending. I also suggested a new hashtag, #ImperfectMen, where men can admit to their bad behaviors as part of the process of healing. Additionally, I started the hashtag, #PinkTie, set up as a way for men in the media to support the #MeToo movement.
- Speaking of media, I was even more active than usual in 2018, talking about #MeToo and other sexual issues in general on podcasts and all sorts of TV shows and networks, including Across America with Carol Costello here, here, and here; CNN Tonight with Don Lemon; Megyn Kelly Today; MichaeLA on HLN; and NBC Left Field. I even appeared on New Zealand’s public television network.
- On a professional level, I presented empathy-focused #MeToo listening groups at several therapy conferences, with men listening to women speak about their feelings and experience and then reflecting back what they heard, and then switching it up so the women could hear and reflect on the men’s feelings and experience. The results of these sessions were meaningful, sometimes surprising, and always enlightening. I will give more detail on these #MeToo groups in a future blog; for now, I will simply say that everywhere I gave people a chance to listen to one another’s feelings and experiences in this arena, they were grateful. Nearly everyone who participated expressed a tremendous appreciation for having a nonjudgmental forum in which to discuss this issue. It seemed to me like #MeToo is something we all witnessed and (maybe) discussed at home but ignored in the larger arena of our professional lives. And I’m still doing this work. If you want to see this live, I will join Kate Balestrieri and Lauren Dummit of Triune Therapy Group for a similar presentation next month, on January 25 at the Evolutions Conference in Los Angeles.
- Like much of our nation, I woke up a few hours earlier than usual one morning in October to watch every single moment of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s compelling testimony about Brett Kavanaugh before the US Senate. I tweeted my support of her, and I was both sad and angry when she was attacked and even mocked for her honest words. Those responses are a major reason why I believe the #MeToo movement is and will continue to be so important.
- Lastly, I finished writing and published my latest book, Prodependence, a work that specifically supports and encourages caregiving loved ones (primarily wives and mothers) of addicts and other troubled individuals. This book shifts the predominant cultural view of these traditionally under-supported and under-appreciated people from codependent to hero—a traditionally female approach to intimacy, connection, strength, and unconditional love. My hope is that the unnecessary pathology that caregiving loved ones (again, usually women) have been saddled with since the 1980s can finally, with the new model of prodependence, be pushed to curb.
I would like to make it clear that although I have written here about what I chose to do to make a difficult 2018 meaningful and productive, my real purpose is to remind myself (and hopefully you) about the small and large ways we can all make the world a better place. Did you do that in 2018? If so, please share about it in the comments section below, because I want to know how you found personal meaning in 2018. And if you didn’t, I hope this blog inspires you to seek out what feels right to you and to support it. If you do this, I promise that you will have a better, more meaningful year. Ask yourself: “If I am the person writing this blog at the end of next year, what will I write about?”
If you find yourself struggling to answer that last question, my prescription for your happiness may well lie in finding people and organizations that make your heart sing and then devoting at least a small amount of your time and energy to those causes. The #MeToo movement may not ring your bell, but maybe you will find there is that local animal shelter, food bank, library, failing school, or park where you can make a difference and feel good about it. Find your cause, find your passion, and make a difference in 2019. You will see the world as a brighter place because you did so. I promise.