In therapy, people often come in with a presenting problem but when you dig further you soon realize that the problem isn’t really the problem; it’s the symptom of a larger dysfunction.
I write this from a Canadian anti-oppressive perspective and we have to go way back to when the country was officially coined “Canada” because Europe had a great influence.
The British North American Act of 1867 was influenced by the European settlers who drew upon Elizabethan Poor Laws of 1601 and Catholicism. The Elizabethan Poor Laws dictate who is “deserving” and “undeserving” of government assistance with a special emphasis on charitable donations. As someone who grew up Catholic there is also an emphasis on “good works”.
Note: it is typically only wealthy, affluent, white people who can afford to be charitable so there is also a privilege and status in donating.
Colonialism also brought patriarchy and capitalism and it also brought dysfunction to to systems and society. This dysfunction then trickles down to families and the individual and since we are all a part of a greater whole, we are all affected.
So – problems in individual, family, society and systems are really an indication of how well the sum of the whole is functioning.
In Canada our government is founded on Neo-liberal/Neo-conservative values. With respect to social services this means the government will only touch what they see absolutely necessary with special emphasis of charity donations to fund many social programs.
Some people call this being fiscally responsible but it also ignores how deeply people are suffering for the sake of keeping the economy going and of course people want to pay as little taxes as possible.
So – why would I want to pay more taxes for social programs/early childhood education, etc. if it’s not going to benefit me?
Government funding is a huge problem. And that is why you see burnout. Instead of one worker doing exceptional work with 5 or 6 files, you see 1 worker struggling to do work with 25 files. Same quality of care is expected but as little money as possible is provided. Do more for less.
Are you burnt out taking care of an elderly family member? Quite frankly, Western Society doesn’t assign worth to older adults. They are no longer in their “productive” years. Heck in Canada, elder abuse in long-term care homes is a serious problem. Abuse is mostly at the hands of personal care workers; who are often people of colour being paid crap and the profession isn’t regulated.
Also, community and the life-cycle wasn’t valued the way it was in Indigenous cultures.
In Western Society, our worth is based upon privilege. Are you white, cis-gendered, affluent, Christian, able-bodied, middle aged, heterosexual, married with 2 children and a contributing member to society?
This is a tall order to live up too. Cue shame culture. Not being worthy.
In Western Society my worth is also based upon my material possessions and whether I have the biggest house on the block. (Keeping up with the Jones’ is still a thing).
So when an individual presents with a problem…it’s much more than the problem.
And if you are tired or burnt out. This doesn’t benefit the economy. And caregiving? I haven’t even really touched on that. That’s a woman’s job and well we all know what a woman’s worth is. (Yes I am being sarcastic but you get the point, or at least I hope you do).
Sad but all true.
Phew. This was a bit exhausting to write.