Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Brain Hurts

One of the hazards of being a psychotherapist or counselor is the fact that being regularly exposed to the intimate dilemmas, worries and sufferings of other people brings with it the potential of touching uncomfortably upon your own, personal issues. I had an instance of such discomfort not too long ago when a client was sharing with me the pros and cons of choosing to leave his partner.  It happened that his significant other and he were in a cross-generational relationship involving about the same age difference as myself and my partner. Although they had been married for over ten years, my client was enunciating his reasons for no longer wanting to be in a relationship with a considerably older man.  Many of those reasons were applicable to dissatisfactions that could readily be experienced in my own relationship.

As a therapist you, hopefully, become attuned to the reality that such a situation, sometimes referred to as one evoking counter-transference, presents a risk to both you and your client. The conversation presented a risk to me because I could easily have slipped into an inner focus regarding my own relationship; a risk to my client because I could have lost contact with his thoughts and feelings and, at worse, begin to dispute his thoughts as a covert way of defending my own relationship. I was able to summon the professional responsibility of focusing on his perceptions and feelings, rather than getting lost in my own or being swayed into attempting to influence his choice.

I'm skeptical that maintaining such a position of neutrality is, in fact, humanly possible and suspect that, somehow, my own feelings of being threatened could emerge, despite my professional attempt to put them aside in our conversation. Further, I suspect that the most likely way my own feelings would emerge would be in bending over backwards not to question his reasons for considering ending his relationship. What happened, in fact, was that he decided to leave his partner and I was supportive of his decision.  We moved into considering how he would go about sharing that painful choice. For several days after I experienced reverberations of that conversation; wondering if my partner had the same reservations about our relationship and that some day we would be facing the same crisis.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Spirit of Christmas Past

Another Christmas passed with only the tree remaining outside on the deck of the cottage, awaiting its turn to be tossed over the side and join the trees of previous Christmases in their own, designated place of composting. Removing all traces of Christmas has been the happiest time of the Holiday Season for as long as I can remember. However, this particular one happened to be especially pleasant as my partner and I spent the day alone together at the cottage. I still couldn't resist getting sick at the start of the Holidays; something that has been a tradition with me since I was a little boy. I enjoyed so much being upstairs in bed, surrounded by my new gifts and the smell of Vick's Vapor Rub, humidifier and aquarium both gurgling away, pleasantly muffling the sound of the family talking downstairs, whom I was too sick to be expected to join.