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Kathleen Gurney

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Occupy Wall Street Protests Push for Change

Posted: 10/12/11 05:02 PM ET

I've been waiting for a very long time for the so-called "little people" or "average Americans" to speak up and vent their frustrations. I wonder why some in the media are baffled. How long did they think the American public would sit by and passively see their personal rewards for their efforts go unfulfilled?

Americans have traditionally succeeded through determination and applying their energy to excel toward achieving their objectives. They've been rewarded with a sense of a quality of life for themselves and loved ones. They could see and feel a direct link between their efforts and their achievements. That link is lost and with it they lost a sense of themselves and confidence that their efforts would pay off.

As Douglas Rushkoff stated in his article published on cnn.com:

...the members of Occupy Wall Street may be as unwieldy, paradoxical, and inconsistent as those of us living in the real world. But that is precisely why their new approach to protest is more applicable, sustainable and actionable than what passes for politics today. They are suggesting that the fiscal operating system on which we are attempting to run our economy is no longer appropriate to the task. They mean to show that there is an inappropriate and correctable disconnect between the abundance America produces and the scarcity its markets manufacture.

I've also been a bit mystified that many are criticizing the rallies and demanding an agenda, consensus and specific goals. No, it is certainly not a traditional protest but rather seems to be people coming together in a creative way to try to get some sense of connection. It must be gratifying that they can still make an impact and have some sense of control over their current condition. Eventually, I believe they'll begin to make sense of their conversations and connect the dots but right now I believe this rally is a great release of pent-up frustration and a means to jointly combat feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and even depression.

As a psychologist, I have listened to people coming out of a personal state of depression who have described their new sense of themselves in similar ways that the protestors are revealing in their signs with slogans such as "we are the 99% -- we were asleep and now we woke up"; "money talks too much"; "you're not listening"; "enough".

A good therapist understands that expressing feelings early on in the healing process is extremely cathartic and helps tremendously in the rehabilitation process. A good therapist also understands the critical role that an objective and active listener plays in tracking, conceptualizing and summing up so that the feelings can be shaped and framed positively in formulating suitable solutions.

These rallies can also progress from venting of feelings to fact-gathering and formulating suitable solutions. The process can follow that of a successful mental health intervention from feelings first, interpretation through active listening and framing suitable solutions so needs are heard and met. If the rallies are successful, the process of healing will be interactive and include not only the venting of a great sense of betrayal but the active listening and formulation of ideas and strategies to meet their needs and wants.

 
 
 

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