Last week, someone I just met asked me, “Why did you become a therapist?”
The words, “I don’t know” flew out of my mouth.
“You don’t know?” he said indignant. But I paused to think. I thought about all the volunteering I had done in high school that led me from wanting a career in architecture to apply to social work school.
He asked why I decided to become a therapist?
There are so many things we do and decide with little awareness to our purpose and motivation. We take things for granted, but there is so much to unpack beyond them!
Initially, my mind was blank.
Sometimes we have to open our minds to the answers that are there, past “I don’t know.”
I opened to the question: Why was I attracted to helping people? Trying not to grab at an answer but patiently letting it come to me.
Loneliness. I guess I knew what loneliness felt like when I was young, and I thought it was the worst problem in the world. (Loneliness comes with an overwhelming negative voice and sense of being unloved.) I remember telling my friend at Camp Stella Maris in circa 1990 how I noticed that many, many people were lonely. And how I wanted to make them feel less alone.
So, I guess that’s my answer. I formally committed as a teenager to help people feel less lonely.
My therapeutic relationship
I had a former client who I haven’t spoken to in months text me randomly one day to tell me that she missed and loved me. It was so sweet! I asked her what made her think of me and she said that she does every time she gets a blog post notification, but that day she felt an overwhelming urge to text me to say so.
It is funny because I was just thinking of her the day before! Her smiling face came to my mind and I was thinking of her kind and generous demeanor.
There is something about the therapeutic relationship. Someone is privy to your innermost thoughts. (You know, even those ones that may not be pretty?) Someone knows you. And this is less isolating.
When someone stops seeing a therapist, the relationship doesn’t end. I don’t plan to stay in people’s heads, but many people tell me I do. (I hope it is in a good way.)
What would Jodi say? They ask themselves when they are scared or down about something.
I would say, “Stop judging yourself”
“You are exactly where you are supposed to be right now.”
“I appreciate you.”
“I believe in you.”
I don’t mind keeping them company. Having a person attached to those counter thoughts makes all the difference. I’m happy to become a therapist they take around with them, (and I’m always looking for more people to include.)
Actually, these aren’t my words that they embolden themselves with when going through a difficult situation. It’s ideas about themselves that we have discovered together. Things that they told me and I just reflected back to them.
But it is that reflection that is so important! We can only see ourselves in relationship. We need that reflection. That’s why loneliness feels so bad. We have no tether, no sense of self. It is hard NOT to feel unworthy. We are floating out there, and all the bad from our past get major airtime.
Silence is violent if it is not filled with love. Louise Gallagher says in her post We Are Born To Shine
I don’t create something that makes people feel better. I just reflect back what I see and hear-acknowledge the hard times, but reflecting back the good they show me. (It is always there.)
So the me in their head is really them.
What voices come to your mind when you are feeling alone, scared or angry? Can you become a therapist to yourself?