I find that I keep coming up against a dilemma: do I fit in psychology? Do I want to fit in psychology? If so, where do I fit? I will think I have solved it and then I keep revisiting it again and again and again. I know what I want: it sounds so simplistic, and I feel like it’s not professional, or not important or valid or looked kindly upon, or SOMETHING. But what I want to do, really, truly, in the deepest part of my soul, is I want to love. Sometimes I find that I just have so much emotion and feeling that my chest and my heart actually ache and feel as though there is this huge pressure as it tries to get out.
I am quiet. I’m shy. I hate confrontation. I’m not brilliant. I mess up. A lot. Most days, I don’t know what I’m doing. I can’t write treatment plans. I take too long to write reports and stink at case conceptualization. I’m too emotional, feel too much, and can’t “compartmentalize” or whatever it is that they teach us to do. But I can feel and I can love and I have no choice but to share that. That is why I’m here. I know that. I denied it for a while and thought, “oh yes, I can be a cognitive-behavioral therapist.” Pffft. That thought has long since been abandoned. There’s nothing wrong with cognitive-behavioral therapy. There’s nothing wrong with any of it. It’s just not me.
But, all that stuff that “isn’t me” is what is valued. I mean, seriously, supervision would NOT go well if I said “oh, ya know, I loved the client today.” My intervention on my Individualized Service Plan is not “love.” However, that’s what is behind it all and I’m not competent or confident enough yet to put it into acceptable clinical terms. I want to see my client and come out to write my report saying:
“He’s lost, confused and in pain. At 6 years old, he hates his family, hates the world, feels violated, and knows he will continue to be hurt. He hates himself for hating his family, for wanting what he can’t have, for not being able to meet his own needs and needing to rely on others. He feels incompetent and he’s angry that he’s incompetent and he can’t figure out how to reconcile all those feelings in a little 6 year old body, with a 6 year old vocabulary, and a 6 year old brain. So he explodes.”
Instead, however, I write about his Verbal IQ versus his Performance IQ, his receptive versus expressive language ability, and the themes from the Childhood Apperception Test he hung off his chair and bounced around the room while answering. I tell my supervisor he is hyperactive when I really mean he’s unable to find a center where he feels calm and safe. I say he’s impulsive when I mean that he grabs everything in sight before it disappears from his constantly shaky world. I say that he feels conflicted over his parents’ divorce and feels a torn alliance between his mother and father. What I really mean, however, is that the kid ripped my heart out and stamped on it a few times as he told me that “when a Mommy has a baby in her tummy, that baby should be just hers and she should get to love it and keep it, even if the Daddy loves the baby more.” I say that this client has touched me when what I really mean is that this little boy is so incredibly strong and resilient he brings tears to my eyes. I really mean I find this child an incredible human being, and it has been an honor sharing the room with him. What I really mean is that I have a deep love and respect for this child. But I don’t say that. Instead, I finish the report with a label that is supposed to describe him to the rest of the world in 5 words or less: “Conduct Disorder” or “Oppositional Defiant Disorder” or “Parent-Child Relational Problems” or both or all three or something else. Then, having labeled his broken parts, I send him on his way.
So why can’t I say what I want to say? I don’t know. It’s frightening. Because if I were to say what I said above, it would admit that I’m human. It would admit that there’s something wrong with me that I can’t think in terms of normal psychology. It’s not only putting my client “out there,” it is putting me out there as well. I worry that I’ll be seen as “too emotional,” because I know I probably am. I worry they’ll think I miss the point. I worry I’ll be seen as naïve or incompetent, or unable to handle the emotions, or too attached, or a whole host of other things that run through my head endlessly. I worry that I don’t understand what therapy really is because I don’t really do anything; I just love, and feel their pain and sit with them in it, and reflect to them their strengths.
I do feel VERY deeply. I am still discovering the depths of my emotion, and how to close myself off enough that I do not allow the emotion to completely penetrate my core. I’m still discovering whether I want to close myself off. I am learning how to let go. I’m learning how to shake off the emotions that do not belong to me and find those that are my own. I’m learning that it is okay to feel this deeply. I’m learning that this weird way I feel and live in this world can still be a blessing. I’m learning not to see it as a curse, and this is hard. People don’t understand that feeling and being and existing so deeply can feel like you’re rubbing a bruise. Not all the time, of course, but sometimes, it feels like my whole body is bruised and beat up purely from the weight of being and living in the world. At worst, it can feel like I’m walking through a world of broken glass. Everyone seems to think that feeling is good, and loving is good, and being is good; I don’t know how to explain that sometimes it is more like a burden that makes the pain of the world feel as though it is resting on your shoulders.
But every day, I get up knowing that there will be moments when I can see people so beautiful I will be in awe. Every day, I get out of bed knowing that there will be a moment when I feel so intensely alive, I can feel the pulse of everything that is holy and beautiful running through me and another person. I know every single day that I and every single other person holds that amazing strength and beauty within us. Every single day I fight to see it—to see it in myself, to see it in others, and to help others see it in themselves. I also know that every single day there are going to be moments when I am going to be full of nothing. When I am going to see others who have nothing in them, and I know I will feel empty. I know that every day I will see people who are filled with death, and anger and hatred and so, so, so much pain. I know that I will feel dead inside, and I will be angry, and I will hate, and I will hurt. I can ignore the emotions. I can push aside the feelings. I can pretend I don’t think and feel and hurt and love; but then I’m exhausted from pretending and from living without my soul and I realize it’s easier just to feel.
But does that fit in psychology? I don’t know. Where does it fit, if not psychology? I don’t know that, either. Perhaps it is like this for everyone, and I just have this strange need to express it. Or perhaps it really is just a “me” thing. At this point, I think naming it, describing it, feeling it, is a wonderful, beautiful thing. Figuring out how to navigate the world with it; however, is another story—a story for which I hope to, one day, write a beautiful and loving conclusion.