Emotional Arsonist

emotional-arsonist

I was weary and ready for sleep tonight when it was time for lights out. I did not write yesterday because the words had not yet come to me. Then magically they appeared in the middle of the night as they sometimes do like a song stuck in my head. The longer I lay there trying to ignore them, trying to wait til the morning, the louder the song grew. Until there was only one choice to make, it is time to write.

I woke initially with a pain in my shoulder which makes sense because I am carrying a burden. A burden that weighs heavy on my heart and heavier on my soul.

Before I go further I would like to offer background for this post:
The Unraveling of a Family Tie
and
Boundaries are Hard in Families
will give some context to this post for anyone that wants it.

Out of respect for my family I have been doing what I consider shadow writing on topics related to family issues up to this point. For now I plan to continue to write in the shadows, I may feel differently about this as time goes on, that is yet to be seen.

So in these previous posts I have mentioned a long brewing issue that one family member is at the center of. In recent months another family member has become involved and when this took place a small flame was lit. A flame of negativity and malice, of confusion and mistrust. This small flame has resulted in a raging fire of destruction and disconnection that threatens to engulf my family.

Previously I mentioned that I am not the fire department and I hold no power to extinguish this blaze; that is still my truth. I am one person with a bucket though and today was the day I decided it was time to pick up my one bucket and use it before it was too late.

Up to this point this flame has been somewhat contained. There are two family members who started it and they have been trying to add small pieces of kindling but the fire has burned away from most of the rest of the family so we have been able to remain uninvolved with collective hope that this fire would burn out on its own given enough time. Today a flame from that fire licked my face and that was too close to comfort. It was time to set a hard boundary.

What took place was that my relative who is one of the fire starters emailed the entire family to speak their truth about another family member who they have a waged character war against. This was done as a way to further discredit this person and lambast their integrity. On this issue I remain neutral, this is not my quarrel. What I will not do however is accept any kind of correspondence that will cause further injury to my family. I did not read more than the first line of this person’s email, that was enough for me. From there I took a breath and decided to respond. My response was as follows:

_________________ ,

Please know that as I write this email I bear you no ill will. I believe that you feel that you are doing what you think is right.

With that said, I did not read your email and I will not read any further correspondence that means to further injure our family. When I say family, that includes everyone. You, ______, and _______ will always be part of my family and I will always have compassion for all of you, as I do everyone in the family.

I feel as though you have lost your way and I send you light and love during this difficult time.

As for  __________, there is nothing that anyone could ever say that would convince me that he is anything less than good hearted.

I hope we are able to heal as a family. The disconnection we are experiencing is hurtful and it does not have to be.

I am sending you love and forgiveness.

 

This was my bucket of water. This was my offering and my hope is that the healing energy of love and compassion would act as water to the flame. If not, I have at least set the boundary in an assertive way to let them know I will not accept this kind of correspondence going forward.

This person’s email was entitled “The Truth” and they spoke their truth. I took this as an invitation for the rest of us to speak ours.

I have remained silent and neutral up to this point, as the rest of my extended family has, for reasons I have listed before: hopefully this will blow over, it is none of my business, etc.

This is not blowing over, the flames are growing larger and the moment my relative sent that email to the entire extended family this situation went from being none of my/our business to this person making it our business.
There is a time for silence and a time for action and for me the time for silence ended the moment this person hit the “send” button and spewed this venom on the family.

I still remain neutral on the overarching issue because I do not believe it is my place to pass judgement on who is right or wrong. I might have my private feelings about that but I do not have the authority or the right to pass that judgement openly. I also do not believe that doing so will help me meet my ultimate goal for an outcome which is the healing and preservation of my entire family.

Judgement and anger and other negative emotions would only further insight this fire. To put out a fire you have to introduce a new element: sand, water, etc. Love is my water. Unconditional forgiveness  and compassion are my water. An invitation to heal is my water.

When I sent my response I replied all. No one else in my family had responded to this relative, this is still true. My hope is that I was able to set an example of love, an example that my family will have the courage to follow. My hope is that my family will see me here with bucket and join me with buckets of their own healing truth to share with this family member in an effort to extinguish this flame.

In the end we cannot control this person or their reactions. We are not the fire department and we may not be able to put out this inferno. I will not stand by with my bucket and feel useless though. I will not watch my family burn and do nothing when I have a bucket I can offer. My family may be doomed to burn either way but at least I know I did my part.

Tonight I send out love and light to everyone in my family, we all are hurting in the wake of this crisis. My hope and intention is the light I am sending out be the light that guides my family back to a path of love and connection. We have to come back to each other in love and connection to heal and be whole again.

 

An aside: When I got out of bed to come and write I did what I normally do when I write in the middle of the night. I lit my candles to bring light and love to darkness, I lit my salt lamp with the same intention, and I made myself a cup of tea. Then I took my tea and nested in blankets on the couch for comfort. The tea I often make for middle of the night writing is a brand that has what I think of as “love notes” on the tag. When I looked at the love note on my tea it was as though the Universe knew what I am trying to do with my healing bucket of water and was sending me support and assurance in its own way.

cosmic-support

 

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A Soft Place to Land / A Bed of Nails

I am very tired but as I lay here trying to drift off there is a piece of me who desperately needs a voice and I feel compelled to give her a platform. I keep a notebook in my bedside drawer for inspiration that comes to me at bedtime, it happens often, but this one does not feel it can wait until tomorrow morning.

                          Sometimes dark stories prefer to be written in the dark.

When I was sharing the story earlier today about my elevator encounter I mentioned my ex for a brief moment when I was calculating the math since the last time I had talked to this ghost. With out realizing it I think I triggered someone deep inside of me who now needs to be heard. She is piece who holds a lot of my darkness from that time.

My ex and I brought each other darkness. We had dated a briefly a year prior to when our true relationship began. He re-entered my life in the  middle of one of the biggest traumas of my life. At this time I believe he was in a dark place as well although at the time he was more focused on my crisis. We started in crisis and that is also where we ended. There is something tragically poetic about that I think.

A few months in the turmoil was already present. It continued through out our 3+ years together. It was apparent at this point that we were dealing with our own darkness and we were inviting it into our relationship, and I believe with my whole heart that at the time neither of us had insight into what we were doing to the other person. I may have been able to see his pain, and he may have been able to see mine, and on some level we may have been aware we were both personally struggling but not enough to step back and truly acknowledge it. On occasion his pain would bubble to the surface in a moment of vulnerability and I would do my best to be there with him and give him a gentle place to land. Occasionally I would show up in my pain in a vulnerable moment and he would console me and attempt to give me a soft place to land. More often than not though we were more like a bed of nails to one another, magnifying the ever present pain we were both experiencing. The root of our suffering was not grounded in each other at all, it went much deeper than that, it was present in each of us before either one even knew the other existed. Our relationship was a long process of two hurting humans suffering together. Unfortunately instead of healing each other’s broken pieces, more often than not we amplified the other’s suffering.

Our relationship ended in a explosion of glass and emotions quite literally. I took him to his emotional edge and he scared me to a point of no return. I have never held this moment against him but it was very clearly the end. Or so I thought. So we both thought I am sure.

A month or so went by and we reconnected very briefly, this too went up in flames. Then many months went by. I had the best year of my life up to that point. I was single for the first time in a long time and after a little of mourning the loss I realized that single is my happy place. I was so much better on my own. I know now it is because I was suffering and it was much easier to hide that suffering when there was not another person always around reflecting it back to me.

Fast forward to a few weeks before my birthday that year, he reaches out, and I faltered. I thought I was past him, I thought I was in a different place. It was one of the biggest back slides of my entire life. With one text message we fell right back into each other. This went on for a while until it stopped once and for all. Our final breaking point came in light of the largest betrayal I have ever experienced by any human being in my entire life. In that moment he brought me a darkness that took years for me to overcome.

I did though. And in time the hurt began to hurt less. And even more time I began to see my part in it all. And in more time I no longer saw him just for his darkness. And in more time I started to recognize my own. And even more time I was able to find compassion and love for both.

I have many regrets about the time I spent with this person. Most have to do with pain I know I caused. I have since forgiven him for his part. I know we are good people at the core who were hurting and did not know how to heal at the time. I hate that I made that time in his life worse for him, I hate that he made that time in my life worse for me. I have gratitude for light in that time that we both brought each other because it was not all dark. We were never friends though. That is the only relationship I have ever been able to say that about. I have been friends with every person I ever dated except for him. During our relationship we were never friends. We were just two lost souls sharing space.

It bothers me a little bit that I am coming back to this. I moved past it quite a while ago. I guess there are still pieces of me holding this pain somewhere buried deep though. Tonight I show them love and light. I send the parts of him that I injured love and light. I send the younger versions of ourselves who caused each other so much pain love and light.

There are things I regret about that time in my life but I would not change any of it. That darkness was meant to be. I hate that this is my truth but it is. We all have to show up in our darkness at times in our life to truly get to place where we are in our light. I grateful for his part in my journey and my part in his. I think we both moved on to better places of true love and comfort and that is all I could ask for either one of us.

 

Letting It All Out: Part III

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In continuing with the weekend’s theme of clearing energy and self-care I attended a meditation sister circle Sunday night. We processed our feelings about recent events, supported each other in our fears, shared stories that needed a voice, and sent out sparks about how to raise our light.

One woman made a point that speaks to my intention of shining my light and being an example of love: She said that if Hillary had won we, the light beings of the world who are in tune with our light, would probably remained in a place of complacency. Yes our lights are on but during times when progress is naturally occurring maybe we are not shining to our full-potential because we do not see that it is needed. This fear of darkness so many of us are experiencing gives us this awesome opportunity to “stand up and stay standing”. It gives us the opportunity to see what we are really made of, to step into our greatness, to see what we are truly capable of, to SHINE OUR LIGHT SO BRIGHT IT CANNOT BE IGNORED!

One woman lamented on how Trump’s election and his entire run for presidency has resulted in people giving themselves permission to show the ugly parts of their soul. Many of the stories we shared spoke to this very phenomena that has been happening. Another woman responded with such insight; if Trump is giving them permission to show up this way what is it giving you permission to do? If these people, whoever they maybe, are giving themselves this permission slip to do and say whatever it is they are doing and saying, what permission slip will you give yourself? How are you going to show up, how are you going to be real?

I sat with this for the rest of the night, through meditation, through drum circle, on the car ride home, and while I was writing last night. What permission slip will I give myself? How will I show up? Without having the specific words to answer this question I can say that I can already feel it happening. It is in my shift of thought, it is in my shift of feeling, it is in who I am growing into, it is in how I will continue to grow.

Another woman when challenged by a group member on what can she do about the world and the state of things responded by saying, but I am just one person.

That’s right you are. AND SO IS HE. He is just one person but look at the energy that has been created around him. I am going to reiterate a point I know I have already made twice, but until I know it is heard I will continue to play this same broken record: MLK Jr. was just one person, Brene Brown is just one person, President Obama is just one person, The Dali Lama is just one person. Anyone you have ever looked up to in your entire life was just one person; one person who made an impact. We have the ability to make an impact, we all do, every single one of us. It is in the way we think, the way we interact with the world, the way we feel about ourselves, the way we show up in our life every single day.

I was inspired by my experiences last night with these women. I was inspired by our collective light, I was inspired by our ability to show up with our humaness and our own darkness and let it all be there, every part of how we are processing this got to have a voice. The part where one woman called Trump supporters mouth breathers and the part where we were able to show love to Trump himself. We are not so different, we all are made up of both darkness and light. It is all swirling around mixed together inside us until we are beautiful beings of gray.

I leave you with this: Going back to the question that was raised, what permission slip will you give yourself? How will you show up in this? In what way will you stand up and refuse to sit back down? How will you turn up your light?

self-care1

May the light from our sister circle be a light for you as well in dark times when you feel your own light fading.

Fight, Flight, Total Freak Out

All the bad energy I have been talking about for weeks came to a head this afternoon as I was driving home from internship and it was terrifying.

There is a point on my drive home from internship where the road I am on merges with oncoming traffic. I am usually timid as I make this merge because typically there is a lot of oncoming traffic and the ptsd I have related to a previous car accident keeps me cautious when I drive. So I got to my merge today and there was a lot of oncoming traffic, it was a Friday a 4:45pm so this was not surprising.

I was slowly inching down the merge lane waiting for my opportunity to get in when the car behind me started blaring on their horn. This alone was really startling for me, I wasn’t sure what they were honking for. I looked in my rear view to see the lady behind me screaming (I am not exaggerating here, she was screaming) and waving her hands around in a motion that I interpreted as her wanting me to go. Go where? There was a solid line of at least 4 or 5 cars, there was no where to go until this clearedShe continued with his behavior and laying on her horn until finally there was break in traffic and I was able to finish merging. While I was waiting for traffic to clear I waved back at her trying to signal that Yes I hear you, I will go when I can. It was no use, she was unrelenting.

I was rattled. Her behavior was over the top. My nervous system kicked into over drive.

Once I was able to merge she let off her horn and I thought it was all over. I was wrong. She proceeded to tailgate me down the road, practically sitting on my bumper. All I could think was please don’t cause an accident. Please don’t hit my husband’s car.

My turn for home is not far from that merge area so soon enough I was in my turn lane, again thinking I would be done with this lady and the whole situation. Wrong again. She was turning left too. Then I thought Oh crap. She is one of my neighbors.

When I turned left there was a car coming but I had time to turn, the lady behind me turned left in front of the car cutting it off. I drove down a few blocks and she continued to tailgate me, staying dangerously close to the bumper of my car. I came to a four way stop sign, I needed to go straight but something told me not to go straight home. I turned right. Almost without stopping she turned right as well. I then turned left, she stayed with me. At this point I called my husband. I was not far from home and I did not know what to do. Should I go home? Should I call the police? Was she following me or was she a neighbor?

While explaining to my husband what was happening I decided to pull over to the side of the road to see if she would pass me. She didn’t. She pulled up behind my car. I immediately started driving again. That was all the confirmation I needed. I was around the corner from our home, I asked my husband to come outside, that I thought we would need to call the police but that I wanted to get her plate. I made my left turn at the last stop sign before home and instead of following me she hit the gas and went straight.

I was only partially relieved.

I got home, parked, and immediately went inside. I was shaking so hard my husband had to hold me. I laid on his chest and mimicked his deep breathing until I was breathing normally again. I did not stop shaking for 20 minutes.

After processing it with my husband what we think happened is she saw me on my phone and after the maneuver I did to confirm she was following me she assumed I was on the phone with the police. She made sure to drive off fast and in a direction where it would be very difficult for me to get her license plate information.

As my husband was walking back through the whole situation with from beginning to end I found myself trying to make sense of everything. Why did she do that? I just do not understand. My husband tried to explain that she probably had a bad day and was taking it out on me through her road rage. Ok, but I still do not understand what about me and the way I was driving set her off. There was literally no where for me to go. If I had gone forward like she wanted me to I would have caused a massive accident.What did she want? What was going on inside her head?

I have never been involved in road rage before. I am a very cautious driver, I always let people in, I do not speed.. I just do not see myself as an obvious target for someone’s aggression in this way, especially in this specific situation. I mean if it was what my husband said and she was projecting her anger on me that is scary. This woman allowed herself to get so wrapped up in it that she was following someone home. What did she think she was going to do once I stopped? Was she going to confront me? Was she planning to get out of her car? I mean to what end was she planning to take this situation? And again why?

This all just goes back to the really bad energy stewing our there right now. It does not matter how zen I try to be or how committed to keeping balance and perspective I am.. I cannot control the rest of the world.

Let this scary situation be a voice in the back of all of our heads the next time we feel ourselves feeding into negativity.. To what end? Why? What am I hoping to accomplish with this? 

We are all in this (surviving life) together folks. Lets not make it harder on ourselves or each other. Be kind. Show love. Forgive. Take a breath. Be patient.

It all may sound cliche and recycled but this woman forgot all of it today. We are capable of getting caught up in our own negativity or the negative energy swirling around out in the world. We all have the potential to forget. So be mindful, be kind, and be grateful whenever you can.

Although this lady sent me into a full on ptsd episode I still trying to find compassion. I know it is hard, I am sorry you are struggling with whatever it is you are struggling with, I am sending you light.

Shadows and Reflections

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Over the summer when our soul friend was visiting she and I stayed up most of the night her first night talking about everything. I was thinking about her today while I was on campus.

There is a colleague in the program who seems to be triggering a lot of people, at one point I was included in that. I feel like once a week at least I am hearing something about him, there are lots of stories swirling around. At first I really struggled with him as well but I processed it in therapy one week and realized what the trigger was for me, since then it is much easier for me to have compassion for him. Each time someone is venting about him I encourage them to figure out what their own work is around him. We are not triggered for no reason, he is bringing us all our work and that is what this post is about.

When I am triggered I usually know it. My feminist piece shows up, or I might become more sarcastic, or I might curse more, or I get really passionate in general however that manifests.. Look at the last post I wrote before this one, it is a perfect example. I know I was triggered while writing it, you can feel the energy shift in a post like that versus a post where I am processing something from a less emotional place.

There is nothing wrong with being triggered, it happens to everyone. When it happens for me I look at it as an opportunity to do my work. For example, I may have already written about this I do not remember, with this colleague.. I processed my being triggered by him with my therapist and realized it was specifically his insecurities that I was being triggered by. I was triggered because this aspect of him showed me a piece of myself that I do not love or have a great relationship with. I am insecure too and do exactly what this guy does, I try to hide it or overcompensate in some way to make up for it.

That is how triggers work. Our triggers show us what we should be working on. If someone triggers us it has less to do with that person and more to do with us, whether we want to admit that or not is a whole other thing. When this happens it is usually time to pause and ask ourselves what is this person showing me about myself that I do not want to see right now?

triggers

This happened to me today which is why I bring this up. I was walking between classes with a colleague and this colleague was sharing the latest scandal with me about this other colleague (the one who triggers so many people). Apparently he said something that offended a lot of people, it sounds like he was passing judgement based on his own biases. She was upset about it and I was thinking to myself, that is probably where her work is.. I do understand how what happened is upsetting and offensive, I also understand that part of the reason we get upset and offended in these kinds of situations is because they remind us of pieces of ourselves we do not want to be reminded of.. Our shadow pieces..

Shadow pieces are the darker sides of ourselves people hide and try to deny they have.. They are our manipulative pieces, our jealous pieces, our judging pieces, etc.. Everyone has these pieces, some maybe larger or smaller etc but they exist in everyone and we REALLY do not like to be reminded of them which is why people like Donald Trump trigger so many people. We do not like to be reminded that we all have a little inner Donald Trump in us somewhere. Go ahead and deny it, but he is in there buried in all of us.

So for my friend I was thinking about how she might need to work on her relationship with the parts of herself that judge other people because right now those pieces are being super triggered by the judgement they witnessed this colleague pass.

This work is not super fun I am going to be honest with you. No one is super interested in getting to know their manipulative parts, most people want to deny they even exist. It is so much easier to walk around being offended and triggered and not having any ownership over it. I am not even saying there is anything wrong with it, it is how most people function and who am I to question that. I am merely pulling back a curtain to reveal something a little deeper that is there beneath the surface for anyone who is interested.

Take away from this what you want, even if it is nothing.

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Oh My Aching Heart

Today was not a great day for humanity. I sat in on a TIC training that turned into an open forum for the floor staff to bash the therapeutic staff, AND air grievances about how the clients are lazy, bad, and destined for prison. There was also a 45 minute segment devoted to rants about transgender individuals as well as other gender and sexual minorities.

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My heart left severely bruised. I am not going to go on a feminist/social work rant about diversity, acceptance, compassion, and inclusion because I need to set a boundary on this. If I absorb the toxic energy that was spewed all over us at the training today I will burn out before this semester is up. This stuff does not belong to me. My truth is my truth, theirs belongs to them. All I can do is my part within my role and hope that it is enough to counter balance whatever toxic messages my client may be receiving in other areas.

After the training a story was shared with me that also hurt my heart. It was about one person’s divisive behavior and the pain it had caused. There is a post I have been holding that I want to share so badly that is related to this, but this is the one time since I started this blog that I feel truly unsafe doing so. I will write this truth at some point in the future, for now it will have to wait.

Finally I got home and was having a mindless moment on social media when I saw that a friend from the program was being bullied over a political post she wrote. What is worse is that apparently the bullies were her actual family. Let me say that again in case you missed it, Her family was bullying her on social media. I messaged her with a short word of not committal encouragement just in case she needed to see a bit of good in humanity today like I did. Apparently it was the right move. In her response to those degrading and patronizing her she was open and respectful, this seemed to inflame the situation though rather than temper it. It was like they were mad she wasn’t reacting and meeting them in their place of aggression. She and I had a short conversation about living in our truth and the joy that comes with belonging wholly to yourself without that need for approval from others, including family.. I think it was what we both needed. I am glad we were able to show up for each other and ourselves like this.

There is a lot of really bad scary energy moving around out there right now and people are feeding on it like a feral cat over a rodent. It is frightening but that is just it.. All of this negativity is rooted in fear. So all I can do is wake up each day and do my part to meet it with love.

So here is where I am at.. For the staff that struggled in the training today: I was able to take a perspective about what they were saying that helped me understand where they were coming from. It is in part culture, it is generational, it is tradition, it is pain, and it is fear. It also probably much more, but for now that is where I am stopping and I can have compassion in all of those places. I can have compassion, understanding, and appreciation for cultural differences and for generational differences. I can have understanding and make space for a person’s beliefs and for tradition. And I can absolutely have deep compassion for pain and fear.

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For the divisiveness that led to the emotional pain of another. Again, I think this was in large part cultural. There is a piece of me that earnestly believes the divisive individual is not being deliberately malicious or hurtful, I think that is a cultural barrier present. There are other things at play here as well but part of my truth in this moment is that this individual and this situation was sent as a test from the universe to make sure we(who are involved and impacted) are doing our own work.. Our soul work. So I thank this person for what they are bringing me personally and I know the person on the receiving end of the pain will rise up to meet her lesson in this as well because that is the kind of person she is.

Finally my friend who was verbally and emotionally assaulted by her family. I send you light and love tonight dear soul. I know how hard it is to step into your truth possibly at the cost of family. Your journey is not for them though, it is for you. You are right, you have NOTHING to apologize for, and I applaud you for figuring out in your twenties what took me 30+ years to recognize.

My wish for all those I wrote about tonight is that we are able to all move forward on our path living unapologetically in our truth. My your soul find peace, may your mind rest, may your weary heart feel comfort. It is the best of times and the worst of times, just as times usually are. Tomorrow in a new chance for amazing things, I am grateful for that truth and the opportunity to live in it.

Unconditional Positive Regard

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This is a concept we talk a lot about at school. It is part of the commitment we make to doing this work,treating our clients with unconditional positive regard. For me this, like so many aspects of social work, goes beyond my clients. It is a goal to strive for in life, treating others with unconditional positive regard. I’ll let you in on a secret though, it is not possible. It is not possible to treat every single person you meet and interact with in life with unconditional positive regard, not without completely abandoning yourself, and then you would not have succeeded anyway because unconditional positive regard starts inside.

So we start with our clients and then try to extend that concept out into the world as far as we can understanding that sometimes we feel other ways about people which is okay, that is when we make sure to turn unconditional positive regard inward to take care of ourselves in that moment.

I was thinking about unconditional positive regard on my drive home today because of a conversation myself and a fellow intern had during a break.

Today was a day for deep conversations in the intern office. Next week we start taking on our own cases so today was a lot about prepping. We cleaned the office and organized it the way we wanted. We went through all the different work books and tagged the worksheets we will want to use with clients, we did a few more trainings on the computer, and in between we chatted. We talked about religion and spirituality, turns out this intern and myself share a common thread in that we were both raised in Catholicism and walked away from it as soon as we were confirmed. We talked about some of classes. We talked about the importance of doing your own work (through therapy or in other ways) in order to be an effective clinician. We also talked about some of our fears, specifically as they pertain to certain populations.

In school we are taught that you have to be open to all different populations, different spiritual backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, ages, cultures, races, etc.. For some people this idea is difficult for them from the very beginning, others do not think it will be a problem for them at all (me using my “I” voice I kind of wonder how honest they are being with themselves), many fall somewhere in the middle. I am one of the ones who falls somewhere in the middle.

What got my colleague and I on the topic of this particular fear/concern is a story I was sharing with her about a podcast I was listening to over the summer. Trigger warning I am going to talk about pedophilia on a superficial level.

I was listening to a podcast wherein someone who self-identified as a pedophile who had never acted on his thoughts shared his difficulty when seeking out a therapist to help him with his condition. He was young, maybe 20, and he had been having these thought since around the time he started high school if I remember correctly. He talked about the shame he felt, and he knew it was wrong but that he did not feel like he could control the thoughts. Not too long after it started (the thoughts) he went to his mother and told her that he needed to meet with a therapist, he did not disclose why just that it was very important. His mother scheduled him to meet with a therapist. Upon the initial meeting and after listening to his story and why he was seeking out help the therapist quickly told him that they would not be able to help him but they would refer him to a therapist that could. The therapist also told the client’s mother without his permission which I understood and at the same time my heart ached for the client because this deeply impacted their relationship. His story went on to tell how therapist after therapist turned him away, I am sorry I cannot help. Referral after referral was made, help started seem further and further out of reach. Feelings of shame and isolation grew, not even those trained to help could help him, who could?

I am sorry to say I do not remember how this story ended. I do not remember if he ever found the help he needed, I hope he did.

After sharing this story my colleague and I talked more about whether or not we felt this client would have been a problem for us. Would we have helped or referred him on? We then talked about other populations that are severely stigmatized and where we stand in those cases.

Then we talked about compassion. This is where the unconditional positive regard comes in. When we think about pedophilia a clear line is drawn between victim and perpetrator. One is shown sympathy, the other is demonized. I am NOT at all in any way trying to downplay or dismiss the experience of the victim in these situations, we (my colleague and I) did agree that there was still compassion to be had for this person who shared his story and others like him though.

unconditional positive regard

There is compassion to be had with all people. What I was thinking about specifically on my car ride home is how society creates stigma through fear; and what I may be doing in my own life to further stigmatize those already facing severe stigma and shame. What it came back to for me is something I say a lot and that is words matter.

Last summer I stopped using the word crazy as a filler word in casual conversation. Now instead of saying we are having crazy weather I say what I actually mean, it sure has been raining a lot. Crazy is a loaded word for a lot of people, myself included, it may be should not thrown around so casually without thought about impact to others. Another good example is replacing committed suicide with died from suicide. Committed has a negative criminal connotation that stigmatizes the bereaved. I took a training on this in the spring and have since been mindful of this.

One that really stuck out for me on my drive though was the term narcissism. If you go far enough back in this blog you will find I am guilty of throwing that word around casually  with deliberate intent to judge others.  Typically I would be using it to refer to society’s social media habits. Here is the thing though, this is a diagnosis that is already SUPER stigmatized, it carries a lot of weight. What does it say about me as a future clinician and my commitment to unconditional positive regard when I do this? Individuals who are on that spectrum are worthy of compassion and unconditional positive regard as well.

unconditional positive regard1

We are all capable of causing pain and harm, we are all also worthy of compassion. I am willing to bet that there will be times over the course of my career where I struggle with a specific client for one reason or another. I may even have to refer a client to another clinician. I will always be mindful of my commitment to unconditional positive regard though and mindful of what it means to practice it both professionally and as a human being.