Story #2

[Content Disclosure: continued from yesterday]

For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. ---- ----- ---- 1 Corinthians 12

We do not see the world the same way a person standing right next to us does. We perceive reality through the lens of our upbringing, our culture, our beliefs. We see the world through the pains and panes of our experience. What may be moral and good for our twenty year old self, might well be hubris or sin for us at fifty. Morals and judgments are relative because we do not live in a world of absolutes nor perfect penance.

As promised yesterday. Story #2:

Some years ago, I had a clinical client who was perhaps twenty-five years older than I. He was a chemistry professor with over thirty years of university teaching experience. The loss of a spouse and his own health problems brought him to question his current situation and led him to therapy with me. A month or so into our clinical relationship, his health forced him to give up his job and the triple threat of being widowed, being in failing health and now out of work led him to question just about everything. One day a session turned to questions about suicide. My quick assessment was that Edward has enough of the factors in the clinical checklist to be taken seriously. At some point in a conversational lull, I initiated this exchange:

"Edward, am I a good therapist?"

"I believe you are an excellent therapist."

"Can you tell me why?"

"Well, you have clearly studied the various clinical theories on therapeutic psychology and you are able to apply them with your patients. You are a very good listener and your interventions are appropriate and to the point and you are never diverting, which makes me wonder why our conversation about my potential suicide has suddenly become a discussion about your psychological skills."

"One of those clinical skills you mentioned would suggest that I should be telling you that these feelings you are having will pass, that suicidal ideation in most individuals is transitory and 90% or more of patients move beyond this state of mind in a matter of days. But I think you know that and I also believe that you might actually be in the other 10% of that statistic."

"Interesting, are you suggesting that I might just as well go ahead and be gone?"

"No Edward, what I am suggesting is that you missed one of the key reasons I am the therapist I am today, which is that I learn from my clients. Each and every day someone teaches me something about the human condition that I did not know. I get some insight into a problem from a perspective I had not considered, most often because I could not have that experience from inside of my body and my mind with the life experience I have had. Clients have experiences from within their own worldview and they illuminate the world for me by the simply act of telling me about their unique view of life. In a few months, maybe a year; you will be able to look back at this dark time in your life and reflect on the experience with a new vision, a new perspective. That new insight you will have might then be transmitted to someone who can use it to help others, someone like me. So for just that selfish reason, I think we should work on why you are feeling so desperate and put aside the actual potential for your demise."

Edward laughed. I am guessing for the first time in many weeks, he just laughed. And the he said:

"Well OK, if we can help you then I guess I can stay alive for that. Do I still have to pay for these sessions?"