Let’s be civil…don’t make me uncomfortable

By Craig Nash

I’ve been thinking about anger and its place in our public discourse and how we communicate with our neighbors.

I’m no techie, which makes it difficult for me to understand everything about Russian “bots,” data analysis, and all the other digital interference that has been in the news since the last Presidential election. But I do understand that it was (and is) more than an effort to elect a certain person to office or to sway public opinion about a particular issue. The ultimate goal is to create instability and to sow chaos. To make us so angry at each other that we don’t trust the motives of our neighbor. And it has worked. We’ve all chosen our tribes and are yelling at each other across the expanse.

This is unsettling. Though I love an entertaining argument among friends, it is always with the assumption that, once it is over, both sides are able to lay down their swords and enjoy a drink of choice together.  There’s a point, however, where arguing seems counterproductive and dangerous. Though I fail at this often, there’s a point when I want us to talk to each other more calmly, rationally and respectfully.

I am also aware, however, of this: The last sentence I wrote in the previous paragraph is a product of my place in society. Calm, rational and respectful dialogue is the goal of those of us with privilege. For me, it is a privilege my whiteness, straightness and maleness to demand “calm, rational respect” occur during dialogue. It’s also a privilege for me to DEFINE what is meant by calm, rational and respectful. Demanding these things in conversation about big issues allows people like me to control the conversation and, more often than not, maintain the status quo.

So, there are these two things I hold in tension—The need to talk to each other more calmly and respectfully on one hand, and on the other, the realization that my wanting this is a result of my place in the world.

We have a lot of calls for calm dialogue in our country. At least once a week I see a news show convene a group of people with disparate opinions on a given topic to have a dialogue. It usually ends with an exhale by the moderator and a calm, sweet, “Now wasn’t that nice? No one got angry. You listened and spoke to each other with respect.” What we don’t often hear is a defense of anger and emotion. So I decided to ask some of my friends who are experts in being told to be more calm and rational—women—what they thought about these ideas ruminating in my mind. Their responses were instructive, and rather than giving commentary on what I learned, I wanted to share directly some of the things they had to say.

Respondent #1 (In addition to being female, also a Person of Color.): “…We want to trust our neighbors but that does require them to speak out and risk giving up some of their privilege and protection which is not easy to do…. I know that for myself and other friends of Color that we are not in place that we can filter or code switch* at all. Being polite and speaking reasonably is something we have done for so long that we end up taking ourselves completely out of those spaces and conversations to maintain our sanity, but also so that we don’t do irreparable damage to those people we care about while we wait for the conversation to shift.”

(*Note: “Code Switching” in this context refers to modifying behavior, tone, dialect, appearance, etc. in order to accommodate to the social norms of another — usually dominant — group.)

Respondent #2: “Anger as an emotion is a good thing. It’s an alarm bell that says you are being violated… The problem isn’t anger, the problem is injustice. Anger is the right of the oppressed, and blaming anger for our problems mislabels the problem. That being said, how we wield anger is important…. I am less and less convinced that civil discourse is the answer…at least, it cannot be the answer when “civil” discourse favors the privilege and the status quo, which it so often does. I’m not saying we ought to yell profanities and call names…I’m just saying anger is not the enemy here. You can be very angry and still say things that are true and constructive.

At this point I anticipate the pushback to these thoughts about anger, which often takes some form of this question: “Ok, I hear you. But what do you want me to do.”

Respondent #3: “People seem to want to circumvent the understanding part. ‘let’s just make the changes and be done with it.’ (i.e. I don’t want to feel anything, I want to be efficient with my time which means let’s get to a solution) Majority members don’t seem to have time to hear the pain or anger often.”

Respondent #4: Many times marginalized groups have tried polite civil discourse, and have not been listened to. Then, when they speak with frustration and anger, they are criticized. As a society we say, oh well I would listen to you if you weren’t so angry/emotional, when in truth many groups have tried that and gone unheard. Calling for civility has been a way that our society has attempted to quiet or sidestep uncomfortable conversations.  That being said, I do think civil discourse has its place especially if trying to reach beyond someone’s instinctual tribal reactions. Also speaking from privilege as a white female, speaking calmly and politely has helped me deescalate many situations, but it has also forced me to not ask for what I needed out of a situation for the sake of everyone getting along.

I think everyone would agree that we live in turbulent times. Maybe not any more turbulent than other times, but the stakes seem heightened. From national issues of gun violence, immigration and race relations, to local conversations about the fate of our schools and the location of our landfills, we are all bumping into each other’s worldviews and opinions in ways that can feel uncomfortable. What I have learned from these women is that this discomfort may be needed. Or, perhaps, the discomfort that certain groups have owned as a part of their inheritance needs to be shifted onto those of us for whom discomfort is foreign.

Craig Nash has lived in Waco since 2000. Since then he has worked at Baylor, been a seminary student, managed a hotel restaurant, been the “Barnes and Noble guy,” pastored a church and once again works for Baylor through the Texas Hunger Initiative. He lives with his dog Jane, religiously re-watches the same 4 series on Netflix over and over again, and considers himself an amateur country music historian.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.




Depression, anxiety, grief, anger, PTSD — Acupuncture Might Help

By Jamie Graham

Twenty-two years ago, I found myself lying on a massage table with fine thin needles being inserted into various parts of my body. The problem that had brought me to this unusual position was a monthly fluctuation in moods called Premenstrual Syndrome, accompanied by severe debilitating cramps. During my monthly cycle, I would swing between tears and irritability. Acupuncture had been recommended to me by a friend whose sister was attending the Academy of Oriental Medicine at Austin (AOMA). My friend assured me her sister, or one of her fellow interns in the student clinic at AOMA, would be able to help both with the pain and the moods.

Being in such misery, I was willing to try anything. During my treatment, which included two interns and an instructor asking questions, taking my pulse and looking at my tongue, I mentioned I often had a feeling of something being stuck in my throat that wouldn’t go down when I swallowed. A look of understanding passed between the two interns and one of them explained this was something Chinese medicine called Plum Pi Qi and it clearly was indicated in my diagnosis of Liver Qi stagnation. After the needles were removed, they also gave me an herbal formula and recommended I return for future treatments.

I was amazed at the results. I felt calmer, more centered and as a bonus, during the next monthly cycle, my cramps were much reduced. I was hooked.

Six years later, I was the intern seeing clients in the student clinic at AOMA. Many of those clients had mental health issues, ranging from depression, anxiety, grief, anger, PTSD and many others.

At AOMA, we learned emotional issues were related to stagnation of an energy called Qi (pronounced chee). Each emotion was also related to a specific organ system. Grief was related to lungs, anger and depression to liver, fear to kidneys, worry to spleen, overjoy (mania) to heart.  By releasing this stagnation with the acupuncture needles and rebalancing the specific organ system, these mental health issues could eventually be resolved.

After graduation, I began to research how acupuncture helps resolve these issues.  Western medicine had begun doing research studies on acupuncture.  While many of these focused on pain, several of them also focused on mental health issues.  There are many theories as to why acupuncture helps pain and other issues such as depression, anxiety and PTSD, one of the things we do know is acupuncture affects brain chemistry.  It causes the body to release endorphins, serotonin, and enkephalins and other brain chemicals that help our body with pain, emotions and our immune system. It also increases receptor sites for these chemicals to attach to within the body.

One of the most interesting continuing education classes I have taken was working with veterans suffering from PTSD through an organization called Vet TRIIP (Veterans Team Recovery Integrative Immersion Process). This organization uses a multi-disciplinary approach to working with veteran PTSD. They incorporate tai chi or qigong, acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic, talk therapy and other modalities to help the veterans in their recovery.

The first veteran I treated was one who was, “wound very tight.” He had chronic pain in his lower back and neck. Using just a few acupuncture needles and sitting with him quietly, I watch as the tension left his body. After the needles were removed, he stood up, and a smile came across his face as he realized his pain had eased. “I feel so relaxed,” he said, “and the pain is much less.”

Another veteran I worked with was also a survivor of sexual assault. She was having severe anxiety and insomnia. She also had chronic pain. She, too, was very tense—emotionally and physically. During the treatment, she was actually able to fall asleep, and afterwards told me she felt calmer, like she could finally take a deep breath.

Of course, veterans with PTSD aren’t the only ones to benefit from acupuncture’s effects on mental health issues.

Another training I took is called NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association). This simple 5 needle acupuncture, done entirely in the outer ear, has been used to help people wean off drugs, alcohol and tobacco. One of its main effects is to help reduce stress and anxiety. It was used by acupuncturists to help first responders and victims deal with stress after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and many other disasters. It’s also used by Acupuncturists Without Borders when they respond to disaster sites around the world.

I use NADA quite often in conjunction with body acupuncture for my clients experiencing stress, depression or anxiety. One of the main points in this treatment is Shen Men, which translates as Spirit Gate. Quite often, if someone is in a stressful situation, I will add a very tiny (.06 mm) needle on a piece of tape to Shen Men, to help them deal with stress after they leave the clinic.

During my 16 years of treating clients with acupuncture, I’m still amazed when someone sits up from the treatment table with a relaxed smile on their face as they tell me how calm and energized they feel. And often, that’s just a side benefit from other issues we’ve been addressing.  It’s one of the reasons I love my work.

Jamie Graham is the owner of Healing Touch Acupuncture and is a licensed acupuncturist practicing in Waco. She has a Master of Science in Oriental Medicine from the Academy of Oriental Medicine at Austin. She and her husband, Bob, will be celebrating 43 years of marriage in March. She has one daughter and one grandson who are the joy of her life. She is owned by a Russian blue cat named Walter and a very spoiled shih tzu named Brandi. When she’s not using needles as an acupuncturist, she uses different kinds of needles in her textile art, quilting, knitting and embroidery work.

You may contact Jamie at Healing Touch Acupuncture: 254-759-8050 |  [email protected] |  www.healingtouchacupuncture.com | www.Facebook.com/HealingTouchAcupuncture

 The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.