“I think being a Quaker makes me a better therapist and being a therapist makes me a better Quaker,” Hayden Dawes says. “Learning to see that of God in everyone, I think, helps me to sit in the distress that others might bring in… so that I can show up in a more authentic, genuine [way], willing to enter into those kind of dark, suffering spots that people bring into therapy.”
Hayden also told us about the impetus for “An Invitation to White Therapists,” a call to recognize the ways in which the mental health profession has helped perpetuate and normalize racist ideologies. “If I had not learned how to listen to Spirit,” he reflects, “I’m not sure that I would have had the courage to sit down to write it, and then after writing it to hear Spirit push me to put it out in the world.”
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I remember one specific blog that talked about how the human soul doesn’t want to be fixed, it just wants to be witnessed, and it was about this idea of the perils of advice giving, and… to really listen to the light that shines within and to hear it, and how the noise of our world often kind of clouds it for me. So I found that spoke to my condition, as Quakers say. It made me feel like this was language that I could understand.
The Interplay of Quaker Practice and Therapy
My Name is Hayden Dawes. I go to Durham Friends Meeting. I live in Greensboro, North Carolina.
So in my work in being a therapist and how Quakerism plays a role in that I think one informs the other. I think being a Quaker makes me a better therapist and being a therapist makes me a better Quaker. Learning to see that of God in everyone, I think, helps me to sit in the distress that others might bring in. And also having my own distress, having a Quaker meeting to hold all that might be coming up for me in my own life so that I might be able to hold the suffering of others. So, the aspect of community has been really important so that I can show up in a more authentic, genuine, and willing to enter into those kind of dark, suffering spots that people bring into therapy, has been really really important and kind of difficult to put language to it.
I also think that being a Quaker is an invitation to show up into public in a more real, wholehearted way, and I think recognizing that my work as a therapist doesn’t end at the end of session nor does it end with each individual that I’m working with; that it is extended into the public domain as well, and I think had I not learned about the practices of the way in which Friends hold community, I’m not sure that I would be willing or as able to kind of go to those spaces.
“An Invitation to White Therapists”
Yeah, so the piece that I wrote for Medium that went viral, “An Invitation to White Therapists,” was really an invitation, a call for White therapists in particular, as well as all of the structures of what our mental health system looks like, to really start looking inwardly as to what ways are we perpetuating racist, old ways of seeing people, especially Black and Brown people. What I was very fearful of is that with Black Lives Matter and with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor that we were only going to limit the conversation to police brutality. Police brutality exists in a system of rampant dehumanization of what it means to be Black, what it means to have darker skin. I did not want the therapist community to point fingers at our brothers and sisters in blue without also looking at the ways in which we help prop up the system of racism and White supremacy.
If I had not learned how to listen to Spirit I’m not sure that I would have had the courage to sit down to write it, and then after writing it to hear Spirit push me to put it out in the world, and to feel as confident to stand beside the work and the piece and realize that it both came through me and is an extension of my larger work. I think Quaker community, Quaker practice has given me the support that I needed in order to do that.
- 1) How does Spirit interplay with your profession? Are there concrete ways in which your faith intertwines with your work? If not, are there other ways it intertwines?
- 2) How does your community help you, “show up in a more authentic, genuine” way?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.