These Instagram Accounts Want To Make Therapy Less White

Like any good daughter of immigrants, I aspire to excel at everything — and that includes therapy. Since I was 16, I’ve been an assiduous patient. Science says mental health is important, so I optimize it by attending sessions, answering my therapist’s questions thoughtfully, being aware of my behavioral patterns, and staying adequately vulnerable. I’m familiar with the language and concepts of psychology. I practice mindfulness because I know it likely tamps down anxiety; I go for regular walks since physical exercise is good for my emotions. I’m conversant with terminology like “holding space” and “insecure attachment,” and I’ll deploy them for literally any reason. I know what the amygdala does. If you could grade people on being in therapy, I’d be gunning for an A+.

Despite my type A approach, this has all kept me relatively level and functional. But the past year has been different. I hardly need to explain why. A global pandemic threw my world into chaos, just like it did for everyone else. I thought I was doing as well as I could, given the circumstances. Yet, idly scrolling one day, I paused to read an unassuming Instagram post, a screenshot of a tweet that easily could have been a meme. “For children of immigrants,” it read, “there’s a number of reasons why it may be difficult to show up wholly and authentically in your everyday life and relationships.”

Okay, I thought, I’ll bite. I wanted, of course, to know whether I could be better at being mentally healthy, more perfectly savvy re: my brain. I swiped to the next slide.

“You may not have been taught how to handle failure or setbacks and/or you may not have been taught that quitting, walking away, or saying no can be acts of strength,” it said. It was Reframing 101, nothing I hadn’t seen before. But the fact that it was directed at second-generation immigrants prickled. I no longer felt like a member of the broadest class of people accepting general rules about how to live; this observation took a major part of my identity into account, and it was disconcertingly powerful. Swipe.

“You may have been taught and modeled that happiness derives from what you can show for what you’ve done.” Another little shock. I thought I’d already absorbed this kind of anti-girlboss philosophy — but after getting laid off twice during the pandemic, an extenuating circumstance if ever there were one, I had not been able to regain any emotional equilibrium.

David Adams

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