Wednesday, April 06, 2005


I had the same conversation twice today. Speaking with two different friends, I heard the same lament. One planning to become a therapist, one who would rather die than encounter a therapist, they both are warm, wonderful, emotionally alive women, if somewhat conflicted. These women have known sorrow, both of them, in kind and depth that no caring human would wish on another.

One, let’s call her A, or Anne, lost a child in a particularly heartbreaking way—suicide, or was it accidental suffocation? One hardly knows which interpretation would be more difficult for a mother to accept. And brutal, unseeing life lurches on.

The other, let’s call her B, or Bella, grew up with a schizophrenic sibling who took all her parents’ attention, threatened her with repetitive bodily harm, and executed his cruel intent. Is it because she is finally secure in the love of her husband that she is now reliving those bad old days? I think maybe so.

Two amazing women. And each of them said to me today, “You know, I don’t really want to explore it all. The pain was real, but it is in my past. Most of all I want to move on. Aren’t there some techniques in the toolbox I can have? Why must I wallow in past sorrows? Honestly, I have done that to death and beyond. When can I see some relief? Some hope?”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the mental health field offered such support?

It does. I know it does, because I have thrice walked through my own private demons in the company of some caring professional. At last I have learned to respect and protect my own history. It is not for public consumption, nor is there any longer any cathartic release to be had. It is private. It is sad. So now, I tell what I want and I withhold what I want, and that is how it is.

The therapeutic process has many benefits, but my friends are right: it is tools we need, not catharsis. I still struggle to identify manipulation before it hurts me, and I know I am making progress because now the manipulators succeed less than half the time. It is still tough, but I am learning. More tools, we want more tools.

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