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The Power of Your VoteBy Awa Jangha
The Importance of the Vote
One consistent reality championed throughout the history of elections in America has been the importance of voting. The experience of voting and opportunity to vote has shifted over time. Voting has gone from a right only available to the privileged to the hard-won right and pride of newly registered voters. Yet in today’s world, there also exists an apathetic view regarding the efficacy of one’s vote that has prevented many from exercising their right to 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. Voting has not always been an option – neither for women nor for African Americans. Each time I am able to vote, I consider it an opportunity to show up and represent 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 it was a means 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. You give your vote of confidence when you vote. Voting is a choice. It is a privilege. It is an exercise of power and an expression of one’s voice. Casting your vote states that you have selected your choice (hopefully after careful deliberation), whether it is for a governor, senator, judge, mayor, or other public official. Taking the opportunity to make that choice and then act on it by casting a vote is an avenue by which you take a stand and use your 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, a place 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, they vote for themselves. They stand with 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 someone shows up for counseling are similar to the reasons 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 a need for a new sense of balance (or homeostasis). Within politics, showing up to vote expresses an investment in the future of your country, state, and local community. It 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 vote for yourself exhibits an investment in the sanctity of life. Choosing to be present in the hard work and difficult conversations that help to shape a better self and a better quality of life highlights the sacred process of formation in counseling. Spiritually integrated counseling makes space for this type of formation by attuning to the mind, body, and spirit of the client. 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 in which you are engaged (i.e. family, friends, work, community, nation, 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 day (as I hope we all will do today), we highlight what we can do every day for ourselves. In both contexts, our votes are necessary, and they make a difference.
Have you taken the time to exercise your right to vote?
Are there any areas in your life where you could benefit from exercising your voice?
Dr. Awa Jangha earned a PhD from Loyola University Maryland in Pastoral Counseling (a Counselor Education and Supervision Program). Her research focuses on experiences of power in the pastoral counseling identity development of African-American female pastoral counselors in training and utilizes art as the means of exploration. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), National Certified Counselor (NCC), and has a background in art therapy. Her training in pastoral counseling reflects her passion for spiritual integration in counseling and in counselor education. As a member of both the Association for Spiritual, Ethical, and Religious Values in Counseling (ASERVIC) and the American Art Therapy Association (AATA), she infuses creativity into her teaching of spiritually integrated practices within the classes she has taught (such as Clinical Practicum, Professional Orientation and Counselor Identity, Addictions Counseling, Assessment and Testing).
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