What's Up With That? ~ Katy Byrne

Katy Byrne Katy Byrne, MFT is a Psychotherapist in Sonoma, editor and animal lover. Her private practice specializes in: life transitions, couples communication, eating issues, moving forward, conflict resolution and the kitchen sink.


How to change the world?

Posted on March 25, 2021 by Katy Byrne

It’s a small goal: to get the gargantuan globe shaped into a calm, satisfied round ball. 

Everybody has a different theory, from new laws, growing vegetables to solar panels and jobs. It just seems to me that if we can’t all get along, all the extra affordable houses or firefighters won’t be enough to turn things around. Just saying, all of these endeavors matter a helluva’ lot – but if we keep rubbing each other the wrong way we’ll continue to rupture the fabric of our collaborations and communities.

Reconciliation, repairing rifts, and understanding our human reactivity takes work, but what could be more important? Relationship skills could be taught to everyone, especially children. Communication 101 and insights about our wounds and reactions might be modeled at home, in the media, taught in counseling centers, emphasized in mental health systems and in town hall meetings – these endeavors might create more cohesion and safety in societies. 

What heals a cut? Airing it, and caring for it. Learning to understand our triggers and having useful delicate dialogues could make us all humble warriors. 

Nelson Mandela said, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” 

Dangerous people are a horrifying threat, but so are our collective dividedness and our daily little, petty arguments. Our fight and flight impulses are rampant. I even caught myself agitated by the car on my rear end today. Why, oh, why the thumping and humping?

We can all keep learning skills and insights about our anger. Why haven’t we pulled it off through history? As Erich Fromm said, “Love cannot be attained without the capacity to love one’s neighbor, without true humility, courage, faith, and discipline.” In other words, it’s work.

Emotional hairballs continue to cause constant destruction – human angst gets directed in harmful, awful ways – school shootings, blasting the soil, hurting innocent people and animals. Bruce Perry, trauma researcher explains some of it: “The desire to stay in the in-group will cause some of us to follow a bully and do things we’d never have done on our own… Fear shuts down the reasoning and reflective part of our brain… We’re also more compliant toward authority.” 

From Atlanta to Columbine, can we prioritize mental health systems, learn how to create trust, put education about interpersonal conflict and the roots of anger and building bridges at the top of our “to-do” lists?

Bessel A. van der Kolk, the famous trauma psychiatrist, wrote: “The critical issue is reciprocity: being truly heard and seen by the people around us, feeling that we are held in someone else’s mind and heart. For our physiology to calm down, heal, and grow we need a visceral feeling of safety. No doctor can write a prescription for friendship and love; these are complex and hard-earned capacities.” 

It’s possible for humanity to understand itself better, and repair and redirect all these destructive emotions. 


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