Write a post inspired by a real-world conversation. Today’s twist: include an element of foreshadowing in the beginning of your post.
*** *** ***
“You’d be good at this work,” my therapist said. I pondered her words. I didn’t think so because, at the bottom of my soul, I felt afraid so much of the time.
My fear was about being revealed, exposed, laid bare.
Even in this most sacred of zones, one where I was entirely free to be myself, good, bad or indifferent, one where I could say anything without fear of reprisal and one where the secrets were kept – I was deathly afraid to say what I thought of her statement.
It didn’t sound like a statement of fact, that’s for sure.
Perhaps she wasn’t stating a “fact”, but rather a hope. She might be holding the possibility until I could evaluate it fairly, not just immediately crush it under my boot of negativity and pessimism, good defenses against all that anxiety and terror.
If she was holding the possibility like a tiny sprout poking its head from the humus, she’d have to keep it away from me.
My gut reaction to anything positive said about me, especially from her, was an immediate “NO,” followed by a lot of words strung into phrases and sentences to justify the NO. Even to take a breath and let in something positive was impossible, then just difficult, before it became possible some of the time.
I was a tough nut in therapy.
It took many months before I even allowed myself to see what volunteering possibilities existed in the community. One Counseling Center took volunteers as counselors, fulfilling Freud’s belief that trained volunteers could do psychotherapy as well as doctors. He championed the idea of therapy for the masses. Most people don’t know this about him.
Freud’s only child to become an analyst was his daughter, Anna, who had no medical or other “psychology” training at all. In fact, he analyzed her – but it was a different time and early psychoanalysts analyzed each other incessantly, due to not having a large group of people to practice on. Today, we would never allow a parent to analyze or do therapy with any family member or friend. The ethical boundaries are much stricter than in Freud, Jung and Adler’s day.
But that Counseling Center scared me too much, so I abandoned the idea for awhile.
Months later, I tried again – this time I applied and was accepted into a volunteer program at Kaiser Permanente’s hospice program. They were, at the time, probably the premiere hospice provider in our area. I made it through the training and began volunteering at their facility and then with a local family or two.
Although there were many lessons that I learned in working with the dying and their families, chief among them was that I had the ability to be present with a patient, to not flinch from them, but that I didn’t have to carry their pain home with me.
That is, I could sit with their pain, but not take it into me personally. As a result, I could be warm with them and yet, somewhere inside me, I made sure that I just allowed it to flow right through me, to not get stuck inside, attaching to my own fears and anxieties.
Although it would be a few years later before I became a therapist myself, seeing that I could do this was an opening to the possibility of it.
I was letting the small sprout take root. The one allowed by ‘You might be good at this work.”