Over the years I have often been asked “Isn’t it exhausting to sit and listen to people’s problems all day?” And I inevitably say “No, not at all, because I am not listening to problems, but instead I am listening to courage to find solutions to the problems.” I am hearing about strengths, healing capability and innate resilience. Instead of exhausting, it is energizing to be part of people’s journeys and an honour and a privilege to bear witness to their deep dive into the inevitable pain that comes with being human. When you can swim together, through the myriad of feelings, anxiety, loneliness, sadness, fear, grief resilience strengthens and our innate ability to survive and thrive returns.
There was a children’s song in my youth called Going on a Lion Hunt. It went something like “Going on a lion hunt, Going on a lion hunt, Going to catch a big one, Going to catch a big one, oh look, tall blades of grass/ocean waters/desert sands/ – Can’t go over it, can’t go under it, can’t go around it, guess I gotta go through it.” As I recall, it was an exhausting song. You don’t want to be singing it in the car with toddlers who make sure you never skip a stanza or two! At your own risk, you can find the song here:
Many people begin therapy more curious about others than about themselves. Why does my father do this? Why does my daughter behave that way? Psychotherapy can’t help people who aren’t curious about themselves. Gotta go through it. Great metaphor for therapy. When we avoid and go around the inevitable challenge’s life presents, we miss the opportunities to go deeper into the psyche, face the pain, and be rewarded with the eventual growth and perhaps emancipation from long held resentments and hurts. This deep dive is fundamentally an act of true courage.
Back in mid-March, at the beginning of Covid Captivity I was speaking to my friend and mentor Sharon, executive director of Catholic Family Services Peel Dufferin. Sharon is one of the most capable and resilient people I know. She was laughing on the phone, because prior to our phone call she had inadvertently locked herself in her bedroom, due to a door knob malfunction where it had fallen off on her side of the door. She was saying she suddenly felt she was in an episode of I Love Lucy, figuring out how to get out of the door that had hinges and screws, but with no screwdriver.
The situation was time sensitive as she had to get on an important work call. Her agency helps women trapped in situations of domestic abuse, and she saw the irony in her being trapped without a phone, and not able to participate on the call. She took stock of her surroundings and realized that she had crackers for sustenance and had had cookies, but only the large President’s Choice tin remained. Ever practical, she realized she had a makeshift port-o-potty, if that became absolutely necessary. She truly believes in innate resilience, never giving up, and was thinking about all the women alone and isolated in communities, trapped behind their respective doors. She remembered there was a screwdriver on the other side of the door, that had 7 different little bits. She called out for her daughter and was hopeful she would be able to slide the tool under the door, and that she would have the strength to remove the hinges and be liberated from her predicament. I am happy to report it worked!The door knobs falling off and being trapped with the fall out, is really a good metaphor for therapy. The client has resources, just needs a screwdriver to help fix a bit of the current crisis. Sharon is a screwdriver and I am a screwdriver. By the end of Covid Captivity I might need a screwdriver or two…… of the liquid kind, with vodka.