As far back as I can remember, there have always been specific topics that can quickly get people riled up.
Race, religion, and politics are typical hot button items that promptly garner debate. While the same theory remains valid in military communities, others such as Enlisted/Officer, career choice, and having/not having children seem to evoke much heated discussion.
From time to time, I have seen comments on Military Spouse Facebook page that have left me scratching my head and wondering, ‘where is the sense of community?’
As a writer, you understand that every piece that’s written may not sit well with everyone. But nothing can prepare you for your character, integrity, or professionalism called into question or ripped to shreds over a seemingly innocent piece. Let me preface this by saying, I fully support free speech and respect everyone’s right to have an opinion. When comments start to go as far as shaming authors and entire magazines for someone writing their personal experiences, I tend to do an internal audit of myself and my biases to make sure I see all sides. I ask that you do the same before making disparaging comments in response to an article written by one of your peers.
I am a therapist in private practice and have worked primarily with professional women and military families. I have spent a lot of time helping people overcome trauma, anxiety, and understanding how to create balance in their lives. A great deal of effort goes into assisting my clients process painful experiences and hard times. The most valuable lesson I’ve learned and helped clients understand is when people experience certain things, they may begin to develop negative beliefs about themselves. Sometimes it’s not as noticeable, but the behavior or reaction always tells a story. Although the negative beliefs may not be true, it feels real. People develop feelings attached to these beliefs, and it creates a sore spot for them. When a situation occurs, or one reads an article, that reminds them of those feelings, it is a trigger that hits their sore spot. Under normal circumstances, one’s reaction may be minimal. Sore spot activation equates to an exaggerated response.
Enlisted/Officer related topics seem to be a major sore spot for many. I have read some pretty derogatory comments in response to these articles. I caution all readers to read with an open mind. One person’s experience does not in any way invalidate yours. For years, military spouses have gotten a bad reputation. Today, with the help of outlets such as Military Spouse and many other military family-focused brands, the world can see how multifaceted and amazing milspouses are. Before becoming a military spouse, I was an enlisted Soldier and married to an officer. My experience and opinion related to military spouses varied before I knew the lifestyle firsthand. Just like any other person I had ever met, I had both positive and negative experiences. Overwhelmingly, spouses I have met have been amazing individuals doing incredible work in their communities and homes.
Political correctness aside, stereotypes of infighting between spouses, Enlisted vs. Officer, Stay-At-Home spouse vs. Career/Entrepreneurial spouse, and entitled or mean spouses all come from somewhere. Someone had a less than favorable experience and decided the entire group was the same. Does this mean it to be true? No, stereotypes are exaggerated and often false ideals of someone or something. I tend to back away and steer clear of those landmines when I witness some of these posts in social media groups.
We all have opinions and can absolutely express them freely, I’m just encouraging us to pause and reflect before lashing out against another spouse. The next time you read an article and begin to get riled inside, please take a moment to process what you are feeling. It’s okay to be angry, to be indifferent, to have an opinion. Next, ask yourself, “Why does this invoke this feeling inside of me?” Were you triggered because the article hit a sore spot for you? Reading about how one spouse chooses to love his or her military spouse says nothing about your relationship. One spouse’s feelings about being denied a military discount are just that, his or her feelings.
Military Spouse provides all spouses from all walks of military life an opportunity to share relatable topics to their community. Contributors bare it all to provide content that they hope their peers will enjoy. That level of vulnerability is admirable. As difficult as some topics may be, all stories deserve to be heard. Many topics and causes deserve action and advocacy. Consider rallying behind one that speaks to you and use your powerful voice and platform to encourage change.
Dr. LaQuista Erinna is licensed therapist, speaker, and author. As an Army Veteran and former military spouse, she is passionate about eliminating mental health stigma in military communities. She enjoys educating and inspiring others about mental health & wellness, resiliency, and women’s empowerment. To connect with Dr. LaQuista, visit https://laquistaerinnaspeaks.com/ or @laquistaerinna on social media.