I have a pet peeve to admit to: just about every time I hear the phrase “It’s time to move on” uttered, I get shivers down my spine, a reaction akin to the proverbial nails on a chalkboard. Not infrequently the phrase is uttered by politicians. And it seems to me not infrequently it is a call for suppressing feelings – usually strong feelings of outrage or anger – a moving on to some state free of emotions, where what has occurred is safely relegated to the background.
The phrase was recently uttered in regard to a news story over the last couple of weeks: how protesters at the University of California, Davis, were peppered sprayed by police in an attempt to disperse them. I heard the phrase uttered by the school’s chancellor, Linda P.B. Katehi, on a talk show. She indicated that, just barely a couple of weeks past the incident, it was “time to move on.”
Of course, there is a time for healing, a time for being able to resume one’s life when events, particularly traumatic ones, impinge on life. At the core of psychotherapy is this understanding and intent towards healing and growth. But also at the core of psychotherapy is an understanding about process and time. Moving on is not just something one does; as if a switch could be flicked and what troubles be forgotten. To move on involves a process of recognizing and expressing feelings. And it involves a relationship in which to do just that. That’s what psychotherapy provides.
As well as an understanding that it takes time. Yes, sometimes psychotherapy, in the form of psychoanalysis, is maligned for the time it takes (the image of Woody Allen in years of therapy). But surely just two weeks after such a horrific event as the violence committed to those protestors, it would not be time to move on and forget. Rather, it would be time to come together, to express feelings (including rage), to heal…