Home » Blogs » Exploring Veganism » Looking Behind the Curtain*

Looking Behind the Curtain*

This is a post from contributor Christine Jackson, LICSW.

Many psychotherapists believe that people with anxiety and depression benefit from exposing and experiencing their repressed feelings, those bound up with long-buried hurts and disappointments. It takes courage and determination to examine old wounds and to feel the feelings they stir up. People take all kinds of steps to avoid facing uncomfortable feelings.  They may eat too much, drink too much, gamble away their savings, or spend years in dead or abusive relationships in order to avoid fully feeling their anger or grief. My therapy clients often tell me, “I don’t want to be mad …” But feelings aren’t like a fallen tree limb on a nature trail; you can’t just step over or around them and go on your merry way. You have to move through them to get to the other side—that is, the place beyond the anger, hurt, or sadness.

James Baldwin, the writer and civil rights activist, could have been talking about therapy when he said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” It is not only personal tragedies that people avoid examining, but larger, societal problems as well. It is painful to watch the video of Rodney King’s violent beating by Los Angeles policemen. And yet, I am grateful that the video exists because it shows the world the depth of police brutality. When an abusive act is caught on camera, people have the opportunity to address it. But first we have to face it. We have to face the horror.

As a child, I pestered my parents to take me to the circus because I loved seeing the exotic animals and the acrobats. Many years later, when the circus rolled into my college town and I joined a group of friends to see the show, it left me with an uncomfortable feeling about the animals who were forced to perform.

My friends tried to reassure me: “I’m sure the animals are well cared for.” A couple of years later, when I saw video footage of circus personnel whacking elephants with sharp-tipped metal rods, and tigers languishing in tiny transport cages, my previous discomfort made sense. I felt validated—not reassured. I didn’t enjoy watching the video of what happened behind the scenes at the circus, but, having looked at it, I was empowered not only to avoid circuses that use animals, but also to tell others the truth. In the last few years, we have seen exciting changes in the way Americans view entertainment that involves animals. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus closed down after decades of touring, and more and more people are questioning the ethics of holding wild animals in barren cages and forcing them to do demeaning tricks.

It is natural to want to avoid seeing, hearing, or reading something distressing. But the longer we avoid learning the truth, the longer it will take to overturn injustice. If you have even the slightest squeamishness about going to circuses, wearing animal skins, or eating animals, it is vital that you listen to your doubt and find out what happens to the animals involved. For me, there was nothing like seeing video footage from dairy farms–where cows were violently jabbed with pitchforks and pocketknives as they slogged through an accumulation of manure and mud with painfully swollen udders, or a day-old calf was dragged away from his bellowing mother to be tied up in a narrow stall and overfed for the veal industry–to reinforce my determination to keep dairy out of my diet.

The longer you avoid looking at painful but unexamined truths—whether those in your personal life or those in the world at large–the longer you put off the emotional freedom of living the life that fulfills your moral and emotional needs.


*By contributor Christine Jackson, LICSW

Christine Jackson has been a therapist for 15 years and maintains a private practice in Washington, D.C. She has been an advocate for animals for over four decades.

Looking Behind the Curtain*

Beth Levine, LCSW-C

Beth Levine, LCSW-C, has a private practice based in Rockville, Maryland. She is Certified as a Therapist and Therapist Supervisor in Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy by The Centre for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy. She also has earned a Level I Certification in Internal Family Systems. Beth works with adults in individual and couple settings. She works with people struggling with anxiety, depression and relationship issues. She is honored to be part of her clients’ journey toward better health, happiness, and relationships. She is driven to make the world a better place on an individual, as well as a systemic level. Beth can be reached at and at her website.

4 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Levine, B. (2019). Looking Behind the Curtain*. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 4 Jun 2019
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.