Sunday, January 3, 2016

Ramblings #1: Looking back

How did I do with my Ohio clients over the past five years?  I tried hard, always.  This does not mean that resignation never ruled the hour.  There will always be individuals who cannot get into “therapy mode,” by which I mean an existential not a circumscribed state.  They would have to see themselves in a crisis life where change is ineluctably happening, or had better happen.  Those who don’t own this state (more often than not the personality disordered) will, after a while, receive a different kind of process.

When therapists look back on a period of their work, do they see a sea of change: frowns turned to smiles, sloth turned to energy, brighter ideas implanted in ripe or rotten brains?  That would be startling to me.  And, they would be wrong.  People are like the ocean.  Therapy is a drop of heavy, alien water in it, containing a disturbing kind of life.  Many oceans, touched by it, will keep rolling on, or remain still.  Others will be changed.

Imaging the people-scape of these years, I get a warm feeling with disturbances.  Some of the disturbances are feelings of futility, and those can be further parsed into what might be called good and bad futility.  The good may happen when hard work “wins” against a client’s obdurate blindness: She deserves to be discomfited, and I brought it on.  A teenage girl struggling to excel in high school, with two jobs (including “closing” a restaurant late at night), over half-a-dozen extracurricular activities, church and community volunteer obligations, adventurous crowd-fun in the mix including over-sexing and -drugging.  She was glib, chipper and burning herself out.  Confrontation of her global escapism was bound to create a sinkhole.  She slipped into it briefly, launched herself out, and roadrunnered into the horizon never to be seen again.  Good futility.

I believe we therapists have to acknowledge that for many clients, we putter at the low end of the continuum of conversation to inspiration.  Maybe adolescents are more inspirable, but that is questionable considering all their counterweights – neurosis, parents, ego-identity, friends.  And many of the adults who act inspired by us are, in fact, adolescents.

I know surgical processes, such as Focusing and Primal-centered information and grieving.  But these live best in a field of conversation.  This is friendly, warm and respects the client’s defensive personality.  The danger of giving this respect is that over time the personality becomes harder to undermine.  We may give up trying: bad futility.

Some clients are radically changed, are radically grateful.  This evokes an underground rainbow of feelings: makes me anxious, jealous, happy, disturbed.  Is this change real?  You are moved, but I remain.  I have helped someone but maybe have just complicated their defenses.  These are obviously the best cases.  But I feel too humble or weak to have done it (yet I did).

In sum, I believe I helped, in one way or another, a good amount of people in Ohio.  Mostly, I will never know – and this even about those who say it is so.  Maybe therapists ultimately have to be inner-dwelling in our rewards.  Not that hard, for such a neurotic group.

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Comments are welcome, but I'd suggest you first read "Feeling-centered therapy" and "Ocean and boat" for a basic introduction to my kind of theory and therapy.