I used to resent homeless people, especially in the winter. I had this autopilot response when I’d see them bundled up, clouds of carbon monoxide vaporizing above their heads, trading spots on cold concrete to try and find some kind of warmth.
I hate being cold. I absolutely hate it. It’s actually sort of painful for me, and I find myself unable to enjoy whatever it is I’m doing if I’m cold. So when I would see them, perpetually cold, I’d turn off my empathy so that I didn’t have to deal with their situation.
But here’s the thing: their situation is mine.
Literally and metaphorically.
Literally: I am apart of their society. A citizen of the great and gorgeous Colorado Springs. I am part of a larger group of humanity that includes them. There are systems and privileges and choices and disabilities that mean it’s them in the perpetual cold, not me. But I am connected to them.
Metaphorically: We all have issues that leave us cold and alone and just surviving in this life. Whether it’s strained relationships, deep hurts, anger, fear, or joy, we all have places in us that can’t be shared with others, hurts that are stubborn in healing, and fears that rattle around in that back part of our brains and hearts that we just can’t seem to quiet down. In some way or another, we are all disconnected.
Now. This is not to say that I know what it’s like to survive a Colorado Springs winter on the streets. I will be clear that I do not and actually doubt my chances at making it through.
But I think my previous discomfort came on strong in the winter because I didn’t want to accept or even consider that I might share their situation either in society or in my inner world. Their situation gets a bit desperate in the winter.
Actually seeing them for humans who live and breathe and bleed like me, meant accepting that my societal and inner situation can get a bit desperate, too.
I avoided any true contact with or acceptance of them because I wasn’t ready to face connecting with the disparity in my society and in myself.
As I began to care for those disparate parts of myself, I began to develop the inner strength to see them, make eye contact, get to know them, have foot and hand warmers in my car during the winter to pass out. They no longer threatened my pseudo-safety.
Now, that sounds like I’ve got it figured out. I don’t. Not even close and never will. But I did realize that therapy is just like that: caring when it’s cold. My therapist cared for me in the places I felt most alone, disconnected, and unstable, and now I’ve devoted my time to caring for people in those same places. It is almost always a given in therapy that the things you find yourself avoiding are the things causing the most pain, disconnection, and just plain trouble.
For me, homeless people in the winter.
Caring (for myself and others) when it’s cold.
What are those things for you?
Come and find out and/or participate in our homeless outreach: 719-433-1407, firstname.lastname@example.org
Krista Thomas is a Registered Psychotherapist with Restoring Lives Counseling Services. To inquire about therapy with her or schedule an appointment, call 719-428-2446 or email her at email@example.com
(The information included on this site/article is not an attempt to provide counseling/therapy or any other form of professional treatment, not even a bit. In no way is it intended or implied to substitute counseling/therapy or any other professional services. Also, while the content of this site/ article could be based off real life circumstances, people (clients), names and situations have been changed to protect the identity/confidentiality of the person. Each client has also signed a release to allow the therapist to write about their situation for educational [not therapy] purposes only. If you need professional help, and/or have mental health questions, by golly, seek out a professional counselor...you and your family deserve it!)