Opinion | What a Conservative Therapist Thinks About U.S. Politics and Mental Health

Daum: Do you think the word trauma gets overused?

Bridge: Yes, absolutely. There’s trauma little t and trauma big T. I do think “trauma” gets thrown around and I don’t know if it is used because people think, “She has trauma so we should be gentle. We can excuse her behavior.” We’re back to that labeling thing again. Did you just experience something that was really awful and you’re having a normal reaction to a really crappy thing and you’re going to get over it? I don’t think we breed resilience into people anymore.

Daum: I was going to ask you about resilience. I guess in some people’s minds, it maybe falls into the category of up-by-the-bootstraps. On the other hand, it’s pretty important. Is it something that you talk about directly in your sessions with people?

Bridge: Absolutely. Even though we endure horrible things, we need to learn how to move through them. Part of building resilience is falling flat on your face and figuring out how to build your life better.

Daum: Do you think your clients tend to be less resilient than people 30 years ago?

Bridge: Gosh, 30 years ago? I wasn’t a therapist then. But just looking at people in general and the environments that I have worked in, I would say that we’re not as resilient on a whole, because we really haven’t had to be. There are so many things that are provided and given — all with really good intentions. But there’s also really something valuable about touching the stove and learning don’t ever touch it again. We can’t always just give you an oven mitt.

Daum: What do you think is making everybody so unhappy these days?

Bridge: It’s been decades in the making. We don’t need to do a lot of things that we used to need to do to survive. We’re not really rooted in our own well-being. We’re rooted in self-gratification and, quite frankly, laziness.

A long time ago, I thought about having some sort of a program for people with eating disorders: We would have a garden plot. We would plant the garden. We would put our hands in the dirt. We would grow things, we would cook things, we would make nutritional things — a whole-body experience. Because I don’t think that we get enough of those things in our lives.

Daum: But what is somebody supposed to do if they are working in a cubicle and they need to keep doing that to survive? They’re trying to find a life partner but they’re dealing with dating apps or they’re just dealing with the world as it currently exists. I think a lot of people feel like it’s just become unmanageable — maybe even unlivable — and you can’t really tell somebody, “OK, go back to the land and grow a garden and that will solve everything.”

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