Jan 2, 2010


I used to think I'd be a good therapist. I figured my overwhelming obsession with other people's lives coupled by an odd quality that seems to prompt total strangers to inappropriate disclosure pretty much set me up for a successful life of psychotherapy.

perhaps from both sides of the chair.

I humored this idea still until a friend recently pointed out a very salient fact: it's all well and good to academically find people's innerworkings interesting, it's another to listen to people weekly, as they do or don't make progress, as they repeat themselves, as they sputter forward and back. That, he noted, is actually quite dull. That, he noted, might drive me to the edge of my seat with frustration.

He had a very very good point.

I have a hard time watching people repeat their mistakes. I have a very hard time watching people making obvious mistakes. And I have an exceptionally hard time making people repeat obvious mistakes over...and over again.

And yet this seems to be a fairly common human attribute.

What to do? How do we support a friend who is hurting themselves in a clearly avoidable way so that they are more easily able to see the light, but still feel comfortable sharing the follies of missing that sparkling moment of clarity. How do we empathize and sympathize without getting wrapped up in the drama to the point where we are not only traumatized, but bored and annoyed, by, frankly, the same old shit.

I don't know. I DO know people aren't books. And you can write books about their problems and read books about their problems and theorize motives and objectives and solutions. But most progress happens at such glacial pace, that the only real thing you can do for most people is to find a way to be there as they stumble back and forth on their way, and celebrate when they finally reach their destination, even if they seem, from your viewpoint, long after the party is over.

1 comment:

Mischief Maker said...

Yes, this is my challenge as well. Watching, observing, seeing the solutions that are available but not being chosen. It's hard to say encouraging words when there is no progress happening. It's hard to give advice when it is asked for, but you know it won't be heeded. This is when I remind myself how many people have done so for me and will continue to do so, and that there is no timeline for getting your shit together, so to speak. Very nicely written.