The Power of a Vote

What an election season! I do not think the country has had an election like this one in its history. While the typical polarizing views of past elections were present, the intensity and incredulity of those views from both the candidates and their supporters were far more exaggerated this election season. Those strong stances and harsh words trickled throughout the campaigns and debates.

The Importance of the Vote

One consistent reality championed throughout the history of elections in America and by both candidates in this election has been the emphasis on the importance of voting. Yet, if we take time to reflect, we will see that over time the experience and opportunity to vote has shifted. Voting has gone from only being available for the privileged, to a slow growing awareness of the need for change to allow access for more people to be able to vote, to the hard won right and pride of newly registered voters being able to vote, to an apathetic view regarding the efficacy of one’s vote.

The Cost to Vote

I have heard many say, “My vote won’t matter… what’s the point? Why bother?” As an African American woman, I am doubly reminded of the cost that has been paid in order for me to be able to vote. As a woman, voting was not always an option. As an African American, voting was not always an option. Each time I am able to vote, I consider it an opportunity to show up and represent for my ancestors who were prevented from doing so. They fought for the right to vote because it was a means of creating change for equal justice and of choosing someone to hear and care about their current condition.

The Choice to Vote

A choice on a ballot is a means of selecting someone or something that you believe in. At the core of the notion of voting, is that voting is a choice… it is a privilege… it is an exercise of power and an expression of one’s voice. Casting my vote states that I have chosen (hopefully with careful deliberation) and will mark my choice, whether it is for a president, representative, or local statutes. Taking the opportunity to make that choice and then act on it by casting a vote is an avenue by which we take a stand and use our voice.

The Courage to Vote in the Context of Counseling

The same is true in counseling. When a client makes a choice and then acts on that choice, they express their voice. They take the risk of being seen and heard when they authentically engage in the work of counseling where they look compassionately at themselves (their life, their choices in life, and their goals). With every decision to seek a healthier way of life (mind, body, and spirit), they vote for themselves. They stand in the power of the many who have come before them who dreamed of future generations that would live better lives. Clients vote for themselves when they make the choices that will change their lives for the better and allow a sense of peace, growth, and connection to others.

Showing Up to Vote

The reasons why someone shows up for counseling are similar to why someone shows up to vote in an election. Typically, there is a period of time prior to making the choice to show up, when conditions in your life highlight a need for change, a need for improvement, and need for a new sense of balance (or homeostasis). Within politics, showing up to vote expresses an investment in the future of this country and requires the involvement of many people to seek or maintain homeostasis (i.e. the voter who chooses to trust a candidate to work on behalf of the communities in this nation).

Within counseling, showing up to in essence vote for yourself exhibits an investment in the sanctity of life.

Choosing to be present in the hard work and hard conversations that help to shape a better self, better situations, and a better quality of life highlights the sacred process of formation in counseling. This provides a sense of homeostasis not only for the client, but for those around them. Choosing to take care of yourself, by working on life problems, can create ripples of change and enhance the relationships within the multiple systems you are engaged in (i.e. family, friends, work, community, nation, global world). In both instances, counseling and elections require forethought and courage to show up and choose to vote.

When we practice the right to vote on election days, we highlight what we can do every day for ourselves. In both contexts, our votes are necessary and they make a difference.

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