At the end of your therapy career, how would you like your colleagues and clients to describe you?
I’ve been mulling over this question throughout the week. I still feel quite early in my career, but I’ve also felt lost in the trees lately. From one client to the next to the next. One DA to the next to the next. One day, one week, one month to the next.
It’s all going by so quickly. And I feel so close to it all. Too close.
So, this week, I’m trying to take a step back and gain some perspective. What direction do I want to go and who do I want to be at the end of all this? Am I heading that way?
It’s hard to say. When I try to put words to who I’d like to be, the words feel cheap and trivial – compassionate, warm, helpful. They’re good qualities, but for some reason they feel shallow. There’s no gravity to them. I don’t feel compelled.
So, what would be compelling?
Stories are compelling. We’re drawn to the journey of a character with weaknesses and flaws, who overcomes the challenges before them and transforms into someone new. Transformation is compelling.
It seems, then, that our own transformation, and the hope in that transformation, are key. It’s not necessarily about getting to a specific point but engaging with the process it takes to get there.
To ground this in reality, I’ve continued to struggle with anxiousness along this whole path of becoming a therapist. From my first client to a new client I saw last week, anxiousness has followed me the whole time.
Some days it feels so intense that I wonder if I picked the wrong profession – am I really suited for this day in and day out? I would love to feel calmer. I dream of being a completely peaceful clinician.
The truth is, though, I am calmer than when I first started. Looking back, I can see how I’ve eased over time. I’m already seeing some transformation. I miss that a lot, though, because I’m so distracted by my anxiousness now or feel like I’ll never get to that place of calm that I long for.
But when I step back and see the progress already made, it gets me curious for how I got here. What pushed me to keep going? Who guided me? How can I continue to improve? Oftentimes I need help doing this. Usually, it comes when I’m venting to a dear friend or loved one. They’ll listen for a while but then stop me, “Ben, you’re doing incredible. You’re being too hard on yourself. Look how far you’ve come!”
I need that.
We all need that.
In storytelling language, this kind of perspective often comes from the “guide” – the necessary and outside voice that offers the protagonist the wisdom they need to overcome the obstacle in their way. Think Yoda to Luke Skywalker, Alfred to Bruce Wayne, or Sean to Will in Good Will Hunting.
We all need a word of encouragement, a push, someone or something to show us the way. If the protagonist always knew what to do, there would be no obstacle, no conflict. And a plot without conflict is terribly boring.
So, if you’re feeling stuck or hopeless or lost, where might you be on your arc of transformation? Every protagonist has been where you are. Every therapist has struggled just as you are now. No obstacle is insurmountable, you may just need a word, a push.
You’re doing incredible.
Maybe you’re being too hard on yourself?
Remember how far you’ve already come.