Sometimes my path leads me into areas where I feel exposed, uncomfortable, and without a lot of obvious support.
I depend in the end on the feel of the path beneath my feet and the knowledge that I am not the first to come this way, and likely not the last.
The I of the Storm
I've just spent the last couple of hours or so frustrating the arse off a guy who spent most of the session trying to hook me into saying he was OK.
I'm not going to say he was the laziest guy I've ever seen in X years as a therapist because I'm not absolutely sure that's the case. There were lots of things he worked extremely hard at. Including getting me to take responsibility for his OKness. Sorry, mate. Not available.
Of course he felt awful. Wouldn't you feel awful if you had to put up with what he had to put up with.
She dunnit! Took him totally for granted. Didn't know the meaning of the word Thank you. All he wanted was a bit of simple gratitude, a bit of simple recognition. All he got was crapped on. Moan, moan, moan.
Most of the story of his life, as he recounted it to me, consisted of variations on...
I knew the woman he had been talking about, and I had to admit he had a point.
On the other hand, so did she....
But if he looked at what she does with just about every male in her life, he might get to see that even if he had done twenty marvellous things to/for her – in addition to being an arsehole some of the time – she mightn't have been able to see any of them.
She spends much of her time seeking outside confirmation that she has been wronged, that she is a victim. She isn't all that available for any other kind of information. And when she complains, it's hard to fault her logic. She is articulate, and emphatic. In fact, if you don't vigorously support her, you are in danger of being placed as another sexist exploiter.
He does the same. He's a victim, too. It's pretty dramatic, all this turmoil.
And I'm being asked to make up for all the positive feedback he's never got.
Or never heard....
If I'm going to depend solely on outside information for my self-esteem, I would have to take some responsibility for the information I choose to respond to, and where I get it from.
If I leave the storm of recrimination, blame, and self-justification, and just go inside, there, in the quiet centre of the storm, I can leave good and bad behind.
Inside, I just am. I am not usefully comparable with anybody else except in terms of a specific desired outcome.
And if I continually focus on outcomes that other people achieve better than I do, I will feel lousy. If I continually focus on what they do worse, I will become insufferable.
If I go inside, I just am. I make mistakes – whatever they are. I learn. I have needs. I satisfy them.
But I don't need other people to be continually giving me the message about how great I am. It implies often that I am better – whatever that means – than they are, and it eventually corrodes my personal relationships with them.
They eventually get tired if I need to be constantly reinforced by them.
When I was training in therapy, we were told that our function was simply to affirm people where they were, to give them the message that they were OK. On reflection, I am no longer sure this is always useful.
I am coming to believe that sometimes the best I can do for people may be not to give them any external feedback, positive, negative or neutral, but to keep referring them back to their own internal awareness.
Mainly, so they discover they've got one – and that it's not the good/bad, superego, self-clobbering-machine they've been using for years instead.
And that it gives better results than depending on outside information.
And the more they use it, the stronger and more secure becomes their sense of self and self-worth.
This "I" of the hurricane seems to seems to know neither good nor bad, but, instead, its own kind of peace, its own kind of absolute value.
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