It's Not Nothing: The Power That Facing Trauma Brings to the Here and Now

4 ways we've found our way through worry

It's been nearly eight months since we announced that our creative agency was acquired by Anchor Worldwide. Since that time, we've produced the nominations announcement show for the Latin Grammys, wrapped up a project with PepsiCo, trained a phenomenal group of interns, become a louder voice in the need for brands to celebrate Hispanic heritage all year, and so much more. 

Yet, as stories about talent burnout and mental-health issues continue to generate headlines, I'm realizing how little my partner and co-founder Simón De Franca and I talk about the impact of his kidnapping in Venezuela under the regime of former president Hugo Chavez. When we shared our story in February, we were admittedly a bit uncomfortable, as so many people have it worse and still face grave danger daily.

We don't. We're doing well. We were privileged to move to the U.S. with our families and open during the 2008 recession. To us, coming from Venezuela, opportunities were everywhere and our team of creative refugees did well by diving in and helping brands better reach the Latinx market.

We told the interns all about our creative process this summer. We showed how the power of data can drive consumers to action. We showed what great account management and collaboration look like. But we didn't tell them about the doubt we sometimes have that it can all disappear, like our agency in Venezuela did. 

As experts say one in five of us will experience some type of mental-health problem this year, we collectively decided to share some of the ways we found our way through. To be brave and face the trauma buried but not dead. The one that rears its head in surprising ways we're not always expecting. 

Here's what we came up with:

  • Don't dismiss a troubling past situation as resolved. Truth is, they really never are. But as time grants distance and we are safe enough to sit in extreme discomfort, we realize we might have worked ourselves to the brink of exhaustion based on fear of our "now-or-nothing" mentality. Worrying thoughts always arrive. But by compassionately letting them in and listening, we often find insights we didn't previously see.
  • Don't compare your issues to others. Enough of the judgement. Someone always has something worse. Getting better from issues big and small requires prioritizing time to tune out and exhale so we can find our way through situations or personal or professional responses fueled by previous fear. It's OK to be honest, open and vulnerable. In fact, it's great.
  • Also great is the resilience gained from hard-fought, challenging battles. Turning negatives into positives is the path forth. We're proof positive that it is possible to reinvent yourself and adapt. Like we did during the pandemic by investing in tech and resources to create top-tier virtual productions.
  • Being nimble and switching gears is so much better when you have a community of like-minded people propelling your ahead.

We all need to be together in ending mental-health stigmas. No one is immune from worry, doubt, fear, anxiety or depression. Allowing people space to untangle issues and find ways to tap into past experiences and find better ways forward is essential.

Time to get back to working on our continuous campaign to encourage more Hispanic consumers to get vaccinated. It's one apprehensive and untrusting bunch, for good reason. But with authenticity and honesty always at the core, we'll get the message through, at least to a greater percentage of the population. Knowing we don't really know or understand the fears of others is important to message curators like us. So is being kind, as the kindness of strangers was everything to us when we arrived.

With psychological issues on the rise as the coronavirus crises wage endlessly on, kind is a currency that can't be denied.

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Roberto Fonfria
Roberto Fonfria is founder, president, and creative director of El Autobús.

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